On an early, rainy morning in mid-July, I jumped into a taxi to JFK Airport, headed to Buffalo, New York. A few days prior, a friend of mine asked me where I was traveling next and they were surprised when I told them I was going to Buffalo, the second largest city in New York State. Not a destination on most travel itineraries, I was eager to see what the city had to offer.
Looking out the window of the JetBlue flight as the plane descended into the airport, and in the Uber on my way to Squire’s Buffalo headquarters in downtown Buffalo, I couldn’t avoid the empty feeling the desolate surroundings left me with. That said, as soon as I stepped out of the car and realized how close the vibrant University of Buffalo is to downtown, and the unique startup energy of 43North–an initiative of Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion Initiative–has brought to the city, I knew Buffalo would surprise me. There is something dope brewing in Buffalo, that is undeniable.
In truth, Buffalo is a city on the rise. Restoring its status from years of decline, locals are moving back to Buffalo in droves with a mission to elevate the city back to its glory days. Gone baby gone are the days of only thinking of Buffalo, New York as the home to the Buffalo Bills. It’s a new day, and the city is fueled by growth and new and endless possibilities. From artists, entrepreneurs, and locals who are reclaiming their city, Buffalo is full of good art, food, music, and incredible architecture. The infusion of health and tech companies, like Squire, into the local economy is helping as well, bringing a local, tech-driven talent pool back to the city.
As I explored the city, these changes were apparent. Local restorations of historic buildings highlight the fascinating architecture of the Nickel City, with a focus on Central Terminal, historical landmarks, beautiful churches, and venues like Shea’s Performing Arts Center. Downtown’s Main Street is one area where there are plenty of opportunities to hear about local news and learn about new entrepreneurial developments like Hostel Buffalo-Niagara, a hip hostel that possesses a noticeable presence in the Theater District and supports local artists in its adjacent gallery. A few doors down, there’s a beautiful rehabilitated market where I picked up some locally made products. Even for those not in the know, resources like Buffalo Rising and the Rise Collaborative curate event announcements and highlight new business arriving on the scene.
Venturing away from Main Street, the west side of town is where I really got a sense of the growing artist and creative culture, and the thriving food movement. Riding my bike, I stumbled across My Cuzin Vintage, a streetwear resale shop where owner Derek Hoffman has a taste for highly sought after brands like Supreme, vintage Polo, FTP, and lots more. Hoffman said, “…it’s a growing trend around here, we’ve got lots of people coming from Canada just to buy… and truth is, it’s only gonna get better.”
Buffalo is perhaps best known for its proximity to Niagara Falls, and even though you can’t see the falls from downtown, the city’s canalside waterfront remains a cultural touchstone. In the summer, it’s here that you’ll find various events, from free concerts, movies for kids and families, the Buffalo Naval Park, and a bustling nightlife.
As I explored the city, one thing stood out: the smell of sugar that seemed to be everywhere. No matter where you are, you’re never too far from the General Mills factory, and the sweet scent made me think of the Kith cereal bar in NYC. So when you’re in Buffalo, grab a bowl, get a spoon, cop some milk, and don’t forget the Honey Nut Cheerios while you make your way down to the waterfront to take a seat, dip your spoon, taste the crunch, and smell that sweet Buffalo air.
But don’t take it from me. The locals on the streets of Buffalo had fresh milk to add to my bowl of cereal. Check out what Buffalonians had to say about their love for the city.
“The people are the most authentic, genuine and warm natured that I have ever been a part of.”
“Why Buffalo? Warm people, work/life balance comes easily, and great-looking architecture and parks. People think I’m crazy, but we’re five years into a 20 year rebirth and I can’t wait to see what the city becomes.”
“People are so friendly and warm, unpretentious. Buffalo has a great food scene; places like Marble + Rye, and Casa Azul are some of my favorites. They have the style and great food that you might find in Brooklyn but for half the price. I live downtown and can walk to so many great spots, including our beautiful waterfront. You also never know who you are going to meet!”
