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Russ Salvatore Looks Back On A Very Happy 80 Years

12:34 PM, Apr 23, 2013   |    comments
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Lancaster, N.Y. - It's only fitting that a big American flag flies over Russ Salvatore's restaurant and hotel, and that's because its owner is the quintessential American success story.

He was born to Italian immigrant parents right in the middle of the depression, the youngest of three children.

In grade school, Russ Salvatore began working at his father's saloon on Delavan Avenue on the East Side where Chevy workers would come in for a shot and a beer and to have their paychecks cashed.

He dropped out of Kensington High School and began a life in the people business.

Russ Salvatore: "By the time I was 18 years old my brother and I were in business, my dad turned it over to us. I was the youngest person ever to have a liquor license."

Then in 1967 he bought a 1,200 square foot restaurant on Transit Road.

Russell Salvatore: "I sold my house, bought eight acres of land, and a small pizza and hot dog stand I bought everything for $40,000 dollars can you imagine that? $40,000, now I got one chandelier that's double the cost of that."

Over the years, Salvatore bought a lot of chandeliers and statues and grapes that all became part of Salvatore's Italian Gardens.

Five years ago, when he was 75 years old, he figured it was time to slow down and turn the business over to his son and daughter-in-law.

In a lifetime of good decisions, that one turned out to be his worst by far.

He had all the money he could spend and lots of friends, but nowhere to go and no purpose in life. Even worse, his son didn't want him back.

Scott Brown: "When you weren't working after you had the falling out with your son what was that like for you?"

Russ Salvatore: "When I didn't have it for the year, year and a half that I didn't do nothing I cried every night, I missed people so much, so so much I swear."

And so Russ Salvatore went back to what he knew best: people.

He opened Russell's Steaks and Chops and hotel just up the road on Transit.

Scott Brown: "If you didn't have this place?"

Russ Salvatore: "I think I would have died. I think I would have died." I did not go back into business because I needed money, money does not make you happy, it's people that make you happy. And every penny that I make at this place will go to charity."

He's certainly lived up to his promise:

A few years ago, Trocaire College wanted to name its new hospitality school after him and hearing that, Salvatore donated land behind his restaurant and built them the building.

Two years ago, he broke his ankle and while at ECMC found out that patients had to pay to watch TV, so he bought 400 new TVs for the hospital, one for every room.

Last year, the Sheriff Department's Mounted Division lost one of its horses and so Russ Salvatore bought them a new one.

Scott Brown: "Can you ever see yourself retiring?"

Russ Salvatore: "No sir. Never, never, never. I love it more now than I ever did."

And he still lives by the advice about people his Italian immigrant father told him all those years ago.

Russ Salvatore: "He said 'son one thing: you don't have to have an education to be nice' and I never forgot those words."















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