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June 2017 Vol. III Issue 7
We are all about Home Sweet Home
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Contents June 2017 THE COVER STORY
The Magnificent Yankees Page 6
Greater Utica Heart in Every Beat
There was a time when... Page 21 GU Coupon Pages 24 & 25 Life is but a Dream - Matt Abdoo Page 28 Center Stage at the Stanley Page 38 Featured Businesses Bremer’s Wine & Liquor Page 22 Castlewood Cafe Page 27 Symeon’s Page 37 The Added Touch Drapery Shop Page 39 Mangia Macrina’s Wood Fired Pizza Page 41
Oneida County History Center Page 40 June 2017 Events
Up On the Hill: James Benton Page 42
Web: www.GUmagazine.com email: cs@GUmagazine.com Phone: 315-316-7277 Facebook: www.facebook.com/greaterutica June 2017 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE
Dear Readers, It has been quite a ride these past couple of years, hasn’t it? When my father, my brother and I started this magazine in November of 2014, we had no idea that the people and businesses of this community would embrace us the way you folks have and we are very thankful for it. With 16 additional pages in this month’s issue, we finally have the opportunity to welcome you and also thank the businesses that support us through their advertisements. We are firm believers that if you work hard, work honest and do the right thing by others, good things will happen in your life. One of the “good things” we have had the privlege of doing is sharing stories about the past and present of the area we call home, Greater Utica. One thing we did realize going into this endeavor, is that some of the greatest people on earth either reside or have resided here. Those who serve or have served in the military, our first responders, volunteers, business owners, and all other citizens that make this area a better place. We may not have tall buildings or amusement parks, but we have rich history and a true “community” that supports one another. We felt it was necessary to inform you, we have so many great things planned for the future of Greater Utica Magazine. New stories, new segments and of course, we will always strive to make improvements. We will continue to speak with primary sources on our stories as often as possible, and perform intensive research to help educate ourselves as well as our readers. GU will continue to print issues of the magazine every single month and provide a wide range of topics that we hope you enjoy. Our wish is to someday mail issues to every household in the Greater Utica area, every month. Those of you who do receive them in the mail may be asking, “Why do I not receive this publication every month?” The reason is, we mail the majority of the Greater Utica area in two separate groups that interchange monthly. Meaning, readers in our mail circulation receive the magazine every other month. For those who were unaware, the magazine is available at several local libraries and businesses in the area and we now offer monthly subscriptions to all (go to GUmagazine.com for details on pick-up-locations and subscription info). It is very important to us that our supporters are well-informed on our publication, so if you have any questions in the future, please do not hesitate to call us at 315-316-7277 or email us at cs@GUmagazine.com . Story suggestions are always welcome as well. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join the fun on our “Greater Utica” Facebook page, where we reminisce about the “old days” and promote the great things going on in the present. Fans share some of their fondest memories on our page and you never know, your photo or story may end up in the magazine like so many others already have! The intent of this letter first and foremost, is to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and support Greater Utica Magazine. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to do something we love so much for the people who mean the most to us. Thank you for all of your comments and feedback, whether they were critical or complimentary, as it shows how much you care about our mission. Thank you for the photos, memories and contributions you have made that make this publication special on so many levels. And last, but certainly not least, thank you to the countless local businesses who have believed in us and to those who hope to join us in the future. We hope we have made each and every one of our supporters proud through our efforts to preserve the area’s history and tell the stories of great community people and organizations. Sincerely, Brad Velardi
“We are all about Home Sweet Home”
4 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE - June 2017
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It matters not who you are, nor what your interests may be; we all long to be a part of something great. We all hope to be involved in something worth remembering, or better yet, something unforgettable. Everyone wants to make their mark at some point in this life, but for most of us, doing it alone would just be unfulfilling. What is an accomplishment or reward without someone to share it with? Someone who was there with you every step of the way; the only other person on the planet that knows exactly what you went through to succeed. A person or people you knew would be by your side when it’s all said and
6 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE - June 2017
done, to relish with you in your moment of prosperity. We learn very quickly in our lives that, nothing of any true value is gained without dedication and a fair amount of suffering. There is no comparison to the gratification one feels when they give every ounce of themselves and accomplish their objective. All of the hours, days, months and years of work proved to be preparation for those defining moments of victory. It only gets sweeter when you have partners or teammates to share those moments with for the rest of your lives. From the ups and the downs, friendships are formed from bonds that are unbreakable. What a feeling it must be to look at that person next to you and say, “We did that together.” One may characterize the feeling as, “magnificent”. Some of the best stories ever told about the Greater Utica area, or at least some of my favorite, are about its youth organizations of the past and present. It is particularly enjoyable learning about those from generations past, as we are able to see the lifelong effects of the participants’ experiences. When you are told a firsthand account of these tales, you can hear the pride and excitement in the voices of the storyteller. You see that same look in their eye they must have had in the heat of the actual moment. You can feel the passion exuding out of them as they relive some of the most precious and influential moments of their lives. There are few youth organizations in our area’s history that have been as successful and celebrated as The Magnificent Yankees Drum and Bugle Corps. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, the Magnificent Yankees represented the Greater Utica area in major cities across the country, competing at a level parallel to some of the nation’s finest junior drum corps. During a time when local corps ran rampant in even the smallest cities of America, the Yankees became famous for their
musical talent, complex routines and elite synchronization. While the drum corps enjoyed great competitive success at its height, perhaps the greatest products of its existence, are the friendships that were built from it; friendships that will last a lifetime. Two local gentlemen (both Utica natives) that share one of these lifelong amities are Ed Washburn and Mike DiMeo Jr. Both Mike and Ed were charter members of the Magnificent Yankees more than fifty years ago, but there are certain qualities they attained from being in the drum corps that they still benefit from today. When I had the chance to sit down and talk with them on the history of the Yankees as well as their own personal experiences, they spoke with great reverence and enthusiasm for the program. It became very evident to me, just how the corps became so great at what they did. And even when the group was devastated by the start of the Vietnam War, they came roaring back; not even that could kill the pride of the Yankees. Before they were the Magnificent Yankees, they were the Utica Boys Drum and Bugle Corps. Started in 1939 by Franny Gilroy and Don Purcell, the Utica Boys Drum and Bugle Corps was strictly a parade unit that marched locally under the leadership of Commander and Director of the corps, Leonard Tollerton. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the intensity of World War II increased and the members of the Utica Boys Drum Corps did as well. They put forth a strong effort to raise funds for war bonds and in 1942 alone, the boys raised $350,000. When Tollerton passed away, Evan Parry assumed his position and ran the drum corps all throughout the 1950s. It was 1957, when Mike DiMeo joined the horn line in the Utica Boys Drum Corps; he was ten years-old. His dad, Mike Sr. began assisting the staff by directing fund raisers for the corps, and when they became the Magnificent Yankees, he was their business manager. The following year, in 1958, Ed Washburn joined the drum line of the corps at age eleven. For kids like Mike and Ed, there were not many programs they could join to exercise their love for music and the corps allowed them to do that. At the end of the 1960 parade season, instructors Dick Robilotto, Joe Wormworth, Bob Morey and Joe Buncie and commander William “Bud” Floyd wanted to turn the Utica Boys Drum Corps into a marching and ma-
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neuvering unit. This meant that the boys would now be performing their routines competitively against other corps. In 1961, on the gym floor of John F. Hughes School, they adopted the nickname of baseball great Joe DiMaggio and became The Magnificent Yankees. Their main sponsor was American Legion Post 229 (then of Charlotte Street in Utica). The greatness the Yankees would eventually achieve started with the incredible talent of their staff. Corps director “Bud Floyd” would write the drills and select the music the unit performed, both of which were very detailed and difficult to execute. The music (Buncie), horn (Robilotto) and drum instructors (Wormworth and Morey) taught the kids how to read music and play instruments effectively. Another significant staff member was “Pappa” Top: The Yankees marching in the Memorial Joe Berthold, who Day Parade on Genesee St. in 1964. Bottom Left: The Yankee drum line with instructor Joe had over sixty years of combined drum Wormworth. Bottom right: The Yankee drum line on the corner of Court and Genesee Streets. corps experience by the time his career was over. Mike DiMeo Sr. was in charge of raising funds through various efforts, with a great deal of the money coming from bingo games put on by Post 229. Mike Sr. was so successful at raising money for the corps, the only thing the kids ever had to pay for were black shoes and black socks. When the Yankees traveled, all of their expenses from the hotel, food and transportation costs were all covered. “Not everyone took care of their kids the way were taken care of. We were very fortunate. I can’t stress enough how fortunate we were to be a part of (the Yankees).” Says Mike DiMeo Jr.
