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Author Archives: Rachel Nolte

A Visit to Isabella Lofts

Written by Rachel Nolte  • November 2, 2017

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Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

It was a fine fall day, the heat spell finally having been broken, and I was on my way to get a peek inside the much talked about Isabella Lofts. Steve Case, co-owner of 800 Block LLC, the firm that purchased the Assumption Campus on North Salina Street, came to meet me and show me around the building.

It is clear when you speak to Steve that he is passionate about this project and quite proud of their improvements to the building.  In the first apartment we saw, he eagerly pointed out the granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, and the preservation of the original wood floors wherever possible.

One thing that was immediately evident was the excellent quality of lighting. The setup of each individual apartment was unique because of the nature of the converted building. Some living rooms or bedrooms were larger or smaller in different apartments. But in all of the spaces we looked at, the windows let in generous supplies of natural daylight.

The first few apartment rooms we looked at were straightforward, monochromatic, tasteful: a blank canvas for somebody to make their own.

As I wandered from room to room, I was consistently delighted with the varying vistas that the windows revealed to me. Steve showed me his favorite apartment on one of the higher stories of the building. From its windows, you can see all across Syracuse. Such a view would surely make the future inhabitant want to say “Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom” to anybody fortunate enough to visit.

As a fan of historic architecture, I was especially fascinated by rooms that offered a close-up of the structure of the church itself.

My personal favorite rooms were the last few that we saw in the Nun’s Quarters. These were still in the process of being finished, so I did not get many pictures. I loved the architectural details in these rooms. For instance, the original ceilings were intact with their intricate patterns.

The wood paneling and trim was beautiful to behold. I found myself imagining vintage scenes from the space’s past life.

As Steve showed me around, we encountered several people working on the building, all of whom were happy to see Steve and chat for a moment. It was a pleasant tour and Steve even shared some insights with me on upcoming projects for the campus. Fortunately for Steve (but unfortunately for anyone interested in an affordable, conveniently located apartment) the apartments at this building will all be rented out soon! So if you were thinking about taking a look, my advice is to contact Steve (scase@acropolisdevelopment.com) right away.

Stay tuned for updates on this project and more!

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Michael Speach Jr.

Written by Rachel Nolte  • October 26, 2017

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Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

 

Michael Speach Jr. is the manager of the Speach Family Candy Shoppe. Founded by an Italian immigrant, Michael Speach (Michele Spicciati) in 1920, the store has passed down through four generations of family. Today, the store hosts a diverse range of sweets & treats as well as other fun products & gifts. Read on to find out more about how the life behind the sweets and treats!

 

Q: Question: In what ways has the Speach Family Candy Shoppe changed over the years? In what ways does it remain true to its roots?

Michael: The business has changed in so many ways, it’s really hard to describe. Originally, it was something that he [Michele Spiacciati, Michael’s great grandfather] did outside of his home and that obviously progressed into more and more. He owned a lot of property so he was able to do different things in different pieces of property. So instead of having everything under one roof, he had a nut room, so all of his nuts were stored in one location, that’s where they packaged and roasted them; there was a chocolate room, then there was a hard candy room, and they were in different properties all over Syracuse, all over the Northside for the most part. So that was probably the first incarnation of the store.

He then actually started doing a little bit more with production, to the point where it got really busy. In the 1920s when he first started, they were ramping up business, but in the 30s, he actually had stuff printed out because he was selling so much. We’re talking, after the Great Depression. So, like, even during the Depression he was still selling product, and this is actually one of the original receipts. Back in the 70s, they had a family reunion so everyone got one of the original receipts, which is kind of cool.

So business started growing a little bit more, and I want to say one of my great uncles, either John or Joe, then ran the business in the interim for the family. My parents then took over in the 80s. When that happened, my parents found another storefront. So the store never actually really had a physical storefront. It was basically always in somebody’s house, but they were doing orders, or when my great grandfather did it, he had different buildings for different things he was making. In the 80s, my parents opened an actual storefront, retail storefront on Burnet Ave.  That was the first time it actually had a location that people could come in and shop.

 

Q: Has it always been on the Northside?

Michael: It was actually all over. The Northside is where it originated, on Burnet Ave…At one point, my great uncle had moved to Cortland, so it was actually down in Cortland for a little while, and I want to say after that it came back up here with my parents when they discovered a whole bunch of my great grandfather’s recipes and stuff. It moved around a little bit more since my parents ran it. We’ve been at this location now since 94, and I have no plans to move. We’ve kind of found our niche, we’ve found our thing.

 

 

Q: Do you have any products that are especially rooted in Italian tradition?

I have to say that we’ve stayed very true to the product and the quality.  A lot of the recipes were my great grandfather’s recipes. They’ve obviously just been translated into English so they’re much easier to understand, and converted down, ‘cause obviously he was making 50 pounds of a product, where now we’re making 10, 20 pounds, so we’ve had to modify the way we produce just because of the space we have and the number of products. One of the big things that has changed is the quantity of products. On this invoice, you can see, he’s got four products listed here, which are what he used to make, the clusters, the soft peanut bars, and the marshmallow clusters that he used to do. We’re now making thousands of products…Our marshmallow recipe is still the same recipe. Our peanut brittle is still the same recipe. And then, the actual chocolate—now my great grandfather worked from a bean. So like, he was the one who actually roasted—he worked with a bean, ground them down, mixed them into what is chocolate. Nowadays, unfortunately, we do not have the facility to do that. So we actually buy several products and mix them together to create our own blend.

This is my great aunt Rose [pictured in the photo above, Aunt Rose poses with Delivery Truck Number 3, featuring the original Speech logo] and my great aunt actually got to try our chocolate. My parents played around with the chocolate blend a little bit, but when I took over, I said, “I want this to be our chocolate. This is how it’s going to be.” So she got a chance to try it before she passed away and she said that’s as close as she’s ever tried to what her father made, so that was kind of a compliment and so that’s what we use as our chocolate throughout most of our products.

 

 

Q: With so many products, do you have any customer favorites that sell faster than others?

Michael: Yeah, people still do a lot of the traditional stuff. Our dark chocolate truffles are always gone. I have a woman who comes in. She stops me at the door before she even gets in the door, she’s like, “Dark truffles. You have any? Yes or not.” Our caramel has been really popular, you can see right now the sea salt vanilla caramels are almost out right now, so I have to refill that part of the shelf. We have some seasonal favorites, like we do a pumpkin pie fudge, so that will sell out pretty quickly now that we’re in fall.

 

Q: How did you come to manage Speach’s?

Michael: I went to school for theater. Growing up, I was involved with the candy store but I didn’t like it. My mom and my father were always very tired, and it’s very different when you’re a small business, when it comes to holiday time, when it comes to family get togethers and stuff like that, things are very very different. Our Christmas really didn’t happen til the day after Christmas because my parents were so exhausted that we literally wouldn’t enjoy the day. When my sisters and I got older, we were part of that. We’d come home on Christmas eve, after being here all day, exhausted, and I think most kids would wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning, and I don’t remember doing that because I was too exhausted. It changes a lot of things. So, I as an adult, did not want to have to do that. I said, that’s not how I want to be, I want to go and get a pay check, get paid every week. It’s a very different thing when you’re working for yourself. So I went into entertainment, I did theater and television/radio, and after doing that for several years and going to college, I kinda missed this a little bit. I missed the feeling of being proud of something, working really hard and then having someone compliment you, versus having someone yell at you even though you did twelve hours of—it’s a very different thing. So, I came home after a little stint in New York, and basically, my parents were at the point where my mom had taken on a full time position, ‘cause she was in her 50s and realized, I’ve put half my life into this business and there’s nothing left. They didn’t save up for retirement, they just kept putting money back into the business, back into the business. And it’s a good thing they did because it survived, but at the same time, now they’re in their 50s and they were thinking either about liquidating or selling the business. That’s when I kinda said, well, let me try for three years, and I’ll see what happens. I’ll give it three years, I’ll give it my all, and if we’re still going, I’ll keep it going. If we’re not, I won’t. But at least I gave it that, you know, the old family try I guess? So I did that and now it’s 10 years difference, because literally November 7th will be ten years that I’ve been running the business. We’re still going strong and there’s a lot of new stuff that’s coming up and some really great things that will happen for the business the next few months.

