By Barbara Tucker
The Tonawanda News
NORTH TONAWANDA — Perhaps one of the best kept secrets in North Tonawanda is the “new” Gratwick Fire Hall on Ward Road, now known as Gratwick Banquet Facilities.
Thanks to the energetic and forward-looking president of Gratwick Hose, Bob Brennan, and a cadre of volunteers, the year-and-a-half project is nearly complete.
“We drew on the talent and strength of our members,” Brennan said. “We used $60,000 in materials and the rest was volunteer work,” he added.
Wayne Croll, catering manager, commented that the perception of Gratwick’s former hall was that of a typical fire hall.
“Now when visitors walk through the front doors with the beautiful etched glass, it’s a different story,” Croll said.
“We are on ground level, with a private entrance and completely handicapped accessible. No one has the facilities, parking and access that we now have,” Croll said with pride.
The facility boasts a new floor with a designated dance floor, new round tables and chairs, tile walls, floor-to-ceiling drapes, new lighting with chandeliers and pillars.
Brennan noted that one of the members, Cathy Ann Ball and Brennan’s wife, Rachel came up with the decorating ideas for the hall which caters up to 276 people whether for an after-prom party, retirement dinners, anniversary, wedding events or reunions.
Brennan said that at last summer’s North Tonawanda High School reunion for those who graduated 50 or more years ago, 700 people attended.
“We set up tents, used the gazebo and the inside hall and lounge,” Brennon said. “We even offered a shuttle from the parking lot for those who had trouble walking any distance,” he added.
One of the most important areas for any banquet facility is the food. Croll said David Cohen of Mr. and Mrs. Catering in North Tonawanda is the exclusive caterer.
“We work with our customers to provide whatever they want — and more,” Cohen said. “The important part of the strategy is to have more people here. We project 20 to 30 weddings here a year,” he added.
The facility is still evolving, Brennan explained.
“We will be putting in down lighting around the room capable of different colors,” Brennan said. “This means that we can match the color scheme of any event by down lighting the drapes.”
A new awning at the entrance and signage is also on the horizon.
“We tell people that if they haven’t seen Gratwick hall in a while, they haven’t seen it,” Croll said.
“The vision was really important and came together,” he said.
The three men said they get accolades not just from renters, but from their own members.
“(Gratwick) has really turned the corner,” Brennan said. “We now have a Class A facility we’re all proud of.”