by Erin COLLINS
Russell Salvatore, arguably one of the most successful restaurateurs around, has a
passion for pleasing people. This passion has been the driving force behind his two
flourishing businesses, Salvatore's Italian Gardens Restaurant and the Garden Place Hotel.
Whether it be personal service, delicious food or décor that takes your breath away, Russ
Salvatore knows how to make his customers happy.
The Salvatore name is synonymous with intricate decorations. From stars that twinkle on the ceiling to Remington bronze statues that watch over patrons as they enjoy dinner, unique collectables can be found in every nook and cranny of both the restaurant and hotel.
One of Mr. Salvatore's latest additions to his man-made wonderland sits at the edge of the parking lot of the Garden Place Hotel. A life-size statue of eleven men sitting on a beam towers over the traffic whizzing by on Transit Road.
|Workers taking a lunch break on the 38th floor
during the construction
of the RCA Building in New York City, September 29th, 1932.
The statue, based on a popular photograph taken by Charles C. Ebbets in 1932, depicts the construction workers taking a lunch break on the 38th floor of the RCA building in New York City. Russ originally found a miniature-sized statue of the workmen while vacationing in Fort Lauderdale. He put it on display in the hotel lobby and received many admiring comments about it.
One day in October 2003, a hotel guest from New York City told him about a life-sized version of this statue that traveled around Manhattan on a flatbed truck. The next day Russ hopped a plane to New York and wandered around the city until he found his eleven men.
An Italian sculptor named Sergio Furnari owned the mobile tourist attraction, which he created himself. Sergio made his living driving it around New York and selling souvenir versions of the statue to people. When Russ first approached Sergio about purchasing the statue he refused, because without the statue Sergio would be out of a job.
A $50,000 check written on the streets of Manhattan changed Sergio's mind. He drove the statue on his flatbed all the way from New York to Buffalo and delivered it to the parking lot of the Garden Place Hotel.
Once the ten-ton crane positioned the sculpture, Russ then hired local artist Tim Martin to create a mural of New York City below the men. The hand-painted billboard makes the statue look authentic, as if they are truly eating lunch 38 stories up in the sky.
Russ's intention from the beginning was to create a tribute to America, something important to him after September 11. He receives at least a dozen comments per day regarding the sculpture and its story. He believes it has been such a big hit because many people are familiar with the original picture, but he had no idea the impact would be so dramatic.
"This statue was well worth the money because it comes back ten times in the comments people make," said Mr. Salvatore. "It inspires people and brings out the Americanism in them."
According to Mr. Salvatore, a successful business requires going the extra mile for customers. His favorite part of the restaurant/hotel business is greeting people. He enjoys the challenge of making people feel comfortable.
"It doesn't take an education to be nice," he said.
Mr. Salvatore credits many people over many years with helping the Salvatore name become renowned for its one-of-a-kind ambiance, but his son Joseph is Mr. Salvatore's right-hand man.
"I have no intentions of retiring, but Joe is trying to fill my shoes," he joked.
Mr. Salvatore believes that excellent service is the most important thing in a restaurant or hotel and atmosphere runs a close second.
"It's the sizzle that sells in a restaurant," he said. "Food is all the same. You have to give people more to look at."
Salvatore's has plenty of sizzle and the eleven men who sit in the parking lot of the Garden Place Hotel are only the latest addition to Mr. Salvatore's eclectic collection.
Erin Collins is a Staff Associate with Living Prime Time.
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