Unique Finds at the Marilla Country Store

“Enter with a happy heart and stay awhile,” was the warm and artfully written message I was greeted with at the Marilla Country Store. Not knowing what to expect, I stepped onto the 170-year old wooden floor and gazed at aisles and shelves filled with gifts, crafts, and sweets. I immediately knew that I would, indeed, stay a while.

Owners and husband-and-wife-team Sandy and Paul Grunzweig bought the Marilla Country Store more than 20 years ago from Sandy’s parents (who previously managed it for 25 years). Located on Two Rod Road in the Town of Marilla, NY, they keep the nearly 4,000 square-foot shop feeling quaint and cozy.

The first floor is reminiscent of a traditional country store with a delicatessen, bulk candy and general groceries with some hand-made crafts and jewelry for sale. Local customers who have supported the store for many years can still be found buying staples like milk, bread and deli meats and cheeses, as they mingle with out of towners and newcomers (like me) who are there to peruse the diverse gift selection.

Sandy and Paul expanded the store by reopening the second floor and adding a gift shop and loft, offering hundreds of hand-made pieces like candles, ceramics and kitchen, dining and bath décor. The key to the store’s success is to keep it fresh and unique, Sandy explained. She prides herself on bringing in seasonal, high-quality and one-of-a-kind items that she and Paul can believe in. Products like hand-made accent furniture, birdhouses, and home décor come from Amish craftsmen and women in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio and wholesale markets around the country.

Decorate for all seasons at Marilla Country Store

She’s especially proud of the museum, which can be found on the second floor and houses decades of merchandise, store fixtures and memorabilia dating back to the store’s original opening date of 1851. The local community has even gotten involved, contributing pieces of the store’s past to be put on display.

The Marilla Country Store has a rich history that Sandy holds close to her heart. Each time she walks the store and sees an original drawer, shelve or fixture it brings her back to growing up as a young girl, spending time there with her parents. And as I walked around, I couldn’t help but feel the love and dedication put into every detail. Take some time to visit the Marilla Country Store. Your heart will be happy that you did.

• • •

Marilla Country Store
1673 Two Rod Road, Marilla | (716) 655-1031 |
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Big Reveal: Renovation Options for 1054 Broadway

A Broadway-Fillmore building is in line for façade repairs.  The Preservation Board will be reviewing plans for renovations to 1054 Broadway at its Wednesday meeting.  Architect Anthony James is working with property owner Amana Multi Trade, Inc. on the façade work.

From the application:

This is a preliminary submission to get the Preservation Board’s input on how best to accommodate financial concerns and preservation issues.  The project is façade repair including replacing some missing coping tiles, principally of brickwork failing due to failure of arches over window openings.  Existing (non-original) windows will also be replaced with fiberglass windows to fit original brick openings.

With historic photos unavailable to guide the restoration work, three alternative designs have been submitted to the Preservation Board for consideration.


Where to See Halloween Lights in Buffalo

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716 Career Fair | Forge a New Path in Buffalo

Forge Buffalo, an extension of 43North and the go-to resource for connecting talent with startups and tech companies in the 716, is making people’s access to jobs within those fields that much easier. We are seeing growth amidst Buffalo’s start-up community like never before, and the team at Forge is there to answer all of your questions and keep opportunities coming your way.

Looking to connect with Buffalo’s fastest-growing startups and tech companies? Want to learn how you can make your resume stand out from the crowd? Need a new headshot or advice on what to wear to your next interview? The team is bringing Buffalo’s fastest-growing and most innovative companies to Seneca One Tower on Monday, October 25 from 3 pm – 6 pm for the 716 Career Fair.

This event is designed to assist in giving you all the tips and tricks about applying for your next job, and a chance to chat with some of the most successful start-ups in the city.

