Chinatown Comes To Elmwood

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

About the author  ⁄ Sitler

37 comments
clockhill
clockhill

"It's a cheesy, cheap storefront; there's nothing cosmopolitan about it."

As someone who goes to NYC every two weeks, I define "cosmopolitan" as an urban area so fertile and desirable that all kinds of businesses, people, and ideas root there. This includes the little with the big, the gritty with the polished. That is the interdependent matrix that generates pedestrians, which fuels everyone's success.

Thank you Hu for being what you are, because you're the only one like you. Diversity breeds the most important thing after all: ideas.

B and B
B and B

I was going to say "How about 'A Type of Store Usually Seen in Chinatowns Comes to Elmwood' " but this place really isn't the same. You'll find more of these in the poorer areas of Brooklyn and The Bronx than in the real Chinatown (NYC-speaking, anyway ) ... That said, I intend to head over there tomorrow to see what's what. Places like this are similar to the original Woolworth's concept - cheap stuff for cheap prices.

Cory Hill
Cory Hill

How racist is this title? - just cause one "asian" owned/named store moved in it's "Chinatown" .... I feel bad for the Guido's that open up stores along Elmwood and not have a title of "Little Italy Comes to Elmwood"...OY

brownteeth
brownteeth

Steve - I guess when my hot pink plaid pajamas wear out I'll know where to get new ones. This store certainly raises the quality of life for all. I hope more discount stores open up all over Elmwood so we can get our economy going $.50 at a time. Don't be so offended the next time some one picks on your business (obviously you own it orhave a connection to it). Cheers

EricOak
EricOak

I appreciate your perspective here. I stated that Elmwood was fading in "subtle ways." And I think it has--economically I know that many businesses on it are struggling, and I am very sorry to say that. It has been spruced up and made more lively in some ways, in different pockets, but it's still a wildly uneven avenue that should not be.

I've watched it, over 22 years, bleed potential. The first big block, at Forest, is disgraceful. The Utica/Bryant block is filthy on a daily level (I often pick up garbage on it). The Bird/Potomac block looks pretty much like a slum. The hotel should have gone up (and a new building hopefully will), but the mentality that allowed that ratty block to fester..it can be seen in the lack of variety in the stores, the shabbiness of so many storefronts, the tattoo parlors and hair salons, and the very scant traces of polish or beauty. I walked into the new Spot recently, with its cinder block walls and blindingly bright, cheap lights, and I thougt..there's not even a clean, charming cafe on this whole street.

I support daily many of the businesses, but I am hard pressed to find one place--restaurant, coffee place, or store--that has memorable charm or beauty. There are few that I think are keepers, but mostly I see tiredness on Elmwood, and it worries me. In spite of that, I still love the street and spend every cent I can on it. I just think it could be so much more, and feeling good about Hu's Discount Store steers our attention away from the tenuous condition of this vital street in Buffalo's renewal.

Enxu
Enxu

Hey look at this way: there are a few stores on Elmwood passing off knick-knacks as "gifts" and charging a premium price. At least this place will have an even more random selection of junk, at much cheaper prices!

Hu's jia you!

KarlMalone
KarlMalone

They all suck. Oak Mr. negative. I have never defended him but would not call him Mr. negative, unless we are talking about the AKAG and Mr. Grachos.

nubflo
nubflo

well said reflip

reflip
reflip

Interesting take about Elmwood fading/struggling. I moved to Buffalo (for the first time) 5 years ago. I was here for a year, left for 3 years, then moved back. So, I don't have a continuous perspective. But, when I came back (of my own volition, even) last year I thought Elmwood had actually improved substantially since I lived here last. I still think that. Really, it's almost no contest IMHO. Elmwood '09 > Elmwood '04. What criteria are you using to assess the health of the district? For the record, I live on Utica, that most hated of Elmwood area steets. And I stand by my opinion. Most of the places I frequent did not exist in 2004. And, I'm hoping we get a Coffee Culture at Elmwood/Bryant. I'll be there on a regular basis, for sure. I have lived in several places throughout "upstate" NY, and I've been to many more. Elmwood Ave. is the only place north of the Cloisters where I would ever live voluntarily.

I'll give you this - the loss of Manhattan Bagel still stings. I liked Off the Wall too, but the addition of VBM is, I think, a huge plus. I hope they stay in business.

Also, I'm going to say that Hu's Discount Store is much better than a Dollar Store chain. Here's why: 1) They occupied an existing, vacant storefront; 2) They did not demolish anything, for parking or otherwise. So, I say they can come and go as they please, as stores tend to do. I wish them luck. If they turn out to be bad neighbors, then I reserve the right to change my opinion. My current opinion is based on the facts as I perceive them at this moment.

NorPark
NorPark

"steve",

U own this place? Sure sounds like it. Some people like junk store like this, other dont, stop taking it so personal.

EricOak
EricOak

There's a lot to be negative about. Trust me; I don't enjoy it. The store itself I don't care about; my irritation is with the article's trite rhetoric, pointing to the store as some glimmer of big city cosmopolitanism when it's no better than a chain dollar store.

The real story is the neighborhood-hostile ownership of many buildings on this block. This store is a symptom of that malaise, so I can't rationalize it or celebrate its temporary tenancy. Elmwood has been fading in the past few years in subtle ways: it has a more threadbare, transient feel to it now, and I think this is a bad image for national investors or even monied local investors. Until we get more responsible and enthusiastic stewardship of these buildings, and larger scale and more long term investment (not to mention more style and cleanliness), I think Elmwood will keep struggling, as I know it is right now.

