Whether you call him an entrepreneur, a trustee, a minister or a captain, you'd be right.
Matt Bianconi, an Aurora native, was born and raised on Cayuga Lake. In the summers, his day would start with breakfast before he and his three older siblings would spend hours on the lake in the family boat, or under the water's surface with a mask and snorkel.
To share his love of the lake and Aurora with others, Bianconi Tours is coming to fruition this summer. Bianconi will offer three different daily Cayuga Lake boat tours that depart from the Aurora Inn dock.
While the Aurora scenery, operating a boat and starting a business are not new to Bianconi, he said that this is, to his knowledge, the first modern boat tour company to be based in Aurora. After traveling, owning a retail business in Ithaca, running a marketing company in Vermont and, most recently, living in Boston, Bianconi and his partner, Alexis Boyce, made the move back to Aurora six years ago, buying a home on the lake next to Bianconi's family home, which his grandfather once bought for $850.
With Aurora roots deeper than 100 years — Bianconi's grandfather settled there in the early 1900s after immigrating from Italy — he feels confident that his history in the village and on the lake will offer something unique to visitors and locals alike.
Seeing Aurora from the water offers a new perspective of the beautiful village, said Bianconi, who also sits on Aurora's board of trustees. He said his tours are "a great opportunity" for both tourists in the area and many people who have lived in the village their whole life, but have never had a chance to see it from the lake.
Bianconi launched his website just a few weeks ago and so far has been taking "a slow, organic approach" to starting this business. He has already done a couple tours this season. He's been preparing for this summer for over a year, becoming a captain last spring when he acquired his U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential as master. Bianconi also bought La Barca Del Vino, his six-passenger, 27-foot pontoon boat. It's a bit larger than his first power boat, which was built by his dad and brother when he was 12, and measured 10 feet long.
"Boating has always been a passion of mine, ever since I was a kid," Bianconi said. His passion has seemingly stood the test of time — Bianconi said he's still in the lake every day, and that time seems to vanish when you're on the water: "It's a whole different way of living out there (on the lake)."
So far, Bianconi said, he's received a lot of support and enthusiasm for his tour business.
Right now, in addition to private charter options, Bianconi is offering a two-hour lunchtime cruise, a four-hour afternoon winery tour cruise, and a 1.5-hour sunset cruise. A captain of many caps, Bianconi said he is also able to perform weddings on the pontoon, or on land. To his knowledge, captains having the power to marry solely based on that credential are a myth, but with the help of the internet, Bianconi got the ordination to perform weddings, and has three under his belt already.
Bianconi said when his grandfather came to Aurora he raised and sold chickens, ran a cobbler shop out of his family home — where Bianconi's mother still lives — and even made his own wine. Bianconi said people have told him stories about how they would see his grandfather during Prohibition "to get a pair of shoelaces," but in reality wound up drinking wine in the basement.
Fishing was also part of how his grandfather provided for his family, and Bianconi believes that is how his father's love of the lake began.
"I suppose I inherited my grandfather's entrepreneurial spirit and my dad's love for Cayuga Lake," Bianconi said. "It's a pretty good combination."
Bianconi said his dad, a World War II Navy veteran, began building boats in his early teens and probably made about 10 boats in his lifetime. While his mom and dad were dating, they built a boat together that became the family boat Bianconi grew up with.
"My father was a very creative guy," Bianconi said. He grew up in such a creative environment, he continued, that when he saw a toy he wanted on television, his dad's impulse was to make it, not buy it.
Being able to share stories of what once was in Aurora — such as how his dad used to watch the Barnum & Bailey Circus and animals go by on the old train tracks in his backyard — brings a different dimension to his tours, Bianconi said.
"It's important to me that everyone has fun and enjoys themselves," Bianconi said, whether that's recommending one of the four local wineries to grab a bottle to bring on the boat, pointing visitors toward a spot for lunch or Aurora Ale & Lager Co. He said being based in Aurora has unique advantages not all other boat tours in the Finger Lakes can offer, as it's more of "a one stop" for many amenities.
"It's beautiful," Bianconi said. "It's great to come here."