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VBAC, Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, local village representatives gather to coordinate for upcoming seasons

HAMBURG — The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce and the Village Business Advisory Council invited representatives from various businesses and organizations to a meeting held April 10 at the Hamburg Village Hall.

“Really, communication is the key,” Cyndi Galley, executive director of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, said, as she opened the meeting, along with Senior Director of Marketing and Business Development Erin Erickson.

Representatives of various Hamburg groups introduced themselves and their mission statements.

HCC Board Director Joseph Gunning, the president of the Oktoberfest committee and a member of the Village of Hamburg Economic Development Committee, spoke about progressive work for the upcoming village branding campaign.

“We’re this close to getting the branding completed, which is huge. We just have to make sure the branding is complete, before all of this other stuff takes off,” he said, regarding upcoming local events.

Wayne Whitaker represented the Village of Hamburg Economic Development Committee. He spoke for village of Hamburg Special Projects Coordinator Paul Becker, who could not attend the meeting.

Brian Glanowski introduced himself as a new librarian for the Hamburg Public Library, which is located at 102 Buffalo St. in Hamburg. He attended the meeting with Library Director Jack Edson, to discuss the library renovation progress. “Our big project is the big addition [to the building],” Edson said, announcing that a ground-breaking and picnic event will be held on Thursday, June 12.

Hamburg Village Mayor Tom Moses said that “I think this is long overdue, to bring everybody to the table so everybody can see what’s going on. So we’re all on the same page. Makes it a lot easier to plan things and make things happen.”

He added that there are a lot of great things “right in our backyard,” but that the focus should now be on getting people to come through the village.

Moses said, “Basically, if people go to [The Fairgrounds] Gaming Center or the high schools for sports, they usually go back the same way they came in. There’s things that are happening here that people don’t have any idea of what’s going on. I want to keep things moving in the right direction, and I think we are making steps to do that.”

Eric Adams, the owner of Picture Your Walls, located at 184 Buffalo St., was recently nominated to the position of VBAC president.

That organization’s mission statement is “to come together as a dedicated group of business professionals, working in unity to support, promote, strengthen and perpetuate local businesses in the village of Hamburg.”

Adams said that another VBAC focus is to “expand upon and grow in the village of Hamburg.”

He notified those in attendance that the 2014 Hamburg calender of events is available at his business. This calender is not restricted to VBAC storefronts, and is not made up of just that organization’s events, he said, encouraging other local business to post the calender in their businesses.

With a stated motivation of supporting the local business economy, he proposed a few ideas. Adams said that he is in the beginning stages of having businesses open later on Thursday evenings, as a dedicated night for VBAC members to promote local shops.

“Shop local ... something that will be a focus of mine,” Adams said.

Another idea he proposed is to erect promotional signage about the village at The Fairgrounds, located at 5820 S. Park Ave. in Hamburg, to help direct people into the village, as they leave that establishment. He said that those signs will promote “visit Hamburg” and encourage visiting patrons to learn about the history and current happenings of the village.

The annual Wine About Hamburg will be held from 3 – 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 3. Promoted by the VBAC, this event will also fall on the opening day of the local farmers market.

Steps have been made by Adams to utilize the village trolleys for both the wine about event and the market kickoff, which will run from 7:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. on May 3. He said that he wants to have the morning trolleys run from Hilbert College and make stops prior to entering the village, such as at The Fairgrounds, then “to come into the village, drop them off at the farmers market and other destinations.”

The OK has been obtained from Hamburg Gaming’s General Manager Ellsworth Gaskill, and Adams said that he plans to have the VBAC “step up financially,” for this project. “This trolley might work on a consistent basis ... to get people in to the village,” Adams said.

Rick Benz of Benz Associates LLC introduced himself as a member of the VBAC and a contributor to the Oktoberfest committee.

In addition to his position at Hamburg Gaming, Gaskill is also on the HCC and VBAC boards; he spoke about The Fairgrounds and how that establishment can help the village.

The Fairgrounds hosts cruise nights on Tuesday evenings, during the summer; these events bring in approximately 700 – 1,000 muscle cars. Gaskill said that people are usually looking for places to eat; brochures have been placed, and an interactive WayFinder kiosk map display has been established, to direct visitors to local businesses.

“We want to be part of this town, and would really like to work with you,” Gaskill said.

Jerold Bastedo, executive director of Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center, spoke about that organization. “Our biggest and weakest link is Hamburg,” Bastedo said. “One of the best marketing tools we’ve got is the visitors’ guide from the chamber.”

The Penn Dixie site welcomed visitors from 39 states and 13 countries, last year.

“We have a lot of things for families that are affordable,” Bastedo said, noting his stated frustration with the state governor’s office. The New York State Department of Transportation took down a few signs that were posted locally, due to being a “form of advertisement.”

“We’re a nonprofit organization. We have school groups that attend. It’s sort of frustrating to me. It’s like, take down everybody else’s sign, then. It’s dumb. That’s what you want people to do, is get there,” Bastedo said, as he noted the significance of signs in local, sustainable growth.

He also announced that Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Chris Murawski will hold a presentation titled “What’s In Your Water?” as a part of the Penn Dixie lecture series. The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30 in the auditorium of the Gateway Executive Office, located at 3556 Lake Shore Road in Blasdell. The lecture will explore Western New York water quality and help answer the question of what local water is. “You may or may not want to know,” Bastedo said, with a laugh.

More information about Penn Dixie may be found at

In response to Bastedo, Michael Bartlett, executive director of Hamburg Industrial Development Agency, said, “Don’t get me started on NYS.

“I work with businesses, offering them tax incentives. We’ve done quite a bit, working with the village,” he said. In addition to handling village grants, he has also worked with individual village businesses for situations that include loans, tax incentives, upgrading building structures and equipment, and personnel hiring.

His stated mission is “just to make the village and town an attractive place and destination, which I think, with the village board’s help, it’s been very successful. Makes you pretty darn proud.

“I kind of look at us helping businesses, to make this place a vibrant place, where you can throw a function and someone’s going to show up,” he added.

Chris Snyder was in attendance, representing Hamburgh Holidays and Imagine:Hamburg. In regard to Hamburgh Holidays, Snyder said that the annual parade, Christmas in the Village and Rock the Roundabout ball drop

“are three events that we really view as destination events.”

Imagine:Hamburg’s stated mission is to “make the village a better place to live, work and play. Our core mantra, as a group, is: together, we can build a better Hamburg.”

Snyder said that she believes in the importance of working together with other groups, and then discussed upcoming collaboration projects for this year.

A promotional video for the village is estimated to be released by the end of July.

With two years of progress establishing “Welcome to the Village of Hamburg” signage, Snyder said that the group is “moving forward and finalizing the sign design. Our signs are really going to help people enter our village, but service something we can all be proud of, as well.

“A beautiful sign really communicates a lot about community,” Snyder added.

Imagine:Hamburg will continue with concerts at the farmers market, as the schedule is being finalized for this year.

“Thank you for organizing that; people love the music at the market,” Erickson said.

Laura Hackathorn, a Hamburg Village Board trustee, said, “I just want to say how important I think communication is. [I am] very lucky to sit on a board where we all have mutual respect for each other. When we all communicate, great things happen.”

She said that her role in the village is to “foster an atmosphere of inclusion; volunteerism. To make sure people’s time and efforts are honored. It’s time to really sell the village.”

Representing Hilbert College was Dr. Walter Iwanenko, dean of graduate studies and professor of public administration. He is a Hamburg resident, a board member for the HCC, and a participant with the Village of Hamburg Economic Development Committee.

“Hilbert wants to be Hamburg’s college,” he said, adding that he plans to attempt to bring more students, family and staff into the village.

Don Witkowski, administrator and clerk treasurer for the village of Hamburg, said, “Because so many things are going on ... it’s going to be important for us to be involved and in the loop, so we can answer those questions when people call, rather than telling them we’ll get back to them because people don’t know.”

An official branding presentation will be held at 5:30 p.m. on April 21 at the Hamburg Village Hall.

For more information about the Village Business Advisory Council, visit For more information about the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, visit

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