Friday, December 15, 2017

MAP farmhouse on target for spring opening

          Massachusetts Avenue Project’s farmhouse project, which was under construction for two years, is set to open spring 2018.           
          The project at 389 Massachusetts Ave. will add to the urban farm at the same location.
          Some of the additions includes a new indoor and outdoor training space for farmers, a teaching kitchen, a resource library and a larger event space, Danielle Rovillo, MAP’s market director, said. 
          Funding for the $2 million project was made possible by donations from numerous organizations, including a $389,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture given to MAP and its partner for the farmhouse, Grassroots Gardens.
          MAP and Grassroots Gardens joined efforts to increase access to healthier food options that will allow them to build a stronger neighborhood connection.
          MAP’s mission is to nurture the growth of a diverse and equitable local food system and promote local economic opportunities. Grassroots Gardens aims to revitalize the city and enhance quality of life through the creation and maintenance of community gardens, grow healthy food and strengthen neighborhood spirit. 
          “Going into the grant helped MAP build a great relationship with Grassroots Gardens. It allowed us to grow on ideas for collaborating and plans for programming in the future for youth,” Rovillo said. By Elie Fortune and Nikita Singh

Best friends create hot spot at Remedy House

Bengal News West Reporters
           Andrew Trautman has worked at several cafes and coffee shops in the Buffalo area for years. Justin Smith has worked for several companies and has a finance degree from Notre Dame. Together, the two best friends decided to put their business strengths together to create a coffee shop and espresso bar called Remedy House. 
          Trautman, 30, along with Smith, 29, opened Remedy House, 429 Rhode Island St., in the Five Points neighborhood back on Nov. 20 right near other businesses in the area such as Urban Roots and Paradise Wine. So far in their short amount of time, the two friends have made their small business an interesting place in the neighborhood. 
          Prior to the store’s opening, they used to run a pop-up shop in the city and made a mobile port called the Remedy House Mobile Espresso Bar. “A few years ago, we started the [Remedy House] business by doing pop-ups. We had a mobile espresso bar that went around to festivals, private events, and other things. It got our name out there, got our feet wet. We would just serve simple espresso drinks and iced teas,” Trautman said. 

          After doing that for a while, the landlord of the Rhode Island Street building that Trautman is friends with said that their business should come into his building. 
          “We did a pop-up almost a year ago inside this space,” Trautman included. “Once we got inside here, we felt that it was just right that we needed to come in. Ever since then we’ve been working towards signing the lease and building this out.” 
          Smith, who’s been a friend of Trautman’s for four years, has a background in corporate finance and had no previous experience in the restaurant business. He left the business lifestyle, which he grew to hate, and wanted to do something different with his skills. 
           “I wanted to open some sort of restaurant, bar, café, something, with somebody that’s passionate,” Smith said. “I’ve always had an interest in it and in interest in providing quality things to people. Seeing Andrew’s passion for coffee and frankly how good he is at preparing coffee drinks and his knowledge about coffee. We started talking about making our own business.” 
          Before Remedy House started, Trautman worked as a barista at SPoT Coffee, where he met Ariel Brucato, who now works at Remedy House. She said she loves the intimacy of the location and how small the building is. 
          “[Smith and Trautman] are the hardest working humans I’ve ever met in my life,” Brucato said with a chuckle in her voice. “I don’t know how they function so well without sleeping as much as they do, but they’re killing it, they’re doing such a great job. It’s impressive.”

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rotary Rink ice-skating season opens

Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza officially started its ice skating season. The season kicked off in early December with a Christmas tree lighting celebration, an event that featured several attractions including fireworks, pictures with Santa Clause and concession stands with food. The Rotary Rink is the only free, outdoor ice skating rink on the West Side open to the public.  People have the option to bring their own skates or rent skates for $2 for children and $3 for adults. Local resident, Brittney Davis, brought her 10- year-old son Moses to the rink to get him in the holiday spirit. Despite the long lines she believed it was a great place for families to spend time together. “This is a great event for the kids but the rink is nice because it brings everyone, even adults, here to have fun and skate. I’m not the best skater but I really like it here,” said Davis. People who missed the event will still be able to skate at the rink until the season officially ends on March 18. By Tatiyana Bellamy

