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Interview with Bob Rich regarding his new book: The Right Angle (and Buffalo)

BRO: What are your thoughts on Buffalo as a fishing Mecca?

Bob Rich: There is no question – I had a guest here for a charity event on the waterfront – Bill Dance, who has a popular Saturday morning fishing show – he said that hands down Buffalo has the best small mouth fishing in the world. Erie County sells more hunting and fishing licenses in the country than any other county in the US. The tournament that we host has been growing exponentially. Buffalo is a wonderful area for water sports. As for Lake Erie, there was once a great doctor by the name of Jack Lore, a world-renowned head, neck and throat guy – he could have lived anywhere he wanted, but he chose Buffalo because he was a
sailor and skier. He used to tell me [jokingly] that he could literally see his sailboat from on top of the ski hill. Talk about quality of life.

How do we build relations with Toronto?

Years and years ago I was spending a lot of time on the issue via a bi-national task force on trade. We announced our formation meeting and we were set to launch the task force on Sept 12, 2001 – the day after 9-11. We were just starting to look at opening free trade with Canada, tackling Peace Bridge issues, etc. Needless to say 9-11 set us back [understatement]. We’re now looking at changes in expediting shipping. Buffalo is still in a prime hub location.

We continually have Bison baseball fans asking about a possible future affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays. At this point we are beholden to The Mets, but the subject has been raised.

Who would you give a key to the city to?
Other than you [laughing]… Jordy Levy has fought a good fight for the waterfront. And Ralph Wilson has been loyal to this community. I’ll give Terry Pegula a key when he wins the cup. And lastly Bob Wilmers – never a stronger Buffalo advocate.

Have you had coffee at Sweet_ness 7 on Grant Street?
No, I’m addicted to another brand (couldn’t say), but I’ll be sure to stop in the next time I go by.

What industry should Buffalo be looking at?

We’re well-suited for back office industries. Geico is a good model for us. The Medical Campus could benefit from more consolidation. I’m chair of the Cleveland Clinic. The president of the clinic was a fraternity brother of mine in college. We raised 1.4 billion dollars for the clinic. Medical tourism is a big industry and one that continues to benefit Buffalo. Buffalo should be looking to attract any industry that is looking for human resources and proximity to water.

Buffalo’s biggest success that you were a part of?

Pilot Field was a very exciting time for us. It’s a perfect green space in a world of concrete. What a beautiful job… with inlaid marble – to this day I wouldn’t trade it for any other minor league stadium in the country. Now called Coca-Cola Field, it continues to hold its own.

Buffalo’s biggest disappointment?

Saint Lawrence Seaway. That started the downfall of any kind of milling, and the city’s problems really started then. None of the leadership could see the writing on the wall, though even if they could they were powerless to do anything about it. The repercussions have been impacting our community ever since. Fortunately it was not the death knell for the city, and we’ve been reinventing ourselves in recent years. We ended up kicking ourselves when Bethlehem Steel closed, but it was inevitable. It was beyond our control. We tend to beat ourselves up things that are beyond our control.

Niagara Street – it’s the city’s connection along the waterfront via
the Greenway Trail – have you ever talked to The City regarding
infrastructure improvements?

It’s a constant dialogue – I’ve enjoyed great dialogue with Mayors of
Buffalo – as we’ve [Rich Products] changed from manufacturing to office
jobs, we’ve had lots of discussions – progress is being made*. Niagara is
an anomaly because of its mixed use nature. With a changing demographic
we will start to see some major opportunities.

*Within close proximity of Niagara Street, Councilman Rivera has recently secured over 1 million dollars in public funding for the revitalization of Broderick Park. Bob Rich has spent many lunch breaks at the park talking to the fisherman and is excited to hear the news.

What’s your favorite park in Buffalo?

Delaware Park. I grew up in the area playing sports – I still remember the old days of canoeing on the lake.

How many Bisons games do you go to a year?

I’m going to several more this year through the wonders of TV and I attend about a dozen games live. There was a day when I went to all of the games, but I’m so busy with Rich’s growth in other countries that that is just impossible.

What’s your favorite Rich product?

I love everything, though I have a special place in my heart for the park barbecue. We serve them at the ballpark. It’s my downfall.

Is there a difference between angling and fishing?

It’s more of a nomenclature. It refers to the angle of the rod – keeping the right angle of the line to the fish is the most effective ratio so that your rod won’t break. Fishing rods were once bamboo and the lines were woven silk – back in the days you really needed to know how to hold the rod – that’s when it was known as angling. Today people just call it fishing.

What’s the most important advice that your father ever gave you?

Don’t drink martinis at lunch.

What’s your favorite building in Buffalo?

I still enjoy the Guaranty Building. I used to love to see the architecture students run their paper and pencil over the structure in order to capture the different textures.

What’s your favorite movie?

The Natural. I think the movie has played a special part in Buffalo as a city. It captured the Rock Pile and the Ellicott Square Building. I remember getting Robert Redford a place to stay. In the movie, Earl of Bud was slinging Budweiser while my son was slinging Pepsi. I think the city still takes great pride in the movie.

You brought sushi to Buffalo and we thank you for it. Thoughts?

Sake’s was an artistic success and financial disaster [jokingly]. We had to modify the menu for the meat and potato folks [laughs out loud]. Mayor Griffin would come in and order a steak with teryaki. Sake’s (located in the basement of the Guaranty Building) was club-like and had a zen following. People really enjoyed the place. I still remember when Kuni (original sushi chef) was trying to get a green card and back then it was a lottery system, so people could send as many applications as they wanted. We had 16000 people writing his postcards. Fortunately for Buffalo, Kuni was one of the winners in the lottery for the green card. Everybody wanted to support Kuni.