 

Q: Do you want to offer us a little sneak peak of that?

Michael: We’re actually going to be doing a lot of partnerships. I’m not going to name names or anything like that just yet, but there’s a lot of great collaboration that we’ve been doing, that we’ve been talking about, and it will probably happen before Christmas. In the past, we’ve done some great stuff. We’re doing some stuff with Recess Coffee, so we have the Recess Chocolates, we’re doing a collaboration with them so it’s their coffee and our chocolate put together. We’re working with Beak and Skiff on a product, the apple pie brittle, it actually has their apple cider in it. There’s a few maple producers that we actually produce maple products for them throughout the year. There’s three or four other little relationships that we’ve started that we’re in the talks of that in the next few weeks will actually come to fruition. So we’re excited about that.

 

Q: What advice would you to someone who is interested in starting a business? 

A:  Michael: I think the first thing is be open to collaborating. A lot of my success, especially over the last few years, has been me working with other businesses, and other local businesses, I think is the key. We did partner with fruit bouquets and 1-800 Flowers for doing the fruit arrangements, and that’s a great revenue stream for us because we really do very little as far as advertising. We just get orders sent to us and we fulfil the order and get it out and then we get paid by them at the end of the year. So it’s a great partnership, we’re doing something local, and it’s our product, our chocolate…Some people when you meet them are like, no, it’s all me or nothing. I’m like, okay, good luck with that for the next year because you probably won’t be in business twelve months from now. I’ve had to rely on some of my friends—I have friends who run businesses and I might not work for them, but they are great sound boards, like if I have a new idea or if I’m trying out something different, we’re able to work together. If I have a new product that I’m trying out, my friends Laura Serway and Cindy Seymour own Laci’s down the street, and I’ve brought product into the bar. The way Laura and Cindy are, they’re my friends, I’ll give it to them and they’re literally passing it out to their customers, being like, “Here, try this! What do you think?” I’m not trying to build my business from that, but they’re actually doing it for me. If you’re willing to collaborate, part of it is just making those friendships happen. Actually being open to it, versus being closed off and holding onto your secrets and holding onto your recipes. I do that too, but I don’t do that first off. You want to be pretty open and pretty responsive.

 

To learn more about the Speach Family Candy Shoppe, visit their website, follow them on Facebook and Instagram, and make sure to stop into the store at 2400 Lodi Street, fully decorated for Halloween!

 

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Brandy Lee Fritzen

Written by Rachel Nolte  • October 19, 2017

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Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

You in Motion

 

Brandy Lee Fritzen is the owner of a recently opened a studio for movement & meditation called You In Motion. Located on North Salina Street (across from Assumption Church), You In Motion focuses on the mental health benefits of motion through yoga and dance. Read on to find out more about Brandy and her studio.

 

Question: Where are you from originally?

Brandy: I’m from here, Syracuse, NY.

 

 

Q: How long have you been interested in running your own studio?

Brandy:  I think that it’s something that I secretly had a desire to do, and I didn’t really know it until the opportunity presented itself.

 

 

Q: Do you want to speak a little bit more about what you mean by that?

Brandy: Well, I think that I always wanted to but I never thought that it would be real, or that it could really happen. When the opportunity presented itself, it was just events that were happening that I didn’t—I was getting tired of teaching elsewhere and that made me have the desire to have my own space. I happened to drive by the space that was available, and that would be the opportunity, is that the space was there, it was open, and it presented itself.

 

 

Q: How long have you been teaching?

Brandy: I’ve been teaching Nia [keeping reading for an explanation of Nia!] since 2007. I am a Nia white belt, there’s a series of belts you can get as you grow and learn more through the practice.

 

 

Q: What’s the highest ranking?

Brandy: Black belt, and the black belt is a trainer, so you can train the trainers. So I’ve taken the first belt, and I trained, and I taught for a little while, and then I took some time off. And then I decided that I want to continue teaching again because it’s something that I love doing and I needed it in my life. So, I decided to take my white belt again to revisit the foundation of Nia and what it is and the purpose and why I want to do it, instead of continuing to excel on to the other belts. Now that I’ve got that done, I can continue on.

 

 

Q: For those who don’t know what Nia is, can you explain that a little?

Brandy: Nia stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action and it is a dance-fitness, to say it plainly, that incorporates techniques from the healing arts, the dance arts, the martial arts. So all of these techniques intertwined into the choreography along with a set of 52 moves and it’s meant to stimulate the body and to find health through movement. So you’re stimulating all the body systems, like the musculatory system, the skeletal system, the limbic system, the circulatory system, and so on. The whole time you’re doing that, a class will last about an hour and fifteen minutes, depending on the instructor, the whole time you’re doing that, you don’t realize that you’re really cleansing your body and you’re opening up some tension and releasing—you’re opening up yourself in a lot more ways than just a physical way. I relate to it because I’m a really emotional person and I find a lot of emotion in the dance when I’m doing it. I find that exciting.

 

 

Q: What are the origins of Nia as a whole?

Brandy: Yes, Debby Rosas and Carlos Rosas, they were fitness instructors in the 1970s and in the 1980s, to be specific, in 81 when Nia was actually founded, they did research and studies on kinesthetics and body movements on what was most healthy and what was the most appropriate way to move your body to stay healthy without getting hurt. Because what they were finding was in their work, is that people were getting injured. Fitness was a really big thing, aerobics was a really big thing in the early 80s, but people were getting hurt. So they wanted to find a safe way to move your body. So this is how they incorporated Nia. They’re very close with all the instructors; it’s a growing community but it started as a very small, close knit community. Everybody who has gone through a Nia training is very close. It’s like a little family.

 

 

Q: Is it local to the area?

Brandy: It’s all over the world right now, Germany, Australia, it’s all over. Asia, all over those big continents. It started and originated where Debby and Carlos live, out west in Portland, Oregon.

 

 

Q: How did you get exposed to it?

Brandy: Okay, so, I was going through a life situation that was really traumatic. I mean, people have gone through worse things, I’m sure, but to me, in this moment, it was a very difficult time for me. I didn’t know where I was going with my life. And so my mom was taking this class, she had heard about it locally, she said, “Come and dance Nia class with me. You’ll feel a lot better.” So I went to a Nia class, my first class, with my teacher Pam La Blanch, of the Fit Biz—just saying, since we’re writing this all down, I’ll give her a little Kudos there—I love Pam, she’s an amazing, amazing woman—so I took my first class there and I loved it and I just fell in love with it. I don’t know why, but it was fantastic. The sensation that I got was one of the first principles of Nia, the joy of movement. I really felt that sensation—I felt joyful when I was dancing. It was a great outlet for me to express myself, my emotions, to build my confidence in a time that was trying for me.

 

 

Q: Your advertisements say “Gentle Yoga.” What kind of yoga is it?

