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Gaines has used grants to bolster security at Town Hall

Photos by Tom Rivers: Town Clerk Sharon Harding works behind plated glass that was recently installed in the Town Hall. This window was paid for with town funds, and not the state JCAP grant, but is part of a push to improve security in the building.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 September 2017 at 10:57 am

GAINES – A series of security upgrades have been implemented in recent years at the Gaines Town Hall with the bulk of the projects paid for by state grants through the Justice Court Assistance Program.

The town has moved a door for the judge’s chambers so the town justice is no longer entering and leaving the courtroom where defendants could easily confront the judge. The justice now has a door leading behind the bench in a separated area from the courtroom.

The town added a plate glass window for the town clerk, and a secure door for the court clerk.

Maureen Kline works behind a secure door as the Gaines court clerk. She has written three of the grants.

A JCAP grant also is making the courtroom more handicapped accessible.

The court clerks have written four of the grants proposals that have brought in about $60,000 on state funds for the security and accessible improvements. The grants have also helped fund energy efficiency upgrades, including new windows for the building.

Town Supervisor Carol Culhane said the Town Hall is located on a busy Route 104. She wanted to improve the safety for employees. The court has been busier in the past decade after the Village of Albion eliminated its court, shifting those cases to the town courts in Gaines and Albion.

One project included adding a new ramp and entrance in the back of the meeting room that is separate from the front entrance. Besides being handicapped accessible, the entrance provides an emergency exit, Culhane said.

A new glass front door allows visibility for who is coming and going from the town building.

The state has also made money available to help local municipalities improve their courts facilities with maximum grants up to $30,000 a year. The court would like to apply for another JCAP grant, this time for security cameras.

The town also received a $75,000 state grant through Sen. Robert Ortt’s office. That will fund an enclosure by the front entrance, which will make the building more energy efficient and provide some protection from bad weather for people coming to the building.

The funds will add some insulation, and also replace siding, some windows, and the exit door in the downstairs. Those projects should be complete by Dec. 1. Klips Construction in Albion is the low bidder for the projects.

The Town Hall was built in 1991. After 26 years, Culhane said the building needed some upgrades.

(Editor’s Note: This article was updated from an earlier version.)

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Cobblestone Museum rededicates bell on historic schoolhouse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 August 2017 at 8:48 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – The Cobblestone Museum celebrated the rededication of the bell on the historic schoolhouse on Ridge Road on Saturday.

The supporting structure on the bell tower had deteriorated, and the bell sunk down and couldn’t be rung. Museum volunteer Russell Bosch did much of the work to fix the structure up high for the bell.

The bell was rededicated in memory of the Honorable William Jenks Babbitt. He gave the bell to the school in 1849. Many years silent,  the bell will now ring once again to remind all who will hear it of the remarkable legacy of a true Orleans’ pioneer.

The bell was rededicated in honor of William Babbitt, who bought the bell and gave it to the school when it opened in 1849. It served the Gaines District #5 Cobblestone Schoolhouse until the school was closed in 1952.

“The gift of the bell served the community well until the closing of the school in 1952,” said Gaines Town Historian Al Capurso. “Over the years, the supporting structure for the bell gave way and the bell dropped down making it unusable.”

Capurso arranged to have the work done, and secured a $200 donation from the Orleans County Historical Association.

Capurso shared some history of Babbitt, who Babbitt arrived in “Genesee Country” in 1810. Following the War of 1812, he moved his family to what would become Gaines.  He became the area’s first blacksmith, established the first brickyard in Gaines, supplying the brick for most area buildings. Babbitt was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1815.  In 1816, he worked to get the Ridge Road designated as “The Post Road” by NYS, and served as the first postmaster of Gaines.

Babbitt pushed hard to get the Town of Gaines to be set apart from Ridgeway and recommended its naming after War of 1812 hero General Edmund Pendleton Gaines.  In 1831, Babbitt became the Town of Gaines Supervisor and then served the district in the NYS Assembly.

