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2021 Holiday Shopping Guide | Old First Ward

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The 2021 Holiday Shopping 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 2021 guide will explore all the unique shopping districts that Erie County has to offer. To view this year’s full holiday shopping guide, click here!

One of Buffalo’s oldest neighborhoods has become one of its hippest neighborhoods. Built close to the Buffalo River and the dockside jobs it once promised, the Old First Ward has been reinvigorated in recent years by kayak launch sites, new breweries, a cool coffee shop, seasonal pop-up dining, a rowing club, bike paths and a climbing gym. Despite this infusion of entrepreneurial activity, the Ward remains true to its blue-collar roots and home to some of the city’s oldest corner taverns where you can always find a cold one and friendly conversation.


Tim and Morgan Stevens share a passion for great drinks, food and company. They wanted to share this love with the community and put it into their cocktail pub called Ballyhoo. After altering and upgrading the old Malamute, they opened in 2014. To walk inside Ballyhoo is to immediately feel welcome and comfortable, whether you know the owners or not. From the interesting choices in lighting to the prohibition-era style décor, Ballyhoo is somehow refreshing in a “it’s been around for a long time” kind of way. There are no beer signs or other breweriana hanging on the walls to hype the place up with gobs of memorabilia. Instead the focus is on the booze.

If you ask Tim about any of his family of liquor bottles, he will not just tell you what’s on the surface, he will delve into the history of a particular liquor – and how the modern day selection came to be. He’ll tell you all of this, as if he was talking about a son or a daughter. I have never met anyone as passionate or as knowledgeable as this guy when it comes to liquor. He lives the industry – it’s in his veins, literally and figuratively. And it shows at Ballyhoo. From the Japanese whiskeys to jam drinks, there is a new world of tastes and flavors waiting for you, right down to the exotic cherries that taste like sumptuous candy (you must try!). “Jam drinks might sound trendy,” Tim told me. “But they have been around as long as berries have been growing and alcohol has been distilled. It’s all about respecting the product. We’re here to introduce customers to the taste of the liquor, not to [bastardize] it.”

Ballyhoo also has a delicious menu. There’s a medley of sausage hoagies, like nothing you’ve ever eaten. The “Short Round” (Korean short rib, kimchi, sambal, pickled veggies) is to die for. The sausage melts in your mouth. The chips get gobbled up. The side of flavorful pasta adds a perfect fulfilling balance to the meal. Tim’s mom is even in on the action – she makes Nancy’s Ice Cream Sandwich! Whether you’re looking to stop to grab a bite to eat or need a cocktail after a long day, we highly recommend a visit to Ballyhoo!

211 South Park Ave., Buffalo, NY 14204 | 716-240-9901
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Mazurek’s Bakery

Mazurek’s Bakery has been a First Ward institution in Buffalo, NY since 1933, operating as a full line bakery with an emphasis on Polish style rye bread, pastries, cookies, and decorated cakes. The Bakery was opened in 1933 by the late Frank and Jeanne Mazurek, who bought the building and changed the bakery name from South Side bakery which was established in 1895. South Park Avenue was then known as Elk Street. Their son Jack started working in the bakery during high school and took over the baking operations with his uncle when his father became ill. Years past and Jack met his soon to be wife, Carol, who worked in the storefront. Jack and Carol took ownership of the business in 1992.

Mazurek’s Bakery uses a brick oven with steam boiler that was installed in the ’30s. The steam is used to provide the famous rye bread with a nice firm outside crust while being perfectly soft and moist on the inside of the loaf. Ty Reynolds & Nick Smith bought the bakery in 2012 when the Mazurek’s retired. The original recipes and fresh quality continue to remain the same for over 80 years. Mazurek’s Bakery was sold to a subsidiary of OLV Human Services in June of 2020. OLV runs the bakery much as it has been operated over the years, while implementing a vocational program for students ranging in age from 14 to 21, and adults interested in changing careers, and who have been “misplaced”.

If you are looking for some great baked goods, we recommend a stop to Mazurek’s Bakery. Nothing beats fresh baked goods. Whether you are looking for breads or cakes or something to supplement your holiday dinner, Mazurek’s has you covered.

543 South Park Ave., Buffalo, NY 14204 | 716-853-7833
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Swannie House

Located amidst the city’s hulking grain elevators, stepping into the Swannie is like stepping back into history. If you have never been to the Swannie House, finding it can be a small chore, but that can also be half the fun as well. Part of the charm of the eatery is the drive (or bike) there.

