January 03, 2008


Pizzerias slice share of local market thinner

Domino’s latest to open in Cortland, adding to the area’s more than 15 pizza parlors


Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
Joe Cianfrano, general manager of the newly opened Domino’s Pizza, spins dough into a pizza crust in the new Court Street restaurant. Pizza shop owners give a variety of reasons for the booming pizza market, including the area’s college population, a depressed economy and the city’s Italian heritage.

Staff Reporter

Pizzeria owners have differing views on the effect of a plethora of pizza parlors in the Cortland area as yet another pizzeria has opened.
Some say competition from the area’s more than 15 pizza makers poses no threat while others wonder how they will stay in business.
Domino’s has opened at 8 Court St., where Meldrim’s Paint Center operated for more than 50 years.
Pizza shop owners give a variety of reasons for the booming pizza market, including the area’s college population, a depressed economy and the city’s Italian heritage.
Domino’s, which opened Sunday, now joins such downtown pizza shops as A Pizza And More, Mark’s Pizzeria, Barsoni’s Pizza, Cosimo’s Italian Carry Out and Pudgie’s Pizza.
The Hollywood Restaurant and Melodyland Restaurant also sell pizza, while DP Dough sells calzones.
Pizza parlors outside of Cortland’s Main Street area include Pontillo’s Pizzeria on Groton Avenue, Little Caesar’s in Cortlandville, and Pizza Hut in Cortlandville. The Red Dragon, East Side Bakery, Little Italy in Homer and Gator’s Tavern also sell pizza.
Jared Carlton, owner of Mark’s Pizzeria at 105 Main St., said he believes the main reason for the large number of pizzerias is Cortland’s college student population.
That is largely what drew Domino’s to the area, said Michael Lee, owner of the Domino’s Court Street location.
“We chose this location because it’s so close to campus,” Lee said, noting he expects 90 percent of sales to be deliveries.
But the college population is not the only explanation for Cortland’s large number of pizza shops.
One likely explanation is Cortland’s Italian heritage, said Bill Cleary, owner of Pudgie’s Pizza at 75 N. Main St.
Italian roots are what drove Melodyland Restaurant, at 208 Main St., and Cosimo’s Italian Carry Out, at 3 Huntington St., to start their restaurants in 1934 and 2002, respectively.
“Cooking is my hobby,” said James Cosimo, who owns Cosimo’s Italian Carry Out with his wife, Elizabeth. “I’m a full-blooded Italian. If you went to my house as a child, you would have tasted same food (that’s in the restaurant) on the table.”
Another factor contributing to the large number of pizza shops, especially in recent years, is probably a lack of other career opportunities in Cortland, Cleary said.
“I’d say one reason is the stagnant economy,” he said. “People just don’t have anything else to do.”
While Cleary believes an increase in the number of pizza places also reflects an increased demand for pizza, some wonder if that is really the case.
Barb Gage, owner of Barsoni’s Pizza at 46 Main St., said she believes the market is over saturated with pizza places. She worries that with the arrival of Domino’s, her business will suffer.
“It’s a whole new ball park competing with 13 or so places versus three or four,” she said, noting there were just a few such places when she was growing up in Cortland in the 1970s and her restaurant, which she bought from Charlie Monteleone, was Monteleone’s Pizzeria.
An increase in competition is forcing some local pizza shops to innovate and further stress what makes them special.
Gage, for example, said she honors coupons from all local pizza shops, delivers as far away as Virgil, McGraw, McLean and Dryden and makes true New York Style pizza, in a flat oven.
She is considering adding a salad bar.
“I think that’s the next step before I decide I can’t do it anymore,” she said.
Carlton, who said he is concerned about competition from Domino’s, said his restaurant has pizza offerings that can’t be found elsewhere locally.
Those include chicken, bacon and ranch pizza, Philly steak pizza and burger pizza, he said.
Carlton said he also emphasizes to customers that the dough is made every day, whereas chains such as Domino’s get dough a few times a week and freeze it, which Domino’s confirmed.
Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, said competition can be a good thing.
“Competition gives businesses the opportunity to sharpen their pencils, so to speak, so they can be proud of their product and proud of their service, and not threatened by it.”
Other pizza places, such as Pudgie’s, Cosimo’s and Melodyland Restaurant, say they aren’t at all concerned with competition from Domino’s because they have a stable client base full of loyal town folk.
“We have the same base all the time because it’s a family restaurant,” said Maria Reitano, who owns Melodyland Restaurant with her daughter, Lisa. “People have come since it’s been here, and their kids and their kids.”
Pudgie’s and Cosimo’s say their clientele mostly consists of local residents, as opposed to the college students Domino’s is looking to cater to.
But Domino’s may chip away at some of that business.
Bethany Mastronardi, a 17-year-old whose pizza shops of choice includes Pudgie’s, said she is excited about Domino’s moving in.
“I always see the commercials,” she said. “All the things look so good.”