Descendants of William Babbitt attended the rededication at the schoolhouse.

Jeffrey Kleiner, a seventh-generation descendant of William Babbitt, rang the bell during Saturday’s program. Kleiner travelled from Albany to attend the event.

The schoolhouse is a short walk east of the Route 98 intersection on Ridge Road. The school was closed in 1952. The building was acquired by the Cobblestone Museum in 1960 – the year the museum formed – and is a National Historic Landmark.

Richard Flanagan, 14, and his brother Nate Flanagan, 10, raise the American flag with help from Jonathan Doherty. They are members of Troop 164 in Albion.

Museum President Jim Bonafini thanks supporters of the bell rededication. County Historian Matt Ballard is in back at left, followed by County Legislator Fred Miller and Gaines Town Historian Al Capurso.

Ballard said the pioneers, after constructing their homes and establishing farms with crops to sustain themselves, built schoolhouses.

“There was no hesitation in providing instruction to young pupils,” Ballard said. “When school was held in the homes of neighbors, or in a local barn, the lack of a permanent structure in which to provide this training was never enough to halt the institution. Education served as a fundamental feature in life, when quality of life was poor and longevity was questionable at best.”

The bell was ringing again on Saturday during the rededication program.

Ballard said Babbitt was instrumental in establishing the Gaines Academy and oversaw the erection of the schoolhouse.

“Just as important as the bell within the belfry of the church, used to call the devout worshiper to Sunday service, so did this bell call many young pupils to class, ending recess, and sending children home for evening chores and dinner,” Ballard said. “Today, the bell sounds once again as a reminder of the important role in which education has always played in producing intelligent and well-rounded citizens.”

The inside of the schoolhouse is largely unchanged since the building closed in the 1950s.

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Historic marker repainted by cobblestone school

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 July 2017 at 7:11 am

Provided photos

GAINES – The historic marker for the cobblestone school on Route 104 has a fresh coat of paint. Melissa Ierlan of Clarendon put the marker back on Friday with the new paint.

Ierlan has repainted many of the markers in recent years in Orleans County.

The school is part of the Cobbletone Museum, and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. The building was completed in 1849 in the Greek Revivial style. The District No. 5 Schoolhouse is a wood-framed structure with a lake-washed stone veneer, and includes a cupula that holds the school’s bell, according to the museum.

The cobblestone schoolhouse served District No. 5 for 103 years before it was closed in 1952 after the centralization of Albion’s school district. In 1961, it was sold to the Cobblestone Society Museum for $129.

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Gaines GOP announces endorsements for town positions

Posted 4 June 2017 at 11:20 pm

Press Release, Gaines Republican Committee

GAINES – The Town of Gaines Republican Committee proudly announces their endorsements for several elected offices in the Town of Gaines.

The committee advertised in traditional and social media seeking candidates who are dedicated to the principles of the Republican Party, in particular a belief in the Constitution, the rule of law, and fiscal responsibility.

Of particular interest this election year will be a focus on the openness of the town government. All of our candidates believe government functions best in the open, and with honest interaction with their constituents. Two incumbents, Jim Kirby and Bruce Schmidt, sought support to continue in their current roles. All other endorsed candidates are first-time candidates in a town race.

Our slate of endorsed candidates include:

Town Supervisor – Joseph Grube: Joe has been a resident of the town since 2012 and lives on West Bacon Road with his wife, Lori. A lifelong Republican, he has been active in the party since his early years as a voter, previously serving as a Councilman and Republican Party Committee member in Otto, NY. Joe retired as a Captain from the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office in 2011 and has worked in the private sector since, currently as a senior regional manager of a leading public safety telecommunications manufacturer.

In his professional life, he has managed large numbers of employees and been responsible for significant budgets of taxpayers’ dollars. His professional and personal experience is enhanced with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Community and Human Services from SUNY Empire State College. He looks forward to leading the town into the future and utilizing his experience to do so with the utmost of care and professionalism.

