Saturday, November 22, 2014

Peace, Love & Grant St. set for Dec. 4

Holiday cheer will once again  be consuming Grant St. for the fourth  annual Peace, Love and Grant Street from 5p.m.  to 8 p.m. on Dec. 4.
Most storefronts on Grant Street are participating, and will be decorated and remain  open longer for the event. The West Side Bazaar and Sweetness 7 Café will be playing holiday music. There will be food trucks, kids’ events at the Community Academic Center, and a reindeer petting area. There will also be a “pop-up market” featuring work by local artisans & craftsmen at the Tabernacle next to Sweetness 7 Café.
All evening, there will be a free trolley transporting students from the Student Apartment Complex at SUNY Buffalo State to the event.
New this year, there will be an ugly sweater parade. Participants will parade from the West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St., to Grant and Potomac avenues.  The person with the ugliest sweater will receive a prize.
The holiday event, which was started to increase local business on the West Side, is sponsored by Niagara District Council Member David Rivera’s office and is coordinated by the West Side Business and Taxpayers Association and the Grant Ferry Association.
             Legislative Staff to Councilman Rivera, Sean Mulligan,  said businesses will be encouraged to decorate and light up their stores for the season.
“It’s a good event to come out to, and to be involved in the festive celebration of the holiday season and the work done on the West Side,” Mulligan said. “It will be fun.” By Sarah Minkewicz and Colleen Young

Shop local on Small Business Saturday

          The West Side shopowners are  participating in the fifth annual Small Business Saturday, which is part of American Express’ Shop Small Movement, on Nov. 29. 
          The West Side has more than 100 shops participating in Small Business Saturday, which gives residents plenty of opportunities to support the economy of their own community. 
          Tom Akers, owner of Renew Bath and Body, 927 Elmwood Ave., is participating  for the first time, and is anticipating many customers. 
          “A lot of the other businesses say that their sales are three times more than usual that day,” he said. 
          The Shop Small Movement continues year-round, but Small Business Saturday is held specifically the Saturday after Thanksgiving to support small business shops and restaurants. In contrast to the traditional Black Friday, Small Business Saturday helps keep the focus on shopping local for the holiday season.
           Some of the many small businesses participating on the West Side include Quaker Bonnet,  69 Chenango St.; Shopaholic Fashionista,  425 Elmwood Ave.; Grant Fashion, 109 Grant St. and Guercio & Sons Inc., 250 Grant St. 
          Customers can show support and spread the word on Nov. 29 by taking a picture and posting it to any social media platform with the hashtag #ShopSmall. To find other participating small businesses on the West Side, visit By Laney Hill and Stephanie Vogel

Ribbon campaign to raise AIDS awareness

Jamie Blumrick pins a red ribbon on Spot Coffee co-worker Matt Measer to commemorate “Red Ribbon Week,” an awareness campaign for AIDS education and prevention.   The sale of red ribbons, benefiting Evergreen Health Services, begin on World AIDS Day, Dec.  1, and culminates on Dec. 5 with a Day of Remembrance ceremony at Evergreen Commons, 262 Georgia St.  “We’re all here on a mission to help and treat everyone no matter their status,” said Aaron Pry, director of administrative operations at Evergreen Health Services. In addition to downtown Spot Coffee locations, red ribbons will be available at Buffalo CarShare and Medaille College, as well as the Evergreen Health Services building, 206 S. Elmwood Ave.  By Taylor Gesel and Nate Smith

Boutique crawl supports shopping locally

Susan Morreale's shop Her Story will be part of the Black Friday Crawl on Nov. 28
Shop owner Susan Morreale  displays a line of products that will be sold at Her Story Boutique, located at 779 Elmwood Ave.,  during the annual Black Friday Boutique Crawl, beginning at 9 a.m.  Nov. 28.  This event is one of many that will be hosted by the Elmwood Village Association to increase the number of local shoppers this holiday season. Before shopping, participants will receive a boutique crawl punch card and a map of Elmwood Village. Participants will get their cards punched at each participating shop, and those who complete the crawl will be entered in to win gift baskets from the various participating stores. Some of the participating shops, including Her Story, will have special deals for customers that day. By Ryan Gilliam and Nicole Montanino