Brandy: So having Nia certification opened up many doors. I found something new in my life that I loved. I started, what I thought would be my career in music therapy, which didn’t come through I guess, or didn’t happen—didn’t happen the way I thought it would. So I was really interested in therapies and healing and being a better person and helping people through that. With the instruction of Nia and being around that type of people all the time, I was introduced to Yoga Fit. Again, Yoga Fit was offering our community of Nia instructors—they offered Yoga Fit and I got the training for that and the certification. I started teaching yoga, and it seemed to just all go hand-in-hand.

 

 

Q: What is the target age range and ability for the yoga classes?

Brandy: Age range is for anybody. I do have a kids’ class on Saturdays, and that would be probably ages 3 to 6, depending on the attention level of the children and also for the older ones, if they’re 6, how tolerant they are of the younger ones. For the adult classes, any age, any ability. The class that I teach is really very relaxed and easy to do, so it’s very basic yoga, like yoga for the everyday busy person. Come and relax, stretch your body, breath in, breath out a little bit, and just feel good.

 

 

Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in starting a business? 

Brandy: Oh boy. I have a lot of advice! I was thinking, I could teach people probably how to start a business ‘cause I’ve done everything wrong probably. I came into this not knowing anything, just, like I said, it just happened, and I was like, “Yay, one day, just open a studio!” I have a lot of passion and I think that’s great and I need that for it, but there were a lot of things I didn’t know. So, first things first—and forgive me, all professional entrepreneurs out there! I think that, to have your finances in order, to know what everything is going to cost, and line that up first. Don’t just jump into it like I did. I mean, that’s great. It’s exciting to do that, but to—I had to take care of things while I was trying to start the business and it was too difficult. Things such as getting the electric bill in my name and transfer over. Everything was a surprise, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing! I thought, Oh I just call and change my name. But no, they need all kinds of stuff. They need application, they need the lease, they have a deposit and things like that. So I would definitely, number one, make a list of all the things you need to be productive and to keep the business running, and make sure you have that all in place first. So, with hindsight, I think that probably you would need a couple of months to prepare, just to open a business or start your business, you need some time to prepare. There’s so many other things, but that would be my number one. And then organizing your clients, getting some advertisements and marketing set and put in place, because if you’re doing that while you’re starting your business, it’s challenging. So do it ahead of time. You can call me for more advice later.

 

Q: Will there be a fee?

Brandy: Yes. (laughter)

 

Check out You In Motion studio’s calendar  for a complete schedule of classes and events. You can also contact Brandy directly at cnyinmotion@gmail.com

Introducing Northside Beauty at Apostrophe’S Art Gallery: “A celebration of artwork made by our New Americans on the Northside”

Written by Rachel Nolte  • October 4, 2017

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Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

 

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Apostrophe’S (pronounced “Apostrophe S”) is an art gallery on the Northside of Syracuse that was founded by Holly Wilson and Allison Kirsch, two Syracuse University graduates. The gallery is located at 1100 Oak Street, across from one of the entrances to Schiller Park. The mission of the gallery is to “collaborate with creators to produce innovative exhibitions and events that share contemporary art with the growing Northside and the surrounding communities.” This mission is reflected in the name of the gallery: the apostrophe refers to the idea of inclusion.

In the two years that the gallery has been running, they have worked with various local artists, students, neighbors, and businesses. Apostrophe’S is a member of the Northside Business Partnership, the local business association for the Northside of Syracuse. Apostrophe’S also works with community organizations such as TrueNORTH and Friends of Schiller Park.

Currently, Apostrophe’S is partnering with NEHDA for an upcoming art show that will run from October 2nd until October 13th, 2017.  This show represents the culmination of a collaborative project between NEHDA, Apostrophe’S, North Side Learning Center, and New American Women’s Empowerment. This project is made possible with support of the County of Onondaga & CNY Arts through the Tier Three Project Support Grant Program.

 

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Artworks in the show were made by Northside New Americans in response to the prompt, “What does the Northside mean to you?” Materials include paint, pen, pencil, and collage. The resulting artworks include a range of colors, styles, and techniques. Some chose to represent a specific person or a building, and others chose to represent the Northside through abstract shapes and textures.

There will be a reception for the Northside Beauty: Art Show on the first Friday of October, the 6th, from 5:00-7:00 PM. The show is free and open to the public, with refreshments and a live performance of African drumming to celebrate the diversity of Northside culture.

To learn more about Apostrohe’S, visit their website and like them on Facebook. Currently, the gallery  is looking for exhibition applicants. Interested? Contact Apostrophe’S via their website . If you want to get involved with this project or future community projects, please contact Rachel at Rachel (at) nehda.org for more information.

 

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“What’s For Dinner?”: Featuring Anna Rupert

Written by Rachel Nolte  • September 20, 2017

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Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

 

Anna

 

 

Anna works for NEHDA as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). Her job duties include grant research, community outreach, and administrative support for the Northside Business Partnership.  We look forward to seeing what she accomplishes during her time with us. 

 

Question: Where are you from?

Anna: I was born in Syracuse, at St. Joe’s.

 

Q: So you haven’t strayed far. Do you like it here or do you eventually want to end up elsewhere?

A: I want to experience living in other places, definitely. I wouldn’t necessarily say, 100% I would never come back here and live. But I definitely don’t plan on being here forever and not living other places first. I like it here, I just don’t necessarily want to stay.

 

Q: What keeps you in the area?

A: My boyfriend and his job. I went to school here, because it was cheaper.

 

Q: What did you study?

A: I studied Spanish and I studied sociology.

 

Q: So how did you end up here at NEHDA?

A: Well, I wanted to do something a little bit more meaningful with my break in between college and grad school, and I wanted a break because I wanted some time to figure out what I want to go to grad school for. So I found AmeriCorps, my mom gave me a flyer. I applied for all of the jobs that they offered in Syracuse . .  Mike ended up calling me, and I came here and I kind of loved it, so I ended up staying.

 

Q: Do you have a sense of what you want to go to grad school for at this point?

A: I’m torn between law or public policy, and education.

 

Q: So how does that relate back to your undergraduate degree?

A: Spanish education. So I would teach Spanish and dance, or law and public policy. There’s a whole bunch of different ways that Spanish and Hispanic culture and things like that tie into law and public policy. Whether it’s advocating for the Hispanic community, or just needing to translate, stuff like that.

 

Q: What initially drew you to this area of advocacy?

A: Well, I started dancing Flamenco when I was probably 7—

 

Q: How did you get into that?

A: I was looking for a new studio because the one that I had been going to, the woman terrified me and kind of made me not want to dance anymore. So, I was looking to switch, but before I committed myself to a studio, I wanted to take a sample class and see how the studio’s vibe was and what their teaching style was like, what the atmosphere of the studio was, ‘cause I didn’t want to bounce right back into another place just like the one I had left. So I went to Guzmán’s out in Fayetteville and took a sample class and the class that they had running at the time was Flamenco. I just kind of kept going with it, and I never really stopped. So then I started taking Spanish and traveling to Spain and studying Flamenco there, and it just kind of evolved.

 

Q: What is your favorite thing about being here so far?

A: I really like going out into the community and meeting all of the community members. It’s really cool to be around people who really care about their neighborhood and have a strong sense of neighborhood community because growing up, my neighborhood had a very, very strong sense of neighborhood community, and I took that for granted, as like, “Everywhere is like this, and everybody has really great neighbors and knows all of their neighbors and their neighbors birthdays, and that’s just a normal thing. Everybody in the neighborhood is just like their family. Totally.” And then living other places, it just made no sense to me, that people that I went to college with didn’t know the names of any of their neighbors and my boyfriend didn’t know the name of the person who was living directly below him, and I was kind of shocked. So it’s really cool to be back around people who share that strong sense of neighborhood community.

