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Building Blocks: Prish Moran & Sweetness 7

You likely know someone who Prish Moran has helped out throughout the years, whether it be hosting an event, hiring someone in need, or giving a young man, who has never painted before, the opportunity of a lifetime. Prish is a magnet for anyone willing to show up and take a shot.

Bio:

The 63 year old mother of three is originally from Boston MA.  Her supportive, though hands off, parents taught her to follow through on all of her ideas, nothing was impossible. She was raised to fix cars and build everything. She became a young entrepreneur, putting panels in bell bottoms and organizing neighborhood carnivals.

Prish went on to get a BS in design and started designing children’s clothes in NYC.  Then, following her wanderlust, she moved to Italy, met an Italian man and married him promptly after a one week courtship.  After spending years in Italy, the two decided to move to Buffalo in 1996. They bought a Victorian house where Prish taught herself decorative arts and restoration skills while raising the children.

She used the downtown public library as her resource to learn all things restoration. A skill that would lead her into restoring people’s homes and eventually start buying homes from the city auction and reselling them. All the while Prish continued working as a design artist, sewing costumes for Shakespeare in the Park, restoring interiors, designing stage scenery and anything else she could get her hands on.

Sweet_ness 7 Café

Prish opened two coffee houses at the age of 50 after restoring her first commercial building.  Having zero experience in the restaurant business, Prish credits her instincts as a mother and the host of many sleepovers as her guide through those first years. “I manage my businesses with the philosophy of power with and not power over, my staff is like family.”

Sweetness 7 Café (2008) and the newly opened Tabernacle sit as a staple of the West Side on the corner of Grant and Lafayette. A lifetime of art, challenge, adventure and travel culminate in the beautifully restored Buffalo building. 

What made you buy this beautiful West Side building?

I bought this building randomly, the whole thing was boarded up – the whole block was – and I was walking one day and I just saw it.  And it’s crazy the way things happen, Bob Franke (West Side activist) was outside, he was out planting trees on Grant street and he was looking at me and laughing and I just said, “Whats up with that beautiful building?” He inquisitively answered “Why?” And I answered, “I wanna buy it” … it really went just that way.

So, I found out that Rite Aid was trying to buy it to knock it down.

So, I found out that Rite Aid was trying to buy it to knock it down. The attorney, Dean, who represented the owner of the building brought it to the court system.  And I was extremely lucky, he was a lover of the West Side and didn’t want to see the building destroyed. He was able to get the owner to sell the building to me instead of going to Rite Aid.  So, I was able to buy it and keep it here.

Then,  I was going through a divorce and I was going to have to sell the building, and Fred Heinle of the Rockefeller Foundation found out. And they are so wonderful, that’s what they do, they save buildings, and he came through for me and I was able to keep the building and grow from there.

All these people, these random sets of events, are all responsible for my success here, and it’s so Buffalo, you know.  It’s beautiful.

What recurring challenges have you faced in the region that you’d like to see changed.

There has been a recurring problem with business owners clashing with residential neighbors. It has been a huge problem with me and with other business owners in the downtown area. And here we are trying to bring life back to the city, trying to have cultural and community gatherings and it’s like, one complaint from a neighbor can shut us down. We pay all this money to the City to follow the laws and get the proper permits, music, public assembly, liquor, food.. we pay a fortune for these, and we are happy to, but then one complaint shuts us down.

We pay all this money to the City… but then one complaint shuts us down.

It’s something that affects all of us, Grant, Hertel, Elmwood, Allen. And, I don’t know what the answer is, of course we want people moving to the city, that is our goal, but they need to realize that it is a vibrant and lively area that we are promoting and trying to bring life to.

The city has been amazing to me, since day one. It has been a mutual respect and as long as you are up front and don’t cut any corners, the City is really good to you. But we need City Hall to support us and we need to find a reasonable solution because it is a problem to a lot of people and businesses in my position.

What would you recommend for anyone who wants to be a part of building a business?

I give this advice all these years, happily.  They need a mentor. They need someone to lead them through. I think a lot of people get intimidated by the processes of starting a business or buying a property. Things like going to auctions and getting permits, you know, equipment… these can be huge deterrents to people who are not familiar with the process.  There are numerous organizations that meet once a month and discuss opportunities and business building. That kind of networking can really go a long way. It’s important to find someone, an owner or someone involved in the business that you’re interested and just ask them!