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Now that the unit was going to be participating in competitions, the Yankees’ practice regiment would become famously rigorous. The practices would take place four to five days per week at the former General Electric parking lot on French Road in Utica (currently ConMed). The spring and summer sessions would last up to three hours in sometimes scorching heat. There would be separate sessions between the drum and horn units where each would learn their respective parts of the music, then, both groups would come together and practice their synchronization. Practices not only took place during the spring and summer, there also were winter sessions held indoors at a facility provided by Post 229. Mike and Ed insist that you had to love what you were doing, because if you didn’t, it showed in your effort and performance. The instructors were intense perfectionists who were not going to accept anything less than everything the boys had. “If you learned a routine on a Sunday, and you weren’t any better by the following Wednesday, I felt sorry for you.” Said Ed. “The GE parking lot on Tuesday nights, had more sweat poured on it, then it ever did rain.” “How about standing at attention for five minutes, not moving a muscle while five guys walk up and down the line making sure you didn’t flinch.” Mike added. In the beginning, the Yankees’ home stadium was at Murnane Field (later Notre Dame High School). On a lot of occasions, at competitions away from home, they would march in a parade around 1PM to raise money for the corps and then
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Above: The Magnificent Yankees at Griffiss Air Force Base on Commander’s Day in 1965. Right: The Yankees posing in front of Munson Williams.
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compete later on in the day. There were a lot of growing pains in their first year of 1961; it was their first year of competition and they were facing programs that had been around for many years, so they were not placing well. The Yankees were made up primarily of thirteen-year-old boys who were in for a big surprise at their first competition, which took place in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. “We’re on the starting line for our first contest and we’re seeing the corps that’s in front of us ending their show at the finish line. All of a sudden, two drop over here, three drop over there!” says Ed. The instructors had not explained to them that is it quite common for kids to faint during or after a drill due to the mixture of nervousness, heat and exhaustion. They all looked at each other with fearful expressions, wondering if they too would be sprawled out in the grass. Nevertheless, they took the field in their red, white and black uniforms for the first time and continued to improve immensely over the following years. In 1962, they were placing better in competitions but were still nowhere near where they hoped to be. In 1963, the Yankees were finally becoming “magnificent”. That year, they placed 2nd in the American Legion state championship contest and 5th in the American Legion
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nationals. The corps had raised enough money to take a chartered plane to nationals that year, which took place in Miami Beach, Florida. The Yankees performed in humid, 90-degree conditions that day which caused one of their members, Frank Ortis to pass out, and another, Robert Jones needed assistance leaving the field. As the Yankees practiced their drill before the start of the competition, the staff members had to literally hose the boys down between routines. They became a household name after their performance that day and the Yankees continued to march on. One of the rare qualities the Yankees possessed, that most did not, was that the same core group returned every year, and so their chemistry became better over time. It was also what made the friendships between the members so strong. When observing photos of The Magnificent Yankees, you will see that they were completely in sync at all times during a routine. The sticks of all the members of the drum line are in the exact same position, the horn line held their instruments at the exact same height, and the flags of the color guard are waving identically. In 1964, the Yankees had one of their greatest seasons in corps history as they were more comfortable performing as a unit than ever before. That year, they won the American Legion New York state championship for the first time and they were known and loved by people from all over. According to Ed, folks from across the country came to see the Magnificent Yankees specifically. “People in the stands watching the show were always excited when we showed up.” Ed says. “Many times, when a corps was on the field performing their show there would be an outburst of applause. At first, the parents and other spectators thought this applause was for the performers on the field at the time.” “It wasn’t.” he says. “The applause was for the Magnificent Yankees. People in the stands would see our busses pull in and the crowd would go wild. When our fans saw our busses show up they would scream & holler ‘They’re here, they’re here!’’” They followed up the 1964 championship with second place finishes in 1965 and 1966. It didn’t matter where they traveled, people knew who the Magnificent Yankees were from Miami to Chicago to Cleveland and all throughout New York State. They were winning championships in the Hudson-Berk-
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shire Circuit, New York-Canadian Circuit and regularly finishing in the top ten of either the American Legion or VFW nationals. This was all done during a time when the local corps were very good in our area, including The Frankfort Starlighters and The Utica Royaleers. The competition would even get heated amongst the parents, Mike says with a smile. “A lot of them worked together at GE. Some of them would place friendly wagers on the competition and be arguing with each other in the stands!” At the end of the 1967 season, the Yankees went through some dramatic personnel changes. The corps was almost completely dismembered as some went off to college, some exceeded the age limit, some were drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam, others entered different branches of the military to avoid the draft. The core group that had been together since 1961 was no more and it was a sad time for the original members. “To say there were hard feelings would be an understatement.” Mike said. Luckily, in 1965, The Magnificent Yankees started a “feeder corps” made up of a group of younger boys waiting for
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their chance to be elevated. Their name was the Yankee Cadets and they were determined to write a tale of redemption and resurrect what appeared to be a doomed program. At twenty-one-years-old, Mike also decided that there was no way he was going to leave the Yankees if he could help it. Being that he exceeded the age limit of a junior drum corps member, he was now going to return as an instructor. There was still work left to be done and Mike, as well as the “Yankees Part 2” as they are called, were going to leave everything they had on the field of competition. “My drum corps days weren’t over.” Says Mike. “My father had worked so hard to get it to where it was, I wanted to do it for him also. The (Yankees) had a name, and I didn’t want us to lose it.” Going into the 1968 season, expectations were not very high as the Yankees had a new group of kids, new staff members, with new music and new routines. Another major change the Part 2’s made, was that their entire color guard was made up of girls, and they had females in the brass and drum lines. For the first time in years, they did not qualify for the American Legion state championship competition. One Cadet, Bob Orilio, who was a bass baritone, remembers how much of a challenge that first year was as the Yankees finished low in most of their competitions. “We either all came out of a feeder core, or we had guys who came off the street that had to be trained from step one. They never seen a bugle, they never seen a drum, they never seen a flag.” Says Bob. “It was a lot of work but we were willing to do it because we wanted to be as good as MY1 (Magnificent Yankees Part 1)” Bob started off as a Cadet in 1968 with his brother
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Dick; they were inspired to join by their oldest brother, Don who started as a Yankee in 1962. As Bob would put it, the Cadets were “foaming at the mouth” for their chance to be a Yankee, so it was going to take a whole lot more than one tough season to push them away. Tom Coyne, who became a charter member of the Cadets in 1965, still remembers how the first group of Magnificent Yankees gave the younger kids something to aspire to become. “It was a gas because on the rare occasion we would march together with them in a parade, you had this feeling that if you stayed with it, you would one day be able to have that
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same experience.” Tom says that the Magnificent Yankees Part 2 may have been discouraged at first, but they took baby steps when trying to return to their old form. They would aim to move up the rankings, one team at a time. “It was a little disheartening in 68’, 69’, and even to an extent in 70’, because you would try to improve. You make little improvements here and there, but you said ‘As long as we’re ahead of somebody, who else can we pick off?’” In 1971, the Yankees Part 2 had gotten close to their old form, finishing with the top drum unit in the state. Drum instructor Art Nelson helped the corps’ unit finish at the top of the state three years in a row from 1971-1973. By 1972, the Yankees won their first state championship since 1964 at MacArthur Park in Syracuse, and people were once again talking about how magnificent the Yankees were. After all of the hard work the young men had put in, winning the state title offered them a “euphoric” feeling, to put it in Bob Orilio’s words. Tom Coyne seconds those remarks. “All these years later, I still regard it as one of the highlights of my life.” Tom says. They were, without a doubt, an underdog going into the state contest, which made it an even bigger surprise when they finished third in the American Legion nationals that same year at Soldier Field in Chicago (home of the Bears). The Yankees Part 2 came to find that the teams who were beating them noticeably from 1968-1970, were being surpassed. In 1973, they won their second straight state championship, which no other Magnificent Yankee corps had done. As one of the horn instructors of the new corps, Mike, who was earning his master’s degree in music at the time, was thrilled that he was able to help revive something so meaningful to him and his dad. After being involved with the Yankees for so many years, the drum corps became an integral part of the DiMeo family and the same can be said for many others. It was not only the kids, but also their parents who made great sacrifices to put the Magnificent Yankees in a position to suc-
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ceed. There was a lot of traveling involved, not to mention there were either practices or competitions on five or six days out of the week. Whether it was a form of fundraising, dry cleaning and ironing uniforms, bringing food or giving a kid a ride, the Yankee parents were a huge piece of the puzzle. Ed Washburn’s parents took their generosity to an even higher level as kids that
