Saturday, April 27, 2019

WS kitchen makes a healthy 'difference'

Lucille Altieri at work in The Difference Kitchen
By Kim-Moi Chin and Jahziel Delgado 
Buffalo Review West Reporters
            Lucille Altieri grew up working in her father’s restaurant Fat Franks, near the University at Buffalo. Admiring his hands-on philosophy, customer hospitality and his love of being in the kitchen, Altieri has taken those values and created a vision for herself by opening her own restaurant.
           The Difference Kitchen, 272 Hudson St., opened in December 2018 and has been a years-long project in the making for Altieri, a veteran to the dining industry.
Altieri on owners being involved in their business:
            A West Side native, Altieri is a SUNY Buffalo State alumna with a Bachelor of Science in Education. She began teaching in schools around the city and while at Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy, 315 Carolina St., a student whose father owned the Hudson Street building informed her that there was available space for rent. Altieri saw an opportunity to fulfill her vision of opening an authentic and inexpensive restaurant in the area she has long called home.
            “Being a resident here, I saw the need for what I’m doing,” Altieri said.
            Her menu draws inspiration from the diversity of the West Side. Being of Italian descent, she not only adds her cultural flavor to the menu, but also flavors from the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Central America; all cultures that  contribute to the diversity of the neighborhoods she grew up in and where her restaurant currently resides.
            Altieri’s accommodations for different ethnic and economic factors were heavily influenced by the lifestyles of the population surrounding The Difference Kitchen.
            A study conducted by Partnership for the Public Good, a community-based organization partnered with Cornell Buffalo, shows that with the exception of popular districts like the Elmwood Village and Allentown, the West Side is more racially diverse and has higher rates of poverty and unemployment than other areas in Buffalo.       
            With this in mind, Altieri and her kitchen aimed to put a dent in the idea that unhealthy fast food choices are the only affordable food options in the area.
            She admitted that accessibility to healthy food is scarce in low-income neighborhoods, which is why her menu’s pricing reflects her goal of providing nutritious options for nearby residents.
            “It was very important that anyone could eat here if they had a couple dollars in their pocket,” Altieri said.
            Her preparation process reflects the health-conscious ideals that are rooted in the restaurant. She takes pride in making sure her food is fresh with no artificial ingredients or gluten.
            “There’s nothing in my kitchen that has preservatives except for mayonnaise,” she said. “Everything else I make comes from ingredients from the ground; from a plant, from a bean, from a meat. There’s nothing fake about what I do.”
            Nicholas Gonsalves, the current sous-chef at The Difference Kitchen, is part of the two-person staff along with Altieri. Coming over from Altieri’s previous restaurant, Presto!, formerly on 59 Allen St., Gonsalves has developed both personal and professional admiration and respect for her.
            “Lucille is a wonderful person as well as a wonderful business person,” Gonsalves said. “She is here to make money, make people happy, and do it at a good price point. All that together is a wonderful combination.”
            Altieri can be found in the restaurant during business hours. She adopted the ideal of making herself available to her customers and community from her father.
            She wants customers to know they are not getting a fake experience, and that is what puts the difference in The Difference Kitchen.
            “The difference is caring; you don’t see a lot of it,” she said. “It’s the realness. I’m trying to keep it as real as possible and I think that’s what makes a difference and I think people miss that.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Ryan hosts annual Grant St. cleanup May 4

The second annual Grant Street Cleanup, hosted by Assemblyman Sean Ryan, is taking place beginning at 10 a.m., May 4 .
Volunteers are asked to meet at Ryan’s office, 65 Grant St.
Some gloves, garbage bags and brooms will be provided, but volunteers are being asked to bring their own supplies. Coffee and donuts will be available.
Joining the cleanup will be West Side and Grant Street community groups, block clubs, businesses and environmental activists.
             “We are happy to partner with local community groups and organizations to make this happen once again. It's truly great to see so much enthusiasm towards cleaning up our roads and environment from the West Side community,” said Ryan’s constituent services coordinator, Nicholas Beiling.
Last year, Ryan’s office installed 48 new anti-litter street signs to enforce the importance of maintaining the cleanliness of Grant Street. The signs have been installed between the corners of Grant and Arkansas streets to Grant Street and Forest Avenue. By Kaitlyn Mayrose and Brittany Edward

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Chocolate shops hoppin’ in Easter season

Easter is less than a week away and chocolate stores are preparing for a busy and eventful week of business. Sales increase greatly as customers are looking for their sponge candy and chocolate bunnies in the spirit of the Easter season. One of those stores is Fowler’s Chocolates, 746 Elmwood Ave. Taylor Richter is the manager of Fowler’s on Elmwood and she says that Easter is one of their busiest times of the year. Richter also attributes the store's location on Elmwood to be a reason for  its success with high volume of foot traffic. By Nick Lukasik and Zach Rohde

