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NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Brandy Lee Fritzen

Written by Rachel Nolte  • October 19, 2017


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


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.




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.




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.



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

Written by Rachel Nolte  • September 20, 2017


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 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


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.




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



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 . . . 


YWCA collage


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



 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.




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




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.

 Don collage


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



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.




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.




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.

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Brendan Rose

Written by Rachel Nolte  • July 6, 2017



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.





Brendan is a member of Echo, a multi-disciplinary design studio located on the Northside. Echo has been a Northside Business Partnership member since 2013 and has been involved with a variety of community projects, such as their iconic mural located behind the Echo storefront in Lock Alley. Read on to find out how Echo has evolved over time, what the future may hold, and the hidden truth about the origins of the mural!

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 Q: For those who don’t know much about Echo, could you explain a little bit about the history of your business?

Brendan: Sure. Echo came about around 2010. Briana Kohlbrenner opened a store here called Craft Chemistry. That store was a community arts and crafts shop that was a hybrid gallery and craft shop, so she would have gallery openings and a featured artist every couple of months. I was friends with Briana and looking for a space to do studio work. There were a couple of other designers called Lock 49, Damian Vallelonga and Jeff Walter, who were starting their own internet and software design, graphics, branding design business and they were also looking for a place to house themselves. So we collaborated with Briana to be able to work out of Craft Chemistry as a co-working space while she was operating that as a store. That evolved into us collaborating, both on arts projects and wanting to figure out how to encourage that collaborative co-working space as a place to be a community of artists and designers.


Q: Are you at all involved with the co-working space downtown or is that totally separate?

Brendan: Totally separate. It started up after we had been taking a crack at this for a little bit. They’re explicitly a co-working space and we were looking to be a space of collaboration. They kind of hope that happens there (downtown), but co-working is their only mission and that was not ours. That was just part of what we were interested in, as well as making art activity happen. So we collaborated on a lot of projects with different people leading in different directions. Myself, I was more involved with the public arts scene, explicitly the sculpture and public space work. Briana was involved in art market stuff, so she started the Salt Market with some friends. So she was doing big art market events, and then there would just be overlap in terms of our interests and we would have some of our events together. At some point we decided to formalize it and actually become a business and have an identity and not just be this loose conglomeration of people and work.


Q: How did you choose the name Echo?

Brendan: Um, it was a long and arduous process and the answer is just like, it kind of came out of nowhere. We spent a lot of time trying to come up with names that resonated with us and maybe were open ended and not so specific to “Oh, we’re a company that does this,” but could be a bit more poetically interesting. In terms of symbolism, it resonated because of us being the work of a collective, so the idea of multiple voices being expressed. So that was something that worked as a name and in some ways, it was just kind of arbitrary and that’s also part of the creative act, I guess. Finding the arbitrary things that work in the specific moment.

 So that’s the early history of how we got started. Then we were officially developing projects and events and things underneath that company and brand. Briana closed Craft Chemistry and became more full time engaged with trying to do events and art activities. We looked for other homes to expand our footprint, someplace where we could really host events…and had a lot of trouble finding the right spot. Then people got busy with other things, so now we’re into a new form and evolution of what we are as a business.



Q: So how would you define that now?

Brendan: I think now we’re much more of a professional services design firm. I recently got licensed as an architect.


Q: Congratulations!

Brendan: Thank you. So I’m more pushing for explicitly architecture work as a designer, and Briana has since left the business. She was driving a lot of the event-based activity stuff, and that is not really part of what we do anymore. We still have a lot of interest in art and public space and that’s still a part of our work. We still do collaborative design projects. We’ve been working on new signs for the Westcott neighborhood. It’s all under our umbrella of stuff that we’re developing as part of our public space/creative work. That’s still very much alive. Damian and Jeff have also shifted a lot of their energy to one particular project that they’ve been developing called Entrada Piano Technique. That’s a big project. It takes up a lot of their time and energy. It’s an online piano lessons… thing. They became partners in terms of the development of this in terms of a product and a package. It’s not something that they were contracted to do but they’re really full invested partners in trying to make that an international successful business, so they’re putting a lot of time in that and that means there’s not a lot of activity in terms of their creative work.