 

Q: What do you see as being your biggest challenge you will face this year?

A: I would say being able to take all of the big ideas that people, including myself, have, and put them into something that’s actually realistic. Because, it’s very easy to get into this whole, “Yeah, this would be great if we could do this, and add this . . .” and create this really big, ideal world project, and then once you get down to trying to actually implement it, it can be very disheartening if you haven’t really thought about what’s actually realistic. For instance, yes, it would be fantastic if I could get public trashcans all over the Northside. That would be amazing. I would love to do that. But, is that actually realistic? Who’s going to maintain them? There’s a lot of other things that don’t necessarily come up at first, so I think it will be a challenge to keep that in mind and not try and catch a whale instead of a fish . . . I had a ballet teacher, growing up, one of my favorite teachers, who always said, “In an ideal world, this is what would happen.” She was usually referring to, “In an ideal world, you would all have perfect turn out, and be much more flexible than you actually are.” But, her point was just, “This would be ideal, but this is what you have, so work with what you have.” That’s a hard concept to grasp sometimes.

 

Q: What’s for dinner?

A: Leftover Chinese food from China Café in Armory Square.

 

Q: What did you get?

A: I . . . (pause) This order is for two people. Just keep that in mind. (Laughter) It’s gonna be a little scary. So, two orders of fried wantons, pork fried wantons, then a large pork lo mein, no vegetable, a large pork fried rice, no vegetable, two egg rolls, a small sweet and sour chicken, and a large General Tso’s chicken. Oh, and two things of white rice.

 

Q: Does your boyfriend not like vegetables?

A: No. He gets creeped out by the little corns.

 

“What’s For Dinner?”: Featuring Maggie Moore

Written by Rachel Nolte  • August 31, 2017

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Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

 

“I am most excited to work at NEHDA because of the people. Everyone here is so friendly and passionate about what they do. I feel privileged to serve my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at NEHDA.” - Maggie Moore

“I am most excited to work at NEHDA because of the people. Everyone here is so friendly and passionate about what they do. I feel privileged to serve my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at NEHDA.” – Maggie Moore

 

Maggie works for NEHDA and the NPC (Neighborhood Preservation Coalition) as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). She is a welcome new presence in the office and we look forward to seeing what she accomplishes during her time with us. 

 

Question: Where are you from?

Maggie: I was born in Vallejo, California, which is across the bay from San Francisco. I spent most of my time growing up in Cazenovia, New York, outside of Syracuse.

 

Q: What drew you to NEHDA?

M: I knew I wanted to do AmeriCorps and I knew I wanted to stay in Syracuse. So NEHDA just seemed like a great organization. I was especially interested in the work that you did helping different businesses and things like that (Side note: Throughout my VISTA year, I’ve done a lot of work with the Northside Business Partnership). I thought that was cool and different from some of the other AmeriCorps programs that I saw.

 

Q: What do you like about the area?

M: Well, I’m married so I wanted to live with my husband. We just got married, so I’m not sick of him yet (laughter). Maybe in a couple of years, I’ll move away for a program.

 

Q: What are you most excited about with your new position?

M: I’m mostly excited to learn more about advocacy with the Neighborhood Preservation Coalition. I know I get to go to a few meetings in Albany with my site director, Mike [La Flair] and so I’m excited to see how those meetings go.

 

Q: For those who are not familiar with the Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, could you tell me a little more about it?

M: Yeah. The Neighborhood Preservation Coalition (NPC) is based out of Albany, and then they have them all over. So, New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, and they even have rural NPCs. NEHDA is actually an NPC. They’re nonprofit organizations that do community development in a specific area. So for Syracuse, there’s some on the Northside of Syracuse, the Southside, the Westside, and the different neighborhoods. Ithaca has an NPC, Watertown has an NPC, so they’re different nonprofit organizations that fall under the community development umbrella. A lot of times, they do work with affordable housing.

 

Q: Do you have a strong interest in housing?

M: I think growing up in Syracuse, I always saw all the empty and boarded-up houses, and it’s really too bad, I know a lot of people need affordable housing. So when I interviewed with NEHDA it was cool to see—on their walls, they have pictures of houses that they have worked on or given money to work on. So it was cool to see that they care about the way that their community looks and that people have access to affordable housing. Then it makes your neighborhood look better, too.

 

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Q: Do you have a favorite business on the Northside yet?

M: I don’t. I just had lunch at Mi Casita today and it was SO delicious and I’m stuffed. It was great.

 

Q: Speaking of food, What’s for Dinner??!

M: My vegan friends visited and inspired me to try cooking tofu.

 

Tofu Stir Fry:

– Pre-marinated and baked tofu, teriyaki flavored (“Tofubaked” is the brand!)

– yellow squash

– zucchini 

– red + green bell peppers

– red onion

– broccoli

– rice

Cook desired amount of rice.

Combine veggies in a frying pan with some oil, salt, pepper, and any spices your heart desires. Add a stir fry or teriyaki sauce. Cook veggies, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes and then add in chopped tofu. Cook another few minutes until veggies are tender and tofu is warm.

*Feel free to use any vegetables you have on hand, this just happens to be what I have in my fridge at the moment*

Top rice with tofu mixture and enjoy!

 

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Liz Wierbinski

Written by Rachel Nolte  • August 9, 2017

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Editor’s Note: The Northside Business Partnership (NBP) is an association comprised of Northside businesses, property owners, and organizations. It serves as an advocate group for the Northside, strengthening the vitality of the business community by connecting, engaging, and promoting its members. NBP is administrated by NEHDA.

 

 

 

 

 

Liz is the Programs & Development Director for the YWCA Syracuse & Onondaga County. The YWCA is one of the newest NBP Members and is dedicated to “eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.” Read on to find out . . . 

 

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Q: Could you give me some of the history of the YWCA in Syracuse & Onondaga County?

Liz: So, I’m going to pull out my handy dandy note sheet, because I wasn’t exactly sure of the history—the YWCA has been around forever. I guess the first one, according to this, was in London, England and that was in 1855. The first one in the USA was in 1858, and then we were established here in Syracuse in 1892.

 

Q: Has it always been at this location?

Liz: No, I don’t know what the initial location was, but we moved here a number of years ago. Maybe five or six? We used to be over Downtown, on Washington Street, where the main offices were. Then we moved over here. This building actually used to be just the Girls Inc. building. Before Girls Inc. it was the Zanta Foundation, which was like a women’s club, I believe, and then Girls Inc. was here and then due to funding issues, the YWCA adopted Girls Inc. and so now Girls Inc. is a program of YWCA. It fits pretty seamlessly into our mission.

 

Q: So what exactly is Girl’s Inc. on its own?

Liz: Girls Inc. is also a national organization, like the YWCA, with local chapters in different regions. They do programing for young girls, teenage girls. Here, we do a lot of STEM programming for girls. So we’re the local chapter for Girls Inc. and the YWCA. But in kind of a unique situation, Girls Inc. in Syracuse is a program of the YWCA. There’s similar situations in other regions, too. I think there’s maybe 10 other YWCAs that have the same set up with Girls Inc. It’s a natural fit. Women’s empowerment and working with young girls—it’s more of a preventative aspect rather than sort of a reactive measure to fighting those systemic barriers.

 

Q: In nonprofits, the titles of various positions can sometimes seem confusing. Can you shed some light on what “Programs & Development Director” involves?