Monday, April 15, 2019

Businesses deal with Allen St. disruption

Construction vehicles and rubble line Allen Street as a major $5 million renovation project is in full swing. Hamada Saleh, owner of Cafféology, 21 Allen St. said businesses in the area are working with the City of Buffalo and the architecture firm Bergmann Associates to aid in convenient navigation for residents and patrons while much of the road remains blocked off. Saleh says that while the temporary creation of extra parking spaces on North Pearl Street has actually aided in generating more business for him, he has concerns for the future of the project, as construction will move from the roads to the sidewalk. Saleh also says that business insurance for newer establishments is especially helpful in garnering lost wages due to the construction. Phase I of the construction began in early March and is on schedule to wrap up by next summer. By I’Jaz Eberhardt and Dylan Sleight

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Small business centers collaborate on WS

By Nick Lukasik and Zach Rohde
Buffalo Review West Reporters
             Imagine you have an idea for a small business. You have done a ton of planning and research, and now you’re ready to launch; but where exactly do you start?
            Opening a small business can be a daunting task, but there are resources and experts available to help.
            The West Side is home to two resources for small business development within just blocks of each other. The small business climate in Buffalo is surging and both centers aim to promote and advance ideas.
            The SmallBusiness Development Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave., is one location, and director Susan McCartney plays a vital role in helping small businesses grow from the ground up. She said the relationship the center has with another small business resource, the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, 436 Grant St., is important due to the impact they make on small businesses.
            “We are a very strong resource partner to them.,” McCartney said. “We appreciate their sending many of their members of their incubator, or people they want to provide funding, to us.”

Susan McCartney, on the importance of local small business:           
           The centers are around the corner from one another, and this close proximity encourages a strong partnership between the two. The unique and diverse demographics of the West Side provide a gold mine of entrepreneurial opportunities, and having easily accessible help so close to home is vital to potential and current small business owners.
            Carolynn Welch, interim director of WEDI, echoed McCartney’s sentiments about the importance of WEDI and the Small Business Development Center working together.  
            “I think for a long time in Buffalo’s history a lot of nonprofits and a lot of resources have stayed very siloed, but I think when we talk and we partner up, we can see where we’re really good at something and they’re very good at something and then that business owner is getting the best of both worlds,” Welch said.
            One of the biggest highlights for small businesses on the West Side has been the revitalization of Elmwood Avenue, Grant Street and Allen Street. McCartney said having small businesses pop up on these streets have made people want to buy local.
            “It encourages local ownership and people wanting to do business with people locally, because they know them,” McCartney said. “You don’t know anyone at Amazon when you buy something.”
West Side Bazaar is an initiative of WEDI
            Yanush Sanmugaraja is the economic development director of WEDI. He homes in on how important the role of the West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St., is in incubating small businesses.
            “The Bazaar incubates businesses primarily by offering them much below market rate rent and other expenses are also subsidized,”  Sanmugaraja said.    
            Welch said that the thriving atmosphere for small businesses on the West Side is beneficial to the entire city and encourages optimism for local business owners and consumers.
            “It brings a sense of pride back to Buffalo,” Welch said. “I think some of the industries that have been developed are somewhat unique to Buffalo.”
            The small business climate in Buffalo is growing and is playing a large part in the resurgence and economic development of the city. Particularly on the West Side, small businesses are a driving force of what makes this community so unique.
            “The small businesses are helping to boost Buffalo’s economy,” Welch said. “I think we lost a lot of large-scale businesses many years ago and I think the small businesses are coming back in and providing that boost and employing people; ultimately putting money back into Buffalo, which is improving the infrastructure.” 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Urban Roots workshops continue through May

Brad White, operations manager at Urban Roots
With the days getting warmer and spring officially starting, Urban Roots Community Garden Center is continuing preparing for the growing season with its seminar series.
            The garden center, 428 Rhode Island St., partners with other West Side organizations to put on a series of workshops, which offer tips and assist people with gardening.
The new Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) farmhouse, 387 Massachusetts Ave., has given it more space to hold the workshops and the ability to bring in more people. Patti Jablonski-Dopkin, general manager of Urban Roots, said that instead of the 10 workshops last year, the new farmhouse has given it the space to host 15 this year.
The workshops have been going on since January and will run through May. Along with MAP, Urban Roots partners with Grassroots Gardens WNY, 30 Essex St., to put on the workshops.
            “The three of us are within blocks of each other, we’re all trying to do the same thing, so the three organizations collaborated this year,” Jablonski-Dopkin said.
Jablonski-Dopkin said the workshops aim to work with both the total novice and also the expert gardener as a way for the attendees to learn more about gardening.
            “With the workshops, we always give out handouts and people are given step by step direction on what they need to do, either timewise within the different seasons or in getting started with what they need to line up beforehand,” Jablonski-Dopkin said. Text by Nick Lukasik and Zach Rohde, Photo by Kim-Moi Chin and Jahziel Delgado