West Side Bazaar celebrates holiday season

Michelle Holler, manager at the West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St., said it will take part in many different events during the holiday season. One of those events is Small Business Saturday, held Nov. 29. The bazaar’s food vendors will be sampling food from all over the world, while the clothing vendors will hold special sales. Then, for the annual Peace, Love and Grant Street event on Dec. 4, the bazaar will host a live band. Though the bazaar houses many different ethnic groups who have their own traditions, Zelalem Gemmeda, owner of Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine, explained that when she lived in Ethiopia, her family still celebrated Christmas. She said that the center of their Christmas celebration is more spiritual than the American traditions. By Andrea Chevalier and Lucy Lopez

IN DEPTH: Food pantries: Hunger happens year-round

Beginning in November, charities such as food pantries see an increase in donations. However, the volume of donations drops dramatically in January, even though officials at local food pantries say hunger does not end with the holidays. Full story by Autumn Evans and Melissa Zimmermann

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Urban Roots repurposes Christmas trees

Urban Roots, 428 Rhode Island St., will begin its fifth annual Living Tree Donation Program this week. Residents can choose from nine spruce and fir varieties, with their roots intact, from $60-$75 and use them in their homes for 10-14 days. The living tree can then be replanted in the buyer's yard or returned to Urban Roots for reforestation.  All returned trees will be donated to Buffalo Olmsted Parks, Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo, or Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. Urban Roots employee Claire Collie, left, helps care for the gardening center's living trees. By Laney Hill and Stephanie Vogel

Young entrepreneur sells at pop-up market

Zandra Azariah Cunningham, 14, is selling her beauty products through Christmas Eve at the Queen City Pop Up Holiday Edition at the Market Arcade Building, 639 Main St. This is the most recent development in Cunningham’s career which began when she was 9 years old and participated in the  KidBiz Market program, which teached young entrepreneurs the basics of owning their own business.  She later opened Azariah’s Innocence at the West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St.  The Queen City Pop Up will be open daily until Christmas Eve. By Sarah Minkewicz and Colleen Young

Transformation begins for Fort West site

David Harter
Construction has started on Fort West, a new independent learning center, located on the corner of Albany Street and West Avenue.
The project, an offshoot of education non-profit, Practical Play, will house programs that focus on learning life skills.
“(It would have) the fundamental learning experiences of humanity, food, music, culture, building stuff, mechanics,” said David Harter, 29, program facilitator at Practical Play and building owner. “The things people like to learn about, that's the infrastructure that I'd like to see here.”
Harter bought three abandoned houses at the site two years ago. He plans to use two of the buildings for Fort West, while the third will become an apartment complex. Since then, he’s spent a year and a half on what he calls emergency stabilization, including replacing rotted out structures and outdated electrical wiring and repairing holes in the floor.
"You have to tear stuff down before you can start to rebuild,” he said. “It's like a garden, you can't make a garden without tilling the soil."
Now, he and volunteers from Practical Play and around the community are focusing on construction to transform the building into Fort West.
Funds for the approximately $280,000 project come from Harter’s personal savings and from donations. Most of the work being done by volunteers, though Harter hires outside contractors when building codes require it.
He said he hopes to have Fort West completed in three years, though he expects the apartments to be ready in the spring. By Autumn Evans and Melissa Zimmermann

Boxing club promotes health, sportsmanship

As training begins for the coming Buffalo Golden Gloves tournament, Rick Diaz, owner of the Westside Boxing Club, 164 W. Ferry St., balances his amateur fighters’ career aspirations with his new recruits' excitement to step in the ring. Whether it’s teaching sportsmanship, promoting a healthy lifestyle or coaching self-defense tactics, Diaz and his volunteers model their gym around a positive learning environment. Battling the stereotypes that come with the violent nature of boxing, Diaz pulls from his past fighting and military experience to instill in each student life lessons to help them both in and out of the ring. By Taylor Gesel and Nate Smith

