WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WENY) -- In 2017, New York State awarded Watkins Glen with a $10 million grant through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). The money is to be used to make improvements to downtowns in small communities across New York State.

Of the money awarded to Watkins Glen, Chef and Owner of Graft Wine + Cider Bar Orlando Rodriquez was awarded a grant of $73,592 to make improvements to the restaurant.

"If you look around Watkins you can see a number of initiatives that took place and that's what we used that money for to really enhance downtown," said Laurie Denardo, Mayor of Watkins Glen.

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative gave Rodriguez a hand, and on the morning of Monday, August 21st, the finished product was open for business. Orlando held the big scissors with pride as his family cheered him on at the ribbon cutting for his completed expansion.

"The DRI helped us in the fact that it, some of it was grant money, so some of the grant money, they gave like 50 percent of it, and I had to put out the other 50 percent which I couldn't come up with everything, so that was very helpful," Rodriquez explains. 

In addition to the DRI grant, Rodriguez also had a private investment of $200,000 to make the improvements, expanding the location and improving seating capacity.

"We were able to expand our, our restaurant. So we expanded our kitchen. We, doubled our capacity in our dining area. In turn, we are giving back to the community and hire more employees," shared Rodriguez.

From start to finish, Rodriquez thinks the process took around a year. Now the restaurant hired additional staff and can serve to double the number of customers, seating 75 people in the heart of Downtown Watkins Glen. 

Beyond the additional space in the kitchen, Rodriguez expanded upwards. The upstairs was formerly an apartment and now is additional seating for dining and events.

Mayor Denardo says the goal of the DRI funding is exactly what we see at Graft, to help small business owners make improvements, benefiting the local economy. 

Graft Wine + Cider Bar is located at 204 North Franklin Street in Watkins Glen.