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Local Entrepreneur “Doing the Right Thing”

Many of you will recall the post in late August where we wrote about restaurateur Tucker Curtin’s ideas for turning an unused property on the Outer Harbor into a food processing facility. While his dreams of really opening up the waterfront for year round recreation and other attractions haven’t changed a bit, his belief that the NFTA “holds our waterfront hostage” and shows no “genuine desire” to work with innovators like himself continues to prove frustrating. “I don’t believe that even a quarter of the ideas that come to the NFTA ever make their way through to the commissioners,” Curtin laments. “I’d really like to work hand-in-hand with the NFTA when all is said and done…I just don’t understand why they don’t want to move forward.”

For now – and perhaps forever – Curtin’s latest project, a food processing business with a store that caters to both wholesale and retail customers, has found a home in the Niagara Food Terminal at the intersection of Clinton & Bailey. Last week Curtin signed a lease for 40,000 square feet of space in the longtime food district, where his goal is to use fresh, local foods to make sauces, dressings, chilies, chowders and more. One of the first items up for development will be the veggie burger Curtin makes from scratch and serves fresh at all three of his restaurants. With assistance from a recent new-hire, a European-trained chef with a history of hyper-local applications and an education in preservation, the business will be off to a good start.

Though it remains unnamed as of yet, Curtin expects the retail portion of his facility to open in early December, with the processing facility beginning production in January and a restaurant/cafe featuring an all-local menu to follow shortly thereafter. The store will carry large, wholesale portions, as well as retail-sized containers of healthy, whole foods at good prices. Some of items will be made on site, while others are brought in, like pantry basics such as honey, mustard, syrup, dry beans, etc. “I’ve spoken with a lot of other restaurant people, and everyone is very excited about the idea,” Curtin says, knowing that sourcing local foods year round is still a challenge in Western New York. “We will sort of be the middleman in some instances, but in others, we’ll be able to offer the prices of a direct buy.”

“We’re looking forward to being part of this neighborhood, and to offering people healthy food options, something I think everyone has a right to have.”

At some point, Curtin hopes to have the full vision of his plan realized – livestock and produce processing, various artisan retail and wholesale outlets, and an interactive learning experience designed around understanding where food comes from and how it is made.

Until then, he’s not going to let anyone tell him he can’t do something. “The more people tell me it will never happen, the more it fuels the fire. Sure I’d like to make a comfortable living, but that’s not what any of this – or the waterfront – is about. I am motivated by doing what’s right for our city and for the people who live here. I want to look back, years from now – at what is or what isn’t – and know that I did everything within my power to do the right thing.”

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