Chamber Awards Gala: O’Connor Family Greenhouses, Garden Center honored

By Jennifer Pauly

Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce President

Pictured, from left: Corlette, Wendy and Tom.


The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce will honor businesses and individuals at its annual Chamber Awards Gala, from 6-11 p.m. Friday, April 28, at The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls.

The evening is one of the highlights of the year, held to celebrate the business community and the citizens who help contribute to its success.

Tickets are available through the Chamber of Commerce office (895 Center St., Lewiston) at $100 per person (valet parking included).


Ransomville Business of the Year:

O’Connor Family Greenhouses & Garden Center

The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce O’Connor Family Greenhouses & Garden Center as the recipient of the Ransomville Business of the Year Award. The Ransomville Business and Professional Association assists the chamber in providing a business nomination that has shown dedication and service to the Ransomville community.

O’Connor Family Greenhouses & Garden Center has brought beautiful flowers to the Niagara community and beyond since 1980. We are fortunate to have this family-owned and -operated business in our region.

In 1981, Tom and Wendy O’Connor yielded their first crop, and also had their first greenhouse built on the farmland that Tom grew up on at 2234 Lake Road in the Town of Porter. Tom has a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Cornell. He and Wendy and their family have grown the business over the past 37 years to host 10 greenhouses on the property.

Each greenhouse is named after a Disney character and is equipped with heat and water to grow the plants. The hot air furnace system is climate-controlled with different temperatures set for whatever the greenhouses are growing.


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The Sentinel at 30: Publisher, first editor and ad rep recall starting newspaper

Mazenauer, Logue, Linenfelser recall challenges, excitement of launching paper in 1987

The Sentinel in 2017 and 1987.

By Joshua Maloni

Managing Editor

In 2017, it’s easy to have a public voice. There’s little skill, experience or cash required to start a blog or post notes on the internet.

If you really want a challenge, try starting a newspaper.

You’ll need a staff, computer equipment to design the pages, money to print the paper, workers to deliver it, and businesses to purchase advertising to fund the operation.

Oh, and if you’re lucky, people will want to read what you’re writing.

Those same requirements and challenges existed 30 years ago.

While print is still a viable medium, it was even more so in 1987, when The Sentinel debuted. Still, that didn’t mean starting a River Region newspaper was a sure bet, or that it would succeed. Other publications in the Lewiston-Porter area had not been well received.

So why start a newspaper?

The Sentinel recently caught up with Michael Linenfelser, the newspaper’s first advertising rep, and Joelle Logue, the editor who so eloquently laid forth the newspaper’s goals and code of conduct in the very first issue. Also shedding light on the matter was Skip Mazenauer, The Sentinel’s first and only publisher. What follows are selected answers from three separate interviews.


The Sentinel in 1987.


Mazenauer’s parents started the Grand Island PennySaver in 1944. He purchased it in 1978, and soon after acquired the Island Dispatch. In 1985, Mazenauer branched out to Niagara County with the addition of the Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune.

Q: Skip, you had three newspapers at the time The Sentinel was launched. Why add a fourth newspaper? And why was the River Region the right place to go?

Skip: The River Region always intrigued us. We could see the potential market. The Lewiston Business Association, before they formed a chamber, had decided that they wanted to have a weekly newspaper. They had experienced some previous weekly and semiweekly newspapers; most of them were more politically motivated.

So, they decided to ask for proposals. They asked us and three other groups. We made our proposals to the board of directors that was being led by Sam Sperrazza.

I remember the call very well. He called me up one evening and he said, “We have some good news, and some bad news.” The good news is they chose us. The bad news is they had enough money in their treasury to buy one half-page one time. And then we were on our own.

We came up with a concept through our staff. We had a very talented staff at that point – like we do now – and the idea of a contest came up. Hence, “Name Our Paper.”


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Chamber Awards Gala: Apple Granny is Lewiston Business of the Year

Enter a captionMichael Burke and Chuck Barber, owners of Apple Granny Restaurant. The award-winning restaurant is located at 433 Center St., Lewiston. 

By Jennifer Pauly

Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce President

The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce will honor businesses and individuals at its annual Chamber Awards Gala from 6-11 p.m. Friday, April 28, at The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls.