STEEL
STEEL

Eric Oak has become mr. negative

steve
steve

You are right, it is better to have vacant storefronts.

steve
steve

Again, so don't shop there, some of us like stores like this. Not everything was built to appease you.

BuffaloNiagaraPlanner
BuffaloNiagaraPlanner

I call these kind of stores, "Yummy Bins" - full of all of the stuff you didn't know you needed. You can't afford not to buy it! They're fun because they're novel - you go in, goof off, and buy cheap stuff you don't need, kind of like a candy store. You can't really take them too seriously.

steve
steve

hey, maybe you won't shop there, but you shouldn't speak for others. Some of us like stores like this. idiot.

steve
steve

So don't shop there. Some of us like things like this.

dgoshilla
dgoshilla

All you need is to come here to LA on Melrose East of Fairfax to see what happens when too many cheap stores infultrate one neighborhood. Or head downtown to Broadway or Hollywood Blvd.

Be forewarned you need to take a firm grip on these type of stores popping up. Limit their numbers.

celiathepoet
celiathepoet

I stopped in on Sunday and liked what I saw. Visit for yourself and decide.

I too am all for a "Chinatown" in Buffalo--there are way too many things I still have to drive out of the city limits to purchase.

reflip
reflip

I'll take "open" over "vacant" here.

EricOak
EricOak

So, we're supposed to be glad it's not a chain dollar store, but somehow tickled that it's a dollar store with the word China in front of it? Because that's what "big cities" have? It's a cheesy, cheap storefront; there's nothing cosmopolitan about it.

LouisTully
LouisTully

well the GOP-run county doesn't do much better.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Of course we have more crime per capita than New York or Toronto, we are the 3rd poorest city in the nation. Poverty has a way of creating a whole subculture of crime.

As for your attack on Democrats, they are sometimes too much like Republicans, much too far right and too willing to further enable the rich in the plundering of our country.

miaLA
miaLA

Some of you guys are being quite ridiculous! Girlinthebuff, as well as Queenseyes, is absolutely right. Nobody is purporting to say that this store is an any sort of gem, however, it is a store that will serve a purpose to a broad clientele; and it is a business that has taken up a long vacant storefront.

These types of stores are found all over other cosmopolitan areas, and can be fun when viewed as a type of "treasure hunt" shopping experience. Furthermore, if this was a high-end "Elmwood Village" store, you'd be giving the owners flack for being elitist…

Lego1981
Lego1981

Over-all it's nice to have something 'different' on this Avenue. Variety is never a bad thing.

KarlMalone
KarlMalone

Actually Ike we have more prostitute and drug-related violence per capita than New York and Toronto. This shouldn't shock though, the City is run by prostitute and drug thugs (a.k.a democrats).

Ike
Ike

WOW, just like in NYC and Toronto?

what a crock. ONly on this blog would they turn the opening of a junk store into a praise-worthy event. It's better than an empty storefront, sure but not by much. this is literalyl bottom of the barrel. will there be a blog post the next time a barbershop or new nail salon opens?

You know what else the have in NYC & Toronto? Prostitutes and drug-related violence...just because they have it in the big cities doesn't mean its particularly noteworthy

Rev. Drew
Rev. Drew

I like places like this, too--even if I do worry about how some of the stuff is made.

townline
townline

Then maybe you should directly message the author rather than laying him out publicly? That's what makes you look like a jerk. But by doing it publicly, it appears more like you're just trying to make an ass of someone.

STEEL
STEEL

These Chinese "Cheap" Stores are actually a lot of fun. You never know what you will find in them.

brownteeth
brownteeth

I apologize if it came off that way but I read this website and support it for it's quality articles. If they don't take the time to proofread the articles it suggests that maybe they don't fact check propery either? I know it's a silly typo but I expect more from this site.

girlinthebuff
girlinthebuff

This space has been vacant for at least three and a half years. It's nice to finally see something in there. And it may not be the high end clothing store or specialty food shop that everybody pined for, but it does meet the needs of a broader demographic.

burlapwax
burlapwax

It does look pretty garbage-ish. But it's not a Dollar Tree ... though the description is basically identical. The difference between a discount store in Chinatown and a discount store somewhere else is that one is in Chinatown. This store isn't, it's in a district that is mainly local artisan goods and local restaurants... you know, the kinda stuff that Buffalo Rising encourages. So the article's identification of this as a positive step towards a Chinatown in Buffalo seems curious at best.

And as for locally made brooms, I dunno about any made here, but at least Valu Home Centers are headquartered in Buffalo. "The owners of Hu's have other stores in NYC" ... okay? There are a lot of crappy discount stores in NYC, too.

Jonathan
Jonathan

Wow... did someone pee in your cereal this morning?

You may not have meant to come across like a jerk, but that's exactly what you've managed to do.

brownteeth
brownteeth

This looks like absolute garbage. I'm all for new stores and businesses but this will probably be out of business in two months which doesn't help anyone.

Oh and BRO really should proofread their stories and not just spellcheck.

"Then yesterday my curiosity go the best of me..."

Not to be a jerk but it makes the stories on here less credible if you don't even make sure they're written properly.

townline
townline

Does Roger own the Business? Seems kind of similar to his other ventures.

© 2014 Hyperlocal Media. All Rights Reserved.