This building, located at 161 Elmwood Avenue was once a car rental center, before it became used for storage and then sat empty. If I recall correctly, it was also used a few times by Cozumel for event purposes. Whatever has happened at the location, for the most part it has not played much of a role in the vitality of the street for as long as I can remember. It's always been a fairly unremarkable building. That's why I was so surprised to see a new business open up inside recently. The owners of Claiborne Liquor, who moved into a new space next door, have already expanded into this second location where they are in the business of selling soda/pop, beer, munchies, etc.
First of all, I think the owners did a great job with livening the exterior of the building via a super eye-catching paint job. I spoke to the owner who told me that he was more than happy to get feedback and discover what the neighborhood thinks. He was looking for suggestions for the business in general, which I felt was a good sign. I told him that I really liked that they hadn't covered all of the windows with sales flyers like so many neighborhood markets tend to do. I also liked that the interior was so bright (with natural light), and that the displays were all so neat and organized. Holley Farms Market, Bill's Food Market and Allentown Food Shoppe could all take some advice from the overall presentation that we see here. I hope that the Elmwood Beverage Center continues to shine much the same way that the Elmwood Village Market (raised the bar for neighborhood markets) does at the corner of Elmwood and North. Not to say that this is an architectural masterpiece or anything like that, but it does add life where before there was just a dead space.
The old Claiborne Liquor looked like a dump. The new one is much more appealing. Combined with the Elmwood Beverage Center, there is some real potential to become a great resource for the neighborhood - as long as the beverage center doesn't start concentrating on single/loose beers, lottery tickets, etc. Our neighborhood markets in Allentown need a lot of help. Hopefully we are seeing a new trend where the look and feel of a market actually makes you want to support the place - I don't often walk into markets where I can't see inside, that have ripped vinyl awnings, dirty floors, crappy displays, water stained drop ceilings... you get the point. I'm a big fan of supporting the markets that actually look like they care about the neighborhood rather than ones that never make any efforts to fix up anything... ever.
As far as the beverages that the center sells, there's nothing ground breaking to report, although they do sell a fairly well-rounded selection of beers. If they brought in some more micro brews, I bet you that this place would be a sensational hit with hop heads in Allentown. Do yourself a favor - if you stop in and don't see your beer of choice on the shelf, suggest the brand to the person behind the counter and they might just pick it up. Otherwise they will never know what it is that the neighborhood is looking for. I'm crossing my fingers for this one.
Elmwood Beverage Center
161 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo NY 14201