Sitting inside Five Points Bakery with a double espresso, people watching and smiling at a dad and son each reading a book, I almost forgot I was on Buffalo’s West Side. It was just a decade ago, after all, that this neighborhood was faltering.
That happens a lot as I venture outside of my North Buffalo neighborhood to these little, thriving pocket neighborhoods throughout the city.
According to the University at Buffalo (and Wikipedia), the Queen City has 32 distinct neighborhoods. I started to wonder how some neighborhoods succeed and become the cool place to go, eat, shop or grab coffee. The short answer is, “If you build it, they will come.” The shorter answer is economics.
Enter neighborhood business associations. Buffalo has dozens registered like the Elmwood Village Association, Chippewa Alliance and Riverside Business Association. Each works behind-the-scenes to support and stimulate the economy in their respective neighborhoods. And most are run by volunteers.
Kevin Gardner, co-owner of Five Points Bakery and member of the Five Points Business Association (FPBA), built his shop just a few blocks from his home. A resident for almost 20 years, he watched as his neighborhood transformed.
“Fifteen years ago, the only thing here was a bodega,” said Gardner. “Urban Roots was the first group to really put a stake in the ground. Then, one after another, new businesses started to open. Black Monarchy, Remedy House, Las Puertas, Pilates Art Studio and other one-of-a-kind start-ups. These were entrepreneurs investing in this community.”
The FPBA—led by Frits Abell—plays a large part in the neighborhood’s success. According to Gardner, the members of the association regularly invest in the economic and environmental quality of life in the area. Individually, they’ve purchased and maintained vacant lots and bought and renovated dilapidated buildings. And with every investment, they’ve increased their property values and attracted more businesses to the area, like communications agency 19 IDEAS on Essex Street.
“We were drawn to the positive, creative vibe of the Five Points area,” said Katie Krawczyk, CEO of 19 IDEAS. “We’ve been ingrained in this community from day one and feel we have a sense of stewardship to uphold. We bring clients to Remedy House and Five Points Bakery for meetings and people are always surprised to see what’s happening in the neighborhood.”
The agency also exposes the neighborhood to newcomers by opening its doors to the public every few months to host a party.
Of course, neighborhoods need to be nurtured and beautified, but for healthy, sustainable growth, they also need business associations marketing and promoting the area all the time—like little public relations machines running on hope, ambition and shared desire to create destinations within our city.
Here’s a sampling of local associations and the work that drives them:
Mission: To serve as a catalyst for creating a vibrant community in the heart of downtown Buffalo that benefits, attracts and aligns residents, businesses and visitors.
- Enhance the appearance, design and condition of the corridor
- Highlight the diverse and unique businesses on the street during special events
President: Rachel DeDonmenico. For more, visit chippewaalliance.com.
Elmwood Village Association
Mission: To encourage a balance of growth and preservation, to support community-led projects and to promote an inclusive neighborhood for people to live, work, visit and prosper.
- Leverage resources to promote a strong business district
- Promote the Elmwood Village as the City of Buffalo’s garden district
- Increase opportunities for direct interaction between EVA and the community
Executive Director: Ashley Smith. For more, visit elmwoodvillage.org.
Hertel Business Association
Mission: Strives for the flourishment, beautification and connectivity of the community in North Buffalo.
- Enhance the streetscape through continued beautification efforts
- Become a destination for visitors by promoting the character and diversity of the neighborhood
- Continue to bring funding opportunities to small-business owners
President: Judy Porto. For more, visit hertel-ave.com.
Story topics: Community