Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Liquidation sale at Gothic City continues

 Charlie Leone, the previous owner of Gothic City Architectural Antiques, is presiding over the liquidation sale of the inventory at the shop, 1940 Niagara St., before the property is redeveloped into an arts and wellness campus by the new owners. With 52 years of experience in the business, Leone has worked at the location on Niagara Street for 31 years. The unique store specializes in architectural antiques making it possible to furnish any home with a touch of history. Most of the items were bought from old buildings that were being taken down or renovated. The inventory includes architectural items such as stained glass, vintage plumbing, wrought iron, mantels and pots, lighting and hardware, yard and garden items, and furniture. By Amnah Mohsin and Otisha James

'Friends' to mark homelss persons memorial day

Volunteers from D'Youville University's lacrosse team joined Friends of Night People's Chef Chauncey to serve a meal recently at the organization's location at 394 Hudson St. Friends of Night People will be joining other organizations to mark national Homeless Persons Memorial Day on Dec. 21. Developed by the National Coalition for the Homeless, the day is held annually on the winter solstice, the longest day of the year, to remember those who died homeless the past year. Patty Krehbiel, relationship manager, said it is a special event for Friends of Night People and its volunteers, who spend the year providing food and necessities to address the impact of poverty. The organization serves meals on a daily basis including Christmas Day from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. By Alessia Gervasi

Get your car ready for winter driving

Some snowfall has already made an appearance this season however, winter will be making its full effect on your vehicle soon enough. Carm & Sal’s Automobile Services, 1460 Niagara St. has the skills and knowledge to keep you driving safe. Making sure your tires are equipped for the snow is just the start of the list. Before the snow becomes severe, it is important to keep in mind that there are steps to take to avoid troublesome circumstances. Co-Owner of Carm & Sal’s, Joe Bonfante stresses the importance of preparing for safe driving this winter. It would be smart to keep a snow shovel and items to keep you warm in case of an emergency, Bonfante said. By Alessia Gervasi

Support pours in for West Side Bazaar



By Danielle Graham

            Crowds gathered around, filled with laughter, support, love and gratitude at the Taste of West Side Bazaar fundraiser on Nov. 3 at the Lexus Club at KeyBank Center.

            Then located at 25 Grant St., a fire forced the Bazaar to close on Sept. 20. The West Side Bazaar plans to open a new location next fall at 1432 Niagara St., and is now working diligently to help business owners affected by the fire receive temporary spaces to work and provide for their families before the move.

            “First, we are helping everyone sort through all their insurance documents. We are helping everyone get through the insurance process. We are also helping everyone figure out what they need to do moving forward in terms of insurance and where to have the business,” Erin Kelly, director of external relations at WEDI, said.

            The West Side Bazaar has received multiple donations from other businesses, charities, organizations and individuals since the fire. The fundraiser, which was hosted by Delaware North and the Buffalo Sabres, was held to help bring the Bazaar back to normal operations. It was also to thank those who supported the organization during a time of need.

            Kelly said that some of the donations received were from different cities and states that from people who heard about the organization and wanted to offer support. Some donations received by the West Side Bazaar were from West Side organizations that wanted to show their support too. The fundraiser included food from some Bazaar chefs,live painting with Bianca L. McGraw, and guests were able to do a coloring of Patti Thomas’s “Choose Love” mural.

            Kelly was not allowed to say the number of donations they received from the West Side Bazaar fundraiser, however, WEDI is highly grateful to receive subsidies to help the organization.

            The new Bazaar will be five times larger than the old space – from 3,200 square feet to 16,000 square feet– including a second floor that would be an available rental space for customers who want to host special events.

            We are going to have special event space that is affordable, which is a problem to get in the city,” Kelly said.

            Chef Akec Aguer said that he is excited to open his business in the new space with more amenities, which would bring him more opportunities. He and his family are very grateful to the West Side Bazaar for giving him an opportunity after being on the waitlist for five years.

