Category Archives: Geneseo

What would you have done?

As owner of a print and copy shop, I am often called to help people make copies of very private and intimate documents: love letters, divorce papers, etc. I have always felt there should be copier / client confidentiality and I normally avert my eyes while copying such material and quickly delete unread any digital copies that end up on my computer.

In this column I am going to break that confidentiality, although I will not reveal the name of the customer and I suspect that if she ever does read this column she will probably be too embarrassed to complain!

In Geneseo, with a state education factory in town, we sometimes have a little bit of a town-gown problem which often is exacerbated by strong political differences between our enlightened academic class and the hoi palloi. I try to avoid such conflicts in my business and have worked both sides of the aisle in preparing political materials.

However, when I inadvertently discovered evidence of political bias against my business in one of my own customers, ironically in a job that I was being paid to copy, it challenged all my principles.

Normally my copier works fairly proficiently in making and collating multiple copies of multi-page documents. You just load the document push the collate button and stand back. Every now and then, however, it makes a mess of things!

Recently I was asked to make a couple of copies of a very interesting  document by one of our noble professors. I only know that because my machine malfunctioned terribly and I was forced to manually re-copy about 10 pages that had randomly miss-fed and then insert them back into the copied documents in the right order. Luckily my customer had left to run a few errands and I was able to perform this time-consuming and embarrassing task in private!

To do this correctly I had to take a closer look at a document that I normally would of ignored. The first thing I noticed was that the document appeared to be something like a chatty Last Will in which the author was advising her descendants on the various businesses and tradespeople that she had used locally and recommending which ones to use for various jobs. This seemed like a very good idea and I made a silent note to perhaps prepare a similar document for my successors.

Although the gossipy nature of the text would have made for interesting reading I resisted the temptation to read it until I noticed there was a section on local print shops. As I quickly skimmed that section I noticed that I was not among the select locations recommended. That seemed a little odd since I was the business that had actually been chosen to make the copies, but it gets worse.

Taking a closer look at this section I noticed a small paragraph at the bottom of the section that I will quote in full: “The Genesee Graphics copy shop on Main Street is now out of business. No great loss because the owner was very conservative.”

Since I was only making a couple copies of the document for the customer’s children I wasn’t so much worried about the somewhat exaggerated report of my demise, however, the ill will conveyed in the last sentence left me stunned.

As I waited for the customer’s return I contemplated my options. Should I throw the now perfectly-collated copies away and tell her to take her business elsewhere? Perhaps just charge her double and not explain why, or just grin and bear it? What would you have done?

In the end my dilemma was made easier when instead her husband returned to pick up the job. I decided that since he was perhaps a more innocent party I would just let the matter drop. When he questioned why my charge was so small for the job I asked him with a wicked grin if he wanted me to charge him double?

I then explained that I would charge him the same price that I would charge anybody else that walked in the door. There must have been something in my attitude that set off a warning bell, because after paying he told me he was glad I was still in business!

If my customer somehow does read this I have only one request: If you do an updated version, please take it to one of your politically approved copy shops!




The new “Hardest Working Man in Show Business!”

Since the demise of the late, great “Godfather of Soul” James Brown 8 years ago, his other title as “the hardest working man in show business” has laid unclaimed. I would like to nominate local developer Don Livingston of Palace Properties to receive the title.

I first noticed the perpetual motion machine that is Don last summer while manning our Little Green Market booth at the Geneseo Farmer’s Market on Center Street every Thursday afternoon. “Who is this guy who continued to work on the facade of the derelict Riveira Theatre non-stop right through our market every week?” I wondered.

As the summer slowly turned to fall it began to become clear that something very special was happening in the “Theatre District “right in front of us. When my friend Valerie Honeyford operated her clothing store next door to the Riviera for many years, we used to joke about her location as being in the Heart of the Theatre District.

Now through the efforts of Don and his partner Jim Sullivan, that joke is fast becoming a reality! Last weekend the circa 1914 movie theatre (closed since 1995) had its triumphant Grand Re-Opening as a fully restored multi-purpose venue.

Fittingly the event was highlighted by a concert by the Big Band “78 RPM.” Fitting, because about 20 years ago Don went on a blind date with Tawny Bondi, the daughter of Geneseo Big Band impresario and former Soccer All-American Ted Bondi. (For those who never had the honor of knowing my friend Ted, see my tribute column written when he passed away in 2010.)

That date eventually  led to a marriage that brought Don from his native Nunda to Geneseo. I don’t know who arranged that blind date but that person should be made an Honorary Citizen of Geneseo!

