November 2, 2014
News Flash (November 5th)
Andrea Dumas just won a seat on the Malone Village Board! New to political office, she ran against two incumbents — and prevailed over both. (We’re delighted to see Joe Riccio returned to office. He’s a wise and thoughtful man, and essential on that board. Brian Langdon did a creditable job as trustee, and deserves our appreciation. It’s a thankless job and Brian did well.)
RiverCityMalone.com interprets Andrea’s win as big “thumbs up” for Sisters Café and a signal that we all need to take a fresh approach to our village. (It is indeed ours! No, it does not belong to the Franklin County Dept of Social Services and the slumlords and riffraff they recklessly and infuriatingly bankroll — hopefully the dept’s new leadership will change this. Nor does it belong to NYS or Washington, with their outrageous and financially crippling directives, including those damn DSS mandates. Starting today, with Andrea’s victory, remember this. Malone is ours!)
Let us work with this gutsy woman to make her vision come true. Andrea Dumas is the face of the new optimism and determination in town.
It’s a good day in River City Malone — CLM.
— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
“What this country needs,” began Kansas Senator Joe Bristow, rising to address the US Senate on everything that ailed America — in 1917. Today, a century later, nobody remembers a word the man said, except for the rasping phrase, “What this country needs — ,” prefacing each item in his long list of solutions to America’s ills.
Presiding over the Senate that day was Woodrow Wilson’s Vice President, Thomas R. Marshall, a man notable for his wit and fondness for cigars. As Bristow droned on and senators dozed off, an exasperated Marshall reportedly interrupted, “What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar!”
I sometimes feel like Mr. Marshall as I listen to local politicians wind on about Malone’s ailing downtown and what’s required to get it “up and running.” Solutions include: grant money, state intervention, a hoped-for economic boom, “expanding the tax base,” “growing the economy,” another $20K report with PowerPoint by some outside (parasitic) agency, attracting investors, sprucing up existing buildings, tearing down existing buildings, fixing up the Flanagan, tearing down the Flanagan, blah blah blah. All no doubt splendid ideas, except — they never happen.
In the spirit of Marshall’s five-cent cigar, I propose something simple, achievable, modest, and home-grown. “What this downtown needs is a good, honest-to-god café.”
We had one with St. Lucia’s. Terrific café, except the location was disastrous. As realtors forever warn, “location” is everything.
Here’s the ideal spot:
Yep, right on the Memorial Park at the convergence of Elm and Main. In the Epstein building.
Breakfast and lunch. Wholesome food. A bakery with real baker. Breads, baguettes, croissants, bagels, muffins, cookies, pies. Lattés. Expresso. Cappuccino. Where the coffee’s hot, not lukewarm. Good sandwiches. Quiche. Salads. Soups. Waffles. Wifi access. Nice decor. Ample parking. Walking distance from two banks, lawyers’ offices, insurance offices, optometrist, dentist, newspaper, pharmacy, village office, post office, courthouse, hardware store, several doctors’ offices, IBC, several churches, library, and numerous businesses — for lunch. “Walking distance,” mind you, not driving distance. Meaning, all these people can walk there without the need of driving.
Sisters Café, book-ending the Shooting Gallery — my term for the traffic canyon from the courthouse to Elm Street.*
St. Lucia’s was smack in the Shooting Gallery. Doomed from day 1.
“Sisters” will be the beach-head for our D-Day assault on the Shooting Gallery — for taking back the canyon from the NYS Dept of Transportation. (I feel like a general revealing his battle plan to the enemy, except in this case the enemy is a paper tiger, nothing more than a bureaucratic mental block — as in “cement” block.)
In any case, let’s leave the fate of the Shooting Gallery for another day; at the moment I’m interested in establishing a point of light, of sanity, of joy, a point of community gathering. Not for riffraff, but people with the vision and financial wherewithal and cultural sophistication to make this happen and make it thrive. (If you’re reading this article, you’re probably one of them.)
Remember the brilliant and spectacularly successful “art opening” held this summer in the bowels of the Flanagan (of all places)? Sisters will be that, and more.
What Malone needs more than a $5 billion gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is — spirit. Re-inspiriting. It used to have a spirit, long before I moved here. Look at the postcards, above. Talk to people who grew up here. The nostalgia in their voice is palpable. Once you regain your spirit, there “ain’t nothin’” you can’t accomplish. Everything worthwhile in life starts with “spirit.”
“Sisters” is “spirit.”
Then, when we’ve got spirit for the downtown, good things will happen.
Sisters and the in-spiriting of the downtown isn’t my idea. It’s the carefully thought-out vision of Andrea Dumas and her fiancé, Wally Wright.
Meet Wally Wright, a third-generation builder from western NY with a B.S. degree from Michigan State in Construction Management and Structural Engineering. He’s built resorts, hospitals, casinos. He built this:
Wally sat in my living room and assured me that he would have no trouble transforming the Epstein building into a splendid café. (Um, I think we can believe the man.)
Andrea was a manager at the Whiteface Lodge. She’s a woman with panache, style, and amazing drive. She’s dreamed of a high-end café at this spot, she tells me, for years. In her mid-forties, she’s ready to make it happen.
Andrea makes the winter carnival “happen.” She makes the kids’ figure-skating program “happen.” She has in fact made many good things in this community “happen.” Now she and her soon-to-be husband (both residents of First Street, Malone) are ready to make Sisters Café “happen.”
Wally’s already inspected the building, top to bottom. He knows every inch. So does Andrea. He’s already got blueprints drawn up. They are ready to pull the trigger on buying it — and start work — tomorrow.
What this town needs is a brass band to celebrate the best idea I’ve heard in 17 years! Ladies and gentlemen, let’s break out the cigars!
* The name “Sisters Café” is provisional. Andrea & Wally have not settled on the final name. But “Sisters” sounds swell to me, so I’m gonna use it — CLM.