Saturday, April 30, 2022

Revolver Records thrives on vinyl ‘relics’


Revolver Records owner, Phil Machemer, sorts through new inventory of vinyl

By Elijah Robinson and Thomas Tedesco

            It was just 15 years ago that vinyl records were considered a relic of the past that were wallowing in a long period of obsolescence.

            The large black discs had been phased out of the mainstream music consciousness for the likes of the compact disc and subsequently, digital downloads.

            Then a cultural shift started to happen.

Music community members slowly and steadily began to embrace vinyl records once again as a complement to their digital music collections.

            “I felt kind of silly paying $15 for the CD, and then be putting it on the shelf and never touching it,” Phil Machemer said. “I can get this vinyl and I can have something cooler, and then it would come with a download code so I could also have it on my iPod.”

            Machemer, who is the owner and founder of Revolver Records, 831 Elmwood Ave., has found himself and his business amid a growing resurgence in the sales of vinyl records.

            According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl exceeded sales of CDs for the first time in 2020 and continued to do so in 2021.

            Machemer, who used to live on Elmwood and started selling records at an antique market called The Peddler, 656 Elmwood Ave., said he always saw the need for a record store on the West Side.

            “Elmwood Avenue always needed a record store and I always thought, ‘Why couldn’t it be me?’ It's where people go to hang out. People want to have a good time, they want to shop, it's very hip and it was a no brainer,” he said.

            Machemer says he has felt this shift among music lovers of various ages and demographics on the West Side.

            “It's very diverse. There are people of all different likenesses that buy records here, you can't pigeonhole it,” he said.

            The vinyl craze has most notably transcended age groups, as individuals in their 20s are almost just as likely to purchase a vinyl record as someone in their 50s, according to a study from Statista.

            “The first time I went to Revolver was actually the first time I went to a record store,” Joey Bastian, a 20-year-old music major at SUNY Buffalo State College, said. “It’s a hotspot for me and it’s a great place to shop.”

            Around the same time that vinyl began to resurge in popularity, a cultural phenomenon known as Record Store Day began to spread across the approximately 1, 400 independent record stores in the United States and soon, across the world.

            Record Store Day coordinator Rick Johnson describes Record Store Day as the largest one-day celebration of music in the world.


Record Store Day Coordinator, Rick Johnson talks about how vinyl has seen a shift in cultural perspective since the inception of Record Store Day in 2007.

            Usually celebrated on the third Sunday in April, record labels, distributors and artists of all genres release limited edition records that are sold exclusively at independent record stores.

            “It was all started with trying to make the independent record store viable and trying to help the independent record store,” Johnson said.

            Machemer describes the day as the biggest on his store’s calendar and one that can have big rewards, but also carries big risks.

            “It's a gamble. I mean, we're essentially putting thousands of dollars into this idea that people are going to come and want this stuff, and we just have to hope and assume that they will,” Machemer said.

            Most years, Revolver Records has seen significant boosts in business due to Record Store Day, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the celebration split into three separate days.

            “I laid everybody off, ran the business just by myself and it was difficult. It was really ramshackle, but it worked,” Machemer said.

            Johnson said that not only was Record Store Day an integral part of independent record stores to surviving the pandemic, but it is also a testament to the loyalty of record collectors.

            “Vinyl customers are very tenacious, and they want their vinyl,” Johnson said. “They want the community of going to the record shop and they want their small businesses to stay in business and they want their small businesses to thrive.”

            While there has been significant growth in the sales of vinyl, it still leaves many wondering as to when it will reach its peak and subsequently decline.

            Johnson said that he doesn’t expect the interest of vinyl and its sales to dissipate anytime soon.

            “Every trend or every company has a trajectory and there is a point where the trajectory levels off. So, I've been anticipating it for a while, and it hasn't happened yet,” he said.



Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Universities sprouting on the West Side

            Some higher education institutions on the West Side are receiving slight name changes from the New York State Education Department.

             Medaille College, 18 Agassiz Circle, is in the process of applying for university status, just as D’Youville University, 320 Porter Ave., did in February.

            “Unless the rule changed, we were never going to be able to apply for university status,” Kenneth Macur, the president of Medaille, said.

            The department passed an amendment to their regulations in January that changed the requirements for a school to use the university designation.

             One of the major components of past requirements was that a school had to offer a minimum of three doctoral degrees to be considered a university. The department amended this to instead require a minimum of three graduate programs.

            The department along with several schools in New York state argue this will help with recruiting students locally, nationally and internationally.

             “We'll be able to better recruit students to the university without having to explain that we are in fact the same as universities in Canada, Germany, Spain, England and so on,” Macur said.

