VILLAGE OF LEWISTON — For the last month a new kind of feeling has been taking over the Village of Lewiston, but not one you might suspect. Lewiston has become the home of WVNR Viva Nostalgia Radio which plays top hits from the '60s, '70s and '80s from a small shop on Center Street to worldwide audiences via the Internet.
Roger Passero’s shop, Viva Nostalgia, is a relative newcomer on Center Street, only open for two years, but what lies behind its counter is an owner with a past career as a DJ at parties in NYC. Upon finding Long Island too expensive to run his shop, which he ran for 10 years, he started looking upstate and Lewiston seemed to jump right out at him.
“Lewiston is a place where it’s sort of old fashioned,” Passero said. “People still believe in walking around and buying in stores instead of staying online and buying stuff.”
Passero came to Lewiston at a critical time. Through conversations with Kathy Pignatora, owner of Inspirations on Canvas, Passero became infatuated with the potential for community building amongst the businesses in the village. He also saw it as a prime place to broadcast over the Internet with the backing of several businesses.
“It’s not about me making money, or trying to make a lot of money,” Passero said of WVNR. “It’s more or less about promoting Lewiston and promoting the other businesses. It all came out of the Lewiston Business Group … it’s all the same people involved.”
WVNR is sponsored by a long list of Passero’s neighbors including Apple Granny Restaurant, Antique to Chic, Sue’s Frame of Mind, Hurtin 4 Curtains, the Village Bake Shoppe … and the list goes on. A complete list is on the website vivanostalgiaradio.com with links to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.
Passero also has crafted promos, short commercials for his sponsors throughout the day. He talked a little about the programs he uses and mentioned that a live broadcast was also possible. Over 2,000 songs are in his library of music and the tunes are constantly on random rotation unless a specific show is on. Passero’s DJ handle is Captain Rockit’s and he has a show called Captain Rockit’s Time Machine which he started at Stonybrook College through a friend.
“I’ve been a DJ my whole life,” Passero said. “I’m self-taught. I listened to big New York radio since I was a kid… all the big guys who were on WABC. I wanted to go into it … and then I graduated high school … I ended opening a record store and I had that for 15 years. So, I never got to actually do radio but I did party DJ-ing and clubs, and then I went into, more or less, programming for radio, but at the time it was more like in-store radio.” Passero described the '90s in-store radio culture, a predecessor of services like Sirius radio. He would make discs full of programming, music and commercials, and send them to stores which would then play them for their customers.
“When I was 5 years old I was buying records. It’s been a whole life kind of thing… I knew about Internet radio and how it was much easier to do that than it is an AM/FM station which would cost you hundreds and thousands of dollars,” Passero said, speaking of his present gig. “It’s pricey but if you get cooperation from your neighbors, like I have, you can at least break even or come into the black and still do it.”