By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — KENMORE — Nick Sinatra’s redevelopment of a historic block in Kenmore is continuing to have an immense impact on residents and merchants — and the area’s right in Sinatra’s backyard.
“I’ve always had an affinity for this block,” he said. “I saw the area in East Aurora, Lewiston — and I thought Kenmore can do that.”
So Sinatra, who grew up on Knowlton Avenue around the corner from the shops, decided to do it on his own.
After arguing with the previous owner for two years, he bought the strip of buildings between Lincoln Boulevard and Mang Avenue in the 2700 block of Delaware Avenue that house Kenmore staples like Mike’s Subs.
Although the improvement has taken longer and cost more than Sinatra initially expected, he’s happy with the results. The remodel has significantly upgraded the storefronts but has kept the block’s historic flair with the unveiling of the 1930s buildings’ original brick.
The work included some research, as Sinatra’s employee, Andrew Sheldon, visited the Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society to study old pictures of the area to ensure the block kept the same look.
After looking at the photos, Sinatra considered keeping the original brick as is, but eventually chose painting each store’s brick a different color.
“We took an informal survey with the tenants and gave them two renderings,” Sinatra said. “And everyone liked the painted brick.”
Every store on the block now has its own unique shade — Hofert Jewelers with red and Sinatra’s banquet facility with yellow.
The fix-up, which was started almost a year ago, also brought new signs to each store.
“They were different from our original design after we got some feedback from the owners,” Sinatra said. “With the black on cream, they will be visible at night, too.”
The stores have also shifted location, with Elliot Travel Agency moving five doors down so Mike’s Subs can take over the agency’s old spot, which will add almost 1,000 square feet of space and a sitting area that will accommodate 40 customers.
Sinatra said the expansion was due to a high demand at the sub shop.
“When I bought the buildings, the owner, Bob Bolt, told me to watch how many people eat their subs in the car,” Sinatra said. “And they did, lined up in their cars and getting mayonnaise all over their shirts. It was hilarious.”
Work on Mike’s is expected to be finished by Christmas.
And customers will soon have another place to sit and eat with a new coffee shop coming to the block. Construction is currently taking place on the building and the locally owned cafe and bakery is set to be open by Thanksgiving.
Sinatra said he hopes his purchase and remodel can help Kenmore recapture the hype of years past.
“The owner of Hofert Jewelers, who has been here for 58 years, said this area used to really be jumping,” Sinatra said. “You couldn’t get down the sidewalk on a Friday night, it used to be like Manhattan. My vision for it was to control enough property to make a difference in the area.”
Prior to his current career in commercial real estate, Sinatra was a St. Joe’s boy and then left Kenmore for 10 years. In that time, he went to Yale University, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and then initially pursued a career in government — working the Office of Political Affairs in the George W. Bush White House.
But now Sinatra is happy to be back in the area, and many are just as happy to have him.
“We are very glad to have him in Kenmore,” Mayor Patrick Mang said. “He is doing a wonderful job for the properties and not only is he doing that, he’s involved in our community. I can’t say enough about him.”Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.