New faces, fresh optimism taking over village; new operators voice their love for Youngstown
By Terry Duffy
A new page is now turning for Youngstown.
Following months of contending with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, this quaint, picturesque village at the mouth of the lower Niagara is really starting to come back to life with some dramatic, exciting happenings.
From the corner of Main and Hinman streets up north to the Main-Lockport intersection, one finds what could only be termed exciting progress for the dormant business district and, in turn, the village economy. This is particularly so when you consider the ravages of the pandemic, not to mention the struggles many in the River Region have had to contend with over the past year.
“We’ve got some great new businesses opening up here,” commented Youngstown Deputy Mayor Mark Fox.
He’s not kidding.
This business renaissance seen on both sides of Main Street includes the Hill of Beans Coffee Shop, just opened by village newcomer Lewis Bean at 440 Main St. – site of the Old Fyfe and Drum that fell victim to fire years ago. Across the street is Everything Youngstown, a neat potpourri of village signature wear and nautical collectibles operated by Sue McNaughton.
Back across is That Barber & Co. by Il Mulino, a popular men’s hair salon operated by Youngstown resident Rob Jeeves at 434 Main. Next to Everything Youngstown, at 431 Main St., is the all-new Sister and Brother Children’s Apparel, an iconic company that relocated from the Village of Lewiston and is operated by Mark and Lisa Leffler. Opposite the ever-popular Village Diner run by Cathy Pasquantino and staff is the new Mangia Cakes at 400 Main. Baker and restaurateur Rebecca Poletti has brought back her lauded pastry.
Joining them is Mike Costello and crew at the Ontario House, aka The Jug, who just completed a fantastic makeover of the backyard pavilion, which is drawing bands and crowds. Over in the Rite Aid plaza, Ken Scibetta and Eddie Webster of the Griffin gastropub eateries have been moving on plans for a microbrewery/café at the location of the former Market Place supermarket. And across from the Jug at Main and the Water streets drive-down, developer Rick Lohr revealed plans last week before the Youngstown Village Board to recreate a true Youngstown classic – the Eldorado Hotel.
More good news? No need to look any further than the village’s lower Water Street strip, where City Experiences by Hornblower just completed its acquisition of Niagara Jet Adventures from businessman Mike Fox and launched a new chapter in the lower river on May 28. Operating under the umbrella of the Hornblower group of San Francisco, Niagara Jet Adventures is the latest offering for this global land and water transportation conglomerate that literally serves the world.
Enthusiasm for the Youngstown resurgence is certainly shared by many of the new faces up and down the village’s Main Street.
“Our community is experiencing so much positive news after such a dark time,” said Cheryl Irish Butera, president of the Youngstown Business and Professional Association. She went on to label this new resurgence, “#YoungstownNYRenaissance.” “Such hopefulness! Congratulations everyone for bringing life back to our place we call home.”
So what do these new faces all have in common? Basically, a discovery and newfound love for what this little village has to offer. Regarded by some as “being at the end of the road” on the River Region’s long list of favorites, many this writer chatted with in past days offered one simple reason for their being here: They love Youngstown’s quality of life and its small village appeal.
Lewis Bean with staffer Eric at the new Hill of Beans coffee shop in Youngstown. (Photo by Terry Duffy)
“I’m from the Gulf Coast,” said Hill of Beans’ Lewis Bean, a long-active face in the hospitality industry who hails from the Houston-Galveston area. “I love this area. I came up here a couple times before I moved here.”
Looking over his newly branded coffee shop and its attractive decor derived from the movie classic “Casablanca,” Bean, a classic movie buff, commented, “I make the most of where I’m at. This is my semi-retirement. I’m from Texas, but I’m a Youngstown citizen. Now I can enjoy it.”
Rebecca Poletti’s new Mangia Cakes, at 400 Main, is open for dessert takeout and custom orders. (Photo by Terry Duffy)
Poletti, a baked goods connoisseur and restaurateur in the business since 1982, operated the Youngstown Galley prepandemic. Of the new the new Mangia Cakes, she said it represents the latest chapter in her life.
“I’m just happy to be up and running again,” Poletti said.
She explained Mangia Cakes will serve as a takeout offering for the public, focusing on an array of baked goods and desserts. Poletti also provides items to local businesses such as the nearby Hill of Beans, Ray’s Tavern out on Lake Road, and Wine on Third in Niagara Falls.
“I’m not doing dinners; I had a plan for paninis on the patio, but I’m just getting my feet wet again. I’m working alone,” Poletti said.
She works per individual order on her baked goods specialties, in addition to offering takeout of pie slices, brownies, cookies and the like. “My new model is takeout only. You can get a slice of pie like you would get a slice of pizza.”
Of Youngstown’s resurgence, she added, “It’s definitely good. It’s going in the right direction. Entrepreneurs are resilient people.”
Mark and Lisa Leffler at the new Sister and Brother Children’s Apparel. (Photo by Terry Duffy)
For the Lefflers, opening a business in the village represents a dream come true.
“My wife and I, it’s kind of been a passion to open a children’s’ shop,” Mark said of the new Sister and Brother.
He said his wife, Lisa, a member of the Assessment Review Board for the Town of Porter, had befriended the owners of the former Lewiston business and moved it to Youngstown, with a focus on personalized service.
“She developed a relationship with the (former) owners. When she finally decided to retire, they chose us over others who were interested,” Mark said. “I can’t give my wife enough credit for designing this place, the type of clientele we’re going after and our customized service.”
The couple said they absolutely love the village. Their store has been open for three weeks, and “We’ve been overjoyed. We’ve just been pleasantly surprised the amount of people that we’ve had. We get a lot of traffic here; we couldn’t have picked a better location than Main Street in Youngstown.”
In a press release, City Experiences said Niagara Jet Adventures represents the latest acquisition for the rebranded Hornblower firm that has its presence in more than 110 countries, six continents and over 125 U.S. cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Paris, Rome and London.
This diverse portfolio of major travel destinations worldwide aligns more than 25 existing Hornblower brands into a single unified identity, offering locals and tourists alike a unique offering of global tourism experiences. The firm’s City Cruisers, Canada division, are operators of Niagara City Cruises in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
“As our portfolio of global experiences continues to expand, we are thrilled to include Niagara Jets’ whitewater adventures, providing our guests with the best and most unique products possible,” said Mory DiMaurizio, chief operating officer for City Cruises, Canada. “This one-of-a-kind offering fits uniquely within our portfolio of offerings and solidifies our continued goal to become the world’s leader in experiences and transportation.”
Yes, there’s a new feeling in Youngstown. And it’s only just getting started.
City Experiences by Hornblower welcomes Youngstown’s Niagara Jet Adventures to its global network of tourism experiences. (City Experiences photo)
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce on Thursday celebrated a ribbon-cutting with new member Hill of Beans Coffee Stop, located at 440 Main St., Youngstown. Hill of Beans is owned and operated by Lewis Bean. The ribbon-cutting celebration was attended by the Chamber of Commerce board of directors, local businesses, elected leaders and friends and family. A blessing of the new businesses was also performed. Inspired by the movie "Casablanca," the coffee stop is open seven days a week and has a large veranda for customers to enjoy their beverage. Pictured are Lewis and Karen Bean, center, along with their guests. (Image courtesy of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce)