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Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 9:59 am

Building evacuated after smell of natural gas in Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy

One person so far has reported a headache in apparent connection to a natural gas smell at a building at 8020 E. Main Road, Le Roy.

The building has been evacuated.

Le Roy Fire and Le Roy Ambulance have been dispatched.

UPDATE 10:12 a.m.: An assistant fire chief reports no reading of gas inside the structure.

UPDATE 10:16 a.m.: Le Roy Fire is back in service.


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Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 8:15 am

Fair and Equal Representation

We don’t think that everyone in the village of LeRoy is being represented fairly and equally. 

We are running for office for Village Trustee positions, because we believe in fair and equal representation.

We are concerned about a local law proposing that sidewalks be paid for by the adjacent landowner.  That’s unfair because: 1) not all people in LeRoy have sidewalks yet they have equal access to the existing sidewalks; 2) people who live on corner lots will be responsible for twice as much sidewalk as the average homeowner; 3) the law is discriminatory because the Village can come to homeowners demanding replacement of sidewalks without a reason why. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 2:35 am

Batavia advances to finals after taking control against Hornell in second half

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, sports

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If you weren't biting your nails at the half on Tuesday night, you're not a Batavia Blue Devils fan.

At the half in Batavia's Section V semi-final playoff game against Hornell, the Blue Devils were in locked horns at 20-20.

Even though Hornell came into the tournament as the #5 seed in the division against Batavia's #1 standing, Hornell wasn't making it easy on Batavia.

Hornell came out of the locker room with an aggressive game plan that had Batavia a little bit flustered in the opening minutes of the match.

“We didn’t play very good at all in the first half – our shots weren’t falling and the presses got to us, particularly me," said Batavia's leading scorer, Andrew Hoy. "I didn’t really know how to break it at the time, but we figured it out at half time. Coach gave us a game plan and we came out in the second half and said we’re going to hold them to 13 points per quarter and we played defense. That’s what Batavia is built on, defense.”

The plan worked. Hornell was able to manage only three baskets in the second half and Batavia went on to win 51-34.

Hoy sank three three pointers and led Batavia (17-3) with 24 points.

Justin Washington and Co Co Irvin each added nine.

The Blue Devils advance to the Section V finals against Livonia on Friday night.

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Thirty more pictures after the jump:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 12:06 am

Batavia Ramparts Squirt B Win Division Championship

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Ramparts, hockey, sports

Submited by Robert Hunt:

Batavia Ramparts Squirt B finished their regular season undefeated and went on to win the Division Championship Sunday February 28th over the Rochester Youth Hockey Hawks.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Possible methamphetamine found at Le Roy house

post by Howard B. Owens in methamphetamine

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Law enforcement officials now believe that there was actual methamphetamine in a house at 9434 Route 19, where the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force executed a search warrant at 2 a.m., Tuesday.

Initially, officials didn't believe there was any completed product at the house, though suspected precursor chemicals were found and Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster described the meth lab set up as particularly dangerous because of the use of batteries in the alleged process.

At a little after 1 p.m., investigators from the state police crime lab (pictured) arrived at the house to gather evidence and conducted tests on the chemicals and compounds allegedly found at the scene.

In a press release this evening, the Sheriff's Office announced that more than two ounces of suspected methamphetamine were found in the house.

state_meth02.jpgA police officer on scene this afternoon said the room where the suspected lab was found, which he also described as potentially highly flammable, was right next to the bedroom of a 6-year-old child.

Charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 2nd and criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument were Christopher L. Williams, 31, of 8 Erie St., Le Roy, and Nicholas Patrick Sadwick, 23, of 354 Sandybrook Drive, Hamlin.

The two men were jailed on $32,500 bail each.

It's unclear who was living at the house. The residence was clearly occupied. Officials discussed the fact that a dog was picked up earlier in the day and two domesticated cats hung out near the front door. A neighbor said that new tenants had only recently moved into the house and that this morning, the school bus stopped at the house as it usually does, but this time, no little boy was there to get on it.

No other charges have been announced by the Sheriff's Office against any other individuals.

Tonight's press release said officials found "chemicals and equipment which are commonly used to manufacture Methamphetamine."