lived outside Utica were welcome to sleep at their house any time they needed a warm bed. The Post 229 senior drum corps, The Blackhawks, were also very helpful toward the Yankees both with their advice and constant support. Incredibly, the Magnificent Yankees were able to produce one of the finest drum corps in the nation with kids from a very small area. It was almost unimaginable that they could do it a second time after the Vietnam War dismantled the unit; but they came back and won back to back state championships. At the end of 1973, there were high expectations as the Yankees Part 2 had not only won states, but placed very well in nationals for the second straight year. But going into the 1974 season, it became clear that those expectations would not be met. When many of the snare drummers lost interest in rejoining the corps, a large chunk of the horn men followed suit and the number of participants began to dwindle at each succeeding practice session. No one was more disappointed than Mike, who was going to be Director of the corps in 1974, following the retirement of “Bud” Floyd. Aside from their merger with the Syracuse Marauders
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in 1975 (The Yankee Marauders), The Magnificent Yankees never returned again after that historic 1973 season. But the lessons and friendships will never die. As a result of their days with the Yankees, several kids received collegiate scholarships and in turn, pursued a career in music. The Yankees produced many band leaders, music teachers and lifelong musicians. Mike sites his switch from trumpet player to drum major (leader of the corps) as being a life changing experience. “I have to tell you, that training, those winters when I did that, really made me into the music teacher I became. It gave me the opportunity to learn things I never did college.” Mike went on to be a music instructor at New Hartford High School and is currently working at Utica College. Mike has also been a member of the band Classified since the mid1990s and furthered his drum corps career by becoming a brass instructor and soloist for the Syracuse Brigadiers. Bob Orilio has been a college professor for more than forty years and says his time as the leader of the baritone section was great preparation for his career. Ed Washburn entered the Navy after he left the Yankees, and said that the instructors of the drum corps were much tougher than those in the military. “When I entered the Navy and finished boot camp, I was looking at those guys saying, ‘That’s all you got?’” Ed says. The value of teamwork, discipline, accountability and a strong work ethic are among some of the other teachings provided by the Yankees. But all four of the former members I spoke to say that the friendships they have today as a result of
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the drum corps, are what they appreciate the most. “I worked for 36 years for the post office. Guys I worked with were my friends. We golf together, we do things; but nothing like the kids I grew up with in the Magnificent Yankees. My neighbors are friends, but the guys I was in drum corps with, those relationships last to this day. They will last until the day we die.” – Ed Washburn “We all loved and respected each other so much. Many people have their high school buddies, I have my drum corps buddies.” – Mike DiMeo Jr. “You don’t lose contact with the friends you make, when they’re real friends. It was a good time, I would never change what I did. I loved every minute of it.” – Bob Orilio “I’m going to a retirement party for a guy I marched
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with 50 years ago. That’s a 50year friendship only because we used to march together in drum corps. That’s a hell of a strength.” – Tom Coyne When I asked Ed how The Magnificent Yankees should be remembered, he said the following: “I think it was the greatest youth organization that Utica ever had.” – Ed Washburn On April 26th, 1986, the Magnificent Yankees Part 1 held a reunion ceremony at Massoud’s in Washington Mills; a day Mike describes as “highly emotionally-charged”. The men shared stories about their trips to Miami Stadium, Soldier Field, Cleveland Stadium, McCormick Place, the Singer Bowl and everywhere in between. That day, the former Yankees put all of their obligations aside
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to be with their drum corps brothers. There were old memorabilia on display and everyone received a plaque for the part they played in the corps’ success. Years later, Ed, along with fellow snare drummer, Dick Mitchell, was able to help make a special tribute to all of the Yankees from Part 1 that served in the nation’s military by having their names engraved in the bricks in front of the US Post Office on Pitcher Street in Utica. Ed and Dick covered the cost of the engraving, ensuring none of the other guys would have to pay a dime. It was the least they could do for a corps that provided some of the best times of their life. “The Magnificent Yankees was a special organization. I thank Mr. DiMeo, Dick Robilotto, Joe Wormworth and Bud for giving me the best childhood I could have ever imagined.” – Ed Washburn
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While talking with my kids one day, I bought up the idea of writing a short article about Danny Thomas’ visit to Utica. I was bewildered as I observed the puzzled look on their faces. I asked them, “What’s the matter, don’t you like Danny Thomas?” After a second of hesitation, they replied, “Who is Danny Thomas?” I said, “You know, he was in ‘Make Room for Daddy’, but he is much more than that.” They then replied, “Make room for who?” Really? Have I aged that much that the next generation is unaware of Danny Thomas? For those of you who are not familiar with his career, Danny was a famous TV actor and entertainer; however, that is not why he was in the area in the summer of 1962. On August 27, 1962, Danny Thomas flew to Oneida County Airport in Oriskany, NY via Mohawk Airlines. A crowd of locals were there to meet him when he arrived including Utica Mayor Frank Dulan. There was a parade as over 15,000 people waited to see the actor at Franklin Square. Danny was the founder of the (ALSAC) American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. The ALSAC is the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude’s Hospital, which at the time of this visit had recently
By Dominick Velardi
opened. Danny had spoken many times about the promise he made to St. Jude Thaddeus when he and his pregnant wife were penniless. Danny’s promise was, that if he were to become successful, he would build St. Jude’s Hospital as a shrine. Years later, after becoming a major star, Danny kept his promise. The purpose of his visit to Greater Utica was to be a messenger for the children of the hospital; thanking the people of the area for their support. At this Franklin Square event, Danny was given the key to the city by Mayor Dulan. That evening, Danny Thomas also had a press conference at Hotel Utica. The following day he spoke at a dinner for approximately 300 people and performed a show at the Utica Auditorium that evening (pictured above). And that is who Danny Thomas was; he was an actor, an entertainer but most of all, a great man who founded St. Jude’s Hospital, which helped thousands of children from all over the map. It is true, “There was a time when”... Danny Thomas came to Greater Utica.
June 2017 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE
For a business to last in the community for over one-hundredand-forty years it must have strong values and integrity. When a business of such longevity has remained under the ownership of the same family, it is a direct reflection on that family’s business sense, understanding of the market and unwavering philosophy that taking care of your customers is the top priority. Bremer’s Wine and Liquor in New Hartford has kept that same philosophy for four generations. The story began in 1876, when Charles H. Bremer opened a market and liquor store in downtown Utica where he sold fruits, groceries and liquors. Charles became a very successful and well-respected businessman and “won a national reputation of being one of the most successful fruit and grocery dealers in the country.” In 1917, Charles passed away at the age of sixty-one and his son, Merritt took ownership of the store to continue his legacy. Shortly after, in 1920, Prohibition began and the store functioned solely as a grocery store and grew to an upscale market with the finest meats, produce and homemade candies and spreads. After prohibition was lifted, Bremer’s received the first retail liquor license in Oneida County and became Bremer’s Liquors. When Merritt passed away unexpectedly in 1959, his son Bud (Merritt Jr.) bought the store and became the third generation of the Bremer family to operate the business. In 1966, Bremer’s Liquors merged with Casey and Keefe (owned by Art Bullock) to become Bremer & Bullock Wine & Liquor. Many customers today still remember this location on Oneida Square where it remained until 1999. Art Bullock retired in 1999 and the Bremer’s were looking to grow what was already a successful business. Bud began searching for a location with better parking and more floor space, the site of Heritage Wine & Liquor on Commercial Drive in New Hartford presented a very favorable destination. Bud and his son, Tim, who had recently become involved in the business, purchased the New Hartford store, kicking off the fourth generation of Bremer ownership. Tim brought a new level of expertise to the business as he had developed a strong knowledgebase in the wine industry working for several wineries and a French wine barrel manufacturer in Napa, California. Tim used his experience to give the store a major boost in terms of wine selection and sales. In 2003, the father and son duo purchased their second location together; a 20,000 square-foot building at 4684 Commercial Drive where Bremer’s Wine & Liquor is currently located. The new facility gave Bremer’s the largest floor space and inventory in the area and the widest selection of wine and spirits from Rochester to Albany. After leading the company with great vision and attention to customer needs, Bud Bremer retired from the business in 2006. His youngest son, Eric, moved back to the Greater Utica area and became partners with his brother Tim, helping him carry on the family tradition. Tim and Eric have taken the same approach as their father, grandfather and great grandfather: put the customer first. The philosophy has been ingrained in them and when a situation with a customer arises they like to ask themselves, “What would Bud do?” The brothers say what they love most about doing business in this area is seeing generations of the same family still shopping at the store, carrying on a tradition in the same way the Bremers have all these years. They enjoy engaging with customers at their weekly tastings on Fridays and Saturdays and also get great joy from helping the community with numerous fundraisers as well as their annual golf tournament, which raises funds for The Boys and Girls Club under the House of the Good Shepherd. With lots of family living in the area, there is a solid chance that the fifth generation of Bremer’s will someday take over the store. For more info visit www.BremersWineAndLiquor.com or call (315) 768-6400.