“I love my after school program. The program is called BCAT [Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology]. I love the air in the summertime…it’s relaxing and chill. The wings down here are great, and you can meet nice people in different ‘hoods.”
“Buffalo has the best food ever. The variety and different cuisine is awesome! You won’t find better people than in Buffalo. It is literally the City of Good Neighbors. Owning a small business in Buffalo has been a wonderful experience. The support from community has been amazing. Yes winter is tough, but you won’t find a better summer.”
“Everyone talks about the food and how interesting Buffalo can be. That is so true! But I’d like to take a step back from the “main” points of the city and talk about how much more Buffalo has to offer. I’m a younger black woman and reside on the West Side but I was raised on the East Side of Buffalo. These are the parts of the city that usually get left out… I’ve been to many places but I will say that Buffalo will make you feel at home no matter where are.”
“I have lived in Buffalo my entire life. I am a die heart Buffalo Bills fan, through and through. I love the fact that the city sticks with their team no matter what, it [not] just football but all [sports] teams. Every time I travel (which is a lot), I can’t wait to come home. This city is evolving and is on the rise. We have so much to offer from local bars and breweries that have opened to the amazing new restaurants with staff that make you feel right at home. This city is referred to as the “City of Good Neighbors” and it couldn’t be more true… especially in the winter. If you’re in a bind or just need a simple “you got this” as you shovel your way out of your parking spot, this city’s got your back. People make sure you get to where you need to be and are safe. This city is a comfort and some place I am glad to call home. I can’t wait to see what this city becomes!”
“[I] grew up in Buffalo [my] whole life. [It’s] hard to explain, but I love the atmosphere of Buffalo. I know a lot of hard working [people] in Buffalo and people in Buffalo don’t take things for granted; [you] don’t get a lot of opportunities around here. Owning a store in Buffalo is crazy, all different kinds of people coming in all the time”
“The most amazing part of Buffalo is the downtown atmosphere and the different cultures coming together as one group and sharing their art and poetry experiences together.”
“One of my personal favorite scenes in Buffalo is the Elmwood village. The art scene in Buffalo is on the rise and Elmwood is a great spot to visit to see it first hand.”
“What I love about Buffalo is that it still has an opportunity to listen to the voices that matter the most: women, children, and it’s large black and Latino populations. Before the revitalization overwhelms and displaces the impoverished and underserved, Buffalo has an opportunity in the Fruit Belt [neighborhood], the medical campus and the waterfront [areas] to guarantee social… progress to flourish by engaging these communities through [a] public forum. It has this opportunity because the revitalization is happening now when Black Lives Matter… as a lifelong resident born near Shoshone Park, living it out down Prospect Hill I love the breeze off the water and all the trees at Lasalle Park. Keep the best parts, always.
“Cheap rent brought me here, easy life kept me here. Crazy empty spaces right downtown. Lazy police suck, literally never get out of their cars. I wish winter’s were worse but it’s not as bad as Vermont. Godblast [sic]!
“I came here to go to UB [University of Buffalo], and when I managed to find my way from North Campus to the actual city of Buffalo, I was seduced by its derelict beauty. This is a place where people know how to make their own fun.”
“Buffalo is becoming an upcoming city with much more diversity; it has become more professional. The medical field and the food industry has improved dramatically. The city has become more of a white collar city, with UB [University of Buffalo] helping the city move forward. If it was not for UB, Buffalo would be a dead city economically speaking.”
“I think the best part of Buffalo (besides the amazing food) is all the changes being made to better the area, and the research being done at UB [University of Buffalo] to find cures.”
“Buffalo’s changing, [but] it’s always had a lot of potential. Being a small city with two pro sports teams, waterfront everywhere, Niagara Falls up the street… locals have pride. Now, more are staying or coming back. I think as millennials are taking things over, their values are starting to fuel this resurgence. Quality small businesses are bringing new options into neighborhoods who haven’t had anything but empty storefronts for decades. It’s fun to be part of it.”