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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Ra-Lin Celebrates 60 Years

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 30, 2013



This October, Ra-Lin Discount turns 60 years old, an incredible testament to a local business that has competed with commercial appliance stores since the 1950s. If you’ve ever visited the store, you can understand why. The staff is always friendly and knowledgeable and some of them have been with Ra-Lin for decades. It feels like a family.

The idea for Ra-Lin began to hatch in the 1940s. Bernie Radin was living in New York City as a trained jeweler. “But, I guess he wasn’t very good at it,” laughs Lewis Radin, Bernie’s son and one of the current owners of Ra-Lin. He started selling products door-to-door and supplying his customers with a system of credit where they could pay a little each payday. This was a hard way to make a living and Bernie started to dream about owning his own store that sold a variety of products in one place. His wife had a friend living in Binghamton whose husband, Herman Zeitlin, was struggling to make ends meet. The Zeitlins had nothing to lose and agreed to team-up and open Ra-Lin. The store’s name is a mash-up of the two families: “Ra” for the Radins and “Lin” for the Zeitlins.

Ra-Lin first opened in Mattydale for a short time. It then moved to Butternut Street in 1953 next door to an old print shop. Several years later the print shop caught fire, spreading across the lot to Ra-Lin. Lewis still remembers that day, where as a child he watched the TV reports, stunned. Though a bit of a setback, the owners were not deterred and they soon moved to their current location on Burnet Avenue, where Ra-Lin remains today.

In the 1950s Ra-Lin sold baby furniture, home appliances, jewelry—“Whatever you could get your hands on,” Lewis explains, but he remembers little from those early days. “As a kid I wanted to go out and play football,” he says, “I didn’t appreciate the business.” It wasn’t until the late 1970s that Lewis began working at Ra-Lin. He needed time to “grow up” and realize the value of what was in front of him. “Working with my father,” he explains, “was one of the best things in my life. It was a terrific opportunity.” Now that Lewis runs the store with the help of his sister and her husband, he has fully come to appreciate and love the family business. “It’s pleasurable doing business with people over a period of time,” Lewis says. He loves meeting new people, hearing their stories, and building relationships.

60 years after that first store in Mattydale, not much has changed. Ra-Lin is still family owned and operated and sells a variety of different products including, jewelry, photography equipment, appliances, TVs, and sporting equipment. They take great pride in being a local entity that can spend time with customers, offer the lowest prices in Central New York, and be more thoughtful about the American-made products they sell.

The Ra-Lin family has much to celebrate and they want their customers to join in the merriment. The Anniversary will kick-off with a sale over Columbus Day weekend. More sales and special offers will continue throughout the year. Stay tuned to the Ra-Lin website and Facebook page for more details.

Photo Friday:

Written by admin  • September 27, 2013

In place of our usual “Photo Friday” photograph, please enjoy a compilations of pictures from our 12th Green Train class. We’re celebrating the achievement of these ten incredible graduates today, so give them some ‘Likes’!

Green Train Album

To Read or Not to Read

Written by Joe Russo1 Comment • September 26, 2013

Editor’s Note:  Joe Russo is a “Nortsider”, a retired teacher, and an aspiring writer. We’ve asked him to share his stories of the past and offer his perspective on the present and future of our neighborhood. His posts will appear each month under the category, “Old Times on the Northside”.


I remember in the early elementary grades not really being interested in reading. Joey DiMento, my classmate at Our Lady of Pompeii, was a terrific reader. My mom always told me if I could read like Joey DiMento I’d get grades like his. I wasn’t really that concerned. In first, second and third grade friends were important, dreams were important and imagination was really important. My parents talked often about reading that interested them and they encouraged me to be a more active reader. My mother read serious stuff like novels by Ernest Hemmingway. My father loved the Zane Grey adventure stories about the Wild West like Riders of the Purple Sage. I just wasn’t interested.