Connect with nearly 50 of the fastest-growing companies in Buffalo
Learn about local job openings and opportunities
Receive personalized resume advice, interview tips and more from the staffing experts at Viaduct
Get tips on how to dress for startup success from social media influencer Sweet and Dirty Vintage
Have a professional photographer take a headshot photo
Enjoy a networking happy hour that kicks off at 5 pm

Feeling out of touch in the job or career that you have chosen? Take a leap of faith and see just what these companies have to offer. Forge is working to bust the myths surrounding startups and paving the way when it comes to looking for a career that is right for you!

“I think the biggest change coming out of the pandemic, outside of the obvious ability to have a remote workforce, is the mindset. People are realizing they don’t want to sit at a corporate nine to five and just check a box. They’ve done that for long enough in life and are beginning to want something that offers them more,” says Forge Buffalo’s Christian Gaddis.

For more information about the 716 Career Fair, or all the opportunities Forge Buffalo has to offer visit their website at

Forge Buffalo presents
716 Career Fair

Monday, October 25 | 3 pm – 6 pm
Seneca One Tower | Buffalo, NY


Daytripper: All Aboard the Arcade & Attica Railroad (Wine On The Rails)

Buffalo was once considered a train town. Train travel was the preferred mode of transportation, before the advent of the automobile. In Europe, the train is still considered one of the most favorable ways to travel – there is a certain nostalgia that surrounds the mode of transportation.

While trains are not coming and going like they once did (in Buffalo), there have been talks about elevating train travel, including the dream of high speed lines, and creating a seamless experience from Buffalo to Toronto, and other parts of the region.

For anyone who has been yearning for a romanticizes train experience close to home, we have something that is perfectly suited to your tastes (and your tastebuds). It’s called Wine On The Rails (with Ten Thousand Vines).

When I heard that a friend by the name of Sarah Fae Bohn had booked a ticket in this unforgettable excursion, I asked her to snap some photos along the way…

How did you hear about this unique trip?

My friend told me – she wanted to go for her birthday excursion, otherwise I never would have heard about it.

What struck you most about the trip?

Going on an adorable train! It was once a steam locomotive passenger train that ran scenic excursions – now it’s electric. But it’s still all original on the inside. Even the train depot is in its original state.

What surprised you the most?

How much went into the details, for the most part. The conductors and workers were wearing uniforms, and the train ticket taker punched holes in the tickets.

How far did you have to drive to get there?

It’s a 45 minute drive from Buffalo.

What did you find when you got there?

It was like being transported back in time. The depot is a museum, with historic rail account artifacts and memorabilia. We spent some time exploring the museum.

Then what?

Then the train whistle blew and they cried, “All aboard!”

Where does the train go?

From Attica to Arcade (Curriers Depot). In arcade, they stop and switch locomotives for the return trip. The cars are in reverse on the way back, so you’re headed in the opposite direction. The Arcade stop also allowed us to go to the bathroom, since there is no bathroom on the train. We also got to stretch our legs, and there was a wine tasting.

How many people were in your group?

Four people. It’s a cozy trip. They have seven train cars, but they only used three.

How long did the trip take?

Around two and a half hours.

Was there food?

They offer hot dogs. On the train, there was hummus and crackers, carrots/celery and Ranch dip, pepperoni and crackers, and a fruit dish. If I was to go again, I might pack a sandwich, or bring some chips.

Who was the host of the trip?

Ten Thousand Vines, a micro winery out of Hamburg.

And there was wine on the train, of course.

They passed out half shot plastic glasses of wine samples. On the way back, they gave you a plastic cup of your choice of wine.

What were some of the pros?

It’s a new adventure. It’s like stepping back in time. Quality time with friends. Getting a little tipsy… and the authenticity.

Any cons?

Plastic, plastic, plastic. Everything was served in plastic, which sat around until the end of the trip. They finally picked up everything once we lodged a complaint. Hopefully they will remedy this. For a couple of dollars more, they could give you a wine glass, and pass out trays with recycled paper products or real plates. It’s a waste. Especially these days, when everyone is trying to do their part for the planet. Otherwise, it was a perfect trip.