On humanitarian mission —

Locals find themselves part of Kenya turmoil

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A group of nine people from the Cortland area on a humanitarian mission to Kenya are facing chaos in a country they hoped to help.
Members of the organization HOPE Unites traveled to Kenya Dec. 28, a country now caught up in protests and ethnic violence spurred by a questionable vote for the country’s president.
Dr. Andy Chernow said he has only heard from his wife, Fran Gutman-Chernow indirectly, through Gracie Forrester, wife of Greg Forrester, a local resident who is leading the mission and also is director of HOPE Unites.
Chernow said his wife left Dec. 28 and after a stop in London the group landed in Nairobi. From there they were supposed to leave Sunday to continue toward their destination of Suna.
“Everything seems fine,” Chernow said, noting he is receiving e-mail updates from Gracie Forrester.
Still, Chernow is concerned.
“I have a lot of faith in Greg Forester and his decision-making,” Chernow said in a phone interview from his office on Euclid Avenue in Cortland. “It’s funny, you hear about these things and don’t think about them until someone who you know is there.”
According to an e-mail from Greg Forrester, who, started Humanity Outreach Partners Enterprises in January 2004 to alleviate human suffering throughout the world, 15 team members went on the trip, including a dentist and her husband from Alaska, two otherswere from New Jersey and two from Pennsylvania.
In addition to Gutman-Chernow. Also on the missionary trip from the area are: Forrester and his daughter Madeliene Forrester; Carol Janik, a Cortland resident; three other adults and two other youths. No one involved in the project would release names of the others on the trip
The plan was to assist in building a school — Nyabisawa Academy — work in an orphanage and host a small dental clinic.
“We started our journey with a flight from JKF to London and then traveled from London to Nairobi on Dec. 30,” Forrester wrote in an e-mail. “All indications were that the elections were peaceful and upon landing in Nairobi found that things were much different than _anticipated.”
Forrester wrote that the group stayed in Nairobi at a Methodist guesthouse near Ngong Road from Sunday until Wednesday, when they traveled by air to the city of Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria.
“Though there was evidence of disruption and looting, the people remain optimistic that justice will prevail,” he wrote. “Due to a lack of food, fuel, transportation and concerns for our well-being we are remaining for several days in Kisumu before traveling further to the south.”
In the e-mail, Forrester went on to say violence has been limited to some areas that are strongholds of both Kibaki and Odinga. He said in Nairobi they saw evidence of some looting and saw no obvious problems Sunday, Monday or Tuesday where they stayed, although at night they heard some gunfire in the distance.



C’ville sets date for zoning ordinance vote

Town Board still considering concerns over changes to ordinance that delayed previous vote

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The Town Board on Wednesday scheduled its vote on the new zoning code for its next meeting on Jan. 16.
The revised ordinance was supposed to be voted on during the board’s Dec. 20 meeting, but was tabled after residents voiced concerns that the code contradicted recommendations of area scientists and the town Planning Board.
Town Supervisor Dick Tupper said this morning that the board has been in close contact with its engineering firm, Clough Harbour & Associates, about the concerns.
“No final decisions have been made yet,” he said. “We will keep in contact with them until our next meeting and make sure we are comfortable with the final draft.”
The decision, more than five years in the making, will be determined after a public hearing on the zoning bulk regulations — which are general limitations on lot size and width, front, side and rear yard sizes, as well as parking requirements in the town’s business and industrial districts — that were accidentally left out of the most recent revised version of the zoning ordinance developed on Dec. 10.
The rezoning process began in 2001 and ultimately reorganizes residential business and industrial districts in the town.
“The idea is to make it a more orderly transition,” Tupper said.
Tupper added that prior to the revision process, the town’s zoning ordinances were written in 1978, when the town was mostly a residential area. In 2002, a corridor study was conducted on routes 13 and 281, which Tupper said are the fastest developing areas in the town.
“We decided we needed to take a look and revise the industrial and business districts,” he said.
The revised version of the zoning code states that lots or parcels located in Wellhead Protection Zone 1a should provide at least 50 percent green space and lots in protection zone 1b should provide at least 30 percent green space.
A Wellhead Protection Zone is based on the amount of time it would take a contaminant to travel to the town’s municipal drinking water wells on Terrace Road from various points of origin in the town.
Zone 1a is based on a potential two-year travel time for a pollutant, while Zone 1b is based on a five-year travel time. Zone 2 includes the remainder of the town and requires minimum green space of 25 percent.
Lots or parcels having areas of 3 acres or less, regardless of location, must provide at least 20 percent green space.




Towns may apply for state farm plan grant

Staff Reporter

The towns of Homer, Preble and Scott are considering a joint application for a $50,000 state grant to set up a shared farmland protection plan.
The plan would guide development around farmland and help the municipalities secure state farmland protection grants, which preserve farmland.
Homer Town Supervisor Fred Forbes said the town is interested in coming up with a plan, given the importance of agriculture.
One plan among the three towns would help prevent disjointed development and competition among them, Forbes said.
The Homer Town Board unanimously voted in favor of the application Wednesday.
“It would be ridiculous for each town to apply for the grant, and the towns run into each other,” Forbes said. “It just makes sense to do it together.”
A joint application also increases the eligible grant amount from $25,000 for a single municipality to $50,000 for two or more towns.
Forbes said it is not likely the towns, which he said have to kick in 5 percent of the total plan cost, would use the full $50,000. The towns would receive the amount they need.
Vernon Filkins II, a Scott Town Board member, said he and fellow Town Board members need to learn more before voting on a resolution to apply for a grant with the towns of Homer and Preble.
He said he will be meeting with the town of Homer on Jan. 15. “I’m a farmer, so I’m very interested in learning about it,” he said.
Preble Supervisor Elizabeth Pitman said the board is divided over whether to apply for the grant.
The town of Preble already has a farmland protection plan, which it created over the summer. But it might be a good idea to come up with a more comprehensive plan with the other towns, she said.
The board will discuss the issue, and possibly vote on it, at its meeting Tuesday, Pitman said.
“I’ve got some questions before I make a decision,” she said.
The state has provided grants to counties for farmland protection plans for a number of years, and has just started offering farmland protection plan grants to towns, according to Jerry Cosgrove, deputy commissioner at the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets.