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The state of Blasdell seems very promising

{Photo 2}The faded sign for Hills Department Store still sits atop the building at the Lake Avenue plaza. Gordon Reger of Reger Holdings, LLC, purchased the plaza and said a deal is almost complete to bring a “discount grocery store” to the plaza.
{Photo 1}Pine Hill Fresh Foods, which currently runs its operation in Orchard Park, recently purchased the former Jubilee supermarket, which closed in September, on Lake Avenue with the plan of building a state-of-the-art facility inside. It is expected to be open in October or November.
Two big, impending projects were at the forefront of the State of the Village of Blasdell Monday (April 22) as a pair of Lake Avenue locations are set to house new tenants by the end of the year.

Mayor Michael Petrie talked about an array of subjects during his speech at Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant, but the focus quickly shifted to the future of the former Jubilee Grocery Store, which closed in September, and the nearby plaza which was anchored by Hills Department Store for many years and has seen little activity for several years.

Jeff Russo, owner of Pine Hill Fresh Foods, purchased the former Jubilee and will build a “state-of-the-art food production facility” inside of the former super market. When it is completed, the facility will employ between 75 and 100 people.

“Pine Hill Fresh Foods is kind of a start up company inside of a mature company,” Russo said.

Because of its increase in volume, Russo said it has outgrown its current facility, which is located on California Road in Orchard Park.

Russo said the company makes hand made food items.

They provide on-site coffee breaks, as well as lunches and dinners for places such as construction sites, industrial plants, colleges and office parks.

Their menu consists of items that are produced at the plant, such as subs, burgers, fresh salads and fruits and baked goods.

According to Russo, the exterior of the building has been worked on and will continue to be, while the construction inside of the facility is expected to begin in about two weeks, with the goal of having the operation open by October or November.

When it is completed, Russo said there will only be about 15-20 other food production facilities in the company that will offer the capabilities that Pine Hill will be able to.

The goal of the company is to double its production within three to five years.

Russo said he is excited to buy the building because he has a history with it.

“I drove past this building and this street corner since I was 13-years-old,” Russo said, adding that his family was friends with Bing Putnam, who owned Super Duper when it was housed at that location in the 1970s.

Russo told the crowd it is a privilege to be part of the community.

Gordon Reger of Reger Holdings, LLC, was not as specific of his plans with the former Hills Plaza, but said it does not mean there isn’t deals being worked on.

“I’m looking forward to doing something in the plaza,” Reger said.

Although he said the company he is negotiating with asked that they not be named just yet, Reger gave a clear indication of what might be housed in the remaining portion of the former Hills. Mr. 2nd’s Bargain Outlet currently is in the left half of the former department store.

“We’re negotiating with a discount grocery store,” Reger said. “We probably have a deal in place.”

Reger added he has been in contact with architects, and expects to upgrade the facades. He told the audience he expects activity to begin in the plaza sometime this summer.

Other businesses currently in the plaza include Rite-Aid and China King Restaurant.

This all lined up with Petrie’s take on the rest of the village, which he believes has seen a lot of positive things since he became mayor nearly two-and-a-half years ago.

“I have stressed community involvement,” Petrie said.

While he knows not everyone is going to agree with all decisions he makes, Petrie believes as mayor, he is fair, and makes “sound, rational decisions.”

He said that although the village board has its disagreements at times, he respects his fellow board members because they are passionate about the issues facing residents.

When Petrie became mayor, he said he realized immediately that there was a disconnect between the board and the village residents.

As someone who stresses the idea of community involvement, Petrie, a member of the Blasdell Volunteer Fire Dept., admitted he was concerned a couple of years ago when the department was down to 15 members. He said today that number is up to 35 and he is thankful to the men and women who serve.

Petrie also said an issue he dealt with when he became mayor was how to handle replacing the water lines in the village without making it costly to taxpayers.

“In June of 2011, the village entered into an agreement with the Erie County Water Authority,” Petrie said. The ECWA took over control of the water in the village and the mayor said as a result, most village residents are seeing a savings on their water bills.

Over the last two years, the Village of Blasdell has seen a total tax increase of 2.25 percent, Petrie said. He said this is despite dealing with increases in employee and police cosrs.

“We’re finding ways to get more for less,” Petrie said.

Something that Petrie is also excited about is the return of the Blasdell Farmers Market, which was held for the first time last year.

This year it begins next Wednesday, May 1, and will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Wednesday through the first week in November at Ilio DiPaolo’s parking lot.

Petrie thanked a number of people and groups for their support of the Farmer’s Market, including Dennis DiPaolo, the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce and A Better Blasdell.

The mayor said the market is more than about just buying fresh fruits and vegetables.

“It serves as a meeting place (for people) on Wednesday mornings,” Petrie said.

The mayor added that he is excited because another popular activity, the annual Summer Concert Series, will be returning again this year on Wednesday nights, adding to what was an evening to showcase the many things taking place in Blasdell.
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