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Transplanted Buffalonians find a connection in Key West

KEY WEST, Fla. – When you’ve made the move from Buffalo to Key West, where do you go for vacation?

Buffalo in the summer, of course, for the best weather of both worlds.

Behind the scenes in Key West is a thriving community of former Western New Yorkers who call the nation’s southernmost city their home.

Randy “T-Bone” Earley, who manages a resort called Dante’s, said the lure of Key West has kept him in Florida since 2003.

Why?

“I think it’s because this city, like Buffalo, serves the hard working people, the ‘blue collar,’ people,” he said.

A friendly man with an easy smile, Hurley started working at Mickey Rat’s, the famous Angola-on-the-Lake summer hangout.  

He said he earned the “T-Bone” nickname while at Mickey Rats.

“There are lots of stories about how I got it, but none of them are really true,” said Earley, who played college football and took a shot at professional ball.  He worked at the summer club as a bouncer for many years.

He brought many of the ideas from Mickey Rats to Key West and Dante’s.

“I do miss Buffalo summers,” he said. “Everyone loosens up the buttons on their shirt, throws on a pair of shorts and gets outside.”

Earley was in another Key West establishment a few months ago when he listened to an entertainer on acoustic guitar.

“I went up to him and told him I liked his act and did he want to play at Dante’s?” he said.

Rich Rogenmoser signed on to play. It didn’t take long before the two realized they had mutual connections in Western New York. Rogenmoser had moved to Key West in September but still owns the Music Exchange in Hamburg. He said he plans to stay in Key West.

“You can make a living as a performer year round,” he said.

Rogenmoser, who also sings, is returning to Western New York to perform during July before heading back to Key West. He will play at Mickey Rats on Wednesday, June 17. 

Key West “reminds me of Sunset Bay,” Rogenmoser said, referring to the Chautauqua County beach on Lake Erie.

“The narrow streets, little cottages, and the attitude of people that it’s carefree,” he said. “It is cool and progressive thinking,” said Rosenmoser. 

“Yes, and bartenders and musicians rule,” Earley said.