The annual awards gala begins with a cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a sit-down dinner and awards program. A silent auction will take place throughout the evening. Tickets are available through the Chamber of Commerce office (895 Center St., Lewiston) at $100 per person (valet parking included).

Lewiston Business of the Year – Apple Granny Restaurant

The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce Apple Granny Restaurant as the 2017 Lewiston Business of the Year. The Lewiston Advisory Committee, comprised of Lewiston businesses and organizations, assists the chamber in providing a business honoree, voted upon from member nominations, that has showed dedication and service to the Lewiston community.

Apple Granny Restaurant is a favorite all-American dining destination for both locals and visitors to the area, serving casual quality food at its finest (and with great prices).

The late John Roberts opened Apple Granny Restaurant at 433 Center St., in the heart of the Village of Lewiston, in 1975. Two years ago, the opportunity came around for Chuck Barber, a vice president with Heritage Christian Services, and Michael Burke, a fire captain with the City of Niagara Falls, to partner and purchase the business. They looked at the purchase as a great opportunity to be a part of the community where they both live and raise their families.

The building itself used to be Helm’s General Store – there is still a wheel pulley located on the second floor that used to be used to bring in dry goods. At one point Apple Granny was a disco club. Chuck and Michael still have the original disco ball.

Chuck and Michael have made their purchase of the business almost seamless, keeping the employees and recipes the same. On any given day, you will see either of them welcoming customers alongside the staff.

They have over 30 employees, many of them having been there for 10-15 years, with the three main cooks working there for more than 15 years. Two years ago New York state implemented the largest wage increase on record for servers, just after Chuck and Michael took over. They worked through the rising cost of labor, knowing that the staff was an important part to the success of Apple Granny Restaurant.

The popular fish fry has not changed and is the most popular dinner served. Customers thanked Chuck and Michael for not changing anything when they took over. With a loyal customer base, keeping the transition smooth was a priority. Serving the same great food is the focus, but growing the customer base focusing on families and a new demographic is also a goal this year. During the winter months, the seasonal “Kids Eat Free” promotion on Tuesday evenings has been a great way for Apple Granny to bring in the next generation of customers.




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Niagara County: Proclamations for Sentinel in recognition of 30th anniversary

Sentinel-proclamations (1)

On Tuesday, Niagara County Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster recognized The Sentinel for the positive impact it has had in the community for the past 30 years. At the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce office, Burmaster gave out a proclamation to The Sentinel publishers, Skip Mazenauer and his wife, Judy Mazenauer, and one each for Editor-in-Chief Terry Duffy and Managing Editor Joshua Maloni.

Burmaster said newspapers rarely receive proclamations. He saluted The Sentinel for being an honest newspaper and a reliable source of information.

Pictured, from left: Jennifer Pauly (Chamber of Commerce president), Maloni, Judy Mazenauer, Burmaster, Skip Mazenauer and Duffy outside of the Chamber of Commerce office in Lewiston.

By Lauren Garabedian

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Niagara County leads by example on organ donor registry: Jastrzemski, Updegrove, gov’t leaders sign up to donate

Surrounded by roughly two-dozen county leaders who agreed to be organ donors, Niagara County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski added his name to the New York State Donate Life Registry at the Lockport Department of Motor Vehicles Tuesday.

Joining Jastrzemski were a collection of county government department heads and other top leaders, as well as new County Manager Richard E. Updegrove and county lawmakers Tony Nemi, R-Lockport, and Richard L. Andres, R-North Tonawanda. All were on-hand to ensure they, too, were listed in the state donor registry.

The group had assembled at the DMV because Jastrzemski spent the past weekend reaching out to local elected and appointed officials, asking them to “lead by example” and help reverse New York state’s second-worst-in-the-nation organ donor status. Jastrzemski, who heads up the county’s motor vehicle departments, said information provided to him by Unyts and the New York State Association of Counties that showed just 18 percent of New Yorkers had joined the registry convinced him leadership is needed on the issue.

Jastrzemski said motorists coming in to renew their driver licenses who elect to join the donor database have a “heart” symbol added to the front of their license, identifying them as a donor.