22 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE - June 2017
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How a local business person carries his dad in his heart & uses it to help others.
In my travels around Greater Utica
Inside The Proctors Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Greater Utica
February 2015 Vol. I Issue 3
In my travels around Greater Utica
The City with Mother Marianne’s Westside Kitchen Our The Local T re Cen Stanley asure ter fo T he C r the Arts Unit ity with
ed W heart of t he V ay alle &G y In My reater Grea Travels Utica Johnter Utica Around Area W a rr The e Cla n Butte ss rfield of GU 2015
Above: The Hotel Utica and their next door nieghbor neighbor the Majestic.
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We often see the term “family-owned and operated” used to describe some of the great businesses of our community. While many of them may be “owned” by a family, it is somewhat rare that these businesses have relatives working at every level of the operation. When you find one of these gems in the restaurant industry, you will notice they have a loyal following as the customer experience becomes something more than simply a meal. At the Castlewood Café in Utica, almost everyone you see in uniform is a member of the Wood family in some shape or form. Parents, sisters and cousins make up just about every employee and owner in the business, creating a uniquely refreshing atmosphere. As one makes their way through Castlewood, they will see a lot of familiar faces at the several booths and tables. Faces that will likely be present on your second and third visits. As the restaurant’s customers will admit, they go to Castlewood because sometimes, “You want to go where everybody knows your name.” On top of a warm welcome, you will also enjoy an incredible, homecooked meal whether you desire breakfast, lunch or dinner. Brittany and Alyssa Wood have carried on the business started by their father, Don, almost thirty years ago. With the help of several family members and countless regulars, Castlewood continues to thrive today. Like most local business owners, Don Wood held several different jobs in the area as a young man. After gaining some experience at multiple local restaurants, Don began the Castlewood Café legacy in 1992 at his first location on Main Street in Waterville. The restaurant quickly became popular, leading Don to relocate into a more densely populated area, moving Castlewood to Oneida Street in Washington Mills. In 2002, Don moved the business once again, this time to Burrstone Road in New Hartford, where it remained until 2012. After a hiatus of over three years, Castlewood Café reopened in its current location in the Champlin Avenue plaza in January 2016. This time, Don’s daughters, Brittany and Alyssa, have assumed ownership, but he still man’s his station in the kitchen, where he prepares the customer favorites. To no surprise, the longtime loyal guests of Castlewood came flocking back to the dining room almost immediately. Brittany, Don’s daughter, says that she would be approached almost daily by former customers when the restaurant first closed. They were all craving one of Castlewood’s famous meals and so, the Wood family has given them what they longed for. While almost everyone, from the wait staff to the chefs, are a part of the Wood family, what makes Castlewood really special is simple: it’s the food. They serve an outstanding breakfast and lunch that is offered from open till close, but what many folks do not realize, it that Castlewood serves an entire dinner menu as well. Customers can order everything from a fish fry or a steak, to a panini or pasta dish. Don is living proof that you do not have to BE Italian to cook Italian as his chicken riggie recipe along with other similar dishes, are among some of the most popular on the entire menu. No matter what meal it is you are in the mood for, Castlewood has a wide selection. Another great quality of Castlewood is friendly and attentive service; the staff always makes sure there is coffee in your cup and a smile on your face. While the food is prepared quickly, you never feel rushed out the door and the dining area is very spacious, clean and relaxing. While Castlewood’s location has changed from the past, just about everything else has remained the same: and that is definitely a good thing. To contact Castlewood, call 315-733-9663 or visit the restaurant at 1307 Champlin Ave in Utica.
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Matt Abdoo Life is but a Dream By Brad Velardi
To become truly great at anything, you must find balance in as many areas of your life as possible. Perhaps the most important two qualities a person must keep balanced, are their confidence and humility. They have to be humble enough to understand the magnitude of a challenge, but be confident enough to know it is conquerable. They must have the ability to appreciate a cultivating moment, but not allow it to define them. They must realize that where they started, is equally as important as where they have finished; for had they not dealt with the pains of growth, they would have never become their best self. The great ones find ways to separate themselves from the pack, regardless of their chosen profession. They replace their “wants” with “needs”, making success an obsession with no option for failure. There is no end to their progression as old goals are replaced with new ones, and ceilings are raised to levels that are seemingly unreachable by most others. The average individual is intimidated by life’s most intense circumstances, but the opposite is true of someone who is great. For them, the bigger the stakes, the better they perform because they realize that their success is not just a privilege, but something they have earned. Inside the four kitchen walls of Manhattan’s Pig Bleecker barbeque restaurant is a man who has cooked professionally for more than half of his life. Needless to say, the hot and fastpaced climate of a restaurant kitchen is not foreign to him; in fact, he has spent more time in that environment than his own home for the better part of his twenties and thirties. At the age
28 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE - June 2017
of thirty-seven, he is the co-owner of two New York City eating destinations whose menus are not only inspired by his career learnings, but also by his family and hometown. He comes from a small community known for its great food, which he has introduced to people from all over the world. He has brushed elbows with some of the biggest names in the business, but no matter where he goes, or what he does, he always says, “home is home.” His name: Matt Abdoo. His hometown: New Hartford, NY. Throughout his entire youth, Matt and his family lived on Terrace Hill Drive in New Hartford. Like so many other people from the Greater Utica area, food meant much more to Matt and his family than simply something to eat. With his father, George, coming from a Lebanese family and his mother, Francine’s family being Italian, homecooked meals were a staple of the Abdoo household. Matt’s first “food memory” as he calls them, came when he was just five-years-old making breakfast alongside his dad. As George stood at the stove, Matt watched with entrancement as his father flipped pancakes inside the pan, waiting for his chance to take the spatula. “Two years and one-thousand pancakes later, I finally got one to stick and flip!” Matt says. From kindergarten through twelfth grade, Matt attended New Hartford schools including Perry Jr. High; where his father taught math for thirty-three years and his mother worked in the guidance department. It was during those adolescent years when Matt began broadening his horizons and became more than just a pancake connoisseur. While Francine cooked meals from scratch every night, Matt learned his most valuable cooking lessons on Sunday watching her and his grandmother.