In fourth grade it all changed. I became enthralled with early societies. The cavemen and Native American societies before the Europeans came to America were of particular interest. While talking to my mom about my new found interest she took off her apron and suggested we walk to the White Branch Library on Butternut Street. “Why”, was my response? She knew I didn’t like to read. “They’ve got more than books at the library”, she said, “Let’s go together and I’ll show you.” I was reluctant but we went to the library.

After meeting the librarian and selecting a few books on the Apache and Navajo tribes I sat on the floor and scanned through the colorful pictures. Once I decided what to bring home the librarian talked me through the check-out process. She emphasized the due date by tapping her finger on a card imprinted with a date in blue ink. She promised to show me how to use the card catalog the next time I came to the library.

At home I read and then re-read each book to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. My favorite was about a 14 year old Apache boy preparing himself for the tribal manhood test. He had to learn how to survive the desert heat and hunt for food. I found the ingenuity of the Apache teenager especially appealing. At the family dinner table I often imagined we were eating a rabbit I hunted and trapped on my manhood test rather than a chicken we bought at the Farmer’s Market.

While reflecting back on these times I decided to visit the White Branch Library to see if it would trigger more memories. My visit turned into a wonderful surprise. I remembered the White Branch being small, quiet and with just a few patrons. The beautiful Wednesday morning I arrived it was a busy, energetic place. Both children and adults were actively engaged in reading, research, English language studies, resume writing and enjoying all that the library had to offer. I introduced myself to the branch manager, Renate Dunsmore. She introduced me to students from the Grant Middle School using the Oxford English Dictionary to look up vocabulary words. Renate explained that at one time the White Branch had German and Italian dictionaries to assist the immigrant population from that era. Today’s Northsiders are from Africa, Asia and South America.

Originally my visit to the White Branch was purely for nostalgia. Reminiscing about my mom, and the old Northside, and the way things used to be. It turned into a life lesson about how things are different but they remain the same. I needed the White Branch Library to explore, learn and exercise my imagination way back in the 1950’s. And some will say it is so different today in 2013. It is but it isn’t. Yes, many of the new Northsiders are from Africa and Asia. They need to explore the English language. As in the 1950’s, they also need to learn about our culture so they can navigate through school and society. And, of course, like all of us they need to imagine success for themselves and their families. What was most impressive about the young people in the library was how eager and enthusiastic they were about reading and learning. They wanted to learn about other cultures and languages. When the librarian told them I wrote a Blog they got all excited and wanted me to show them how to find it.  They really wanted to read about the “Old Times in the Northside”. One young man said, “My father loves stories about the old Northside.” So do I and everyone I know who grew up on the Northside. We’re not so different after all.



UP Start Syracuse Begins!

Written by Dan Cowen3 Comments • September 25, 2013

At 6:00pm Cooperative Federal Credit Union closes for the day and opens its community space to a class of aspiring entrepreneurs. Peeking through the windows of the credit union turned classroom on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday night reveals a diverse team sharing ideas, exchanging constructive critiques, and absorbing business insights from expert workshops. Community members from all over the world with a variety of experiences congregate here, bringing together their unique perspectives to starting businesses in Syracuse. These entrepreneurs all share an undeterred dedication and passion to starting their own business.

This 5-week curriculum, the UP Start Seminar, is part of a larger collaborative program called UP Start Syracuse that empowers the next generation of urban entrepreneurs to start businesses and improve the Syracuse community. While the majority of these aspiring entrepreneurs spend their in-classroom training in the UP Start Seminar, those with more advanced education and experience in business enroll in the three-day Small Business Development Center’s Fast Track to Business Start Up class. Upon completion of both training seminars, students will have developed a comprehensive business portfolio to present to a selection committee that decides who moves on to the business incubation stage. Entrepreneurs accepted into the incubation stage will have access to a network of mentors, technical assistance in the areas of business planning, financial planning, marketing, and other specialized fields, capital resources, practicum events to test their products or services, and launch assistance.