This is the fifth suspected meth lab found in Genesee County since Nov. 12, when suspected labs were discovered in Alabama and on Jackson Street in Batavia.

A member of the drug task force at the scene today said that media coverage of that first raid helped alert local residents to the problem and the dangers of meth labs, and the increased vigilance has led to more tips about these other suspected meth operations.

For previous coverage of suspected meth labs, click here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Photo: Rollover accident in Village of Elba

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, elba

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This is a reader-submitted photo of the rollover accident in the Village of Elba last night. The driver was reportedly unhurt.  We've received no further official information on this accident at this time.

UPDATE: We received a copy of the accident report from the Sheriff's office later this evening.

The car was driven by Mark J. Schultz, 24, of 4658 Barryville Road, Elba. Deputy J. M. Graff reported the Schultz said he fell asleep. The car drifted off the roadway and struck a utility pole. No tickets were issued.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm

A visit to Wilson's farm, Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in animals, agriculture, Le Roy

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That big blue and white object in the background isn't some jet engine I PhotoShoped into a farm picture -- it's a wind turbine, called the WindTamer.

Owner Garry Wilson said the turbine will be fully operational this week and will provide more power than he needs for his farm.

Wilson's farm is on Route 19 in Le Roy, right next door to the suspected meth lab police found this morning.

While Wilson said he's never heard a blade-type wind turbine, this one doesn't make much noise at all.

"We had quite a bit of wind a few nights back and it was no louder than a truck idling," Wilson said.

The turbines are advertised as more efficient, producing more power, than conventional turbines.

Wilson said he believes he has the first WindTamer in Genesee County, and the first turbine of any kind in Le Roy.

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I got a chance to talk with Garry because while I was waiting for something interesting to happen at the suspected meth lab house (more on that later), I stood along the edge of the road and started trying to take some pictures of his horses, which is when I spotted one laying on the ground with its hoof apparently caught on a fence railing.

I spotted Garry's number and gave him a call. He came out immediately to help the horse get uncaught and get back up. He said it happens once in a while when the horse lays down too close to the fence and then rolls over, getting its hoof caught.

Pictures below of the horse rescue as well as one of Garry throwing some hay to his horses and of his cattle.

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The horse seemed perfectly fine after it got up, even coming over to the railing where I was hoping I might be a person with a treat. Sorry, horse, no treats.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 11:00 am

Suspected meth lab in Le Roy described as using 'particularly dangerous method'

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy, methamphetamine

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Another suspected meth lab has been discovered in Le Roy though no suspects have been charged yet in connection with the operation.

Two people were taken into custody this morning following a traffic stop and are being held on unrelated charges.

Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster described the operation as fairly significant and more dangerous than any lab the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force has yet uncovered.

"They were using batteries, which is a method we're not particularly familiar with," Brewster said. "We haven't seen that before, but it's a particularly dangerous method."

The lab is not believed to be operational and no completed product was apparently found on scene, but enough precursors were found that the county must be very careful in cleaning up, Brewster said. 

County Emergency Management and a hazmat team are preparing to deploy to the house, which is located at 9434 Route 19.

Taken into custody were C.L. Williams and Nicholas P. Sadwick. They were arraigned in Town Court on unrelated charges, including, for one of them, possession of a hypodermic instrument. One of the men also allegedly had an outstanding warrant out of Monroe County.

The home is owned by a relative of one of the men taken into custody, but the owner is not in custody and has not been charged with any crime.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 9:10 am

Batavia men accused of illegal drug sales in Wyoming County

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Wyoming County

Two Batavia men were jailed in Wyoming County after a drug task force operation caught them allegedly trying to sell prescription drugs.

Larry Yoho, 37, of North Spruce Street, is accused of selling Xanax and Fentanyl to undercover agents.

Nicholas Williams, 37, of 15 Ross Street, is accused of possession and sale of Xanax.

(via WBTA)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 8:05 am

Report shows how loss of factory jobs has hurt WNY wage earners

post by Howard B. Owens in business, economy, jobs, WNY

As factory jobs have moved overseas, Western New Yorkers are making less and less money, according to a recent study from the University of Buffalo.

