Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Bars, restaurants open but not back to normal

 Joleen Calato, bartender at Bada Bing 42 W. Chippewa St., is back to work after the pandemic shut restaurants down. Like many other restaurants on the West Side, Bada Bing took a big hit because of COVID-19. Since reopening the restaurant Alan Williams, manager at Bada Bing, says that things are still not back to normal. “It’s a different business now and if you didn’t adapt you failed,” Williams said. The number of people going out to eat is nowhere close to what it was before COVID-19 and people aren’t tipping like they used to. By Evan DiPasquale, Michaela Frazier and Danielle Stiegler

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Holiday parties, meals in offing for West Side

    As the holidays are fast approaching, and the season to give is upon us, many community centers are focusing on bringing that holiday spirit to the West Side communities.

    West Side Community Services Center, 161 Vermont St., is hosting two events this holiday season.

    The first will be a senior party on Dec. 15 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.   Then on Dec. 17 there will be a Family Night from 6-8 p.m.  This event is open to the public. There will be food, movies, and a robot to read books to the children. Gifts will be given to children who are involved in the center’s youth and afterschool programs.

    The community center is looking for gift donations for any children in attendance who are not a part of the center’s programs. The community center will be accepting donations until Dec. 10. Masks will be required upon entry to the building.

    The Buffalo City Mission, 100 E. Tupper St., is having its annual “Hambone Express Delivery,” Christmas morning.

    Volunteers will be out delivering meals on Dec. 25, from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Participants need to register by phone until Dec. 3 or from Dec. 6-10.

    The meal consists of ham, yams, green beans, and cookies. Sue Cervi, manager of the volunteers at the City Mission, says that the dinners come with reheating directions.

    “We recognize that some families are bigger than four so each person can order up to eight meals per family,” Cervi said.

    Volunteers will be wearing masks when delivering the meals and recipients are being asked to wait for the volunteer to leave the delivery at the door to allow for contactless delivery. By Angelea Preston and Jillian Kasmore

Friday, November 26, 2021

MAP's work continues during winter months


Emily O’Bryan, farmhouse coordinator at the Massachusetts Avenue Project’s Urban Farm, said although the growing season slows during the winter months, the farm has other initiatives to keep the community engaged during the cold season, like a year-round mobile market truck that caters to the West Side’s culturally diverse community.  “We really prioritize local food that both we grow and also source from other local farms and vendors.  We value cultural foods, so we keep in mind when we go to these communities what types of fruits or vegetables they are looking for.  We recognize that we are guests in the community, and we want to form good relationships,” O’Bryan said. The fall markets continue to do well, said Development Director Sarah Klawinski.  MAP Urban Farm, 387 Massachusetts Ave., is planning for the next season. MAP Youth have planted hundreds of garlic cloves this farming season on the farm’s Winter Street lot, which will be harvested next year. By Jillian Kasmore and Angelea Preston

Monday, November 15, 2021

West Side stores part of Shop716 e-card program

Small businesses on the West Side are among the more than 750 businesses that are participating in the Shop 716 program to help in the recovery from losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year the program helped bring in $2 million in the Come Back to our Comeback campaign. The success of that program prompted the promotional eGift card initiative from Erie County. The program allows patrons to buy a gift card valued at at least $25 and get a $25 gift card for free.

 This is the second year of the Shop 716 program appears to be achieving the same levels of interest as last year.  

“We’re reaching just about $2 million that has injected into the local independent Erie County businesses,” said Christine Langenfeld, director of marketing and operations for the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.

            Langenfeld also said that there has been nothing but positive feedback from all the businesses.

One West Side businesses in the Shop 716 program is Elmwood Pet Supplies, 706 Elmwood Ave. The eGift Card has brought people in from the suburbs to shop at the store.

            “I think everyone’s hope is to not send money out of the area, and support your local merchants,” Co-Owner Tom Higgins said. 

             Shop 716 includes an array retail and service businesses. The free promotional gift card expirse on Dec. 30 to promote customers to use them during the holiday season. By Evan DiPasquale, Michaela Frazier and Danielle Stiegler


Sunday, November 14, 2021

Library on Wheels booking it to the West Side

Buffalo and Erie County Public Library bookmobile

By Jillian Kasmore 

and Angelea Preston     

           Fall is in the air as elementary students at West Buffalo Charter School eagerly stand shoulder to shoulder in anticipation to climb into the mobile library. 

     Their second grade teacher commands their attention, as these hungry book lovers impatiently wait to see what plot line they will immerse themselves into.

