It’s a beautiful morning in Youngstown. It’s a great day at the Fort Niagara lighthouse.
Have a yummy day.
- Old Fort Niagara: War of 1812 Encampment (allthingsjennifer.wordpress.com)
- Living Where You’re From (judethefoodie.com)
- I’ll Level With You…I Love The Youngstown Yacht Club (judethefoodie.com)
- Area Church Helps Families In Youngstown (wytv.com)
Today I was going to write about “Social Media” so I set off to Fort Niagara to write because my street was being repaved. As I pulled into the parking lot my mind reframed from social media to social life…
So many memories here…we called it “the beach” and while I laugh at the thought, in my 8th grade world it was everything a beach should be. It had water…but in the 1970’s swimming was frowned upon. There was a little sand, ok, very little, but it had a wonderful bank of mowed grass where a towel could be thrown for suntanning. A snack shack sold all the junk food we could want and there was a great public pool where my friends with perfect eyesight could lifeguard.
My June birthday meant I often had a New York State Regents Exam (back in the day when testing well meant an actual Regents Scholarship) so my birthday was often celebrated along with the last day of school. One year, after I got contact lenses (a very big deal for me) I remember getting thrown in the lake. That was the first time I went in that water. I was programmed to think it so dangerous that I would emerge glowing in the dark from some residual chemical stuffed in there during WW2.
When I could drive I would come down here by my self and contemplate life…high school style. Does he like me? Will I make the cheer leading squad? Is AP English as hard as everyone says?
My husband and I bought our house in 1983 on a little street in the back corner of the village of Youngstown. We still live there. I know it’s corny but I love living at home. I grew up in Lewiston, still attend church there and do much of my shopping and dining there.
But Youngstown is my home. The two villages, while distinct in many ways, creat a lovely lifestyle for those of us who live “below the hill.”
Back in 1988, the morning my son died I came down here to the beach. My high school muses replaced by life altering events led me to the rock behind the Fort. This is home. We all need home.
It was Memorial Day weekend, 1988. It was only two weeks after the death of my son. In weeks that spanned less than two months my son died, my father sold his business, I became unemployed, I turned 30 and had an emergency appendectomy.
A dear friend invited my husband and me to dinner at the Youngstown Yacht Club. We ordered cocktails and sat outside by the dock sipping and chatting with their friends. I knew a few of them from my Lew-Port days and others were new to me. No one was in a hurry to dine and when we did we gained at least six more people at our original table for four.
It was all so very civilized.
What I did not know then was that it would change the course of my life for years to come. At dinner I sat next to a man named Bob Finn. He and his wife Barbara owned Yachting World, the local yachting supply store. It seemed that he needed a bookkeeper and seeing as I was dazed and unemployed it seemed a good idea to hire me to work in an industry I had absolutely no knowledge of.
I had relative anonymity only one mile from my house because most of the people who I came in contact to on a daily basis knew nothing about me. I didn’t have to wear a name tag that said “Hug me, my son is in heaven!” The people I did meet were kind and the job was relatively easy. Previously I handled a payroll of 150 and now it was only five or six. Mr. Finn was no more demanding than my father and I sincerely enjoyed learning something new.
I learned about cleats and winches, telltales and wind meters. I loved that most of the people were happy largely because they were spending their leisure time spending their leisure money. This was so unlike the car business where you could count on at least one person a day yelling at the cashier because she was personally responsible for the fact they needed a break job.
I met Granny Orr, also known as the Mouth of the River, because she did much of the PA work at the Level Regatta. “Hurry hurry hurry! This nice young man is looking for a bikini clad young lady to crew on his boat.” She was a classic. When my son Anthony was born a few years later she knit the most beautiful Christmas stocking which we still hang every year.
I wanted to have a cone and watch the sunset at the river.
Last evening, my husband and I stopped in for a bite at Brennan’s in Youngstown. You cannot imagine how happy I was to be back in familiar surroundings. Annie was both our server and the bartender. It was not very busy so she was able to keep company with all. The entire room was filled with Halloween decorations which were whimsical and fun.
I had a creamy potato and bacon soup served in a pretty bowl with a saucer and doily. Wow – very uptown and very tasty. My chicken fingers that followed were generous and seasoned to my liking. My husband had a burger and fries and enjoyed every bite. This is not fancy food (although my soup did not know that), but pub fare.
I mentioned to Annie that I appreciated the brevity of the menu and she explained that it was by design. They decided to do a few things well and I commend them for that decision. Brennan’s is the perfect place to go watch Bills or Sabres games because they have food and drink specials during those events.
Greg Taylor, Youngstown native and Lew-Port grad and I chat a few minutes at the bar about Youngstown. Greg is a fan of the chicken fingers and is sure to stop by often to sit at the bar and visit with friends. Greg is a diehard below the falls guy and humorously complained he had to go all the way to North Tonawanda today. He can be seen dining and sipping at other BTF locations including the Brickyard and grabbing take out at Main Street Gas and Grill.
We also talked about the iterations of Brennan’s. I cannot imagine anyone from our generation not remembering Phil’s Place. I have very happy memories of that local tavern and immediately on arriving home put a plea on my Facebook page asking my friends to share their memories, too. Where else but Facebook can you get seven interviews without lifting a pencil?
