In the midst of tracking down another new retailer that recently opened within the Market Arcade, I ran into a neighboring shop owner who was celebrating her fourth year in business… and close to three years in the building (check it out). Novi Paluch was one of the first retailers to try her hand at opening a boutique in the Market Arcade, or downtown for that matter, since the time that the Metro Rail disrupted urban commerce along Main Street. “Years earlier, photographer Michael Mulley (a real pioneer) opened Queen City Gallery,” said Novi. “And then came Jaime Hargrove of J. Christian Fashion Boutique. When I first came to the building, I was told that there was no retail inside – it was owned by the City at the time. My husband Rocky first told me about the beauty and the potential of the Market Arcade, and I was determined to open a store in one of the empty spaces, so I ventured back four months later, which is when I bumped into the property manager, Wayne Kwiatkowski. He was great. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Once Wayne helped Novi to get situated in the building, her problems were not yet over. The biggest hurdle that she faced was attracting customers to her new store, called Sasmita Batik. “There were no people here,” she told me. “It was very hard to make it work at first, so I spent my free time handing out flyers to office workers and to people on the train. Eventually I started attracting some regular customers – mostly young people from a nearby charter school, and students from UB South Campus and Canisius College – I offer a 10% student discount, which prompted them to hop on the Metro Rail to come Downtown. I also attracted employees from Roswell, local office workers, and bartenders from Chippewa and Allentown. Thanks to the historic nature of the building, there were also tourists from different states and countries.”
These days, Novi heavily relies on tourists for her business, which, she says, has never had an overall yearly loss. “There is a guy from Toronto who brings a tour bus here every Wednesday, Friday and Monday morning,” Novi explained. “It started last year – mostly 20-30 people, but it helps a lot. It does slow down in the winter, but now that Main Street is reopened I have many new customers – it’s a big difference. I’m also very optimistic with all of the new retailers opening in my building.”
If you caught the “my” that Novi threw down when she referred to the Market Arcade, it was by no accident. Every time I walk through the stunning atrium, she is usually holding court, leading someone around, talking to passersby, doing work at one of the public café tables – she’s always up to something, which has earned her the right to take prideful ownership. Her happy-go-lucky attitude is refreshing and catchy. “People for so long were afraid to have a store in the Market Arcade,” she told me. “Sometimes Elmwood is so expensive, but here it is a reasonable price. I am excited that Cornell University is taking space upstairs (see here). I hear that there will be many students, which is great because Empire State College moved out years ago. I can’t wait for the market to open up next door. Then we will have Sun International, Gypsy Parlor and Newbury Street. There is also a rumor that the Lexington Co-op is taking a space. I just read in BRO that Furnishings is coming to Main Street… sometimes I am very impressed with myself, because people are finally starting to come to downtown!”
Down the road, as more retailers move into the first floor of the arcade building, I am sensing that a few of the non-retailers that currently occupy prime ground floor spaces will be repositioned to upper floors. At that time, the building will be operating as it should, with streams of visitors coming in and exploring all levels for the appropriate reasons. Now that Sinatra owns the building, things are certainly looking up. From the brilliant new paint job to a host of retailers nibbling and biting, it’s a brand new day for the Market Arcade.
When the culinary market does open next door, it would behoove Sinatra to consider posting a micro café or juice bar within the atrium, so as to attract additional customers to sit at the tables that line the hallway. Some soft music might also help to perk up the atmosphere. I hear that WiFi is also coming – Buffalo Connect doesn’t extend inside the building. “Everything is looking good right now,” Novi added. “The building is so wonderful. I just signed on for another three years!”
Sasmita Batik | Fashions, Fabrics & Jewelry from Indonesia and Cambodia | Market Arcade Building | 617 Main Street | Buffalo NY | @SasmitaBatik | Facebook