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2020 Giving Guide | Checking in on Five Local Holiday Hot Spots

pRISE: Enter to win a $100 Shop 716 Gift Card 💳 Giveaway

The 2020 Giving Guide is a unique blend of independently owned and operated businesses in a variety of industries, such as retail, food, dining, arts, non-profit, and more, all designed to encourage WNY residents to #shoplocal. Sponsored by Visit Buffalo Niagara and Erie County, the 2020 guide includes 25 locally-owned and operated businesses throughout the region. Click here to view the 2020 Giving Guide

As the holiday season reaches its apex this week and 2020, a year which has felt like 5 years, draws to a close, we wanted to check in with several businesses that were enrolled with the ”Shop 716” gift card program. This pandemic has taken its toll on all of us, especially small businesses and restaurants.

Thanks to Erie County and Visit Buffalo Niagara, we were able to bring focus onto some of these small businesses and restaurants. The outpouring of support for these places, and many others, in Buffalo and across Erie County has truly been amazing, demonstrating once again that Buffalo has earned the moniker “The City of Good Neighbors;” but we can’t grow complacent in our support even as the holiday season comes to a close. We need to continue to support these businesses as we go forward into 2021.

The holiday season has helped some make ends meet but once the holidays over they see a significant drop in business. Choosing to support these businesses helps grow our economy and strengthens our community. We forge bonds with small business owners. At Buffalo Rising we feel it’s important to support our community, through partnerships like the one we have with Visit Buffalo Niagara, Shop 716 and Erie County that allow us to turn our lens on the variety of small businesses that our great area has to offer.

Moriarty Meats

Moriarty Meats started in January 2018 as a part time venture, as both Caitlin and Tom kept full time jobs while testing the waters. In April 2019, they left those jobs to devote all of their energies to building this business, and in July they purchased the building at 1650-1652 Elmwood Avenue. Their new shop opened in March 2020. After managing a beef farm in Massachusetts, Tom earned a degree from L’ecole Nationale Superieure des Metiers de la Viande (French national butchery school) in 2011. He worked as a butcher in Avallon, France, while completing the program. He also draws from his experience at La Escuela de Hosteleria de Leioa (Spanish culinary arts and hospitality) and various kitchens in Spain to offer a unique perspective of meat and cooking.​ Caitlin is the COO at Moriarty Meats and an architectural and cultural historian. She holds a B.A in Urban Studies from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Speaking with Caitlin, she stated that the holidays are always a busy time for butcher shops. Every Tuesday morning, their website lists both the staples they will carry for that week as well as specials. We asked Caitlin what she recommended for a smaller holiday table “While ribeye and tenderloin are popular this time of year, preorders for that are full. We encourage customers to think outside the box, using either lamb or pork, which are perfect for smaller parties.” We asked what she would suggest for new customers and she responded “We encourage new customers to come in to see the whole variety that we have to offer. We are available by phone or email should customers have any questions.”

1650 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14207
Hours: Thurs/Fri: 10am-6pm, Saturday: 10am-4pm, Sun-Wed: Closed
Website | Facebook | Instagram

NEO Gift Studio

A chic unique gifting studio nestled in the heart of Buffalo, NY; the artistic Elmwood Village. They handpick each and every unique item that enters their store, sourcing from a wide range of designers and countries, giving each and every one of their customers countless options to find that perfect gift; whoever they may be shopping for, whatever the occasion may be. Since it opened in 1982, NEO Gift Studio has been owned and operated by sisters, Joan and Joyce Zoerb. NEO Gift Studio is a one-stop-shop for all your gift giving essentials, Joan and Joyce select all the products and lines, and were one of the first stores to carry their friend, Michael Aram’s Collections.

Each item in the store is lovingly grouped and arranged by Joyce who is responsible for product displays. The shop stocks myriad items ranging from edibles like gourmet gummies or toffee, to hats, scarves, bags, Kids & Babies items, books, toys, kitchen accessories, as well as, jewelry, cards, bath products, candles, lotions, and more. We asked Joyce what some popular gift idea were this year “Lots of alpaca socks and slippers. People want cozy and homey things like robes, blankets and candles. Puzzles and games are also popular.” Joyce added “We just want to thank everyone in the community for their support through this rough year.”

