Mark and Cheryl Butera are the owners of Anchor Spirits and Wines in Youngstown.

YOUNGSTOWN – Cheryl Butera has worn many hats over the years: social worker, mother and grandmother, and liquor and wine shop owner, to name a few.

But through it all, she has steadfastly remained one of Youngstown’s primary cheerleaders and was rewarded five years ago when she was named president of the Youngstown Business and Professional Association. It’s a title she proudly holds to this day.

Her affiliation with the business association is professional – and personal. Her husband, Mark, has served as secretary these past five years as well. Working, serving the community and living together, this couple is a unit 24/7.

“Cheryl is fair, honest and a good listener,” Mark Butera said. “She is also the most sincere person I know. We get along so well. We are each other’s best friend. Some say they couldn’t work with their spouse, but we couldn’t work without each other. It’s just great.”

One of the business association’s most popular events is the annual street dance, slated for 6 p.m. Thursday. Visitors to Main Street for the street dance will see a couple of new businesses that have either recently opened or are in the works.

With the addition of new businesses sparking enthusiasm in this quaint village of about 2,000, Cheryl Butera said, “Things are getting better and better every year.”

She recently took time to chat, while Mark tended to customers in their cozy shop, Anchor Spirits and Wines, at 113 Lockport St.

Youngstown historically comes alive during tourism season, but what’s the sustained pulse like these days?

There was a lull, but things are changing, they’re improving. We have the new Niagara Jet Adventures, which just opened, and the new Mug and Musket Tavern will be opening soon in the old Brennan’s. People are so excited, so enthusiastic. We have the Dance Shop Studio, which just celebrated its second year here, and Jaguar at the Bistro, which opened in the fall.

Everyone is working together to give people a reason to stay when they visit Youngstown.

Tell us about the business association.

When we were nominated to be officers in 2010, we had 20 to 25 members. Now we have 65. This is a very friendly, fraternal organization. Membership is only $50. Everybody is working together to make things happen.

Mark had been the fiscal administrator for the Niagara County Mental Health Department before he retired, and so he knew a lot about grant-writing. He got a grant from the William G. Mayne Community Enhancement Grant Program, administered by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency and funded by the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, to help pay for the business association brochures. When people are camping at Four-Mile State Park, they’ll see a map of where everything is here in our brochure, and it lists the businesses and phone numbers. They hand them out there and at Fort Niagara and at our businesses. You can also download them at www.yountownny.com. So, say if someone in California is thinking of coming to Youngstown, they can download a brochure ahead of time.

What are your duties?

You get to a certain point in your life, and it’s not about you anymore, it’s about what you can give back. This is about being in Youngstown and making sure that each business gets as much attention as the other and that everyone is lifted up to the same high level. It should be something you want to do because you care about people.

We know how Mark feels about living and working together. What do you think?

Not every married couple is able to work together, but we’re able to do it, and I guess we make it look easy.

We met at LaSalle High School (when she was Cheryl Irish). I picked him out of a crowd and said, “That’s the one.” But then I left my high school boyfriend behind when I went to college, and we went our separate ways. We married other people, and I had three children, and he had two. I was getting ready for my 30th high school reunion, and we got back together. We were reunited in 1996 and got married on 2-3-4 (2004). I was a social worker for 28 years, and Mark was in hotel/restaurant/hospitality for 26 years and then was with Niagara County. We retired in 2007.

When we were leaving the Mental Health Department, Mark said, ‘There’s a liquor shop for sale in Youngstown.’ I said, ‘What? A liquor shop?’ I had never run a business, but Mark knew about business.

You have to like people, and we are both ‘people persons.’ And you know what people say about bartenders and how everyone tells them everything? It’s the same way here at the liquor store. People don’t just run in for a bottle and leave. They’ll stop and tell you what’s going on in their lives. You get very connected to folks that way, but it’s all confidential, or we wouldn’t stay in business. Having both worked in the mental field, we know about confidentiality, and we say, ‘What happens at Anchor Spirits stays at Anchor Spirits.’ We really mean it.

So you grew up in Niagara Falls?

My Dad was in the Navy, and Fort Niagara was still an active military base, and my Mom, Dad, sister and I lived in an apartment there in 1948-49-50, so I have felt connected to Youngstown and Lake Ontario since I was born. Over the years, I kept coming back to Youngstown, and I’ve spent over half of my life here. It truly is God’s Country.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email niagaranews@buffnews.com.

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