When I first opened my store Thunder Bay, on Elmwood, back around ’95, there were only a handful of other retailers on the street. One of those shops was Poster Art, run by a gregarious guy by the name of Mark Corsi. The first time I ever met Mark, I walked into his shop, and as I was browsing the merchandise I heard someone from behind the checkout counter say, “What’s up bro?” I turned around, and there was this guy who looked like a cross between Jeff Spicoli and Björn Borg. It turned out that his personality would also reflect those characters.
The next time that I ran into Mark, he walked into my shop to ask whether I wanted Thunder Bay to be on one of his Elmwood posters, which he produced every so often. I said “Sure!” He replied, “That’s great bro.” It turns out that he called everyone bro – I would not be surprised to hear that he called his family members bro.
Over the years, Mark (I started to call him bro back) would be a stalwart figurehead on the street… a real anchor personality, with a solid vision for his business. He would always be the first person to carry a “wide right” t-shirt, or a “no goal” t-shirt. He was a real Buffalo backer, yet he could poke fun at his beloved city at the same time. He understood exactly what his customers wanted – from a Jimi Hendrix poster to a Bob Ross t-shirt. His windows always spoke of the times, as they pertained to Buffalo, and the world landscape.
The passing of Mark Corsi this week was a shock to many. Mark aka Bro has been a mainstay on Elmwood Avenue with his store Poster Art for decades. What a lot of people don’t know is that Bro was also “Closet Punk Productions”. Back in the days of the early 80’s when punk rock and new wave were just starting here in Buffalo, Closet Punk was a driving force in the scene. From shows at The Continental to just about any place you could stuff a band in (and would let punks in) he had shows. Local bands owed a lot to Bro – he was a HUGE influence on the scene and without him I doubt the scene would have been anywhere near as popular as it became. Paper Faces, Electroman, The Fems, The Factor… the list goes on and on of local bands that Mark supported. His easy going demeanor and sly smile never changed over the decades. He loved Buffalo, and Buffalo is a little less rich without him. I’m so glad that the last couple of years I was able spend time with him. I’m sure there are people out there that know more specifics about the bands and venues. Feel free to share them here. RIP Bro – you leave a hole that won’t ever be filled. – Scott O’Connor
It was about eight years ago that I walked into his shop, and before I could even get a bro! out, he shouted, Newellsie! The moment completely caught me off guard. I never new that he knew my name, let alone the nickname that a couple of my dear friends called me. “Where the heck did he come up with that?” I thought to myself. But on that day, I somehow shed my bro status, which I felt was a very endearing and even prideful moment.
There was something very comforting about having Bro on the street. It was as if he was always watching out for Elmwood. And guess what? Bro was pretty much a luddite. He was not a fan of technology. That meant that if you ever needed to talk to him, the best thing to do was to stop into Poster Art. Last month I paid him a visit because he could not find something that I emailed him regarding The Flutterby Festival.
“Newellsie!, which email address did you send it to?”
“The one on your website.”
“Let me see, Newellsie…. I don’t see it. Are you sure you sent it?”
“Let me look again. There it is, Newellsie!”
The great thing about Mark, to me, was that when I called his shop to see if he got my email to begin with, he was not content until we tracked it down together. He would call me and say, “Newellsie, I can’t find the email. What’s it all about?” That’s why I figured, per usual, the best thing to do was to stop in and see him in person.
The last time that I saw him, he looked great and sounded great. I never would have thought in a million years that he had cancer. It was only last night that my buddy John Powell told me that he had passed – “I was so sorry to hear of Mark’s passing,” John expressed. “I had the privilege to know Mark as a client and friend. He helped make the Elmwood Village what it is today. Mark embodied all that is good in Buffalo and his loss will be felt by many. He was a kind soul who always went out of his way to help others. My heart goes out to his family.”
“Having been a vendor for Mark for over 10 years, it was with great sadness that we learned of his passing. He was always a proponent of art that celebrated Buffalo and a strong supporter of small businesses like ours. We enjoyed the energy, creativity and humor that he brought to every interaction. He will be missed.” – Brian and Amy from buffalohistory.com
Thinking back to the first time that I met Bro, I recall wondering where someone like this comes from? He was that unusual and unique – he was like no one else that I had ever met. His personality drove his business, which in turn rippled out into The Elmwood Village. He was always curious about what was happening in Buffalo.
“Newellsie! What’s happening at the other end of street?”
I always had fun chatting with Mark about Elmwood, the city’s resurgence, and business on the avenue. It never got old. Some might say that he was a legend on the street… or the backbone… or that he even embodied everything that people love about Elmwood. He was quirky, funny, vivacious, and kind. It turns out that he was also mortal – something that I’m having a hard time processing this morning, because if anyone was to figure out how to beat mortality, it would have been Bro. He was so full of life. He never aged. And he was always so positive – looking towards the future.
When things were down on Elmwood (yes, there have been times), Bro was always that beacon of light. The guy who held the torch. While that torch might have dimmed slightly with his passing, it will never go out because of his fortitudinous presence on the street that affected so many people. And those people (friends, shop owners, customers) will continue to carry that same torch. That, bro, will ultimately be his legacy and his selfless gift to Buffalo.
Lead image courtesy Joe Cascio, who was also a good friend of Bro’s.