By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Frank Budwey said it was a strange feeling when he received a check the first day the newest Mighty Taco franchise had opened on Monday along Division Street.
The Budwey’s Supermarket owner has spent most of the last year trying to do the same with his previous tenants who ran the short-lived Valenti’s Italian Restaurant before collapsing amid legal troubles and delinquent payments prior to a court ordered eviction in January.
But a month later, when Might Taco representatives contacted Budwey to express interest in anchoring the local chain’s first location in North Tonawanda, things began to look up.
“It’s come full circle from where we were,” said Budwey, who’s father opened the supermarket 87 years ago.
A complete renovation on the corporation’s dime ensued during the last several months in front of the Budwey’s store, where dozens lined up before it officlaly opened at 10 a.m. Monday.
Budwey said the building that he originally had constructed in 1997 for an Anderson’s restaurant has had a trove of food-specific business since then, though this time he sees a more sustainable relationship, one that should be favorable for both parties.
“I’m optimistic that we’re both going to benefit because of our proximity and traffic in the plaza,” he said.
Russ Jasulevich, chief operating officer for the chain, who was at the Payne Street location on Tuesday said part of the reason the company chose that area of the city for its 21st fast food restaurant in the Buffalo and Rochester markets was because of its’ centralized position in a commercial district.
He said the first day went off without a hitch.
“The word was out and people have been waiting ever since,” he said. “It was constant all day long.”
Budwey, who was an outspoken opponent of a North Tonawanda Walmart, has had other worries to contend with. He said while sales at his store have dropped since the mega store opened in August, the financial repercussions haven’t been as severe as he initially anticipated.
“We started a rewards program knowing that Walmart was being built,” he said. “The customers (are) getting 3 percent back through a gift card. I believe it’s part of the reason for sales.”
Budwey said he is still fighting to regain roughly $5,700 in back payments from the Valentie’s owners, with the recent city court appearance of one former owner postposted. Terry Valenti was extradited to Texas earlier this year to face forgery charges stemming from Florida.
But Budwey said his focus now is less on the past than the present and future.
“We’re just totally delighted with the new tenant and very happy with how sales have been,” Budwey said.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.