From 2004 to 2008, low-paying jobs -- those paying less than $30,000 per year -- increased 17 percent, while mid-wage jobs ($30,000 to $70,000) decreased 10 percent.

From the press release:

"These findings portray a new economic reality for Western New York that's in stark contrast to decades past, when the region paid some of the highest wages in the country," said Kathryn A. Foster, economics institute director. "It raises a host of questions about how to build and sustain economic security for Western New Yorkers."

During this same period, good-paying jobs -- above $70,000 -- have increased 6 percent. Those jobs comprise about 8 percent of the workforce, and the other two sectors are split evenly at 46 percent.

The federal poverty line for a single person is $10,830. For two people living together, it's $14,570. According to the report, Penn State’s Living Wage Calculator (meeting basic expenses), a single person should earn $18,300 in Buffalo. A single parent with a 5-year-old child needs $36,000 annually to meet basic needs.

A full-time, minimum wage job pays $15,000 annually. The median income in WNY is $31,080.

In 2008 dollars, a typical factory job from the 1970s might pay $60,000.

The report uses a fictional three-generation family to illustrate how the loss of good-paying factory work has forced both parents in a family of four to work and that family has less to fall back on.

But WNY is not alone. Low-paying service-sector jobs have been growing at about the same rate across the country, according to the report, though those jobs comprise just 43 percent of the work force.

As factories have closed, fewer and fewer workers enjoyed the benefits of organized labor:

"As both cause and reflection of the changing economy and wage structures, the percentage of workers represented by labor unions dropped steadily since the 1950s, from a national high of 35 percent to a current level of 12 percent. Unionization levels in the Buffalo Niagara region have mirrored national trends, particularly as manufacturing jobs have fallen. Yet the region’s unionization levels are consistently above national averages. Metro Buffalo’s 17-percent unionization rate in 2009 for private-sector workers was more than two times the 7-percent private-sector unionization rate for the nation."

Clearly, although the report concentrates on Buffalo as "Western New York," these issues do appear to be regionwide.

Full report available for download (pdf).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 7:06 am

Today's Poll: Should Gov. Paterson resign?

post by Howard B. Owens in polls
Monday, March 1, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Single-vehicle rollover accident reported in Elba

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, elba

A car has struck a poll and rolled over on Main Street in Elba.

No word yet on possible injuries.

Elba Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDTE 9:55 p.m.: One person out of the car with minor or no injuries.


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Monday, March 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

Police Beat: Man turned over to Monroe Sheriff after arrest in Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy

John Alan Delano, 19, of 556 Peck Road, Spencerport, was arrested on a bench warrant for alleged aggravated unlicensed operation. Delano was reportedly arrested in the Village of Le Roy in connection with an unrelated incident. Bail in that case was set at $500. Delano reportedly posted bail and then was arrested on the Monroe County warrant and transported to the county line, where he was taken into custody by a Monroe County deputy.

Jeremiah T. Jones, 36, 535 McGinnis Road, Scottsville, is charged with petit larceny. Jones allegedly bought vehicle parts from L&L Transmission and then stopped payment on his check after work was completed on his vehicle.

Alexander J. Delahanty, 20, of Brockport, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Delahanty was stopped by State Police on the Thruway in the Town of Batavia. No further details provided.

Accidents from the State Police blotter:

4:21 p.m., Feb. 26, Allegany Road, Darien, two vehicles; Driver 1: Wayne S. Marks, 39, of Orangeville, Ontario, Canada; Driver 2: Wilfredo Vargas, 31, of Buffalo. No injuries reported.

5:22 p.m., Feb 26, Route 5 and Bater Road, Stafford, one vehicle; Driver 1: James Gideon Halsey, 17, of Le Roy. No injuries reported.

11:21 p.m., Feb 25, Thruway, Mile Marker 400.5, Town of Pembroke, one vehicle; Driver 1: Patrick C. Sieber, 20, of Lancaster. No injuries reported.

10:15 pm., Feb. 25, Thruway, Mile Marker 397.4, Town of Pembroke, one vehicle; Driver 1: Elhadji M. Wane, 24, of Brockport. No injuries reported.