Town Clerk – Susan Heard: Susan is uniquely qualified to serve the Town of Gaines as its Town Clerk. She is currently the Orleans County Treasurer, a position she has held for over 20 years. She brings an absolute wealth of experience in the function of government with her expertise in budgeting, tax collection, auditing, accounting, banking, legislative resolutions, and bond issuance, to name a few.

She also has tremendous skills in payroll and vendor payments, and the timely and accurate filing of necessary reports to state and federal agencies. She’s also a Notary Public, and has served as a watchdog of the taxpayer’s money her entire professional career. Her focus as Town Clerk will be bringing a new level of skill and professionalism to the office, as well as acting as an independently elected town official.

Town Councilman – James Kirby: Jim has served the Town of Gaines as a member of the Town Board for many years. His wealth of knowledge and experience in the operations of the town over several different supervisors is immeasurable. Jim and his family operate a successful farming operation in the town and through that business, are acutely aware of the effects decisions of local, county, state, and federal government have on agriculture – our most vital business in Gaines and Orleans County.

Town Councilman – Tyler Allport: Tyler is a proud, lifelong Republican and resident of the Town of Gaines. He is excited for the prospect of adding youth and integrity to our Town Board. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, with a Concentration in Pre Law from SUNY Brockport, and is currently the Hazard Insurance Manager at Key Bank.  He has a strong belief in the core values of the party, and uses them as guidelines in his everyday life. He feels those same principles are the pillars to be utilized to ensure our town’s success.

Town Justice – Bruce Schmidt: Bruce has been the Justice in the Town of Gaines since 2009. Outside his role as Justice, Bruce is active as a board member of the Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern (GOMOC), the Lyndonville Lions Club, and as a board member and officer of Genesee Orleans Community Action, as well as other community groups.

Committee members and candidates will begin circulating designating petitions on June 6 as a part of the elections process.

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Cobblestone Museum kicks off new season on Sunday

Photo by Tom Rivers: Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum, is pictured with a “This Place Matters” banner in front of the Cobblestone Universalist Church at 14393 Ridge Rd. The banner is part of a national campaign to highlight historic sites by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Cobblestone Museum opens on Sunday with paintings, quilts and textiles on display, as well as the important artifacts in the museum buildings.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 May 2017 at 9:42 am

Mothers are welcome to tour historic site and see exhibitions for free on May 14

CHILDS — Sunday is Mother’s Day, which is also the traditional kick off of a new season at the Cobblestone Museum.
The museum is opening a new season with an exhibit from “Sunday Painters of Yesteryear” and a display of coverlets and quilts from the museum’s and community members’ collections. Mothers will be welcomed to the historic complex for free, and also will be given a flower. Opening day is from 1 to 5 p.m.

The museum this year also is offering free admission throughout the season for children 12 and under who are accompanied by an adult.

The museum is a National Historic Landmark with a collection of more than a dozen structures near the intersection of routes 98 and 104. The Cobblestone Universalist Church, built in 1834, is the oldest cobblestone church in North America. The church will host the art exhibit and display of quilts and coverlets.

The museum has a new logo as part of a branding campaign.

The “Sunday Painters” feature more than 50 paintings from people with no formal training in art. The artists painted for fun, often on a Sunday. The paintings were collected by Rene Schasel and Bill Lattin, the retired museum director. (There will be a First Friday reception for the exhibit on June 2 in the evening.)

The museum hired a new director for this season. Doug Farley started on March 1. He said he has developed a greater appreciation for the museum’s local, regional and national importance.

“Now that I’m seeing the great asset that we have and its potential as a heritage tourism destination is exciting,” Farley said. “The museum tells of the influence from the opening of the Erie Canal. Farmers could afford to build nice houses because they had a market for their goods. It speaks of the great wealth of the area after the canal opened.”