            One student shrieked that he was going to pick a book about superheroes, while another girl shyly whispered that she was going to become a bug expert. As they scrambled to find their quests, they realized that each had endless opportunities right in front of their fingertips inside the Library on Wheels, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library’s bookmobile.

            Andrea Todoro, the school leader of West Buffalo Charter, 113 Lafayette Ave., said that having access to these resources is the first step her students have in the world of reading. Although it is the first year that the school is participating in the program, she still sees the impact it has on all ages which includes kindergarten through eighth grade.

            The students look forward to the Bookmobile coming each week. Watching their faces light up when they enter and see the books is the best thing in the world. Our families are grateful that our school and their children get to participate in this program,” Todoro said. 

            The library system has a total of 37 libraries and year-round Bookmobile services that provide free services for those who live in Erie County, including the West Side of Buffalo.

            West Side resident George Olmsted believes that there is a deeper need for the community to keep this library on wheels.

            I grew up as a kid over by Kleinhans, there was a library down the street, but the bookmobile would be in my neighborhood quite often. As a kid, it was a great way to get a book whenever you need one. They were way ahead of their time. They had the mobile idea way before the food trucks,” Olmsted said.

            In order to be more accessible, the library created the first ever bookmobile service in 1947.  Samantha Purpora, the mobile services manager, said that the bookmobile ran until 2005 when budget cuts caused the library to take it off the road.

            “This bookmobile has been in existence for five years. In the 70s and 80s they had bookmobiles. At some point during budget cuts, they got rid of them. People love to come on and talk about how they were children and how it used to come to their schools. They love to see the new one,” Purpora said.

            In 2015, the library made a bid for the bookmobile services to come back due to the need in particular communities that lacked physical libraries or areas that do not have access to transportation.

            The bookmobile stores over 3,000 books, movies, and music for every age.  It offers free Wi-Fi and laptops. Members can pick-up books on hold and return items. Erie County residents also can sign up for a library card at the bookmobile.

            The bookmobile visits many locations weekly throughout Erie County, like senior apartments, and schools, including locations right here on the West Side. 

            “Charter schools are particularly more receptive to the Bookmobile coming because they do not have a librarian. Students are able to get library cards. We make regular stops so they know when they will see us,” Purpora said.

            Julia Verbanic who has been a full-time librarian for the bookmobile for over three years, sees the benefit of the Library on Wheels especially in the COVID-19 pandemic.

            “For people who cannot make it into a regular library because of lack of transportation, or they don't feel comfortable, it is a really good alternative. It also is a good starter for kids who have not been in a public library. It's a good reminder that the library is still here,” Verbanic said.

            With the positive feedback from the community, the library has also decided to fund a new Library2GO van besides the original Bookmobile in December 2022. Purpora said that the library y will be using the bookmobile for schools, daycares, and summer camps while the Library2GO van will be used for older adult living facilities.

            We currently visit 10 older adult living facilities and are looking to expand in the upcoming year. These services are vital for older adults who can't drive or travel to a brick-and-mortar library. We also offer Library by Mail service to any of our patrons who are homebound,” Purpora said.






Sunday, October 31, 2021

Bills Block Party great for Chip Strip

    Rec Room Partner Chris Ring says the Buffalo Bills' successful season so far has contributed to the popularity of the Bills Block Party, hosted by bars and restaurants along West Chippewa Street during the football games. The parties became a way for Rec Room and its neighbors, Soho Buffalo, 67 West, Local Kitchen & Beer Bar, Buffalo Taphouse, and Bottoms Up, to recover from business lost during the pandemic when they were forced to close for long stretches. SUNY Buffalo State Economics Professor Fred Floss says that business is especially good during winning seasons as more out-of-town fans come into the area and spend money at local attractions. Bills Block Parties  are scheduled for Nov. 14 and Dec. 26. By Evan DiPasquale, Michaela Frazier and Danielle Stiegler

Friday, October 22, 2021

Halloween celebrations planned for the West Side


      Halloween is a go this year for residents on the West Side.

            The Belle Center is having its annual Harvest Festival at 10 a.m., Oct. 23 at its Saturday Academy located at D’Youville Porter Campus School, 255 Porter Ave.

            The event is free and open to the public. Families can enjoy arts and crafts, pumpkin decorating, and a drone operating class.  Kids are encouraged to wear their costumes. The Erie County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will also be there with furry friends for the children to interact with. Masks are required.

            PUSH Buffalo is keeping the Halloween spirit alive with a “Trunk or Treat” event from 4-7 p.m., Oct. 28 in the parking lot at 429 Plymouth Ave.

             A trunk or treat is an interactive event where guests can drive or walk up to cars where volunteers will be dressed in costumes handing out treats. There will also be live music, snacks, refreshments, and games. Prizes for best costume, and best trunk decorations will also be given out.

