For years, I bought flowers from Flowers by Chuck at X-Cel’s – 177 Hodge Street. The owner, who recently passes away, had a decent flower selection, at reasonable prices, and was a fixture in the Elmwood neighborhood.
A few months ago, I got a message from a local used book aficionado by the name of Noah Wojcik. Over the last few summers, Wojcik and another used book seller by the name of Eric Mowery, had been setting up a stand at The Peddler Flea Market (corner of Elmwood and West Ferry – Saturdays). It turned out that their combined book venture was gaining speed, and they were on the hunt for a permanent location. We talked about all of the different possibilities, in various Buffalo neighborhoods, and kept coming back to the Elmwood Village. With used book stores in various other parts of the city, Elmwood was in need of such a business… but was Elmwood too expensive?
Since initially hearing from Wojcik, and then meeting up with him to learn more about their plan, the two have been scouring the Elmwood Village, looking for that diamond in the rough. When the Flowers by Chuck location became available, Wojcik knew immediately that this was the opportunity that they had been looking for. Wojcik and Mowery both lived close to the location, and the place needed a ton of work, so they made an offer to the building owner, that if they fixed up the space, they would get a break on the rent. And that’s how these two used book experts came to land a brick and mortar business in an ideal space.
Now, if you think that fixing up a former flower shop is an easy task, think again. There are few places in Buffalo, that I have ever seen, that are in need of so much elbow grease. “There were four floors in here,” said Mowery, as he scraped the popcorn walls. “We’re pretty much starting from scratch here.”
If anyone ever walked into Flowers by Chuck, then they could have told you just how much work the place needed. There was something magical about the place, but there was also something a bit scary – the place looked like it had not been cleaned or cared for, for decades. The only thing that looked to be salvageable was the tin ceiling, which appeared to be in good shape for some unknown reason – everything else was shot.
Moving forward, Wojcik and Mowery plan on opening a used book business that specializes in fiction – literary, sci-fi, etc. While the two share a passion for fiction, they both bring a number of other expertises to the table.
Mowery travels the country buying and selling rare comic books – he also managed Old Editions Bookstore in Downtown Buffalo for six years. While his diehard passion is comic books, he will join Wojcik in curating a selection of books that will be unlike anything else in the city, once they put their spin on it. Mowery is also an artist, and plans on displaying his works, along with the works of others – he is “in tight” with the local art community. Not only will there be themed gallery shows, there will also be poetry readings and spoken word events.
Ultimately, the business will be a mixed bag of fiction and rare books, original art, a small oratory space with flex seating… and a café. While the two are both self-professed “coffee fiends”, they have not quite yet figured out exactly what the coffee angle will entail. Mowery gets his coffee from all over the world and is excited to feature different roasts and blends at the café, but it is Wojcik who appears to be driving the café venture at Speakeasy Books and Art Café (that name could change, but it’s what they’ve been working with to date). “It’s going to be a dynamic space,” said Wojcik. He told me that it’s going to be a lot of different things to a lot of different people, all of who have an an appreciation for a more culturally curated Buffalo.