Recently, Zack Bloomer, who also is a licensed architect, has joined us. Initially he was just a coworker here, and now we’re partnering on projects and he’s officially becoming part of the Echo team. So we’re moving more towards the professional architectural and design services and a little less toward the art event activities. Co-working, we still run this kind of flexible space, so if someone approached us and wanted to work here like Northside UP has, we love to have good partners, but we also have the improv collective meeting here at night. They run classes out of here. So there’s still some co-working and communal shared space activities, but we’re not marketing it anymore.


Q: Where would you like to see the organization go?

Brendan: I think part of the strength is in the diversity of projects and directions, so I would like us to be doing some significant architectural work, and right now we do have a couple of projects that we are working on,  with Northside UP on developing a conceptual plan for a project. I also just started working on the near West Side on the old 19th century brick building that’s getting rehabbed and renovated into apartments and then a restaurant.

So we’ve got some projects, and that’s good and we want to keep developing that work, and activating public spaces and [figuring out] how to make the city work better on a street level. I don’t want to stop doing that. Sometimes that looks like a mural and sometimes it’s things like the bus stop, which are design or kind of architecture–but we also like those things to be playful, sculptural spaces. We’re always looking for good partners too. If there were more creative people who wanted to work on the fringes of the design world, then it would be nice to have a larger pool of collaborators.

Also, one of our strengths that I don’t want to let go of is doing the hands-on work. It is definitely one thing that separates us from a lot of the architectural and design world- we end up building a lot of stuff ourselves, whether it’s furniture or the bus stop or those kinds of small scale projects that we can really see through from front to end. I think of it as architecture, but it’s not in the profession of architecture necessarily to be welding the steal.

 Lock Alley mural

Q: What was your inspiration for the Lock Alley Mural?

Brendan: You know, I think that came out of Briana Kohlbrenner. In some ways she was the driving creative vision. She really loved the sunsets out of those back windows and said there was something really special about that, and maybe if we could do something that has some kind of relationship to that. So we were kind of doing that, and searching for, wanting to do something fun and graphic and bold and not necessarily representational. So we didn’t want to paint a sunset but to do some fun, funky, loud, bright—also, the sunset was kind of one piece, and then there was, it’s just dark and grey and often times snowy here and let’s see something that gives some color and life to the alley. Those things came together. Then there was an artist who, I should know their name, but we kind of a little bit cribbed their style. He does these superhero paintings or graphics that look like that. So that might be a representation of the sunset, but he’ll do like, superman with all these crazy blocks of geometric shapes that represent that. You can see the figure through, but they’re kind of fun and abstract. We just kind of, “Well, let’s search around for cool things on the internet and see what we’re inspired by” and then we try to make it our own. So, full disclosure on that.


Q: What first drew you into this line of work?

Brendan: Oh, I should also mention, around the Lock Alley Mural, the first inspiration was that Jean, who owns the building and has Turning Pointe upstairs, asked us to do something about the **** and ***** painting that was on the walls because that was there previously. She said, “I’ll give you guys some money if you come up with something to cover up that.” That was the original inspiration.


Q: Now that is a good story.

Brendan: Alright sorry, what was your next question?


Q: What first drew you into this line of work?

Brendan: I grew up in Syracuse, and Damian and Jeff also grew up in Syracuse and so did Zack. I don’t know how much that effects our story, but I wanted to be here because I care about my family and because I care about the city because I grew up here. So a lot of my professional journey here has been how do I figure out a way to be here and to do interesting things in the face of a, to be perfectly honest, both an economy and a creative culture that’s not super robust compared to other places you could be in this country. So that has taken some creativity and in and of itself is a creative project. That’s kind of what being an entrepreneur is.