Monday, March 1, 2010 at 10:35 am

Man facing possible life sentence decides to put his fate in hands of jury

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

mug-reginald_wilson.jpgReginald Wilson will take his chances with a jury.

The Rochester resident with multiple felony convictions is accused of taking part in a four-person burglary that reportedly terrified an older person on State Street. The woman was reportedly home and in bed at the time

Wilson turned down a plea offer this morning that would have capped his sentence at two- to four-years in State Prison.

Wilson would have been required to plead guilty to a felony count of criminal possession of stolen property. On Friday, his attorney, Public Defender Gary Horton, said his client sought a reduction to a misdemeanor.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman kept the felony offer on the table, but added a sentence cap. Friedman was prepared to drop the more serious burglary, 2nd charge in order to make the plea offer valid.

Wilson said no, even after Judge Robert Noonan reminded him that if walked out of the courtroom this morning without a plea bargain, there was no second chance. His case was going to trial.

The trial is scheduled to start March 29.

If convicted, the 37-year-old Wilson, faces a possible life sentence because of his five prior felony convictions.

In New York law, some felony convictions are considered "predicate" crimes and count toward a possible life sentence on the third felony conviction. Unlike some state's so-called "three strike" laws, New York's does not mandate a life sentence.  

Wilson was allegedly caught driving a car stolen from the residence.

Two of the other three defendants in the alleged burglary admit to taking part in the crime, but say Wilson was not there. A third defendant puts Wilson at the scene and part of the alleged burglary crew.

A jury will decide whom to believe.

Today, Judge Noonan issued an order of protection for one of the witnesses in the case. The witness expected to testify at the trial is not one of the other three men charged in the burglary.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Geneseean of the Year: Buddy Brasky

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, Buddy Brasky, Chamber Awards, sports

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It was the day after the Batavia Blue Devils dropped a first-round Section V playoff game to Aquinas in 1997 that Alex Nesbeth and Mike Glow came to Coach Myron "Buddy" Brasky and said, "Next year, we're going to win the sectionals."

Brasky looked at his junior players, shrugged, and said, "yeah, OK."

"No, Coach," Nesbeth said. "We're going to do it. We're going to do whatever it takes."

The Blue Devils hadn't so much as won its division in years and years, and Brasky, in his seventh season as head coach, had just posted his first winning campaign, leading the team to a 11-10 record.

From the day Brasky took over, the naysayers told the young coach the Blue Devils would never win another championship in basketball. Batavia was too small of a school in a big-school division. There was just no way to beat the big boys from Monroe County.

An 11-10 season wasn't exactly a prelude to proving the skeptics wrong, but Nesbeth and three of his teammates decided it was high time to do just that.

brasky02.jpg"That’s when I was teaching at Jackson School," Brasky said. "It was the middle of winter and those kids -- there were four of them -- they would walk from the high school to Jackson School and do skill work with me. Almost every day, from about 3:30 to 5. We had a small, tiny gym, just two baskets, and they worked and worked and worked."

The next season, the Blue Devils posted an impressive 20-4 record. But more importantly, they won a Section V title -- the first of three titles the Blue Devils posted in Brasky's 20 years as the team's head coach.

"The Pride is Alive." 

That was the motto Brasky coined for the team when he took over as coach prior to the 1990-91 season.

The Batavia-born-and-bred athletics fanatic never forgot the glory years of Blue Devils basketball from his young days -- the years of John Walton, the Wescotts, Bruce Beswick and Billy Monroe.  

But by the time Brasky was the starting point guard, the glory years, the pride, were starting to fade.

"When I played here, we were just average," Brasky said. "We weren’t great. That’s where it started going down a little bit, and after I graduated, it went way down."

Brasky enrolled at GCC after graduation and then transferred to SUNY Cortland. He completed his degree in Physical Education and soon after moved to Denver, where he worked for health clubs. From there, he moved back to Buffalo.

Then a coaching and teaching position opened in Batavia. This is what Brasky had always wanted to do.

