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.”


Monday, October 10, 2022

PUSH’s West Side Homes project delayed to 2024

           Pandemic-related delays have pushed the timeline for PUSH Buffalo’s West Side Homes project to fall 2024. 

        Leaders anticipated the 49-unit housing project would be complete in August 2023 when it began five years ago, PUSH Deputy Director Dawn Wells-Clyburn said.

“Right now, the construction schedule says that we will be done by 2024 with all of the sites,” she said.

The project consists of rehabilitation of two vacant buildings and the construction of 10 buildings that are designed to fit into the neighborhood fabric and have sustainable features including rooftop solar.

The sites are along Massachusetts, West, Parkdale and West Delavan avenues and Rhode Island, Hampshire, Congress and 14th streets.

“Some will roll out as early as spring of 2023,” she said, “and some will roll out, at the latest, by fall 2024.”

Applications for West Side Homes units are available on the PUSH website. By Jason Guth and Kyle Wekenmann





Sunday, October 2, 2022

There's still time to hit farmers markets

The summer has come to an end and so will your favorite West Side farmers markets.

At the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Bidwell Parkway, the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market will be open until Nov. 29.  Lisa Brocato, a farmer at Rooted Locally and a market board member, said while the majority of vendors will be closed, some will be there until Thanksgiving weekend.

The West Side Tilth Farm, 246 Normal Ave., will run until Oct. 29. Hours on Saturdays from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.

 Providence Farm Collective,  finishing its market’s first year, will be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. -1 p.m. until Oct. 15. It is located at 130 Grant St.

 5 Loaves Farm can be found at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market while supplies last.

Each of these Markets will be accepting new farmer applications for 2023 on their websites. By Grace Blackwell and Alessia Gervasi

For West Side vegans, two new options


Strong Hearts Buffalo vegan cupcakes

By Amnah Mohsin and Otisha James

Donisha Gant was amazed at the “wonderland” of vegan options she said she saw while visiting California, and she realized what was missing in her neighborhood, the West Side.

Using this as an inspiration, Gant this summer opened her own vegan grocery store, Plantae Market, 212 Grant St.

Around the same time, Strong Hearts, vegan restaurant originating in Syracuse, expanded to Buffalo with a location at  295 Niagara St.

As part of its efforts to promote healthy eating, the West Side, a community blending many different cultures, has taken a new path toward veganism, a diet consisting of plant-based foods that are not derived from animals.

Increasingly more people are turning to vegan options as veganism becomes more mainstream.

Gant offers options from as low as $2.99 to $17.99 at her vegan supermarket, which serves 100% vegan items, such as date syrup, vegan pasta, and pickled pink garlic dill pickles can all be found in her store.

Gant said she appreciated the reception the store has gotten.

“I have a lot of people who are constantly telling me thank you for putting this here, and we don't have these kinds of products here and thank you for choosing this community, ” Gant said.


Gant, on what inspired her to open Plantae Market:


Strong Hearts was built upon the vegan ethics of animal, earth, and human liberation and serves foods including Buffalo blue fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, and specialty milkshakes.

 Rachel Laster, director of nutrition empowerment at D’Youville University, said  veganism becoming the most popular diet now and can be adjusted to an individual’s tastes.

 “Culturally, we are not used to eating high vegan diets, however, I think it can be modified,” Laster said.  

According to Yale researchers, many low-income residents shop in small neighborhood stores that lack healthy items, so improving access to healthy foods in these neighborhoods is crucial. Plantea Market is helping to bring healthy options to the West Side.

Locals who have second-guessed the vegan lifestyle, have started adapting to the manner of healthy eating in their community. On average, Plantae Market sees about 50 customers a week.