Arcade & Attica Railroad Train Rides in Upstate New York

“Embark on a scenic journey through the countryside and farmlands that have remained virtually unchanged since the line was originally laid in the 1880s.”

Embark: 278 Main Street, Arcade, NY 14009

(585) 492-3100

Get connected:

See history

Stay tuned to this Facebook group page for future themed excursions

Other train excursions:

Santa’s Wonderland Express Train Ride

Haunted Halloween Train Ride

Lead image: (L-R) Jim Kupczyk, Rob Richter, Joan Richter


An Evening with Dueling Pianos @ Rec Room Buffalo

When I first heard that there was a new craze in Buffalo, called dueling pianos, I figured that it was just a couple of piano players duking it out before a live audience. Boy was I wrong. It turns out that the “dueling piano” series and one-off events are all different, depending on the venue and the orchestrator. In the case of DuelingPianos716 at Rec Room Buffalo, emcee Jessika Schreiber (of XOXO Pop Band fame) has taken the concept to an entirely different level.

Recently, two of Buffalo Rising’s cub reporters, Sarah Fae Bohn and Cassandra Whitney, attended a dueling piano session at Rec Room, where they were pleasantly surprised by what they encountered. Thanks to Jessika Schreiber’s boundless energy and talents, Sarah and Cassandra came away with an entirely new appreciation for this relatively new form of interactive entertainment in Buffalo.

“Jessika is the maestro,” said Sarah. “She has so much energy, jumping around the tables. She made it so much fun!”

Cassandra told me that the “dueling” part of “dueling pianos’ is because Jessika and the Dueling Pianos Band go back and forth with the audience. This lighthearted ‘duel’ with audience members is the perfect way to get people interacting with the singers and musicians.

“People request a song by writing it on a card, or through Venmo,” said Cassandra. “There’s a packet filled with all of the songs that you can choose from. We used Venmo to request our songs, and to send tips along to the musicians. Once the drinks got flowing, people got out of their seats and were dancing. I’ve been to dueling piano events before, but this was more interactive than most.”

Birds In The Bush

“Yes, there were multiple instruments, with some musicians walking around and interacting with the audience,” Sarah told me. “The violinist was amazing. There were singalongs, a smoke machine, and really cool drink selections – like a smoking bubble shot… my favorite was the Birds In The Bush. It’s just as much fun for the guys as it is for the girls – everyone loved it. And it was executed to perfection. There’s nothing else like it in the region, mainly because of Jessika’s passion for it. It would be fun to bring a big group of people. Everyone gets a tambourine at the front door, and it sets the mood.”

Bubble Shots

Unlike other dueling piano events that Cassandra has attended, there was no heckling of audience members. “This is all about having fun” she said. “The variety of instruments – not just pianos – helps to bring the vibe up even more.”

Sarah agreed, while adding that the event series is still intimate and engaging.

After talking to Sarah and Cassandra about their escapades, I too had a greater appreciation for this type of entertainment, which, I must admit, I did not comprehend until our chat. And knowing Jessika, I can only imagine that words and photos do not do this particular dueling pianos justice. Maybe it’s time to experience the sensation firsthand?

Dueling Pianos @ Rec Room

The Drinks

The Food

Every Thursday • Doors 6:30pm • Show 7:30pm • 21+ Admitted w/ ID

Rec Room | 79 W Chippewa Buffalo, NY 14202 | 716.939.1279

Get connected:


Construction Watch: Lofts @ 1020

The Lofts @ 1020 project is shaping up to be a great addition to Elmwood Avenue.  Whitesand Family LP’s four-story building at 1020 Elmwood replaces three structures that occupied the site and will include residential and commercial space. The project site is north of the former JP Bullfeathers that is now home to Jack Rabbit.

Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation sold the properties to Whitesand Family LP. Ciminelli had proposed a five-story and later a four-story building for the site as part of its Arbor + Reverie project. Ciminelli decided to sell its Elmwood properties after facing strong neighborhood opposition.

Abstract Architecture designed the $6.2 million project. The 38,260 sq.ft. building will include 26 market-rate apartments on its upper floors (seven one-bedroom and 19 two-bedroom).

Three ground-floor commercial spaces will be provided, combined totaling 3,275 sq.ft. Twenty-three parking spaces will be provided on-site, located behind the commercial spaces with the residential component of the development construction over the parking area. The exterior consists of brick veneer, terra cotta cladding, and fibre cement rainscreen. The fourth floor is setback from the front and rear facades.


The Unveiling of Realm (and friends)…

441 Ellicott Street, nextdoor to Fitz Books & Waffles

On Saturday, October 23, at 11am, the public will get a firsthand look at one of downtown Buffalo’s newest retail shop additions, located at 441 Ellicott Street. On this day, Keelin Burke will officially open the doors of Realm, which is her temporary location throughout the holidays. This short-term pivot will allow Keelin to get her retail concept up and running, as she awaits the completion of her future 130 Genesee Street location. 

It was back in August when we announced that Keelin was on the hunt for additional retail pop-up concepts to join her at her temporary location, which could ultimately end up being an incubator space for a number of like-minded retail and service-oriented concepts.

It turns out that Keelin’s hope of having other retailers join her on Ellicott Street panned out. 

“I had an amazing response to the Shared Space request and found a way to incorporate as many people as possible,” Keelin told me. I also have a collaboration with AVA Collective and about 30 of their vendors for a special pop-up section of the shared space where people can shop extra-local all season long. There’s also weekly yoga with Life Itself, two art shows (Corrie Allen and then Alain Pierre-Lys), and various weekend pop-up shops from ARW, Anna Dusza, Reds Clay Co., Kelly Schnurr, Simply Essence, Blue Rochelle, Molly Illustration, Otherworld, and more. There will be some workshops and other events added to the calendar throughout the season. The event calendar is here.”

Well, this is certainly exciting news for Keelin, Realm, and downtown Buffalo. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a bunch of retail spin-offs come to pass, now that there is a creative and inspired retail hub (and driving pioneer) stirring things up? Now, it’s up to all of us to support this new pop-up initiative. See you there on Saturday, October 23!

See Facebook to learn more about the big opening day, and special dates and events moving forward.


Buffalario – The Bonds that bring Buffalo and Ontario Together

One of my favorite words in the English language is “portmanteau,” defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, as “a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (such as smog from smoke and fog).”   There are many portmanteaus that are common in our language; a favorite Sunday morning meal at Betty’s is brunch (breakfast and lunch); on sale in the fruit and vegetable section at the beautiful new downtown Braymiller Market are pluots (plums and apricots);  and as a kid, the place where my family would stay during our visits to Buffalo – the intersection of Niagara Falls Blvd and the 290 – the gone but not forgotten Holiday Inn motel (motor hotel). 

And how about Porchtoberfest?

To this list, I add one new portmanteau, Buffalario – that’s right, Buffalo and Ontario.

But why?  Because as a dual national, who has lived both in Buffalo and is now back in my birthplace of Toronto Ontario, I can say with pride that Buffalo feels like a beautiful slice of Ontario south of the border.

It’s not just the ubiquitous presence of Tim Hortons in WNY, or the number of Ontario license plates that you would see (pre covid) at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, or even the number of Canadian flags one sees proudly flying side by side to the US flag in various spots across WNY.  It’s far deeper than signs and symbols.

What makes Buffalonians close cousins to Ontarians is how both communities uphold humanitarian values that make them not only similar but also bind them in mutual beliefs such as acceptance, inclusion and outreach to those in need. 

To all that makes Buffalo special, the added bond with its neighbour to the north makes Buffalo even more beloved in this dual citizen’s eyes.