I’ve had the good fortune and support of lots of different people in the community and different organizations, such as Northside UP, to be able to collaborate and be supported on a whole range of interesting projects, to be able to make a little bit of a living doing things that, I think, help make the city a little bit better and are also just a heck of a lot of fun to do. So, I think that’s kind of where the work comes out of and that’s maybe why it takes so many forms because on any given month or year, what opportunities are there, and what your own personal things that you’re driven to create in terms of opportunities, shift and change. I don’t know if that really answers the question, but—the line of work, I’ve always been a designer, interested in both art and problem solving, so I guess that’s where that comes from. I think that’s kind of true of everyone who’s been part of the Echo project. People who are both interested in creativity, but not just wanting to do it alone in their studio as a singular form of self-expression, but as a way of collaborating with other people to engage with the world in some particular way that hopefully enriches the community.

 inside echo

Q: Do you have any suggestions for people interested in arts and design and want to get more involved?

Brendan: Yes. It helps to make your own opportunities. You have to not be shy about making your own opportunities, going out there, putting yourself out there, both searching for what opportunities show themselves, and making the best of those small opportunities, and also be okay with finding a vision for yourself about something that you think should happen and then gathering the support to make it happen. Then just being willing to do the slow, hard work of being a bureaucrat on your own behalf, and not wait for someone else to get the funding or get the approval, but do all of that—be willing to—it’s not like you have to do the work yourself because you need partners to do it, but to do the work to make the partnerships and communicate with those partners and work with those partners to make things possible. I think that’s a big piece of what makes most things of value happen. Hard effort – someone pursuing something they feel strongly about. So that’s part of it. I think for me, and for Echo in general, a lot of it has been about community partners. Get involved with groups like Northside UP, or whatever community groups you see doing interesting things. Hawley Green, the neighborhood association, whatever, and see how your work can support what they’re doing, and that will feed back to you.

To learn more about Echo, visit their website and follow them on Instagram.

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Paul Roe and Gina Santucci

Written by Rachel Nolte  • June 14, 2017




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.





Paul and Gina are the owners of The James Street Parlour, a new tattoo shop on the Northside of Syracuse. While their shop is new, the history of the building is lengthy, built in 1872 and housing a cabinet maker, a Syracuse city mayor, and a funeral home over the years. Read on to learn more about the current owners and what drew them to this beautiful building.


The main room of the James Street Parlour.

The main room of the James Street Parlour.


Q: So, the most obvious first question is, how did you end up in Syracuse?

 Paul: Well, Gina, my wife, is from Utica, Rome, Syracuse—

Gina: I went to school here, and this is home. I worked for congress for twenty-something years, and congress is not the same congress as it was when I started (laughter). It wasn’t as fun, and I decided I wanted an early retirement. We had spoken to each other a lot over the years about, “Well, do you want to go back to England eventually?” And, he doesn’t. He wanted to live here. He’s been here . . . 26 years?

Paul: 26 years, yeah.

Gina: So this is home for him too. I didn’t want to live in DC anymore. The people here are friendly. It’s beautiful. I know people complain about the traffic here, but there is no traffic here! There is NO commute. So this was a no-brainer for us, really. I wanted to come.

Paul: It feels a lot like England. It really does.


Q: In what way?

Paul: It’s the post-industrial city with giant universities, very much like my hometown. It’s about the same size, the outlying countryside is very similar to England, the climate is really similar to England, not like 110° and 98% humidity in DC.

Gina: Augh, yeah that was another big factor in our decision to move north.

Paul: We literally said every single summer, that’s it. We have to move. We have to move.

Gina: I can’t stand it. You can’t be outside for any length of time! The mosquitos. All of those things.

