On way to revive a waterfront

Mel Corren writes about New York’s River Cafe:

An empty lot along Stockton's waterfront west of Warehouse on west Weber Avenue.

“Our children gave us our 50th anniversary party in this restaurant many years ago. We’ve been there since and it is fantastic. How could we get a fine restaurateur to open one of these somewhere along the Waterfront?”

Going by this New York Times story, Stockton needs one visionary, persistent and deep-pocketed entrepreneur. In the River Cafe’s case, that guy; is “an Irish-American perfectionist named Michael O’Keeffe (better known as Buzzy).”

“The cafe holds a Michelin star, and has sustained a high quality of food and service the entire time. Many employees have been there for decades: Dom Salvador, its Brazilian pianist, serenaded the first customers; the wine director, Joseph Delissio, was on the job shortly after that.”

And with one first-rate eatery, a whole section of waterfront came back to life.

“The cafe’s early success also ignited a commercial revival in a nearly deserted neighborhood that is known today as Dumbo — a seductive flame to waves of entrepreneurial moths.

“After lunching at the cafe one afternoon in the late 1970s, David Walentas, one of the city’s most prominent developers, took a stroll around the area. “It was desolate but not dangerous,” he recalled. “I said to myself, what a great neighborhood!” He bought two million square feet of commercial and residential property, for $6 a square foot. Today, he said, he owns “several thousand” apartments in Dumbo.”

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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