Saturday, November 15, 2014

East and West come together in schools

The Ferry Street Corridor Project is using art and history to help find common ground between Lafayette High School and the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts and the communities in which they are located. Full story by Andrea Chevalier and Lucy Lopez

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sudenese newest cuisine in W.S. Bazaar

Customers craving South Sudanese Cuisine or soul food are dining out at the Taste of Africa/Soul Food, the newest vendor at the West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St. Michelle Holler, manager of the bazaar, says that the new vendor, who moved into the small business incubator about five months ago, is attracting customers for the unique spices, cooking style and menu options they offer. Nadia Leone, employee of Taste of Africa/Soul Food, said she enjoys socializing with customers and that they seem to be satisfied with the food. The bazaar is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday. By Sarah Minkewicz and Colleen Young

Pet care protocol changes for chilly days

Cold weather and the changes it brings could pose serious health risks to pets that all owners should know about, according to a local veterinarian. 
Dr. Mercedes Carota of the West Side Pet Clinic advised to not leave pets in the car for any period of time during the winter.
“Cars tend to trap cold inside, acting like a refrigerator,” she said, adding that how long a dog can withstand outdoor temperatures on a regular basis varies.
“It depends on the breed of dog, their adaptation to outside weather and physical status,” Carota said. “For example, a Chihuahua can spend far less time outside than a husky can. Also, don’t shave your dogs down in the winter. A longer coat provides some warmth to animals.” 
She also warned that road salt can damage a dog’s skin and paw pads. 
“Make sure to wipe off your dog’s paws with a warm washcloth when they come inside after a walk,” she said. “The salt can be very irritating to sensitive paws.” 
Wiping off the dog's paws when he comes inside also ensures that the animal does not ingest any harsh chemicals that he may have been exposed to, she said. Antifreeze is one of the most harmful to animals. 
“Antifreeze tastes sweet and is lethal,” Carota said.
She suggested keeping walks shorter for smaller breeds of dogs, and gave other options for keeping pets active, such as taking the dog to daycare or increasing the amount of playtime at home to combat the winter blues. By Andrea Chevalier and Lucy Lopez

Sunday, November 9, 2014

West Side vendors to sell at Shea’s event

Lexie Furlong of Blush Boutique
          Shea’s Performing Arts Center will hold its fifth annual Shopping Soiree from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, at the theater, 646 Main St.
     Businesses from across Western New York will sell items such as clothing, sweets, jewelry and art. West Side vendors at the event will include boutiques Blush and Global Villages and D’Avolio Olive Oil, Vinegars and More.
     “We like doing these events because we get to meet and mingle,” said Lexie Furlong, co-owner of Blush, 1005 Elmwood Ave. “It’s just a really good opportunity to get new customers to come into the store.”
     The event sees between 400 and 700 shoppers per year, said Hannah Alt, Shea’s development associate. This year, there will be raffles and games in addition to the vendor stalls.
     “I think it’s going to be our biggest and best year yet,” Alt said. “We’re hoping to break records with it.”
     Vendors will set up on the stage and in the first and second floor lobbies. Proceeds from the event will go to the theater’s educational programs and restoration project.
     “The event is to raise money for Shea’s and I wanted to be a part of that as well,” Furlong said. “Who doesn’t love Shea’s and supporting them?” By Autumn Evans, Olive Porter and Melissa Zimmermann

City Mission seeks holiday volunteers

With Thanksgiving approaching, Sue Cervi, manager of volunteers at the Buffalo City Mission, is looking for volunteers to help give West Side residents and the rest of Buffalo a reason to be thankful. The mission, located at 100 E. Tupper St., is holding its annual Thanksgiving Turkey Express, where 175 volunteer delivery teams will provide turkey dinners and pies to those in need. Beginning at 8a.m. on Nov. 27, the volunteer teams will depart from the mission and deliver 4,500 meals to those who need them. To volunteer for deliveries or to donate food, call the mission’s volunteer department at 854-8181 ext. 404. Residents looking to receive a meal on Thanksgiving can call 854-8181 ext. 419 beginning Nov. 10 to put their name and address on the reservation list. By Laney Hill and Stephanie Vogel

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IN DEPTH: Health officials ready if virus hits W.S.

