(Originally published on 11/22/17 in The Record: https://buffstaterecord.com/10771/news/buffalo-suburbs-becoming-hubs-local-shopping/)
Bustling metropolitan areas all have a few things in common: well-loved restaurants, year-round activities, corporate businesses and… local shopping. The idea of shopping regularly at a boutique can paint a different picture in the minds of consumers. One person’s favorite go-to local business full of treasures they can’t find anywhere else could be another’s stuffy storefront only their Grandma would shop at. Many shoppers refuse to venture out of their blissful Walden Galleria Mall bubble.
But this dynamic seems to be shifting.
ELMWOOD VILLAGE CULTURE EXPANDING
Buffalo’s Elmwood Village is a longtime shopping hub. The main Elmwood Avenue strip sprawls over several miles of tree-lined streets and (mostly) filled storefronts– something downtown Buffalo is lacking. The neighborhood boasts multiple coffee shops, trendy restaurants, massive Victorian houses and its own niche market of boutiques.
“I feel like Elmwood boutiques are a lot more fashion-forward and more kitschy,” said Lindsay Robson, local blogger and founder of the Buffalo Blogging Network. “This is a more funkier area.”
Annie Adams founded Second Chic six years ago on Elmwood Avenue. The consignment shop boutique, adorned with eclectic lighting fixtures and mannequins wearing colorfully crafted outfits, feels less like a typical thrift shop and more like a vintage-meets-modern boutique. Adams experienced much success at her Elmwood location and a few years ago decided to venture into the suburbs, Williamsville to be exact.
How did this Elmwood-native boutique do in Williamsville?
“The first month they were open they beat Elmwood. And then Elmwood had been open five years at that point,” Adams said.
Since day one, Second Chic has thrived in Williamsville. Adams says she chose to open in on Main Street in Williamsville because the space was right, the location was right and people who might not go to the Elmwood Village often would be more willing to visit the suburbs.
Despite the opening of an Elmwood staple on Main Street in Williamsville, Adams says the clientele are “distinctive” and different. Her Elmwood Avenue storefront attracts a younger crowd, typically college kids or young professionals. Her Williamsville location draws in more serious shoppers. Customer service is very important to her Williamsville shoppers, and they tend to buy more. The average sales transaction in her Williamsville store is much higher than at the Elmwood Avenue location, though the Elmwood Avenue location generally sees a high amount of transactions.
Adams believes Williamsville is “absolutely” becoming more of a shopping destination.
“The storefronts that are turning over are turning into more shopping,” Adams said.
Blush Buffalo is another boutique that started on Elmwood Avenue and expanded.
Blush first opened in 2013 on Elmwood Avenue near Bidwell Park. Blush is a small and quaint women’s clothing store that sells cozy trend-following sweaters alongside daring dresses for women. Within three years of opening their Elmwood Avenue location, Blush expanded into Orchard Park and Williamsville.
BUFFALO SHOPPING CULTURE GROWING
Lindsay Robson is a longtime resident of Buffalo and local blogger since 2013. Through her blog Nickel City Pretty, she works with local and national brands on collaborations and writes a lot about locally owned businesses, restaurants and fashion. Robson founded the Buffalo Blogging Network, a network of regional bloggers, photographers and content creators. She has been an active observer of the Buffalo fashion scene for the last few years and noticed some changes.
“I think the Buffalo shopping scene has definitely expanded a lot, especially over the recent years. Since a lot of independent small boutiques have come in, I think people are really concerned about shopping small and shopping local,” Robson said. “It gives back to the community and you get a lot of specialized attention. Things you wouldn’t get if you go to large box stores.”
When Robson graduated high school on Grand Island, she was sure she was going to move away from Buffalo. She cites the “resurgence” for being not only a reason for her staying but also a reason that many businesses are opening up here and ex-pats are coming back.
How does she view Buffalo’s shopping scene? Robson thinks Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo is “becoming the new Elmwood.”
“Hertel was always a thing, but it’s starting to be a lot more interesting with the new restaurants and shops and boutiques that are coming up,” Robson said. “Elmwood has always been Elmwood, the place to go. But I think Hertel is becoming the new Elmwood.”
Hertel Avenue has been expanding within the last couple years. Lloyd, a local taco company who made their name as one of the first major food trucks in Buffalo and is known for their interesting burrito combinations and trademarked Rocket Sauce, opened their first storefront, Lloyd Taco Factory, on Hertel Avenue in 2015. They have since expanded by opening a craft ice cream store, Churn, right next door. Lexington Co-op, Hertel Ave Poutine and Cream, Lake Effect Ice Cream, Deep South Taco and Daily Planet Coffee are a few more quickly beloved eateries to open on Hertel Avenue within the last few years.
As for shopping, Hertel Avenue is edged with new businesses. Spoke & Dagger Co., a locally owned boutique opened by husband and wife duo Jodi and Chris Drew specializing in motorcycle apparel, riding gear, parts and accessories opened its doors a year ago. Hertel Home Consignment opened up this year. Other popular shops like Modern Nostalgia, Agorie Headwear and “room” have all opened on Hertel Avenue within the past 10 to 15 years.
“There are definitely more options,” said Brianne Klejdys-Long, owner of Modern Nostalgia.
Modern Nostalgia has been around for nine years, the first of which was spent in Allentown. After a year there, Modern Nostalgia moved to Hertel Avenue, where it has stayed since. Klejdys-Long says that many of her customers live in North Buffalo and that there is a lot of support for shopping local on Hertel Avenue. Klejdys-Long does not believe that Buffalo’s claimed “resurgence” has affected her business as much, she believes that business ebbs and flows.
Emily Morrow is the co-founder and editor of Step Out Buffalo, a local media and events company that covers Buffalo’s lifestyle news. Paying attention to Buffalo’s events, restaurant/store openings and culture are some of Morrow’s main jobs. Step Out Buffalo has a section of its website dedicated to shopping news and neighborhood shopping guides.
“I think that there are a lot more shops that I personally would want to go to, which is what I base a lot of the writing that we do on,” Morrow said. “And not just places that I would go to but actually places that I would actually buy something from and give as a gift or use for myself. Things that I can afford as somebody in their mid-twenties on a budget.”
Suburbs like Hamburg, Williamsville and East Aurora are expanding as well, according to Morrow.
Morrow says that while Hamburg has always been “cute in an Elmwood Village sense,” they have never had much of a shopping scene. She says that with the addition of shops like Molly + Kate, Lodgical and What Women Want, Hamburg is getting more functional shops she would actually buy something from and calls it a “game-changer.”
“The reason East Aurora is such a cool place is because it is a destination and there are a lot of other things to do too and places to eat,” Morrow said. “You’re not just going to one shop…that is more how it was back in the day, especially in Williamsville. Everything is becoming more ‘walkable.’ You could take a class, get lunch and dinner and go shopping all in one day.”
With a growing shopping market expanding into the suburbs, what does that mean for Buffalo?
“I want to say Buffalo is still a hidden gem,” Robson said. “The whole city is up and coming. The resurgence is happening so businesses want to move in, people want to move back… so people are going to support these small businesses and boutiques and it’s just going to keep growing and keep getting better.”