Yesterday, a buddy and I went to brewerania event* at the Elk’s Lodge 860 – 55 Main Street in the City of Tonawanda. We planned to get to the event a little early, and grab some breakfast at a nearby diner. It was a fascinating excursion, because we are both very interested in design, collecting, architecture, and urbanism. And yes, urbanism applies to smaller townships such as North Tonawanda, where there are small theaters, taverns, quaint shops and homes, etc.
It actually took us a while to find a diner, but the search was a real eye opener into this promising town. Although the Main Street area has been partially ravaged (aesthetically) by the McDonald’s and the Rite Aids of the world, it’s still a super quaint town with so much to offer.
After finding no luck in the diner department along Main Street, we decided to head on over to Oliver Street in North Tonawanda, where we knew we would find something. Recently, there has been a number of initiatives to beautify and brand Oliver Street via public art initiatives. As luck would have it, we came across a nondescript diner called Tammy’s Kitchen (690 Oliver Street) where they served up a good cup of coffee and one of the best corned beef hash breakfasts that I had had in years. Finding Tammy’s was worth the entire trip. Even if we didn’t come across anything of note at the brewerania event, we could call it a successful excursion.
On the way back to the Elk’s Lodge, we discussed how, for the most part, all of the neighborhoods in Tonawanda and North Tonawanda that we came across appeared to be pretty much intact. While there were a number of shuttered storefronts, you could tell that a number of the building owners were doing their part to preserve them and dress them up to attract tenants. Others looked to be diamonds in the rough, where young/handy entrepreneurs could probably make minimal investments and have nice little nest eggs in their hands.
Coincidentally, I received an email this morning from a Ryan S., who had this to say:
I was born and raised in Buffalo, left and returned several times in the 90s and while in Buffalo I worked construction on Victorian home restoration. I also contracted for a wealthy Buffalonian who held many properties in the Elmwood/Allen area and he never sought to improve them. I always saw the opportunity for Buffalo to make its architectural heritage shine, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere. My wife and I left in 2003 and moved to Seattle.
While in Seattle I discovered your website and followed what was going on. We’ve now just recently returned and live down in the Southern Tier by Chautauqua Lake and see places like Jamestown, NY that could benefit from the advocacy your site provides.
I think you should consider an increased scope at some point and expand to WNY regional coverage. Focus on main street density initiatives… avoid promoting suburban sprawl (this is how Seattle has regulated its growth). WNY should also focus on advertising its outdoor activities and ecotourism… this is what draws tech workers to a region… cool downtown living with great outdoor activities nearby. As an engineer and entrepreneur I hope to give back to the region I live in focusing on these same goals.
It’s funny. After spending the better part of the day in Tonawanda and North Tonawanda, hopping from one neighborhood to the next, I came away with similar sentiments. From the Elmwood Village, it took no time to get there, and we discovered so much while we were exploring, including my new favorite diner in WNY.
I’ve been to Tonawanda plenty of times, to eat and drink, but I’ve never taken the time to explore beyond the usual suspects. It took a brewerania show at an Elk’s Lodge to expand my horizons, and now I can’t wait to head back and do some more exploring throughout the lesser known neighborhoods.
Who knows what awaits during the next visit? Tonawanda and North Tonawanda are great towns, with a couple of nice commercial pockets and well preserved neighborhoods that could really come to life with the right type of strategic investments.
*The Turkey Trade by The Simon Pure Chapter of the Brewery Collectors Club of America (BCCA)