Media Follies
Blue Dog PressJune 14th, 2001
By Michael I. Niman


Food Follies
No More Baloney

Charlie the Butcher pulled his lunch stand out of the Broadway Market.  This really isn’t big news.  The Market is a small business incubator.  They come and they go.  For the local electronic media, however, this is one more piece of evidence that the market, and hence the Broadway Fillmore business district, is in crisis.  Charlie the Butcher, a local institution, has fled the east side, pushing one more nail into the Market’s coffin.

The real and unreported story, however, is that Ashanti’s Steak House quickly snapped up Charlie’s vacant booth.  The Market is hot.  Charlie’s booth was only vacant for days before a successful restaurateur moved to take over the failed Butcher’s space.  Charlie the Butcher didn’t fail because of his Broadway Market location, he failed because his menu failed to grow to accommodate the expanding palette of a dynamic urban community.  Fried baloney sandwiches were a big part of Charlie’s small menu.  Beef and sausage sandwiches, such as Charlie’s, are available all over the east side.  Charlie’s people often closed up shop before 4 PM.  Put frankly, the failure of this stand is Charlie’s problem, not the Market’s problem.  Ashanti’s will probably thrive, despite continued media reports of a failing market.

Ashanti’s quick takeover of Charlie the Butcher’s former space in the Broadway Market stands in sharp contrast with the case of Elmwood Avenue’s Delphia’s Bistro.  The former Bistro, in the heart of Buffalo’s much-celebrated Elmwood Strip, has sat empty for a year.  Still, the local media celebrates the Elmwood business area while denigrating the Broadway Fillmore business area, where low business overheads offer unique opportunities to innovative (read: fried baloney sandwiches don’t cut it in 2001) small entrepreneurs.

Grant Street’s Millionaires 

Before buying into the mediated notion of a doomed inner-city riddled with failed and failing businesses, people need to look towards the Grant Street business district’s La Nova Pizzeria.  Like the Broadway Fillmore community, the Grant Ferry business district is also a regular victim of the electronic media’s wrath.  So developed is the climate of fear surrounding Grant Street, that the City of Buffalo installed Big Brotheresque spy cams on area streetlights, monitoring and recording people’s activities as they move about the area.  Despite such negative hype, La Nova Pizzeria, operating out of a former gas station, has grown to become, according to Pizza Marketing Quarterly, America’s busiest and most successful pizzeria, grossing between $5 and $6million per year at their West Ferry Street location.  So much for failed inner-city restaurants.  No suburban pizzeria can match these numbers. 

 Danny Ocean’s, on the other hand, arguably one of the best quality restaurants ever to grace the Buffalo area, failed at their Transit Road location.  Danny Ocean’s, despite a solid and growing customer base, could not keep up with their high suburban overhead.  The same family runs a successful restaurant, Billy Ogden’s, in Buffalo’s East Side Lovejoy neighborhood.  With the same quality of food, and a lower overhead, Billy Ogden’s is thriving at their urban location.  The same media outlets that were so quick to jump on Charlie the Butcher’s failure as an indicator of a failing East Side business district, were mum about suburban overhead, isolation and sterile architecture (there’s something daunting about spending your Saturday night out at a strip mall) spelling doom for Danny Ocean’s.  The perpetual media trashing of the inner city that goes on in the Buffalo media is nothing more than bigotry based on bias and ignorance.  It needs to stop.

 Bar-B-Que Stories 

 Last week one of Western New York’s weekly free distribution papers ran a feature story about area Bar-B-Que restaurants.  The author spotlighted eateries in Lancaster, Lockport, Depew and Clarence.  I’ve sampled some of this fare and still stand behind my assertion that the area’s best hardwood kettle smoked Bar-B-Que is found, not in Lockport and the outer-ring suburbs, but right in the heart of Buffalo’s inner city.  Ike and BG’s of Genesee Street, for example, doesn’t just smoke their suburban competition, they also hold their own against Syracuse’s famous Boom Boom and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurants.  The article does more than ignore inner-city restaurants.  By ignoring all Buffalo based Bar-B-Que houses, despite what is arguably their superior quality, it effectively redlines Buffalo’s inner-city business districts.

 The cold hard truth in Western New York is that black people shop at white-owned businesses, while white people rarely patronizing black-owned businesses.  Black folks from Buffalo often drive out to the suburbs, for example, to take in movies and shop at the Galleria and Boulevard Malls.  White folks from the suburbs and Buffalo neighborhoods such as the Delaware District and North and South Buffalo seldom ever patronize black-owned city businesses.  The end result is a capital drain on an already economically impacted community.

 Ignorant White Folks

 As long as black folks are bombarded with ads from the mainstream media luring them out to suburban stores for branded products, while black-owned inner-city businesses remain virtually invisible to middle-class white consumers, this lopsided imbalance of trade will continue.  Put frankly, most white consumers are ignorant about the host of restaurants, shops and services available at black-owned inner-city businesses.  They’re ignorant because, with the exception of an occasional piece about GiGi’s Restaurant, the mainstream media in Buffalo does not educate its audience about inner-city shopping, cultural and entertainment opportunities.  While inner city Buffalo remains fodder for an endless gaggle of fear-mongering “news” bites and propaganda about failing businesses, its jewels remain hidden and ignored.  Stories such as the aforementioned Bar-B-Que piece that ignore inner-city businesses, and the Broadway Market pieces that promote negative stereotypes through the dissemination of misinformation, perpetuate a culture of ignorance and fear.  Moreover, they are nurturing an economic holocaust that threatens the very heart of our metropolitan community.


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