As an athlete, he gravitated toward the leadership positions on teams -- quarterback in football, catcher in baseball, point guard in basketball. He hung close to his coaches. He didn't strive to be the star of the team. He liked the leadership role and he looked up to the men that molded the teams he played on.

"I’ve known since I was 10 years old I wanted to be a coach," Brasky said.

But it wasn't easy taking over Blue Devils basketball. It was a program that wasn't in the habit of posting winning records -- the team would win only two games in Brasky's second season -- but the coach said he knew the spirit was there. "The pride is alive," he kept telling his players. There was a tradition to Batavia basketball, and Brasky was determined to bring it back.

Since that first winning season in 1997, the Blue Devils have not dipped into double-figure losses. They've won eight division titles and are on a run of 14 consecutive winning seasons.

Brasky credits the young athletes for their willingness to work hard, to work year around, but they're only willing to make that committment, Brasky said, because "the pride is alive."

"Now the kids (have) bought in," Brasky said. "We won. They want to be part of a winner."

Just in basketball alone, Brasky probably interacts with more than 250 students in the community every year. Besides the regular varsity season, Brasky coaches basketball year round, including summer camps and clinics. Every step of the way, he stresses that it isn't just about winning. It's about developing the habits that make young men succeed in life.

"I try to instill that all of this hard work you’re doing is not just to win basketball," Brasky said. "That’s part of it. We want to win. But these are habits that you’re going to carry on the rest of your life. These habits of hard work, and dedication, and loyalty and commitment – those are what companies look for. You will be a success in life if you can get these values."

No matter how important the game, Brasky said -- miss a practice, break a rule, and you're not likely to play. That isn't a position that is always popular with fans or parents, but it's the only way, Brasky said, to teach players to be winners both on and off the court.

“I made a decision early in my career that I would never put winning over doing what ‘s right for the kids,” Brasky said.

It's an ethic that has paid off. In the application to the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce for Brasky's 2009 Geneseean of the Year Award, student after student said they learned the value of hard work from Brasky and it has helped them be more successful in life.

"Coach Buddy Brasky shared with me the passion to be the best you can be in life," wrote Scott "Par Par" Partridge (Class 1997). "Every practice, every game, every scrimmage we took part in was completed with 100-percent effort -- if not, then we enjoyed running suicides until we did. I have learned from Coach Brasky that hard work and dedication pays off. Those who push themselves as hard as they can will reap the rewards in the end. The quote, 'The Pride Is Alive,' was printed on our shirts and through playing for coach, I took that to heart. Have pride in who you are and what you do -- give it your all and you have nothing to regret."

Brasky said he was moved by all the testimonials from former players, just as he is when he sees those young men out in the community or at games.

"You hope you're making an impact on kids," Brasky said. "They never tell you that until they get to be like 25 years old. A lot of times, they will see me out -- I'll be at dinner -- and they'll be with their girlfriends and they'll come over to the table, or a lot of them will come and see me before a game, or wait until after, so we can talk -- that's a very, very rewarding part of the job."

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Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Genesee County Business of the Year: Viking Valhalla Restaurant

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Chamber Awards, Viking Valhalla Restaurant

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It was hard -- even 43 years later -- for Mary Sardou to retell the story of her husband's passing and what it meant for 13-year-old Tom.

"When my husband passed, we sat in the funeral home for three days," Mary says, and then stops, pushing back tears. "I'm sorry," she says.

"You started the story, ma. You've got to finish it," says Tom, now 56, as we sit in the dining room of the Rose Garden Bowl/Viking Valhalla Restaurant in Bergen, talking over a plate of wings about the history of Genesee County's 2009 Business of the Year.

sardou02.jpgDoc and Mary Sardou bought the Rose Garden Restaurant -- 30 years in business at the time -- in 1954, added a bowling alley three years later and renamed it Viking Valhalla in 1966. They had some rough times as young entrepreneurs, working hard, trying to raise two sons, and dealing with the region's changing business climate. But it was the death of Tom's father that may have been the biggest challenge for the family to overcome.

"Everybody," says Mary, trying to start again, "everybody who walked up to us said to him ... 'now you’re the man of the house. You’re the man.' I’m sure that just stuck in his mind. It stuck in mine. I think he felt very obligated to stay with me."