Initiatives underway to increase college enrollment

             Colleges on the West Side  are actively making an effort to improve their low student enrollment rates.

            A drop in student enrollment is being reported at three-quarters of the region's two and four-year institutions.

            “There are a lot of options for students, and to have your institution stand out can be very challenging,” Dean Reinhart, associate director of undergraduate admissions at SUNY Buffalo State said.  

            Buffalo State has added three new sports to its athletic department. Acrobatics and tumbling and men's volleyball are set to start in the 2023-24 season, while women's wrestling will begin in the 2024-25 season.

             Jeff Ventura, senior associate director of athletics, said the athletic enrollment is almost 10% of overall student enrollment at Buffalo State.

             “If it weren't for athletics, they’d be choosing another institution,” Ventura said.

              Canisius College, on the other hand, has eliminated standardized admissions test scores. Emphasizing a bigger value on access to education, applicants for the Fall 2024 school year will no longer be required to submit these scores.

             In order to attract students to register, both Medaille and D’Youville changed their institution from college in the spring of 2022.

             Colleges will continue to focus on finding new ways to enhance the student experience. Reinhart said students stopped attending school due to the pandemic, however, admissions for fall 2023 have increased significantly.

            “Individuals are beginning to pursue education again, and realize the value of it,” Reinhart said.  By Otisha James and Amnah Mohsin


Monday, December 12, 2022

West Side playwright delivers 'Birth of Santa'

Justin Karcher and Eric Mowery on the set of “The Birth of Santa”

By Jason Guth and Kyle Wekenmann

             With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror and Christmas on the horizon, Christmas plays have returned to the West Side.

            While a traditional play like “A Christmas Carol” is being shown at Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley, or “All is Calm” at Shea’s 710 Theatre, 710 Main St., there is one play that is especially unique to the West Side: “The Birth of Santa.

            Being shown at the American Repertory Theater of WNY, 545 Elmwood Ave., the play was written by West Side resident Justin Karcher, and is directed by former West Side resident Eric Mowery, who also has a role in the play.

            “For years, we’ve always talked about how we can combine theater, but also with an art gallery vibe,” Karcher said. “Eric is a visual artist, so all the paintings that are in the play are his original paintings. I wanted to base a play around his visual work.”

            The relationship between Karcher and Mowery goes back over a decade, and that goal of basing a play around Mowery’s visual work has finally been achieved with “The Birth of Santa.”

            “We met probably about 15 years ago,” Mowery said. “I’m in the art scene and Justin’s connected to a lot of things, but when I got involved in theater, Justin had already kind of established himself as a playwright and poet at that point.”

            The two had an instant connection, meeting up and bouncing innumerable ideas off each other – a habit that’s still going strong to this day.

            Karcher, a West Delavan Avenue resident, said he has written about 15 full-length plays and musicals over the years, though this is his first major foray into the Christmas sphere.

            “I think it’s important, especially in 2022, to constantly tell new stories,” Karcher said. “I always wanted to tell kind of a new Christmas story. I feel we constantly rehash old stories, more traditional stories for any kind of holiday, and I think we need to rewrite those narratives.”

            True to his word, Karcher said that this play is a new take on the aforementioned “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

            “The Birth of Santa” has a simple message: Why do something if it doesn’t bring you joy? The play breaks down what joy means and how the meaning of it changes.

            “A lot of people don’t ask questions. They think, ‘This is what joy is. This is what happiness should be.’ And all of these concepts are very commercial. We all get in that rhythm of listlessly not thinking about what joy really means.” 

            According to the ticketing site, "The Birth of Santa" is a reimagining of A Christmas Carol. An artist, famous for Christmas-themed paintings, tries something different and has a show during the holiday season. The art is not well-received. The artist falls into a tailspin and heads back to the studio hoping to discover the true spirit of job. The artist is visited by three artists of the Christmas spirit, including Normal Rockwell, Little Drummer Boy and Brutus the robot.

