Published by Buffalo Spree Magazine.
Shopping local this holiday season is about so much more than great prices and personalized service. Buying from area vendors and manufacturers boosts our hometown economy during the most important retail months and keeps it strong all throughout the year.
When viewing any bustling Buffalo marketplace or friend-filled tavern, it may be hard to believe that just a few miles away, hulking machinery and abandoned factories are testament to the fact that the Queen City has seen better days.
But Buffalo is on the rise!
The “Buffalo Billion,” the rebirth of Canalside, and the ever-growing downtown medical campus are just a few large-scale projects that are breathing life back into Western New York, and hundreds of tiny inhalations and exhalations are happening, too, with small businesses and local vendors. When you buy gifts or party supplies from small businesses, you’re helping Buffalo boot ’n’ rally.
According to Sustainable Connections (sustainableconnections.org), an award-winning not-for-profit organization that promotes local shopping for its financial, community, and environmental benefits, supporting local merchants encourages local prosperity and gives young people a reason to settle and raise families in their hometowns:
“A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.”
Quite possibly, Buffalo, with its surrounding communities, is one of the most unique cities in the state, perhaps even the North. The Queen City’s rich history has left an imprint on downtown building facades, lakeside topography, and even its people—who remain fiercely loyal to their hometown traditions and especially their hometown sports franchises. Isn’t that a heritage worth preserving?
Say so! Bay-6, Buffalo Clothing Co., located in the Southgate Plaza on Union Road in West Seneca, is a boutique carrying plenty of apparel to show your Buffalove. The store is a one-stop-shop for fan gear and more, making it easy to check names off your holiday gift list.
“We get a lot of people coming in from out of town who lived here before and moved away,” says owner Suzanne Miller. “Other customers are looking to send Buffalo gear to out-of-town relatives; they’re people looking for hometown gifts and who want to celebrate our city. “We get people who say, ‘I have to stop in to get my Buffalo gear.’ These are displaced Western New Yorkers, and Buffalo will always be their home.”
For many of these homesick transplants, Bay-6 is a scheduled stop when they come home for winter holidays. “We have dog apparel, too, so the whole family can show their love for Buffalo!” Miller adds.
Bay-6 also supports other small businesses by stocking books by local authors and clothing items by Buffalo designers. They even have infants’ and kids’ sizes, so parents can start the initiation into Buffalo fandom early. Get all the updates on newly stocked items, including holiday ornaments, by finding Bay-6 on Facebook.
Going to area craft shows, vendor festivals, and farmers’ markets is an excellent way to support the local economy, and ensures that you’re purchasing fresh, high-quality products. Because there is no middle man or expensive shipping involved, prices are great, too.
The Buffalo Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at the Central Wharf, Canalside, got started in 2012. Its mission, according to its website, is “to provide an affordable venue for artists to display their work and bring the community together to experience local art.” Every Saturday, dozens of artists and artisans set up booths and sell handmade jewelry, woodcarvings, soaps, glasswork, stationery, candles, children’s toys, pottery, and more.
The SAM shopping experience is unique, too, in that it is the only consistent art market in Western New York. “All of the artisans are local and they do the selling themselves, which provides an opportunity for the buyers to meet the makers of the work they love,” continues Leatherbarrow. “Selling directly to the customers gives the artisans immediate feedback and affects what they make before the next market—this creates a symbiotic relationship where the art becomes a reflection of the community that supports it.”
As the Sustainable Connections website explains, meeting specific local needs and wants is a common benefit of small marketplace vending: “A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.”
Leatherbarrow also points out that spending money at SAM keeps dollars in the neighborhood.
“Shopping local gives a much-needed boost to our local economy,” she notes. “SAM is a market of artists, but these are all small businesses that need and deserve support. These are your neighbors! When you shop local, the funds go right back into the local economy, which has proven to improve life in communities that hold these types of events.”
