Photos and story by Larry Austin
Grand Island is home to a new gasoline convenience store brand with the opening of the long-awaited Dino-Mart at the corner of Ransom and Stony Point roads.
Dino-Mart opened May 10 and held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on May 11 for government and business officials.
The Dino-Mart franchise is a development of NOCO Energy Corporation and local managing partners. The location will employ 20 full and part-time workers and has six fuel pumps.
Partner Chuck Rizzo thanked a long list of people at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for making the venture possible:
•NOCO Energy: "They've backed us up the entire way."
•Town government: Town Supervisor Mary Cooke was "a staunch supporter," as well as councilmen Ray Billica and Dick Crawford.
•New York State Sen. Mark Grisanti's office
•Officials from First Niagara Bank, who Rizzo said facilitated the financial deal and have been "fantastic partners"
•Insurance agents, contractors, and GI businesses.
"Thanks to the community for the support that we're getting. We really appreciate everything," Rizzo said.
The building project sat dormant for years, much to the consternation of neighborhood residents, who in years past voiced their complaints to town government about the progress in the venture.
"I feel great," Rizzo said of the opening. "Our group is very happy to be offering this kind of product to the community. It's been a long road, but it's been worth the travel, and we're grateful for the support that we have in the community, we're grateful for the support we have from the Town Board, and we hope to be a positive influence and a contributing member of the community in the future."
Rizzo said he never lost faith in the project or the location. Asked why he was so persistent in seeing the project to its completion, he said: "I'm driven. Short answer, but it's the truth. And I believed in the project. I've always believed that this was a great spot, for not just this, but for some development in general, and we think it adds a needed service to this side of the Island. There isn't anything here when it comes to services, so we're hoping that with community input we can provide products that will fill the needs of the community, and we have asked the community to give us suggestions. If they want things that we don't have, we want to know about it."
The store is more than just gas and snacks. Within the store are Coffee Culture and Grand Island Eatery, part of what Rizzo called "NOCO's store-within-a-store concept."
Coffee Culture serves coffee breakfast food all the time, while the eatery will have hoagies, subs, and pizza.
Coffee Culture is a Canadian firm with a strong presence now in the Buffalo area, Rizzo said. "They have a very high-quality product and we're very proud and happy to have them with us."
"The Grand Island Eatery is our own invention," Rizzo noted. "NOCO was gracious enough to allow us to develop our own food service program."
The Grand Island Eatery features two Island sandwiches: The North Bridge, a turkey Reuben sandwich; and the South Bridge, a corned beef sandwich. Both are served with sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing, for eating in or take-out.
The store also includes a "beer cave," or walk-in cooler.
"We feel that with all the recreational boaters and sports enthusiasts in this area, that it's a good opportunity to have good really cold beer and a good variety for them. We have a lot of specialty beers here in the cave," Rizzo said.
Rob Ratajczak, second vice president of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber "has been behind this project from the beginning and has supported Chuck in any way that we could to bring this day around. It brings a convenience store to an area of the Island that has been underserved by that."
"Also bringing the Coffee Culture concept to Grand Island, it's wonderful to have that chain here as well," Ratajczak said.