Chinatown has come to Buffalo in the form of Hu’s Discount Store. When I first saw that the long-vacant Elmwood storefront had been filled with a discount shop I thought to myself, “Oh man, another dollar store?” Then yesterday my curiosity got the best of me and I walked inside to discover that this was the type of business that I’ve seen so many times in the past when visiting Chinatowns in Toronto and NYC – the gloves and hats, the cosmetics, the watches, the tools, the toys and games… it was all there.
I’m not against dollar stores per se. I’m just not a big fan of seeing them on every corner of the city battling it out for every last customer dollar, much the way drug stores do. I recall that there was a very interesting post on BRO a couple years back that kicked off a ‘discussion’ of the pros and cons of dollar stores – readers thought that the empty Pier 1 was being eyed up for a Dollar Store. Instead it became a Bank of America. As much as I would have been disappointed seeing a Dollar Store move in, the presence of a Chinatown-style shop is something new and different. The word ‘China’ means many things to many people when seen on a product label or sticker. The stores that sell these China-made items in this wall-to-wall fashion are more often seen in bigger cities like NYC or Toronto. It’s no coincidence that the owners of Hu’s have other stores in NYC – I didn’t even have to ask.
To walk around Hu’s is a trip in all senses of the meaning. In one corner of the store you can imagine that you’re in Radio Shack. In another corner you’re in Target. And in another you’re standing in Home Depot. Everything is neatly laid out… even the luggage. I bet that Hu’s does pretty well on this block, especially during the holidays. Yesterday I saw a guy come in and buy a winter hat for $2. I picked up a colorful push broom for $4. I even saw my friends from Hand of Doom tat shop poking around in there. You could say that it’s better to support your neighborhood hardware store, and that would be a fare statement if most of the hardware stores had not already been wiped out by Home Depot. Did I feel guilty buying a broom from China? I would have if I knew that there was a nearby Made in America store that sold the same product for a few dollars more. But that wasn’t the case. Does Amy Kedron (Buffalo First) want to weigh in here?
The 400-block of Elmwood is filling up with ‘stores’ once again. Maybe not the way I ever imagined that it would, but there’s some new life there that is attracting shoppers. I’m still not sold on the conversion of the Lu Modern storefront into another realty business… I wish that the storefront, once filled with colorful clothing, had something interesting to look at instead of looking like a dead spot on the avenue. Even Avenue Pizza has a new owner that is trying to make a difference (story to come). Tokyo Shanghai looks great, and the Atlanta Jeans Co. should add nicely to the block. Hu’s Discount Store is something different on the street and to me that’s not a bad thing. I always wanted a Chinatown in Buffalo… I guess this is as good a start as any.
Hu’s Discount Store
498 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo NY 14222