             “It will be a small gathering and outreach to bring the communities together,” said Tyrell Ford, street team manager at PUSH Buffalo.

            Costumes are encouraged.  Masks are required and social distancing is suggested. 

            West Side Community Services, 161 Vermont St, is hosting a “Crazy Hat” party for seniors on Oct. 27.  There will be prizes for those who have the best hat, and then guests can enjoy a screening of the movie “Young Frankenstein." The event will start at 11 a.m.  Lunch will be provided, and there will be light snacks and refreshments as well.  Masks are required upon entry into the building.   By Angelea Preston and Jillian Kasmore




Sunday, October 10, 2021

Statue of immigrant family in works for Prospect Park

The pedestal at Prospect Park where a statue of Christopher Columbus once stood remains bare after being removed in July 2020.

Courtesy of Buffaloah.com

The removal was done by the Federation of Italian Americans after several Columbus statues were vandalized across the country due to the controversial history surrounding Columbus, specifically his treatment of indigenous people. Niagara district Councilmember David Rivera whose district includes the park said there were a series of meetings that happened after the statue’s removal that involved the residents of Niagara district and members of the federation to decide what should replace the statue.  Judge Frank Caruso of New York Supreme Court 8th Judicial District and chairman member of the federation said the new monument will depict an Italian immigrant family. Caruso said the new monument would be erected next year. By Jillian Kasmore and Angelea Preston

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Breezy Burrito welcomes queens and fans to brunch

Layla Love struts her stuff at Breezy Burrito


Golden Delicious engages the crowd
Queen Laylah Love performs for the crowd at Breezy Burrito Bar during the Easy Breezy Fetch Drag Brunch on Oct. 3. Breezy Burrito Bar,1000 Elmwood Ave., embraces the LGBTQ community by hosting a drag brunch for people to come and admire the queens. This interactive event has four queens dressed in costumes dancing around the bar and entertaining the crowd. Breezy Burrito is the latest Buffalo bars and restaurants to host the popular event, one of the recent developments recognizing the LGBTQ community in the city. “I love being part of change. I feel like I am part of a Drag Renaissance,” Love said. Breezy Burrito Bar plans to continue having the Drag Brunch as a reoccurring event. By Evan DiPasquale, Michaela Frazier and Danielle Stiegler

Friday, October 8, 2021

High school football teams take a hit during pandemic


Canisius Crusaders take the field during a recent game

By Evan DiPasquale, Michaela Frazier and Danielle Stiegler

            Fans are cheering, players are face to face, the whistle blows, and the ball is kicked off.

            High school football is back in action on the West Side. After a long break due to COVID-19, high schools on the are able to have their fans in the stands and players on the field. However, the time off has affected the teams and how games are carried out from now on. Football season usually starts in the beginning of the school year, but for many teams it started in the spring.

            Two teams that were affected were the Hutch Tech Engineers and the Canisius Crusaders.

            Hutch Tech took a break from football until the first game on April 3, and it had a big impact on all athletes. The players were not only affected mentally, but also physically due to the pandemic. Gyms were closed, and students did not have the resources they needed to maintain their athletic physique.

            Coaches are working overtime to make sure their team is back to its full potential. They are able to have a full practice and players are able to use the to use the weight room at school to make up for out of shape players.

            “A lot of kids that normally would train with us didn’t necessarily train with the team this time around. They weren’t in as game shape as they should be because the team lacked chemistry. They knew the plays, but they didn’t know how to play with each other,” Engineers Head Coach Tony Truilizio said.

            COVID-19 is still a concern at big gatherings like high school football. Protocols need to be followed to make sure fans and the teams are safe. For public schools like Hutchinson Technical,  there are guidelines that still have to be followed. Public schools are mandated by the state to follow the COVID restrictions: symptom check questionnaires, temperature on arrival, and social distancing in the stands. Masks are not required but encouraged. 

            “If there is a positive COVID-19 test I’ve been instructed to notify my principal and the athletic department once I’ve been notified,” Truilizio said. 

            Truilizio said that he is grateful his players are respectful and considerate when it comes to doing what they can to prevent contracting the virus. He has not had a COVID-19 case yet on his team.  His players know that if they do not feel well, they should stay home to protect the rest of the team. 

            Canisius is ranked No. 1 in New York State, according to MaxPreps. Bryce Hopkins, associate head coach of Canisius said that last season was a frustrating. 


