LEWISTON – Ken E. Scibetta, co-owner of the Lewiston Village Pub, blasted onto the scene with his business partner, Ed Webster, a little over five years ago.
In that time, their restaurant, located at 840 Center St., has grown, and Scibetta has become a familiar face, at the center of just about every charity or community event.
The self-crowned Smelt King happily poses with children or puts on a dress for his “Pub Prom,” an adult event held in his restaurant to raise money for one of his favorite charities, the Variety Kids Telethon for children’s charities.
Scibetta also has organized a free two-day music event, “Pubfest,” which has raised thousands of dollars over the last five years for Variety. He also donates his time to a number of telethon events, serving as first co-chairman this year. Next year, he will be chairman of the telethon.
He is also active in the Lower Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, serving as first vice president, and as a member of every committee. For the last two years, he has served as the general chairman of the group’s golf tournament fundraiser, though he acknowledges he has little free time to play golf anymore.
Scibetta, 36, attracts attention with his shaved head and Asian-themed tattoos that cover more than half of his upper body, but the Wilson resident also defines himself as an unconventional soccer dad, out in the front row to watch his 12-year-old daughter, Adrianna, at her games.
His business has grown over the last 5½ years. Scibetta said he and Webster plan to branch out, opening a second restaurant – the Griffon Pub & Restaurant – in the first week of July at 2470 Military Road in the Town of Niagara.
When did you open the Lewiston Village Pub?
We opened Jan. 19, 2008.
How has it been doing?
Really well. When we first opened up, it was just myself and my business partner, Ed Webster, and we had no employees and subleased our kitchen out. So it was just him and me. I would serve, and he would bar-tend, and I would bar-tend as well. About three months later, we hired our first employee. Fast forward 5½ years later, and we are about to open our second restaurant in the old Augie’s Sunrise Diner.
Tell me about the new restaurant?
The Griffon Pub. We’ve been working on it for five months. It was the ship built in Niagara Falls and commanded by French explorer LaSalle, who brought Father Louis Hennepin to Niagara Falls. It will look very similar to the Lewiston Village Pub – the same color scheme, the same stones, the same woodwork.
To what do you attribute your success?
Our theme is fun. We cater to the masses and not the classes. There are too many serious places around. If you are going to spend 80 or 90 hours at work, you want to go to some place that’s fun and you can relax.
Why did you pick Lewiston to set up your business?
I’m from the Town of Tonawanda, a graduate of Kenmore East High School. I was the manager of Left Bank Restaurant on Rhode Island Street in Buffalo for seven years, and I met Jon DiBernardo, who owns Water Street Landing in Lewiston. I ended up leaving Left Bank and became the general manager at Water Street Landing, which is where I met my business partner, Ed. He was the bartender.
And the rest is history.
I fell in love with Lewiston. There’s something about this area. It reminds me of something out of a movie. Especially at Christmas with lights down the street. And everybody knows everybody.
Did you move to the area?
For the first year, I lived upstairs. And then I ended up buying a house in Wilson.
You’ve made being involved in the community a priority.
I think its important – very, very important, especially where your business is at. One thing I say all the time is that a business is only as strong as the community where it resides.
How many boards are you on?
A lot (laughing). I just have meetings all the time. I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices to get where I am today.
How did you become such a hard worker?
I was definitely outgoing in high school. As far as business, I learned a lot from my father. He worked for the same company for 40-plus years and called in twice in 40 years. He never missed a day. My mother was a full-time working mother. Every Wednesday, I go to my parents’ house for dinner.
Was Pubfest your first entry into community service?
No, I always thought businesses should give back. And not always money, but time. If every business gave back, the world we’d be living in would be such a different place. In the past five years, we’ve raised close to $85,000 with Pubfest for Variety Kids Telethon.
Is there a reason why you got involved with the telethon?
I’ve been a member for five years, but I’ve been involved as long as I can remember. I remember as a little kid helping my father (Ken C. Scibetta), who’s been involved for 35 years. I’d be a runner and take the pledges and run them to the pledge room, where at that time they were hand-calculated. I grew up with a lot of the celebrity children. Then my sister had two children who were born prematurely at Children’s Hospital. If it wasn’t for Children’s Hospital, my niece and nephew would not be alive today.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I went to college for psychology, which works in this business very well, but I didn’t graduate. I was fortunate I knew what I wanted to do since I was 17. I started in the restaurant business at 16, and I fell in love with it, everything about it. It’s different every day. You meet so many fun people. It’s fun.
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