A faded, 15-foot steel elephant that has been an icon on Pine Avenue for more than 50 years will soon be bright pink again.
Plans to expand and renovate the former Honey's Restaurant at 2626 Pine Ave. into a sports bar and grill call for refurbishing the giant metal sign to its former glory -- pink paint, bright lights and spinning top included.
"It will look like a brand-new sign when it's done, something right out of the 1950s," Anthony Fasciano said.
The Niagara Falls business owner has partnered with Falls native Paul Talarico to turn the once-popular site into Shorty's Ultimate Sports Bar and Grill. The new restaurant, slated to open in late summer, will have large plasma screen televisions, two bars and an outside patio with a large-screen projector.
Pine Avenue boosters hope the project will be another step toward keeping the business district alive.
"Hopefully, that will be the jump-start," said Mary Jo Zacher, executive director of the Pine Avenue Business Association. "Naturally, Shorty's is the jump because they're putting so much in there."
Fasciano, 43, who owns a small used-car dealership on Pine Avenue, declined to say how much the business partners are spending on the building, but he pointed to copper ceilings, a neon-lighted bar and new brick walls that show the attention to detail included in the project.
Talarico, 32, who now lives on Grand Island, said he believes Pine Avenue is the right location to draw Niagara Falls residents and visitors from areas such as Wheatfield or Buffalo.
"Niagara Falls has been hungry for a place like this for a long time," said Talarico, who lived in New York City for a short time before returning to the region. "When this place closed, it was devasting to the community."
The building, which is now owned by Fasciano's brother, Nelson Fasciano Jr., has been vacant since 2001. It was formally Honey's Restaurant and was a bar called Coyote Ugly for a short time.
Talarico plans to decorate the new bar and grill with sports memorabilia, including an autographed Derek Jeter bat and 20 autographed jerseys. He wants the restaurant to cater to several markets -- families during the day, sports fans during games and the bar crowd on weekend nights.
While the building will change dramatically, the elephant with the top on its trunk will remain. It has been on the street since 1956, when Cooper Signs built the metal structure to advertise Jack's Used Cars.
"It's an icon," said Zacher, who grew up on Pine Avenue. "Everybody will remember it."