In the last decade, Don, who spent his early years learning the carpentry and contracting business working along side his late father Martin has been remaking the face of Downtown. The Riviera, his latest but surely not last project, was truly a labor of love.

When I recently decided to return my printing and graphic design business to Main Street I was fortunate enough to find space in one of Don’s properties. That and the subsequent graphic work I did for the theatre gave me an excuse to pop into the Riviera work site on a regular basis for the past few months.

No matter what time of day I came, I almost always found Don hard at work on his renovation. As far as I could tell the man never stopped working! Those who attended the Grand Opening (or other recent events) have seen the glorious results of all that hard work.

Those who were there Saturday would also have seen that the theatre project is very much a family affair. At the opening, the entire extended Bondi clan pitched in to help including two of Tawny & Don’s children serving as ushers, as well as two of Jim Sullivan’s daughters working the concession stand.

In talking with Don, I have become aware that his dream is to make the Riviera Theatre the centerpiece of revitalized Downtown which can once again be an after-dark destination for more than just college-age kids. With the re-opening of the theatre he is well on his way to realizing that dream. Congratulations to Don and the whole Livingston-Bondi-Sullivan team on a job well done! Ted would be very proud!

Highway robbery!

gateThis is going to be embarrassing, but I did something real stupid yesterday, and that’s not the worst thing. Somebody else took advantage of my stupidity and did something wrong, and I hope by telling my story I can get some help righting that wrong.

It’s kind of a long story, but the bottom line is I had a bunch of tools in a large bucket in the back of my pick-up truck. I had been working on various projects around the farm, including building a gate for my garden, so it just seemed like a good idea to have all my tools in one place instead of rolling around in the bed of the pick-up.

Unfortunately, since I do not have electricity near the garden, I had taken my battery-powered drill and sawzall out to work on the gate and they were in the bucket. After finishing hanging the gate, I headed up to Geneseo Hardware to pick up a rototiller I was renting for the day. Stupidly I left the tailgate open and you can probably guess what happened next.

When I got back home and unloaded the rototiller, I realized with horror that my bucket of tools was gone. I quickly retraced my steps and found my smashed bucket and a bag of nails along side the road on Rt. 20A near Elm Street in the village, Apparently, the bucket had slip off the back of the truck as I went up the hill on South Street.

A thorough search of the area turned up my tape measure and a tractor pin, but missing was over $200 of tools. In addition to the portable power equipment, I had a large hammer and various wrenches and other hand tools. Apparently, somebody found these tools along the road and figured they were free for the taking.

This being Geneseo, I had hope that somebody would turn them in to the police as obviously lost property, but when I went to the village police office, no such luck. Since this all happened in broad daylight on the busiest road in town, I’ve got to believe that somebody saw something.

I am offering a $50 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to the return of my property. The power tools won’t do anybody much good when the batteries run down, unless they happen to have the right charger to recharge them, which is unlikely.

I know it was stupid not to close the tailgate, but I am also disappointed that someone apparently took advantage of my stupidity. That’s not supposed to happen in a small town, although of course, Geneseo is not such a small town anymore.

So I’m putting the word on the street: If you saw anything on Rt. 20A around 2 pm on Monday May 11, please give ma a call at 233-5338. Thanks!

Come to the Free Soil Party!

Editor’s note: If you are looking for the column or updates about Vera Gleason, please follow this link.


Free Garden Plots available! Seven Four* 100 square foot garden plots are available to the community for immediate planting at the Hartford House in Geneseo. The plots are protected by a 6-foot, welded-wire deer fence. They have been roto-tilled, limed and fertilized with organic compost only. Soil test results of this Ovid silt loam are available. Irrigation with village water available on a barter basis.
Experienced gardeners preferred.
* Hurry! Three plots have already been taken! Call Biff at 233-5338 or e-mail him.
Limit one plot per family.


Visitors to the Hartford House this spring have noticed that change is in the air. A collection of vintage farm equipment is taking shape and four acres of the old sheep pasture east of the main driveway has been plowed up.

Part of the old pasture has also been enclosed with a 6 foot fence, but it is not, as some have thought, a new tennis court under construction. It is a deer fence intended to keep four-legged predators away from the juicy vegetables that are already growing in a new vegetable garden.

This is the first season for what owner Corrin Strong hopes will some day become a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm. Corrin has over 15 years of commercial farming experience, operating a 600-acre grain farm in Caledonia from 1976-1992. This time around, he’s starting on a smaller, but more intensive, scale.

