Buffalo, for the score… and the win!
That’s exactly how I felt upon walking into Braymiller Market, which opened at noon on Wednesday. It was owner/operator Stuart Green who offered to show me around the impressive market, starting with the upstairs dining area (set up for an employee seminar during my visit).
It was easy to see that Green was not fooling around with his market, or skimping any corners. He pointed out all of the custom woodwork that supermarkets would have skimped on. Green mentioned that not only was all of the wood sourced locally, the artisan that handcrafted all of it – Chip Spitler – was also local.
From the live edge staircase to the pine timbers (with wood pegs), the cherry floor, and the sycamore slab tables and counters, Green noted that the market is different than anything else customers will find in WNY.
The attention to detail transcends every aspect of the market. Green made sure that he supported local artisans, while at the same time aligned with local small businesses. Over and over, aisle by aisle, he pointed at products, as he talked about the quality of the food and his relationship with the makers. Whether it’s their famed rotisserie salad, the kettle corn, the case filled with Schneider’s Seafood and JHDodman cuts of meat, Gondola pasta, Perry’s ice cream, Keeping Traditions pierogi, Elmhurst plant-based milk, Sahlen’s hot dogs, Bison chip dip (the list goes on and on), Green’s commitment to keeping money flowing in the WNY economy is impressive.
“We treat them fairly, and in return we expect that they will do the same with us,” explained Green. “When I ask a wholesaler to give us the same prices as the bigger guys, some of them say they can’t. So I tell them to come back when they can. I’m not going to pass along more expensive goods to my customers, while I know that that money is helping the wholesaler to offset the prices that they are losing at bigger markets. It’s all about being fair. In the end, we treat the wholesalers with respect. We take pride in featuring their products and their labels. Eventually they realize that and want to work with us. 78% of our products are sourced regionally at the moment. We’re 75% stocked – we’re filling the shelves throughout the day, starting with the baked breads in the morning. Customers will actually see people working as they are shopping, because they won’t be working the typical overnight shifts – it’s important to get the products onto the shelves as they are made. There’s nothing better than smelling the bread as it’s being baked and rolled out onto the floor.”
Another way that Green can keep the prices down is by offering wholesale products to local restaurants. That will be a huge part of the formula. In order to do that, a significant section of the building is dedicated to a series of walk-in coolers, refrigerators, and freezers. It’s something that supermarkets can’t do – it means that the produce, meats, cheese, etc., will stay as fresh as humanly possible, whether it’s for a restaurant or someone shopping in the market. It’s a huge advantage actually – the produce can be stored in the 55 degree walk-in warehouse, while other products can be stored in the 37 degree walk-in fridge, or the minus-11 degree walk-in freezer.
Aside from the local artisans and products, Green is happy to say that 81% of his employees live in the city of Buffalo. It’s a commitment that he made to Mayor Brown early on.
“Everyone wants to work here,” said Green. “We have had 270 applicants. We are creating a nice and welcoming work environment for employees who are taking pride in the market. We try to be as sustainable as possible too. The stain used for the wood is not derived from chemicals… and we are a zero landfill business. We recycle, compost (with Farmer Pirates), and store waste oil for pickup by Buffalo Biodiesel.
“All of our departments work together to make sure that everything is used, so that nothing goes to waste. Everything that we are doing here is to create an environment that is healthy for the workers, the planet, the small businesses… we do this because we can – it’s what makes us different. Customers notice this, which is why they will want to shop here and support us.”
Honestly, I don’t think that Braymillers is going to have a problem mustering support. The market is a breath of fresh air in Downtown Buffalo. Being in the business for so long, Green was able to design “the optimal market.” He took a look at other markets around the world to glean valuable takeaways.
It’s plain to see – the place is gorgeous, with nice wide isles, super organizes shelves and cases, non-abrasive LED lighting, sensational organic wood design accents, and some of the freshest produce around. Not to mention the prepared items that are perfect for taking back to the office, or back home.
Then there are the soups, the gourmet sandwiches, the subs, the salads, the pitas, deli salads, deli meats, and the pizzas. As we toured the impressive kitchen, Green asked one of the employees to whip up a pizza. Incredibly, it took just two minutes to cook to perfection, thanks to the dual-stacked TurboChef oven. The cooking gadgets in the kitchen are beyond impressive.
As for the in-house dining aspect at Braymiller, there is seating for 36 customers upstairs and 12 customers downstairs. Green believes that the eat-in business will be brisk. He’s planning on selling a lot of custom made gourmet sandwiches and subs. He’s also banking on preparing 600 rotisserie chickens a week.
The two soft serve custard machines are still being set up, but once they are, Green feels that they will be a big hit during the warmer months. To that end, there are two service windows, so that customers can be served right out on the sidewalk. A series of garage doors will be opened on select days, when there are festivals or pop-up markets outside. Otherwise, the doors will be kept closed to keep the air conditioning at a comfortable level.
During the tour, we bumped into Paul Ciminelli (Ciminelli Real Estate), the developer of the project that includes 201 Ellicott (next door). Ciminelli said that the only way that the market project would have worked was to get someone who was local to commit to the undertaking. Ciminelli had been traveling the country studying various successful markets, and when he and Green first came together to discuss the opportunity, he knew right away that it was the perfect fit. A lot of naysayers have spouted off about how a market of this nature would not work in downtown Buffalo. I feel that Braymiller will be a huge success story that will set the tone for what we can do within the city’s core. Not to mention the entire mobility hub concept that is being baked into the development.
This Braymiller location is also ‘mother-in-law approved.’
“I’m a longtime Braymiller fan, often driving from the city to Hamburg to shop for fresh, local food and other seasonal items,” said Linda Schineller, my mother-in-law who accompanied me on my tour. “The new city location will allow me to enjoy that ‘country’ experience in the city on a more frequent basis. The beautifully designed building adds a welcome dimension to downtown life. An authentic market, rather than a supermarket, it tantalizes with an assortment of affordable choices — from produce to poultry, prepared foods and much more, while its sights and smells fill the senses. Whether shopping for the week or for a lunch hour, this urban market is warm and welcoming and sure to keep us coming back for an earthy and unpretentious shopping experience.”
Ciminelli, ARC Building Partners, Cannon Design, Green, the Braymiller team, and all of the rest of the design, development, and operational partners have done a splendid job with this fresh Buffalo offering. But don’t take my word for it. Go see for yourself – I think that everyone is going to be blown away by what they come across. This is a huge win for Buffalo – a real gamechanger.
“It’s a big city feel with a little Braymiller inside,” Green and Ciminelli agreed.
And so do I.
Thankfully everyone involved took a chance on Buffalo – a decision that is bound to pay off as the rest of the city continues to grow around this “little market that could.”
Braymiller Market | Open Daily, Convenient Hours 7 am – 8 pm