Russ Salvatore Looks Back on 80 Years

April 14, 2013 Updated Apr 15, 2013 at 8:23 AM EDT

By Elizabeth Carey

April 14, 2013 Updated Apr 15, 2013 at 8:23 AM EDT

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) - Russell J. Salvatore celebrated his 80th birthday in style over the weekend with a gala celebration. The best part of those 80 years? He says he's made a million friends.

Salvatore is known as a Buffalo Booster. He is very involved in the community and says he "never says no" when it comes to helping out.

You'll most often find Salvatore greeting customers and shaking hands at his latest venture Russell's Steaks, Chops & More and Salvatore's Grand Hotel on Transit Road.

Salvatore got his start at his father's restaurant as a teenager. So most of his 80 years have been spent in the restaurant business. He says he wouldn't have it any other way, "I can honestly say, 'I've been doing this 60 some years and I still get a thrill of coming in. I can't wait to come into work. I've got to be nuts!"

With so much experience, Salvatore has gained a knack for the business, which sets him apart from other restaurateurs. "Everybody serves the same steak, the same lobster. Why do people say Russell's is better? The Chophouse is great, Tempo is great, all the restaurants are great," he said. "But you know what makes Russell's great? Russell!"

Aside from direct customers, Salvatore has done plenty to make many Western New Yorkers feel good, from buying up thousands of Buffalo Bills tickets numerous times to supporting the new polar bear exhibit at the Buffalo Zoo. Salvatore says, "I make a good buck and I'm a firm believer you're not going to take it with you."

You can read more about Salvatore and his contributions to WNY in this week's Business First.