Outside the fence, he hopes to grow a few acres of sweet corn and pumpkins , however, the bulk of the land will be sown in cover crops to increase the soil’s fertility and tilth. A compost pile incorporating the manure from neighboring Big House Stables as well as grass clippings and other organic waste from the Hartford House will soon be underway.

Corrin is offering free 1oo square foot garden plots to local families. (See Ad above.) The offer is being made through this blog, by e-mail to members of the Genesee Volley Tennis Club and will be posted on Facebook. He hopes that those who take up the offer will form the nucleus of the board of directors of the future CSA. Experience gathered in this first trial season will help make better crops in the future!

Come grow with us!

P.S. The Hartford House was built by Gen. James S. Wadsworth in 1835. The General was one of the founders of the Free Soil party in New York. That party opposed the expansion of slavery and eventually merged into the newly formed Republican Party prior to the Civil War in which the General gave his life.

Hartford House Subdivision

The three words in the title above are likely to spark fear in many traditional Geneseo minds and wild rumors around the county. Yes, I have applied to the Village Planning Board to divide my 70 acre estate into three parcels, but don’t expect to see any major developments going up, other than the addition of some more tennis courts at the Genesee Volley Tennis Club.

For one thing, a conservation easement placed on the land by my parents prevents me from building more than one additional house on the bulk of the estate. Even though I could develop the 7.7 acre area near the Gate House (Called Lot 1 in the subdivision plan), my financial position is not yet so bad that I am forced to consider that.

The main motivation for my action is to clear the way for the continued growth of the tennis club I founded last year when I built one Har-Tru (clay) court. The club had a very good first year and already has over 50 playing members. As the club grows we will soon surpass the playing capacity of one court and I can’t afford to build more Har-Tru courts on my own.

The main idea of the subdivision is to provide collateral so that expansion of the club can be financed without involving the rest of the estate. A 7.5-acre parcel (Lot 3) has been carved out of the north end of my property (bordering my sister Susan’s part of the original estate) for future development of the club. This would be sufficient to provide for at least 7 additional courts if the demand would ever require that.

The area in Lot 3 is also the area designated by the conservation easement for my lone additional house, so if everything goes south, and the club goes bust, it could be sold as a single family home site. To make that more practical (and thus better collateral), the lot contains access to Avon Road opposite the former Balconi car dealership so it would not be landlocked. Again there are no immediate plans to construct a driveway there, but it could be done in the future if needed.

A secondary reason for this move is to make the growth of the club less of a insurance risk to me personally. Even though the club has been formed as a not-for-profit corporation and I lease the court area to the corporation, and even though the corporation carries liability insurance and has agreed to hold me harmless, the fact that the court is on the same parcel as my home and the only access is across my land apparently raises concerns among insurance underwriters. These concerns recently led to my personal umbrella coverage being canceled which is a situation I am not very comfortable with.

Finally, this move would allow the remaining 56 acres of my land (Lot 2) to be included in an Ag district. That jives with my plan to return to small-scale farming this spring. I have purchased a small 50 horsepower John Deere, a two bottom plow, a two-row cornplanter and a 72″ pto rototiller in preparation for growing about 5 acres of vegetables. This will be nothing like the 600+ acres operation I ran in Caledonia in the 1980s, but I hope to put my farming experience to good use making a profit this time.

Being in an official Ag district provides many protections for farming operations under state law and guarantees the right to farm, even in a village. In order to be approved for that I have to apply to the county in September, and I can’t have any non-agricultural activities on the same parcel.

This does not necessarily mean I will apply for or receive an Agricultural Exemption on my property taxes. I don’t think the Assessor is hitting me too bad on my vacant land right now, although my total assessment of $660,000 is no doubt among the highest in the village for a single-family home. If this goes through, though, I will get a separate tax bill for the tennis club which I can pass along to the club.

So there you have it. There are no other secret agendas, although I don’t expect everybody to believe that. I’ve always been served well by the advice that I got when I first came to town almost 40 years ago: “In Geneseo, people don’t care what you do, as long as they know about it!” If you want to know more, you are welcome to attend the next meeting of the planning board on Feb. 25 at 4 pm. I am on the agenda and it is a public meeting. In the meantime here is the concept map of my plan.

Non-profit organizations

Like many other businesses in this grimmest of Holiday seasons, I can join in telling the old joke, “We are a non-profit organization. We didn’t plan it that way. That’s just the way it worked out!”

In fact, if it weren’t for real non-profit organizations (like GUMA, APOG, The Genesee Valley Conservancy, The Livingston County Historical Society and Habitat for Humanities) my company, Genesee Graphics, would have had hardly any business at all for the past two months.