Paul: We started looking. We went to Little Italy, and looked at buildings there. We had our eye on a building and there was a bidding thing going up on it, so we decided to look at other areas in the city. We looked downtown, we looked on Erie Boulevard, Water Street, there was one in the middle of Hawley-Green, and as we were driving up James Street, our real estate agent said “Have you seen this place?” Yes, yes yes. We saw that one online but it doesn’t look like it’s for sale. He said, “Well actually, it’s for sale. It’s just not listed. Do you want to have a look? Gina, do you want to have a look?”

Gina: I definitely wanted to have a look because I had seen it listed online a couple of times and the history of it attracted me. But also, there were no pictures of the inside. I really wanted to see what was going on in here.

Paul: So we walked in the door, in the back door, and we walked about 25 feet and got into that middle room, and she turns and said “I want this.”

Gina: I did. I did. I stood there and I whispered it actually. I said (whispering) “I want this. I must have this.”

Paul: And that was that. We sold the house in DC.


Left: One of the many columns of historic flash tattoos that are on display.  Center: One of two original fireplaces in the main parlor, one for coal burning and one for wood burning. Strangely, the marble mantle had been painted over and the couple had to laboriously remove it.  Right: Even the bathroom has interesting images of various tattoo machines. The eye is never lacking for something to see.

Left: One of the many columns of historic flash tattoos that are on display.
Center: One of two original fireplaces in the main parlor, one for coal burning and one for wood burning. Strangely, the marble mantle had been painted over and the couple had to laboriously remove it.
Right: Even the bathroom has interesting images of various tattoo machines. The eye is never lacking for something to see.


Q: Are you fascinated by history because you like tattoos or are they separate things that have happily come together?

 Paul: I’ve always been fascinated with history. English history as a schoolboy is basically two-thousand years of history. When you think about American history, you’re sitting there in school and learning American history—

Gina: Sweetheart, we don’t only learn American history (laughter), just so you know that.

Paul: We have to learn about empire—

Gina: We do too.

Paul: But you skirt over it.

Gina: No we don’t.

Paul: It’s a whole year for it. Just for the Romans.

Gina: Oh stop.

Paul: Just for the Romans.

Gina: We’ve had this conversation. He’s just a little arrogant about his English history, that’s all.

Paul: Of course. I’m an Englishman (laughter). And after we stopped owning the world—I’m interested in pattern recognition. That’s all I do. That’s all I do. It’s a very simple way to learn a style, is to analyze the code that makes that style that style. Tattooing, the line work, the shading, the density, the color spectrum, the composition, they can fall within certain parameters and it looks like old school American. Change two of those parameters and now you’ve got 1910 European. Thinner lines, slightly less black, slightly muted color scheme, Victorian tattooing. Change the lines a little bit, finer, two, three colors, now go Asian. Now you’re into Japanese influence from when Japan opened up in 1950. . . It’s in the code. You just have to read it.

Gina: The world has changed a lot in your field and your craft. Back when you started, everything was oral. Not everything, but quite a lot of it. So, I think that’s where your desire to seek out more information came from.

Paul: I had to go and sit down with the old man and talk to him.

Gina: Exactly. If you wanted to know something, you had to ask.

Paul: I couldn’t read the guy’s Facebook page.

Gina: ‘Cause they don’t do Facebook and also there was no Facebook then!

Paul: If you suggested that he share it with 100,000 strangers, he’d not only throw you out but he’d make sure your legs were broken before he threw you out. That’s completely changed.


The Dragon Room featured, like many other parts of the house, beautiful wood details that had been painted over when the couple purchased the property. For instance, where we now see gold trim, somebody had actually painted the lovely wood brown. So the couple has done their best to polish the space and resolve mistakes of the past. In this case, it meant an updated mural and more elegant trim. The overall effect pays homage to tradition but with a twist of Paul’s style.

