Every once in a while we get an email from a reader who puts his or her thought onto “paper” and sends them along. Most of the time these sorts of writings ask questions regarding developments in Buffalo, or about small businesses that we might not be aware of. Occasionally we get something that looks like the following diatribe by Michael Schifano that rambles (in a good way) about the city, pointing out missed opportunities, memories and the future of the city. I love to read about people who take the time to look at the city in a new light, even when it can be hard to get past the hardships that it has faced.
That is what the following message does, as it describes growing up in Buffalo at a different time, and eventually coming full circle, to a point where the process of discovery becomes an eye-opening experience that actually heals old wounds. Sometimes we need to move forward despite the “want” to reclaim the past. In doing so we can find places of interest that remind us of our youth, and better times. The more of those special places that we discover, the more that we can reinvent a world that offers us all of the things that we once missed. In the end, it comes down to exploring Buffalo and supporting the businesses and institutions that you feel make this a better place to live.
Many of Buffalo’s neighborhoods are rebounding, and hopefully someday we can revisit the ones that have not quite begun to resurrect. In order to do so, we must take what we learn in one instance and replicate it. That is the sense that I came away with after reading the following email – from someone who is taking the time to look around at his city in a way that appears relatively unjaded. Now take a trip, through a similar stream of thought that I bet many of us have on a daily basis. Thankfully every once in a while someone actually takes the time to write down the recollections.
By Michael Schifano:
Just a few thoughts after a drive through Buffalo this morning.
My childhood neighborhood, Riverside, is so dilapidated that it is difficult for me to remember the ‘good old days.’ Three hardware stores, three pharmacies, a five and dime, a top shelf men’s store, a cigar store, furniture stores, and countless others. Now most of them are gone, the men’s store is a vacant lot and the neighborhood looks like it should be in Detroit (sorry). The former Chase Bag building on Rano Street is a handsome remnant of Riverside’s industrial heritage, but down the street stands the derelict hulk that once housed American Standard. We could hear the steam whistle calling for a shift change back when it was in full operation. In fact, there were multiple steam whistles coming from multiple heavy industries back then. Now there is mostly silence and broken windows.
Gondola Macaroni Products and Sun International Foods on Niagara Street are both amazing places. Never been to the Viking Lobster Company, but it too, looks like a ‘must visit’. Very unassuming. The Viking Deli of Distinction (Facebook) might be the place to start.
The Erector Set that doubles as an urban transit line has always been an eyesore. All the stops in downtown need to be redone, and cars on Main Street are long overdue. The price for public transportation was too high for what we got. The bridges over Elmwood, Delaware, and Colvin should have been repaired and used for an east to west route for the transit line, along with other freight tracks around the city. Niagara Falls to downtown Buffalo? In an ideal world this route would already have a few trains a day, but things are different in this part of the country.
The Cobblestone ‘district’ is possibly my favorite area of the city. The progress is painfully slow but I still hold out hope for a full scale revitalization of those beautiful (I’m a frustrated visionary) prime blocks of downtown historical real estate. Sad to see McBride’s Irish Pub go away. In a lot of other cities that area would be bustling with commerce and construction and could have supported such a nice place. Some Buffalo Braves home games would be good for the district these days.
The DL&W Terminal is a lost opportunity. A parking agreement with whoever controls the ramp adjacent to the arena could present an opportunity for someone to develop the second floor. The first could still house the NFTA’s rail cars and even the final stop for a second floor market and the arena. I’d like to take my kids on a tour of the Edward M. Cotter. Heck, I’d like to take a tour of it even if they did not want to.
The English Pork Pie Co. has some tasty treats. And we’re fortunate to have had them stay in New York state. Their shop is like an oasis on that stretch of the street; and a tasty one at that.
For the last few weeks I’ve had to drive to the Georgetown Square and accidentally discovered Wolter’s Bakery (Facebook). Very nice products and good coffee. After inquiring, I was told that it was McCullagh Coffee. I’ve been driving to Swan Street (see website) for one pound bags ever since. Mazurek’s Bakery on South Park is great too. The new owner is really keeping up the tradition of the mom and pop better than the grocery store bakery. I’ll be visiting from time to time.
There are too many Tim Horton’s ‘bakeries’ in this city. Sacrilege? Sorry, but fifty or so of anything is just too many. Thankfully we still live in a free market society, and I’m happy for the owners of these successful businesses, but it says something about our eating habits when chains flourish and so many high quality independent eateries struggle to make it. There was a hole in the wall bakery on Hertel near Delaware called Uhl’s that had the best doughnuts you could find in Buffalo, but it closed a long time ago. Freddie’s was not shab
Across town, you wonder what Main and Michigan would look like without Canisius college and all that they have done for that part of the city. Same goes for the area around UB up the street. The sad state of the school system is a major impediment to the revitalization of the city. Twenty some thousand a student will get you Nichols, Park or a host of other high quality schools in the private sector. And in some cases you’ll even have money left over for books and uniforms…
To be continued?
Images and side note: Some of the places of note that remind me (Queenseyes) that it is possible to be rebuild our neighborhoods without losing our old world character – as I read Michael’s email these are some of the storefront images that popped up in my head… and some of the people that are making a difference.