By SKEETER TOWER
Special to the OBSERVER
Have you ever wondered about the sprinkling of newly refurbished houses finished off in atypically light and pastel colors in and around various neighborhoods of Dunkirk? If you pay close attention you will find that each also has a scriptural verse or icon somewhere on the building. You may have noticed the small and pristine salmon colored house on Lake Shore Drive? Or the mega mint green and orangey-brown house on the 400 block of Swan Street? Luciano Raimondo worked on the stately beige stucco five-bedroom, turn-of-the-century house now for sale at 751 Eagle St. There is another completed at 59 Ruggles St. Currently under construction is a large cream and mint home at 623 Main St.
Were you to venture inside you would see that these buildings have been totally reconstructed, all with an entirely updated reconfiguration and layout, new walls, new wiring, new plumbing. For certain you would find tiled floors, baths and kitchens, another signature characterization of contractor Luciano Raimondo. He takes great pride in his work and is on a mission to improve the quality of housing in his home town of Dunkirk. That's why you will find signage outside every building in process:
"Another project by Mendex/Remodeling and RepairAdding new life to old homes. Helping Dunkirk stay beautiful and moving forward."
And why the unique colors? "Warm and happy colors" will be his response. "Florida colors." His are not the "Pepto-Bismo" or the raging yellow here and about. No, Raimondo is much mellower. He sees the world not in black and white but his vision is colored by his life experiences where he has found beauty and vitality in his surroundings, and of course in his Italian heritage.
He was born in Rome, Italy but by age 8 had moved to Dunkirk with his parents and two siblings. He graduated from the Cardinal Mindszenty High School. He later moved away and lived in Florida but returned with a new focus in 2006. He lives here now, caring for his elderly mother and caring house by house for the quality, vintage buildings of the city.
Raimondo has been involved in building since his preteen years. Until recently his business was customer related and publicly advertised but one would be hard pressed to find his number these days. Now he works exclusively for selective investors who take on a whole house until completion. Raimondo uses local plumbers and electricians and hires local laborers as well. He speaks highly of city officials, especially Alan Zurawski and Carol of the Housing Department who he regards as supportive and positive about those builders who proceed with improvements with a sense of integrity and good intent for the betterment of the city. Raimondo has overseen the investment of more than $500,000 within the city and it is only within city limits where he sets his sights.
"I believe in the city and love the people here," confesses Raimondo.
He seems to pour his life into his work. "What do you do for fun?" I ask. As an eligible bachelor, one might think that he might have a busy social agenda. He jokingly describes the woman of his dreams. Actually, he just enjoys his work and looks forward to the completed job well done. Raimondo spends free time watching programs on home improvement and keeping up on new techniques and products. He is an old world-style gentleman with values from his Italian roots. He refers to the sense of community that once existed in his Italian neighborhood in Dunkirk. People looked out for each other and were responsible.
He wants to recreate that community. On the Main Street project he starts each day picking up the litter and trash which has accumulated since the previous day. He thinks businesses and groups could "adopt "blocks and streets in the city for litter pick up to make it a more attractive place. He has signed onto the new effort of seven or eight assorted property owners on the 600 block of Main Street to turn the block around, helping to eliminate drug activity and spruce up the streetscape. The effort is expanding. If you wish to help, speak to Raimondo and he will get you in touch with the prime movers. He is, after all, a one person home improvement movement himself within the city and we are lucky to have him. It kind of makes you feel optimistic about Dunkirk, and rather "warm and happy."