Vendors looking to set up shop in a planned downtown welcome center at the former AquaFalls site hope to be up and running by the end of May, with some working toward a mid-April opening.
Restaurants, shops, a tour company and other businesses, including an Ohio-based restaurateur already in business on Grand Island, have all signed agreements to operate in the former Occidental Chemical building at 360 Rainbow Blvd., said the property owner.
DAN CAPPELLAZZO/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
DEVELOPING DOWNTOWN: Owner of the Niagara One Building Frank Parlato speaks about the plans for his building Monday afternoon as he looks out of the fifth floor of the building. Restaurants, shops, a tour company and other businesses have signed agreements to open in the former Occidental Chemical Building.
Frank Parlato Jr., owner of the site now called One Niagara, said he turned down national chain restaurants in favor of local entrepreneurs.
“This is a genuine partnership with local people,” he said.
Businesses that have already agreed to fill his welcome center include Mexican, Indian and Southern barbecue restaurants, Over the Falls Tours, a wine vendor, Bada Bean Coffee and
one Cafe, gifts and souvenirs and a boutique of spa services.
James Hufnagel plans to open Niagara Therapeutic Massage Associates, which will offer chair massage, table massage and other spa services.
Hufnagel, a licensed massage therapist who’s been practicing for eight years, said he’s excited about the chance to do business at One Niagara.
“I think it’s going to be very helpful to show that local people have an opportunity to capitalize on the huge influx of tourists that will be walking by that location,” he said.
Pammi Singh, who operates Punjabi Dhaba Indian Restaurant on Niagara Street during the tourist season, plans to open a “fast-food” version of his eatery sometime in April in One Niagara.
The parking lot planned at the site once the former AquaFalls hole gets filled will help the welcome center be more successful because tourists always look for places that have convenient parking, he said.
Singh operated outside One Niagara last year with “a good response,” and expects more in 2006.
The Ohio-based operator of Jalapeno Loco, located on Grand Island, plans to open El Sarape Mexican Restaurant. The owner said he expects to make a formal announcement in the coming weeks.
Debora Krieger, owner of Bada Bean, said her location in One Niagara will feature a limited food menu, but an expanded cold drink menu. Her business will also offer bike rentals in a location facing Niagara Falls State Park.
She expects to open by the end of May.
Krieger is also putting off her business’ planned move to a new Main Street location from Niagara Street. That move won’t happen until next year, said Krieger, who said she may set up an upscale coffee house on One Niagara’s ninth floor by the end of the year.
Lockport-based Mrs. Ribs will begin its operations on the site soon, according to Eula Person, the company secretary.
Robert Nicholas, president of Over the Falls Tours, plans to run an information center for tourists, offering tours and also just directions for visitors trying to navigate the area.
The new operations will be up and running in the next week or two, Nicholas said.
“We’re promoting tax-paying business in the area,” he said.
Representatives of Olive Garden and Quiznos approached Parlato about space on his property.
“I’d rather have the Como,” was his response.
Parlato said criticism he received for the outdoor tents stationed outside his building last summer was justified, noting that all welcome center activities this year will be inside.
“We’re going to have something real here,” he said.
Parlato added he’s still looking for interested business people to add to the welcome center, which he intends to keep open for the duration of the tourist season.
“Let’s start for the summer,” he said. “If we can keep things alive after, we’ll continue.”
Contact Aaron Besecker at 282-2311, Ext. 2263.