      Although the Ebola virus has made its way into the states, West Side health officials are urging people to not be afraid and continue with their daily schedules.  Full story by Sarah Minkewicz and Colleen Young

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Renovations begin at Richmond Ferry Church

            The Richmond Ferry Church, on the corner of West Ferry Street and Richmond Avenue, is beginning its construction process for its $5 million renovation project. 
            Five years after 467 Richmond Avenue LLC bought the property from Alleyway Theater in 2013, planning for the project began at the beginning of the summer.  The renovations are expected to be completed in 2016.

            Rachel Heckl, lead partner of 467 Richmond Avenue, has assembled a team to direct the project. It includes communication director and archivist, Julia Purpera,   who works on the project’s social media and preserving the historic significance of the church; Emily Tucker, owner of the Benjamin Gallery and creator of the site’s Benjamin Contemporary Gallery; and Leah Pabst, who contributes to the environmental aspects of the project.
            Goals of the renovation project consists of a black box theater, which will seat about 110 people and an amphitheater, which will seat about 600, will be used for multicultural art performances   as well as weddings and other community events.

           Plans include a commissary kitchen in the basement of the church to be used by caterers during events. Independent bakers, pizza makers, and food trucks will also be invited to use the space.

            The project team and the team of Blue Sky Concepts intend to keep as much of the original building as possible such as the stained glass windows.  

            “We’re hoping to be very community based and to help the children around here and to offer music classes for the children and dance classes for the children and kind of have like a little place for them to go,” Purpera said. By Ryan Gilliam and Nicole Montanino


Texts, social media to ‘wipe out’ lead

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo is targeting West Side neighborhoods in an effort to rid Buffalo houses of lead.  
The Wipe Out Lead campaign, in combination with a $3.4 million federal lead remediation grant, is using social media and text messages to educate residents on the risks of lead poisoning. 
            “Texting is a much easier medium to talk to people about lead awareness,” said Tracy Preston, community foundation liaison to the Erie County Health Department.
            The Grow 716 texting system provides lead-education information, including safe work practices, lead poisoning discussion and home lead hazard protocols. 
            One-third of all lead poisoning cases in New York State, outside of New York City, are reported in nine of Buffalo’s zip code regions, including the three West Side zip codes.  
Asthma, one of the primary symptoms of lead poisoning, is the leading cause of absenteeism of children in school.
            By reaching West Side residents, the foundation hopes to promote discussion on the health hazards of lead and push concerns to the texting system.
            The Wipe Out Lead campaign will continue through the Thanksgiving holiday, and the texting service will continue after the campaign ends.
            Text ‘LEAD’ to 877-877 to access Grow 716. By Taylor Gesel and Nathaniel Smith

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Five Points Bakery readies for relocation

Melissa Gardner, the owner of Five Points Bakery along with her husband Kevin, serves the first customer on the last morning, Oct. 25, before closing for the next month. Five Points, located at 426 Rhode Island St., will be closed until the end of November while the Gardners renovate the bakery’s new location, a 115-year-old building located across the street at 44 Brayton St. They are expected to reopen in the new location by Nov. 25. Five Points Bakery, formerly a tenant of Urban Roots, will now own the space rather than rent it. Customers contributed to the purchase of the new building by donating $5 to receive a flag with their name on it that was then displayed on one of the walls of the bakery. By Andrea Chevalier and Lucy Lopez