For years business owners on the “Chip Strip” have been looking for ways to strengthen the street and create solidarity among commercial enterprises. Time and time again those efforts were never realized, and the street never lived up to its potential.
At long last, a new business association has been formed to address the problematic issues that have identified over the years. What is unique about this new group, called Chippewa Alliance, is that it’s comprised of a strong and diversified membership that includes Key Bank, Uniland Development, North American Breweries (Labatt), Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak LLP, Eric Mower + Associates, Evergreen Health Services, and Delaware North Companies. Also playing key roles in the alliance are developers, residents, and restaurant and bars (SoHo Burger Bar, The Lodge, Bacchus, etc.).
“We have been meeting for about a year now to create consensus around common goals for the area,” said Elizabeth Vealey, newly elected president and a founding member of the Chippewa Alliance board of directors. “We have spent significant time understanding how the area has evolved and the type of economic development activity needed to build on Chippewa’s momentum as the heart of downtown Buffalo. Building a sense of community is essential. Larkinville is the best example of that. We have met with BUDC, Buffalo Place, City of Buffalo Public Works and others to learn more about what we need to do to advance an area that is home to major private businesses, schools, restaurants, bars and residents. We have a vibrant community collaborating around Chippewa right now and it’s exciting.”
There is a reason that certain commercial districts in Buffalo thrive. Take the Elmwood Village for example. Ever since the formation of Forever Elmwood (now the Elmwood Village Association), residents and businesses have come to rely on an association that works to keep their best interests at heart. It is widely believed that business districts are stronger when there is a solidarity through associations. It is interesting to note that former EVA director Justin Azzarella is now the Vice President of Chippewa Alliance (see below).
According to Howard Zemsky, developer of Larkinville, “The collaboration of stakeholders makes all of the difference in the fabric and the future of the district,” said Zemsky. “Creating a strong sense of community and accountability will help build on the momentum there.”
The goal of Chippewa Alliance is to attract new business and investments and spur economic development and capital improvements. Chippewa will continue to evolve as an entertainment district – one that is safe, clean and diverse. “We have the right mix of private investment, public sector support and residential commitment to build on the economic development activity in the Chippewa district,” said Laura Zaepfel, a founding member of the group, and vice president at Uniland. “We intend to strengthen Chippewa’s role in the Central Business District while building on its history as a destination for entertainment. “
Now maybe some critical issues can be addressed (like this), and the City will help to take action. With a host of powerful business people joining together, the street finally has a backbone and will be able to use a consolidated voice to get things done.
“We are excited about the “Chippewa Alliance” and look forward to seeing the creative energy this private group of stakeholders brings to the great momentum that’s underway as Buffalo experiences its largest economic investment in fifty years,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown. “Further strengthening Chippewa’s rich history as a key entertainment district in downtown by creating an even stronger sense of community and accountability is another vital step in tapping the full potential of our city, spurring additional investment and job growth.”
Following is the make-up of the alliance:
Chippewa Alliance Board of Directors
The Chippewa Alliance recently appointed the following officers and members to its board of directors:
Elizabeth Vealey, President
Elizabeth Vealey, CPA, is senior vice president and market manager for Key Private Bank in the Western New York region. She oversees wealth management for executives, business owners, foundations and institutions. Prior to that, she served as branch manager for Robert Half International. Vealey earned her master of business administration and bachelor degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She lives in downtown Buffalo.
Tom Liptak, Vice President
A managing and founding partner of Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak LLP, Liptak has been a personal injury defense lawyer for more than 27 years. Two years ago, members of the firm purchased the Calumet building, and relocated its offices there. More than 70 attorneys and legal staff now work on Chippewa Street. Liptak holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Michael’s College (VT) and is a graduate of Syracuse University College of Law. He resides in East Amherst.
Justin Azzarella, Vice President
Justin is the associate vice president for community development for Evergreen health services. Prior to that, he served as executive director of the Elmwood Village Association. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Fredonia State University and his master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, Azzarella worked as a consultant to the City of Buffalo’s Office of Strategic Planning where he assisted in the development of the Elmwood and North Buffalo’s Good Neighbors Planning Alliance Communities. He resides in Buffalo’s Elmwood Village.
Dave Grohusko, Treasurer
Grohusko is a senior manager who leads the National On-Premise unit for North American Breweries (NAB). In that capacity, he oversees the national on-premise marketing strategy for the entire NAB portfolio, which includes Magic Hat, Labatt and Pyramid brands, among others. Prior to NAB, Grohusko held positions in brand management, strategic planning and channel/shopper marketing on the shopper/advertising agency-side supporting world-class brands such as Pepsi, M&M/Mars, Campbell’s Soup, Kellogg’s and Heineken. Grohusko earned a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at El Paso. He resides in Getzville.
Mary Beth Popp, Secretary
Popp is a partner and director of consumer public relations at Eric Mower + Associates. She has worked for the agency for more than 15 years overseeing programs for a wide variety of non-profit, private and public organizations. Popp earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and resides in West Seneca.
Also elected to the board of directors are: Laura Zaepfel, vice president, Uniland Development; Kellena Kane, real estate development manager, Uniland Development; Pat Kenney, Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak; Rachel DeDomenico, relationship manager, Key Private Bank; and Rachel Stenclik, resident, The Avant.
To learn more about this initiative, click on the group’s website.