The Buffalo Billion has helped fund big-ticket projects in Western New York, but it also fueled the rebirth of a key small business in the heart of University Heights: Parkside Candy.
Work at the University Heights landmark, at 3208 Main St., began in January. Water damage to the cream-colored dome ceiling was repaired, dark walnut wood moldings were refinished, LED lights were put in candy display cases, a new black-and-white tiled floor was installed and the interior was painted in its original pistachio color.
There are new ice cream cases, an old-fashioned draft arm for the soda fountain, upgrades in the kitchen and a repointed brick facade.
The last change -- and the most dramatic -- came last month. That's when the store's twin chocolate-brown neon signs were replaced with 1940s-era replicas, and retractable, green- and white-striped awnings were added.
Owner Phil Buffamonte said the restoration has dramatically boosted business at the 90-year-old candy and ice-cream shop.
"Thanks to all the publicity we've received, we've done very well, maybe a 50 percent increase," Buffamonte said Tuesday, before the start of an event celebrating the project's completion.
"That's been especially the case since the signs went up and were lit," he said, referring to the green-and-pink neon lights. "That was a big deal."
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a self-proclaimed "sponge candy fanatic," said she used to go to Parkside Candy as a youngster with her family. She praised the restoration.
"You just savor the ambiance and a time long past," Hochul said. "The way Phil captured the essence of that and kept it here not just for our generation but for future generations is really special."
Hochul said the Buffalo Billion was intended to help neighborhoods and small businesses as well as big projects.
"When you think about the Buffalo Billion, you're thinking Solar City and the great jobs that are coming to Panasonic and Tesla," Hochul said. "You're thinking the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, you're thinking downtown and Canalside, and yes, that's going on.
"But we also knew that investing in Buffalo also means investing in neighborhoods, investing in people and investing in businesses," she said. "As a hometown girl I've always loved Parkside Candy, and to be here today is just incredible."
Buffamonte said the state grant made the project possible.
"I think the matching grant concept is the way to go," he said. "Sometimes it's difficult for an owner to come up with all the funds he needs to do a project himself. A matching grant is ideal because it also requires the owner to have some financial resources to accomplish what they want to do."