             He said the school’s application process has gone smoothly and predicts that the designation will boost enrollment for its graduate school and in turn, help grow the graduate programs substantially.

             “It just sort of levels the playing field and gives each school an opportunity to choose the designation that it feels fits best with its mission and its brand,” he said.

            Canisius College, 2100 Main St., does meet the criteria to become a university, but did not respond to a request for comment on its status.

            Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave., said currently it is not considering a change. The amendment by the Board of Regents to the definition of a university is interesting, but at this point we are not pursuing a change in status,” Katherine Conway-Turner, president of Buffalo State, said in a statement. By Elijah Robinson and Thomas Tedesco




Monday, April 25, 2022

Local to work on world timestamp project

Buffalo photographer DJ Carr, who lives on the edge of the West Village, was selected to participate in an NFT project titled The World Today. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are a digital currency that include a digital medium, such as a photo or video. They are referred to as non-fungible, as they cannot be replicated or replaced. Carr is one of 138 photographers spread across six continents who are coming together to release 13,000 photos. “We’re supposed to be visually timestamping the 21st century worldwide,” Carr said. The World Today says that this project promotes community effort which benefits both established and emerging artists. The project will be revealed on May 8. By Nia Peeples and Zachary Williams

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Businesses anticipate return of Porchfest



Elmwood Village businesses expect this year's 2022 Porchfest to bring the same big crowd as previousyears. In 2021 over 110 bands played on 65 porches. Music lovers can hear any genre from classic country to hardcore heavy metal from 1 - 6 p.m on May 21. The locations in the village where you can listen in on bands play will be announced on May 14. The Porchfest originally began in Ithaca over 10 years ago, but the word quickly spread of the successful turn out, and soon the event became a day full of great music and good times as locals dance through the heart of the Elmwood Village. 

By Natalie Gravino and Cait Malilay

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Everyone eats at Big Big Table on Hudson St.


Big Big Table, 272 Hudson St.

By Valerie Ryan and Peyton Fletcher

            The gates on the window are pushed to the side, the OPEN sign lights up and as you step through the door a bell chimes, a warm smile welcomes you to a cup of coffee, a cookie or a big nutritious meal to start your day.

            The small cozy cafe is painted with bright yellow walls, two big wooden dining room tables and plastered on the wall in big letters is: “Everybody Eats. Everybody Gives. Everybody Matters.” However, the difference between here and any other cafe on the West Side is that at this cafe everyone eats regardless of the amount of money in their wallet.

            Big Big Table, 272 Hudson St., is Western New York’s first community cafe where patrons pay-as-they-can. 

            “Everybody deserves to be eating. There should be no one that’s sitting in this country or in the world that has to decide should I pay my bills or should I eat dinner,” Theresa Dempster, the chef and kitchen manager at Big Big Table, said.  


            Monday through Friday, between the hours of 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. everyone is encouraged to sit and have a meal.

            “If you have 5 cents you are going to get the exact same meal as someone that gave me $20,” Dempster said.

            Big Big Table aims to tackle food insecurity in the community and the cafe offers three forms of payment: Money, volunteer work or donations of produce and packaged goods.

            Dempster says the cafe will accept a donation between $2 and $15, depending on what you are willing to give, a minimum of 30 minutes of volunteer work helping chop vegetables, sweep or wash dishes, or donations of frozen vegetables, canned goods or any food items that can be used for future meals.

            The food items used to make weekly meals are mostly all donated goods from local urban farms, gardens, grocery stores and small businesses including The Lexington Co-op on Elmwood Avenue and Ashkers Fresh Market in Black Rock. Some donations for example are distressed produce, which in other words is perfectly good produce that cannot be sold because of its appearance or imperfections. Big Big Table can transform this produce into nutritious meals for the community.

            One World Everybody Eats is a non-profit organization that helped Big Big Table’s founder, Mandy Bailey, start the community cafe on Hudson Street. One World Everybody Eats supports almost 50 cafes across the country by providing the necessary information, resources and connections to learn the ropes about how to help fight hunger in communities.

            “Our focus is sort of increasing food security through the pay-as-you-can model and we want to be able to empower the community to do so,” Julie Williams, One World Everybody Eats board director said.

            Heather McCarthy, community and operations manager at Big Big Table, praised One World Everybody Eats for the connections it offered with a nationwide network of people doing similar things.

             “They give us guidelines and a little bit of software and support to help us be successful on the operations side,” McCarthy said.

            Big Big Table has been up and running for about six months and Bailey says she loves where the cafĂ© is located.