Canisius Director of Athletics Jim Mauro on the challenges facing high school sports during the pandemic


           Due to COVID-19 teams couldn’t play games and that meant a lot of students couldn’t be scouted, obtain scholarships, or get offers from other colleges. This hurt the players as the National Signing Day was in February, and the Crusaders wouldn’t play until March, which limited the time scouts would get to see the games. Many students at Canisius lost their chance at different dreams, schools, and lives. 

            Not only did football have to be moved to the spring, which would completely change the season's schedule, but Canisius’ season was cut in half. The team played both St. Joes and St . Francis twice, as well a game against Iona Prep in New Rochelle, NY.

            During their season Canisius had to pause their season due to a positive COVID test. In Erie County, it is mandatory that teams with more than one positive case must take a break in the season. Like any team, it hurt them because the athletes couldn’t practice or play in games. The school really makes sure that all their students stay safe.

              “We distance in our team meetings; we generally break our meetings up into positions group which allows us to have smaller indoor compacities in rooms.” Hopkins said.

            To ensure that the team wouldn’t have more outbreaks, Hopkins said that he often talks to his players and making sure they are being responsible. Coaches of the Crusaders have also encouraged the athletes to get vaccinated, but vaccination is not required to play.

            Both Canisius and Hutch Tech along with the rest of the teams on the West Side are gearing for the rest of their 2021 season. Hutch Tech has three more regular season games, and Canisius has five games.

West Side theaters announce protocols for guests


            Pianist Fabio Bidini wears a mask alongside Conductor JoAnn Falletta and members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra during rehearsals in preparation for opening night at Kleinhans Music Hall on Sept. 25.

             Kleinhans, 3 Symphony Circle, began implementing COVID-19 protocols on Sept. 11 that require any guests, volunteers, or anyone else who enters the building to wear face masks, have proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test. The protocols are expected to last until Oct. 30. 

            Patrick O’Herron, director of marketing at Kleinhans, said the BPO is committed to the safety of its musicians, staff, volunteers, and audiences.

             “We are trying to make this a safe place, and make people feel as comfortable as possible to return,” O’Herron said. 

            The BPO has been following New York Forward guidelines and working closely with local and state health officials including a group of doctors from the University at Buffalo medical school.  The doctors conducted a series of air quality studies at Kleinhans.

             “We have outfitted Kleinhans with the MERV-13 air filtration system, hands free ticket scanning, and hand sanitization stations throughout the hall,” O’Herron said.

            Other West Side theaters have established similar protocols:

            AlleywayTheatre  requires proof of vaccination for all audience members, staff, volunteers, and guests.

            The Kavinoky Theatre requires its patrons to have proof of vaccination upon entry, or a negative COVID test within 48 hours if unvaccinated.

            For Ujima Company, all guests will need to be vaccinated, and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry.  Exceptions include guests under the age of 16, or those who need reasonable accommodations due to a disability, medical reason approved by a doctor, or religious belief. 

            Beginning Oct. 28, Shea’s Performing Arts Center will require all guests to be vaccinated for entry for performances at all three locations, while children under 12 will be allowed entry with adults who meet vaccination requirements. By Jillian Kasmore and Angelea Preston


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Businesses staging a post-Covid comeback

Gabriel Burgos-Nieves, general manager of The Black Sheep

By Angelea Preston and Jillian Kasmore

            Joe Tyson rushed to open the door to his barbershop, Tyson Cuts, with his young daughter in tow. He was running late for his first appointment of the day, a 9-year-old boy getting his annual back-to-school haircut. 

            “Hey Eric,” said Tyson as Eric plopped down in the chair. Tyson asked what kind of cut he wants, and after Eric told him the style he wanted, Tyson began cutting while speaking on how the pandemic affected his business. 

            “It was a slow climb to get back to normal, after the five months of being shut down,” Tyson said.

            Tyson opened his barber shop on 259 Carolina St. in June 2019.  Within a year, his business like many others across the state would be shut down multiple times due to the pandemic. 

            Uncertainty, fear, and doubt were heightened when COVID-19 hit in March 2020. Some small businesses on the West Side were grossly affected financially, while others benefitted from grants given by the government. 

            Ever-changing restrictions, the race to get as many people vaccinated as possible, and variants of the coronavirus have made an already difficult situation more perplexing. As businesses are still trying to navigate this new normal that doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

            For GabrielBurgos-Nieves, general manager of The Black Sheep Restaurant & Bar, 367 Connecticut St., food prices continue to go up due to a decrease in food availability. 

            “I don’t know the figures for sure but when we look at our local farms that we get our pigs from, we look at our chicken farms, we’re definitely seeing a shortage, and because of that we’re seeing a price increase,” Burgos-Nieves said.