UP Start Class Collage_Web

UP Start Syracuse is made possible by our many partners including Central New York Community Foundation, Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union, NYS Small Business Development Center, Hopeprint, ProLiteracy, The Tech Garden, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, St. Joseph’s Hospital, CenterState CEO, SUNY Educational Opportunity Center, The Clean Tech Center, SCORE, and Raymond Von Dran IDEA.

UP Start program_Brochure

On the Calendar: Green Train Graduation

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 24, 2013

Our 12th Green Train Class graduates this Friday! The ceremony begins at 11 AM with our guest speaker, Suzanne Williams, the Executive Director of Syracuse’s Habitat for Humanity. Refreshments will be served after the ceremony.

RSVP to Danielle Szabo at dszabo@northsideup.org

Green Train Invitation_Summer 2013-1

Photo Friday: Beautification and Celebration

Written by admin  • September 20, 2013

Clean Up Collage

We would like to thank the numerous businesses and organizations that contributed to a sprucing up of the neighborhood in preparation for the International Arts and Puppet Festival! Resources were generously donated by Ballantyne Gardens, Davco Performance Automotive, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, the Onondaga Citizens League, and the Northside Business Partnership. Delta Chi and Believe in Syracuse helped to provide and coordinate the volunteers who participated in a clean-up of the area.

The Festival itself was a great success! Thanks to all of you that came out to take part in the festivities.

Collage Final_Web_White Border

Butternut Community Police Center Seeks Volunteers!

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 19, 2013

Butternut Police

The Butternut Community Police Center (BCPC) has been named the beneficiary of Attilio’s Golf Classic on Monday, September 23. BCPC is looking for volunteers to help with the day’s activities, including lunch, the golf tournament, and a steak and clambake after the tournament. You do not have to know anything about golf, or even like golf, to volunteer. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy yourself at this great event!

For more information about this fun volunteer opportunity, please contact  Officer Kenn Burdick at cop@butternutcenter.org.

A Place for Gardens on the Northside

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • 

“Place making” is a philosophy. It promotes communities that are built for the people who live there. It promotes unity. It promotes quality of life. It promotes happiness. It takes the resources within a community and thoughtfully creates a space that fulfills a need. We’ve seen this happen before with the Rising Sculpture in Finnegan Park, and again with the Union Park Playground build. In both cases, a place was re-energized and given a stronger identity.

At Northside UP, place-making is integral to our revitalization mission and our goal to make the Northside a more livable neighborhood. Several years ago we became involved with Syracuse Grows, a grassroots coalition that works to cultivate a just foodscape in the City of Syracuse. Three gardens have since popped-up on the Northside in once-vacant or neglected spaces, including the Isabella Street Tapestry Garden established in 2009 and the Karibu Garden established in 2010. The newest garden to appear in the neighborhood, is the New Roots Garden, located near the intersection of Catawba and Lodi Streets.


Isabella, Karibu, and New Roots gardens

The New Roots garden was originally a lot sandwiched between two houses, completely empty but ripe with possibilities for place-making activities. The City of Syracuse owned this space and reached out to Syracuse Grows with a deal: if Syracuse Grows could find funding to create a garden, they could have the land. Sarah Brown, the chair for School-based and Youth Gardening at Syracuse Grows, says that the organization was excited for the opportunity. They’ve been in need of another plot on the Northside to extend the Karibu Garden, where “demand exceeded space.”

An option for funding came in the form of the Fiskars’ Project Orange Thumb. This program awards cash, garden tools, or materials to help support the community garden movement throughout the U.S. and Canada. Syracuse Grows worked to put together a strong application, specific to the Northside Community it would serve. In early 2013, the New Roots Garden was selected as a grant recipient and Northside UP and Syracuse Grows began working to prepare the garden for its first growing season this past spring.


A thriving community garden is a wonderful place for educational opportunities and community building. Much of the Northside population is made up of refugee families from all over the world. Rozlynn Jakes-Johnson, an ESL instructor at Syracuse City School District, uses the gardens as an extension of her classroom.  “Gardening helps facilitate the learning of a language,” she explains. Many of her students have a difficult time staying engaged in class, but once their grammar lessons become about growing food, “eyes light up and it brings them joy.” Students are quick to tell her, “In my home country I was a farmer,” or “I grew vegetables,” and they’re excited to continue with these traditions.