"Did that have an impact on you?"

"Absolutely," says Tom. "That was drilled into me. When I went into high school I knew what my course in life would be. It was going to be running a business."

Tom Sardou did what many teenage boys did -- he went to school, made the wresting team and even dreamed of being a cop. But after graduation, he didn't enter the University of Buffalo or RIT or even GCC. Sardou started a different education program: "the college of hard knocks," as he puts it.

First, Sardou took a job at Gates Bowl as a night manager so he could learn the bowling business. The next year, at age 19, Tom started running, with his mother, the restaurant and bowling lanes.

And he's been at it, seven days a week, ever since.

"I do enjoy it," Tom says. "There’s times when I would like a little more time off than I get. There’s times when I wake up in the morning and say, 'geez, I’d like to call in sick today.'"

Hard work and innovation to adjust to an ever-changing business climate pretty much define Viking Valhalla and the Sardous.

At 82, Mary Sardou still comes to the restaurant every day to take care of the books and look over the operation. Tom took a special interest in the bowling business, even serving for years as president of the area's bowling operators association, and manages the restaurant along with his wife, Chris -- who met Tom, where else, at the Viking Valhalla.

sardou03.jpgWhen Mary, Tom and Chris attend the chamber's award ceremony Saturday evening, it will be the first time ever that at least one of them was not at Viking Vahalla on a weekend night.

That's quite a bit of dedication for a restaurant Mary wasn't sure she even wanted her husband to buy when they first saw it. She didn't even want to go inside after they drove from their home in Fairport to look at it. "We came all this way," Doc said. "We might as well take a look."

Her first day of work at the restaurant began minutes later, when she saw the owner's wife needed help with the dishes.

At first, the couple paid weekly rent on the restaurant. Doc cooked and Mary tended bar, pregnant with their son, George.

Doc happened to meet one of the county's richest men at the time, Oakfield's G. Sherwin Haxton. Haxton came into the bar one day to meet Mary. He decided the Sardous seemed like decent, hard-working people. He decided to help them out. Mary calls Haxton, "our angel."

“He liked us," Mary said. "He went to bat for us. He went to the Columbia Bank in Rochester and he talked to the owner of the bank and told him to give us the loan, and he did.”

The loan helped them expand.

Winters for a restaurant along Buffalo Road in Bergen were dead. In the late '50s, there were no snowmobilers riding up to your front door looking for a brew and a burger, and with Batavia Downs closed for the season, there was very little Rochester-to-Batavia traffic. The Sardous had to figure out a way to bring in business during the cold, snowy months.

The bowling alley seemed like the right idea.

That worked for a while, but after the Thruway opened, more and more traffic bypassed Bergen. While a lot of family businesses in New York shut down as a result of the Thruway opening, the Sardous were determined to hang on. They worked harder, started hosting more parties and found ways to make ends meet.

While other business owners might have given up, Tom Sardou said, "We've never been of that mindset."

To keep the bowling business going, the Sardous have added leagues to fit into any bowler's schedule, from monthly leagues and morning leagues for mothers to a "wine and cheese league" Chris created to attract people who like to try new, fine wines.

But bowling slows down in the summer when people are more interested in outdoor activities, so Tom added sand volleyball courts in 1993.

The constant tinkering and finding new ways to keep the business going are just part of the family tradition.

"After my husband died, people said, ‘she won’t last six months,’" Mary recalls. "They were thinking I would give up or fall on my face. I’m not sure which. But I was determined to make it.

"This is my whole life."

Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Kutter's Cheese Factory Store: 2009 Agricultural Business of the Year

post by Billie Owens in agriculture, business

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A welcome sight on a long stretch of Route 5, at 857 Main Road in Corfu, is Kutter's Cheese Factory Store. Epicures, bus loads of tourists, wine lovers, cheese tasters and other customers make regular stops at the retail shop because they like what it offers.