            “This neighborhood is super diverse in every way, I love that and frankly I love everybody, and Big Big Table loves everybody,” Bailey said.

            Big Big Table hopes to continue to feed and connect with more members of the community.

            “This is who we are, nothing's gonna change,” Dempster said. “We will feed you no matter what.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

BikeorBar searching for new home after fire

 Six months ago, BikeorBar, 904 Elmwood Ave., a popular spin and exercise studio in Elmwood Village, suffered a devastating fire. Brit Leo, one of the owners, is searching for a new space to reopen her establishment.

After nearly a decade of serving the Buffalo fitness community, Leo is now working with other studios as an interim instructor.

“I’ve been teaching all over at other studios, which has been awesome,” Leo said.

Leo teaches at studios such as Sweat 716, 145 Swan St., and two others in Tonawanda and Amherst. She just partnered with SUNY Buffalo State College to bring free spin classes to campus for students. Although she has been happy working as an interim instructor, she hopes to reopen her studio soon.

The fire in October 2021 affected the whole building, pushing out BikeorBar, Hardcore Tattoo and the eight tenants living above. No further steps have been made by Leo’s landlord to get the building up to code, she said.

Leo said she has been looking for new spaces to lease but has not found any up to par in comparison to the Elmwood location.

“My hope is that he does the right thing and gets that building where it needs to be because it’s the perfect location. We’ve been there for 10 years, and we really don’t want to leave that spot,” Leo said. By Peyton Fletcher and Valerie Ryan

Rosie’s Ice Cream expanding to W. Utica

Iris Roach, shift leader at Rosie’s Handcrafted Ice Cream serves a customer one of its homemade flavors that will soon be coming to the West Side. The ice cream shop that opened its first location in East Aurora in 2021 is slated to open its second location, 486 and 488 West Utica St., by spring 2023. Rosie’s also will be making craft beer at the new location. Ownership and employees think both will be a good fit in Buffalo. “It’s such a foodie town. So many people will enjoy it,” Roach said. Co-owner, Deacon Tasker eyed the West Utica building from his real estate work on the West Side and quickly identified it as the preferred spot for the new location. Tasker along with his wife and co-owner, Cassandra, are in the process of acquiring a special use permit from the city of Buffalo to rezone the 2,600 square foot former warehouse to accommodate their business. “We're looking to renovate it and kind of keep some of the charm that's already there,” Cassandra Tasker said. While they are on track to finish the planning phase for these renovations this spring, they said it will take a substantial amount of work to get the building ready by next year. “It’s seen a little bit of physical neglect. It needs a big hug and I’m excited to do it,” Deacon Tasker said. By Elijah Robinson and Thomas Tedesco


West Side community welcomes Afghan refugees


Volunteers, from left,  Johanna Burke and Desiray Slaughter organize toys for Afghan refugees coming to the West Side

By Cait Malilay and Natalie Gravino

Laura Hill Rao was touched as she saw the box truck being loaded with household items that tend to be taken for granted: bedding, towels, toiletries, pots and pans just to name a few. 

With over 4,000 items collected by SUNY Buffalo State College campus community alone, the two trucks were off to the local resettlement agencies of the Western New York Refugee and Asylee Consortium.  

In addition to temporarily housing Afghan evacuees in a vacant dormitory, Buffalo State was invited by the consortium to participate in the January household supply drive.

“It was really moving and powerful to see how much our campus community was willing and excited to help,” said Rao, the director of the Civic and Community Engagement Office. “All the faculty in the math and science building kind of went in together and they must have dropped off like four van loads full of items that included everything for two whole households.”  

There were at least 250 people who were involved, including student organizations and families, but all were affiliated with Buffalo State.  

Buffalo is just one of the 19 eligible cities recommended by the U.S. State Department to accept refugees after President Joe Biden withdrew U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021.

Jennifer Rizzo-Choi, the interim executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo, said that the institute received 131 Afghan clients, including three babies that were born on U.S. military bases, during the evacuation phase in late August and early September.

“They’re certainly adjusting to their new life in the U.S.,” she said.


Jennifer Rizzo-Choi, on the incoming refugees:

There were nine military bases across the U.S. waiting to welcome the Afghan evacuees.

They arrived in Buffalo from mid-November to mid-February and were temporarily housed in hotels, Airbnbs or on a college campus.

Most of the families have now found permanent housing on the West Side and Cheektowaga, where there are large  Afghan populations, and the East Side.

“We typically try to resettle the clients on the West Side because there's a large refugee community there and the city is accessible in terms of business,” Rizzo-Choi said. “There’s stores, ethnic grocery stores that are great for them to be able to access without having to worry about transportation.”

