Tonawanda News — KENMORE — The block of storefronts on Delaware Avenue between Lincoln Boulevard and Mang Avenue is receiving a long-overdue facelift, and the Village of Kenmore moves into the future by acknowledging its past.
Nick Sinatra of the Town of Tonawanda’s Sinatra & Company Real Estate, who grew up on Knowlton Avenue in the village and has returned after some remarkable experiences and some funny stories, is making sure of that.
The long, low building, constructed in 1930 and housing stores in the 2700 block of Delaware, the heart of Kenmore’s business district, was purchased by Sinatra’s firm earlier this year.
“It took me two years to negotiate (with the previous owner),” Sinatra said. “He threw me out of his office twice. When we finally got the property, we wanted to learn how to restore it to its original look.”
So staff member Andrew Sheldon was dispatched to the archives of the Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society, and returned with photographs galore of what the sturdy little block of Kenmore looked like through the years.
“We decided to restore it to its original brick, and make it a little more colorful,” Sinatra said. “Last year at the (retailer’s) sidewalk sale, we showed two renderings, and everybody like the combination of colored concrete and old brick,” and thus does each storefront now have its own identity, expressed in color, while the surrounding details are a nod to the village’s past.
“It took time, and a lot of masonry, but it highlights the artistry of the building,” he said, pointing out the decorative diamond pattern across the facades “reborn as the centerpiece.”
With the exterior renovation comes something of a game of retail musical chairs. The durable and flagship Mike’s Subs, a fixture since 1956, will expand into space now the longtime home of Elliott Travel Agency, and add a dining area. The travel agency will move a few storefronts up the street. One currently vacant space will become Village Square Events and Catering, featuring a banquet hall and entertainment space for 175 people and operated by Sinatra’s family (they of Sinatra’s Restaurant on Kenmore Avenue). All other businesses will remain in place.
That leaves one vacant storefront. Sinatra is holding out for a high-end bakery, something a recent survey by the Kenmore Village Improvement Society indicated is at the top of residents’ wish lists.
The upgrade, respectful of Kenmore history, is already receiving rave reviews, as is the entire project, and the hometown boy’s motivations.
“He’s revitalizing the core of the Village of Kenmore, putting money into buildings to upgrade them,” said Bob Bolt, Mike’s Subs owner since 1981 and president of the Kenmore Merchants Association. “We have about 1,000 square feet right now, and when this is finished we’ll have just under 2,000 feet, and a dining room and seating for 40 people.”
Sinatra has a number of urban properties under development, but this is a special one for him. A graduate of Kenmore Middle School and St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, then Yale University and later the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he initially pursued a career in government, with former Gov. George Pataki’s Economic Development Office, then the Office of Political Affairs in the George W. Bush White House.
“The (political) system is broken,” is all this “small ‘c’ conservative” says about his decision to leave politics and go into commercial real estate.
“We’re thrilled he’s brought so much improvement to the business corridor,” said Kenmore Village Clerk Kathleen Johnson, who can watch the improvements from her office window in the Municipal Building. “Nick worked well with our Planning Board, and in conjunction with our Comprehensive Plan, and it’s wonderful to have the banquet hall for residents’ use.”
Noting that it was the federally funded streetscape redesign, finished in 2006, that brought a distinctive look to downtown Kenmore with new sidewalks, flower-bedecked lamp post and other features, Sinatra admits “a correlation between government being the first ones in, and spurring economic development. The Village of Kenmore has been unbelievably helpful to work with. We can’t thank them enough. They’ve been frustrated for so long. I hope we’re the catalyst.”
While the storefronts receiving facelifts have been conducting business as usual through the improvements, the celebratory grand opening of Village Square Events and Catering comes later this week. That block of Delaware Avenue, with a few new splashes of color, has returned to 1930.
Ed Adamczyk is a freelance contributor from Kenmore where he is the village historian. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.Ed Adamczyk is a freelance contributor from Kenmore where he is the village historian. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.