Liz: So my title is, I think, intentionally vague, because I do—like everybody that works in nonprofits, especially small nonprofits—everybody wears 10, 15 different hats. My title encompasses a few different things. I do program supervision, so I supervise the YWCA programs. I help with finding different pathways and strategies for making our programs better, training and developing staff, all that good stuff. I help with the grant writing, so I constantly am researching grants, trying to figure out, find things that fit our agency but also aid in our program development. We need the funds to be able to do what we do. That’s a big part of it. I do coordinate a lot of our events. Day of Commitment, Girls Summit, Spirit of American Women, Day of Commitment and Spirit of American Women are two annual fundraisers, so those are our two biggest events. I coordinate the organizational efforts for those events. And then, helping with social media and marketing efforts, so we actually just created an Instagram account a few months ago, which has been awesome. It’s fun. That’s the fun part of it, social media is its own kind of unique bubble. So it’s a little bit of everything, but it keeps me on my toes.

 

Q: So is social media one of your favorite parts of your job?

Liz: I do—yes. It’s one of my—it’s the fun part. There’s no deadline. It’s kind of a little break from the more serious parts of the job.

 

Q: Any other favorite parts?

Liz: Probably just—this is kind of a generic or vague answer, but just the people. Working in nonprofits, you meet so many different people and everybody—whether it be your coworkers or the people that are in your programs or the people that you meet at meetings, organizations that you collaborate with—I think people in the nonprofit world are great people. It’s easy to get caught up in the stressors of nonprofits, but when you keep it in the back of your mind to look past those stressors, and that everybody’s on the same playing field, everybody has the same goal, trying to do better for each other and the community, that keeps me going.

 

YWCA collage 2

 

Q: Are there any particular people you want to highlight?

Liz: Let’s see. Well geez, I don’t want to leave anybody out. I guess most recently, what’s sticking out in my mind, is the basketball program that I facilitated here at the YWCA, working with those young girls. They were ages 8 to 12 and I worked with them every Saturday for four months, and it was just awesome to see them grow as individuals, but also they all became friends. And they’re just awesome girls. Obviously there’s many more people but, right now that’s a big one.

 

Q: How did you get into this line of work?

Liz: Well, I’ve always been interested in human behavior and human dynamics. My background is in psychology but I didn’t want to be a psychologist or anything like that. I realized I’m way more into social justice and community level issues, so that’s when I decided to go into social work for grad school. I had always worked a lot in direct practice, one-on-one work with clients and individuals, but always with it in mind that I want to get more into community level programs, administrative type field, to still make an impact but a different kind of impact. So that was the reason that I took the AmeriCorps position that you’re in now (Side note: Liz used to be the AmeriCorps VISTA at NEHDA, where I now serve!), because it has that community organizing component to it, and neighborhood revitalization. It was cool to see social work from a bigger lens ’cause I had always seen it on the ground level, but to see how anything from a development effort, construction of a new building, a new program, can trickle all the way down to an individual impact, and to see how that happens was really fascinating to me. So when I got connected, through my AmeriCorps position to this job, that was something I had still in mind. So I started out as a case manager, but I was kind of going where I was needed, and I came over here to the main office and am doing more program-level work, which is really cool and I like it so far.

 

Q: If somebody is interested in getting involved with the YWCA, what would you recommend to do?  

A: Don’t go to the YMCA’s website. We still get calls like, “When are your open pool hours? When do you guys open up?” We’re like, “Ahh, we don’t have a pool.” There’s no affiliation between the YWCA and the YMCA. So, first, make sure you know where you’re going. But other than that, we’re always open to volunteers, always looking for—we take interns every semester, we have three or four interns right now for the summer. It’s through SU, OCC, we actually have an intern from a college in Vermont right now. She’s home for the summer and needed an internship. They get credit and it works out for us because they’re all really smart and motivated students and they help us tremendously.

Other ways to get involved, we’re taking donations for our women’s residents right now. I think we’re kind of over capacity for clothes right now because that’s what people are always getting rid of, and obviously we need clothes and we really appreciate that, but—other things that the women’s residence is in the market is for household items, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, even like home decor. They want to decorate their apartment, making it cozy and everything, but that stuff is a bit harder to find. So yeah, donations, volunteering. . . Just call our office. Also, subscribe to our email newsletter. We do a quarterly newsletter and we sent out one-time newsletters for specific events and programs.

 

The Spirit of American Women is one of the YWCA’s annual fundraiser’s. This year’s event is October 17th from 6-8PM at the Genesee Grand Hotel. The evening will be spent celebrating how far women have come and of all of the work that still remains to be done. There will be a presentation from a current Women’s Resident and from participants of Girls Inc. The event is part of the YWCA’s National Week Without Violence, a week of programming and events about eliminating violence against women. Tickets will be available on the YWCA website closer to the event. 

For more information about YWCA, follow them on Facebook and Instagram. To subscribe to the newsletter and  receive updates, contact Liz at lwierbinskiywca@centralny.twcbc.com. 

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring William Dee

Written by Rachel Nolte1 Comment • July 31, 2017

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 Editor’s Note: The Northside Business Partnership (NBP) is an association comprised of Northside businesses, property owners, and organizations. It serves as an advocate group for the Northside, strengthening the vitality of the business community by connecting, engaging, and promoting its members. NBP is administrated by NEHDA.

 

 

 

 

Bill is the president of Sinclair & Andrews, an insurance agency founded in 1932. Sinclair & Andrews has been a proud Northside Business Partnership member since 2014 and Bill serves on the Board of Directors. Keep reading to find out advice, predictions, and dreams of an insurance agent!

 

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Q: Have you always lived in Syracuse?

Bill: Yes.

 

Q: On the Northside specifically?

Bill: I grew up on Westvale and I went to Westhill. My junior year of high school, I started working, I got a job at Williams, a grocery store in Fairmount. At that time I was driving my parents’ car and I wanted to get my own car and I started to discover money. I was on the golf team in the fall and the baseball team in the spring but I stopped playing sports ‘cause I signed up for a work study program. My job at Williams would continue on and I got credit for it through the school. The head of the business department would come and meet with the supervisor once a month to see how I was doing and do a report. So that’s when I really began to love work, when I was at Westhill.

 

Q: So how did you get into this line of work?

Bill: It was a series of jobs for me. When I went to Le Moyne College, I worked buildings and grounds during the school year, and then when I was on break and it got busy at UPS around Christmas time for those five weeks, I would work loading trucks there. And then every summer I was in college, I would get a job. My first summer was the Onondaga County Highway Department in Marcellus, my second summer was the New York State Thruway Authority in DeWitt, and then my third summer was Miller Brewing Company in Fulton. It was a great job, great pay, long hours but very well paid, a lot of overtime, and three free cases of beer a week.

 

Q: Can’t argue with that. What did you study in college?

Bill: Business administration at Le Moyne College and a minor in economics and a concentration in marketing.

 

Q: And how did you decide what to study?

Bill: I just knew I liked business, just from my work experience. When I graduated college in 1982, I think unemployment was at about 12% then. So I took the first job that was offered to me, which was Assistant Manager in K-mart in Geneva and I worked there for a year. Then I switched—I love being around people and I love being social but I wanted to try sales so I worked for a P. Lorillard company which owned tobacco products, like Newport, Old Gold, Kent, True, and I helped do the advertising on the billboards around here, and marketing in the stores. Back then, you could advertise. I did that for four years and it was a fun job. I got to see the terrain around here. I covered down in Ithaca, and within about a one mile radius, but I knew that the future wasn’t going to be in tobacco. This is before everything got outlawed of course, but I wanted a job where I knew that if I worked hard, you know I could help other people and make more money. So my roommate from college, Greg Dunn, had been in insurance right out of college. Russ Andrews and Avery Sinclair who owned this agency asked him if he wanted to join them and do property casualties as well as life insurance. He said no, he really wanted to stay just doing the life insurance. But he said, he called me to see if I wanted to do it, so I said sure! I’ll do it. So Greg referred me to Avery and Russel and that was thirty years ago. So I’ve been here ever since.