Farley and the museum’s leaders would like to see the historic site have a greater role in promoting heritage tourism locally. The museum is planning a VIP celebration on June 14 to share a vision for the future, which would include a new visitor’s/welcome center for the area.

That building is eyed for behind the Ward House on Route 104, where current restrooms are located. If the project becomes a reality, Farley said those restrooms and a next-door outhouse could be relocated to the cobblestone schoolhouse down the road.

The June 14 event at the Daughters of the American Revolution is an opportunity for feedback on the visitor center, and to see if there would be community support for the project.

The museum is also working to keep up the existing historic structures. Some of the windows in the church will be repaired and repainted this year. The Ward House also is receiving new steps and drainage improvements to protect the building.

The museum is pursuing other grants and support to help maintain the historic site, including an engineering assessment of Farmers’ Hall on Route 98 near Proctor Brook.

The museum was established by the Cobblestone Society in 1960 and opened for its first tour in 1961.

For more information, click here.

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Gaines Basin cobblestone schoolhouse goes from verge of extinction to historic designation

File photos by Tom Rivers: Volunteers worked to save a former Cobblestone Schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road in Gaines, just north of the Erie Canal. The school was built in 1832, and may be the oldest cobblestone building in the county.

Staff Reports Posted 10 May 2017 at 6:46 am

Governor approves site for State and National Register of Historic Places

GAINES – A cobblestone building constructed in 1832 and used as a schoolhouse until 1944 was on the verge of falling down, until a a group of volunteers put on a new roof and stabilized the building.

The Orleans County Historical Association has given it new life as a meeting place.

This week Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the schoolhouse was headed for the State and National Register of Historic Places. It is one of 20 sites around the state headed for the lofty status.

“The history of the Empire State is the history of this nation,” Governor Cuomo said. “These designations will help ensure the storied sites and places that dot every corner of this state, will be preserved for future generations of New Yorkers.”

Volunteers in 2015 cleared most of debris from the inside of the former school. Gaines Town Historian Al Capurso said many pioneer children in Orleans County were taught at the school, which was also used for countless town meetings.

The State and National Registers are the official lists of buildings, structures, districts, landscapes, objects and sites significant in the history, architecture, archeology and culture of New York State and the nation. There are more than 120,000 historic buildings, structures and sites throughout the state listed on the National Register of Historic Places, individually or as components of historic districts. Property owners, municipalities and organizations from communities throughout the state sponsored the nominations.

Once the recommendations are approved by the state historic preservation officer, the properties are listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and then nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, where they are reviewed and, once approved, entered on the National Register.

State and National Registers listing can assist property owners in revitalizing buildings, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

For the past two years, the Orleans County Historical Association has worked to save and stabilize the building at 3302 Gaines Basin Rd., just north of the Erie Canal.

The 913-square-foot building hasn’t been used much since it was closed as a school in 1944. Nor had there been much upkeep of the building until 2015.

Al Capurso, the Gaines town historian, pushed to save the building from collapse. The site received a new historical marker in October 2015.

He thanked Erin Anheier of Clarendon for writing the nomination for the schoolhouse.

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Navarra’s Farm Market and Greenhouses perseveres after difficult loss

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Siblings Jenna, Amanda and Markus Mrzywka pose among and assortment of plants in one of their greenhouses at 3272 Eagle Harbor Rd.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 4 May 2017 at 6:06 pm

Windstorm also took down greenhouses in March

File photo by Tom Rivers: The powerful winds on March 8 blew off the plastic on four of the buildings at Navarra’s in Gaines.

GAINES – March 2017 weather brought misery for residents across Orleans County, but for brother and sister Amanda and Markus Mrzywka of Navarra’s Farm Market and Greenhouses on Eagle Harbor Road in Gaines, the severe weather was just one part of a series of life-altering challenges which came just as the intense work of preparing for the upcoming growing season got underway.

First, there was the devastating wind storm of March 8, which resulted in the loss of four of their six greenhouses. The following week, the late-season snowstorm dumped two feet of snow.