905 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222
Hours: Mon-Fri: 10am-6pm, Sat: 10am-5pm, Sun: 11am-3pm
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Chrusciki Bakery | Simply Pierogi | Stołat Bar

In 1984, founders Tadeusz and Hania Robieniek made the decision to leave their home, families, and teaching jobs in Gdańsk, Poland in search of the American Dream. With two suitcases and only $100 between them, they set off for America; leaving everything behind, their jobs, their homes, and even their two young daughters… Despite many hardships, they were determined to succeed. By 1987, the Robienieks taught themselves to speak English while working for E.M. Bakery in the bustling Broadway Market. They eventually gained a strong foothold in the east side of Buffalo. Through many struggles and trials they were able to purchase E.M. Bakery and E.M. “Chrusciki” Bakery was born! In 2010, their daughter Ania took over the business so that her parents could enjoy retirement. Ania expanded the business and opened a second location in Lancaster. In 2018, Ania & the team saw a need for a clean label, traditional pierogi on the market place. They took the Chrusciki Bakery pierogi and rebranded by opening a second company called “Simply Pierogi”. In 2019, Simply Pierogi became “The Official Pierogi of The Buffalo Sabres”.

As demand for Chrusciki baked goods and Simply Pierogi continued to grow, in 2020 a new business venture began. Chrusciki Bakery, Simply Pierogi, & the new Sto Lat Bar all opened under one roof in the former Sears building at The Eastern Hills Mall. This unique establishment includes everything from a cafe breakfast, Simply Pierogi fast casual “build your own pierogi bowl” for lunch, beer, wine, cocktails, and Polish restaurant for dinner.
We spoke with Austin Kline, their marketing manager about getting ready for the holidays. Austin stated that of the 3 businesses, the bakery was popular this time of year, but noted “restaurants have taken a big hit because of the COVID 19 pandemic.” We asked Austin what he recommended for our holiday table this year. “Cookie platters are popular, along with decorated cookies, cookie kits and ginger bread houses.” He added “From the restaurant and bar, we have a variety of holiday offerings, like pierogi, gołabki and lazy pierogi, that can be ordered and picked up on Christmas Eve with instructions on heating them up. We also offer gift baskets from the bar like the Polish Mule Party Pack.” He concluded by saying “A lot of restaurants are open and they and small businesses need help. You can do that not just by stopping in and picking something up but also buying gift cards. You can also help via social media simply by following us and liking and sharing our posts to get the word out to friends and family.”

4475 Transit Rd. Buffalo, NY 14221
Bakery “Temporary COVID” Hours: Mon-Sat: 8am-8pm, Sun: Closed
Simply Pierogi hours: Mon-Thurs: 11am-8pm, Fri/Sat: 11am-6pm, Sun: Closed

80 W. Drullard Ave. Lancaster, NY 14086
“Temporary COVID” Hours: Mon-Fri: 8am-4pm, Sat: 9am-4pm, Sun: closed

Bakery:: Website | Facebook | Instagram
Simply Pierogi:: Website | Facebook | Instagram

Maureen’s Buffalo Wholesale Flower Market

In Buffalo, when someone asks for a recommendation for a florist, the response is often, “Go to Maureen.” Maureen would be Maureen Bartley, florist of over 50 years, and proprietor of Maureen’s Buffalo Wholesale Flower Market for over 20 years. Truly an iconic business in Buffalo, Maureen’s is located at 441 Ellicott Street downtown, and is a go-to for special events and floral deliveries. But many people love to seek out Maureen’s affordable greens and flowers to put together their own displays for the holidays or any day.

Thanks to the Shop 716 gift card program, she’s seen a lot of new faces. She says that large displays with assorted greens and cones have been especially popular. Also popular are preserved and dried ferns, compass greens and palm spears, complemented with red berries and eucalyptus. They offer displays that are premade, or if you prefer, they have all the pieces that you need to create and assemble at home with your loved ones. Maureen said that you can easily get a beautiful display for $50-$100, but that they “always work with people’s budget.”

She explained, “Natural beauty soothes our souls, lifts our spirit, and helps us to heal during this strange time we are living in.” She continues, “Fresh botanicals in our homes helps to remind us that true beauty does exist, and we will get back to it once again.”