Changes to come for Jericho Road facility

Small, uncomfortable patient waiting rooms will soon be a thing of the past at Jericho Road Community Health Center, 184 Barton St., as this will be one of the spaces renovated in the facility. There will be numerous additions to the center, which will include a larger waiting room for patients and a newly renovated sanctuary. Renovations will be worked on during two different timeframes in what the center is calling phase one and phase two. During the first phase, which started in early October, the community center will update its parking lot, add a new side entrance with automatic doors and a ramp and enlarge the kitchen to accommodate 110 seats. A pharmacy will be added during the second phase beginning in mid-December. Islama Bashtik, secretary at Jericho Road Community Health Center, said patients are excited about the changes. “A few are a bit alarmed due to possible patient increases, appointments times and waiting long hours to see a doctor,” said Bashtik. “However, for the most part a lot of our patients want to be able to have access to an on-site pharmacy rather than traveling to their local Tops or Rite Aid.” Both phases are expected to be complete by the summer of 2018. By Elie Fortune and Nikita Singh

'Fixing' pets prevents overpopulation

Residents that spay and neuter their pets could prevent animal overpopulation from worsening on the West Side. “It helps with population control, first and foremost,” said Dr. Mercedes Carota, associate veterinarian at the West Side Pet Clinic, 1245 Niagara St. People often bring in groups of stray cats, or cat colonies, to the clinic. “They try to trap them and spay and neuter them at low-cost clinics. Pit bulls and cats are definitely overpopulated in this area,” Carota said. Nick Maes, Helen Street resident, has personally experienced the downside of not fixing a pet. When Maes’ dog gave birth to nine puppies, six of them passed away within a week. “It would’ve saved me about $600, a lot of heartache, a lot of time if I just would’ve gotten her spayed,” Maes said. With so many animals in the area, residents should know that winter weather conditions can cause animals to seek shelter in potentially harmful locations. The Humane Society of the United States advises people to bang on their car hood before starting the engine to prevent serious injuries to hidden animals. By Alyssa Brannigan and Taylor Carruth

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Print books are not a thing of the past

Bethany Ortquist works weekends at West Side Stories Used Books, which is celebrating its sixth year in business in an industry that has been challenged by the introduction of e-readers as alternatives to hard-copy books. Since its opening in 2011, the owners Joe and Jeanenne Petri had to fight an argument that e-books and e-readers will become the dominant means of reading, but by 2017 it hasn’t been the case. E-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook have taken a dive in desirable markets such as young adults and college students.
According to a study in Telematics and Informatics, four-fifths of students surveyed preferred print books for both academic and pleasure reading. Another study, showed that millennials acknowledge that they read better with a print book instead of on a digital tablet.
The Petris found that their confidence in books came from taking a look at another industry that’s undergoing a resurgence. “E-readers will eventually become a bigger part of the market,” Joe Petri said. “I opened the shop six years ago and the reason I was confident in the book industry was by taking a look at the music and vinyl industry. Music and vinyl came back because there are some people that will choose fidelity over convenience.” By Edwin Viera

Wing King marks its success with 2nd shop

By Elie Fortune and Nikita Singh
Bengal News West Reporters
A Hertel Avenue restaurant will bring its specialty chicken wing flavors, which include Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Nutella and peanut butter and jelly, to the West Side.
Wing Kings, 1281 Hertel Ave, is set to arrive in Elmwood Village at 484 Elmwood Ave.
            Jeremie Jones, owner of Wing Kings, is a Buffalo native who believes the success of his business served as an opportunity to move forward from his troubled past.
Before he became a restaurant owner, Jones was arrested and charged with illegal use of a cell phone for a felony act. For a year, he was required to wear an ankle monitor and was placed on probation for a few years until he got off early due to excellent behavior.
Jones’ record could interfere with the progress of Wing Kings but he was determined to leave his past behind him.
Jones attributes much of the restaurants success to social media. On Facebook, Wing Kings has over 3,500 likes and a 4.9 out of 5 rating. On Yelp it received 4 out of 5 stars and on Seamless, 5 out of 5 stars.
“With social media, “Jones said. “We were able to tap into our old clients from the Buffalo Summer Club and staying in contact with those people. I just think that our chicken following from our crazy flavors, and the neighborhood that we’re in, it’s a perfect, right in the middle neighborhood in Buffalo.”
Jones also believes much of Wing Kings’ popularity derives from his unique list of flavors. For Jones, operating in the home of the buffalo wing, served as a stepping stone for creativity.
 The buffalo wing only consists of a hot wing. With us, we bring all the original flavors and then mix and match with exotic flavors, making them homemade,” Jones said.
Aaron Osbourne, Jones’ cousin and percentage owner of Wing Kings, believed his skills along with Jones’ could create something special if they went into business together.
Jones and Osbourne chose the West Side for their business because they saw an opportunity to expand and viewed it as the perfect location.
“We didn’t really want to go downtown with the just the regular take out, small sit-down restaurant,” Jones said. “Elmwood to us was like the most popular street in Buffalo when it comes to bars and food. So, I felt like Elmwood for the second location was going to help us in our goal to open up a sports bar with Wing Kings in the near year or so.