Then, on March 21, Paul Navarra, the owner of Navarra’s, and Amanda and Markus’ uncle, died unexpectedly.

Still reeling from the weather-related challenges, the siblings – including sister Jenna, their mom Joan, aunts, uncles and cousins – moved forward by pulling together as a family and utilizing amazing resilience to get the business back on its feet.

Amazingly, despite all the unexpected setbacks, Navarra’s greenhouses are back up and functioning and full of lush, young plants destined for area gardens and municipalities. The business opened for the season April 28, just as it has for years.

“We are very afraid that customers will think we are not opening this season because of the loss of my uncle and with all the damage we went through,” Amanda said. “Many think we couldn’t possibly get our greenhouses fixed and ready in time for this season.”

One of the main greenhouses at Navarra’s bursting with plants and hanging baskets. Herbs in the foreground are just getting their start.

The family overcame the early March windstorm damage by moving quickly. Amanda and Markus said they were eating a mid-day meal March 8, when they realized how severe the winds had become and discovered the plastic which covers greenhouses was beginning to tear.

They knew the plastic would have to be completely removed immediately to prevent it from blowing into the nearby roadway. The seedlings and young plants already growing in the damaged greenhouses had to be transferred to ones that were still intact.

Amanda Mrzywka demonstrates how to use Navarra’s new needle seeder, which is run by an air compressor.  Acquiring the seeder was a dream of her late uncle Paul Navarra. It makes the process of starting seeds much easier and faster. Amanda said she can plant a 512 count tray in 1 minute, 40 seconds with the seeder. Eventually, Navarra’s would like to be able to offer custom seeding to area growers.

After the wild early March weather, the family worked swiftly to reconstruct the greenhouses which had been lost.

“We had a lot of crews come out to volunteer and help us replace plastic and wood,” Amanda said.

All the help from family and friends enabled Navarra’s to continue with the early spring work of seeding and starting new vegetable, flower and herb plants to sell for the coming growing season.

The family is also working to cope with the grief of the loss of Paul. Amanda and Markus say Paul had undergone hernia surgery in late February and was recovering, when he died unexpectedly at home on March 21.

The three Mrzywka siblings have been a part of the greenhouse business and farm their entire lives and were determined to keep it going. Amanda and Markus have become co-owners, and will carry on a family tradition which began decades ago. Their sister, Jenna, also helps out as does their mom, Joan Navarra-Mrzywka, aunts, uncles and cousins.

“We are a fourth generation farming family,” Markus said.

Paul Navarra was well known in the area for his attendance at the Rochester Public Market, where for about 30 years he sold vegetables, fruits and flowers grown on the farm and in the greenhouses.  Markus will now focus on maintaining that tradition and will be at the market at least four days each week through the growing season. He is also in charge of the farming operation.

Markus and Amanda pose behind Martha Washington geraniums under the familiar tent at Navarra’s on Eagle Harbor Road. Markus, who is taking charge of the farm side of the business, said he is hoping the weather will dry out soon so he can focus on planting vegetables and fruits.  The produce will be sold at the Rochester Public Market and at Navarra’s Market and Greenhouses.

Amanda says Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren presented the family with a certificate of recognition for Paul’s dedication to the Rochester Public Market. It will be framed and hung in a new seasonal building at Navarra’s Farm Market and Greenhouses.

The building will have a prominent spot at the market and be used as a protected spot for cash registers and displaying gardening items, vegetables and fruits. Customers will see the familiar tent again this year outside the greenhouses, but the seasonal building will add a new dimension to their shopping experience.

Lucy, Navarra’s popular greenhouse kitty, checks to see that the Gerbera plants are growing properly.  She welcomes treats and affection from customers.

Visiting Narvarra’s now, it’s hard to tell what the family has endured preparing for the 2017 season. The greenhouses are back up and functioning and the assortment of plants – most grown from seed on site – is astounding.

