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New restaurants contribute to changing face of Elmwood; Some businesses trade storefronts

Change is in the air along a mile-long stretch of the Elmwood Strip between Forest and Hodge avenues.

More restaurants are moving in, with an emphasis on healthy ingredients and fine dining. A vacant eyesore is being filled. And Dolci, a bakery that was a longtime fixture, has returned in a new space.

At the same time, some businesses have been forced to move after landlords made steep rent increases.

"We are encouraged by the way things are going. We think the street life is very vibrant, and we've heard many, many positive things from both the residents and the store owners this year," said John Kolaga, president of the Elmwood Village Association.

Kolaga said the neighborhood organization is working with landlords to stress the importance of keeping storefronts occupied and to ensure rents allow businesses to succeed.

"I think we have been, to some degree, a victim of our success, in that the good press the street has garnered has caused some of the landlords to raise rents and change some of the terms of their leases. We need to make sure people can continue to afford to rent these places so we can all enjoy the businesses we patronize," Kolaga said.

One of the most noticeable changes is the former Sweet Tooth space between Hodge Avenue and Utica Street, which had been empty since the dessert shop relocated to the corner of Elmwood and Allen Street in May 2006.

Building owner Mark Gademsky has divided the space into two storefronts, with Pasteurized Tees opening in one and NoNoo Ramen Bar looking to do the same in late September.

Pasteurized Tees specializes in single-copy, customized T-shirts.

"We tell people that anything you can cut out of construction paper we can put on a shirt," retailer Michael Bowen said..

Chris Van Every, who worked as a sushi chef at several restaurants, believes there's an appetite on Elmwood for ramen -- the popular sauce-based broth with noodles.

"I'm trying to bring Japanese cuisine that is not sushi to Buffalo, using the finest ingredients and traditional preparations," Van Every said.

Mode restaurant, at the corner of Utica, is being replaced in September by a bistro and bar, according to building owner Roger Chainani. Chainani also bought the building that housed Wine Thief, at 431 Elmwood and Bryant, at a federal auction for $570,000.

Wine Thief owner David Cooper is reopening in the Genesee Gateway at Genesee and Oak streets in October, in a space nearly double the size. Cooper said he left after Chainani, in a temporary lease upon taking ownership, raised his rent $1,200. Chainani, who typically asks his tenants to pay "triple net" -- rent plus a percentage of taxes and insurance -- said he raised the rent $850.

In Wine Thief's place will be Epic, an upscale restaurant owned by Dale Ali, who co-owns the Elmwood Market near North Street.

"We're going to feature everything from steak to seafood, with a large wine selection," Ali said.

On the same block, Karl, a hairstyling salon, has left, and Tabree restaurant will be relocating to Snyder later this summer, where it can triple capacity, have a larger kitchen and patio, and obtain a liquor license currently denied because of proximity to the Community Music School.

New across the street is ICU Optical Studio and Coffee Culture.

Dolci, the dessert bakery located at Elmwood and Breckenridge for 18 years before opening for a short time on Grant Street, has relocated near Auburn where Delish! was.

Deborah Clark, Delish!'s owner, said she left earlier this year after building owner Jon DiBernardo told her he was going to raise the rent $1,800 a month. Her rent was $2,200.

Clark is reopening Delish! at 414 Amherst St., where she will have almost double the space for her pastry shop, cooking classes and coffee bar.

Things organic were already big on Elmwood with the presence of Lexington Co-operative Market. It's even more so now with the addition of Relle, an organic salon opened by Brandon Kline at Elmwood and Auburn, and Organic 3 Cafe, near Breckenridge. The contemporary-looking cafe is the second operated by Kelly and Gary LaMartina, owners of Everything Elmwood across the street. It offers soups and sandwiches, a raw juice bar, espresso bar, desserts and organic wine.

In addition, Justin Azzarella, executive director of the Elmwood Village Association, said a Canadian restaurateur wants to open an Ethiopian restaurant on Elmwood, and the former Off the Wall location near Utica may soon be sold.

Other changes coming to Elmwood:

*Cantina Loco, a Mexican restaurant, is moving to Elmwood at Allen Street.

*Sole, a Hispanic restaurant, has moved from Amherst to the former Juniper's, near Auburn.

*D'Avolio moved five doors south, behind Sole.

*Offbeat Emporium, which repurposes second-hand furniture, opened near Utica.

*Chow Chocolat, maker of upscale chocolates, opened near Breckenridge.

*ReImagine, a used-furniture and home-accessory store, relocated to Dolci's old location.

*Picasso Salon relocated from Elmwood and Tupper to Elmwood near Hodge.

*Fuse Salon opened on Elmwood, near Potomac.

*Animal Outfitters, a specialty pet store, relocated on that block.

One possible change down the road: Letters arrived in Lexington food co-op members' mail boxes last month, discussing the goal of doubling the 6-year-old building's current size or adding a second location by 2015.

email: msommer@buffnews.com