By STEVE JONES Staff writer
Sano’s Sauce & Spice Co. has grown too big for its East Dominick Street home, so owner Bruce Entelisano is looking for a bigger location in Rome.
The company moved into the long-empty building at 231 E. Dominick St. last year. It was purchased from the city for $1. The price included a required rehabilitation agreement. He received $24,999 in grants from the city’s Commercial Façade program and $7,000 through the city’s Rome Entrepreneur Assistance Program. "His investment in the property far exceeded his required match under the façade program," said Diane Shoemaker, head of the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development.
The purchase cleared the way for the company to make the move from West Dominick Street and from the focus there of the Pastamore restaurant to the wholesale and retail of the sauces and spices served in the old location. The business turned the old building into a base for the wholesale operation and used the Dominick Street side for retail sales of the company’s original spice blends, seasonal gift baskets and sauces.
The East Dominick Street structure was built in 1940, and has been home to numerous previous businesses, though none before Sano’s received money from the two city programs.
The company does 85 percent of its business with wholesale, said Entelisano. The fact is: there is not enough room for the pallets that carry the products to trucks. "That location is more conducive to retail than wholesale," he said. With the company dealing with 22 Price Chopper locations and 25 independent grocers, the big business is with grocery stores and not in retail of its own, he said. "The company’s future is entirely wholesale right now."
Entelisano shut down the retail portion of the business in February. He said he wants to sell the building to another retailer, but if he can’t sell, he’d reopen a Sano’s retail operation there. "There will be a retail location there, whether it’s us or a new owner." He’s been trying to sell the location for about a month, and has a two-month plan with First Rome Realty for the sale.
Regardless of what happens with the Dominick Street location, Sano’s wholesale operation will stay in Rome, Entelisano said. "We’re not going out of Rome. We’re looking at two buildings, both of which are in Rome. Preferably we’d like to stay in the Empire Zone." Tax breaks are available to qualifying business in Empire Zones.
Entelisano credits the two city programs with getting Sano’s started. "If we didn’t get that money, we’d have never been able to do this project." Pastamore, Entelisano’s restaurant that was operated at 224 W Dominick St. before he closed it to focus on Sano’s, obtained $5,000 in REAP money from the city.
Entelisano said the one thing the city could do to improve the REAP program would be to change how the money is accessed. Currently, business owners get the money as a reimbursement for money spent.
"It probably be more accessible if it were not a reimbursement program, if there were less strings attached," he said, suggesting that the money be given ahead of time but with the requirement for what can be purchased. Some businesses need the money to get started instead of spending money first, he said.
Shoemaker said that most of the department’s assistance programs are reimbursement programs. "We will not provide REAP funding to any business that is not already in business — because there is a chance that they may never open."
Entelisano, age 45, of 611 Massena Ave., has had a varied career. He’s been a general partner in a Rome travel agency called Fare Well Travel and Tours, and when the business occupied the Martin Street train station there was a legal battle with City Hall in the early 1990s over possible money owed by the business to the city, which owned the station. In the end, a joint statement from the two entities cut off all litigation, with no comment on the details of the settlement. He also ran B. Charles Co. and Trip-Fon Travel Services in Liberty Plaza. He later operated the Delta Lake Inn and Restaurant on Fish Hatchery Road. He’s also run for seats on the Common Council and Board of Education. His bid for the Fifth Ward council seat in the mid-1980s was unsuccessful, as was his try for school board in 2001.