A few years ago I heard about a supermarket that had opened on the West Coast that was practicing as close to a “zero waste” policy as possible. I was immediately enthralled by the idea of supporting a business like that, but there was nothing similar in WNY… until now.
No, it’s not a supermarket, but a shop has opened on Lexington Avenue that is a great start. It’s called Little Salmon, and it’s owned by Tracey Wei and Mike Mahoney who are partners in business and partners in life. The two recently moved to Buffalo from NYC. After spending more time visiting Mike’s parents in Buffalo during the pandemic (with their two kids in tow), the two came to the realization that Buffalo was a lot more relaxing, stress free, and affordable.
“The pandemic changed our perspective on a lot of things,” Mike told me.
Tracey agreed, by saying, “It’s hard to save money in NYC.
“Buffalo has changed a lot since I last lived here,” Mike added.
As the two began to ponder the the idea of relocating to Buffalo, to start afresh, they began tossing around ideas for a business. Mike knew that he could keep his job and work remotely, but the two had a hankering for doing something in Buffalo too.
“We decided that it would be best to adopt our lifestyle concept – to open a store based on our beliefs and practices,” said Mike. “We found this incredible location, and we’ve also bought our first house ever – a mile from the store.”
Mike told me that while he was holding the work fort down, Tracey began to research the products. “She’s the mastermind of sourcing,” he said [laughing].
“The products revolve around three basic principles,” Tracy explained. “Raw sustainability of the raw materials, fair labor practices, and how the companies design the waste out of the system.”
“If they checked most of the boxes, or showed that they were working on making better products and packaging, then they made the list,” said Mike. ” A lot of them did not make the cut.”
I asked both Tracey and Mike what their favorite two products were.
“The dental floss,” answered Tracey. “There’s a silk version and a bamboo version. Typically, dental floss is very harmful to the environment. Then there are the soaps from Milk & Honey in East Aurora – locally sourced, farm-to-skin. I also like the shower melts from Blue Basil Earth (based in Buffalo), which a customer mentioned that we should carry. We try to source our products as close to home as possible, to alleviate the carbon footprint.”
“I like the beeswax wraps (for storing food, over plastic wrap),” said Mike. I also like the reusable razors (which are sharp looking too). Customers can send their used blades back to the company and they will take the metal and convert them into ‘Take Back Ware,’ which is pretty incredible.”
Tracey and Mike are really into the closed loop, full circle way of life. From their upcycled displays to their refill stations featuring eco-minded shampoo, body wash, lotion, cleaning products, laundry detergent dish soap etc., they want to share everything that they have learned about ways to take better care of ourselves and our planet.
“The refill station – The refillery – has been so popular that we are already expanding that department,” said Mike. “We’re the first one in Buffalo to do this – we started off testing the market at some pop-ups, and the response was amazing. Customers can bring in their own canisters, or buy them here. We also have a program where people can donate containers for other people to use.”
Tracey and Mike told me the name “Little Salmon” represents swimming upstream against the current – against mainstream consumption. The salmon swim upstream to spawn, which is where they eventually die, before their bodies are returned to the waters, and thus back (in nutrient form) to the beginning of the stream… full circle. Unfortunately, humans are so far removed from this natural path of life, that we can’t see the forests through the trees. And now the earth’s forests are in trouble, and so ar the songbirds… and the salmon. That’s why Tracey and Mike are making a stand, and they want us to join them.”
Stop in to Little Salmon and pick up some sundries, such as toilet paper, reusable napkins, metal straws, reusable bags, compostable dish and veggie brushes, and/or wool dryer balls.
It’s so nice to see a business of this nature open up in Buffalo. Tracey and Mike have the focus, the drive, the direction, and they are implementing all of it, which is the best part. And it looks like Buffalo is onboard with the program. “Buffalo is ready for this,” they told me.
The planet is ready for this.