Tonawanda News


November 8, 2009

NORTH TONAWANDA: New business blows in

Hurricane Bar on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda has been open for a month, since owners Robert and Wieslawa Orefice returned to their native Western New York a year ago.

After years raising their family in Florida, Robert, a third-generation restaurateur, his wife and two kids have each pitched in to get the place off to a fast start.

“This is our version of Florida,” Robert Orefice said while guiding a recent tour of the rear dining room. “Anybody having a bad day, especially with the economy — you can’t be (angry) when you’re in here.”

The new owners of the establishment at 485 Oliver St. had lived in the Sunshine State for as many as 30 years, until a car accident forced Robert Orefice to consider a career change. But the change to restaurant ownership, it turned out, isn’t too different after all.

For years, he worked as an executive chef for waterfront properties there, before switching into a sales position for a liquor company. His grandfather, who died 18 years ago, ran Velenti’s at the corner of Kenmore and Delaware for some 35 years.

After looking at about 100 other properties in four states, he said the draw to Oliver Street had a lot to do with high traffic volume on the corner directly across from Wilson Farms.

And the building fit the bill.

“Where else in the country can you actually live up above your building”” he said. “Especially now in the economy the way it is ... it’s almost guaranteeing that you can make it. You’re not driving to work anymore. You’re saving costs all the way along the line. You wake up in the morning, go downstars and go to work.”

Downstairs, it’s pretty straight forward — several televisions, a large bar and a pool table front and center — except for the huge emphasis on decorations alternately paying homage to almost every conceivable sport as well as an undeniable island theme in the back, where a good number of tables and booths can handle a number of customers.

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