“It makes you stronger,” Joan Navarra-Mrzywka said regarding the unexpected obstacles the family and business has faced this spring. Paul Navarra was Joan’s brother and the two were especially close.

“We just take it one day at a time,” she said.

Navarra’s is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.  The Farm Market and Greenhouses are located at 3272 Eagle Harbor Rd. just north of the canal.

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Son uses CPR to save father after heart attack

Photos by Tom Rivers: Kenny Capurso gave his father Al Capurso CPR on March 23 after he suffered a heart attack at home in Gaines. Al Capurso gave his son “Lifesavers” candy for his life-saving actions.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2017 at 10:55 am

 ‘I’m eternally grateful for what Kenny did – that he knew what to do and did it.’ Al Capurso speaking of his son

GAINES – Al Capurso called out this son at about 10:10 in the morning on March 23. Capurso was upstairs. Kenny, 18, was down the hall in his room.

He rushed to to see his father, who was having a heart attack. Mr. Capurso, 64, gasped for air, and then was unconscious. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t breathing. He appeared paralyzed.

Kenny quickly called 911 and a dispatcher gave him CPR instructions: two quick breaths and 30 compressions.

Kenny also remembered the basics from health class in middle school. He moved his father to the floor, gave him two quick breaths and then 30 compressions.

After two cycles, his father started breathing again with shallow breaths. But that stopped and Kenny resumed CPR.

He did CPR for about 5 minutes until paramedics arrived from the Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance. COVA medics would shock Capurso three times with a defibrillator in the house. The medics and volunteer firefighters transported him from upstairs, down a narrow staircase, and to the ambulance, where he was shocked twice more.

Capurso was stabilized at Medina Memorial Hospital, and then flown by Mercy Flight to Rochester General Hospital, where he had heart surgery. (He now has a pacemaker and defibrillator.)

He spent eight days in the hospital and has been home for about week, already back to planning projects in his role as Gaines town historian.

Capurso is a retired social worker who ran the Bait Barn, a tackle shop by his home on Route 279 for more than 20 years. He is well known locally, active in the Democratic Party. He sings and plays his guitar at many local events.

“I’m eternally grateful for what Kenny did – that he knew what to do and did it,” Capurso said at his home on Friday.

Kenny works at Tractor Supply in Medina, starting his shift at 3 p.m. On March 23, he and his father were planning a late breakfast of French toast, hash browns and sausage.

Kenny remembers his father calling out his name: “Kenny.”

The son went to check on his father. He called 911 and was able to quickly start CPR.

He made sure his father’s mouth was clear. Mr. Capurso had heart surgery two years ago. He suffered a broken sternum and five broken ribs from the CPR. That is still tender.

Capurso has no memory of the heart attack and the life-saving efforts afterward. He didn’t have a heart attack due to blockage. The bottom of his heart was quivering, and not not beating. There was a potassium imbalance.

Al Capurso sings and plays his guitar in the fellowship hall at Christ Church on Oct. 24, 2015. He performs at many local community events.

It took about five days after the heart attack until Capurso was alert in the hospital. He requested his guitar. The first song he played and sang was Kenny’s favorite: “The Cat’s in the Cradle,” a folk rock song.

Al on March 31 posted a message on Facebook: “I’m home in the warm hold of my loving family. So grateful to God for this chance.”

Kenny called the middle school on Friday and spoke with Principal Dan Monacelli. Kenny told the principal his middle school health class, led by teacher Pat Uveino, included CPR. Kenny used that knowledge on March 23, allowing him to save his father’s life.

The family also wants to thank the dispatcher that morning, the COVA medics, and volunteer firefighters. Capurso was at Medina Memorial Hospital for two hours. The doctor and staff there had him stabilized so he could fly by Mercy Flight. The staff also determined he would need the higher-level care at Rochester General.

“We want to say thank you to all of the first responders, and the doctors and nurses that worked on him,” Kenny said.

