Following on the heels of the 700-block of Main Street infrastructure completion, a new business has raised a flag. Eric Genau has thrown his hat in the ring, helping to lead the downtown charge of entrepreneurial pioneers. Of course, when push comes to shove, none of these efforts would be possible without the crucial real estate investments being made by developers such as Chris Jacobs of Avalon. Thankfully his efforts to rehab the 700-block have paid off, as tenants such as Eric are following the leap of faith.
As far as downtown business locations go, I don’t think that Eric could have found a better spot. As the spotlight is shown on the efforts of the first realized Complete Streets initiative, a new generation of urban Buffalonians are witnessing the results. On top of that, the highly trafficked Tupper corner offers a natural billboard broadcasting to thousands of suburbanites as they whiz by on their way home from work. “Years ago I lived at the corner of Chippewa and Main,” Eric told me. “And there was nothing happening down here. Now we have the Medical Campus and the lofts… there’s the Washington Market. I see young professionals, a hip artistic crowd and an entrepreneurial spirit… that wasn’t here five years ago. We’ve even raised the City of Buffalo flag on the building.”
As Eric and I discussed the proximity of the downtown district to other parts of the city, the conversation turned to identity. Where were we standing? Was this the Theater District? It didn’t feel like it. Allentown was close-by and so was the percolating Ellicott District and the phoenix-like Genesee Gateway. We joked that that maybe we were in the midst of the Commercial District… or even better the Wine and Chocolate District. Walk in any direction you might find yourself at one of three chocolate shops or sipping a glass of wine at Just Vino (in the restored Granite Works building). Now if there was only a stellar cheese shop close by! Fortunately the City Wine Merchant will soon be boasting a tasting room where I’m sure some cheese and apples will be on hand. “It’s the best way to get people to try new wines.”
When you walk into the City Wine Merchant remember that you are not walking into a mega Walmart-sized wine warehouse. Rather, you are stepping into a wine boutique where every single label has been hand selected by the owner. Whether a bottle of wine is $8 or $80, Eric assures his customers that they are getting the best value when it comes to quality. “We want to know our customers’ tastes,” Eric explained. “And we want our customers to get to know us. This is a wine boutique where people will be able to taste selections in order to expand their wine knowledge.” Along with the tasting room, Eric also plans on stocking stemware and accessories. That’s quite the change from the former condition of the building (see below).
Even if you’re not into wine, you must stop in to see the magnificent space. If there was ever a vaulting ceiling, this would be it. Thankfully the Avalon crew opted to leave the ceiling exposed, thus showing off some of the building’s original bones along with the brickwork. The layout is open, bright, comfortable, clean and easy to navigate. I am so happy that this business has opened downtown. Thanks to Eric’s initiative and the Complete Street success, I think we can look for more to come soon. This district, whatever it’s called, will quickly become a destination for people living on the waterfront (take the Metro Rail), and others looking to support the reawakening of Main Street.
City Wine Merchant
715 Main Street