If you’ve been to the Winter Market at Horsefeathers, on the West Side, you could argue that creator Karl Frizlen borrowed the concept from Eataly, Mario Batali’s wildly popular culinary project in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, but its roots go much deeper.
“I used to go with my dad to a farmers’ market every Saturday morning,” Frizlen said. “It was our trip in the village where I grew up, north of Stuttgart. Intuitively, I thought there was something missing here in Buffalo, and I thought it needed to be brought to this community.”
Frizlen, 63, trained in his native Germany as an architect, came to America in 1977 on a tourist visa and didn’t want to leave. He worked in Texas for a decade before moving to Buffalo in 1988 to help develop Country Club Manor, a multifamily housing project in Amherst.
As often happens with Buffalo visitors-turned-transplants, he met a local girl and fell in love. Karl and Judith Frizlen married in 1991, moved into the Elmwood Village, and have helped transform their neighborhood. He designed several projects along Elmwood Avenue, including the conversion of a shuttered KFC into the Coffee Culture building in the 400 block and USA Realty in the 500 block. Both are mixed-use projects, with apartments on the upper floors.
Horsefeathers Market & Residences, at Connecticut Street and Normal Avenue, is his first foray on the West Side. The five-story building includes 24 apartments on the top four floors. The first floor and basement are set aside for retail.
Frizlen – who helped forge the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market in 1999, and still is active in its operation – wanted to introduce a winter farm market at Horsefeathers after his recently completed $3.8 million renovation. “The concept is, keep everything local here,” he said. “Local production, local harvesting. Everything is totally transparent. We want everyone coming in here to see how things are being made.”
The basement is divided into “microstalls,” where about 20 farm-related vendors ply their trades from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m. Saturdays. “We’re still looking for a bakery, but we’re going to get one in January,” he said during an interview earlier this month at Martin Cooks, the airy restaurant just inside the front entrance.
Talk about the building and its architectural concept.
We call this a food-makers’ market: We have five tenants: Martin Cooks, Take/Martin Cooks/Home, Blackbird Sweets, the Pasta Peddlar, Jolie’s Chinese. Chow’s Chocolates will move in the basement. That’s speciality Belgian chocolate and ice cream. On Saturdays, we pretty much have everything you would expect in a farmers’ market.
How did the two farm markets get started?
I was a member of Forever Elmwood in 1999 – today, it’s called the Elmwood Village Association – and in an Economic Development Committee Meeting, the suggestion was made to have a farmers’ market in the village to support Elmwood retailers. I jumped on that idea. I talked to farmers, contacted them to see if they’d be interested. That same year, we started the Elmwood-Bidwell market with six farmers. They’re all still with us today. There’s a certain formula that we have. We want to keep it strictly a farmers’ market, not what one of the farmers calls “a circus.” We want to make sure we have the right products, all local. We do farm visits. They have to fill out a crop plan at the beginning, what they’re going to cultivate, and we go out and check.
The winter market was designed so people can buy from the farmer and not have to go to Wegmans for six months of the year. For the community, it’s very important they know who’s growing the product and to have their questions answered by the people who grow those products. The concern is pesticides; is it local, is it genetically modified?
You started the Winter Market at Horsefeathers last year?
Then, the building was still under construction. Every Friday night, we cleared the floor of construction debris and made way for the market on Saturday morning. It’s changed quite a bit. Last year, they were freezing their butts off. This year, we have heat.
Where do your customers from the farmers’ market come from?
We’re getting a fair share of people from the suburbs, but I would say most customers are from the Elmwood Village and about 10 percent from the neighborhood. We want to improve on that. We want to bring the food stamp program in here so that the neighborhood folks can buy more product.
What about the farmers. Where to they come from?
Seven counties in Western New York. Most come from Niagara County and southern Erie County. I would say probably 60 (percent) to 70 percent are from the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market.
What are the three products you buy most from your own winter market?
Chicken, eggs and greens. I like kale. I like arugula.
You say your dad, 96 when he died in 2009, and your mom, who died in 2003, visited Buffalo.
They liked it. I showed them a lot. Of course, Niagara Falls. That’s the first thing on the agenda for anybody coming from Europe. They saw the emerging waterfront and the Elmwood Village, of course.
On the Web: Read Karl Frizlen’s take on Buffalo revitalization at blogs.buffalonews.com/refresh