Capurso and his wife Chris have four children, and seven grandchildren.

“It’s the proudest moment of my life,” Kenny said. “I saved my father’s life. My mother, brother and sisters can talk to him again.”

Kenny said his parents have long instilled the importance of community service in their children. Kenny said he wants to pursue a career as a paramedic.

The family also wants to encourage others to know CPR.

“CPR is everyone’s job,” said Chris Capurso. “Everyone should know it.”

Al Capurso is pictured on Oct. 17, 2015 when a new historical marker that was unveiled by a former one-room schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the Erie Canal. The schoolhouse was built in 1832 and is one of the oldest cobblestone buildings in the area.

Mr. Capurso is back to working on local historical and heritage projects. He was instrumental in saving a former cobblestone school house on Gaines Basin Road.

Capurso sent an email on Thursday to members of the Orleans County Historical Association, notifying them the schoolhouse has qualified to be listed on the New York State and National Registry of Historic Places. Capurso is president of the OCHA.

He wants a flag pole at the site, a marker on the building noting it’s on the state and national registers, a new front door and new paint on the trim. Boy Scouts are helping with some of those projects. Capurso is working towards a July dedication of the flagpole. He also wants a bench out in front of the school in memory of Woody baker, the past OCHA president who supported the schoolhouse’s preservation efforts.

He also is working to have the bell tower refurbished at the cobblestone schoolhouse on Route 104 that is part of the Cobblestone Museum. Capurso is planning an Aug. 19 event of the bell’s dedication in honor of William Babbitt, who was superintendent of the construction of the school in 1849. Babbitt donated the bell to the school in 1849. Some of his descendants are expected to attend the August dedication of the restored bell tower.

Capurso’s wife, Chris, said her husband is dedicated to his local projects.

“He’s back to going 100 miles an hour,” his wife said.

Mr. Capurso said the projects don’t feel like work.

“It’s fun,” he said.

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Long-time antiques dealer sees value in items from yesteryear

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 February 2017 at 1:46 pm

‘The crazier, unusual stuff, the better’ – Robin Stelmach

Photos by Tom Rivers: Robin Stelmach is pictured inside Americana Unlimited Antiques, his business at the corner of Ridge Road and Route 279 in Gaines. Stelmach will be doing an antiques appraisal fair on Saturday at Tillman’s Village Inn as a benefit for the Cobblestone Society.

GAINES – When Robin Stelmach was a college student at Brockport about three decades ago, he would drive Ridge Road from Niagara County to Brockport. There were about 20 antiques businesses then.

Now there are only a few remaining. Stelmach’s business, Americana Unlimited Antiques, has been based in Gaines on Ridge Road for about 20 years. He is at the corner of Ridge Road and Route 279, a 9,000-square-foot building that used to be a stage coach stop in the 1800s and later served as a grange.

Stelmach has all kinds of stuff inside, including paintings from untrained artists, bicycles, mounted animals, furniture, business signs, vintage beer bottles and fishing lures. It’s all old stuff.

Robin Stelmach likes to collect clown shoes, which he said are hard to come by. “You never know what people will collect,” he said.

Stelmach, 53, has been in the antiques business since he was 8. It’s been his full-time profession since 1990. He doesn’t do any sales on-line.

“Most of my business is word of mouth,” he said today. “Most of it is out of state.”

Stelmach can identify almost any household object, any artifact that may have been stored away in an attic for years – even decades. An antique appraiser and dealer needs to be versatile, with know-how in just about everything, he said.

“You can’t be one-dimensional in the antique business or you will fail,” he said today.

While Stelmach has a general knowledge of all kinds of antiques, he said he specializes in guns, coins and rugs.

This Saturday, Stelmach and another antique dealer, Mark Christopher of Dream Speaker Antiques, will have an antique appraisal fair at Tillman’s Village Inn at the corner of Ridge Road and Route 98. The event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is a benefit for the Cobblestone Society and Museum. (Click here for more information.)

