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By Frank Thomas Croisdale

"Fame, puts you there where things are hollow." -- David Bowie.

Advertising is a tricky game. For a business to succeed, it needs to advertise. Some businesses or ventures can get by with a limited budget and a boatload of word of mouth, but any way you dice it, it's still advertising.

This newspaper is not unlike any other form of media. We encourage people to advertise their businesses with us and to do it often and repeatedly. In the marketing world it is called impressions. For instance, marketers know that it takes hundreds of impressions of Coca-Cola -- in TV, radio, print and billboard advertising -- for you to instinctively reach for the red can with the white swirl each time you crave a can of pop.

The goal of any business is to become successful. Success means profitability, and that means security for the ownership. There are a few businesses on this planet that have done such a great job in marketing and sales that their name is on the lips of just about everyone needing the product or service they sell. Some have even achieved such a level of success that their name is synonymous with the type of product they sell. Most people are more likely to ask for a Kleenex than a tissue, a Band-Aid than a bandage, or Jell-O than gelatin.

Almost everyone would agree that those products are "world-famous." And it is that hyphenated two-word phrase that brings us to the point of this week's musings.

There is a submarine sandwich shop on Pine Avenue that calls itself "world-famous." The shop has been in existence for a few years and has been in multiple locations around the city. I'd tell you the actual name, but they are not current advertisers with this publication, and hey, you've got to pay for those impressions.

I can tell you that I have tried the steak submarine at this establishment and found it to be very good. However, quality does not equate with fame. To call a startup business "world-famous" is, of course, ridiculous.

Maybe the owner of the sub shop was trying to get over on foreign visitors to the area by tricking them into believing that his sandwiches are known throughout North America. Maybe he was just having fun with hyperbole. He is not alone in playing the fame card.

How many times have you seen a diner advertise their "world-famous" cup of coffee? How about the bistro with their "world-famous" chili? Let's not forget the many businesses across all genres that tout that their "world-famous" service.

"World-famous" is subjective -- you are either known from one of the earth's poles to the other, or you are not, period.

Take the Skylon Tower. It is iconic. Its space-needle design makes it unique on the Niagara skyline. The tower boasts a sign enticing tourists to dine in their "world-famous" revolving restaurant.

Sorry, but no dice. I've spent the better part of two decades in the tourism business, and the number of times that someone has expressly asked for reservations in the "world-famous" revolving dining room can be counted on two hands. That doesn't mean many don't find out about the experience once they're here and enjoy it immensely, but the tower is not world-famous.

Besides the falls themselves, there is just one attraction here that is known worldwide -- the Maid of the Mist boat ride. People from all points around the globe know that it is must-do while in Niagara Falls. I've had tourists ask for the "Misty Maid," the "Queen of the Mist," the "Maiden of the Mist" and the "Sea Mist" boat ride. The bottom line is that people know about that boat ride long before they leave home to come look at our cascades up close.

In all of Western New York there is only one other business worthy of being labeled "world-famous." Here are some hints: It's not the Albright-Knox art gallery, it's not Chef's restaurant, it's not any of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses and it is not the Cave of the Winds trip.

Have you figured it out yet? It's none other than the Anchor Bar. It isn't always known by name, but people from everywhere want to eat at "the restaurant where chicken wings were invented." To leave without trying wings at the place that first married them to Frank's Hot Sauce and chunky bleu cheese dressing would be akin to departing with nary a glance at the falls themselves.

Beyond that, there is nothing "world-famous" on the Niagara Frontier. One might argue that the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres of the NFL and NHL, respectively, are deserving, but that distinction comes with an asterisk. Most professional sports teams have fame that precedes them, but no more than say, McDonald's. They're all over, and the recognition belongs to the whole rather than the part.

Are the Bills more of a must-see in America than the Steelers? Are the Sabres a bigger draw than the New York Rangers? Of course not. Sports franchises are apples in a discussion of oranges when it comes to the topic of what is "world-famous."

Granted, there are many places and businesses that are locally famous -- The Como Restaurant is one, Viddler's Five and Dime another. Most things deemed "world-famous" could more accurately be described as "locally famous." It just doesn't seem to be a distinction that folks want to put up on the marquee.

All of which brings us back to the steak subs on Pine Avenue. To the owner of that establishment, I say, "Best of luck." The city needs new businesses, and I wish you nothing but unbridled success. Just know this: In a town with iconic steak subs like the ones that have been made for decades at Viola's and Mariposa's, you've got a long way to go to be "locally famous" before you even think of taking on the world.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Feb. 1, 2011