The common values that Ontario and Buffalo share in honoring and welcoming those seeking refuge from war torn countries is what makes me “kvell” to be both an Ontarian and a Buffalover. 

Like the Syrian refugees that Buffalo and Ontarians welcome in the mid 2010’s, both places are again showing their true humanity today by welcoming Afghans fleeing the violence of their native land.  From agencies like Catholic Charities of Buffalo, the International Institute of Buffalo, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Services of Western New York, and Journey’s End Refugee Services, to those north of the border like the Newcomer Women’s Services of Toronto, Canadian Centre for Refugee, and Immigrant Health Care, or the Toronto Region Afghan Resettlement Fund, the outpouring of compassion I see on both sides of the border is what endears me this geographical corner of the world.  

Buffalo is unique for so many things.  To all that makes Buffalo special, this added bond with its neighbour to the north makes Buffalo even more beloved in this dual citizen’s eyes.

And if that wasn’t enough to bring our flags together, how about our shared love for Crystal Beach loganberry, Maid of the Mist tour boats, Niagara wine trails, and the Toronto Blue Jays?  With all that binds both sides of the mighty Niagara, might we soon again see that gone but not forgotten sign, “Canadian dollars accepted at par”?  

Lead image:  Mural by illustrator Mario Zucca and Zoom Copy


Grayson Shelp, Boy Scout

Mentors present our youth with great advantages in navigating through this often turbulent, rocky and scary road of life. Mentors provide suggestions based on a wealth of experience and information and for those who actually listen and follow some of this advice, they will eventually find themselves in a better place.

Organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters; Compeer of Greater Buffalo; and Our Lady of Hope Home School on the St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy campus are just a few of the many offering mentorships. The Compeer mission says it all: “The Compeer volunteer can be life changing.”

My dad, Anthony S. Billoni enjoying a Bisons at the downtown ballpark

Growing up in Kenmore, my dad was also my mentor.  He taught me important life lessons through conversations we had when I would drive with him on his dry-cleaning route more than 50 years ago, My dad was called by The Lord in 1998 and I miss him terribly.  That is the effect mentors can have on someone.

For 50 years my dad was the lone home delivery driver for Colvin Cleaners, which his older brother Phil and wife, Angeline, founded 90 years ago.  My brother Paul and his wife Cyndee have worked there for more than 40 years and now their children, Christopher and Erica are carrying on the tradition with Chris and Krissy’s 4-years-old son, Luca, soon to be our family’s fourth generation team member at the Kenmore business.

We may not have realized the wonderful lessons those one liners dad and mom said to us but it’s obvious many of them hit home.

My brothers and I all learned essential lessons from our dad, known to the employees at Mr. B. with mom affectionately referred to as Mrs. B.  We may not have realized the wonderful lessons those one liners dad and mom said to us but it’s obvious many of them hit home.  They always emphasized the importance of treating others like you would like to be treated.  While it seems like such a simple statement, can you imagine if everyone in the city, state or the country would practice that for one day?  What a better world it would be.

Dad also supported and encouraged us to get involved with the Boy Scouts as we grew up and today, the lessons learned as we worked towards the various merit badges seem invaluable.  I thought of my dad recently as I pulled up to Ace Hardware on Grand Island and saw a young boy, dressed in the full Boy Scout uniform and wearing a mask to protect him against the COVID-19 virus.  What impressed me was this young man was standing outdoors on a hot, sunny August afternoon and I soon learned he was there everyday from mid-August through Labor Day selling popcorn items for his scout troop.

It brought back another memorable memory of when my brother Paul and I would fill our wagon with boxes of $1.00 chocolates and go through the neighborhood selling enough to put us at the top of the list in sales for our troop.

I nodded to the Boy Scout as I walked past and into the store to make my purchase.  As I departed the store, I heard a soft voice saying: “Hello, would you like some delicious popcorn?” How could you say no?  That was all I needed to hear as I now made my way towards his table while forgetting about the time constraints I was under.

