Feature story

New Hop Shop at Lewiston Tops brews up excitement



Interview with John DiMino, non-perishable manager at Lewiston Tops

Lewiston – Often when shoppers walk into a grocery store, they know what to expect, year in and year out. Stores may move product around, or be graced with a fresh new coat of paint every now and then. However, one local store refuses to simply par the course.

Tops Friendly Markets in Lewiston believes in evolving with the times, as evidenced by their recent improvements over the last few years, specifically the changes that were implemented in late-2015. Enclosed entrances, increased floor space, and new self-checkouts were just some of the changes. However, one change which has attracted the most attention, and promise for the future, is the store’s new beer set-up.

Located at 906 Center Street, the Tops location is family run, a feature that separates it from most other stores in the Tops chain. Operated by the DiMino family, Lewiston Tops has more freedom to implement new ideas and features than other Tops stores. The store’s beer section saw a total revamp, and recently added two features unseen in any other supermarket in the region, beer growlers and crowlers.

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“We added a very large walk in cooler, and added a growler system, which is the first of its kind in Western New York,” says John DiMino, non-perishable manager. John’s father, Anthony, is the owner of DiMino’s Lewiston Tops, operating the store founded by his father Alphonse in 1964.

“A growler is a glass jug or container, and a customer can come in and looks at a list of beers we have on tap, and we will fill their container, and they can go home with them,” says DiMino.

The selection of new beer growlers at Lewiston Tops

The growlers can be used multiple times, with customers bringing them back to be refilled. Coming in several sizes, some growlers sell for $4.00, with the large, German-style growlers priced at $35.00

“We also added a new machine, which is a canning machine for crowlers,” says DiMino. “Crowlers are 32-ounce cans, and it is the same concept as a growler, but the advantage is that keeping the beer in a can is a better way to keep the beer fresh. The beer lasts up to a month, whereas with a growler, you have maybe a week before you should drink it.”

The crowler uses aluminum cans, which come with the top off. Once the beer is poured from the taps, it is placed in a machine, which seals the top, allowing for a solid seal. In a 2014 article from Chicagotribune.com, journalist Josh Noel wrote of the benefits of crowlers. “The aluminum is more effective at blocking light (public enemy No. 1 for beer) and, provided it is filled correctly, oxygenation; they don’t need to be cleaned out like growlers and howlers; and for the consumer, the beer will keep far longer and is easier to transport,” said Noel.

The beer section has been christened the “Hop Shop,” with the Buffalo-based design team Luminus creating the markets’ logo. The beer section even has its own Facebook page, featuring an up-to-date menu of the beers of tap. The 10 craft beers on tap are displayed on a video board outside the cooler, with descriptions and prices. Once a customer has made a selection, a manager comes and fills their order.

Lewiston Tops’ “Hop Shop” logo, designed by Luminus

“Both these things (the growlers and crowlers) are very trendy, very new, for this area, and especially for a supermarket,” says DiMino. “It is the only supermarket in Western New York that offers a place for beer fills.”

DiMino states the only other place to get beer fills like those offered at Lewiston Tops is a Consumers Beverages or Premier Gourmet store.

“For the crowlers, the cans, no one other than one brewery, Resurgence Brewery in Buffalo, we have the only other machine in the area. It’s a very unique attribute that we have,” says DiMino.

The new beer crowlers at Lewiston Tops

According to DiMino, sales have steadily increased since the addition of the tap system. Also, the feedback from the customers has been mostly positive as well.

“It’s been very positive; I’ve heard nothing but compliments,” says DiMino. Our customers really love the layout of the whole store. The beer has been very big for us ever since we’ve done the remodel.”

“Watching what people are saying about it, I’d never thought we’d sell this much beer. Sales are up every week,” says Tony Purgarich, a manager at DiMino’s Lewiston Tops. “The growlers pick up in sales every week, and the crowlers have taken off already, and that’s without a lot of push or advertising.” Purgarich also expects the crowlers to sell especially well during events at Artpark, with customers opting to purchase the small cans and walk to the concerts.

The new walk-in cooler also increased in size substantially from the previous cooler. Now 25-by-25 feet, it features three rows of beer, both in packs and individual bottles, organized by variety.

“Some people that go out and may shop at a specialty beer store, they can count on us to have something that’s very unique for a supermarket, so they don’t have to drive out to Buffalo or Amherst,” says DiMino.

beer front
The front of Lewiston Tops’ new beer cooler

Lewiston Tops also hosts beer tastings throughout the year, exposing customers to new releases. Purgarich believes that if supermarkets were able to give away samples of beer themselves, something currently banned under New York State law, that the store’s beer section would succeed even more.

“If we could give a customer just a little Dixie Cup-sized sampling of beer to see if they like it, we’d get even more sales,” says Purgarich. “I think it might even double our beer sales. If New York State ever passed a law letting supermarkets sell wine, I think it would explode, and you’d see the next remodel on the building.”

