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Off Main Street: Branch pruning

Meet you halfway

KeyCorp this week laid out its plan to close some First Niagara and Key branches as part of the banks’ planned merger, to cut down on duplication.

Employees in the affected branches will be offered new jobs.

As Key explained, virtually all of the branches being closed will have their operations combined with another branch less than a mile away.

Beth Mooney, Key’s chairman and CEO, recalled a story from last October about just how close some of those branches are to each other.

“The day we announced, two branches – one Key, one First Niagara – were literally across a parking lot from each other,” she said. “They met each other halfway – one was bringing coffee, the other was bringing doughnuts – after they heard about it.”

Seven feet high

Herb F. Woodberry of Lockport was sentenced Thursday to six months in the Niagara County Jail for misdemeanor marijuana possession, but he insisted that the crime wasn’t his doing.

Woodberry, 40, was arrested Aug. 28 after two Lockport police officers spotted a 7-foot-tall pot plant looming above the top of the fence around his rented home on Chapel Street. Woodberry insisted he didn’t grow it but did try unsuccessfully to dig it up by the roots. He failed to mention that police also found 31 small pot plants on the property.

Defense attorney James J. Faso Jr. said Woodberry smoked seven grams of marijuana every day to relieve anxiety and depression. That made Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III skeptical of Woodberry’s claims of innocence. “Why did he make up this ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ story about dropping some blunts out the window?” Murphy asked Faso, who replied that his client was interested in pH levels, according to the presentencing report.

Murphy then told Woodberry: “I might believe your story if you didn’t smoke seven grams of marijuana a day. It would be like me having a beer tree in my backyard.”

Ice cream wars

The fight between the Uber ride-hailing service and Liberty Yellow Taxi heated up – or, to be precise, cooled off – on Friday with dueling publicity stunts.

Ice cream lovers were caught in the middle but didn’t complain at all.

It began when Uber announced Buffalo was one of three upstate cities where the service was bringing its UberIceCream day on Friday. Users of its app could ask Uber drivers to deliver free ice cream bars during a four-hour window. The aim was to bring attention to Uber’s efforts to expand to upstate New York, a campaign opposed by cab companies and taxi drivers in the region.

Liberty responded by offering free ice cream to people who downloaded its Curb app at a Mister Softee truck that was set up at several locations in Buffalo on Friday afternoon and evening.

The company unveiled the rebuttal event with a news release titled: “Don’t Take Ice Cream or a Ride from a Stranger.”

Can we put in a request? The next time you companies want to battle for our fares – and stomachs – we’d take some pie.

Eat but don’t touch

Elias Wilkes, 5, and his sister, Evelyn, 3, are used to having free rein at the Buffalo Museum of Science.

“They both love mama’s museum,” said their mother, Kathy Leacock, who has been director of collections since 2003 at the historic Humboldt Park headquarters of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences.

It will benefit the two little ones this weekend, when the museum opens its latest exhibit, YUM!, which will teach kids of all ages about ways to make healthier food choices. But when the family is out of that familiar element? Not so much.

“It’s so traumatic to take them to another museum,” Leacock said, “because they keep asking, ‘Why can’t we go in that door?’ ”

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions by Matthew Glynn, Thomas J. Prohaska, Stephen T. Watson and Scott Scanlon. email:

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