The Dragon Room featured, like many other parts of the house, beautiful wood details that had been painted over when the couple purchased the property. For instance, where we now see gold trim, somebody had actually painted the lovely wood brown. So the couple has done their best to polish the space and resolve mistakes of the past. In this case, it meant an updated mural and more elegant trim. The overall effect pays homage to tradition but with a twist of Paul’s style.


Q: When did you get your first tattoo and what was it of?

 Paul: I was 17. It’s a Japanese bat flying out of the rising sun on my chest and it was a symbol of the Kendo Dojo that I was at when I was a teenager. Swordsman, which is where my whole fascination with Japanese art comes from, and the Bushido and the code of honor, which is very chivalrous and ties into the whole British—you know, a gentleman’s word.

Gina: The fellow who did it—

Paul: —Steve—

Gina: —Steve, you got to work with him.

Paul: I did. It was weird. That was when I was 17, so I started tattooing when I was 30. A couple of years in, I was on the internet! It’s young and fresh and new and we’re using it to contact. A friend of mine that I went to school with, Grace, she was the only other Goth in the school, so we used to hang out together. She was a year younger than me. And she’s married, and she’s got a kid, and she’s working in this tattoo shop. And I’m like, “Wow, it’s crazy ’cause I’m tattooing now. Where are you working?” “Oh, I’m working with Steve.” “You’re working with Steve?” “Yeah, I’m managing his shop.” “Ok then. Um. Can I come and do a guest spot?” She’s like, “Oh he’d love that.” So I went and I worked for 2 weeks. Did a guest spot with him, he tattooed me. I was 7 years in because I got my laurels for a journeyman (At this point, Paul gestured to the tattooed laurels on his arm). So he tattooed me, I tattooed him, but he tattooed me and then he said, “I’ve got some things for you.” So he went downstairs and he brought up two tattoo machine frames. One is a Davis Burchett from 1915 and the other is a 1927 Milton Zies, just the frame. He said, “This is the machine I tattooed you with when you were 17” and gave it to me. I built it up subsequently, I built the whole thing up and I took it back and I was going to give it to him, and he said “No, no no. It’s your machine.”


Inside the Dragon Room, there is a cabinet that displays a variety of fascinating tattooing devices. We did not discuss these during my interview, but I’m certain that each of these items has a story behind it.

Inside the Dragon Room, there is a cabinet that displays a variety of fascinating tattooing devices. We did not discuss these during my interview, but I’m certain that each of these items has a story behind it.


Q: Where does your interest in tattooing stem from?

 Paul: His shop was around the corner from my school, my high school, and from age 12 to 16, I would press my face up against that glass. I had a paper round and the news agent was three doors down. So I used to throw up at 5 o’clock in the morning on my bicycle. If the news agent had been out drinking the night before, he wasn’t going to be there on time, so I knew I had a few minutes. I would go and literally I would place my face up against the glass and try and see inside and look at the images in the shop, on Burr Street, in the Red Light District.

Gina: Didn’t you also say that one of your uncles had a tattoo that captured your imagination?

Paul:  Uncle Ray. My father was royal Airforce, and the royal Airforce do NOT get tattooed. The army do. My Uncle Ray, his brother, was army. And I remember when I was maybe 6 or 7, he said that one of them was a panther and one of them was an eagle and they were just sort of blurs and smudges, but they fascinated me because they were pictures on Uncle Ray! Why didn’t any of my other uncles have pictures on them? Dad, why don’t you have pictures on you? “’Cause I’m Airforce!” Oh, okay.

It’s always been there. It’s always been everywhere, every person is related to a group of people that tattooed and I find that fascinating. It’s a single bond. We are animals that decorate. That’s it. That’s the only thing that separates us. It’s innately human to do this. It’s been driven out of a lot of cultures politically or religiously, but it’s the basic operation of the human mind. I am me, I can make me prettier! Look, ooh, that’s lovely, I want to do that now! Everybody does it.


To learn more about the history of the James Street Parlour building, join NEHDA on its annual historic house tour. Get your tickets here!