When it comes to Lewiston Tops’ influence on other Tops stores, DiMino believes that the progress and success of their location could be used as a blueprint for other stores in the chain.

“I think that Tops corporate looks at us, and they see how successful we are,” says DiMino. “I think they take bits and pieces that we do and I would hope that they would use that to their advantage in their other stores.”

It is constant renovations like these at Tops in Lewiston that helps to ensure that the location will be a success both in the short term, and years down the road.

Interview with Tony Purgarich, manager at Lewiston Tops

A look into local artist Mike Murawski

Mike Murawski, in the process of making a metal owl

Town of Niagara – Most people have hobbies away from their day jobs. For one Western New York resident, that hobby has provided years of memories and satisfaction.

Town of Niagara resident Mike Murawski has much of his spent his free time in the art of metal works, creating some interesting pieces of art along the way.

Though he has worked most of his adult life in the grocery store business, most notability with Tops Friendly Markets, Mike keeps busy. He has coached high school tennis and basketball, and spends time playing tennis, fishing, and camping.

For over 20 years, Mike has made thousands of metal pieces of art. Most of his creations are either sold at local art shows, or given away as gifts to friends and players. Among his most common pieces are birds, specifically ducks. Often comprised of a handful of simple objects, such as nails, horseshoes, and rocks, Mike’s artwork has been a labor of love, with the prospect of making money running secondary to the joy of creating unique pieces.

“I started because I was interested in what my dad did. My dad was able to create and do things with steel, and it was just so impressive what he could do, I was probably, 6 or 7 years old, when I started working with him in his shop,” says Mike.

Some of the machines he uses were designed by his father decades ago, who Mike describes as a brilliant, mechanically-inclined man.

Some equipment in Mike’s shop, designed by his father decades ago.

“All this machinery was developed by my dad, says Mike “My dad was quite a mechanic. He could do anything.”

Once he entered adulthood, Mike never lost interest in the work his father instilled in him as a young boy.

“I saw some ideas and concepts of things that I thought I could do better than what I saw out there. Just started going off on a tangent with some abstract art, with metal, stone and wood,” says Mike.

While he has made garden arbors, trellises, wine racks, gates, and iron railings, Mike’s favorite metal hobby has been his statues. Working in his family’s garage, Mike utilizes a variety of tools and machinery to bend, blast, and connect materials to become instantly recognizable animals.

Mike states that while he can’t compete with cookie-cutter mass produced pieces of art, his creations carry a level of uniqueness. A focal point of many of his pieces are rocks, found around the Niagara region. The different sizes, shapes, and colors of the rocks prevent any of his pieces from being exactly the same.

“I’m looking for the uniqueness, the one of a kind type things.” Mike says. “I can make one of a kind items en masse.” He then points to a group of ducks he made, sitting together on a table.

A collection of ducks, made by Mike Murawski

“There’s 15 ducks there, every single one of them is different, because the rock is different on every single one. That’s what I like about what I’m doing,” says Mike.

Mike understands that what he does may not be incredibly difficult for someone with the right tools and knowledge, but he believes that his creativity and experience is what has kept him creating for decades.

“Anyone can do what I’m doing. I’m not fixing the Hubble telescope here, anybody can do this. Most people really don’t give themselves enough credit for the talent they have. I just happen to be lucky, I had the facilities, I had the capabilities of doing what I want to do,” Mike says.

Mike usually takes part in two or three arts shows a year, annually displaying his pieces in the Lewiston Art Festival and GardenFest. Every other year, he sets up at the Decorators’ Show House in Buffalo, where a kiosk sells his artwork.

When it comes to the quantities of pieces he makes, he prefers to work at a comfortable pace, and resists the temptation to sell his pieces in catalogs or on the internet.

“I don’t do anything online. I know if I put my stuff online, I’d get a lot more demand for it, but then it would also become a lot more work.  When it becomes work, it’s not as much fun,” says Mike.


Mike showing off a collection of metal cattails

Most of pieces fit comfortably on a table or as a lawn ornament, and are usually relatively light in weight. An average piece sells at around $50. One statue that has given him the most pleasure is his biggest, and most expensive piece. A turtle, with an asking price of at least $800, which took him over 40 hours to make over four years ago.

“It’s one of those pieces that, if I sold it, I’d probably be more disappointed in selling it than not selling it. It’s so unique and so different. It’s a show stopper, when people are coming by my booth. I mean a lot of things they stop for and look at all my things, but that will really get them to stop,” says Mike.

He’s also made life-size figures of tennis players and golfers, two of which are displayed at a golf course in Cassadaga, NY. Most of the figurines of people, like skiers, hockey players, and pole vaulters, have been personally made for people, with only a couple being sold at shows.

“It’s just limitless what you can do and what you can make,” says Mike. “Overtime you see something, you’re trying to figure out how you can do it better, and make it more interesting, make it so people would be interested in seeing it or purchasing it.”