As time went on, they allowed him to be more and more knack for this line of work and it wasn’t long before he became involved in preparing traditional meals and taught him all the self-sufficient and was given more responsibility at the café. The family recipes. Nole brothers let him work on his own making cannoli shells, Around the time he was in sixth grade, Matt began creams, pastries, custards, wedding cakes and cookies. Matt was preparing chili in his mother’s crockpot for the Friday night one of the fastest learners they had ever seen and he became one high school football games. A couple years later, he received a of their most dependable employees. About a year later, in 1998, Hershey’s cook book for Christmas and was determined to bake every last item printed within. From that book, Matt found a recipe that, as crazy as it sounds, changed the course of his life forever. He baked a chocolate torte cake that Francine brought with her to a faculty meeting at the school to share with Customer Service Starts Rather Than Ends her coworkers. Before the meeting was concluded, everyone had devoured the cake, and one of the With Your Purchase at Steet-Ponte Lincoln faculty members approached Francine to ask what bakery she bought it from. “Matthew made it.” she told him. With a look of disbelief, he expressed how much he enjoyed it and asked, “Does he like to bake?”. To which Francine replied, “I can’t get him to stop!” The man then explained to her that he was great friends with Dean and Jason Nole, owners of Café CaNole (which was on Culver Ave. in East Utica at the time) and asked if Matt would be interested in a summer job at the restaurant. Although she was sure the answer would be “yes”, she went home and confirmed the offer acceptance with Matt who was beyond excited to work in a professional kitchen. Francine’s coworker then reached out to the Nole brothers who gladly 3LHR625362 Stock#18760 took Matt in, telling him to be at the restaurant by MSRP ......................................................................... $35,935 Lease For Steet-Ponte Discount ................................................$1,535 6AM. For the average tenth grader, being awake at Retail Premium Bonus 6AM on a summer morning is unchartered terriCustomer Cash .......................................................... $1,500 tory, but Matt was a motivated kid. STEET-PONTE PRICE ......................................$32,900 A Month for 36 months Upon arrival at his first day of work, Matt Plus 0% APR for up to 60 months $3,893 due at signing was put on dishwashing duty. He found it difficult 2017 LINCOLN MKC 2017 LINCOLN MKX to control his level of fascination as Jason had a 5LHUL34221 stock#19586 2LHBL12436 stock#19048 row of cakes lined down the middle of a table, Dean was preparing lobster tails and sfogliatelle, and the other workers were making giant vats of frosting in floor mixers. One of the staff members set a beater of frosting next to the sink for it to be washed but Matt picked it up, looked over both shoulders to see if anyone was watching, Lease for $259 a month for 36 months Lease for $329 a month for 36 months and swiped his finger across for a little sample. It $3,903 due at signing $3,893 due at signing was one of the best things he ever tasted. About MSRP .....................................................$36,215 MSRP .....................................................$41,680 an hour later he was called to the cannoli station Manufacturer Discount .......................... $745 Steet-Ponte Discount .......................... $1,430 where he was given a five-gallon bucket of cream Steet-Ponte Discount .......................... $1,070 Manufacturer Discount ..........................$750 Retail Premium Retail Premium and began filling shells. When he was dismissed Bonus Customer Cash ........................ $1,500 Bonus Customer Cash ........................ $1,000 for the day, Matt could not wait to go back; his STEET-PONTE PRICE ..................... 32,900 STEET-PONTE PRICE ...................$38,500 first experience in the kitchen was everything he’d plus 0% APR for up to 60 months plus 0% APR for up to 60 months wished it would be, and then some. Things would only get better as time progressed and there was no other place Matt wanted to be. “My times at the café are some of the most cherished times of my youth.” Matt says. It was already apparent that Matt had a
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Matt far left in the center of the Nole brothers, Dean and Jason. Matt enrolled at SUNY Geneseo where he majored in business. He continued working at Café CaNole in the summers and while attending college, Matt finally had his mind and heart set on a career in the restaurant industry. Dean and Jason then gave him the chance to cook lunches and dinners to help him prepare for culinary school. “They were a gigantic instrument in my culinary development and the best mentors anyone could ever ask for.” Matt says. “I’ve spent a lifetime trying to thank them for what they
30 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE - June 2017
did for me. I am eternally grateful.” In 2002, Matt graduated from Geneseo and it was on to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. At this point, he had five years of legitimate restaurant experience and was leaps and bounds ahead of the other students. Even with that being the case, moving away from home to New York City was intimidating as he would no longer feel the security of having his family around for support. But the feelings of discomfort dissipated quickly as he was now surrounded by other people who shared his passion for food. In the summers, he would still return to the area, working at the café until he graduated. To receive a diploma from the Culinary Institute of America, students must complete an eighteen-month internship at a restaurant. With Jason’s help, Matt was given the chance to intern at chef Marc Orfaly’s Pigalle restaurant in Boston. Before accepting the offer, Matt ate at the restaurant, enjoying a food experience like none other he had seen in the past. After seeing the food, presentation and exquisite service, he became elated at the thought of working in such an upscale establishment. When Matt finished his internship at Pigalle, he returned to the Culinary Institute, where he graduated as valedictorian of his class in 2004. In January of 2005, Orfaly had successfully convinced Matt to move to Boston to work at Pigalle full time. By the summer of that year, Orfaly offered Matt the position of Chef di Cuisine (head chef) at his brand new Italian restaurant Marco. Matt was never one to cut corners when it came to his dream of being a chef and he was going to be sure he took full advantage of this opportunity. He pulled out all the stops, first apprenticing at Mario Batali’s Lupa Restaurant in New York City, then spending time working in Italy at Il Ricchi in Tuscany and Il Rossilino in Pienza. By the time Marco had its grand opening, Matt was fully capable of serving authentic regional Italian dishes that once again separated him from his peers. While working at Marco, Matt was introduced to Mark Ladner, the executive chef at Del Posto in New York City. Del Posto is the flagship restaurant of the Batali and Bastianich Hospitality group, which are a variety of restaurants owned by celebrity chefs Lidia Bastianich, Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali. After spending a great deal of time with Matt, Ladner had taken a liking to him and his cooking. Before long, Matt was offered a job at Del Posto, but he would have to start from the bottom and work his way up all over again. Even though he realized he
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Above: Matt with Mario Batali would be going from a head chef in Boston to a $9 per hour line cook at Del Posto, Matt gladly accepted the offer in 2008. “I felt like I outgrew Boston and wanted to push myself into deeper waters.” Matt says. “To have the opportunity to work with and cook with an iconic, legendary chef of my generation (Mario Batali) was surreal.” For Matt, meeting Mario Batali would be the equivalent of an aspiring basketball player meeting Michael Jordan. Needless to say, the first time he seen Batali in the flesh, Matt was so nervous he became sick to his stomach. “I was working at the appetizer station when he came walking in the door. He was wearing his orange shorts, orange Crocs, fleece vest, just walking on air.” Matt says. “I kept quietly saying ‘Oh my god it’s Mario Batali…oh my god it’s Mario Batali…’” After one of his coworkers calmed him down, Matt finally mustered the courage to introduce himself. Proving to be as friendly as he appeared on TV, Batali shook his hand and said, “Matty, good to have ya!” Sometimes, when you get to meet your idol, it can be a disappointing experience, but Matt says that was not the case in this instance. “It’s not often you get to meet your heroes or people who have been so instrumental in who (you) are, and I got to do that by meeting him.” At twenty-eight years-old, Matt was a freight train that no one was going to stop. He was locked in a “work bubble” as
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he calls it, and kept plowing forward with the same enthusiam for cooking he had when his dad flipped that first pancake. After starting at Del Posto as a line cook, he was promoted to junior sous chef within six months, then moved up to sous chef within one year. In two years, he was promoted to executive sous chef and finally, after just four years at one of the finest restaurants in the United States, Matt was named Chef di Cuisine. During his time in the kitchen, Del Posto received a four-star review from the New York Times and Relais & Chateaux distinction: two of the greatest honors a restaurant can receive. Admittedly, there were times when Matt would look up and could not believe the life he was living. He was cooking for such celebrities as Bon Jovi, Ryan Reynolds, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Jake Gyllenhaal and so many others. Sometimes they would come back to the kitchen to thank him and the rest of the staff for a great meal. Instead of getting nervous in those moments, Matt has the uncanny ability to perform better. Over time, Matt
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became close friends with Mario Batali; traveling, cooking, eating, drinking and attending events with him. He had one of his heroes calling and texting his phone on a regular basis and with things moving so fast, it didn’t seem real at times. Another career milestone for Matt came in 2014 when he was asked to cook his Grandma’s Meatballs live on the Today Show. After visiting Del Posto and eating the meatballs one night, show host Savannah Guthrie insisted that Matt come on the show and cook. There he stood next to Savannah and Matt Lauer on national television and he nailed it without a single hiccup. He once again displayed the poise that had been a signature of his young career. To date, Matt has been on the Today Show three times total. “I get so excited to share my passion and my love for food with others that when I get on camera it’s like ‘Game on, let’s do this!’” Matt says. While at Del Posto, Matt had developed a strong friendship with one of the restaurant’s investors, Rob Shawger. The two had a mutual fondness for barbecue food and would spend their spare time preparing it together as a hobby. Like most food-related aspects of Matt’s life, barbecuing became a major passion, so he and Rob began competing in local barbecue competitions where they placed very well. They went on to face the ultimate test as Yankee underdogs in the World Series of Barbecue in Memphis, Tennessee where they shocked the world by placing 1st in Poultry and 2nd in Whole Hog. Knowing they had something special, Matt and Rob returned to New
