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Expats to Repats: Russos adapting to Kansas City

The two-day drive from Buffalo to Kansas City with a four-month old and a 4-year-old is, by any definition, a challenging trip.  But a job in radio programming lured Joe Russo to America’s heartland, so last fall, the young family loaded up the car and set out on the 18-hour trek.

Joe, who worked locally at Jack-FM, grew up in West Seneca, while his wife, Alison — a former producer at Channel 4 — was raised in Boston, N.Y.  Both consider themselves fortunate to have begun their media careers in Buffalo.

After switching into a national consulting job, Joe sought a return to programming, but found no opportunities in his hometown.  He was offered a job in Kansas City, where he began work last August.  His wife and their two kids, Sammy, 4, and Claire, now 10 months, stayed in Western New York until October.

“I had to take care of getting our house sold, and Claire had a 4-month doctor’s appointment in October,” