Gigi’s, an iconic East Side restaurant that closed three years ago after a fire ravaged the building, has now reopened at the Northland Workforce Training Center (NWTC). Gigi’s has transformed from a neighborhood hotspot to a 3,900 square foot, full-service kitchen and café at 683 Northland Avenue. The “new” Gigi’s is owned and operated by Darryl Harvin, whose mother Blondine “Gigi” Harvin was the namesake of the original restaurant at 257 East Ferry Street. The restaurant operated for decades, and became an institution of the East Side. It was a sad day for the entire city when the building closed.
But now, thanks to the Empire State Development (ESD) and the City of Buffalo, Gigi’s is back, serving up food to students from NWTC, area residents, and loyal fans who have been awaiting the restaurant’s return.
“This project is a great example of the public-private partnerships happening across the Western New York region,” said Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “Gigi’s will further catalyze Buffalo’s East Side redevelopment while adding to the overall success of the Northland Workforce Training Center.”
“Today is a day to celebrate new beginnings and a new future for Buffalo’s iconic Gigi’s restaurant,” saidLieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who spoke at today’s event. “When a devastating fire tore through Gigi’s, the community rallied together determined to reopen the establishment and continue serving residents. The new Gigi’s complements our investment at the Northland Workforce Training Center, which is transforming the East Side with an innovative workforce development strategy for Western New York.”
“Gigi’s is one of the most iconic restaurants in the City of Buffalo,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “While I am saddened that Gigi’s founder Blondine Harvin is not here for this grand opening, I am comforted knowing her legacy lives on at the restaurant. I am proud to partner with Governor Cuomo and the Empire State Development Corporation to bring back this East Side staple to the sleek, state-of-the-art Northland Campus. I encourage residents to support this local treasure and enjoy some of the best soul food in the City.”
It was the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC) that selected Gigi’s as the official operator of the new restaurant facility. Diners can now access the main lobby, or they can come in through a separate patio. As for the food, many of the same soul food that people have come to love over the years will still be available, along with some healthy farm to table selections, along with to-go items such as yogurt and paninis. The restaurant will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.
“Buffalo Urban Development Corporation is pleased to have Gigi’s Northland opening up as our second tenant at Northland Central (683 Northland),” said Peter M. Cammarata, President of BUDC. “Early in the planning process for the Northland Campus, we felt that is was imperative to have a food service operator in place to support the students, businesses, and neighbors who would be gravitating to this transitional community. With its rich heritage on Buffalo’s East Side, GiGi’s Northland is the perfect match. The State of New York and the City of Buffalo have worked closely with Darryl Harvin to make his mother’s vision of a resurrected community icon come true.”
“Gigi’s is excited to be open at Northland,” said Darryl Harvin, Gigi’s Northland Owner. “We thank BUDC and Empire State Development for this opportunity to once again serve the community the food they know and love with a few new specialties also on the menu. To the students of Northland and the entire region, I am pleased and proud to say, ‘Welcome to Gigi’s!”
The Northland Workforce Training Center opened in the fall of 2018, to accommodate training demands for highly-skilled workers in the advanced manufacturing and energy industries. The initiative was part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion ($29 million). The New York Power Authority contributed another $15 million to the project.
Stephen Tucker, Northland Workforce Training Center President & CEO, said, “We are excited about the opening of Gigi’s Restaurant in Northland Workforce Training Center. Their history as a staple in the community that provides quality food options is a welcomed addition to the Northland Corridor and supports the renaissance that’s happening on Buffalo’s East Side.”
John R. Koelmel, New York Power Authority Chairman said, “The return of Gigi’s is a welcome boost for the City of Buffalo and entire Western New York region, and is specifically significant in the economic transformation of the East Side. The Northland Workforce Training Center is on track to be a world class facility, attracting new businesses and training for clean energy and manufacturing jobs in the region. The Power Authority is pleased to welcome back an enterprising business that will support existing tenants and encourage additional growth in the neighborhood.”
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “While this is a celebration of Gigi’s reopening here at the Northland Workforce Training Center following that devastating fire almost four years ago, it’s also a bittersweet reopening, because Blondine Harvin, the woman responsible for bringing Gigi’s to the Queen City, is no longer with us. But I can assure you she’s smiling down on us knowing that her legacy of bringing the best soul food, fried chicken, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, and my favorite salmon cakes and grits will continue for another 60 years. We thank and congratulate Blondine and her son Darryl for one of the greatest gifts you can offer anyone- a good home cooked meal.”
Senator Tim Kennedy said, “For years, Gigi’s has been an iconic Buffalo gem, embedded in the fabric of our city’s East Side and cherished by the people who call it home. While a fire may have halted operations temporarily, I’m thrilled to see this restaurant reopen inside a new city anchor: the Northland Workforce Training Center. This new partnership will not only benefit the students and staff who visit the Center daily, but the surrounding neighborhoods and the many who have missed the soul food Gigi’s is known for serving.”
Common Council President Darius Pridgen said, “This opening is important to the Buffalo community. It’s wasn’t just a symbolic choice to open at the Northland Corridor, it was a necessary one for the city. I’m thankful Miss Gigi got a chance to know that her name would live on and that it will be located within a facility to help train and educate everyone that enters the building. Today, her legacy will continue to take care of men and women when they need it.”
Common Council Member Ulysees O. Wingo, Sr. said, “We are proud to have worked alongside the Harvin family to ensure that the vision of Gigi’s staying on the East Side is realized. Blondine ‘Gigi’ Harvin would be proud of the progress and the coalition around keeping her dream of serving the community alive.”