York City in 2015 and opened their first restaurant together, Pig us growing up, ‘If there’s something you really love, and something you’re really passionate about, don’t give up; go after it. But Beach BBQ in Brooklyn. At Pig Beach, Matt was able to able to you got to work really hard. You got to work harder than the guy master the art of smoking but most of his time was still occupied as Chef di Cuisine at Del Posto. As the success of Pig Beach next to you.” Matt’s dream from childhood is to have his own televigrew, Matt realized it was time to pursue his own venture full sion cooking show and we know from his times on the Today time and left Del Posto in 2016. Show and The Chew that he has the chops, the food and work The decision paid off as Matt could focus completely ethic to pull it off. Do not be surprised if the next Emril Lagasse on this project, leading to honors such as Eater’s “Best Burger” award in 2016 and 2nd Place for both “Judge’s Choice” & “People’s Choice” at the 2016 New York City Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash. Pig Beach was a major success over the course of the year but Matt and Rob had a more innovative vision for a new restaurant. As they walked the streets of Manhattan one day, they seen a location up for rent and thought it would be so Complete Landscape Services & Nursery exciting to own a place in Greenwich Village. The decided to lease a spot on Bleecker Street in Manhattan where they would open their second location, Pig Bleecker. At Pig Bleecker, Matt • Planting Design & Installations • Pruning, Edging & Mulching has achieved something in the kitchen that has never been done • Walks & Patios • Spring & Fall Cleanup before; he has successfully blended barbecue with fine dining. • Walls & Water Gardens • Mulch Delivery or Pickup By taking concepts from classic barbecue joints like Pig Beach • Lawn Installations & Renovations • Lawn Mowing and mashing them together with delicious, high-end Italian www. acetisclassicgardens.com dishes, Pig Bleecker offers something even a big city like New 47 Clinton Road New Hartford (Rte. 12B) Nursery open by appointment only York has found fresh and rich with creativity. Perhaps the coolest thing Matt has done at Pig Bleecker is introduce people of the Big Apple to some the Greater Utica area’s treasures. Most people bring New York City influences to Utica but Matt has Carpet & Furniture 9259 Paris Hill Rd. done the opposite and he is proud of that. Cleaning Sauquoit, NY “Home is home. It will always be home, it will forever www.GaryFalchi.com be home.” Matt says. “It’s where I grew up, where so much of my nostalgia and creative ideas come from.” He continued. “I always bring it with me no matter what restaurant I go to whether its making my Grandmas Meatballs and Sunday sauce, which has been on every menu of every restaurant I’ve ever been at, or Utica Greens. I want to bring some of home down here to show them what they’re missing out on, I’m blessed and Established 1976 honored to be able to share that with the people down here.” *Minimum Service Charge required call for details. Limited time offer! Offer ends 06/30/17 Not only has Mario Batali been supportive of Matt’s decision to move on from Del Posto, he even got him an extensive segment DISCOVER YOUR on his popular ABC show, NEXT ADVENTURE. “The Chew” where he Spyder RT and fellow celebrity chef, It's time to grip the throttle, put more freedom in your day and find your own way forward. When Michael Symon visited Pig you are out on a Can-Am Spyder, you will meet new people, see new horizons and experience the world around you like never before. With its powerful Rotax 1330 ACE™ engine, Y-frame design, Bleecker for lunch. The DISCOVER YOUR Vehicle Stability System and cargo capacity you can hit the road in total peace of mind. sacrifices Matt has made NEXT ADVENTURE. OPEN YOUR ROAD over the years are paying off Spyder F3 It's time to grip the throttle, put more freedom in your dayVISIT and find own way forward. When USyour TODAY beautifully, but according to you are out on a Can-Am Spyder, you will meet new people, see new horizons and experience the world around you like never before. With its powerful Rotax 1330 ACE™ engine, Y-frame design, him, he has only just begun. Vehicle Stability System and cargo capacity you can hit the road in total peace of mind. “I feel like I have a OPEN YOUR ROAD Dealer Imprint Goes Here lot more to earn and a lot VISIT US TODAY more to achieve. I am a very Spyder F3-T 2100 Oriskany St. W. • Utica, New York goal-oriented person and I 315-792-4660 • Goes www.ddsmotorsports.com Dealer Imprint Here definitely set high goals for myself.” Matt says. “My dad would always tell
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comes by way of New Hartford, NY. Most importantly, Matt has a true affection for food; he says it ties together almost every significant event in his life. His mother and grandmother planted a seed that grew into a career and a lifetime of dreams come true. “My whole life, food has been about bringing people together and sharing moments and experiences. For me growing up, one of the greatest representations of love you could ever receive was a homecooked meal.” Says Matt. “In my Culinary Institute admissions letter, I wrote, ‘I love the power of food’, whether it’s a piece of chocolate when you’re sad, or a bowl of chicken soup when you’re sick, it has that unique ability to put a smile on your face and make you feel better.” It is hard to quantify Matt’s accomplishments as there isn’t necessarily a “professional” distinction we can attach to him like we would with an athlete. But by studying the path he has taken over all the years, it is clear that he has scratched off almost every goal one can have in his field. The best part is, he deserves every bit of his good fortune. He has spent the better part of his life, sometimes seventeen hours a day, in a hot, windowless kitchen where everything he learned down this long road has led him to a childhood fantasy. Even with all his success, Matt is about as nice and humble of a person as you will ever meet. He has done his hometown, mentors, friends and family very proud. Matt never forgot where he came from and has a message to share with fellow Greater Uticans reading his story…… “Never give up on your dreams.” Right: Matt with his dad, George.
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Above: (From left to right) Matt’s Aunt Winnie, his cousin Anthony, his grandma Val (seated), Matt himself, his mom Francine and his cousin Michelina.
In this area, when we hear the name “Symeon”, it is immediately associated with great food and rightfully so. But one could argue that the success of Symeon’s Greek Restaurant in New Hartford is attributed equally to the foundation of love on which it was built. The story of the Tsoupelis family’s creation is one of hard work and great sacrifice, but it all started with a storybook romance between two young people. Today, the family’s second generation of ownership has continued to satisfy its new and longtime customers by going above and beyond the call of service every day. That is why the Symeon’s experience today, is the same as it was in 1973. Born and raised in Xanthi, Greece, Symeon Tsoupelis Sr. always had a strong interest in food and was fascinated by watching his mother cook as a young boy. From the time he was in high school, Symeon Sr. attended Hotel Restaurant school in Greece and Austria. When his sister migrated to Montreal, Symeon Sr. decided to move there as well; he received a job at the Beaver Club in the Queen Anne Hotel, where his life was changed on one fateful night. Ann Clark, a school teacher from Richfield Springs had just purchased a new car and decided to take a road trip to Montreal. As she sat in the dining room of the Beaver Club, a young Symeon Sr. came to the table to take her order. He was immediately enamored by Ann and offered to take her on a tour of the city, and she accepted. Over the next few months, the two would speak over the telephone on the weekends and Ann made a couple trips back north to see Symeon. They had only been around each other for a handful of times, but they fell in love and decided to get married. Just a short while after they tied the knot, Symeon Sr. moved into Ann’s Utica apartment, preparing for a move to Germany, where he would work at his cousin’s eyeglass business. While he was in Germany, Ann was attempting to get her passport when she discovered some exciting news. She called Symeon and told him he had to return home as she was now carrying his son, who they later named Symeon Jr. While Ann cared for Symeon Jr. and his siblings, Symeon Sr. held several jobs at places like McDonald’s, Metropolitan Insurance and was a partner at the Courtview Luncheonette. When things fell through at the Luncheonette, Symeon Sr. reached out to a friend of his at Oneida National Bank who helped him acquire a small business loan. With the money he borrowed, the Tsoupelis’ opened the first Symeon’s Greek Restaurant location on Oneida Street in Utica in 1973. Things were tough early on as Symeon Sr. could not afford advertising at the time, so he would stand on the Memorial Parkway feeding gyros and souvlaki skewers to people parked at red lights. Before he knew it, the dining room was filled with customers waiting to eat his authentic Greek cuisine, which the area had never seen before at that time. Over time, Ann became a phenomenal cook who added signature recipes of her own that remain on the menu to this day such as: clam chowder, Psari Sto Filo and many others. By 1974, all four of the Tsoupelis’ children (Symeon Jr., Regina, Thomas and Peter) were born. Business was great; so much so, that the second Symeon’s location was opened on Genesee Street in New Hartford in 1976. With four small children and two restaurants to monitor, the workload became too much and so the Tsoupelis’ closed the Oneida Street location to focus on the new restaurant. In 1982, they purchased their first building on Commercial Drive in Yorkville and moved into Symeon’s present location. When Symeon Jr. graduated from Providence in 1992, he had aspirations of going back to school to receive his master’s in business. One day, his parents asked him what his plan for the future was and he told them he was unsure. A family meeting was then held at the Tsoupelis house, where they discovered that Symeon Jr. was the only one of the children who was interested in running the restaurant. He had been working weekends there from the time he was 12 so he decided to give it a shot and never looked back. By 1994, Symeon Jr. was running the day to day operations and purchased the restaurant from his parents in 2001, the same year of his mother’s passing. When Ann passed away, it was very hard on the family but Symeon Jr. was determined to keep the family treasure running strong. He had seen the hard work his parents performed to build such a special business in the early days. His dad came to this country with $46 in his pocket and he and Ann worked countless hours in the restaurant. But it all paid off, and the restaurant is in the best hands possible with their son Symeon Jr. and his wife, Shelli. Symeon Jr. inherited great people skills from his dad and he really sets the tone in terms of atmosphere in the restaurant. You will rarely ever go to Symeon’s for lunch and not see him visit each and every table in the restaurant to chat with the customers and ask them how their meal is going. Between the hospitality and authentic food, It feels like you are at the Tsoupelis household for a Sunday meal every time. For more info visit Symeons.com, dial 315-736-4074 or experience the restaurant for yourself at 4941 Commercial Drive in Yorkville.