716 group helps make unemployed hirable

By Kelly Khatib and Michael Kelly
Bengal  News West Reporters
In the fall of 2015, Zakiyyah Wolford welcomed her second child. For most people this is a joyous occasion. For Wolford however, a struggling single mother, it was clouded with a veil of uncertainty as she found herself unable to continue working.
“I was a dietary aide at Erie County Medical Center working overnights and they wouldn’t accommodate me on changing my shift,” Wolford said. “I asked them a lot but they kept telling me there was nothing they could do. I just had a brand-new baby and there was no one to watch him.”
For the next three years she found herself unemployed.
Wolford’s story is not uncommon. She and others like her are searching for jobs when many employers simply aren't hiring. According to the State Labor Department, Buffalo’s unemployment rate was at 4.9 percent this September. When jobs are available, competition is high and it's important to separate yourself from the next candidate.
716 Ministries, 301 14th St., is hoping to make that process a little easier with its Work
Readiness program. The program consists of four weeks of intensive classes covering many topics such as time management to how to deal with customers.
“We cover team work, attitude, and a lot of really practical things,” said Stephanie Bruno, one of the Work Readiness coordinators at 716 Ministries. “Many times, the people who come into our program will have a GED or high school diploma, but no further training. So, it’s difficult to find a job that pays more than $10 an hour. We’re trying to provide them with a higher skill set that can lead to a higher paying job.”

The program runs every other month with classes limited to 10 people. Many students come from the Goodwill and Salvation Army. Christina Schweitzer, Salvation Army director says that the Erie County Department of Social Services refers people on public assistance to do volunteer hours at the charities during their search for a permanent job. It was through the Welfare-to-Work program that Zakiyyah Wolford learned about the Work Readiness program.
“They came to the Goodwill where I was assigned to do work and it seemed like it would be fun,” Wolford said. “They took me on interviews and showed me how to present a better resume. The finance training for me was really helpful because I’m bad with money.”
Bruno says this hands-on approach is what makes the program so successful.
“The thing that really sets us apart is that we have one on one mentors for our students,” Bruno said. “Over 70 percent of our graduates are working and I believe it’s because we create a relationship time because they believe in it and they see that lives are being impacted by this.”
Since graduating from the program in March, Wolford keeps in contact with her mentor to talk about the career progress she’s made.
“They were willing to help me in any way. Even now we keep in touch, I talked to my mentor the other day and we plan to get together and do lunch,” Wolford said.
Wolford now has a full-time job at Home Depot. She says she owes it to the skills she learned at Work Readiness. She hopes to see the program grow even bigger in the future.
 “If anyone out there needs a little extra push they should sign up for this program,” Wolford said. “Keep an open mind and just give it a chance because it could change your life. It changed my life for the better.”
716 Ministries will be holding its next phase of job training through the Work Readiness program in January.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Bazaar gives shoppers worldwide choices

The West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St., is welcoming everyone to come do their holiday shopping there, where there are a variety of unique items from which to choose. The shop features many vendors from all over the world selling anything from handmade hanging baskets, to authentic cuisine from whatever country they are from. Gysma Kueny, pictured, is a vendor at the West Side Bazaar who is from South Sudan. Kueny is a firm believer in people shopping for their gifts at places like the West Side Bazaar instead of going to a chain store that is in the mall. “Our stuff comes from all over the world,” Kueny said. “You can come find stuff at the West Side Bazaar from different countries.” Kueny believes that this could be a good alternative for people who want authentic items from all over the world, but cannot afford to go to the country to get them. Nadin Yousef, a vendor from Iraq also believes that it would be beneficial for customers to shop at the West Side Bazaar instead of a larger corporation. “When they shop here they support the small business,” Yousef said. “Here they don’t need to go to many places. If you want something from India, it’s here. Africa, it’s here. Iraq, it’s here.” Many of Yousef’s products are handmade, and she offers classes to teach people how to make macramé. Macramé uses a variety of material, and she teaches you how to make plant hangers, jewelry, and wall hangings from the materials given to you. The West Side Bazaar is open 11a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. By Alyssa Brannigan and Taylor Carruth

Local art featured in month-long exhibit

Donald J. Siuta, director of the Artist Group Gallery, is hosting an exhibit of work by members of the Western New York Artists Group at the gallery, One Linwood Ave. The exhibit, Masterworks and Artful Gifts, is scheduled to run until Dec. 29. The exhibit is just one of the activities of the artists group, which also conducts art workshops and lectures for artists and art collectors and the general public. The emphasis is on local, Siuta says. ““The WNYAG is the only art space that is strictly dedicated to local artists.”  By Ashley Steele and Nazee Wright