Mike at the 2012 Lewiston Art Festival (image courtesy of Larry Austin and wnypapers.com)







Blog Post 10: Digital Slideshow on Donald Trump and Pete Rose

Presidential candidate Donald Trump and baseball legend Pete Rose (Photo credit: New York Post)

On Mar. 13, while at a rally in Ohio, Publican presidential candidate Donald Trump voiced his opinion on banned baseball star Pete Rose. Trump called for Rose’s election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which has never considered Rose, since he was permanently banned from baseball in 1989 for gambling on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Trump then tweeted a photo of a baseball signed by Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, apparently signifying an endorsemnt by Rose. Rose and his associates have since dismissed this image, stating that Rose did not sign the ball in question, and does not endorse Trump. Has this all been a publicity stunt by Trump, and a means of appealing to residents of a state where Pete Rose spent 20 years as a player, or does Rose actually endorse The Donald?

I made a slideshow on Youtube summarizing this “scandal”


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Blog Post #9: Buzzfeed listicle on 2016 MLB storylines

I wrote my first Buzzfeed listicle on storylines to follow for the upcoming 2016 Major League Baseball seasons. Also, a listicle is an article that addresses a point in list format. The season begins on Apr. 6, and there are plenty of reasons to watch American’s National Pastime this year.

Check out my article here:





Blog Post #8: NCCC Grad Fair: A One Stop Shop for Outgoing Students

SANBORN, NY – Niagara County Community College hosted its annual Grad Fair on Wed. Mar. 2 and Tues. March 3, 2016. Located in the upstairs G Building cafeteria, the event was meant to prepare NCCC students for graduation, as well as life after school. Information pertaining to degree evaluations, financial aid, and student alumni was also available.

The event was organized by Tony Ventresca, who has helped plan the event for 20 years.

“This is meant to be a one-stop shop for students who are about to graduate,” Ventresca said. “Students don’t have a lot of time, so having this all in one spot is really great.”

Booths were laid out throughout the cafeteria, with helpful handouts for NCCC students.

A view of the 2016 NCCC Grad Fair, organized by school counselor Tony Ventresca (standing).

The front booth, where Ventresca welcomed visitors, also featured a raffle, were students could win $400 worth of Barnes and Nobles gift cards.

“We will probably get over 300 students coming in here over the two days,” Ventresca said.

Several desks were covered with laptops, all open to NCCC’s degree evaluation system, which allows students to check to see if they have met all of the college’s course requirements for graduation. Ventresca said that some students think that they are prepared for graduation, but might actually be a credit or two short.

A booth was set up with information on life after NCCC, helping students who may want to transfer to four-year colleges, or enter the work force.

“We help students get started with résumé building, ask them if they are looking for a job, and help them build a presence online through things like LinkedIn,” Stephanie Florczak, an administrations adviser, said.

Patti Klinger helped students who plan on becoming active alumni of NCCC. Klinger said that students can purchase NCCC alumni apparel, and receive newsletters relating to the NCCC Alumni Association.

“The Alumni Association is organizing a Fun Run on May 6, which is open to all NCCC alumni,” Klinger said. “It’s just one of the many events the Alumni Association help to run.”

The NCCC Alumni booth at the 2016 Grad Fair

Also featured was a booth relating to the commencement ceremony, which allowed students to prepay for their cap and gown if they plan on attending the graduation.

The NCCC graduation ceremony is set for May 14.

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Blog Post #7: NU Students on the 2016 Presidential Election

The main remaining candidates for President of the United States (clockwise from top left): Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio. (Image courtesy of Daily.JSTOR.com)

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, NY – With the 2016 Presidential election coming down to the wire, several Niagara University students shared their thoughts on the race.

Two of the most polarizing figures in the race have been Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trump, a political outsider, has seen surging levels of popularity with Republicans, with big wins in both the polls and caucuses. Sanders has rivaled Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, contending with her for the last several months.

One student, Luke, spoke of his surprise in Trump’s level of popularity, though not with Sanders. He also believe that some current policies could use some change.

“I think our current economic system needs some improving,” he said. “Also, domestic policy should be more important than foreign affairs.” Luke also stated that the problem of people not finding jobs in their career path is an issue that he cares about greatly.

Another NU student, Nicholas, was more vocal as to who they will vote for.

“I support Bernie,” Nicholas said. “I don’t trust Hillary, because she’s done a lot of stupid things.”

Nicholas voiced their displeasure with the GOP’s most vocal candidate. “I can’t believe Donald Trump insulted the Pope,” he said.

One student, Joe, said that he wasn’t decided on who he would vote for on Election Day, stating that if he liked one of the remaining two candidates, he may cast a vote for them. Joe also made it a point that he will not be influenced by those around them when it comes time to vote.

“My parents follow politics, but they never try and sway me in any direction,” Joe said. He also wished that individual votes mattered more in the general election, with states like New York and California usually siding Democratic, and Republicans almost always winning states like Texas and Mississippi.

The 2016 Presidential race will be decided this Nov. 8, with the 45th President being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017.

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