If you are of a certain age, you may have a few fond memories of late nights spent at Mulligan’s Café and Nightclub on Hertel Avenue. If you were one of the lucky ones, your VIP membership gained you and your friends entrance to the VIP room adjacent to the main space. Located on Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo, Mulligan’s was a hotspot during the disco era of the 1970s and 1980s, with the likes of OJ Simpson and Rick James in frequent attendance. On any given Saturday night, James would be donning an elaborate full-length fur coat flanked by an entourage of beautiful women, and would whisk away a fortunate few from the pub in the front, to the VIP room in the back, treating them to a night of dancing, drinks, and whatever else might have happened during that era of excess.
Left vacant for years now, the once vibrant building will soon breathe new life, thanks to local attorney and Hertel reformer Tom Eoannou. Eoannou has invested heavily in the North Buffalo Community and says, “There has been more money spent in the development on Hertel Avenue within the last year than has probably been spent in the past 20 years.” He continues, “What was once a sleepy part of the street is now the most vibrant.” The part of the street he is referring to is the block encompassing the southwest corner of Hertel and Starin Avenues.
Here is a breakdown of what’s what:
- Exclusively Alaskan Goods at 1650 Hertel, the old NOCO
- Lexington Co-op at 1660 Hertel, the old CVS
- Liquor Library at 1673 Hertel, the pub area of the old Mulligan’s
- Italian Restaurant at 1673 Hertel, the VIP room of the old Mulligan’s
- Terry Stokes Fitness at 1673 Hertel, the front of the old Mulligan’s
- Deep South Taco at 1707 Hertel, the old Quick Lube
At this point all spaces are under construction, in building process, or operational as is the case of Exclusively Alaskan Goods run by Earnie Thomas, a retired Alaskan seafood inspector. At Thomas’s store one can find Alaskan Salmon, Caribou, and Elk meats as well as favorite seafood selections like Grouper and Swordfish.
His most popular items are Pacific Cod, Alaskan hand-filleted Salmon, Halibut, and Reindeer Hotdogs brought straight from Alaska, The Last Frontier. Thomas is proud to only sell fish and meat that is wild-caught, American, sustainably fished, and fed no chemicals.
Also available at his store are 2 ml. vials of pure Omega 3 fish oil that he produces from the heads of wild king salmon, where the highest concentration of oil is contained. Thomas describes the oil as “magic”, providing natural pain relief within five minutes of ingesting. He also boasts of his house-made seafood pierogis stuffed with fresh seafood and fruit that sell out quickly, a big favorite. His plans for the summer include “Salmon Bakes” beginning this July in the parking lot with patio dining available.
The Lexington Co-op plans to open its second location later this year. Construction on an addition to the building has been detained to due an underground power line. Once that issue has been resolved they intend to open approximately six months afterward. General Manager Tim Bartlett states, “We are very excited to be a part of the thriving business community of Hertel. The area is doing well because of so many great businesses on the street and we are excited to be a part of it.”
With the addition, the retail space will total 9,000 square feet, twice the size of their Elmwood Avenue location. They will incorporate a seating area at the request of their members, a full-service meat department, lots of space for products and walking room, and plenty of parking. Bartlett says, “About 10% of our owners live in North Buffalo, and we are excited to open a store near them.”
Meanwhile, over on the corner of Starin, Richard Hamilton is beyond excited for Deep South Taco to open. Hamilton purchased the property back in the beginning of 2015. “It was where the idea of Deep South Taco was born,” says Hamilton, “I saw the spot and said, ‘I need to open a taco place here!’” Due to the time consuming clean-up involved in safely renovating a space once used as an oil change facility, Deep South’s Hertel Avenue opening has been detained, but they are on schedule to finally open this July.
The Hertel location will have the same popular menu as their Ellicott Street restaurant, but with the addition of a kids’ menu. The 3,600 sq. ft. restaurant will feature a patio with heated concrete flooring, built-in mushroom heaters, and a roofed heating system to extend the patio season as much as possible. Hamilton is excited to claim rights to the first restaurant in the area to utilize shipping containers in its design. One container will be used for outdoor seating while the other will occupy the front side of the building for interior seating. Food trucks are also in the works for Deep South, come next year.
As for the former VIP room at the old Mulligan’s, “It will be a ‘Peasant Italian’ restaurant, with a moderately priced menu for families,” according to Eoannou who states, “the operator is an experienced restaurateur who will be revealing more details as he develops the restaurant and court yard, which will be an essential component of the restaurant.”
The main bar area of the former Mulligan’s will be home to Hertel Liquor Library, owned and operated by Tony Ferro. The proposed plan for the 2,200 square foot space will include 1,800 square feet of retail area and 400 square feet for a tasting room, complete with fireplace and television.
The library themed store will be designed to resemble stacks in a library and include a library ladder and a card catalog where patrons will find a variety of drink recipes. The store will be laid out and categorized for the ease of customers to locate what they are looking for at their price point. Ferro states, “A lot of thought has gone into this store. It will be something very unique in the area.” Plans to open are set for early July pending state approvals.
The library themed store will be designed to resemble stacks in a library and include a library ladder and a card catalog where patrons will find a variety of drink recipes.
Ferro has entrepreneurial blood running through his veins. He took a break from the food industry at his family’s pizzeria in West Seneca, Ferro’s Famous NY Pizza, when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He has since founded the Change MS Wellness Foundation, and has taken a holistic approach to treat his MS with great success, and hopes to help others through his foundation along the way.
The front of Mulligan’s will be the new location of Terry Stokes Fitness, which will move just down the street from 1434 Hertel.
Kate Huber is a North Buffalo resident who participated in community meetings regarding the proposed changes, and Deep South Taco in particular. While she admits that she was skeptical at first, she now realizes that change is good. According to Huber, “We need to develop the area and change with the times, making more people want to live here.”
Change is definitely good. When it concerns Buffalo neighborhoods we are all for it, and this summer will be an exciting one for Hertel Avenue. Lots going on in North Buffalo.