Step inside Preservation Pub on Main Street and a quick glance at the walls takes you back in time.
There's the 1929 black-and-white picture of City Hall under construction. Photographs of Main Street circa 1911, the Americana docked by Buffalo's imposing grain elevators and the Statler Building hosting a 1935 conference.
Sandwiched in the mix is the framed 1923 dental license for Dr. Anthony S. Gugino, a University at Buffalo professor. Pub proprietor Roslyn M. Righetti stumbled upon it in an East Aurora antique shop and bought it on a lark.
Fitting, since her 210-year-old building sits directly across from UB's new medical school under construction at Main and Allen streets.
A UB graduate who lives in her North Buffalo childhood home, Righetti is a former social worker turned restaurateur who decided to take a chance 12 years ago on a deteriorated section of Main Street.
"I wanted to participate in this rebirth," said Righetti, 61, who watches the progress of the growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus from her front window. "When I came here, this area was not a place you wanted to be. But I knew this was going to be the up-and-coming place. Buffalo was going to come back. I could feel it."
Q: What was it like making such a drastic career switch?
A: It was a real adjustment for me. Being a social worker, it's a labor of love. When I worked in the field of HIV and AIDS, there was death and dying around us all the time. But it was on my bucket list. I've always wanted to open up my own restaurant. I love people. You watch "Cheers," and you see how it's just like old home week when you walk into a place.
Q: Some would say you took a risk buying down here. How did you pick this spot and why Main Street?
A: I consider myself a pioneer. Back in 2005, when I came down here, you could throw a bowling ball down the street and not hit anybody. This is the last building I looked at. My realtor had taken me to all different parts of the city. But I had done my homework. I knew this was going to happen. Buffalo has stalled before.
Was it a big chance? Yes, it was a big chance. I took a gamble. You look at pictures of Main Street from the day and you can't even see the sidewalk with all the people in downtown Buffalo. And I said, "I want a business on Main Street."
Q: What is unique about your building?
A: There's actually servants' quarters up in the attic.
You would never know, behind the sheets of plywood by the dance floor, but there are record albums. Albums of Judy Garland, Donna Summer, The Temptations.
Q: Why the name Preservation Pub?
A: I had a girl who was working for me and she came here one day and I started talking about the Preservation Board, and she said, "Preservation Pub." Nothing stuck until it came out of her mouth.
Q: You park on the sidewalk. How bad is the parking?
A: We have no parking down here. For almost two and a half years, it's really dropped my revenues. It's hurt me bad. Customers say they would come to my place, but they can never find parking. Buffalonians are not used to taking the subway. They won't park and ride. Everybody's got to have their car keys attached to them.
Q: What are the most significant changes you have witnessed since opening?
A: You have a lot more people walking around. It feels safer to walk around in Allentown. You still have some problems, but you're not going to change everything overnight. You have more businesses down here than you ever have had the last 12 years.
Q: How do you see the campus as an economic driver in Buffalo's rebirth?
A: When I think about medical technology, you build it, they will come. Buffalo will be known, like the Cleveland Clinic is known. We have Roswell Park and such bright doctors and nurses. People are coming here from all over the world. They want to work here. This is going to be the spot. This is what Buffalo needed. Yes, we had Bethlehem Steel back in the day, but we are way past that. ... The story is already written. I just happen to be a character in it."
Q: What are the greatest challenges that the Allentown and Linwood neighborhoods face because of all this growth?
A: I think that people are really nervous about this whole parking issue. You saw what happened in the Fruit Belt. Here you have a project that is creating jobs, and the one thing you don’t think about is you are going to bring 200 construction workers down here and where are they going to park? What are they going to do, fly in here on their umbrellas like Mary Poppins? Were they going to fold up their cars in briefcases and carry them?
Q: How is this part of Main Street changing?
A: It already has. I think with the professionalism in the businesses that have been brought down here, and different people that are walking around, it brings character to any neighborhood. You don't see as many drunks sitting on the corner smoking and drinking. People would tell me they didn't want to walk through here.
Story topics: sunday biz talk