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Cantina Loco owner plans Allen Street deli

The owner of Cantina Loco on Allen Street plans to renovate the building next door and open a new delicatessen, aimed at offering another lunch option to the nearby Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Kyle Mackiewicz wants to renovate the two-story building at 185 Allen St., creating space for his planned Upper Cut Deli on the first floor and three apartments upstairs. He's partnering with well-known Buffalo chef Mike Andrzejewski to run the deli.

In the process, he wants to restore the 1900-era brown-brick building to the way it used to look, using a 1940s photo he obtained from an art gallery in the Market Arcade Building five years ago – complete with Ford Model A cars in front of it.

"I saw the way it was back in the 1940s. It looked really nice," said Mackiewicz, 33, an Allentown native. "I'd rather bring something back to the way it historically should be, than going modern or contemporary."

According to documents submitted to the Buffalo Preservation Board, Mackiewicz plans a comprehensive renovation of the front facade, including removing and replacing the non-original storefront with an aluminum-framed and double-glazed storefront. He also plans to install a pressure-treated wood knee wall with decorative moldings and four new traditional wall sconces.

On the second floor, he will replace the fiberglass windows with aluminum-clad wood double-hung windows, with a fixed window in the middle. He intends to put up an internally lit "blade sign" that would match an original restaurant sign from the 1940s. The project will be reviewed by the Preservation Board on Sept. 7.

Despite the history, the project will not use historic tax credits, Mackiewicz said. But he does plan to apply for a facade-improvement grant through the Allentown Association, if available. "I'm giving homage back to what it was originally," he said.

Inside the 3,536-square-foot building, the first floor would contain a deli offering traditional fare but also some unique items. There would be five tables, but otherwise it would focus on walk-in and carry-out service, he said.

"It's food first and foremost that we're focusing on. We don't want to be a bar," he said. "We truly are a food place, and we want to cater to the medical corridor for lunch."

He acknowledged receiving some criticism of yet another restaurant on the street, but said that's better than the alternative.

"I'm a firm believer that the more restaurants on the street, the better. It's critical mass, and it attracts people down," he said. "And with the up-and-coming medical corridor, the amount of people they employ, they need spots to eat that aren't just on the Medical Campus."

The previous owner, a Canadian, used the building for his visits to Buffalo, but it was last actively used as a skateshop two decades ago.

"We're taking a storefront that was vacant for 20 years and finally putting something in it," he said. "It could have been another 20 years being vacant."

Mackiewicz estimated the project will cost about $300,000. The second floor will have one studio and two one-bedroom units, but he said he did not know what the rents would be.

Mackiewicz said he wasn't sure when the deli might open, noting that "it always takes longer than what people expect" with municipal permits and construction. He's hoping for year-end.

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