By Jasmine Willis
DANSVILLE — For many years the vacant building on the point that encompasses Milton, Main, and Battle streets served as a gas station, auto shop, and pool supplies store.
For more than a decade it had been closed with all the memories of days gone by locked in for safe keeping. On Oct. 18, Empire Realty Group opened its doors, and dusted off the distant past to a new future.
For about six months several local companies have been working on bringing the new Empire Realty Group buildings to life. Some locals include Dan Rauber, Jim Perkins, Rogers and Tenbrook, Ethan Dieter, Bob Hill, and Gary Schirmer. U.S. Fixtures did work on the building as well. Battle Street Brewery, OSB Ciderworks, and K2 Brewery participated in the grand reopening.
Robbin Smith, Empire Realty Group managing broker, her husband, Robert Smith, Empire Realty Group real estate salesperson, and daughter, Justine Fox, Empire Realty Group real estate salesperson have turned this into a family project.
“We purchased the building a few years back from John Pappas, who was the last owner. We had been across the street, and really needed more space. We got U.S. Fixtures to help us renovate the building. We tried to keep it as local as we could. We got a lot of help from local businesses and contractors,” Robbin Smith said. “We are very happy with the new building. They all did such a beautiful job with it. We have 14 agents now working for us at two locations. We have the Dansville and Lakeville location that we all work out of. We all work together and help each other out.”
Some may remember when old Charles Meeker ran the joint in the day. It was called White Flash Atlantic. It was a gas station, auto shop, and Chrysler/Plymouth dealership.
Many may remember when John Pappas owned it from 1967 until 1999. He called it Village Gas Mart. It was the only full-service gas station within five counties. It also served as an auto shop and pool supplies store. The warehouse outback stored Pappas Oil that was delivered by trucks to the farmers.
“We did it all back when I owned it. We had the only full-serve gas station in town. We would check the tire pressure, wash the windows, pump the gas, and give you a piece of candy. We did it all if it was needed,” John Pappas said. “I had an oil business called Pappas Oil along with the Village Gas Mart. The oil office and the trucks were behind this building in the warehouse. I sold my oil business to Griffins in 1999.”
Pappas recalled fond memories of Meeker being a great person who always sold really nice cars. He was great to everyone who came to his shop.
Jim Pappas Jr., John’s grandson, said that he has many fond memories of the place when he was a child.
“It is all bittersweet for me to see the place changed into something else. I grew up coming to grandpa’s shop. I would come here after school and on the weekends with my dad. My grandparents would babysit me here,” he said. “I remember the Saturday morning coffee club, when they would get their coffees and talk on the coach with my grandpa. I remember playing in the warehouse as a kid.”
The warehouse served as the original Gluery in the 1800s. It was where they would slaughter the horses.
Pappas Jr. said that his father worked at the shop too. He would dress up as Santa Claus on the holiday and pump gas. He would hand out candy.
“People could get their 25-cent coffee and have conversations in the shop before heading off to Sunrise for breakfast,” Pappas Jr. said. “I always wanted to buy this place and turn it into something. I was down in North Carolina at the time when it sold. It is bittersweet to see it change, but I grew up with the Smith family. I know they are really great people. I know they will put it to good use. I will miss seeing the old business, but I have fond memories of my childhood in this place.”
The first bay was used for car detail and shampoo, the second bay was used for brakes, oil changes, and tire changes, the third bay was used for pool supplies, and the rest was offices.
Pappas said he had a Papa John Arcade on Main Street to keep the local children out of trouble with games and pizza for years. Mrs. Pappas had a flower shop on Main Street with woodworks and paintings. She would sell her work at the famous festivals.
Robbin Smith said that she is grateful to have the old Village Gas Mart building. She and her employees are like a family and work very well together.
“We all work together to help with buying and selling. We all come together to work on the final goal. I have been in this business for over 20 years now. Our slogan is ‘largest non-franchised family owned brokerage in Rochester area’ Everyone in my family has some sort of business they are working on,” she said.
Fox said she has been in the business for eight years with her mother, and they both got her dad into it as well.
“I went full-time into the business about three years ago. My mom has made a huge impact on this town. I love Dansville. I love to help make an impact on it. I really love the new space and location too. It has been great to watch it all come together,” she said. “We are all working together. Everyone here is a team, and we are all like a family. I am the only one of my parent’s kids that went into the Real Estate business.”
Fox added that restoring the historic location will hugely benefit the community.
“We have been growing in the company. I think restoring the building has been a great asset in the community. We have turned it into a beautiful office building. Lots of people never even knew this was a gas station. I really love the history of Dansville, and how it is all connected to everything else.”
Empire Realty Group employees; Robbin Smith, Robert Smith, John Rolison, Justine Fox, Bridgett Hoag, Judy Ann Rauber, Joan Hart, Kristina Cornbau, Kyle Kelley, Robin Glover, Dennis Stanley, and Nichole Frank.
Empire Realty Group is located at 2 Milton Street in Dansville and 5901 Big Tree Road in Lakeville. They can be reached at 585-335-7653.