Tonawanda News

August 3, 2013

Change on Webster Street

Café, art gallery to close; deli, photographers to move in

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A popular section of North Tonawanda’s Webster Street will be undergoing some changes in the next few months, with two city fixtures moving out and two new businesses moving in.

The Palette Café at Hodgepodge gift shop, 72 Webster St., is now closed (with the temporary exception of some desserts), while the Partners in Art Gallery on the other side of the shop will close after its last exhibit ends Aug. 31. 

Kay Learned, who with Penny Creasy is the owner of Hodgepodge, said the café location will become a deli named Mike and Risa’s, while Argento Photography will move into the former gallery. Hodgepodge will remain open.

“The gift shop will stay in its current location and expand in souvenirs,” she said. “It really hasn’t been that so much since the economy went sour in 2008. We’re looking forward into being able to build it back up inventory-wise.”

Learned will be doing commission artwork as they put together more of the expanded line, she said. “We hope to get back into sweatshirts, maybe T-shirt in the spring. Christmas ornaments, certainly. There are lots of possibilites. I don’t have how much how fast. We’d like to become the souvenir destination for the street.”

Learned and Creasey opened Hodgepodge in 1996 on Oliver Street, then moved to Webster Street in 2002. The cafe opened in 2004, and they purchased and renovated the adjacent building into the art gallery in 2007.

With the lease ending for Partners in Art Gallery, that change was a bit of a mutual decision, Learned said, and it was time to pass the café portion off to someone new.

“We’ve done it for a while and we’re ready to hand it off to somebody who can take it and run with it,” she said. 

David Paonessa and his wife Risa, who own Risa’s Restaurant and Catering at 285 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, officially took over the café Thursday, although it’s going to take a little retrofitting before a projected opening the first week of September.

The new location — named Risa and David’s — will feature breakfast and lunch with an Italian spin, as well as corporate catering, David Paonessa said.

The Paonessa have a background in the deli/restaurant business, he said. His wife’s grandparents owned a New-York-style deli in what is now Washington Square, and her father owned a deli on Hertel Avenue for about 35 years. 

Risa’s opened on Hertel, then moved into its current location about four years ago, David Paonessa said.

“We were looking for a second location and a lot of people were saying, ‘Why don’t you try North Tonawanda?’ “ he said. “So here we are.”

On the other side of Hodgepodge, the current exhibit at Partners in Art Gallery — “Three Cousins: The Work of Angelo F. LaDuca, Thomas A. Insana and Marilyn Wilson,” opening Saturday — will be the last in that location.

Glenna Sternin of Partners in Art said the business’ classes, workshops, frame shop and art supply shop will remain in their location at 71 to 81 Webster St., with some exhibits taking place at the River Art Gallery next door.

“That takes us back where we started, because we used to be in that building,” she said. “It’s exciting, but gee, I hate moving. Still, it’ll be good.”

Starting Sept. 1, 74 Webster St. will be the home of Argento Photography, which is owned by Mike and Jill Argento, which was formerly located in the Remington Rand building on Sweeney Street. Mike Argento said they’re locating forward to the new location.

“We love how open it is,” he said. “We love what’s around it, the street, the different shops. I think Partners in Art is a good complement to have near us, across the street.

“It’s great it was just a gallery before we got it. It’s perfect. There’s a hanging system for our photos; they have a lot of lights in there. We really like it.”

Argento Photography specializes in wedding and family photography, including work with young children and newborns. The Webster Street location will include studio space, room to meet with clients and show off work, Mike Argento said.

“Having a storefront is different,” he said. “It’s a really up-and-coming street, which is exciting to us as well.”

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @JillKeppeler.