The variety is impressive. Blocks of Swiss cheese, wheels of jack cheese, spreads, curds, cheesecakes, specialty cheeses like Stilton with lemon or double-cream Spanish cheddar, crackers, cranberry horseradish sauce, New York maple syrup, eggs, fresh local apples, hot mustard, bologna and more.

kutters05.jpgThe success of Kutter's Cheese Factory Store and its positive impact on local agriculture are why it is being honored Saturday by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce as Agricultural Business of the Year for 2009.

It is also a "satellite winery" of Hunt Country Wines and carries its New York wines exclusively. Wine sales at stores offering local farm and dairy products are allowed under New York Department of Agriculture and Markets law. In fact, at one time, dairymen grew grapes for vintners to augment their income.

Even so, the retail pairing isn't commonplace, according to 77-year-old Tony Kutter, son of the late founder, Leo.

"I've always been adament about promoting wine and cheese," Kutter said. "We also supply a lot of wineries with cheese for wine tasting."

In fact, the business ships worldwide, from California to Taiwan.

The small Corfu store property is leased from the adjacent Yancey's Fancy cheese producers as well as the equipment to make its own cheese. Kutter's produces fine cheddars and other cheese varieties, plus it sells products made by others, including some imports, like Port Salut from France.

Kutter lives just two houses away from the store, but is retired from the business. So is his 80-year-old brother, Richard, who lives in the area but spends winters in Florida.

Yet Tony remains active in the industry. He's on the board of directors of the New York State Cheesemaker Association and usually attends the Cheesemakers Convention. He's proud to note that the association pays half the salary of a professor at Cornell University to fund ag research.

kutters03.jpgKutter says he's happy to work with the chamber of commerce to promote agritourism and he's honored to receive the chamber award. It recognizes a business that is now 63 years old.

In a way, it started in Bavaria, before the Great War. Leo (1893-1962) was born there and as a young man, his chosen vocation was cheese making. He was especially good at crafting the pungent Limburger variety.

Then World War I came and he served Germany. Two days prior to his being discharged, he was captured by the French and became a prisoner of war. But once the "War to End All Wars" was over, he returned to his roots. As the German economy faltered, inflation ran amouk and panic began setting in. He left for Buffalo, USA, thanks to the sponsorship of his sister. That was 1923-24.

Buffalo before the Great Depression was a boomtown, boasting large steel plants, flour mills and plenty of railroads lines to further commerce. He went to Wyoming County to find work in the dairy industry. Although the Great Depression created a shortage of milk, according to Tony, WWII created a shortage of sons to milk the cows.

Some historians claim there were more than 20 cheese factories in Western New York at the time. Leo told dairymen to bring him their milk, or let him milk their cows and otherwise make himself useful. What he really wanted, was to start his own cheese-making business.

He did so in Cowlesville in 1947, purposely on a main route with great access and visability. Tony and Richard learned young how to scrub vats and clean up equipment and the grounds after school.

kutters04.jpgAfter Leo's death, then-29-year-old Tony, a Korean War veteran, and his brother took over the business. It was hard, familiar work.

Early last year, they approached Brian Bailey and his wife, Heather, about buying the retail store. Brian had been a business partner of the Kutter brothers since 1995.

In November, they sealed the deal and along with Christine Adamczak, formed BHC Cheese, Inc. The trio constitutes the board of directors, with Heather as president, Brian as vice president of operations, and Adamczak as vice president of sales and marketing.

"It's an honor to be recognized, to be part of a business that is being carried on successfully after 63 years," Heather Bailey said.

Tony Kutter takes pride in creating a mighty "stinky" Limburger, the first cheese he learned to make, and claims more and more people are rediscovering it. Now with Kutter's Cheese Factory Store in award-winning hands, he's probably planning his 32nd trip to Russia.

There's a strong possiblity he'll be tempted to promote Limburger and vodka. The bold pairing does seems fitting. "Na zda-ro-vye!"

kutters02.jpg

Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Special Recognition Award: Rochester Community Baseball

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, batavia, Chamber Awards, muckdogs

History. Community. Baseball. Three things Naomi Silver knows something about.

In 1956, 57 years after the Rochester baseball franchise was formed, the St. Louis Cardinals, which had owned and operated the Red Wings for the previous 27 seasons, decided to abandon the city. Naomi's father, Morrie Silver, made it hinaomi_silver.jpgs one-man mission to save baseball for Rochester.

