by Terry Duffy
Spring has sprung, and winds of change are brewing in Youngstown.
On the river, Mike Fox of Niagara Jet Adventures took possession of a second jet boat in recent days. His marketing plans and business organizing are now moving full-steam ahead, in anticipation for Niagara Jet Adventure's inaugural launch in coming weeks as area waters open.
Up on shore, there's an interesting development underway on Main Street. Last Saturday, Cash Cunningham of Cash Realty & Auctions held an auction of the former Brennan's Irish Pub. Roughly 20 potential buyers attended the event. When all was said and done, it was Fox who acquired the building for the high bid of $175,000 - $25,000 more than its asking price.
"I was just across the street having breakfast," Fox said. "I walked in and the auction was just starting."
Fox scooped up the property in the brief, but spirited bidding that followed. He said he put in the winning bid in order to keep the property from falling into the hands of unknown speculators who were also at the event.
What was unknown to him at the time was that other well-known residents were inside Brennan's that day - and equally interested: Claudia Andres and partner Nick Ricciuti.
In the spirited bidding, Cunningham apparently did not catch notice of either Andres or Ricciuti. Bidding was done via flash cards, and Fox went on to claim the property with his $175,000 bid.
"It was unbeknownst to me that Claudia was other bidder," Fox said. "I didn't even see Claudia there."
All parties agreed to team up.
In the few days since the auction, Andres, choral director for the Wilson Central School District, and her husband, Dr. Jerome Andres, along with Ricciuti - all village residents - went on to negotiate a transfer of the business from former Brennan's owner Gary Brennan (with Fox's input).
"A friend of ours really wanted to do it," Andres said, referring to her partner, Ricciuti. "He and I have talked about it for a long time. That was who was bidding. (But) when I saw Mike, I told him to stop.
"So Jerry and I are just one (in the partnership) along with Nick."
As to their plans for Brennan's, which is expected to undergo a name change in the near future, Andres said they will focus on what made the business a success in years past, and also implement some new features. She anticipates Ricciuti will handle day-to-day operations for the business, which includes the upstairs restaurant/bar operations and a downstairs banquet room.
Andres said they are shooting for a June 1 opening. Staffing plans are incomplete at this time.
"We want to have good food, good music, good drinks, good service in there," Andres said. "Along with that, we'd like to promote some unique things."
Mentioned were greater tie-ins to the area's history. Andres envisions the business being the site of Fort Niagara's popular "Tavern Nights." Another addition would be the return of the former Irish pub's well-attended open mic nights. She also said the business would have greater participation in village happenings. Andres noted Youngstown's Fall Festival as an event she'd like to be involved in.
Andres and Fox said the new business would be working hand-in-hand with Niagara Jet Adventures as the new river operation get underway this summer.
"Mike has so much excitement; energy," Andres said. "We're looking forward to this."
As to restaurant offerings, Andres said they'd like to have a greater focus on foods, hire a "really good cook," and offer both a pub menu and a restaurant menu that accents the treasures of the Niagara area: its local produce, seafood offerings and regional food favorites.
"We want to bring more of a waterside atmosphere" to the place, Andres said.
Fox said he's pleased with his new association with Claudia and Dr. Andres and Ricciuti. He said patrons could look forward to some big things taking place on Main Street this summer.
"Look, you can't have a large retail business on Main Street closed. You just can't," Fox said. "Claudia's a doer; just wait and see."