441 Elliott Street, Buffalo, NY 14202
Hours: Mon-Fri: 9am-5:30pm, Sat: 9am-1:30pm, Sun: Closed
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Winkler and Samuels Wine Purveyors

Sometimes finding a good wine isn’t easy. We all have our favorite wineries and favorite type; while some people prefer dry wines, I prefer a sweeter wine, like a moscato or Riesling. A lot of times when I’m looking to try something new, either to drink or to cook with, I’m generally clueless. I’ve found that the larger chain liquor stores are often staffed with people barely old enough to drink and have no clue when I ask for a recommendation. When I’m looking to try something new or in need of a recommendation, I head over to Winker and Samuels.

Proprietors Melissa “Winkler” and “Samuel” Savarino share a passion for wine that evolved into their joint venture located at 500 Seneca Street just off the I-90. Their innovative space is thriving on the first floor and basement of the former paper factory, and their product line has grown from 400 wines to over 1,500. Their focus is on small, natural wine producers from around the world, whose wines are organically or biodynamically grown and are terroir driven.

We checked in with Melissa Winkler, owner of Winkler and Samuels, asking how things have been going this holiday season. “This holiday season is (obviously) markedly different than last year. Last year we were doing in person wine classes in the cellar. We’ve had to transition to virtual wine tastings, we provide a wine pack and recommended cheese and recipe pairings. It’s essentially an at home dinner party for your house that I get to join via a google video call. It’s taken some time to adjust to our new reality but we’re making it work.” She added “We really miss everyone stopping in on the way home on Fridays and catching up, we used to do a Friday sampling in the shop and we’d know where we were during the day because it was time for Matt to stop in, then Tom & Rob, and then Colleen, etc. We haven’t had that in awhile and we miss it, but we know we’ll get back there someday.”

For Christmas , Melissa recommends, “For me, what I like to enjoy tends to change with the season. As the weather turns colder and the nights get longer, I love to enjoy more full-bodied red wines. In my family, wines from the Veneto in Italy always mean Christmas; wines like Amarone. They are full bodied, and made using a method where they dry the fruit after it’s been harvested and before pressing, this concentrates the flavor of the wine. They go great with Christmas dinner because they have fantastic spice notes like clove, black cherry, brown sugar, and fig. They’re something I look forward to every Christmas!” If you are looking for something to ring in the New Year, she stated “This year, I’ve had my eye on a bottle of JL Vergnon Conversation Brut. It’s a fantastic wine and while we drink our share of sparkling wine, drinking Champagne is always that bit more special.”

If you aren’t sure what to get that wine connoisseur in your life, you can never go wrong with a gift card. Melissa concluded with,

You have a choice of where to shop and keeping your business local really has a direct impact on your community. This year, we’ve been thankful for all the support and the Shop 716 program was a bright spot. Now more than ever it’s important to to support one another in our community. And Go Bills

500 Seneca Street, Buffalo, NY 14202
Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am-7pm, Sat: 11am-6pm, Sun: Closed
Website | Facebook | Instagram


This season we challenge WNY to shop and dine local, and help preserve all the businesses that make Erie County and WNY a unique and diverse place to live. While shopping, feel free to snap a photo of the shop, location, products, or yourself and use the tags, #shop716challenge | #dine716challenge

The Erie County Business Task Force recently launched the Shop716 card, an electronic gift card which can be used at any participating store or restaurant. To purchase an egift card and to check out participating locations, visit their website.


🚨ENTER TO WIN🚨 a $100 Shop 716 Gift Card

1. Follow @visitbuffaloniagara, @amherstchamberofcommerce, @eriecountyny, and @_buffalorising
2. Tag 🔖 @ two (2) friends below who you think ought to know about the Shop 716 program.
The giveaway starts now and ends on Wednesday, December 23 at  Noon EST. The winner 🏆 will be notified on Instagram by direct message and have 24 hours to accept the prize by email. #shop716challenge | #dine716challenge

The gift card must be redeemed by 12/30/2020.

Written by Charles Skowronski
Photography by Devin Chavanne and Vincent Berbano
Produced by George Johnson
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