The Swannie House reminds me of the type of restaurant one might expect to find in a Scottish fishing village. The layout is simple… a few tables line one side of the room and a nice wood bar occupies the other side. A variety of beer signs hang from the walls as does a TV set (playing basketball today), a big fish (with a beer in its mouth) and a red-neon Swannie House sign.

The food at the Swannie is your standard pub-style fare. Menu choices range from hamburgers and fries to soup and salad. On this day the soup was fish chowder, so we ordered a couple bowls along with a mushroom burger, grilled cheese, fries and a salad. The portions are fairly large, so bring a healthy appetite with you. Also bring your camera, because the sites down along the Buffalo River are fantastic. If you’re looking for a great bite to eat or a drink after your done with holiday shopping, we recommend stopping into Swannie House!

170 Ohio St., Buffalo, NY 14203 | 716-847-2898

Hartman’s Distilling Co.

Justin is not just Hartman’s co-founder; he is also their master distiller. Justin’s passion for distilling didn’t come from some innate urge to create alcohol or need to perpetuate a family legacy (although it was later discovered Justin’s great-grandfather was a moonshiner in the Black Rock neighborhood of Buffalo). It grew from a collection of moments—from sipping exquisite bourbon with his father and brother to enjoying cocktails and swapping family stories with Hartman’s co-owners Bob and Lisa Hobba. It seemed to him that the better the whiskey or finer the cocktail, the more time people spent together laughing, connecting, and making memories.

In time, Justin took his passion and ran with it. He spent several years traveling the country studying distilling, barreling, aging, and blending. He graduated from Moonshine University’s Distiller’s Course in Louisville, Kentucky—the heart of Bourbon Country—where he learned blending techniques rooted in 18th century French winemaking traditions. He learned the science behind barrel aging and how to produce the smoothest distillate. He also developed his own theory as to why Western New York has a superior climate and conditions for aging spirits, similar to Ireland or Scotland.

That Western New York essence together with Justin’s dedication and authentic passion inform every Hartman’s product. Harman’s Distillery offers up a lot. From a library of bourbons to Saturday and Sunday brunches – the Old First Ward is once again upping its game. Be sure to stop in to experience the full bar, or catch the Bills game… choose from two patios in the summer (garage doors open right up for café style seating), and take in the sights and sounds of one of Buffalo’s most storied neighborhoods.

55 Chicago St., Buffalo, NY 14204 |
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The Barrel Factory

The newly-restored, 115-year old landmark in Buffalo’s historic Old First Ward has become a premiere Western New York destination. At The Barrel Factory, you can sample craft spirits, craft beer, kombucha, and delicious dining selections, all made ONSITE! It’s kind of a “Made-In-Buffalo paradise!”​

Now featuring the Lakeward Spirits craft distillery, plus Pressure Drop Brewing, Buffalo’s Best Cucina restaurant, Snowy Owl Kombucha, Elevator Alley Kayak, and the Lakeward Spirits Event Center!

Visit the Tasting Room of the onsite craft distillery and craft brewery, with a two-level front patio, plus an upstairs terrace. Distillery tours are also offered. Ample private and public parking is available at the site. Handicapped accessible.

65 Vandalia St., Buffalo, NY 14204 | 716-541-1454
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Elevator Alley Kayak

Elevator Alley Kayak specializes in kayak rentals and kayaking tours with trained guides, kayaking lessons, as well as kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddle board and accessory sales. The store also features equipment, snowshoes, Buffalo-themed items, gifts, and more. Its home location & store at The Barrel Factory is just yards from the historic Buffalo River and Mutual Riverfront Park and Kayak Launch.

WNY natives Elizabeth Bragg and Jason Mendola are co-owners of Elevator Alley Kayak. They named the new business in honor of the historic grain elevators along the Buffalo River and harbor area of Lake Erie. This store is the perfect place to pick up a gift for the outdoors person in your life, especially if they love the water. Use your Shop 716 gift card here!

The Barrel Factory, 65 Vandalia St., Buffalo, NY 14204 | 716-997-7925
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Visit Buffalo Niagara

Have you picked up your Shop 716 eGift Card yet? For a limited time, when you buy one for $25 or more, you get an Erie County sponsored bonus $25 eGift Card. Support local and get rewarded for it – buy yours today and view the full list of participating businesses here:

Support your local restaurants, retailers and attractions. Keep your hard earned money, right here where you live. By doing so, you keep your friends and family employed and create more local jobs. Shopping local conserves energy and resources and is better for the environment!

WNY is our home & we can show the #Buffalove we have by shopping and supporting our local businesses. The Shop 716 initiative is to be a champion of all business, supporting the shop/support local themes; to develop business unity and camaraderie to uplift our entire region.

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