From Brian Sharp at the Democrat and Chronicle, November 27, 2016.
Howard Nielsen has what he calls “a building habit.”
The owner of Sticky Lips Pit BBQ has been in the midst of one construction project or another for much of the decade. His current effort, an expansion of the original restaurant, should be completed in the spring. Then he plans to start in on his next project: A minimall to house 12 small storefronts adjacent to Sticky Lips on Culver Road.
“I don’t think I’ve sat down and figured out how much I have put into this,” he said of his envisioned entertainment district extending from the corner of Culver and Atlantic Avenue down to Humboldt Street. “I don’t really have a choice right now.”
That is because, after buying the building back in 2012, he set about rebuilding the rear parking lot, building out a new catering kitchen, a space for Lost Borough Brewing Co., his own Photo City Improv & Comedy Club and Compass Cycle Studio. the current expansion.
Expenses will easily top $1 million when he is all done. The parking lot was more than $150,000. The comedy club and expansion both exceeded $300,000. The mall is priced between $400,000 and $600,000.
Nielsen wants to restore this southern-most section of the building with three interior hallways and a dozen 750-square-foot shops. That would be on the smaller side of Park Avenue shops, he said, for comparison. He describes the vision as “very first class.” Windows and doors should be installed any week now.
“It’s not going to be a flea market of any sort,” he said, expecting to bring in upstart retailers or those with locations outside the area wanting to test the local market. “I don’t want to bring in, really, any other restaurant … but, you know, we would like to bring in retail, maybe dessert, coffee, ice cream, more the specialty kind of shops.”
Lost Borough owner Dan Western just marked two years on Wednesday. They chose the location because of the space, an old industrial building, and the availability of an adjacent parking lot. The “up and coming neighborhood, young neighborhood,” is attractive. Three Heads Brewing opening down the street didn’t hurt, he said.
“The whole expansion, the idea behind it all is great,” Western said, adding: “It’s great to see a local business guy really putting it in on the line, saying, ‘Hey, this is my piece of the world.’ … We’re going for it, and so is he.”
Sticky Lips Pit BBQ opened in 2004, and Nielsen added the Sticky Lips BBQ Juke Joint in 2011, on Jefferson Road in Henrietta. He bought the Culver Road property when it was for sale the next year.
The current expansion began this past summer. It adds a back entrance, increases seating capacity by about 50, from a current 110 (not counting the outside patio), and has space for a full bar, live entertainment and a party room with balconies overlooking the stage and seating for another 80, he said.
“This is a real gamble right now. A lot of us (restaurateurs), our sales are struggling to keep our numbers where they used to be,” Nielsen said, noting the uptick in restaurants not just in the immediate area but across Monroe County.