Once at his table, Grand Island’s young and extremely successful entrepreneur, had me, hook, line, and sinker as he began explaining, in great detail, the array of products from cheese popcorn to buttered microwave popcorn to caramel popcorn to large Buffalo Bills logoed tins of kettle corn to plastic containers of cashews. He always ended the pitch with the reason he was selling his popcorn products on those hot, summer afternoons: “Your purchase will help fund our Boy Scout Troop 630’s camping trips and items we need for the year.”  

Being a Clark Kent reporter at heart, I began interviewing the young man for no other reason than to learn what motivates him.

Being a Clark Kent reporter at heart, I began interviewing the young man for no other reason than to learn what motivates him to be out here selling when he could be doing something fun with his friends.  I quickly learned Grayson Shelp is an 11-years-young sixth-grade student at the Veronica E. Connor Middle School on Grand Island, where he is now carrying a 99-grade point average.  After graduating from Cub Scout Pack 425, he is in the first year of Boy Scouts and is at the second level of Tenderfoot.  Selling is his passion and in 2019 he sold $5,000 worth of popcorn items, mostly from outside Ace Hardware.  During the pandemic year of 2020 he surpassed that with $11,000 in sales, making him the No. 1 Cub Scout in sales in the Northeastern United States.  

Sales have ended for this year and his total is over $15,000 to more than 1,500 customers, family, and neighbors near his East River Road home where he founded his first business, Healthy Eats.  He has configured his wagon to become a delivery vehicle for vegetables grown in their backyard garden and sold to family and friends in the neighborhood.  

Grayson has configured his ‘Healthy Eats’ wagon to become a delivery vehicle for vegetables grown in their backyard garden and sold to family and friends in the neighborhood.

As a salesman, though, popcorn is his passion.  “I am serious when it comes to popcorn,” he says with certainty.

Why? What motivates you to be a Boy Scout? Where did you learn these sales techniques at such a young age?

“My dad,” he answered quickly and with authority. Taking a break from sales, the only child of Edwin and Kimberly Shelp explained his goal in scouting is to follow his dad’s footsteps and become an Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest honor.  His dad recently retired after a distinguished sales career in the Buffalo hotel industry.  It’s obvious he has also become his son’s mentor.

“I joined scouting because of my dad,” Grayson said proudly.  “He knows a lot of things that he learned as a scout and that is what I would like to do.”

Scott Swagler, the long-time scoutmaster of Troop 630 at St. Stephen’s Church, has only had Grayson in his troop a short time since he graduated from Cub Scouts last year.  

“With the help from his parents, he has been honing his selling skills for a few years and he has been the top popcorn seller in the Buffalo/Niagara Region for all the years he has been selling,” he said.  “Grayson is excited to be starting down the same path as his father and he experienced his first summer camp this year.

“But he loves to sell,” Swagler added.

Mia Villani, who has worked in her family’s Ace Hardware and Gui’s Lumber businesses for nearly half of her 25 years, said there will always be a job available at Ace for Grayson.

“He can have one right now if he wants it,” she said with admiration.  “Grayson is the most well-spoken, sweetest human being ever.  He is so adorable is probably the best way to describe him.  We are so impressed with how hard he works when he is here.  He is so passionate; he never complains, and he stands outside literally all day.

“He just loves selling his popcorn for the Boy Scouts,” added Villani, the general manager of the Ace Hardware Stores in Western New York which her family owns.

David M. Mazur, a self-made successful developer on the Island, had seen Grayson outside of Ace on several of his trips to the store.  “His commitment to selling this popcorn for his Boy Scout troop will lead him to better things in life once he begins his career and starts a family,” Mazur said as he made his way to the table where he asked Grayson to explain what he was selling.  After hearing him clearly articulate about each item, including his own sales pitches like: “And this can with the Bills logo can be used for so many things after you finish the Kettle Korn,” Mazur purchased several items and left a $100 bill on the table.

