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ANALYSIS By Mike Hudson

Don't mess with Niagara Falls.

That's the message Debora Krieger -- who, with her husband, Vernon, recently opened Bada Bean Coffee and Cafe at Niagara and Sixth streets -- wants to send to a certain youthful newspaper editor.

On Friday, David Arkin, the 27-year-old boy wonder brought in from Alabama last month to run the newsroom at the faltering Niagara Gazette, published a column recounting his first impressions of our fair city, which he apparently believes is located on "the East Coast."

And they weren't good impressions, either. Western New Yorkers have "horrible" eating habits, he wrote, citing chicken wings and doughnuts as examples of his readers' poor taste.

The rubes here are also overly impressed with Wegmans and Tops -- two of the Gazette's largest advertisers -- Arkin opined. "What the food stores offer is talked about as if it's a tourist attraction. People, they are grocery stores, not a five-star hotel," he lectured.

Additionally, Arkin observed that he thinks it's strange to meet people "who actually care about" hockey, and wryly noted that the weather here stinks.

For Debora Krieger, those were fighting words.

"We don't need some stranger coming to town and punching more holes in our sails," she said.

A woman who is clearly unafraid to speak her mind, Krieger immediately called young Arkin to complain about his ill-advised column. Why, she asked, couldn't he find one nice thing to say about his newly adopted home?

"I told him I wanted him to print a retraction," she said. "Where does this kid get off calling us stupid, fat and lazy in our own newspaper?"

Arkin's reaction was to laugh at her, Krieger said. This from the same editor who a week earlier publicly invited readers to participate in a focus group designed to improve the deteriorating relationship between the Gazette and its dwindling number of subscribers.

"I told him he should go back to Alabama," Krieger said in true Niagara Falls fashion.

Krieger, who has advertised her business in the Gazette in the past, said it is unlikely she will do so in the future. She has posted a petition at Bada Bean demanding Arkin retract his insulting comments.

"So far, every single customer who's come in signed the petition," she said. "He should know you don't come to Niagara Falls and start running the city and the people here down."

Krieger invited residents to stop by her shop, if only to sign the petition. Ultimately, she said, she will hand-deliver it to Gazette Publisher Wayne Lowman, young Arkin's boss.

"He hasn't heard the last of this," she said.

In his brief time here, young Arkin has made quite an impression on the people he and his institution are supposed to be serving.

While his Friday column was critical of everything from the food to the people to the weather here, he may have accidentally stumbled upon the reason why he feels like such a fish out of water.

"Must be that northern mentality you hear so much about down south," he wrote.

Gee, David, ya think?

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Nov. 29 2005