Buffalo is full of inspiration. From the rejuvenated waterfront to the aspirations of the Central Terminal. There are those who see windows of opportunity around every corner, while there are others who are in need of guidance to see the various golden nuggets that dot each and every neighborhood. On Grant Street, there are two guys who get the idea of Buffalo more than most. Casey Milbrand and Jason Clement are in the process of designing and opening The Pop In, a community based storefront where people bring their passions and their concepts to the front door. “We call it The Pop In because that’s what Casey’s mom would do to people that she was close to,” laughs Jason. “She would just “pop in” and see people unexpectedly, and talk about whatever it is that was on her mind.”
Buffalo’s version of The Pop In takes Casey’s mom’s unanticipated arrivals to an entirely different level. The two have developed as space where inspiration can strike at any moment. Say you have an idea that can benefit Buffalo, but you need a sounding board. Well, these are the guys who can help. They’re ridiculously creative. They’re driven to make Buffalo a more colorful place to live. They have all sorts of experience to draw from, and resources at hand. Plus, they’re located in Prish Moran’s (Sweet_ness 7) building at the corner of Grant and Lafayette… and if you know anything about Prish and her endeavors, then you know that a creative storm’s a brewin’ on the West Side.
What’s especially great about the dynamic duo (trio if you include Prish, who won’t be able to keep away from happenings at The Pop In) is that they plan on taking their mission to the street. Already they are enlisting muralists to paint the town every color under the sun. “Public art makes people happier,” says Jason. “We’ve lived places that were filled with public art, and we feel that we can make an impact here. We’re going to be selling Pop-In t-shirts, which will help to raise money for the initiatives.”
It just so happens that the idea of The Pop In came when Jason was living in DC, and Casey was living in Brooklyn. The two met at a preservation conference in Buffalo (Casey is from Buffalo), and began dating. They began to formulate plans from afar… they say that when they first took control of the storefront, they looked at it as a sort of placeholder. “It’s not a business,” they told me. “It’s a passion project – a place where people can funnel ideas. We consider it a co-boosting space. It’s a place that can be shared by the community. For example, West Side Stories (bookstore across the street) didn’t have space for kids’ reading, so they’re going to do that here. Some day there might be a gallery show, or a yoga session, or a pop-up restaurant, or a live music performance.”
The Pop-In fills a need for the community that is currently underserved. Think about all of the people out there who want to utilize a space such as this, but they want to start by testing the waters. The Pop-In is an incubator space in that way. Plus, Jason and Casey are willing to help to make sure that things run smoothly. As proof of concept, they are giving up the space this summer to a traveling photographer who is looking for something of this exact capacity. “There will always be different people in here,” says Casey. “There might be arts and crafts, or even some older folks who need a location for playing bridge. Buffalo needs to be more colorful, with more of a sense of humor.”
Along with The Pop In, Jason and Casey’s new house will be featured on the TV series House Hunters Renovation (produced by Susan Hunt) sometime in August. As part of the show, they will be showcasing Buffalo in a completely different light than most people expect (and if anyone can do it, it’s these guys). “These are things that we couldn’t have done in Brooklyn or DC,” they chimed together. “We still can’t believe that this has gone from a placeholder to something that we never imagined. What we are doing is pure, and for the right reasons. Grant Street is in need of a lot, and we’re hoping to be a catalyst for positive change. There are so many good things happening here, and now we want to help to bring it all together.”
^(L-R) Casey, Jason
On Thursday, June 25, 2015, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm, The Pop In will be hosting its Grand Opening with The Public. Interested parties can share that they are coming by clicking here, and after that they can just pop in, as long as they are aware that the shop will be open miscellaneous hours (check Facebook). So get your wheels turning, and get motivated to bring the next best idea to this city.
The Pop In | 218 Grant Street | Buffalo, New York