June 2017 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE
CENTER STAGE AT THE
With Jerry Kraus USAF HERITAGE OF AMERICA BAND – HERITAGE BRASS Free Concert: The United States Air Force Heritage Brass Monday, June 12th from 6:00pm - 8:00pm at The Stanley Theatre, Utica Free Concert: The United States Air Force Heritage Brass Monday, June 12th from 6:00pm - 8:00pm at The Stanley Theatre, Utica The entire community is invited to enjoy a FREE concert given by the United State Air Force Heritage Brass of the USAF Heritage of America Band at The Stanley Theater on Monday, June 12th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. We are proud to bring in our armed forces musicians from time to time here at The Stanley Theater. In recent years we’ve hosted the United States Navy Concert Band, the United States ‘Rhythm in Blue’ Air Force Band and the United States Air Force ‘Band of Liberty’. The US Air Force Heritage Brass group features the diverse talents of five professional Airman-musicians whose commitment to excellence has earned worldwide acclaim and military distinction. From Bach to the Beatles and patriotic favorites, Heritage Brass offers a musical experience enjoyed by all audiences. Activated in 1941, The United States Air Force Heritage of America Band has a rich history of inspiring public patriotism and enhancing esprit de corps among all the US military service branches. These world-class musicians are stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia. They travel throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, presenting over 300 events annually for the general public and in support of Airman morale and protocol events. The USAF Heritage of America Band remains at the forefront of communicating Air Force core values and preserving and enriching America’s military and musical heritage into the 21st century. Tickets for this free event are available in advance through The Stanley Theater and any remaining tickets will be available at the door. It is recommended that you pick up your general admission tickets in advance as theater seating for the event is limited. To reserve tickets come down to the box office Monday through Friday from 10:00am - 4:00pm or give us a call at (315) 724-400. We’ll see you at The Stanley!
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38 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE - June 2017
Turning Greater Utica Houses into Homes Sometimes a fresh start is the best remedy when going through tough times. Every now and then, life throws curve balls at us, and like a batter at the plate, we have to make adjustments to move forward. The transitions we are forced to make come easier to us when we are surrounded by good people who love and care about us and are always willing to lend a hand. A little over a year and a half ago, Mary Ruckel was unsure about her professional future; she decided to leave her previous career in the furniture business but still had the will to work and a love for retail. Sometime in 2015, Mary was approached by two longtime friends, Anne and Ray Quinn, owners of The Added Touch Drapery Shop in New Hartford. Looking to transition into their retirement, Anne and Ray explained to Mary that they were looking to sell their business and move south. They told Mary there were many people who were interested in taking over The Added Touch, but they would only sell it to someone trustworthy enough to carry on a reputation they worked so hard to build. On March 31st, 1972, Anne and Ray Quinn first opened the doors to The Added Touch on Commercial Drive in Yorkville. Several chain franchises had been, and still are functioning in the drapery business, but the Quinns were able to separate themselves by providing custom window covering for their clients. By exhibiting great character and an elite trade skill, they allowed the business to grow exponentially over time. In 2002, with the construction of Consumer Square and the 840 bridge, the location became landlocked and the Quinns decided to move to the store’s current location at 1 Genesee Street. After serving the area for another thirteen years, Anne and Ray sold the business to Mary, who officially took over on January 1st, 2016. After studying under the Quinns for just a couple months, Mary was ready to move forward on her own. While she realized she had taken the reigns of a successful and reputable business, she immediately made some changes that have helped improve The Added Touch. She transformed what was mostly open space in the main lobby into a showroom where customers can now see displays of some of The Added Touch’s products. What was once an office in the back was converted into a fabric room where you can observe and feel some of the designs Mary has to offer. The most important and positive change of all, has been the addition of Mary’s two full-time employees; Kelsey and Mary’s daughter, Amy. There are far too many different products offered by The Added Touch to name them all, but if you are looking for any form of window accessory or decoration, Mary carries it. Everything from blinds, shutters, shades, curtains and drapes to other various items such as bedcoverings, pillows, cushions, cascades and hardware. The Added Touch is well known for carrying a variety of Hunter Douglas fashions but offer other brands such as Comfortex. Customers will find that Hunter Douglas is available at some of the huge corporate hardware stores, but it is not to be mistaken with the higher quality, lifetime warrantied version sold at The Added Touch. This is one of many reasons why shopping local is an advantage to the customer. Over the past year, Mary has earned accreditation as a Pro on Houzz.com, one of the world’s most heavily used web sites when it comes to advising visitors on how to decorate their home. They recently received an award from the site for their excellence in customer service in 2017 and have been given seven 5-star ratings by customers who found The Added Touch through Houzz. Mary’s extensive experience in the furniture business has made her quite talented at choosing the right product to tie a room together. She is able to provide a full-service drapery shop that will do the entire job from a consultation visit at your home to complete installation. This new line of work has given Mary a newfound energy. She gets to serve the customers from her past career, while meeting all kinds of great new people that have found their experience at The Added Touch to be a pleasant one. The positive vibes given off by the crew is felt immediately and is a reflection on Mary’s overall attitude and enthusiasm. The area would have been at a loss had she not gotten back into customer service in some capacity. Now she gets to share her new venture with Amy, who is a Pratt Institute graduate with great artistic ability. The Ruckels are a great family, who run a great family business. For more info visit TheAddedTouchDrapery.com, call 315-793-1994 or check out the shop at 1 Genesee Street in New Hartford.
June 2017 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE
Oneida County History Center June 2017 Events **Programs are free and open to the general public** Monday, June 5 at 5:30 PM— A Journey of 7611 Miles Bikash and Kumari Regmi will share the story of their journey of 7611 miles from Bhutan to Utica. They will discuss their experiences as refugees in Nepal for nearly 17 years, their search for opportunity and education, and their new lives in Utica today. Visit our website or Facebook page for more information.
Wednesday, June 14 at 5:30 PM– A History of the “Locust Lodge” Brookfield Town Historian Elizabeth Stalter will discuss the history of Brookfield’s Locust Lodge. Locust Lodge, built in 1795, was the summer home of New York Governor John Adams Dix and home to six generations of the Camenga family. Today, the site is designated by a Pomeroy Foundation Historical Marker. Join us to find our more.
Oneida County History Center 315-735-3642
40 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE - June 2017
* 1608 Genesee St., Utica
* Website: www.oneidacountyhistory.org
Certain things are just meant to be; there is no explanation for some of life’s occurrences. Sometimes, all it takes is a positive attitude and a little bit of luck for things to come together. This has proven to be true in the life of Chris Woodbeck, owner of Mangia Macrina’s Wood Fired Pizza in New Hartford. Chris has always lived by the saying that, “Faith with reason is not faith” and that mentality has worked out well for him. A series of life experiences, both good and bad, led him to the grand opening of his first stationary location in late 2016. Along with circumstance, Chris’ love for the business has allowed Mangia Macrina to introduce a distinctive product to the Greater Utica area. Growing up in the valley, Chris spent the days of his youth working at a local favorite, Villa Italia, in Herkimer. At age thirteen, he decided to try his hand at developing his own tomato sauce. When he finally found the magic formula, Chris began jarring his signature sauce and giving it away to his friends who raved about the taste. Their approval provided a great deal of confidence in Chris and made him believe he could be a successful chef. When he graduated from high school, Chris attended a small college in Oregon where he shared his culinary gift with the students and faculty of the campus. The people of the northwest had never been exposed to good, old-fashioned upstate New York Italian food; in fact, according to Chris, a plate of chicken parmesan consisted of a chicken breast with ketchup. Needless to say, he began to blow their minds with authentic pasta dinners every Sunday afternoon and was even able to sell his sauce for $5 a jar in the dorms. Every week the crowd grew larger and larger. While living in Oregon, Chris met his wife, Angela, a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2000, they moved together to Minnesota to get married, and Chris was able to get a job in the banking field. After living in Minneapolis for about four years, Chris’ father-in-law insisted he join him at a local pizzeria. Being from one of the pizza capitals of the country, Chris was reluctant to go as he could not imagine that someone in Minnesota could match the quality of a Utica pizzeria. Eventually, he went and was shocked when he realized they served a Neapolitan style pizza, which he never even knew existed. When Chris placed his order at the counter, less than two minutes had passed before his pizza was ready, which fascinated him. After finishing his personal pie, Chris became obsessed with the Neapolitan style and began researching the product. He discovered some of the key ingredients and learned that the pizzas are prepared in a 900-degree wood-fired oven in ninety seconds. Chris and his father-in-law began making their own version in the back yard and serving it at parties with their friends. It was hit! When the recession of 2008 hit, Chris and Angela were faced with a difficult life choice as Chris’ employer was going through major changes. Their options were to either move to St. Louis where he could retain his job, or find another avenue for income. Chris always had a dream of owning an eatery and realized that this may be his one and only chance to move back home and take the plunge. Maybe it was “meant to be”. After spending 11 years in Minnesota, the Woodbecks sold their home and moved to Herkimer where they bought a food truck and Mangia Macrina began in 2012. Slowly but steadily, word had gotten around town about Chris’ one-of-a-kind Neapolitan pizza and a solid customer base was built. As the business grew, a location equipped with a woodfire oven came up for sale on Seneca Turnpike. Chris believed that once again it was “meant to be” and put in an offer that was accepted, opening Mangia Macrina’s first location in 2016. There are several characteristics of a Neapolitan pizza at Mangia Macrina that make it much different from what most Greater Uticans are used to. It is served as a wood fired personal pizza that is 10-12 inches. The dough is made with flour that has been used in Naples, Italy since 1929 and the tomatoes used in the sauce are grown in the volcanic ash of Mt. Vesuvius to give it a natural sweetness. Customers can choose from a huge variety of toppings that you do not normally see at a pizzeria. Some of them include: hot soppressata, prosciutto, burrata, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, baby spinach and arugula. Along with the traditional fresh mozzarella, Mangia Macrina also offers asiago, gorgonzola, feta, mascarpone, ricotta, smoked gouda, caciocavallo, buffalo mozzarella, fiore di latte and goat cheeses. Included on the menu are dairy free, gluten free, vegan and dessert pizzas as well as a diversified wine and beer selection. Chris’ passion has proven to be infectious and has quite visibly rubbed off on his staff who seem to love what they do; it also shows in the quality and consistency of the product whether Chris is in the building or not. It seems as though things have fallen into place for the Woodbeck family and they are grateful to the local people for supporting them in their long journey. We are sure they look forward to serving Greater Utica for years to come. For more info, visit mangiamacrina.letseat.at, call 315-864-3728 or visit them at 8636 Seneca Turnpike in New Hartford.