Of course, things could be worse, I could still be publishing a newspaper! As we witness the almost daily cratering of the newspaper industry, (see Chicago Tribune bankruptcy), I can only count my blessings that I choose retirement over red ink almost two years ago now.

By staying in the printing and graphic design end of the business, however, I had hoped to leap a few steps up the food chain. I may not have leaped high enough!

Experience has shown that advertising bills are traditionally put on the bottom of the pile by struggling businesses. People will pay the rent, taxes, utilities, employees and all other suppliers before they pay the newspaper man.

Now I am finding out that printers may be just the next rung up the ladder. Sure, people still need stationery, business cards, invoices and sales flyers to do business, but if no one is coming in the door, those items don’t get used up real fast.

And who starts a new business in the middle of the Great Recession? About the only new business I know that was started locally this year is the Genesee Volley Tennis Club. That’s actually going pretty well, but of course, it’s a non-profit too!

So why do I bring this up? Is it just to beg for business? Not really. I don’t need your business right away (although it would be nice!). I just need you to keep doing business with all our local merchants (and keep supporting those real non-profit organizations). Eventually, some of that money will trickle down to me.

P.S. After posting this, I read an article that explains the economics of where we are. It seems, that with the government printing new money as fast as they can, we don’t lack for quantity of money. The problem is the velocity of the money. People are reluctant to spend (or loan) the money they have, so the whole speed of our economic system slows down. Apparently all we need is for everybody to start spending like there is no tomorrow again. The irony is that if we don’t, there might not be. I’m willing to do my part. I think I’ll go Christmas shopping on Main Street. See you there!

Desperate times?

It is said that “desperate times call for drastic measures,” and that is the only possible explanation for why the Geneseo Town Board would recklessly dive into the site plan business in an attempt to overturn their own Planning Board. (See yesterday’s Clarion News Blog.)

The town finally adopted the PDD zoning for the Gateway Town Centre last Thursday afternoon, but the vehicle, Local Law 2, also included a laundry list of directives about site plan that normally fall within the jurisdiction of the planning board. Even worse, a lot of the town board’s site plan ideas are in direct contradiction to the recommendations recently made by the Planning Board and the Town’s Architectural Review Committee.

Most controversial, perhaps, is the town’s concession that the proposed Lowe’s building can have a peak height of 45 feet. This is in contradiction to the 35 feet allowed by the town code and the 40 foot compromise approved by the Planning Board.

At the Planning Board meeting last Monday, where this matter was discussed with members of the Architectural Review Committee before a 4-2 vote to adopt the 40-foot limit, representatives of the developer claimed that they needed to have the 45 feet because having a big sign was part of Lowe’s “trademark.”

Having just finished a 5,000 mile road trip around the country, I can confirm that Lowe’s does have some of the most God-awful signs around. On the other hand, I have seen the beautiful stores in Dublin, Ohio and at Penn State, Pa. where there are no big ugly signs on the buildings at all, so it is clear that Lowe’s will make exceptions if a host town sticks to its guns.

Note: A reader sent in this picture of the Dublin Lowe’s. I never noticed the small sign, probably because I was distracted by the large atrium!

So, why did the town crumble? Contradicting and micromanaging your own planning board is not a good way to build warm and fuzzy feelings in the town government or the community. The town must know that and yet four of the town board members stuck their necks out for the developer.

For the answer, of course, we need to look no farther than the daily headlines. The economy, especially anything to do with housing and banking, is crumbling at an alarming rate. No one knows where the bottom is, but it has scared the Big Box Home Improvement stores enough that both Home Depot and Lowe’s have been furiously canceling construction of new planned stores, and in some cases, closing existing stores.

In this environment could a sign less than 45 feet high have been the “deal breaker?” Apparently the developer was successful at convincing the town board that it was. There doesn’t seem to be any other explanation for the political risk that the majority of the board has taken.

In the end, of course, Lowe’s will make its final decision on whether to build based on macro-economic factors and the state of the local economy, not the size of the sign. By blinking on the sign height, however, the town has sent the message that Geneseo is desperate for business no matter how ugly the building.

Whether the Planning Board, in its final site plan review, will obey the town’s directive is an interesting question. Hopefully the Planning Board will hold firm and protect its jurisdiction by rejecting this unwarranted intrusion.

Ironically, two of the votes for a 40 foot limit came from members appointed since the Lowe’s controversy started. When your own hand-picked appointees are trying to tell you something, perhaps it is time to listen.

P.S. I know my vacation from this column lasted longer than promised, but I’ve been having too much fun enjoying my new life as a tennis pro. I don’t promise to continue writing on a weekly basis, but will again when the spirit moves me.