Rozlynn’s students comprise many of the families that help maintain, plant, and harvest the food in the Northside gardens. Once their hands are busy pulling weeds or gently guiding beans to curl around strings, they have a very real, hands-on opportunity to use the language developed in class and to build a strong understanding of what each word actually means. Doing this forms a strong bond between mind and body and past and present experiences.

The garden as classroom is a concept also emphasized by Sarah.  This type of “informal learning” is a way to “cultivate that sense of wonder” especially in children who need a space that lets them explore and ask questions. “If you go to the supermarket, food comes in boxes, it comes in bags, it doesn’t resemble food that comes from the ground,” Sarah explains, “but with gardening, residents can have control over the food system.” The vegetables that are grown in the gardens—among them zucchini, onions, potatoes, mustard seed, hot peppers, lenga-lenga (Amaranth), and Burma beans—are all chosen by the member families and are often difficult to find in your average super market.

Across the street, the vibrant Karibu garden, with its funky picket fence and green sculpture, is being harvested as fall approaches. A few blocks over the Isabella Street garden is preparing for the same turn in seasons. Residents are thinking about New Roots’ second growing season and Northside UP and Syracuse Grows are celebrating a successful year of planting, harvesting, and community building.

If you are interested in learning more about Syracuse Grows or participating in the Community Garden movement, you can attend the Syracuse Grows’ 6th Annual Fall Harvest Dinner on September 21 from 3:00-5:00 PM. For more details, click here.

Syracuse Grows is always excepting donations and gifts for their gardens, especially gently-used or new tools. To learn more about donations, please contact Syracuse Grows via email syracusegrows@gmail.com or phone (315) 443-4890.


Garden Collage

On the Calendar: Champagne Brunch to Benefit CAP

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 17, 2013

The Cathedral Academy at Pompei (CAP), along with Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter Parish, are hosting a champagne brunch to celebrate and honor the recipients of the 2013 North Side Community Outreach Award: St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and President and CEO, Kathryn Ruscitto.

St. Joseph’s Hospital has been instrumental in many significant initiatives and experiences at CAP and the overall Northside neighborhood. Their generosity, work, dedication, and compassion has had a significant impact on the students and staff at the school.

The brunch and award presentation will take place at Attilio’s Restaurant and Bar on Sunday, September 29. Tickets are available until Friday, September 20. For more information, or to RSVP, please contact  Lucy Cappuccilli Paris, Development Director at CAP, via email lucycp2004@yahoo.com or phone (315) 422-7163. All proceeds benefit the education and scholarship fund for the children of Cathedral Academy at Pompei.

CAP banner


NBP Member: Housing Visions

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 16, 2013

Prospect Hill Housing Visions

This month marks the anniversary of Housing Vision’s Phase 1 completion of the Prospect Hill Homes 3 years ago. This project is significant because it represented the first step in creating an attractive and economically vibrant neighborhood along the  500 and 600 block of North Townsend Street and the 600 block of Catherine Street.

Today, Housing Visions is still developing properties and helping create vibrant neighborhoods all across Central New York, including VanKeuren Square in Syracuse which will provide permanent supportive housing for Veterans. They are known for their quality, integrity, and compassion–and each of these qualities is reflected in the amazing work that they do.

Housing Visions is a not-for-profit agency that offers a talented team of developers, construction managers, property managers, and human services experts. To learn more, click here!


Editors Note: Each Monday, we’re introducing a community spotlight piece highlighting one of our Northside Business Partnership (NBP) members in an effort to showcase the diverse and unique businesses that make up the Northside. NBP is a collaboration between Northside UP, the Greater North Salina Business Association, and CenterState CEO that works to promote, support, and engage Northside businesses.