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Hidden Treasure in Black Rock

I met with Buffalo attorney Tom Eoannou a couple weeks ago in his law offices located in the old Cornell Mansion on Delaware Avenue. His passion and devotion for bringing life back to the old bones of Buffalo’s grand architecture was evident as he proudly walked 1-Tom-Eoanno-Buffalo-NY-1me through his building and explained the improvements he has made to the space with an exceptional attention to detail. It was not about this building though, that I met him. Among the other ventures he is involved with throughout the city, sits an unassuming building on Amherst Street in the heart of the neighborhood of Black Rock.

2-Tom-Eoanno-Buffalo-NY-1463 Amherst Street was once home to D. B. Schunke Furniture. Daniel Schunke purchased the property in the 1920’s and he and his family conducted business in the front of the building while living in an apartment on the second floor in the rear of the structure. Particular to Schunke was his distrust of banks, so to avoid their interference he took matters into his own hands. Though he did not officially extend loans, he allowed his customers to take their goods and make payments to him on the premises over time. He conducted these transactions and issued receipts in the back of the showroom where two large safes kept his money and books secure. The safes still stand at the back of the main area on the first floor, holding a piece of history and nostalgia, a glimpse into the past.

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When Eoannou walked into the former furniture showroom he knew within ten minutes that the building would be his. The old showroom floor is 5,000 square feet with a loft providing an additional 2,500 square feet of space. Painted tin ceilings are planned to be restored as well as the wooden maple floors. The enormous space will soon be flooded with natural light when the windows that at one time spanned across the top of entire front of the store but were sinfully boarded up, are returned.

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The vastness of the area is magnified with an 18-foot ceiling height, the possibilities for a future use seem to only be limited by imagination. The space is a complete 7,500 square feet and not suited to be split in any way. At this point, Tom is talking to a couple of prospective parties regarding the future of the space, but nothing is set in stone.

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Then there’s the apartment. What a gem. So the story goes that around 1949 Mrs. Schunke really wanted state of the art appliances and a kitchen remodel. Her doting husband obliged his wife’s request and purchased for her a brand new pink dishwasher, stove, oven, washer/dryer combo, refrigerator and freezer. And oh, the refrigerator and freezer were installed above the countertop to match the pink metal cabinetry. They also added a copper backsplash on the entire perimeter of the kitchen. When Eoannou entered the apartment, there it all was, just as it probably had been when the Schunkes lived there over 60 years ago.

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Some would have no doubt done a complete gutting of the apartment. Thankfully Eoannou’s appreciation for the beauty and quality of what he had found took him on a mission to restore the apartment back to its iconic mid-century glory.

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The kitchen cabinets were stripped and repainted by Gabe’s Collision; the appliances were cleaned and those that were not working were repaired (yes, some of them still worked without needing repair); layers of flooring were removed to expose the original 1920’s linoleum in the hallway; hardwood floors were stripped, sanded and stained; dropped ceilings were removed to expose the 11-foot ceiling height; and walls were repaired and repainted. The result is fabulous.

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The kitchen glistens and you instantly feel like you have stepped back in time once you enter. Loaded with cabinetry and shelving, the kitchen is the epitome of a happy homemaker’s haven. Think Madmen, season one.

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Tom-Eoanno-Buffalo-NY-10The kitchen leads to a dining room through a pocket door where hard wood floors have been restored to a shine and benefit from the natural light that is allowed in through a gracious window with wide sills. French doors then take you to the large living room with an original oversized mirror hanging on the exterior wall, flanked by two picture windows.

Homes and apartments of that era are known for a sore lack of closetry and storage space, ask anyone with an old home in Buffalo. Being in the furniture business, the Schunkes knew better, consequently the apartment has plenty of built-ins. The pantry off of the kitchen features an entire wall of shelving and cabinetry. The larger of the two bedrooms has two sliding door closets with deep storage above, and the second bedroom has a deep closet and a built-in shelving unit. The spacious bathroom is fitted with both a tub as well as a walk-in shower. The original tiled walls and floor remain intact along with a functioning towel warmer.

Truth be told, I absolutely love this apartment, and am secretly hoping my husband will not be too upset if I suddenly decide I need a place of my own. I mean, it’s predominately pink, it has loads of storage space and I can finally fulfill my fantasy to live like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’m sure he’d understand. But I digress.

Tom-Eoanno-Buffalo-NY-4Eoannou intends to rent the apartment to someone who appreciates this vintage treasure and the authenticity of what it holds. He will be charging $1,200 per month, including utilities, which he feels can be supported in this neighborhood. He states, “Contrary to public opinion, the people of Black Rock, I have found, are a professional, sophisticated and very artsy group. They have been absolutely wonderful in terms of providing help and assistance to me throughout this renovation process.” He testifies to this sentiment with the following, “I reached out to neighbor Sue Cholewa for help with the parking situation. She was very helpful and accommodating. I sent her a thank you text, and her reply was, ‘Of course. You’re a Black Rocker now. We stick together.’”

Eoannou has become enamored with the neighborhood. He says, “These people are the real deal and it’s wonderful to be working with them to put Black Rock back on the map.”

If you have an interest in either the commercial space or the apartment, you can contact Tom Eoannou at 716-885-2889 or via email at lawoffice484@yahoo.com.

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Written by Holly Metz Doyle

Holly Metz Doyle

A Buffalo native, Holly spent quite a bit of time traveling the globe, but after living on the West coast for a bit was called back to her roots in Western New York.

View All Articles by Holly Metz Doyle
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