 

Inside

 

Q: What do you like about it?

Bill: I like the interaction with all the customers, helping people out. I like the freedom. I make my own hours, and I have a great staff that allows me to come and go in and out of the office.

 

Q: Did the skills that you learned through your various jobs, did they translate nicely into this line of work or did you have to learn a lot on the job?

Bill: Well, I had to get licensed. So I got licensed, and then I went through—the first year I worked here—I went through the Aetna Prime Agent Program, which covered training me in personal lines, which is auto and home owner’s, life insurance, and also small commercial insurance. So I went to the Aetna Institute in Hartford, Connecticut probably about four or five times my first year, for training. And then there was local training here, for the Aetna offices.

 

Q: Your website lists various types of insurance that we consider fairly standard, such as auto, homeowners, and business. It also lists less traditional types of insurance, such as wedding and recreational vehicle. What markets do you think insurance will be expanding into in the future?

Bill: Right now, cyber. Cyber liability, which would cover an office, not only if they got hacked into their computers and got private data information, such as social security numbers, dates of births and all that, but also it would cover for data breach, it would cover to pay for all the expenses that company would have to go through to notify all their customers, and then to provide free credit monitoring and all that. It would also cover paper files, if somebody came in and stole paper files out of a doctor’s office or an insurance office.

 

Q: Is that standard or required for doctor’s offices to have currently?

Bill: No, but in the future, it may be required for companies to do businesses with other companies. Like if one company wants to come in and do some IT work, the company they’re doing business with might say, we want you to provide us with proof you’ve got a cyber policy in case something goes wrong when you’re doing work for us.

 

Q: How does the Northside location of Sinclair & Andrews affect the business?

Bill: Well, it’s a great location for us because I can be in any town in this county in ten minutes because 690 and 81 are right here, right at the intersection of it all…I’m also a general partner of 306 Hawley Ave. Associates, which is separate from Sinclair & Andrews. Sinclair & Andrews rents space from 306 Hawley Ave. . .It was built in 1874 and it originally had someone who owned a brewery here, there was actually four of these houses in a row, now there’s three—bought it, one for each daughter.

 

Q: If somebody was thinking of going into insurance, what advice would you give them?

Bill: Nothing’s’ changed since I started. You just have to be social, you have to be—you can’t be aggressive, but you have to ask. You have to ask for the sale. You have to ask people how their insurance is going, if they want to review it. Things like that. You gotta have an “A” personality.

 

Q: That’s all the questions that I have—

Bill: Well, you have to ask me that one question that you asked Dave [Bill is referring to this interview I did with the Vice President of the Dominick Falcone Agency].

 

Q: Which one was that?

Bill: What would I like to insure.

 

Q: Oh, okay. What would you like to insure?

Bill: The Empire State Building!

 

Q: Okay, and why?

Bill: Because it’s iconic. Everybody knows the Empire State Building.

 

To learn more about Sinclair & Andrews, visit their website

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Don Cronk

Written by Rachel Nolte  • July 19, 2017

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Editor’s Note: The Northside Business Partnership (NBP) is an association comprised of Northside businesses, property owners, and organizations. It serves as an advocate group for the Northside, strengthening the vitality of the business community by connecting, engaging, and promoting its members. NBP is administrated by NEHDA.

 

 

 

Don is a co-owner of The Laundry Room, a full service laundromat with wash and fold services. The Laundry Room has been an NBP member since 2014, not long after they opened their second location on N. Salina Street. Read on to learn more about the importance of YouTube to a laundromat owner, as well as other behind-the-scenes challenges.

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Q: Are you from Syracuse originally?

Don: No, I am not. I grew up in Arcade, New York, which is outside of Buffalo about an hour. Small, rural town, north of Olean, near Letchworth State Park.

 

Q: What brought you to Syracuse?

Don: So I met my wife in college at Alfred. She’s originally from Liverpool. After college, she got a teaching job in Auburn. I was an accountant, so I stayed in Western New York for six months, and then after tax season I decided to come to the big city of Syracuse, ’cause I was living in Arcade still working, and I thought, well, I would love to come here. It’s big. And I’m happy I did.

 

Q: How did you first get into the field of renovating & renting property?

Don: So I had a sales job. I was working at a company called Wynit in East Syracuse and I was right time, right place. It was a sales company and we worked in digital imaging and all these electronics and I wanted to be in sales. I decided I was done with this accounting thing ’cause I found out from being an accountant working at different companies, the people making the money were the sales guys.

 

Q: Did you go to school for accounting?

Don: Yes. So I decided to get into sales. I happened to apply to this job and I worked there for ten years. I think when I started, there was twelve to fourteen sales people, and by the time I left in 2004 there was nearly a hundred sales people. So we had grown exponentially. I had gotten in early enough to get ahead of that and ride it. It was a great experience for me. While I was there, I started buying some real estate. I bought a two family, and then another two family, and those were more turn-key. Those weren’t fixer uppers because I had a day job, but in 2004 I got into a point where I had acquired enough properties that I could do it full time. Plus my wife was teaching, and we had relatively low overhead. We never changed our lifestyle to—I was making great money, but we never went and bought a new house or drove fancy cars or any of that stuff. So, she stayed home with the kids for a few years and then went back to teaching, and then I left and started buying a couple of HUD foreclosures, fixing those up. And then, uh, I ended up having a bunch of units and then I had somebody approach me about partnering, just as a silent partner from a financial standpoint.

 

Q: What does that mean exactly?

Don: So for example, I’ve got an 18-unit over on Court Street. We bought that in 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis. The lady that owned it lived in California and she was totally upside down on that. She paid too much for it, it was half-vacant, various levels of disrepair. So I bought that with cash. I didn’t have three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, so I brought a partner in to help me with that, and it works out great for everybody. I still own the building. So that’s why I brought in a partner for that project. Subsequently, we’ve stayed together and we’ve done other projects, so it works out good for everybody. Everybody has their strengths, my partner has his own day job, so he does his thing, but we go over the books regularly. But that’s how I got into it. I started with a one family, I bought a single family over here on the Northside for like, ten grand from HUD one time and fixed it up. I still have it, I haven’t really sold anything yet. I’d like to sell but just not yet. Waiting for the kids to get through college.

I always was a fixer. I always liked to find broken things… I think I learned that from my father. He was a fixer. We didn’t throw things out and we pretty much did things ourselves. Through college, I worked construction. Framing houses for builders, that kind of thing. You just sort of get to know how to do different things. And YouTube. Thankfully we have YouTube now.

 

Q: You came across the laundromat business more or less by chance, it sounds. What kind of skills did you have to learn on the job?

Don: So we had an 18 unit and across the street was a mixed use building that has a laundromat, a store, and a couple of apartments on it. It’s on the corner of Court and Spring. It was in rough shape and it was for sale. I thought, well, it’s not really doing our property any good. It’s pulling it down, is probably what’s happening. So if we could control the property, maybe we could maintain the value in our property across the street. So it was really like a protection thing, and that’s sort of how I positioned it. We tried to talk with the owner about buying it and, I don’t know, it just didn’t go anywhere. And then a year later he approached us again and wanted out and we were able to come to terms. The store was under lease so I had nothing to do with that, and I still don’t, other than collecting the rent and doing minor maintenance when I need to for them. They’re fantastic tenants, I’m very fond of Unis, he’s my tenant. But the laundry was, maybe half of the stuff worked.