Allen Street decoration-less this season

Holiday decorations are adorning much of the West Side, except for one prominent street.
Holiday lights will not be hung on Allen Street this year, according to Allentown Association President Seth Amman.
“We sustained some loss when our building’s ceiling collapsed,” Amman said.
Amman is referring to the Allentown Association’s previous office building located at 14 Allen St. The building’s roof collapse brought damage to the organization’s holiday decorations that are usually hung up on Allen Street.
The association was without a home for over a year after the roof collapsed in July 2015. Finding new office space and getting the association up and running took precedence over the decorations.
         “The Association bought a new building for an office, but have not gotten to replacing Christmas decorations yet,” Amman said.
Amman said that with the upcoming restructure of Allen Street and its changing face, that the association will hold off to put up decorations.
“With Allen Street being reconstructed, we thought it best to wait so everything can be better coordinated for hanging and lighting,” Amman said.
The new Allentown Association offices are located at 61 College St. Renovations to the new building are still in progress, but for at least this year, holiday decorations will have to wait in the Allentown district. By Kelly Khatib and Michael Kelly

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Roller derby team, tat parlor plan market

A roller derby team from Buffalo and a West Side tattoo parlor are teaming up to bring shoppers a unique experience during the holiday season.
Sip and Shop, a holiday market and basket raffle hosted by the Nickel City Renegade Rollergirls and 125 Art Collective Tattoo Studio, from noon to 8 p.m., Dec. 16 at the studio 125 Elmwood Ave.
The market has 14 arts and crafts vendors signed up, including the webzine Qween City, selling t-shirts, the Brick Chick, selling garden stones and muralist Vinny Alejandro of Urban Inspirations who will sell art prints.
A basket raffle will be held at the event with baskets made by local businesses and the roller derby team. Half of the donations will go to the team for traveling costs and another half will go to charity.
Amy “Psyko Kupkake” Hawkins, founder and head coach for the Rollergirls and co-owner of the studio with her husband, Ted, said the event was made to promote area artists. 
“We want to promote local art and encourage local people to sell their stuff,” Hawkins said. “I think that a lot of local artists don’t get that opportunity. We invited a bunch of vendors from across Buffalo and they’re welcome to bring whatever they sell.” By Jacob Fyock and Chris Prenatt

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Boxes of Love aim to please thousands

For the past 19 years, Pastor Eric Johns of the Buffalo Dream Center, 286 Lafayette Ave., has been leading the charge in spreading holiday good will. Boxes of Love, a box of donations filled with food and gifts for local families, started when Pastor Johns and his wife, Michelle, realized that many of the families at the center couldn't afford gifts for Christmas. At its beginning, Boxes of Love raised enough money to help out 200 kids, but since then, it has grown into something that Johns said he could have never envisioned. Last year, the Johns helped nearly 3,000 families with food and gave Christmas gifts to 5,000 children.To be able to help out that many people takes a lot of time, volunteers and donations. Pastor Johns said that, last year alone, 80 businesses and organizations and about 1,000  volunteers donated their time to help the center make Boxes of Love possible. “We work really hard for a month wrapping the gifts, packing the food and sometimes it’s a lot of work and you get weary, but it’s all worth it when you’re at that distribution center and that little kid gets exactly what they wanted,” Johns said. “Moms come to me crying saying if it wasn't for you I wouldn't be able to do this and that brings us a lot of joy.” By Kelly Khatib and Michael Read

Salvation Army’s red kettles in full swing

The Salvation Army of Buffalo began its Red Kettle season is in full swing.  
The Salvation Army has 75 red kettle locations around the city including the Tops Friendly Markets at 425 Niagara St and 345 Amherst St.
Manager of Tops Friendly Markets at 425 Niagara Street, John Spiess, is excited to hold the red kettle at his store again this year.
“We are very community minded at our location,” said Spiess. “The community is very supportive of it and they participate very much because they like seeing the red kettle bell ringers around during the holiday season.”
Demi Walsh, the volunteer and Red Kettle coordinator for the Salvation Army of Buffalo, helps pair volunteers with suitable shifts and locations
“The funds raised from a two-hour bell ringing shift can feed a family of four for a week. Every penny counts,” said Walsh.
The funds raised during the campaign go to 15 of the Salvation Army’s year-round community programs as well as holiday gifts for people in the community in need of housing, food and clothing assistance.
The Salvation Army is still looking for volunteers who can work a minimum 2-hour shift which can be done individually, as a group or even with a family.
People who are interested in volunteering should contact Demi Walsh at (716) 888-6220 or, for more information. By Tatiyana Bellamy