There are ways to make your life easier. Just write to someone, set up an appointment. So many people are so willing to share and help others, especially in this city. It really is all about helping each other and we have all been there. Reach out and show your interest and I really believe that you find a much easier path to where you’re going.

Also, volunteer.  What better way to meet people and get experience. You can get involved with whatever your passion may be, you know, arts, music, food, business, whatever… get into that field and expand your skill set through helping others, along with this you will meet people that will help you along your path.

What is a favorite “Buffalo Moment”?

Oh, I’ve got a thousand of them, it’s magic, it really is. For me it has always been about my employees. To give people a shot and then watch them grow and evolve. You can really benefit from someone who is kind in nature and you know, might be misunderstood or maybe a little bit lost in their path, and to show them kindness and give them an opportunity to be a part of your project and a part of your life, it is just amazing for me.

Jeremy, who painted the whole Tabernacle, is a good example. You know he had never painted a day in his life and was a bit down on his luck and was looking for something, and I asked him, “can you paint?”  He said “no”, so I said, “well you can roll paint”  And he took a shot and I mean, look at what he did, it’s life changing, it is simply wonderful, all for just taking a shot.

Photo by Glenn Murray

The official “aha” moment  I suppose would be when Bob Franke helped me in buying this building and the way this all came about and the others who helped. To me that was Buffalo and probably would not happen in any other city, but since then, it’s been all about my employees.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about Buffalo, what would it be?

It would have to do with the infrastructure and the cars. I’d get the cars out of here. I’ve lived in enough European cities to know that this car-centric mentality is absolutely not necessary. We don’t need to be so dependent on cars and with the right infrastructure we could encourage more bicycle and pedestrian friendly transportation.  People would get used to it. We just would.  And we’d be a better place for it.

If your idol came to town, where would you take them?

I’m a big fan of the waterfront. Down by LaSalle Park, the river and the sunsets, it’s such an easy way to feel like you could be anywhere in the world. It really is so majestic down there. I would have to say my mom.  You know, someone who raised seven kids by herself and never complained, was always happy, she still is! She had a stroke a few years back but is still as lively as ever. In fact she just asked ‘When are we going out for drinks?!!’  She’s 92!!   I’m just so intrigued by the strength of her human spirit. She’s just happy. And at the end of the day, what else could you possibly want to be?

So, I would take her down to the waterfront and then we would go grab drinks at Buffalo Bar & Grille.

Who would you recommend as a “Building Block” of Buffalo?

Tim Tielman

Sue McCartney

Prish, thank you for being a Building Block in Buffalo’s resurgence.

Lead image courtesy KC Kratt


About Building Blocks:

A renaissance is not built solely on the shoulders of the big and powerful, it is the workings of the commoners of society coming together and pushing small blocks up against the big ones to set a solid foundation for change. In the midst of the new, vibrant and ever-expanding Buffalo, we find ourselves needing to know more about it! Who are we missing? Who is behind it? Who are the unsung heroes responsible for the rebirth of our great city. Who do you know that has made a difference?  We are calling on you to send us candidates for our upcoming series of interviews titled “Building Blocks”.

What we are looking for:
  • Individuals or organizations that have withstood the test of time. The ones who have stayed true to their values in the slow times and have now pushed forth and flourished in the new.
  • People who have initiated successful start-ups in the areas of business, energy, arts or education.
  • People who have given their free time to the betterment of our community.
  • People who have created better situations for their fellow Buffalonians.
  • Basically, anyone that you think deserves a mention in the progress of our great city.

Please email us at evjthomp@gmail.com subject line “Building Blocks” with any recommendations along with any contact information you might have.

It’s time that the foundation of our rebirth, big or little, be recognized and appreciated for their efforts.

Also see:

Building Blocks: Nick Sinatra

Building Blocks: Steve Baczkowski

Building Blocks: Rahwa Ghirmatzion

Building Blocks: Anthony Caferro

Building Blocks: Kevin Gardner

Written by Evan Thompson

Evan Thompson

Evan Thompson moved from Melbourne, Australia to Buffalo, New York when he was 13 years old. After consistently relocating to different countries around the world, his family fell in love with the charm of the City of Buffalo and the people who call it home.

After high school, Evan attended Indiana University and studied politics. Upon returning to Buffalo he became an Adult Education Instructor for BOCES before teaching ESL to refugees in the Buffalo Public Schools. Evan then taught and volunteered abroad living in South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

He currently works in adventure tourism and plays music in local bands.

View All Articles by Evan Thompson
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