Silver formed Rochester Community Baseball, Inc. In 72 days, Morrie sold enough stock in the team -- 8,882 shares to local investors -- to buy the team from the Cardinals, keeping it from being either shuttered or moved.

Today, Rochester is home to the only minor league baseball team that has operated in the same city since the 1800s.

Batavia is also a historic baseball city. The New York-Penn League was formed in Batavia and Batavia is one of only two cities -- along with Jamestown -- that still has teams connected to those original six franchises.

The Muckdogs trace their lineage to 1939.

It's that history, and the importance of baseball to the community, that attracted Naomi Silver and Red Wings General Manager Dan Mason, to the Muckdogs.

Prior to the 2008 season, the Muckdogs were on the ropes. 

The team lost $150,000 in 2007. It seemed nearly certain the NY-Penn League would force the team to move to a larger market. Silver and Mason heard about the dire straits of baseball in Batavia and decided to do something about it.

Rochester Community Baseball stepped in and paid off all of those debts and agreed to operate the team and see if the franchise could once again become a profitable operation.

Fewer than 200 cities in North America have professional baseball teams.

In cities such as Ithica, Elmira and Watertown, baseball fans are bereft each summer of the opportunity to see future stars swat homers the way Ryan Howard did a few years ago at Dwyer Stadium. They miss the joys of showing up at the ballpark and visiting with friends or mentoring grandchildren while watching young pros hone their skills in one of the most storied and historic leagues of professional sports.

dan_mason.jpg"For Batavia to have a team is a great asset," Mason said. "It’s something that a lot of other cities would love to have. The pride that it generates, and the memories it generates for the fans in any minor league community, is something that is a great asset to the quality of life in that town."

Credit Rochester Community Baseball with saving the sport in Batavia, for now. It's the reason the Red Wings will accept a special recognition award Saturday from the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce. But it doesn't guarantee baseball in Batavia in 2011.

Even after winning a championship in 2008, the first year the club fell under Red Wings' management, the team still lost $100,000 in 2009.

This year's campaign is critical, Silver said, in determining the future of baseball in Batavia.

"I would have thought that last year we could have broken even," Silver said. "This year, we most definitely must break even. We should be better than that."

Fan support is important, but minor league teams survive on business sponsorships. At one time, local businesses were very supportive of the Muckdogs, but the sponsorships fell off in recent years. Muckdogs General Manager Travis Sick is working hard -- with help from superfan Russ Salway -- selling corporate sponsorships. The level of local business support, Silver said, will be key to determining the future of the Muckdogs.

"We’ll know in a relatively short time what the outcome will be,” Silver said. "We’ll be able to tell very soon what our sponsorships are going to be like. We won’t know if we’re going to draw more people until the baseball season starts."

It's clear that Silver and Mason care a good deal about baseball, history and community. It's woven into the mission and culture of Red Wings baseball, and it's why there's a Batavia Muckdogs team this year.

Now is the time, according to Silver, for the community to step up the effort to support baseball in Batavia.

"We definitely want to get people involved in this," Silver said. "Everyone has a stake in this in Batavia. Whether you’re a fan that should be making a decision to come out to the ballpark or whether you’re a business and would hate to see baseball leave Batavia, we hope they'll all get out there.

"There’s hardly a community I can imagine," Silver added, "that would want to lose an asset like this."

Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Photo: Steelers' fan snowman

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos

Ian Cromwell and his girlfriend drove around Batavia today and saw quite a few snowmen, so they got inspired to build their own.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm

A good afternoon for a walk

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, weather

snowfamily.jpg

The weather Web sites say it's 36 degrees in Batavia. My thermometer reads 42. The sun is out with a smattering of puffy clouds in the sky to add a little artistic flourish over the snow-draped houses of the Southside. Pachuco and I were returning from the longest walk we've taken in weeks and I spotted this snow family on Ganson, so I went back with my camera.

The forecast for tonight and tomorrow is snow/flurries (depending on which Web site you believe), and snow is forecast for Tuesday. 

Winter ain't over yet.

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