Other resettlement agencies have found permanent homes for the refugees in Niagara Falls.

Housing is based on each family’s needs, but one housing challenge in particular, Rizzo-Choi said, is when there’s a larger family of 11 to 12 people compared to a typical family of four.

Nobody has opened up their doors for free, she said, so housing is paid through federal government funds.

Once families are settled in housing, the four resettlement agencies of the consortium help bring them to their appointments to handle legal documentation and continue adjusting to everyday life such as enrolling their children in school.

“Children under age 18 will be enrolled in the public school system,” Rizzo-Choi said. “There are specific programs in the Buffalo Public School System that are geared toward helping refugee youth succeed, to adjust and integrate.”

With the help from funding from Buffalo schools and resettlement agencies, the children receive academic coaches, which not only act as interpreters, but help them adjust to school life in America.

“We do have other employment and training programs and education programs that are typically available through what is called core resettlement services that we enroll all clients in, and that’s funded through the federal government,” she said.

Offered through the four resettlement agencies, this includes ESL classes, training on workplace culture, resume assistance, and helping them find employment. 

For stay-at-home parents who are unable to attend ESL classes, the International Institute has a program called the Hello Program, which also helps with other basic needs.

The West Side’s involvement in humanitarian crises is far from over.

With the Ukraine-Russia conflict, President Joe Biden announced that America will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees,  and Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner is eager to help.

“Unfortunately, crises continue to occur across the globe and now Ukraine is facing a situation that has already caused nearly 3 million people to flee the brutal, bloody and unprovoked assault by Russia,” Conway-Turner said. “Should any of these families ultimately resettle in Buffalo, our campus will extend any assistance that we can provide. As a campus that fully supports justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, we are committed to assisting those in need when we are called to do so.”

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Latinas in Business gather to learn, network

Talia Rodriguez conducts a Latinas in Business meeting


A group of 15 women gather at La Isla restaurant, 995 Niagara St., as part of Latinas in Business, to learn about brand management and New York State’s Minority and Women Business Enterprises. Founder, Talia Rodriguez, associate director of the West Side Promise Neighborhood, holds meetings on an ongoing basis to teach, support and provide community for these women. “They are all smart business owners who started their businesses all on their own,” Rodriguez said. Latinas in Business acts as a platform of community,
connects Hispanic entrepreneurial women and drives a dynamic Latina business culture. All business ideas are encouraged, including health care, cosmetology, and food service. Rodriguez is continuing to host workshops to attract more Latina women into business. By: Valerie Ryan and Peyton Fletcher

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

3 groups get addiction prevention grants

West Side Community Services and two other West Side non-profit organizations have received a portion of $3.8 million from New York State to expand addiction prevention services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

West Side Community Services,161 Vermont St., received $25,994 to create new programs.

“We will be offering evidence-based programs for parents and their teenagers to help them build and maintain healthy relationships,” Executive Director Crystal Selk said.

Selk said that there will also be a program specifically available for teens to help guide them through life during and after high school. The new programs are currently aiming to launch by September.

Three out of the nine Western New York organizations that received the money are located on the West Side. The other two organizations that were granted a portion of the money were Western New York United Against Drug & Alcohol Abuse Inc.,1195 Niagara St. which received $21,825, and Preventionfocus Inc., 69 Linwood Ave., which received $10,679.

On Jan. 21, Gov.  Kathy Hochul announced that she will be offering funding to organizations that were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, organizations had to transition from in-person to remote services, making it difficult to reach out to individuals. The award will help create new services and support the ones already in place.  

The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports will be in charge of administering the grant to each organization. By Natalie Gravino and Cait Malilay   

Niagara St. good choice for Wheelworks

Campus Wheelworks co-owner Ethan Johnson says the bicycle store’s second location has expanded its two-wheel community with a second location on the West Side. The new location, 1330 Niagara St., is celebrating its one-year anniversary amid a growing cycling environment. In 2021, New York state completed the Erie Canal Empire State Trail, a 750-mile bike trail that spans from Buffalo to Albany. Part of this trail is in front of the store itself. The new trail and a growing community of cyclists were the main reasons for choosing the store’s new location. Campus Wheelworks has also hosted and participated in various community events, including the creation of the nonprofit group, Campus Cycling Collective. The group hosts free riding groups for cyclists of all skill levels weekly in the summer months. “We like to be a participant in the community,” Johnson said. “So, we do a lot of events like group rides, which gives people in the community a place to come, safely exercise and be healthy.” By Elijah Robinson and Thomas Tedesco