Glen remembers playing pool and shuffleboard while drinking cases of OV splits. Glen, I remember OV splits at the Park Meadow (The PM) on Thursday nights back in the day! He also remembers the great wings and recalls Phil being a great guy. Becky remembers Phil’s having “the BEST wings ever!”
Phil was the uncle of one of my dearest friends from high school. Cindi notes that Phil’s wife, her Aunt Marion, likely “made those wings and all the other great food consumed there.” She waxed poetic about the best ever Easter brunches with family.
Dee Dee not only remembers Phil’s but the cue ball on the pool table. She says “Good ‘ol PHIL’s … Jimmy’s for breakfast, the Jug for lunch and then pizza and wings at PHIL’s with a side of pool! I still think if you played the cue ball slightly off center you had the advantage as everything tilted towards the river! Maybe it was after long days of teaching junior sailing!”
Shirley and Amy, two of this Foodie’s favorite people, have fond recollections of Tuesday night sailing and learning how to play pool. Daughter Amy says “I have great memories of when my BFFs Sarah, Jason and TJ worked there. I still have Sarah’s satin Brennan’s jacket!” Mother Shirley has a slightly different although very fond memory of Phil’s and of Amy’s days at the pub.
Shirley recalled “We had our first sailboat — a Catalina 22 that Pat sailed on Tuesday nights with our daughters, about 8 and 11. I was a little upset when I found out that our girls were “regular” pool players at Phil’s when all the sailors from the marina convened at Phil’s to drink.”
My most enduring memory of Phil’s is with my Lew-Port friends Mark and Cindi and a bunch of our friends back in the 1970’s. I think we were all home from college and gathered at Phil’s to hang out, compare notes and catch up on each other’s lives. I remember a HOT chicken wing eating contest which ended with Mark and I being the last ones remaining. In an act of surrender Mark ate a napkin. Random memory but true as true can be.
I will leave you with Mark’s words. “Phil’s was really a family run neighborhood tavern in the best sense of the phrase. We didn’t go there “for a drink,” we went there to enjoy the warmth of the Zaszucha family and old friends. Laughs and conversation, Genny Cream and hot wings, new romance and old heartbreak: these were the stuff of Phil’s Place.”
A few snips from my notebook:
Join Brennan’s as they celebrate their Grand Opening on Oct. 21. There will be a ribbon cutting, a pumpkin carving contest and drink and food specials.
Hallowine Murder Mystery Weekend Oct. 28, 29 and 30 on the Niagara Wine Trail. See http://www.niagarawinetrail.org/ for more information.
Hops n Vines is having a wine tasting on Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. It is limited to 20 so check out http://www.facebook.com/#!/HOPSnVINES for more information
A discussion about Youngstown would not be complete without a note on the passing of our dear mayor, Neil Riordan. Nowhere on earth was there a better embodiment of public servant and stand-up comedian. Neil, I will always remember your voice, your wisdom and your humor. You leave a hole not likely ever to be filled. My thoughts, sympathy and prayers go to his loving family, the village residents who loved him and my husband who lost his mentor. God rest you, Neil …
A large group gathers for the ribbon cutting of the new Melloni’s Market Place in Youngstown on Saturday (Photo courtesy Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce)
When Diane Melloni couldn’t get her husband Lou to find out more information about the sale of Market Place in Youngstown, she decided to take drastic measures.
She went to the local bank where the owner’s wife worked and appealed to her.
That is what they needed to strike the deal that will lead to Melloni’s Market Place grand opening this weekend.
Diane was comfortably retired, showing dogs with her friend when the opportunity arose. While Lou may complain about wanting to slow down, he has always dreamed of owning a grocery store. And, make no mistake; this is a grocery store, not a convenience store. Folks can do their regular shopping here. Melloni’s products will be competitively priced, like the large footprint chains, not like the higher “convenience” store models.
You can hear the excitement in Diane’s voice when she describes their plans. In addition to fresh meat (a Melloni specialty known in Lewiston for many years), produce and dairy, she will have a café in front where she will be serving Italian cookies and freshly filled cannoli. National brands will be available, along with the ShurFine store brand. Lou insists ShurFine gets a bad rap. He says it’s a great, high quality store brand with pricing which complements the store’s other products.
Buying the store has had many surprises. They were surprised by the condition of the property, causing a great deal of sweat equity and money to clean it up and make it their own. They were surprised by the amount of paperwork it takes to take out a small loan. Diane says this is the worst part of the renovation.
The greatest surprise, however, has been that of the community. When Lou first thought about buying the store he thought it would be a gold mine. Now, Lou says that whenever he is out and about town, having coffee or grabbing a bite to eat, people stop him and thank him for buying the store and bringing back an opportunity to shop in town. He has seen their sincerity and has been overwhelmed by the welcome.
What started out as a great business opportunity has turned into a wish for the community. Lou and Diane want the people of Youngstown to know they have their grocery store back. As a nearly 30-year resident of this wonderful town below the falls, I’m here to say it is way better than I ever remember. Mission accomplished.