A champion

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2009

By Staff
Downtown Washington has lost one of its greatest champions.
Gary Tomasulo, president of the Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association, died Monday, apparently after falling from one of the buildings he owned on Main Street.
While the circumstances of his death remain somewhat unclear, Tomasulo will be missed in many ways, including as a champion for downtown.
After more than 20 years as a correctional officer at the Rikers Island jail in New York, Tomasulo and his wife, Marie, retired to Washington. Soon, Tomasulo began buying downtown properties, including the former Bank of Washington building, the building that houses La Bella Pizzeria and the building that houses Main Street Scoops. For the past six years, he served as president of the merchants group.
Tomasulo was passionate about downtown, fighting for what he believed was in the best interest of downtown merchants and property owners. When the Washington City Council increased the fees for business-privilege licenses a little more than a year ago, Tomasulo showed up at council meetings to complain that the city was trying to raise additional revenue on the backs of those merchants and property owners. When that same council failed to include funding for a popular grant program to help downtown property owners improve the facades of their properties, Tomasulo pleaded for funding for the program to be restored.
In both cases, the council rethought its moves, modifying the fee schedule for business-privilege licenses and restoring funding for the facade-grant program.
Tomasulo was instrumental in making the Smoke on the Water and Music in the Streets festivals what they are today, two of the most popular events in the area. As a member of the Washington Tourism Development Authority, he understood the value of festivals drawing people to downtown and its merchants.
Tomasulo let you know where he stood. If he did not see eye to eye with you, especially when it came to improving downtown, he would let you know.
His passion for and belief in downtown Washington was unquestionable. That’s why he opened La Bella Pizzeria in July, during a recession. He believed area residents and downtown merchants would support it.
With Tomasulo’s death, downtown has lost more than just a merchant and business owner. Downtown has lost one of its meaningful voices and a tireless worker on its behalf.
Tomasulo may be gone, but his imprint on downtown Washington will long remain.