NORTH TONAWANDA – The Common Council Tuesday night approved the $95,000 sale of Ava’s Place, a defunct Webster Street bar, to the head of the city’s business association, who wants to rehab it into an apartment and shop.
“There’s a lot of excitement on Webster,” said Jay Soemann, owner of Walker Brothers and Monroe Jewelers at 84 Webster. “It’s really turning into the place to be.”
Ava’s, which had filed for bankruptcy, was taken over by the city for back taxes, said Council President Richard Andres. “We’re happy to say it’s not going to sit vacant,” he said.
Soemann’s purchase is part of a general shift towards improvements for the street, which has had years of decline since the 1920s, when Soemann’s grandmother was manager of the store his father eventually bought.
New businesses have been moving into the neighborhood around the Riviera Theatre and changing things, said Soemann.
In the two years since the converted Sweeney Street factory opened as Remington Lofts with apartments, a yoga studio and the Remington Tavern restaurant, more people have been walking into his jewelry and clock store.
Soemann’s renovation of Ava’s, which has tin ceilings and dates to the 1880s, will be his second rehab: In 2010, he fixed up the rundown building at 82 Webster, which is now home to Canalside Creamery. Ava’s, at 88 Webster, is on the other side of Soemann’s shop.
Already people have shown interest in renting, but Soemann wants to do repairs before he shows the place.
Once the sale is finalized, he intends to approach the city’s Lumber City Development Corp. for grants and loans.
“Now that he owns it, we can actually talk numbers,” said Andres, who is on the Lumber City board.