            Karcher, who graduated from Canisius College and SUNY Buffalo State, said that his background in English and literature has been instrumental in his writing career, which he said gave him a “solid foundation” for his work.

            His inspiration comes from walking the streets of Buffalo and from unexpected conversations with strangers.

            Mowery, who is making his directorial debut, was complimentary of Karcher’s ability to write a script quickly. He also said that he’s never met such a prolific storyteller as his friend, whose rough draft set everything in motion.

            A grateful Mowery discussed the balancing act he has undertaken, serving as both director and cast member.

            “I’ve had a really good experience, my cast is just amazing,” Mowery said. “It is such a joy for me to watch them work through all of these scenes, and I give them all of this input and they take it and we talk about it. But then for my sequences, you’re talking to yourself. I can bounce things off of Justin and other cast mates too, but I have to wear a lot of different hats in this situation.”

            Dates and tickets for the play can be found here. The play’s final performance will take place on Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m.


Saturday, December 10, 2022

Auction to support adoptions ends tomorrow

            Although National Adoption Day was Nov. 19, adoption efforts happen year-round.

            Families of FANA WNY Inc,  is hosting a ‘Tis the Season Christmas Virtual Auction. through 9 p.m. on Dec. 11.  

            The auction has a variety of Colombian and Buffalo-themed prizes up for bidding. All proceeds from the auction will be donated to FANA, a Spanish acronym that stands for The Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children, the name of an orphanage located in Bogata, Colombia.

            The organization has been in operation for 30 years and continues to positively impact families' lives. The incorporation partners with the Madison Adoption Associates, an adoption agency that facilitates families through the adoption process.

            “National Adoption Day is a great day to celebrate individuals who have been adopted and families who have benefited through adoption. For every child adopted there’s more who need help. It's really important for us to continue to support the children who are left behind who are still looking for families,” Annie Dobies, a volunteer coordinator for Families of FANA, said. By Tanya Gamble

West Side diaper bank opens for withdrawals

West Side Community Services has partnered with Every Bottom Covered to create a diaper bank at Provisions 139. The diaper bank is just a short walk away from the Community Services main building and is located at 139 Vermont St. Provisions and its services are available to residents within zip codes: 14201, 14209, 14213, 14222. In order to qualify for services, one must show identification and proof of residence. The diaper bank is in the same facility as the food pantry. Once that is shown and verified, Community Services allows those in need to take 25 diapers per child, twice per month. Mary Schaefer, the senior manager of marketing at Community Services, said that the two organizations partnered up to make a diaper bank that services Buffalo’s West Side because the diaper banks that exist within Buffalo may be too far away for some residents to go to without disrupting their day in a significant way. For those who do not live in the zip codes listed above, Every Bottom Covered helps Buffalo’s East Side, and is located at 877 E. Delavan Ave. By Jason Guth and Kyle Wekenmann

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Mr. Sizzle's brings creativity to burgers and more


Christopher Casas owns Mr. Sizzle's with his wife Casey


During the COVID-19 pandemic, most people were home binge-watching and eating snacks. However, Christopher Casas and his wife Casey developed an idea to open a restaurant with an interesting combination of food. The couple decided to open Mister Sizzle's in 2021. Mister Sizzle's, 346 Connecticut St., near Normal Avenue, is a trendy and inclusive burger restaurant with customers rushing to the doors to try its unique combination of food. From their peanut butter and jelly burger to pork rinds combined with hot fudge, peanut butter, and powdered sugar, the couple has come up with ideas for food combinations and creative names for their dishes to serve to the public. Unlike most restaurants, especially on Sundays, Mister Sizzle's is open late daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and serves brunch only on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. "The West Side chose us; the space opened up, we came down here when we looked at the Horsefeathers building, and we fell in love with it, and that's been amazing. The West Side  definitely embraced us, and we are very grateful for it," Christopher Casas, the owner of Mister Sizzle's, said. The restaurant includes a bar with cocktails, other alcoholic beverages, and milkshakes. Mister Sizzle's also included vegan options and mocktails to include those who may have dietary restrictions or do not drink alcohol. Mister Sizzle's also caters to customers who want to host an event or party. By Danielle Graham



