You may remember Louise Sano from a Buffalo Rising article back in March. At the time, Louise was selling her wares as an operator and founding member at The West Side Bazaar. Even then Louise was aware that the incubator was preparing her for an even larger role in business, although she may not have known that her career would be growing at such a fast rate so soon. When Louise was offered her own retail location at 216 Grant Street she immediately jumped at the chance. “The bazaar was ‘where I was born’, Louise told me, wearing a proud smile. “You can have an idea, but if you don’t have anyone to show you, then it will always be just an idea and a dream. It was back in 2010 when the first bazaar workshops began. That’s when I started to collect inventory, not only for the bazaar, but for my future store. I kept buying because I knew the bazaar was an incubator. I knew for sure that one day I would own my own store. In fact, I had a small personal saving before coming to the US (Louise was born in Rwanda) that I used to build my inventory. I have taken no financial aid to start my new business (Global Villages).
Taking a look around Louise’s shop, it’s hard not to be be impressed with the space. There’s original wooden flooring, high tin ceilings, intact transom windows, great natural lighting, and colorful merchandise to tie everything together. This summer her best selling product is the free-flowing clothes. Louise is constantly testing the market and introducing contemporary and traditional styles. “I have a natural knack for merchandising,” she told me. “My displays need to be easy to break down and change. Most all of my displays are reused fixtures that I have fixed myself. When I buy my pieces I must have a “wow” factor. I don’t just buy things to stock my shelves… I need to be taken with an item to buy and sell it.”
In the near future Louise would like to have two separate stores – one for fashion items and one for home accessories and furnishings. Growing is a process. I’ve learned a lot about my customers and the neighborhood. That has a bearing on what I sell. I carry locally made soaps, and a locally written children’s book. I also stock a few (fashion and Africa-related) books from West Side Stories located across the street. Those sales go directly to the book store – we all help each other market our wares over here. I carry earrings, rings, and customizable baskets, and drums – there’s a children’s corner too.”
As for the rest of her merchandise, be prepared to do more shopping than browsing. Before I left Global Villages I had picked up a soapstone container and a hat made of grass – the purchase of the hat went to support a Ugandan relief effort by www.GlobalAfricanVillage.org. “I love the way that Buffalo is responding to new businesses,” Louise told me as she bagged my purchase. “I tell my friends living in other states and they all want to move here.” That’s the sort of end-result that I like to hear. Hopefully Louise can help to show others that living the American dream in Buffalo is achievable, not just a bunch of hype.
216 Grant Street
Buffalo NY 14213