WHEATFIELD – Even as he is seeking a property tax break for his company’s new headquarters, the co-owner of Lake Effect Ice Cream said the Lockport artisan ice cream maker may quickly outgrow the site.
Erik M. Bernardi told the board of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency last week that the business is booming despite efforts by him and partner Jason Wulf to rein it in.
“We’re trying to put the brakes on the business in terms of growth so we can live up to our mantra, which is to make sure every step we take is on solid ground,” Bernardi said.
But sales have increased 135 percent in the past year, and the arrival of Lake Effect’s pints in two Erie County Wegmans stores six weeks ago may has been the tipping point for the business that the two Lockport High School teachers started in their basements five years ago.
Even though the only Weg-mans stores that stock Lake Effect are the locations on Amherst Street in Buffalo and McKinley Parkway in Blasdell, Bernardi said Wegmans already accounts for more than 70 percent of the company’s sales, or 3,000 pints a month.
That’s true even though Lake Effect also is available at seven Tops stores and several smaller retailers in Niagara, Erie and Orleans counties.
“We may require a full-scale production kitchen, but we have no intention of ever moving from Canal Street,” Bernardi said.
The company bought a 2,000-square-foot building at 79 Canal St. from the City of Lockport in November, and won city approval to add 450 square feet to the building, which is to host Lake Effect’s production and its successful seasonal retail shop. They will be moving from leased space at 20 Lock St.
Lake Effect applied for a five-year, 100 percent property tax exemption on 79 Canal St. under the terms of the IDA’s Opportunity Zone program, meant to assist businesses that locate in the downtown areas of the county’s three cities.
The IDA set a public hearing on the request, which would save Lake Effect an estimated $40,000, for 3:30 p.m. March 27 in Lockport City Hall.
The IDA board is to vote April 17 on the proposal, which includes a sales tax exemption for building materials and equipment. Fifteen new part-time jobs are to be added within three years, doubling the company’s payroll.
Also, the IDA set a March 27 public hearing in Lockport on a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, request from Diversified Manufacturing, which plans to expand its plant on Ohio Street in Lockport by 47,000 square feet.
President Brian F. Costello said he will be consolidating work and workers from Ipac, an Amherst metal fabricating company he also owns, into the parent Lockport plant, bringing 59 new jobs to Lockport in addition to the 106 workers already there.
The tax abatement would save the company an estimated $515,000 on its $4.8 million project.
The IDA scheduled a public hearing for 3:30 p.m. April 3 in Porter Town Hall on incentives for a $1.5 million expansion of Ki-Po Chevrolet, a Ransomville auto dealership.
President Wayne Wilhelm said General Motors has urged him to expand the Youngstown-Lockport Road business, formerly Bob Krueger Chevrolet.
“They don’t require us to do it, but they van revoke our franchise agreement,” Wilhelm said. GM could reimburse him for some of the cost, depending on sales. “We have to earn it,” Wilhelm said.
The dealership employs 24 people in Ramsomville and plans to add eight jobs.
The 15-year PILOT and sales tax exemptions would save Ki-Po $143,000. If the IDA grants only a 10-year break, the savings would be $112,000.