Thursday, December 1, 2022

Immigrant creates saftey net for newcomers

 By Otisha James and Amnah Mohson

In hopes of starting a better life, Asukulu Resor faced hardships being an immigrant adapting to the American lifestyle. The language barrier, culture shock, and feeling of isolation have caused an imminent need for mental health resources.  

This prompted Resor, CEO of Center of Solidarity for Refugees and Immigrants Services, to start his company, offering a safety net for refugees and immigrants on the West Side.

“Some of them are already traumatized by seeing people dying in front of them, hearing the sounds of guns all the time, and including the stresses that they're going through in America, everything in America is stressful,” Resor said.

Asukulu Resor

Individuals who are looking for better opportunities opt to leave their homes and resettle in other countries. The move is frequently accompanied by renewed hope for better living conditions and the ambition to pursue goals that were previously impossible in their home country.

Often, migrants come from cultures that focus on family and have a hard time adapting to a country with individualistic and independent culture.

Due to cultural stigma, immigrants and refugees withdraw from mental health care services. They are actively discouraged from getting help for mental health issues and issues related to them in their communities. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that many immigrant families live within or very close to their immigrant community but yet the sense of separation still exists. Their hesitation is frequently caused by financial concerns or a fear that others may find out.

Christie Lesser, department chair of behavioral health at the Neighborhood Health Center, says creating a community where individuals have a sense of assurance can lead to a vulnerable environment that offers emotional and behavioral health support.

“The stigma and the lack of services, and the isolation that so many of our refugees and immigrant populations experience, we could do better as a community,” Lesser said.

Researchers at the National Library of Medicine have found that trauma exposure during migration is associated with a range of mental health outcomes. Michael Murphy of Catholic Charities says that immigrants experienced all kinds of situations while migrating and oftentimes find it hard to meet people who relate. 

“The trauma is not only what you essentially experience, to sort of trigger the evidence or the activity to get you to the United States but I think that the trauma is also having to figure out how, if or when you’ll be able to process that because again you may not find the resources that you could need in order to make that happen,” Murphy said. 


Murphy, on the immigrant experience in American culture:



Since 2001, more than 15,000 refugees have moved to Buffalo. The West Side neighborhood in particular has seen significant urban recovery thanks to refugees and other migrants. The growth of immigrants and refugees in Buffalo helped offset the population decline between 2000 and 2014.

Treatment services in immigrant communities can lead to a culturally diverse neighborhood where mental health services are accepted.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Westside Stories reopens with new owners


It’s time for new owner Keri Thomas-Whiteside, left, to turn the page at Westside Stories Used Books, 398 Grant St. at the corner of Garner Street, as she checks out the first customer, Lucy Waite, at the reopened bookstore. After being closed for six weeks due to the ownership change, the West Side bookstore reopened on Nov. 5. Thomas-Whiteside and her husband Bob Whiteside, West Side residents, are the new owners and had been regulars at the bookstore for several years. “Making sure it stayed on the West Side, that it stayed local, we just wanted to make sure we kept it in good hands,” Thomas-Whiteside said. Thomas-Whiteside said that it is very personal to her and the West Side community. “We were all part of it in a way,” she said. “We sold books there, we were customers there. In the early days, there were times that there would be an emergency and I would go in and run the store." Bob Whiteside said that it is important to keep the bookstore on the West Side for the community. “It’s a big thing for the neighborhood. Available books for everybody,” he said. “All different kinds of genres, definitely with an eye on the neighborhood and people walking and coming by.” Most of Westside Stories’ books are under $10, Thomas-Whiteside said. Hours for the store are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturdays; and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sundays. By Jason Guth and Kyle Wekenmann

Westside Stories, Grant and Garner streets

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Thanksgiving side dishes only at this lunch

Big Big Table, 272 Hudson St., is giving the West Side a new approach to Thanksgiving this year.

