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Ibrahim Cissé stays true to his East Side commitment.

The first Subway franchise in the Bailey East Side area opened up at the newly refurbished Varsity Theatre (learn more) in 2017. President and founder of the Bailey Business Association, Ibrahim Cissé, decided to bring the franchise to his theatre because of the “lack of well-known franchises or businesses in the area.” He also wanted to bring a healthy food option to the neighborhood, that is sorely lacking.

Cissé’s passion for the East Side comes from being a resident of the area, thus his appreciation for the community. Cissé said the neighborhood needs more homeowners and business owners in order to better the community. “Real change won’t come if we don’t take charge of it ourselves – no one will do it for us. We have to take ownership of our own neighborhood.” he said.

When Cissé first moved to the area, he stated that there was a lot of neglect, such as abandoned buildings. He took note of the “renaissance” happening on other areas of Buffalo and wondered why the East Side wasn’t prospering. Upon his observation, he began attending City meetings.

“I would ask them what about Bailey, why is nothing happening on Bailey… and the answer was always ‘because you guys are not organized.’ We didn’t have a business association, so I approached a few business owners and explained to them the need to organize.” Shortly after, the Bailey Business Association was born.

Cissé’s goal is to make the Varsity Theatre a destination on the East Side. Aside from rebuilding this inspirational theater, he’s also moving forward with the completion of 17 offices on the 2nd floor, to use as business incubators for small businesses and start-ups.

Cissé has told me about some other big changes that will be coming soon. “I am changing the building front elevation back to its original look of the 20s and 30s in all glass, and removing the Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) added in the late 90s. I want the community to have a very nice venue that they can be proud of and call their own, where they can go and enjoy themselves, where the money will stay in the community, and create more businesses and jobs in the community.”

Written by Sara Ali

Sara Ali

Sara is a freelance writer living on Buffalo's West Side. She works full time in human services, part time in freelance, and is currently working towards her endeavor to create a nonprofit focused on telling the stories of the refugee and immigrant communities.

View All Articles by Sara Ali
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