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“Feed the people and let the people feed the neighborhood.”

When Sue ‘Frenchy’ Cholewa first stepped foot on Amherst Street and purchased the Howie’s Appliance building, I’m not sure the sleepy neighborhood knew what to think. Here was a young woman who was buying into the street, when most others had sold and moved out. Today, the old Howie’s Appliance is Gallery 464. Back in February I posted on the bustling area, along with Frenchy’s latest acquisition of 491 Amherst Street. At the time, we talked about her dreams for the building, and she noted that Amherst Street was prime to land businesses that had previously staked claims on Allen, Elmwood, Hertel, etc. Would Prish Moran consider opening a cafe on Amherst Street? Would Mark Goldman entertain the idea of opening a second Hardware Café in what had been, many years ago, a hardware store?

The answer is ‘yes’. If you know Frenchy, then you know that she doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She visualizes what she wants and then it’s a form of staging. Over the holidays she invited Mark Goldman to one of the many soirees that she hosted on the street. What she had not anticipated was that Mark had written a doctoral dissertation on Black Rock and had continued to write on the neighborhood for years. He had even given tours of Black Rock, touting it as one of the richest places in Buffalo when it comes to the history of the city. Before long, Frenchy and Mark had struck a deal, and Mark had come full circle back to a place that had captivated him from the start. The only difference was that this time he was not the heroic pioneer who had led the way for others… it was a spirited French teacher who had first seen the street’s potential.

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What is most interesting about this newfound partnership is the combined powerful dynamic nature that Mark and Frenchy are bringing to the street. Not only will Mark, his son Charlie and his daughter Lydia Langer (photo left) and her husband Rob, be opening a second Hardware-style café, the group is already talking about how to reexamine Amherst Street in a way that would be most beneficial to the neighborhood. “Why is there not stop sign or stop light on the street,” Mark pointed out. “We’ve already reached out to Joe Golombek to see if there is anything that can be done for traffic calming. This is a solid neighborhood with fairly intact infrastructure to work with. There are good businesses on the street and wonderful side streets. My belief is that we need to feed the people and let the people feed the neighborhood.”

Although nobody has yet determined what the name of the restaurant will be, it is interesting that this is the second time Mark has made his mark in a former hardware store. “Just look at this place,” he said as he pointed upwards. “It’s the original tin ceiling that sealed the deal for me. It’s in perfect shape. The wood floors are in great shape too. I imagine that we’ll have enough room to seat 30 or 40 people. We’ll have a nice patio outside – you should see all of the photos that Sue has taken of cafés from around the world. We’re going to make this place special. We’re still trying to come up with a name – if BRO readers have any suggestions we would like to hear them.”

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After discussing the plans with Mark, I asked Frenchy if she ever thought that the Goldmans would be standing around inside her building discussing where to put a panini press, fryers, a broiler and a pizza oven. “Well, to tell you the truth,” she said. “Mark showed up the first day carrying a huge painting to hang on the wall… that was something I never expected to see. When I first bought a building on the street three years ago, people (even her friends) told me that I was crazy. Now they are saying that it was the best thing that I could have done. You can still buy a house just down the street for $40,000. We have Wegman’s right around the corner, galleries, places to eat, new investors on a regular basis, and a business association that is a force to be reckoned with. There have been so many naysayers about Amherst Street… we’ve only just begun to show people what we can do here.”

As if the deal needed to be sealed any further (for me), as Frenchy and I were chatting, a neighbor walked through the front door carrying two boxes of pastries. She turned out to be a lawyer by the name of Jen Stergion (photo right with daughter Valerie) who had just opened a law office across the street. She had recently signed a lease in one of realtor Michael Maywalt’s newly restored buildings (Michael’s newly restored office happens to be located directly next door to Mark Goldman’s latest diggs). “Jen lives a couple doors down from her office and walks to work everyday,” Frenchy said with a smile. “Just look around… this is quality of life. There are improvements taking place everywhere you look these days. It’s going to be a busy year for Black Rock.”

*If you’re interested in getting in on the action, you might want to call Michael Maywalt, as he is ‘in the know’ regarding the residential climate of Black Rock. Below is the new ‘Hardware’ building on Amherst Street.

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