By Francis Boeck and Manny Rodriguez
Walking down the Elmwood strip, one of the premier neighborhoods in the city of Buffalo, one is bound to see the impact of Ron Lucchino.
The West Side native, who is the founder of the well-known Elmwood Taco & Subs restaurant, has slowly taken over much of the block while providing the Elmwood Village with an “alternative to traditional fast food.” (https://www.theets.com/about.php)
In late August, Lucchino and his family expanded their footprint on the block buying 929 Elmwood Ave. It is the home of Nine29 restaurant, which is run by brothers Peter and Johnathan Eid.
The new addition means the family’s holdings extend from 937 Elmwood Ave. to 925 Elmwood Ave.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” said Mike Lucchino, Ron’s son and the current manager of operations at Elmwood Taco & Subs. “I’m the second generation. Over the years we’ve been continuing to acquire property down the street. This is our neighborhood. We all live in the village. We use the money that we earn through the Elmwood Taco & Subs and reinvest it in the Elmwood Village.”
Mike Luchinno, on his family's dedicated to the Elmwood Village:
Many believe Lucchino and the properties he owns are part of a mini-renaissance that this section of the village has been going through.
“I would say about 20 years ago the tilt of the neighborhood switched to here from further down,” said Johnathan Welch, owner of neighboring Talking Leaves Book Store. “For a long time, the area closer to Children’s Hospital was more the power area of the Elmwood Strip. This area in part because of the farmers market and partly because of the retail area is more the center of the neighborhood.”
For some, one group owning five conjoining properties could be a cause for concern, especially in the Elmwood Village, where residents are committed to keeping the character and landscape of the neighborhood.
The residents championed the GreenCode, an ordinance signed into law in 2017 that overhauled the city’s zoning laws, and are now using it to fight big developers, like LP Ciminelli and Carl Paladino from building high-rises.
Welch feels unsure about the Lucchinos owning half of the block and hopes that if they have any plans to drastically change the outlook, they’ll consult with the neighborhood first.
“I’m concerned about it when anybody buys up a lot of property like that,” Welch said. “There’s so much development going in here that is problematic. Obviously having that large of a footprint gives them the possibility to do something we might not like or goes against the Green Code. But until that happens, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Councilmember Joel P. Feroleto, who serves the Delaware District, sees those concerns but believes that most residents trust the Lucchinos because of their history on the block.
“I think people were happy to see that it was purchased by a local person who has a history on Elmwood Avenue, and it wasn’t an entire block purchased by an out-of-town developer,” Feroleto said. “I think people are comforted that it’s a local person.”
Elmwood Taco & Subs is a classic family-owned business. Ron’s wife, Barbara, ran the books and Mike said he started working on the weekends at 13-years-old.
According to Mike, his father is “starting to step back” to allow him and his sister Jackie to take over the business.
Family businesses like this are one of the reasons the northern end of Elmwood has become one of the most prominent sections of the business strip.
“I think owner-operated businesses and family-operated businesses make Elmwood such a success,” Feroleto said. “To have the owners care about the business makes a difference.”