NEWARK — The locals lament the Newark of old, when this village — the commercial center of Wayne County — was home to blocks of stately two- and three-story buildings, most built in the 1800s.
Those days, and those buildings, are mostly gone, victims of an ill-fated urban renewal effort four decades ago that left the village of about 9,300 without a core.
Mike Colacino said you can’t change the past, but there’s no reason why the village can’t embrace the future.
With a $10.2 million South Main Street reconstruction project underway, the village being considered for a $10 million piece of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative pie and a host of new businesses, things are looking up for the central business district.
Colacino — a retired Canandaigua police officer, Newark native and local developer who also works full time for Lyons National Bank — wants to be part of that renaissance.
In January, he purchased two one-story buildings on South Main Street downtown and has begun to make improvements, including adding his own business to the mix — a brightly colored space called Raspberry’s Downtown Ice Cream.
“This space here was my first one to tackle,” said Colacino, noting it had been vacant for at least two years before he put the ice cream shop at 104 S. Main St.
“I did this as a startup business to get something downtown for the benefit of Newark,” he said.
He likes where things are headed, pointing to the nearby former Rite Aid building, which Marshall Exteriors is turning into the company’s corporate headquarters and design center.
Mayor Jonathan Taylor is happy to have Colacino investing in downtown Newark.
“It’s a very exciting time in our community, as a number of businesses are choosing to locate or grow in Newark,” he said. “Anytime someone like Mr. Colacino purchases a property, adds new businesses and enhances the overall look, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Raspberry’s is a true family operation, consisting of Colacino’s wife, Marie, and their twins, Morgan and Michaela.
The spot had a soft opening in June. Hours are limited to four days a week, given the busy schedules of his family, including two daughters who are three-sport athletes.
“We also value family time together to give the girls a summer,” he said.
Colacino said he has no long-term plans to run an ice cream shop. He envisions another operator at some point that could add lunches to the mix. He also likes the idea of a deli.
“I’m trying to do something with the building that would promote walking downtown,” he said.
He likes what he sees so far.
“This has been received very well,” Colacino said. “Our business improves every week.”
Among those sampling the shop’s ice cream and frozen custard are people traveling either on the canal by boat or on the trail by bike.
The developer said the locals would be surprised to learn just how many people pass through Newark by way of the canal and trail.
Colacino pulls up a photo on his phone showing the stately building that once stood here. He loves the awnings, which were a hallmark of downtowns across America for a century. He plans to add them to his two brick buildings, which are now fully occupied with the addition of Towpath Homes, a Clyde real estate company owned by Dave VanDerlinde.
He said the Raspberry name will appear familiar to those who live or drive through Newark. His brother Jim’s former business was Raspberry’s Frozen Yogurt, which closed on West Union Street last year when the yogurt fad died a quick death, he said.
In fact, Mike bought some of the yogurt equipment for use in the South Main Street shop. He also repurposed the sign.
Heck, they’re even using up the cups left over from the yogurt operation.
Colacino acknowledges there’s no shortage of ice cream shops in and around Newark, and stressed that he’s not here to put anyone out of business.
“This is about giving an alternative for people downtown who are not as mobile,” he said.