Is overfishing in our oceans a concern?

I think it absolutely is. We are seeing more and more species that are endangered these days. I’m involved with a movement to help protect certain fish – marlin for example. These days catching a 150 pound blue fin tuna is about all you get. There was a time when you could catch a 1000-pounder. We’re systematically ruining the species. It’s similar in the Great Lakes. The possibility of Asian Carp being introduced to our waters could have a devastating effect on fishing. There is an onus on us to protect the environment.

Zebra mussels – take ’em or leave ’em?

Take ’em. When they were first introduced we thought that they might hurt the fishing industry. Same with the gobies. It turns out that these invasive species are a great source of protein for the sport fish. Then we thought the gobies would be bad. The third potential threat, the Asian Carp, would be disastrous.

Being as successful as you are in the business world, why write books about fishing and Buffalo?

People should read for enjoyment. This is my fourth book – anybody who is interested in Buffalo sports will enjoy it. The controversies, naming rights for Rich Stadium, buying and selling The Sabres… if you’re into Buffalo and its sports teams, this is a behind the closed doors look at the deals, first hand. All proceeds from book sales go toward the Boys and Girls Clubs of Buffalo – teaching sportsmanship and fair play is of utmost importance these days. I’ll be signing my book, The Right Angle, at Talking Leaves tomorrow (August 4th) on Elmwood at 7PM. I wanted to launch the book in Buffalo before going on the national media circuit. For anyone interested, it’s not just about fishing… I could have easily called it From Buffalo With Love.

Written by WCPerspective

WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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  1. Would have loved to have heard his take on how the waterfront is progressing without mentioning the obvious.

  2. Jordan Levy over Larry Quinn? And Sake was club-like & had a zen following? Does he know what a club is or what zen is? Sorry, but neither applied to that place. This article doesn’t do this guy any favors.

  3. …yeah, I think Bass Pro was a fair and expected topic, especially for BRO.
    With that said, in a perfect world, Bass Pro would have been smart to set up near old Freezer Queen bldg/Union ship channel area–away from the historic canal area but still have water access. No huge subsidy either–just the usual tax break that everyone around here seems to get. It could have been another piece of the waterfront puzzle, and for some, an attraction.

  4. The responses were short if not edited (?). Fragments really. So I’ll give Rich some slack for the club comment because Sake’s was small, downstairs, and often filled with insider-types. Ditto for the zen comment because Sake’s was largely devoted to Japanese offerings when this city had few culinary excursions outside of German, Polish and Italian fare.

  5. That’s an absurd retort, so BR is misquoting? Also, because something is Japanese it’s zen? I have no axe to grind, I really don’t care, but Rich often comes off as some patriarch of Buffalo, yet wasn’t it his choice to uproot most of the company out of the city to Florida? Hey, he did keep meaningless league baseball here though. To use this guy’s name along with the Knoxs’, Pegula, or Wilson is way off base.

  6. Mr. Wright:
    I learned so much from you today, I had no idea he uprooted most of the company out of Buffalo to Florida. I would love to see you prove this statement with employee counts. RP does have offices in Florida just like they have offices and facilities in many states and countries. That is what happens when you build a hugely successful 3 billion dollar international empire. The reason I ask for proof is because your term “most of the company” is a fabricated lie.
    How long have you been sharpening that ax, liar?

  7. First, I never said anything about BRO misquoting. I said edit. As in maybe the author edited some parts out. Nothing about the setting, length of interview, editing or space limitation decided for this article is indicated, that’s why I put the question mark after my edit comment. BTW: Zen means attention to detail and discipline. Sakes stayed largely true to Japanese fare. Customers knew the shortest and best route to Japanese fare was at the restaurant. That is Zen defined.
    Second, you’re mixing up Benderson with Rich’s. Please get informed.
    Next, I presume you don’t personally know the man–so don’t characterize with presumptions. You should know the legacy and history of the Rich family. You should know the multi-billion privately held company they choose to keep on Niagara St. is just one of the benefits of the Rich family loving Buffalo.
    Finally, as so many say on BRO, and it is appropriate here: What the hell have you done for Buffalo?

  8. You’re right, you got me. I’m a disgruntled former employee, fired for eating too much hydrogenated artificial whipped cream on the job. As far as evidence, mine is purely anecdotal, talking to a legit employee several years ago who noted that they had moved the majority of production out of Buffalo. And yes, some would argue that so have most other businesses… still, let’s not put this guy on a pedestal. To me he’s just another Benderson.

  9. To think I’d be wasting so much time responding to this. 1. I’m sorry but you’re understanding of Japanese culture & zen is about as parochial as it gets. 2. Saying that BR is using “fragments” in an interview is pretty damn close to saying that they’re misquoting. Were you present during the interview? Maybe I’m mistaken. 3. What have I done for Buffalo? Well, I was never born into a very wealthy family, my apologies. Had I been maybe I would have purchased a MLB team for Buffalo. Regardless, as I’ve fallen short of that goal I did not realize that it was requisite to have publicly proven oneself in order to post comments on BR.

  10. There was an article several years ago in The News about local charities and their fundraising efforts. An unnamed source told how he was advised against asking the Rich family for anything. Given there’s a minister in the family this is rather sad. Maybe I’m missing something. Can anyone tell of anything philanthropic they’ve done?