Stelmach encourages people to not throw away things that might seem like junk until they have an antiques professional take a look. He said there may be unexpected treasures in the attic. Some old Levi’s jeans from the early 1970s are worth $500 to $1,000, for example.

Some people stash away old pocketwatches, coins, pottery, furniture, even beer bottles that may jump in value over the years.

He does a few antique appraisal fairs each year, with shows in the Adirondacks and Massachusetts. Stelmach is a former trustee for the Cobblestone Museum. He wanted to do a local event to support the museum.

“People really just want to know and understand what it is,” he said about some of the items discovered in houses and garages.

Stelmach sells all kinds of stuff, from old bikes (ones with banana seats are popular) to paintings from untrained artists. Chinese porcelains “are really hot right now,” and vinyl records are making a comeback.

Among his vast collection, Stelmach said three pairs of clown shoes are among his favorite. “They’re very rare,” he said about the shoes. “Most clowns are buried with their shoes.”

His collection of taxidermied animals include polar bears, caribou, moose, bison and a giant tuna.

“Anything is collectable,” he said. “You never know what people will collect.”

The antiques business is a tough one, especially in this part of the state. The market is depressed around Orleans County. Stelmach sells many of his antiques out of the area.

The biggest factor making antiques  a challenging business, though, may be changing demographics. Stelmach said younger adults, ages 45 and under, prefer homes with less stuff.

“People don’t collect as much as they used to,” he said.

But he said the market is always changing. He thinks there will be a resurgence even among younger adults for antiques, for items that aren’t mass produced and cheaply made.

“We live in such a throw-away society right now,” Stelmach said.

He welcomed people to bring in items on Saturday, from original art to household furnishings (pictures of a bed or dresser would suffice).

“The crazier, unusual stuff, the better,” he said. “I’m good at knowing what things are.”

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Crosby’s remodels stores in Albion, Gaines

Photos by Tom Rivers: Melissa Clark, store manager of the Crosby’s in Gaines, is pictured by the new expanded beverage area at the convenience store located at the corner of Routes 98 and 104.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 February 2017 at 2:31 pm

This group cuts the ribbon on the improvements at the Gaines store. They include, from left: Darrin Barber, Crosby’s director of operations; Tim Buchman, senior account manager for Schmitt Sales which supplies the Crosby’s with fuel; Janice Hunt, district supervisor; Missy Kruger, former store manager now at Hamlin store; Melissa Clark, store manager; Carol Culhane, Gaines town supervisor; and Doug Galli, vice president and general manager for Crosby’s.

GAINES – Crosby’s, which owns 49 convenience stores in Western New York, today celebrated recent renovations of the stores in Albion and Gaines.

The company made a six-figure investment in each location, upgrading kitchen equipment, the interior décor, adding digital menus, and expanding the beverage offerings with more machines for coffee, milkshakes and fountain sodas.

“We’re not just a gas station,” said Doug Galli, Crosby’s vice president and general manager. “We’re a convenience store that also sells gasoline.”

The company wants to promote its pizza, sub sandwiches and high-quality coffee, Galli said.

Crosby’s tries to upgrade each store every seven to eight years, he said.

The Gaines and Albion stores will also soon get order kiosks, which will speed up the time for customers to place orders.

Carol Culhane, the Gaines town supervisor, said the Gaines store in historic Childs is busy. She remembers when the site was once a small grocery store owned by the Radzinski family. In the late 1990s, the Piedimonte family tore down the grocery store and built a new convenience store and gas station called JP’s II. Crosby’s acquired the site about seven years ago.

“They have a great business,” Culhane said today during a ribbon-cutting celebration. “They’re friendly and the store is always well kept up.”

She said it is a popular spot on Ridge Road.

“It’s a great place where you can grab and go,” she said.

The Gaines store has 13 employees. Crosby’s also owns stores in Orleans County in Albion, Kendall, Clarendon, Holley and Medina.

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