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JUNE 2 - JUNE 10, 2015

Topper Club Closes Amidst General Decline in Falls

By Mike Hudson

JUNE 2, 2015

How could a taxpaying nightclub in a foreboding part of town hope to compete with subsidized cafes on Third St. and the mammoth tax free Seneca gaming and restaurant complex?

Carl DeFranco made a valiant effort. But too much had passed the city by....
While the club was nicely appointed and the staff aimed to please, the customer base could not support the expenses and in time the Topper Club closed...

Carl DeFranco had a dream.

The owner of DeFranco Hardware on Pine Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard had grown up on 19th Street near Ferry Avenue, as had his father before him.

That was long before the neighborhood fell into the blight and neglect of the present day, so much so that he could remember a swank Prohibition era speakeasy, the Topper Social Club, where dance bands played and Magaddino family wiseguys brought their dates on Saturday nights.

Even after the neighborhood began its decline, DeFranco stayed on, generations of family tradition keeping him tethered to the place he knew. In 2011, he had the opportunity to buy the old building that had housed the Topper Club for $70,000 and jumped at the chance.

His dream was to bring back some of the elegance and sophistication the club had represented, not just in the old neighborhood, but in the city itself. Far more than the purchase price would be spent on renovation, money that came out of DeFranco’s own pocket.

Because unlike the taxpayer subsidized projects undertaken downtown or along Third Street by “developers” who have donated heavily to the campaign of Mayor Paul Dyster, DeFranco soon saw that his neighborhood was one the city had long given up on.

De Franco’s Topper Club opened in November 2012 to rave reviews. National online ratings systems like Yelp and groupon gave the place five out of five stars, while Yahoo and Facebook users rated it at four and a half, the slight deduction due to the neighborhood. Finally, the websites Tripadvisor and
Urban Spoon ranked the Topper at four stars.

A state of the art sound system, four course prix fixe dinner offerings and an incredible selection of wine, spirits and beer, combined with designer décor that dripped with nostalgia clearly made the Topper a dining and dancing experience far different than anything available in Niagara Falls.

Carl DeFranco felt he had finally been able to give back something of what the old neighborhood had given him and his family.

But the dream was to last only a little more than two years. Although the prices were remarkably reasonable given what was being served, they were still over the heads of many impoverished Niagara Falls residents. And the Topper’s location, in what many would consider to be a slum, kept others who could afford it away.

DeFranco closed his restaurant last month.

The Topper Club represents another broken dream in a city that has seen far too many of them.





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