Thursday, May 11, 2023

West Side praised for extent of diversity


By Julie Ferguson

            “The West Side itself is super diverse. It’s more diverse than anything around here in my opinion,” says Najja Bouldin, a four-year resident, and professor at Buffalo State University.

            Professor Bouldin, originally from East Side Buffalo, moved west because of what he describes as a “better quality of life”. He also shared that his ability to go bike riding with his young son and the irresistible ambiance of the West side is what he loves most about the neighborhood.

            “We have people from all over south Asia, we have people from all over the continent of Africa,”  he said.

            According to the US Census Bureau American Community Survey, not only is the West Side  proven to have the highest rate of educational attainment, but it is more culturally diverse when compared to the Northern and Southern parts of the city. Main Street and the Scajaquada Expressway border a varied population of 7% Asian, 18% Black, 21% Hispanic, and 50 % WhiteWest Side residents.

            The culturally diverse population is reflected in the diverse set of businesses you can find on the West Side. Located in the Upper Elmwood neighborhood, Origem is an intimate Turkish gift shop on 830 Elmwood Ave. Luanna H. Akkurt, the owner, opened the store in December 2022 alongside her husband to bring a taste of Turkish culture to the West side.

            “So many of the customers that are coming in actually know someone, or it has been on their bucket list, and they want to get to know the place,” Akkurt said.

            The shop features a large variety of imported items that are handmade and full of culture. Her collection of merchandise varies from antique lamps, rugs, jewelry, scarves, wall decorations, and gemstones. Every customer can expect to learn a vast amount about the unique history of each item in Origem over a cup of Turkish coffee. Customers are also able to make purchases online and always have access to contact her with any questions regarding items.

            In the Waterfront neighborhood, La Casa De Sabores, a Dominican restaurant located at 1 Letchworth Street, has gained significant popularity with close-by Buffalo State students and west-side residents. Owner Carlos Cabrera opened the restaurant in 2018 after graduating from Buffalo State University. As a Long Island native, Carlos saw the need to bring his Dominican culture to the West side.

            “Knowing that there was nothing with your culture here, motivated me to see if we could bring our food and culture to the buffalo community,” Carrera said.

            This house of flavor has gained popularity because of its great customer service and exquisite-tasting Dominican cuisine. Customer favorites include mango, sauteed onioned over ripe plantains, chicken beans, and rive and empanadas. They also make sandwiches for anyone looking for their take on an American dish. Customers can come in person to pick up food from the display, or you can make orders on Grubhub, Caviar, Door Dash, Postmates, and Uber Eats.

            Both business owners bring something unique to the West Side. They equally contribute to the diversity of the West Side and highlight the importance of different cultures in a community.