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One Year Anniversary of “Snowvember” – A Story of Resiliency

It’s hard to imagine that it’s the one year anniversary of “Snowvember”. I’m sure that we can all recall the crazy snow storm that whipped its way into Buffalo, causing chaos to many in the area – primarily South Buffalo and the Southtowns. Looking outside today, at a brilliantly blue sky, with an anticipated temperature high of 60 degrees, Snowvember seems as if it was a dream.

But it was not a dream. It was a nightmare to many, including Trace George, who owns VSP Graphic Group – the official graphic company of the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, Harbor Center and the University at Buffalo athletics. The Snowvember storm wreaked havoc on the business, by pummeling the roof of one of its production facilities, and threatening to do the same to its headquarters.

As much as the destruction appeared to be insurmountable, there was a silver lining that showed just how resilient this city can be, when faced with adversity. First, the people of Buffalo came out in droves to help remove snow from one building and rebuild the walls of another. And second, thanks to those efforts the company remained in business, which allowed VSP Graphic Group to open a new executive office in Downtown Buffalo.

The following story was written by Mike Billoni:

As you prepare your one year anniversary stories of Snowvember in Western New York, let me remind you of the VSP Graphic Group story. VSP is the official graphic company of the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, Harbor Center and the University at Buffalo athletics. They created and installed all the graphics and signage at St. John Fisher for the Bills’ training camp, Ralph C. Wilson Stadium after the renovations last year and all the new signage this year, they wrapped Rex Ryan’s truck, they created and installed all the signage graphics at First Niagara Center, HarborCenter and UB’s athletic facilities. They are also great friends of the Food Bank and that’s why I am sending you this e-mail on their behalf.

The privately-held, family-owned business is led by Trace George, the energetic, creative founder and President. His son, Trey is the Vice President of Operations and two other sons, Tyler and Jake also work in the business.

On November 18, 2014, a severe winter storm dealt a serious blow to residents and businesses mostly south of the city. VSP’s corporate headquarters and production facilities are located at 10 Dyke Road, off Transit Road in West Seneca. On the first night of what has become known as Snowvember, Trace was notified at his home in North Java that VSP had lost one of its production facilities when 150 tons of snow collapsed the roof onto its complete inventory of manufacturing equipment, products and materials. Luckily, no one was injured.

The loss was devastating, and worse, no person was allowed on the roads for 4 long and excruciating days as an order was sent from the Erie County Executive and his emergency team. Trace could only watch the wall-to-wall coverage of the storm on TV while navigating the logistics of the storm from Facebook postings from firefighter friends of his. During the 4 days, Trace worked tirelessly on securing new square footage and brand new equipment from printer manufacturer CEOs he knew in the industry. It was uncertain exactly to what extent the loss was.

Trace, however, took a bold chance and ordered in approximately $250,000 in equipment on a handshake. Even though the new equipment was on its way, there was still no idea where it would be placed once it arrived in WNY.

After the long four day wait, Trace, his entire family and many friends, employees and customers all arrived at the plant to assess the damage of the collapsed building. It was worse than he envisioned. A complete loss. Ironically, as they were there, emergency personnel told them the main office building was ready to collapse because of the massive amount of snow on the roof.

Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News also did his live report of the storm from in front of that building that evening when they heard a local company was about to “lose its entire business” with the expected collapse of the second building.

The VSP team are fighters and with the help of prayers and many friends they began a massive effort to remove the snow from the main building. With the help of volunteers from the South Lockport Fire Department, East Pembroke Fire and Southline Fire Department, the building was saved after 8 grueling hours of snow removal from the roof including aerial fire support.

Two days later, on a Monday morning, Trace was overwhelmed by the show of support as over 50 employees, vendors, customers, friends and business competitors arrived to help build walls, install furnaces and installed the new high end printers he had ordered. At 3 p.m. that day, the new printers were fully operational, and the only VSP building left was housing a double occupancy of people, equipment and production.

VSP was temporarily down, but it was never out of business. Most important, no one was hurt during the storm at VSP; no jobs were lost and the company emerged stronger than ever before.

In fact, because of its work for entities of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, Trace has opened an Executive office in downtown Buffalo on the first floor of The Creamery Building at 199 Scott Street. His office is directly below that of Terry and Kim Pegula.

Best personal regards and enjoy the week. Luckily, snow is not in the forecast which is good news for us at the Food Bank as we are collecting donated turkeys to provide to families we serve through our 326 member agencies in four counties.

An early Happy Thanksgiving to you and your co-workers. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

Lead image: VSP Facebook

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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