“It’s important that donors are identified quickly, so that organs can reach people who desperately need them,” Jastrzemski said.

He was joined by Jeremy Morlock, the manager of community engagement for Unyts, who provided additional statistics.

Morlock said more than 121,000 individuals are currently awaiting transplants across the nation, with 10 percent of them in New York.

“Sadly, an average of 22 people die each day because an organ was not made available for transplant,” Morlock stated in an information handout. “A single donor can save or enhance the lives of up to 50 people.”

“We’re asking our neighbors to join us and help save lives,” Jastrzemski said.

For the details, click here.

Schneiderman kicks off National Financial Literacy Month with consumer alert about common tax season scams

With this year’s tax deadline looming and April marking National Financial Literacy Month, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman offered New Yorkers tips to avoid falling victim to reported tax season scams. The attorney general also asked taxpayers to notify his office of any suspected fraudulent schemes designed to steal personal and financial information from consumers.

“Some of the most common scams reported to my office involve fraudsters targeting consumers during tax season, and I hope New Yorkers remain vigilant leading up to Tax Day,” Schneiderman said. “By keeping in mind a few basic tips and reporting suspected fraud, consumers can stay safe and ensure that they get to keep the full tax refund to which they’re entitled.”

In an effort to help New Yorkers avoid tax-themed scams, the attorney general’s office offers the following tips:

  • The IRS and legitimate government agencies never demand payment by phone;
  • If you owe money, you will receive a legitimate notice in writing that identifies the agency and the reason you owe money;
  • Do not give out personal information, including your Social Security number or bank account information, to telephone callers;
  • Legitimate government organizations will never threaten arrest or deportation for failure to pay a debt;
  • Legitimate government agencies will never insist consumers pay a debt only via a pre-paid credit card.

The following suggestions will help consumers file their tax returns safely and keep more of their return:

  • If you use a tax-preparation service, use only established and recognizable companies;
  • Check the tax preparer’s qualifications and history through the Better Business Bureau (;
  • Ask for a written estimate of all fees; avoid those who base their fees on a percentage of your refund;
  • Make sure the tax preparer is accessible, even after the April due date;
  • Never sign a blank return;
  • Review entire return before signing;
  • Make sure the preparer signs the tax form and includes a preparer tax identification number (PTIN);
  • Consult New York’s “Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers.”

For more tips, click here.

Town of Lewiston Town Board moves on public comments issue

It’s a matter of minutes.

So said the Lewiston Town Board, with regard to the time frame allotted to public comments.

And some residents attending Monday’s meeting weren’t exactly too thrilled about it.

At Town of Lewiston meetings, as in most government sessions, residents are provided a certain time frame to express their comments on town/government affairs. Most provide for a limited time at the beginning of a meeting, some allow for timed comments at both the beginning and the end, while still others allow for a much more open-ended comment period.

“Two-minute statements from the residents please,” began Town of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Broderick. “Come to the mic, state your name, and approximately two minutes.”

And so it began.

“Very disappointed residents are allowed only two minutes, once a month. Because of that, only 24 minutes a year. The county legislature, they let you speak twice. Niagara-Wheatfield School Board let you speak twice, beginning and end,” she said. “So I haven’t figured out what the problem is, with this two minutes, once. Whether you think it’s going to last too long. You don’t tape it anymore. … I’m an open government crusader and I hope you change it.”

That statement was met with applause.

Commenting on the public comments issue, the Alliance later issued the following statement:

“The purpose of (a) resident’s statement during a Lewiston meeting is for the Town Board to hear the thoughts of the people they serve. It should be a time where Town Board members receive input and ideas.

“Sadly, what has evolved are Town Board members who have demonstrated they care little about what the residents say and more about how long they say it, as was demonstrated by Mr. Broderick stopping a resident’s remarks because they ran out of time. The people suspect something isn’t right when free discussion is feared by the government.

“The Lewiston Taxpayer’s Accountability and Action Alliance hopes in the future the Lewiston Town Board will not only listen to what residents have to say, but give them the courtesy of finishing.”

To read the full story, click here.