So I just sort of tried to figure it out. I didn’t call a company, a company that would come and make maintenance repairs on your washing machines because it’s wicked expensive. You get a hundred dollar trip charge, $50 an hour, so it just wasn’t going to work. I thought I could figure it out. I already had washing machines in some of our apartments.  You know, in the basements of some of the bigger ones, you put a couple of coin-op machines. So I just started figuring it out. It just started with one machine. And you know what happens is, they’re all the same. If you look, there’s 24 dryers in here and they’re all the same thing. So if you figure one out, the rest you can figure out. Just went one at a time, literally went on YouTube and watched videos on how to fix stuff. That’s what I did, and over the years, I think we’ve just hit five years with that building because I just had to do my certificate of compliance, which is a five year thing with the city. It’s a great laundromat.

Owning a laundromat is difficult. It seems like it would be great, you know, “Oh just collect the money and then go home.” But there’s a lot of personalities. Your customers are…laundromat customers, which is a difficult thing. Those people generally earn a different socioeconomic level than maybe you or I, and they have a different set of challenges in life. You have a lot of loitering, public restrooms, things like that. It’s not perfect, but nothing is. And if it was easy, everybody would do it, is what I keep telling myself. But I do enjoy it. I guess I liked it enough to do another one.

 

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Q: What skills did you already have that helped you?

Don: I was already quite mechanically inclined. So I think that is what—just a figure-it-out, have a figure-it-out kind of mentality. I never went to school to learn how to do any of these things, but I grew up in a home where we did things ourselves. . .The business and the accounting experience that I gained from college, and working in both public and private firms, ’cause I think that’s been very helpful for—there’s  a large amount of accounting, paperwork, taxes, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. There’s just a lot of bookwork. If you own anything, you have to at the end of the year file your taxes, you have to have your ducks in a row.

 

Q: Is there any kind of pressure in the field to move towards green washing technology?

Don: We already have, actually. So, what we have done, if you look at both of our stores, we’re slowly weaning out the top-load machines, which will generally use about 100 gallons of water per cycle, or per run. Whereas the new ones that we have, we recently installed ten front loaders here, and then four larger front loaders over here, thirty and fourty pounders, and those are express wash units that use maybe, the whole cycle might use 50 gallons of water. So it’s literally half. Which we have to, ’cause the rates, both from the county and from the city water department, they are going up exponentially. So we have to continue to be more efficient. And we try to price things properly too. So if you’re going to use my front loader, it’s going to be a lot cheaper than if you want to use the top loader, ’cause I don’t want you to use the top loader. And ultimately, the customer gets a better finished product anyways with the front loader. But people are creatures of habit. They want to use the top loader. It’s what we grew up with, it’s what we use. But the fronts spin faster. The tops, they don’t spin as fast. But these ones spin way faster, so your dry time is half. It extracts a lot of water, so that saves a lot of money too.

 

Q: If you could own a laundromat anywhere, where would it be and why?

Don: We tried to own one on the hill, on Westcott Street. Before I bought this one, I tried to do one over there. But I still think there’s an opportunity for one over there. I can’t remember the street it’s on, but the owners are…they have an unrealistic value on the property and I don’t think they want to sell it. So that’s fine. But I think there’s still a great opportunity for one over there. I also think there’s an opportunity for one maybe on Erie Boulevard. I don’t really have a space that I go like, “Oh I definitely want one somewhere.”

 

Q: Are you looking to do more laundromats, or where do you see yourself headed?

Don: I’m not sure I’d buy another laundromat. I mean, if it presented itself, I might consider it. I’m not really in the business of being a tenant though. I only want to do it if I can own a building because I want to be in control of the whole thing. So those are hard to find, and I’d probably also want something that has other sources of income. Often times you’ll see a building that’ll be a laundromat, and then there will be a couple of other tenants. If I found another apartment complex that would meet my criteria, I would definitely go after it. . .That’s an interesting market. There’s not a lot of turnover, and sometimes the turnover occurs totally off the radar so there’s not even an opportunity to get in on it.

 

Q: Favorite Northside or Syracuse event?

Don: Well, I like that Clean Up (‘Cuse) event, but I don’t generally participate in it. I did the first year we were here, but I’m in the “Clean up all the time” event. I literally pick up garbage the second I get out of my truck on the way to wherever I’m walking. So I don’t always participate in the once a year cleanup, ’cause I’m doing it all the time. I don’t like to go anywhere empty-handed, is the way I look at it . . . A couple of years ago, we had donuts and coffee in here and this was the starting point for the crew. We picked up, and we had a nice time.

 

Q: Any events or promotions?

Don: We have two promotions at both stores on Wednesdays. So this one, on North Salina Street, the twenty-pound front loaders are a dollar fifty. We take fifty cents off. You really can’t find a twenty pound washing machine for a dollar fifty anywhere. It’s very successful. We’re busy all day on Wednesdays. At our Court Street store, we have our 60-pounders that we take a dollar off. They’re generally six dollars and they’re five dollars on Wednesdays. We’re also air conditioned here at the Salina Street store, which is nice, especially come the summertime.

To learn more about The Laundry Room, visit their website.

*Note: When you enter the Laundry Room, there is an abundance of flags hanging from the ceiling. This is because when the laundromat first opened, Don invited people to tell him what country they are from so he could display their flag. However, he has gotten to the point where he doesn’t know where to put any more flags! 

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Mike Glynn

Written by Rachel Nolte  • July 13, 2017

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Editor’s Note: The Northside Business Partnership is an association comprised of Northside businesses, property owners, and organizations. It serves as an advocate group for the Northside, strengthening the vitality of the business community by connecting, engaging, and promoting its members. NBP is administrated by NEHDA.

 

 

 

 

Mike is the co-owner of Rocky’s News & Cigars, a four-year NBP member business with over 50 years of experience in cigars. Read on to find out more about the history of the business and what makes it such a unique store today.

 

Mike

 

Q: Has Rocky’s always been located here on the Northside?

Mike: Yes, it was originally where Asti’s is now and then the previous owner moved it to this location, and then we bought it from him in 1985.

 

Q: What do you like about your location?

A: Well, we’ve seen this neighborhood change quite a lot. When we first got here, it was one of the last really vibrant blocks, and it was really super. We do like our proximity to downtown, the new residential (development) that’s going on down there, a lot of the goods and services we offer are a little bit harder to find downtown so that helps us out a lot. We like being on the main thoroughfare of Salina Street, loads of cars, loads of traffic, that’s really good for us. We like being within an eyeshot of the hospital, one of the major employers, that’s very good for us. Having 81 situated like it is, both the on-ramps and off-ramps are very good for customers.

 

Q: Do you have a lot of people that travel far to get here?

Mike: Yes. We have city-wide, we’re very well known for the level of service we offer for lottery customers, so we get a lot of people that drive from far points in the city. Secondly though, our cigar business is actually known across the nation and very much state wide―to where we have customers from Albany, Watertown, Binghamton, Buffalo―that will drive specially to see us. We’re also highly regarded nationally. We do a lot of business over the phone and internet, ship to people on vacation and help ‘em out with their cigars that way. We focused on cigars because we needed to become a destination to get more people in the store. . .Our most recent change to expand the time frame—obviously, it’s a fair weather pastime—so it’s enjoyed far more in the fair weather months than in the winter. So this winter, we added the leather chairs which gave guys a reason to enjoy their hobby indoors because you can smoke at Rocky’s. We are allowed to have smoking in the building. It’s one of the unique exemptions that we have with the state.

 

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Q: How did you come to this line of work?

