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Opportunity Knocks – The Future of 479 Amherst Street

There’s a lot of action on Amherst Street in Black Rock these days. I will be featuring a few new businesses that have pulled up stakes from other parts of town to plant high flying flags in this historic neighborhood. One of the best parts about Amherst Street is the density, and the quality of the building stock. There are very few parking lots from Grant Street to Elmwood Avenue. And business owners are finding reasonable lease rates attached to some charming architectural infill.

Take the old filling station at 479 Amherst Street – named Val J. Homik after the original owner (built in 1923). Black Rock advocate Susan Cholewa purchased the building in 2013. Since that time, she has been steadily fixing the place up.

She has converted the upper portion of the structure to two wonderful residential units. She is now getting ready to lease the 2528 sq’ (not counting patio) ground floor commercial unit.

According to Cholewa, the building was initially built for Homik as a retail car parts store and gasoline station – the architect, Carl Schmill, was the same architect that designed the Assumption Church at 435 Amherst Street. When she purchased it, the place was pretty much empty, and the interior was not in very good condition.

The old gas station had virtually sat empty for 13 years – it wasn’t even on the electric grid, and there was no gas when she got ahold of it. There was also three feet of standing water in the basement. She tried to rescue and preserve as many historic elements as she could. She is even in possession of the original industrial light fixtures, old doors, etc.

The commercial unit is a nice wide open space, with lots of natural light thanks to the large display windows. While the rest of us are chomping a the bit to see this unique commercial property occupied with retail, Cholewa says that she’s not in a big hurry to secure a tenant, because she wants to find the right fit. Plus, if she identifies someone who is willing to wait a bit, she believes that she can access Main Street grant funding to help fix the place up. That would help to alleviate some of the lease burden. But she says that she’s ready to go, to accommodate any timeline that a potential tenant has in mind. That said, she’s not going to build out the space until she knows what the tenant is looking for.

Cholewa also wants to make sure that the future tenant is just right for the neighborhood. She’s not sure what direction the search will go. She mentioned anything from a candy and ice cream shop to just about anything else that would lend itself to an increasingly diverse and walkable neighborhood. The only stipulation is that the business can’t be noisy late at night due to the tenants that live up top.

Cholewa is in possession of an artist’s rendition of the building, as it looked with the brick pillars in place

This section of Amherst Street has a café, a couple of nice neighborhood bars, Wegmans, music stores, a breakfast joint, a tattoo studio, art studios, a fabric shop, Interior Design Resources, Joe’s Service Center, a bowling alley… and there’s a lot more coming! It’s also conveniently located close to burgeoning Chandler Street. Now is the perfect time to find a quality tenant for this unusual building that is loaded with character. One of Cholewa’s dreams is to restore the original Italian villa appearance, with the wonderful round brick pillars that once graced the front of the building. Unfortunately, a car ran into the structure years ago, taking out the pillars. Depending on the costs associated with rebuilding the columns, Cholewa is hoping that the Main Street grant could be a way to restore those architectural elements that would bring the historic nature of the corner back to life. After all, one of the best assets of the old gas station is the sprawling patio out front. Hopefully we can help to find the right commercial fit for 479 Amherst Street?

Interested parties can send an email directly to

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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