            However, food shortages and price increases aren’t the only things the pandemic has changed. New York City became the first U.S city that required proof of COVID-19 vaccination for indoor dining. That’s something that has piqued the interest of Burgos-Nieves, and the owners of The Black Sheep. 

            “Right now, we’re kind of leaning towards requiring vaccination status,” Burgos-Nieves said.

            With the setbacks, there have been bright spots that have helped ease the storm. 

            In response to the pandemic, New York State administered an $800 small business recovery grant program.  According to Gov. KathyHochul’s office, more than $48 million has been given to 2,380 small businesses in the state.

            Tommy Mims, owner of Off The Beaten Path Tattoo Shop, 205 Grant St.,  worked in another shop as a private contractor for 10 years. He was then able to open his own shop during the pandemic. 

         “It was probably the best thing that could have happened for my business financially because all the money that was able to be given to business owners through the government helped me tremendously,” Mims said.

       For Joe Petri, owner of Gather and Game,  205 Grant St.,  said gaming sales have stayed steady. 

       “It’s a hobby people can do at home with family or roommates.  Even when quarantining has in some ways grown in popularity,” Petri said. 

Hiring not a problem for some businesses

    Small businesses on the West Side might be seeing hiring getting easier now that the $300 unemployment bonus has expired, one being the Lexington Co-Op, 807 Elmwood Ave.

            The co-op recently put hiring signs in its  windows and is having no problem getting applicants.  When the unemployment bonus was offered last year some of its employees took advantage of the extra cash and decided to leave their job. As of Sept. 5, the bonus was terminated and as a result Human Resource Denise Terrell has been scheduling multiple interviews a day.

            Terrell said the store is following the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention “to a tee,” Terrell said.   

            This means the store is not requiring the vaccine but is recommending it. All workers and customers must be always wearing a mask.  Social distancing is still encouraged, and the stickers are put in place at the checkout lines to make sure people are 6 feet apart.

            The co-op usually has no problem with finding employees. Terrell says this is due to how well the store treats its employees. The store offers an hourly wage of $17, health insurance, paid time off, staff discount and 401(K) Retirement Plans.

             “We look for candidates that have a sparkle,” Terell said. By Evan DiPasquale and Danielle Stieger

Monday, May 10, 2021

Webinar to promote co-op business model

By Rhiannon Browning

            In an ideal world, workplaces would not be unfair. Each person would be treated with respect along with equal pay. There wouldn’t be one boss who yells at their staff. Everyone would be the boss.

            Co-operation Buffalo has hopes for the city to hop on board with the Worker Co-op Jumpstart Webinar.

            “The webinar is about four hours long and is for anyone interested in starting a worker co-op or wanting to be a part of one,” Michael Heubusch said, a cooperative development specialist for Co-operation Buffalo.

            Heubusch said the event will dig into both the business aspect of a worker co-op, along with the value side of it.

            That includes anti oppressiveness and how to handle conflict in an emotionally mature way. This tends to be an issue in many businesses that aren’t co-ops because there is typically one owner and several staff members who feel that they have been underpaid or taken advantage of.

            With a co-op, everyone is an owner, which leads to a less competitive workplace, Heubusch said.

            “We just want folks to leave with a better understanding of what the current economic landscape is, how co-ops fit into that landscape, how to start one up and then how to maintain it,” Heubusch said.

            The non-profit organization, began in 2014 created by Andrew Delmonty, the program director. Heubusch and Delmonty were the only two full time employees at the time.

            Their mission? Providing guidance to beginner co-ops and financially helping businesses without the fear of paying back hefty loans.

            Co-operation Buffalo is a member of Seed Commons, a national network that provides non-extractive loan-funds to small businesses.

            According to Co-operation Buffalo’s website, a must pass through the following to be accountable:

-       Shift economic control to communities.

-       Democratize wealth and the workplace.

-       Advance ecological restoration.

-       Drive racial justice and social equity.

-       Relocalize most production and consumption.

-       Retain and restore cultures and traditions.

            At this time Co-operation Buffalo is still in the start-up phase, and a major project in the books.

            In 2017, the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center, 257 Lafayette Ave., used the help of Co-operation Buffalo and is now a fully functioning worker co-op. Theresa DiMuro-Wilber, a co-owner,  said that since becoming a worker co-op, the daycare has been based around fairness and guidance. She is grateful for Co-operation Buffalo.

            “Co-operation Buffalo helped us to create our new business model, shepherded us through changes to our decision-making processes which included giving all employees a voice, and stood by us through the entire transformation,” DiMuro-Wilber said.

           The Worker Co-op Jumpstart is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. May 22.  The webinar is free.