 Mike: Well, it was very strange. I was selling radio advertising locally as a kid out of college, and—

 

Q: What did you go to college for?

Mike: I went for broadcast.

 

Q: Are you a local?

 Mike: Yes, I grew up in Liverpool, went to school in Genesseo, and then I was here working, and my wife’s dad, my father-in-law, was doing business with Rocky, the original Rocky Salino, in a side business that he was doing. I was getting a little antsy selling advertising. I was meeting a lot of business owners and I kind of thought that I would be cut out to be on that side of the desk instead of just selling to the guys on that side of the desk. So with that in mind, my father-in-law came here in, I can tell you when it was, it was Christmas Eve 1984, and had brought Rocky a Christmas present, said “Thanks for a good year together.” Rocky said, “What’s going on? I’m waiting on an offer to sell the store. There’s a fellow coming in here but he’s all alone. It really takes two people to run this place. It’s very complicated, it runs 24 hours a day, it never closes, 7 days a week, and my father-in-law coincidentally had just sold a similar business. So he had done this for about ten years. He said, “Hey, if that deal doesn’t work out, I have a young son-in-law who’s 26 years old, has got a ton of energy and wants to own a business, and I know how to run the business, maybe together we could do it.” And as luck would have it, May 15th, ’85, 45 days later, we step behind the register and own the place. So we just finished our 31st year, May 15th. Quite a feat in the city of Syracuse.

 

Q: Do you get a lot of customers that come in for a first time cigar experience or do you have a lot of reoccurring customers?

 Mike: Our business grows on first time customers because our information, the tracking that we do on sales, shows that once we get the customer, if they enjoy the experience, which we work hard at, as they repeat business, their purchases grow. So, our core business is on existing customers but our growth is always on new customers. So this year, we committed more than ever to advertising our store, promoting our store, so that we can reach people who are new to cigar smoking, or people who are new to Syracuse and don’t yet know about us. We’re quite a landmark in town, but still there are those who don’t know about Rocky’s.

 

Q: Is it a lot of people that come in to celebrate a wedding or a birth, or is it just to explore?

Mike: Well, the reason guys come in, is if they’re in the hobby of cigars and they hear my advertising, they want to come in and see what’s going on. Our store is—just matter of fact, not bragging—you’d have to go to Albany to find more cigars. You’d have to go west, you’d have to go all the way south to Jamestown to find as many cigars. We have an unbelievable inventory of product. We maintain a massive inventory, and when guys come in, they’re pretty impressed and we usually have what they want. So for new guys, that’s the way that works. But we also have, over the last several years, we have really expanded our offerings of cigars. So beyond just retailing product, we have a Cuban guy on staff who rolls cigars. He’s very popular with weddings, corporate events, things like that. Then we also custom band cigars. I have a graphic designer that will say, you know, “Mike and Rachel: May 24, 2017” and we do a wedding band. So we just did two boxes this week. Some guys were at a cigar dinner I just had, they said “Mike, it’s short notice, we’ve got a wedding in June, do you think you could do a box of cigars for my wedding?” We tore that right up. We had that done in a week’s time.  Both guys were ecstatic. So there are a lot of special occasions that work around cigars, including boy/girl. We have boy/girl cigars out there. Our proximity to the hospital has always been good for that, although it’s not as popular as it used to be.

 

Q: What cigar would you recommend to somebody who is completely new to the experience?

Mike: We would start with a really mild cigar. I’m actually part owner in a cigar company that’s a national affair and we have a brand called Affinity that is a very, very good cigar for the price and it’s very mild so I would start with that.

 

Q: What does your ideal cigar experience involve, in terms of type of cigar, method of cutting, method of lighting, etc?

Mike: Well, cigars are very, very subjective, and I don’t have a favorite cigar. I just smoke what’s new. I have a theory, a principle here that everything we carry is taste-tested. We don’t just take stuff off of some guy’s price list and throw it in here. Everything is very particular about what we carry. But, at the same time, what I’ve noticed about cigars that is the greatest experience, is that when the cigars get lit and the smoke gets in the air, all the barriers get broken down. Whether you’re a prison guard or an insurance salesman, or a driver of a milk truck, or a farmer or a retail clerk at the mall, everybody enjoys the company of others when they’re smoking cigars. So it breaks down all the barriers and it creates—the best word I ever heard for it though—it creates a great sense of comradery and that is my best experience with cigars, is the comradery it creates among people.

Everyone cuts it their own way, everyone gets to light it their own way, they get to smoke their own size, and they get to smoke their own brand and choose their own flavors, and that’s the beauty of it, because it is so very subjective. I have a guy that comes in here, he’s one of my very best customers, I can tell you two customers. One guy is a retired county worker and he buys one of the least expensive cigars in the store, and he buys them by the handful. He’s one of my best customers, he’s a great guy. Another guy is a business owner in town, and he buys cigars, a different cigar, by the handful, that cost five times as much.  And he buys five or six every single day. They’re two completely different walks of life, they’re smoking two completely different cigars, but they’re enjoying them at exactly the same level. They just light them and enjoy them.

 

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Q: Cigars have a culture that is heavily grounded in tradition. Having been in the businesses for so long, what kind of changes have you seen?

Mike: The cigar business has changed immensely. It’s totally different than it used to be. It used to be that a guy smoked the same cigar all the time, and he smoked two or three of those, and they all smoked really big cigars, like the gangsters in the movies used to smoke. Now a days, they are open to all different shapes and sizes where they weren’t before. They are very interested in what’s new. To run a successful cigar operation today, you have to be very open minded to carrying what’s new, which is why we’re very strict on taste testing everything because it’s okay to be new, but it’s gotta be really high quality. Today’s cigars smoker though, changes brands, they have less brand loyalty, they’re much more open to ideas about trying new shapes, new sizes, and new companies. That’s very different than it was 30 years ago. And there’s a lot more companies, especially what we call boutique companies, which are the real small guys. This business, like any business, is dominated by say half a dozen major players, and then a dozen mid-tier players, and then 200 small players, all trying to get bigger. That’s our breakout, of how we find cigars, who we choose to do business with, we’re very particular about who we buy from, and cigar smokers today have all those choices that, thirty years ago there were only three or four makers.

One of the other things that I’ve learned that it’s very important that we emphasize in, is this is a hobby for our customers, but the depth of knowledge for the customer is not very deep. So we actually provide, we do a lot of promotions all year long, and many, many cigars dinners at various locations around town, and we have a core of customers who enjoy coming to the dinners because of the comradery, because of the ability to smoke a cigar and enjoy a meal, and what happens is we’ve formed some educational-based dinners. The guys come and they learn in a very in depth way about cigars. We’ve dissected them, we’ve demonstrated six ways to cut them, we’ve demonstrated ways to light them, how to store them, how to select them, how to talk the jargon. So it’s very education based.

 

 

To learn more about Rocky’s News & Cigars, visit their website or follow them on Facebook. If you’re interested in cigars and cigar events, Rocky’s has many events coming up.

 

 ROCKY’S EVENTS

 

JULY 23rd: Rocky’s Golf Tournament

The third annual golf tournament based around cigars.

 

AUGUST 15th: Rocky’s Day at Chief Stadium

 

SEPTEMBER 24th: Ballpark Brewfest

NBT Bank Stadium hosts a beer festival.

 

OCTOBERR 12th: The Little Big Smoke

Based on Cigar Aficionado magazine’s Big Smoke event, this is Rocky’s 18th annual fundraising event for MS. Event is held at Barbagallo’s and involves raffles, giveaways, nation-wide vendors, cigars, dinner, door prizes, liquor and beer tastings, and more.

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