Plenty of other unique shopping experiences are coming to Buffalo neighborhoods. “Green Friday” (as an alternative to Black Friday) is being held November 27 in the village of Hamburg, with free trolley rides (from noon to 6 p.m.) taking shoppers around to participating local stores and restaurants for great deals and one-of-a-kind gifts! Shoppers aboard the trolley will also get special coupons and a chance to win prizes with the “Passport to Prizes” game. For event details, go to facebook.com/HamburgGreenFriday.
Also happening, on November 27, is the fifth annual Black Friday Boutique Crawl on Elmwood Avenue, organized by the Elmwood Village Association (ELA). More than thirty businesses will participate in this holiday shopping season kick-off, which began as a way to celebrate the neighborhood and its shopkeepers.
“The event was started to provide a shopping experience away from the mall madness that allows shoppers to buy local, and support independent Buffalo businesses,” says Jennifer White, community engagement manager for the ELA. Local spending keeps three times more money in Buffalo, and locals create the most new jobs.”
Sign up for the ELA e-newsletter at elmwoodvillage.org to keep up with all the neighborhood news!
On December 4–5, Hertel Avenue businesses will open their doors and hang up wreaths for the twentieth annual “Hertel Holidays,” presented by the Hertel Business Association. This crowd-pleasing event brings hundreds of Buffalo shoppers to the Hertel neighborhood every year, with restaurants and shops offering the seasonal deals that leave shoppers jolly, joyful, and laden with packages. The event runs from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Santa himself will be there, perhaps literally with bells on. See hertelholidays.com for the photo gallery and all the latest news.
If it’s a day trip you’re after, head west on Route 20 to the Crossroads Market in Westfield. This “mall-ternative” destination is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through December 19 and on Black Friday. Dozens of vendors ensure something for everyone, including hard-to-find gluten-free baking and soup mixes. In December, live music will make the market extra jolly, and Santa will drop by to check on nice (and naughty) shoppers. For more information, including directions, go to thecrossroadsmarket.com.
Along with its festivals, sports teams, and reputation as one of the snowiest places in the United States, Buffalo is known for some of its landmark businesses, large and small: General Mills, Anchor Bar, Duff’s, Pearl Street Brewery, and, of course, Spot Coffee.
The Spot Coffee legacy began in 1996, and has grown to include nine cafes in and around Buffalo, with US central headquarters taking pride of place on Delaware Avenue.
Locations include Buffalo, Orchard Park, Glens Falls, Clarence, Williamsville, Saratoga Springs, and now Rochester, so this “neighborhood café” really is in (or close to) your neighborhood. Stop in and try a signature entrée, then relax with a cup of Buffalo’s best brew after a long day of cookie baking or tree trimming.
Staylocal.org, another nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through local entrepreneurship and neighborhood support, says that money spent at businesses like Spot Coffee have a ripple effect on the local economy: “Your dollars spent in locally owned businesses have three times the impact on your community as dollars spent at national chains. When shopping locally, you simultaneously create jobs, fund more city services through sales tax, invest in neighborhood improvement and promote community development.”
In addition to that, small businesses and neighborhood merchants are far more likely to support local fundraising efforts, donate to community improvement projects, and volunteer free time to everything from staffing soup kitchens to organizing mitten drives.
The next time you’re planning a date, scheduling an outing with friends, or making your holiday shopping list, contemplate for a moment where you want your hard-earned money to go. You cast a vote with every dollar you spend. Why not vote for quality, for your neighbors, and for Western New York? And it’s not just about strengthening the local community and economy. Shopping local will preserve the character and restore the dignity of the Queen City, turning rust into gold—maybe tarnished, but beautiful and valuable all the same. Don’t forget to go to your local farmers’ market and neighborhood events. Visit nearby orchards and vineyards. These are relaxing ways to fit in holiday shopping, spend afternoons with friends, or have a fun and flirty first date.
Who does chicken wings better? Whose fans remain fiercely loyal no matter how many Bills games are lost or won? Whose proud townies wear three, four, five sweaters and a parka to come curl at Canalside every week this winter? Which city’s residents inhale the scent of Cheerios every morning and shovel their sidewalks every evening and think “There’s no place like home,” and mean it?
There’s only one Buffalo.