Hungerfords committed to making Bent’s a busy place, tackling other projects in Medina

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Roger Hungerford stands by a display that describes the renovation of a barn on his property on Mountain Road in Middleport, which he turned into an elegant guest home. It was on display at his 50th class reunion at the old Medina High School, which he plans to convert into high-end loft apartments.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 September 2022 at 10:18 pm

MEDINA – It has been little more than year since Roger and Heather Hungerford opened the doors on Bent’s Opera House, a historic restoration project more than three years in the making.

The building now boasts an upscale restaurant with a world-class chef on the first floor, themed and professionally designed hotel rooms on the second floor and the majestic opera house on the third floor.

The Hungerfords are focused now on promoting the opera house as an event/entertainment venue, hoping to encourage the community to think of the opera house when they are looking for a place for private parties or public events. They have just started having swing dance lessons and swing dancing there the third Thursday of each month.

File photo: Bent’s Opera House now houses Harvest Restaurant, themed hotel rooms and the restored opera house.

Heather said it is their goal to have two major events a month. People can register for swing dance lessons online or just show up at the door. The 45-minute lessons will start at 6:30 p.m., followed by open dancing at 7:15 p.m.

The most recent big event was an evening of music by the Easy Street Big Band on Sept. 9. Harvest also will be expanding its hours to include Sunday brunch and dinner. They are open Wednesday through Sunday. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

The Hungerfords are also excited about a new dining experience in Harvest Restaurant. Wine Pairing Dinners have been extremely popular and feature a seven-course dinner, with each course paired with a wine chosen by that evening’s featured sommelier. The next dinner Sept. 25 will feature the head sommelier from Disney Cruise Lines. Reservations can be made by calling (585) 318-2110.

Plans are already in the works for a New Year’s Eve Ball at Bent’s Opera House and information on making a reservation will be available soon. It will be a Great Gatsby theme and attendees are encouraged to dress in that time period. Three levels of tickets will be available – gold which includes a night in the hotel and dinner; silver, which is dinner and the dance; and black for those who just want to attend the dance.

Roger purchased the historic Bent’s building from the Orleans Renaissance Group, which had been given the building when Bank of America moved out of town. The design phase began back in 2016. Shortly after purchasing it, an architect’s inspection discovered the building was in danger of collapsing due to deterioration of a main beam holding it up. Roger said in a previous interview he might have thought twice if had realized what he was getting into, but how could he let a historic building in the center of his home town fall to ruin. The restoration would cost millions and take three and one-half years, counting shut-downs during Covid.

During this time, Roger, who had formed Talis Historic Restoration to focus with his historic properties, had purchased the former Medina High School and the Luther mansion on West Center Street. Plans were announced for the high school, which he renamed Mustang City, to convert it into high-end loft apartments. Travis Farnsworth was hired and employees brought on board to be trained for historic restoration work, especially windows.

It was decided to go ahead with work to make the high school environmentally sound and ascetically attractive from the exterior. The old windows in the high school were restored, rather than replaced.

“We became highly expert at window restoration,” Hungerford said. “We had three jobs of our own that involved woodworking, doors, windows and floors – in Bent’s, Mustang City and Stonehurst (the Luther Mansion).”

Windows are the most difficult because they involve glass, glazing and weatherproofing, Roger said.

In the meantime, work has been delayed on Mustang City and Stonehurst because Farnsworth and his company are in such demand for historic restoration work throughout Western New York.

Hungerford bought the former high school more than four years ago, with the intention of turning it into high end loft apartments, which would appeal to business people, teachers, engineers and medical professionals, who are being attracted to Medina by growing businesses.

“We’re losing in terms of where these people live,” Hungerford said. “They work here, but they live elsewhere. We want to entice people who work here to live here.”

Meanwhile, Roger and his team of medical professionals continue to work on projects in the field of medical technology. He said he has sold his interest in Talis Clinical at the Cleveland Clinic, where he was a major partner.

Readers will recall Roger’s involvement with the medical industry goes back to his father Van Hungerford, who worked at and later owned Sigmamotor. His father is credited with inventing the world’s first heart pump, and Roger’s contributions to the industry include inventing an intravenous delivery pump, a cardiopulmonary bypass pump and development of an advanced clinical guidance software tool, which electronically connects and integrates all manner of patient data. This is used especially for patients who are on multiple units, such as seizure pumps, patient monitors, infusion pumps and cardiopulmonary pumps.

His current project is a medical technology company that foresees will operate for future generations out of the Pickle Factory.

His days aren’t all work, though. He finds time for his favorite hobby, riding bike. He began riding while in college, where he raced bikes. During a recent week he shared he observed the 1,000th day of consecutively riding his bike, either inside or outside. He has logged 17,000 miles. Outside he typically rides 17 miles, and sometimes as far as 60 miles.

“That’s not my most important accomplishment, but it’s the most bizarre,” he said.