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Graft Wine+Cider Bar Celebrates the Completion of their DRI Funded Expansion with Ribbon Cutting

The Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development in partnership with the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting celebration today, recognizing the completion of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) project at Graft Wine+Cider Bar, located at 204 N Franklin Street, Watkins Glen NY.

Chef and owner, Orlando Rodriguez, received a grant of $73,592 and invested an additional

$200,000 to make significant improvements to Graft Wine+Cider Bar, purchased in October 2019. Improvements to this highly visible location in the heart of downtown Watkins Glen included:

  • Upgraded and enlarged the commercial kitchen.

  • Built an exterior wall to the first-floor rear wall.

  • Installation of a dumbwaiter to deliver food to the second-floor patrons.

  • Renovation of the second floor for indoor dining and events, which doubled seating capacity to 75+

“This project demonstrates the important synergies between New York's robust local food, wine, and craft beverage industries and the wave of downtown revitalization sweeping the State through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “This is yet another example of how Watkins Glen has used its DRI award to support home-grown businesses, jobs, tourism, and economic vibrancy.”

When asked how the DRI grant helped the growth of his business, Orlando Rodriguez shared, "The DRI made it possible for Graft Wine+Cider Bar to expand our kitchen, add enhancements like a dumbwaiter to the second-floor event space and the ability to double our dining capacity. Now that we have expanded, we’ve been able to add additional staff to our team. We are proud of our team that works so hard to serve the community and are grateful for this grant and opportunity.”

Village of Watkins Glen Mayor, Laurie DeNardo, who served as Co-chair for the Watkins Glen Local Planning Committee noted, “The expansion and enhancements at Graft Wine+Cider Bar achieved exactly what the DRI Grant was meant for. It assisted a small business owner with funding to help with site improvements which spurred additional private investment, job creation, and sustainability. As Mayor of Watkins Glen, I couldn’t be prouder of this project and looking forward to many successful years … and meals … at Graft Wine+Cider Bar.”

Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director of the Schuyler County Partnership and Co-chair of the Regional Economic Development Council for the Southern Tier remarked on today’s event. “I am very proud of this project and its economic development impact. The State of New York created the DRI program in 2016 to revitalize downtown communities and it's definitely working. We've documented leverage of 508 to 1 for private to public monies invested in Watkins Glen since the local DRI projects began. The DRI has created unprecedented improvements to Watkins Glen and Schuyler County. Thank you to the State of New York for assisting rural communities like ours and thank you to Graft for making the investment in our combined future. ”

Partnering with the Schuyler County Partnership in honor of this achievement was the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce. Executive Director Nigar Hale commented, “As the head of the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce I couldn’t be more delighted with today’s ribbon cutting. We are here to help support small business owners and Graft Wine+Cider Bar has surpassed expectations. When you think of quality food, drink, service, and community dedication you think of Graft and its talented owner, Orlando Rodriguez. We are so proud to be a part of today’s celebration.”

The Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Village of Watkins Glen join Chef Orlando in thanking the community, Schuyler County, the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, and New York State for their support of this project.

The Village of Watkins Glen was awarded the Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant in 2017. Funds for the Downtown Revitalization Fund Program come from the NYS Downtown Revitalization Initiative, headed by NYS Department of State and administered by NYS Homes & Community Renewal. For more information on the Watkins Glen Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects, go to: or contact The Partnership at (607) 535-4341.


About the Downtown Revitalization Initiative:

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative was launched in 2016 to accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for investment in all ten regions of the state. The initiative represents an unprecedented and innovative plan-to-act strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation.

Participating communities are nominated by the state's 10 Regional Economic Development Councils based on the downtown's potential for transformation. Each community is awarded up to $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community's vision for revitalization.

The initiative is headed by New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. Communities receive support from private sector experts and a team of state agency staff led by the Department of State in close partnership with Empire State Development, and state Homes and Community Renewal.


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