l l i H e h t on
The purpose of this segment is to bring to light, characters from our Greater Utica past you more than likely never learned about. They may have served in the military, offered their heart for a cause or brought some form of betterment to our area during their time. One such person that I feel should be recognized and appreciated, is James Benton. What makes the story of James Benton so interesting, aside from his accomplishments, is that he came upon this area by a stroke of luck. James Benton was born on October 18th, 1805 in Leamington Priors (now known as Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, England) and was the oldest of eight children. The family was poor but known for being honest people as James’ father made his living as a liveryman and his mother kept a boarding house. In later years, James would prove to have strong character and good business sense; it was said that he inherited these qualities from his mother. His Youth At 12 years old, James was already living independent from his parents’ finances; working hard and earning an honest penny however he could. Even at this early age, James had goals and was not the type to get discouraged or let anything stand in his way. It was James’ objective to raise enough money to be taught by a master of his desired trade: a plasterer and worker in stucco. He continued working as an apprentice until he mastered his trade and then left his home for America. Within a short period, he returned home with the money he earned; spending the
42 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE - June 2017
By Dominick Velardi
winter with his mother. While back in England, he used his hardearned dollars to help provide the most comfortable life possible for her. Returning to America In 1829, James left again for America and landed in New York City in June, where he found work on the Holt’s buildings, and on the Dutch Reformed Church. James felt he would have better success in his profession if he were to settle in a smaller city and so he boarded a boat on the Hudson, heading for Albany. After a short stay, James concluded that Albany was not the right place for him either and decided to travel farther down the canal to see what other opportunities lied ahead. Of course, his form of transportation was by packet boat as there were no railroads at that time. Upon arriving in Utica, one the horses towing his packet boat died. Instead of waiting for a replacement horse to arrive, James wandered about the village. After soaking in some of the sights of Utica and seeing what the small village had to offer, he intended on taking the next packet boat out of town, continuing his search for a new place to permanently settle. After further
consideration, James took such a liking to Utica that he decided to end his journey, and made it his home. Aside from a stay in Toronto that lasted less than a year, James Benton never left the Greater Utica area again. While working on a government building for Samuel Stocking (a well-known and respected Utica businessman), James’ employer took notice of the Englishman’s excellent quality of work as well as his impressive work ethic. With these qualities in mind, his employer decided to increase James’ wages and promoted him to superintendent of the workers. This increase in pay and promo-
tion came to James without his asking and was based strictly on his merits as an employee. In 1833, James married Susan Bradley who was a native of Giddington, Northamptonshire, England and together, they would have five children. There were three sons and two daughters: Mrs. Thomas French (Settled in New Hartford), George (settled in New Hartford), James (settled in Clinton), Lucy and Charles (Settled in Utica), His Business Milestones After working as a journeyman for Street several years, James 502 Court Milestones made the decision to venture out onSuite his 210 own as a builder and conUtica, NY 13502 502 Court tractor. He would eventually become(315) one480-5860 of Street the busiest and most Suite 210 Utica, NY 13502 (315) 480-5860
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Utica Police Station located on Pearl St. behind the old city hall. Approximately across the street from the entrance of the Radisson. Picture courtesy of the Utica Public Library.
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prosperous builders in the city of Utica during his time. James was responsible for building many of the residences on Genesee Street as well as other parts of the city, but he is best known for the part he played in the construction of some of the most well-known structures in our area. In July 1865, James was chosen to do the masonry work for the new Police Department located behind the City Hall on the corner of Pearl and Washington Streets. He was also chosen to take on major roles in some of Theodore Faxton’s projects including in 1874, when his company was hired to do all the brick and stone work on Faxton Hospital. Other structures that James Benton took major roles 284 Genesee St.
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Top: The Utica Daily Observer Building 113 Genesee St. Utica, NY . Right: The Hackett Block in are as follows: new Opera House, the Grove & Baily printing-house (The Daily Observer), Old Ladies Home, Home for the Homeless, the Gardner, Hackett and Empire Blocks, a number of banks and other local businesses. James Benton’s work would prove to be so seamless that he would be asked to build the home of Ward Hunt (Utica), who served as United States Supreme Court Judge. The Mayor Know to all as emphatically a working man, James never
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June 2017 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE
was a seeker for political office nor did he have any interest in politics; however, again he was chosen from observation. The Workingmen’s Party was looking for the right candidate to represent their interests as the Mayor of Utica and they asked James for the privilege in adding him to the ticket. Beating both the Republican and Democratic candidates by a comfortable margin, James Benton was elected as the Mayor of Utica for a one-year term on March 5, 1878 (not until 1890 was the charter changed that the term of mayor would be increased to a two-year term). While in office, James and his administration were not only remembered for being hardworking, but also for operating with the utmost integrity and honesty. James was known for a strict eye in keeping expenditures at a minimum as was expected of him from his constituents. On June 22, 1889, after 55 years of marriage, James’ wife Susan died in their home at the age of 79 after a brief illness. Susan always played a valuable role in
Above: This six story building is the Hackett Block (same building as the previous page with 2 stories added). The six story building attached to the right is the Gardner Block. Today the Radission stands in the location of these buildings. Right: Old Ladies Home, Faxton St in Utica. Pictures courtesy of the Oneida County History Center.
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Faxton Hall, located on the corner of Varick and Court Street where it still stands today. helping James, especially early on in his career. James would never stop mourning the loss of Susan and ceased from his active life. James Benton was a man with nothing left to accomplish. He started with nothing at the age of 12-years-old and saved his pennies to learn and master his trade. He was an honest, hardworking man who took pride in his work and was picked by his superiors to lead the rest of his fellow workers. He was a man who succeeded in business and earned the respect of his peers; moreover, he was chosen by them to be their representative as Mayor because of his strong ethics. To think, it was the unfortunate passing of a packet boat
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horse that initiated James Benton’s tour through Utica. Perhaps being a practicing Christian, James thought the misfortune was a part of God’s plan for him. As he walked through the beautiful Village of Utica it took his heart and it offered enough promise that he decided to make it his permanent home. James Benton gave to Greater Utica all he had to offer; his masterful skills, his hard work, his honesty and his service to the community in public office. He witnessed his newfound home turn from a village to a city; partly as a result of his great contributions. He helped build a new Utica, one brick at a time as he erected some of its most significant structures and then, at the request of his admirers, served as their candid and empathetic Mayor. Today you will find the burial place of the Honorable James and Susan Benton at Forest Hill Cemetery or as I like to call it, Up on the Hill.
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Corrections from previous issues The picture used for the Go Red For Women story in the April 2017 issue on page 12 was photographed by Kimberly Baister Suwek. Also, in the May 2017 issue, displayed is a picture in our Greater Utica Sports Hall a Fame story that displayed a picture of Coach Charlie Engle holding a shirt “600 wins and counting” on page 28. This picture was photographed was by Jeff Pexton of Perfect Game Imaging -http://www.pgiphoto.com/. We appreciate the permission that was given to us for the use of these pictures and thank both Kimerberly Baister Suwek and Jeff Pexton. June 2017 GREATER UTICA MAGAZINE
Published on May 30, 2017
This is about the The Magnificent Yankees , also featuring Matt Abdoo a local chef making it to the big time in NYC. A "Up on the Hill" segm...