“Sir, you forgot this,” Grayson yelled as Mazur was climbing into his truck.  “That’s a tip for you.”

When asked what he was going to do with the tip, Grayson thought for a minute before responding: “I will either donate it to a veterans group we help, or I will give it to our scout troop.”

Grayson sells popcorn items to Gina Pellitieri of Grand Island

Gina Pellitieri of the Island was rushing out of Ace Hardware with her 4-year-old son, Nico, when she heard Grayson’s pitch. “He is so persuasive,” she said with a laugh. “He got us to purchase the biggest can and three different flavors of popcorn.  I am impressed with this young man.”

Caitlyn Clingersmith of Grand Island, whose son was also a Boy Scout, said: “He’s quite the entrepreneur who has a lot going on in his head.” 

“Keep it going and continue to work to achieve your goals,” she told him. 

“Thank you for that advice,” was Grayson’s response.

His goal after graduating from Grand Island High School is to attend college for engineering because he enjoys building which is apparent by the many things he builds with his LEGO sets, according to his dad.

Business and Entrepreneurism would have to rank a close second especially after beginning his Healthy Eats business this year.   Let him explain how it all began:

“In January I was picking out seeds of unique pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and gourds. They were planted and grew throughout winter. In late April, I placed some of the plants outside so they could grow stronger stems and get used to the rays of the sun. Then my dad picked out the plants that would go into the garden. There were 13 tomato plants left and I did not want to let them go to waste so I nurtured and grew them to a monstrous size.  Then I sold them in my cart and was thinking about how many fruits went to waste from not eating them in time last year. 

Grayson enjoys school, blueberry pie, and he is a big Buffalo Bills, Bisons, Bandits and Sabres fan.

“So, I waited two weeks until I had enough veggies to sell and because everybody loves veggies. I sold out fast,” he explained.  “I also wanted to be more prepared the next time I had veggies to sell so I used the money I earned and purchased items to improve my cart.

“It was no longer a cart.  It had now become my mobile store. The base of my cart is forest green with yellow lettering. My shelving is wood containers in the middle and black welded wire baskets on the outside. There are three stories of shelving.  My veggies don’t get dinged and damaged because of the cloth protecting them and give my customers my cell number and ask them to text message me their order.”

Grayson studies his chess board during a recent high school tournament in Lackawanna

Grayson also enjoys school, blueberry pie, and he is a big Buffalo Bills, Bisons, Bandits and Sabres fan who has not attended any games since the pandemic began.  For the past six years, he and his father have been playing chess at home and Grayson has joined the Grand Island Chess club, which is a member of the Western New York Scholastic Chess Assn.

The Grand Island club is open to middle and high school students and meets each Tuesday from September through June with monthly tournaments.  Grand Island will host a tournament October 30 in the high school cafeteria.  During a September tournament in Lackawanna, Grayson won two matches and lost three in his initial tournament.

“The goal I set for students starting out is to win just one game at a tournament and he has already won two,” said Grand Island Chess club coach Sue Szczublewski.  “He is moving in the right direction but he must protect his Queen more.”

Grayson enjoys it because the competition is giving him more strategies in playing the game.  “The problem of just playing my father is I only play against one strategy.  Now I am learning much more.  It’s hard, but I like it when it’s more of a challenge.”

Back at Ace selling his popcorn, Mia Villani was asked if she has a cabinet full of popcorn at home.  “Of course,” she says with a smile.  “Who can say no to Grayson?”

As for me, I certainly was going to support him with a purchase but I had no cash so I told him I would catch him the next time.  “I accept credits cards,” he said, looking directly at me with total confidence he was going to close this deal.  “I have the Cube I use with my cell phone to accept all credit cards.”

After receiving approval for my transaction, he handed me my items and said, “You are going to enjoy those cashews.  I have had several people return to purchase more of them.”

The ultimate salesman who learned from a great mentor—his dad.

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