The best word to describe Lockport Developer Elmer A. Granchelli was “gentleman,” according to conversations with some who knew him for decades.
Granchelli, who died Saturday on his 93rd birthday, was a noted entrepreneur and developer in Lockport who, along with his wife Vel Patrick Granchelli, created E.A. Granchelli Developing and several other building companies.
Though he started his career in entry-level jobs at Simon Steel and Harrison Radiator, he moved quickly to establish three real estate management companies with his wife, Vel, including E.A. Granchelli Developing Co.; Velco, Inc.; and Centennial Development, Ltd., which led to the construction of several gas stations and plazas in Lockport and Wrights Corners. In 1963, city officials sought his counsel about urban renewal, and that began his involvement in the construction of nine urban renewal projects including the Greyhound Bus Terminal. In addition, he purchased or renovated about 40 other projects in Lockport and was said to be deeply proud of being one of the city's top 10 highest taxpayers.
Jack Florio, co-owner of Micro Graphics with his wife Rebecca, who has rented their Main Street office from Granchelli for 27 years, said that Granchelli would visit the office often and the two would talk about Jack's uncle, former Lockport restauranteur Nick DeFilippo, who was in the Granchelli wedding party when Elmer married Vel.
“My family has had a lot of contact with him over the years. I thought he was a great guy and he always treated me well," Florio said.
Jake Brewer of Gerald Brewer Allstate Insurance, was a tenant of Granchelli’s for 36 years in Lockview Plaza and also knew him as a fellow parishioner at All Saints Church. “He was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word,” Brewer said. "If you look up the word gentleman in the dictionary, his picture will be there."
Brewer recalled the teasing conversations he and Elmer would have about their favorite sports. “I’d see him in church and he’d always stop to talk to me. He would always kid me about him playing tennis and me playing golf,” Brewer recalled. “He said if you really want to play a good sport you’d come out and play tennis with me, rather than an old man sport like golf. He was probably in his late 70s at the time and he played a lot of tennis.”
Granchelli's staff of long-time employees remain deeply loyal, according to Kelli Alaimo, a vice president for E.A. Granchelli, who was hired by him as a secretary 35 years years ago.
Alaimo called him the best mentor and leader she could have found. “He was just a gentleman and he’s been a joy to work for."
When asked how the company will go on without the boss that she affectionately called “Mr. G,” she said: “It will absolutely go on exactly the way it’s been going," and noted that his wife, Vel, is president of the company, and will be carrying on in that role.
"We’re going to carry on his legacy and work very hard to make him proud, just like we were proud of him," Alaimo said.
Elmer and Vel have long supported the Lockport community and among their philanthropic contributions, they renovated, maintained and operated the Palace Theatre for more than 25 years to keep the theater a part of Lockport’s history, before handing it over to the Historic Lockport Palace Theatre group.
Besides his wife, Granchelli is survived by his son James J. Granchelli and his wife Julie, daughter Renee A. Granchelli, and daughter Lisa M. Price and her husband Frank. He had 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother Dick Granchelli and Dick's wife MaryLou, as well as many nieces and nephews.
Friends and family may call from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday at Prudden & Kandt Funeral Home, 242 Genesee Street, Lockport. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at noon Saturday at All Saints Roman Catholic Church, 76 Church St., Lockport.
An obituary for Elmer A. Granchelli can be found on Page 4.