BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Over the years, the landscape of the City of Buffalo has been changing, and one development company is working to make a major impact on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.
Seven years ago, firefighters John Otto, Gino Gatti and Peter Scarcello started "Hook and Ladder Development." The trio were working at the same fire house when the idea came together.
"We started talking about real estate. At the time Gino was remodeling the kitchen in my house - he was the handyman, I was the manager, Pete was the real estate agent," explained Otto.
In 2012, the development company was born. Initially, they focused on residential properties, but eventually made the move to commercial space. Their efforts are focused around Seneca Street in South Buffalo, because they say the street has a lot of potential.
"Anyone who has been in this area a long time, they'll tell you about the highs and lows of Seneca Street," said Otto. "People are starting to come back around to neighborhood shopping. They want to go to the meat markets, the corner store to get ice cream."
Those types of stores are exactly what the firefighters are developing. In fact, they're operating under a new business model these days.
"We made the decision as a company - let's do it ourselves," explained Scarcello. "We have a solid understanding of where the voids are, and what the community wants to see down here. Instead of turning the keys over to someone else, we made the collective decision to open these businesses on our own."
Plans are already in the works to open an ice cream parlor and a restaurant with apartments above it. And the trio isn't stopping there.
"The more we talk to people, and we're constantly asking people - people walk in all the time - what would you like to see? What is this missing?" said Gatti.
They're hoping to have the ice cream parlor and restaurant open in time for the summer. In-between fighting fires, they're planning to keep the Seneca Street momentum going.
"There's been a total change in the energy in the neighborhood, in the community. There's a buzz - a resurgence, a renaissance taking place," said Scarcello.