BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Every Monday in our City Shapers segment, we introduce you to someone who is making an impact in Western New York. This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik profiles a Buffalo native who is busy bringing new life to old buildings.
Tom Eoannou is one of Buffalo's most prominent criminal defense attorneys. You've also seen him on Channel 2 as one of our legal analysts dissecting the cases we're covering. But about ten years after he started practicing law, Eoannou launched a second career.
"When you went to law school, did you ever think that you would get into being a developer, too, and buying up buildings?" asked Dudzik.
"No, I never thought of it at all. The way I became involved is I bought a beautiful law office, and I fell in love with the architecture, and I just went on from there," says Eoannou.
"So this is kind of a dual career for you," said Dudzik.
"Yeah, it's like working two jobs. As you leave the law office sometimes at night, and you'll go and see how the progress is going on a site. Two totally different jobs by the way," says Eoannou.
Two years ago, the North Park Theatre on Hertel reopened, restored to its original beauty. Eoannou has owned the building for several years. He owns that whole block of Hertel Avenue in Buffalo.
"I came here when I was a kid, and when I bought the building, I fell in love with the theatre and I was hoping that I would never restore it because I knew what an undertaking it was, and actually, Mike Christiano from Left Bank restaurant, he and I were talking and he convinced me that we had to do it. We shook hands and we went and did it," says Eoannou.
Restoring the North Park took one year, 15,000 man hours, and a lot of community support.
"It took just a little under a million dollars, but a lot of people donated. There are amazing people in this city that helped donate to the marquee, and the fresco, and the seating, so it certainly wasn't all our money," says Eoannou.
"In your wildest dreams, when you look at the before pictures, did you think that it would ever look like this in the end?" asked Dudzik.
"No, when we came in here, there were big holes in the ceilings, the floor was rotted, there were a lot of times we thought we weren't going to make it," he says.
The North Park Theatre isn't the only project Eoannou has taken on in Buffalo. He is also responsible for saving Buffalo's oldest bar and restaurant. When he heard Ulrich's Tavern was in jeopardy of being knocked down, he saved it, renovated it, and reopened it.
A lifelong Western New Yorker, Eoannou says he always saw a bright future for Buffalo.
"I would always drive around and say, I wonder what these will be like restored? And I thought it would happen, but I never thought it would happen overnight like it has now," he says.
"What's more challenging for you, representing a difficult client or restoring a building like this?" asked Dudzik.
"They are both challenges in different ways. Representing a client that's facing life is very stressful, and if you come in here it's a whole different kind of stress because you know at the end it's going to be here for a hundred years and it's just, it's a wonderful stress being in here," says Eoannou.
Eoannou is busy looking at more buildings to buy and restore.
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