The West Side Bazaar is on the move, in more ways than one. The incubator market is experiencing a growth surge, partially thanks to its newest team member, Bob Doyle, who took up a post as Operations Manager at the bazaar this past July. Doyle was previously with H.E.A.L. International, an organization that was started by Somalis for the Somali refugee population here in Buffalo. The transition to the bazaar (a Westminster Economic Development Initiative – WEDI) was a natural fit for Doyle, who is now heading up the operational side of the business. He also has a background in food service training, which is coming in handy.
Doyle’s presence at the bazaar solidifies, for the first time, a consolidated operational team that will allow the collective to grow in myriad ways. He joins joined Bryana DiFonzo, MBA (Director or Community Development), and Michelle Holler (business incubation and post incubation) as active participants in helping to secure the future of the bazaar in a way that will respect its grassroots beginnings and its overarching commitment to Buffalo’s refugee community.
Since launching as a tiny pop-up market on Grant Street in 2011, the market has grown to 19 businesses under one 3200 square foot roof. The latest business to open is an Eritrean tailor (Eritrea is a northeast African country on the Red Sea coast) who makes bespoke traditional African clothing. Incredibly, there are 17 vetted food vendors on the waiting list hoping to get into the incubator, and well over a hundred others that have expressed an interest. And for the first time ever, there is a waiting list to get a stall within the retail market. All if this growth has prompted those at WEDI to step back and reexamine the needs of the bazaar.
Bryana DiFonzo is leading the expansion charge, by guiding the process. According to DiFonzo, they are seeking to double or triple the size of the collective in the next year or so. They have already looked at a few buildings that they see as potentially good fits, but they are seeking community input to learn if there are additional spaces that they should be looking at.
“We’re planning on expanding the bazaar to accommodate the number of merchants interested in running a business there, plus give our current merchants and customers better facilities,” said DiFonzo. “Since our current space can’t expand, we’re looking for another commercial space on the West Side, possibly around 8-10,000 square feet.”
The primary concerns, when considering new locations, varies. Currently, the market is providing customers with surveys that help to identify where people are coming from, what modes of transportation they are using, and what products they are buying, among other key informational queries. One thing is certain, and it’s that the bazaar will remain somewhere on the West Side, within close proximity to the various communities that currently rely on it.
As for the new pre-existing building, there are a number of requirements that it must fulfill, including easy delivery access, some parking would be nice, and plenty of space. Space is key. There needs to be room for vendors to grow (to graduate), while providing accommodations for storage, along with room for more seating (including communal tables), expanded catering, and possibly even a conference space that could also be used for community events, live music, cooking classes, etc. There is also the potential of working together with like minded groups and organizations – share space, resources, etc.
If you’re wondering what’s going to happen with the current bazaar building, don’t worry. The intention is to fill the space with one or two of the bazaar’s biggest success stories. After all, that’s the whole point of an economic incubator – to give the business owners the tools that they need to thrive on their own.
The sun is certainly shining warmly upon the West Side Bazaar. Coming up, on November 25, the market will be celebrating its five year anniversary in its current space at 25 Grant Street (more about that coming soon). In the meantime, it would be great if we could help the market pinpoint its new home. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please contact Bryana by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.