Big Big Table is providing the community with Sidesgiving, a Thanksgiving lunch without turkey from 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., Nov. 17,  giving a twist to Thanksgiving and putting all the glory on the classic Thanksgiving dinner sides. The reason for no turkey is because of the lack of freezer space in the  kitchen. The cafe will not be open on Thanksgiving Day.

Employee Natasha Davrados recommends giving a warm meal as a gift for the upcoming holidays.

 “People can purchase meal tokens for $12, the same value of a meal. Come in buy a meal token and give to anyone as a present or just someone walking on the sidewalk. These tokens have the address on it and get people informed and in the door,” Davrados said.

Big Big Table is a pay-as-you-can restaurant as a means to address hunger in the community. It runs lunch service from 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. By Grace Blackwell and Alessia Gervasi




Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Salvation Army seeking food donations

Some of us enjoy celebrating the cold months by sipping a pumpkin flavored drink and munching on a crisp apple. Others enjoy spending their time and energy helping those in need. Many of these people volunteer with the Salvation Army. This is a charity service that urges people to donate whatever they can to their organization so that they can give it to those who need it. With the holidays approaching many locations are requesting food donations to help people who don’t have homes or the ability to prepare meals for themselves. One of these locations is run by Major Marta Arocho at 187 Grant St. Major Arocho urges people to donate turkeys, fruits, vegetables, and canned goods.  By Jason Guth and Kyle Wekenmann

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Guercio & Sons looking for a buyer still


Sam Guercio is nearing retirement after running his family's business for 61 years.

Guercio & Sons, 250 Grant St.

Guerico & Sons, 250 Grant St., is still looking for the right people not only to buy  the grocery store and wholesale business but to join the family in being a staple in the community. “Our family will still be a part of the store during the new ownership, although I will be retiring officially,” said Sam Guercio, owner of Guercio & Sons since it was established in 1961. Guercio's put the business on the market back in 2019; it has been on and off the market and is officially back on the market as of April 2022. The business cannot stay in the family due to financial reasons “We need someone with more money to keep the business running and money to buy the products to fill the store,” Guercio said. COVID-19 affected the store financially. The storefront was kept in business but wholesale suffered a 40% loss. “We started with eight shipping trucks and eventually only had four because many restaurants had to close and never reopened,” Guercio said. The Guercios want the buyer to continue providing the West Sides cultural needs,  which include African, Italian and Hispanic stores and restaurants. By Grace Blackwell and Alessia Gervasi

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Thrift shopping on the rise on the West Side

 Dakota Follis-Ziarko manager at Second Chic, 810 Elmwood Ave., said there is a rise in consignment shopping. According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, there are more than 25,000 resale, consignment and nonprofit  resale shops in the United States. There is a 7% increase in consignment shopping in the last two years. Growth can be expected because of the rise in shopping among various age groups. Follis-Ziarko said that every age and gender are  shopping at Second Chic. The association reports that 62% of Generation Z and millennial consumers look for consignment and discounted items before buying an item new. While consignment shopping and resale shops are doing well with physical shopping, competition with online consignment retailers is on the rise. The association writes that online consignment such as Poshmark is changing consumer buying habits. By 2031 online consignment shops are predicted to have around 20% share of the clothing industry. By Alessia Gervasi and Grace Blackwell


Friday, October 28, 2022

Hispanic Heritage raising funds for Fiona victims

Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York is raising funds after Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 18.

This natural disaster resulted in approximately 34 deaths and billions of dollars of damage. To assist the survivors of the hurricane, the council set in motion the Western New York Puerto Rico Relief Fund.

The council is advocating for Puerto Ricans and working with local leaders to ensure that people on the island are getting power, Esmeralda Sierra, president of the council said.

On Oct. 4 the fund benefitted from a telethon that  raised about $60,000. The proceeds were shared between residents in Florida affected by Hurricane Ian and residents in Puerto Rico.

In the past, the council has raised funds to support Hurricane Maria that struck Puerto Rico in 2017.

Sierra said that the organization's main focus currently is to help raise funds for Puerto Rico as a result of their continuous hurricane disasters.

In effort to assist Puerto Rico the council is continuing to accept donations online.

All proceeds collected will exclusively be used toward providing survivors access to clean water, electric generators, and the rebuilding of Puerto Rico. By Tanya Gamble & Danielle Graham





W.S. bookstores confront waves of book bans


   Burning Books co-owner Theresa Baker-Pickering and banned book display


By Jason Guth and Kyle Wekenmann

Jonathon Welch, founder and co-owner of Talking Leaves, 951 Elmwood Ave., knows first-hand how book bans and challenges can affect a bookstore.

When a book gains notoriety because of its content, it flies off the shelf, but not out the door.  

"We have it happen from time to time here, where people will pull books off the shelf and move them to a different place,” Welch said. “They’ll move a young adult’s sexuality book to the science section, and we just put it back.”

The distinction between a challenge and a ban is worth noting: the American Library Association defines a challenge as an attempt to remove or restrict materials based upon the objections of a person or group. A ban, then, is the removal of those materials.

In a time period involving deep political disagreements in the U.S., the rise in book bans and challenges has been sharp and sudden.

According to the association, the U.S. is on pace to break 2021’s record for the most total book challenges documented in the more than 20 years that the association has released its findings.

“It’s never a good thing when somebody has their book banned because it makes people afraid of it,” Theresa Baker-Pickering, co-owner of Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St., said.

According to the association between January and August of this year, 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources were documented, including 1,651 unique titles.

This means that more than 70% of the 681 attempts included multiple titles, whereas in the past, attempts were largely aimed at banning just one book.

In recent years, topics at the center of such arguments largely include race, gender, sexuality, nudity and stories relating to the LGBTQ community.

“I haven’t seen any book on any of these lists that’s worth banning,” Baker-Pickering said. “That’s what I would say to it. A lot of these adults could benefit from reading these books.” 


Baker-Pickering, on the threat of book bans:



Where, though, do the challenges and bans get their legs? Local school board meetings. It is there that parents and community members express their concerns and get the ball rolling for a vote. The result of such votes determines whether a book is successfully banned.

Rust Belt Books, 415 Grant St., co-owner Kristi Meal was less concerned about how seriously the book ban issue should be viewed by society.

“How serious is the issue? I don’t know,” Meal said. “Banned books have been going on forever and here we are all still churning along. It’s a detractor from the real issues. It’s a way for parents to empower themselves in their lives according to their leanings.”

Among the concerns of proponents of book bans is the notion that children need not be exposed to graphic violence, sexually explicit content, or material that is unsuitable for children of a certain age.

A banned children’s book that Baker-Pickering alluded to is titled, “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness.” Written by Anastasia Higginbotham, it is a story about race, and Baker-Pickering said that it is a book that Burning Books likes to highlight in the West Side community.

“I always recommend it to people, and I always take it with us when we go tabling,” she said.

Welch said that because his business is private, it is affected differently than libraries and school districts when it comes to book bans.

“You could accuse us of banning every book we don’t carry, and obviously that’s just not the case,” he said. “We have the ability to choose what we stock and don’t stock, whereas libraries ideally have everything all there, and for schools, it’s the same thing. The restriction of access, therefore, I think has to do with this sort of culture war going on. Those have also been around all the time, but they seem to have magnified.”