When MMW Style Studio owner Nia Badger first arrived in Buffalo in 2011, from NYC, the Hotel Lafayette was still a ghost town. Shortly thereafter, the hotel underwent a sudden turn around, and Nia began to see Buffalo as a golden opportunity. First, Nia and her husband opened a small clothing boutique on Allen Street. But with a house full of kids, she couldn’t find the time to keep the store going, so she closed up and started selling online.
Three years later, Nia heard about the Queen City Pop Up; a short term entrepreneurial adventure that got her excited about doing business in downtown Buffalo, closer to the Hotel Lafayette and Lafayette Square, which was an area of the city that she felt held the potential to do great things. All the while she dreamed of the Golden Days of Buffalo, hearing stories of a booming city – something that she wanted to be a part of.
“After the Queen City Pop Up shut down,” Nia told me. “I came across an empty storefront on Lafayette Square. I knew right away that I had an opportunity to be a part of it. Take a look at my mural [pointing] – Buffalo’s pride is coming back… I look at that historic photo every day, and I know that we are making progress.”
I would have to agree with Nia. Yesterday, before stopping into her boutique, I spent some time wandering around Lafayette Square, checking out the people, and watching the activity. When I looked at Mia’s mural, and then thought about my own experience, I could see it… I could see her insightful vision (except for the painfully missing historic Buffalo & Erie County Public Library building).
After exclusively looking at Downtown Buffalo for her venture, and choosing a prime location on Lafayette Square, Nia got to work outfitting her boutique (signage is still coming). I asked her where she got her design inspiration from, and she told me [giggling], “The reality TV stars. They might be enjoying their 15 minutes of fame, but that 15 minutes sells. The reality stars are setting the trends in the industry – they are constantly making the best dressed lists. Yes, they get a bad wrap, but have you seen what they are wearing? In Buffalo, you can find a traditional outfit in a big box store, but if you’re looking for a statement piece, then we’re here to help. We stock trendy jewelry that is priced no higher than $99. Our handbags – no knock-offs at all. We also carry dress sizes from 0 to 3x, because we know that not everyone can be super model thin.”
Nia certainly has an eye for trendy outfits and accessories. Within moments of walking into her shop I found myself inspecting her sunglasses ($20). Without hesitation, I purchased a pair of aviators trimmed out with some serious bling (for my wife), and a sweet pair of red velvet frames (pour moi). When I stepped up to the counter, Nia asked, “Do you work in Downtown Buffalo?” I told her that BRO had flex space @ d!g at the Medical Campus, and that all of Downtown was essentially my office, since Buffalo Connect municipal WiFi was now available. “Alright, then that’s 10% off,” she said. “Anyone who works downtown gets a discount. I have found that people are not quite used to shopping in Downtown Buffalo yet, so I’m enticing them with a referral program and loyalty discounts. I just put out a sandwich board, I’m going to be using social media to engage customers, and next Tuesday through Thursday I am having a tent sale. That’s the trick – to get people excited about shopping here again. This area should be a one-stop-shop, with good food, trendy items… a place to enjoy yourself, with your family, for a day.”
At one point, while waiting to cash out, I overheard Nia discussing a trip that a customer (in line ahead of me) was taking. The customer had just picked out a couple of outfits and was heading to Chicago (among other places) for a few days. I butted in, and asked the women if she had just discovered MMW Style Studio. She said, “No, no no… I’ll follow her wherever she goes.”
With those sound words of encouragement, Nia responded by asking her faithful customer to tag her store at various functions during her travels. The customer suddenly shot back, for the whole world to hear, “Nia represents!” And then she was off to rock her new wardrobe and tell anyone who would listen where (and who) she purchased it from in Downtown Buffalo, NY.
MMW Style Studio | Brisbane Building | 403 Main Street (on Lafayette Square) | 716-812-0937