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Historic Li’l Joe’s Service Station Gains Traction and New Direction in Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen, NY (October 28, 20220):

Representatives of the Crystal Sundance Emporium, Schuyler County Partnership (SCOPED), Watkins Glen Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) Local Planning Committee, Upstate Brewing Company, elected officials, and community members were on hand to celebrate the completion of a key DRI project for the Village of Watkins Glen. Remarks were made prior t the formal ribbon cutting and celebration at the former ‘Li’l Joe’s Service Station”, 15 North Franklin Street in Watkins Glen.

From 1946 until 1996, Joseph Scaptura, a beloved local leader owned and operated Joe’s Service Station with his wife, Ellen. L’il Joe, as he was lovingly referred to, served his community in various ways, including as Mayor and Fire Chief. He was known as the “smallest Fire Chief in America” and was well-respected among his peers and the community that he served. Joe’s Service Station operated as a full-service station where travelers would stop for gas and would receive, free of charge, a check under the hood, topping off of fluids, and a window wash to ensure a safe trip to wherever they were headed next. This family business, located at the entrance of Watkins Glen, put service above all else. There was hardly a traveler who didn’t stop to see Li’l Joe on their way into, or out of, the Village.

Funds made available through the State of New York’s DRI program, made the renovation of this property possible. With a total investment of $845K including the DRI grant of $390K, this once dilapidated and locally significant site will feature new businesses, the first being the Upstate Brewing Company.

Senator Tom O'Mara said, "What a fantastic addition to the Watkins Glen community! We are grateful to SCOPED, the Watkins Glen DRI Local Planning Committee, Crystal Sundance Emporium, and Upstate Brewing for their hard work and partnership to achieve this exciting revitalization of Li'l Joe's, a renowned village landmark. State investment through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative continues to help make a great difference for the quality of local communities across the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions, and statewide. We need to maintain this commitment and strengthen it for the future."

With the renovations and improvements made, this former full-service station will now be home to a new tap house and beer garden, Upstate Brewing Company, which is expanding from its Elmira location into the secondary space. The primary building, still available for lease, offers a unique mixed-use setup with a first-floor retail space and an upstairs apartment.

Sally Scaptura Clark, owner of Crystal Sundance Emporium and L’il Joe’s daughter, commented, “I grew up in this house and I know my father would be very happy to see the buildings restored. Thank you to the many volunteers, Community Bank, JG Franzese Enterprises, and SCOPED who helped us get the buildings renovated. I also thank the DRI Local Planning Committee, this could not have happened without the State of New York DRI funds."

Laurie DeNardo, DRI Co-Chair and Trustee for the Village of Watkins Glen shared, “The former Li’l Joe’s location was consistently the top project that the community supported for potential investment and revitalization. I am thrilled that we were able to invest in this highly visible downtown location and give new life to these historic buildings. This project truly exemplifies what the downtown revitalization initiative program was meant to do and will benefit the community for years to come.”

The preservation of this building is something that the entire community has been supportive of and was, in fact, top of the list when it came to possible DRI projects in Watkins Glen. Gary Emerson, Schuyler County Historian remarked, “It is wonderful that the DRI project has resurrected an iconic building in Watkins Glen. It is appropriate that this building has been restored to once again serve the community that Joe and his family loved. The restoration of “Little Joe’s” preserves the history of Watkins Glen in a fashion that also serves the present.”

One local business owner is looking forward to opening their doors to the community. Mark Newman, President of Upstate Brewing Company, located in Elmira, NY, is looking forward to bringing his first offsite tasting room to Watkins Glen. “Construction on our Tap Room and Beer Garden began just this week” explained Newman. “This location will allow us to showcase our brews to the Watkins Glen locals and tap into the tourists who frequent the area each year. When we found out, in July, that this space was available, we jumped at the opportunity to expand. The timing was right and so was the location.” Newman shared that he hopes the construction phase is completed and the necessary permits come through from the NYS Liquor Authority by the end of the year. Tentatively, the Upstate Brewing Company site in Watkins Glen will be open five days a week throughout the winter, and seven days a week during the tourist season.

Judy McKinney Cherry, Co-chair of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, added, “The DRI funding has had a remarkable impact on many communities in New York, and in Watkins Glen, the State grant funding has clearly stimulated transformational change. It is outstanding that the private investment is $508 for each $1 of DRI funding invested in the Village of Watkins Glen. This was the intent of the program and it certainly worked here”.

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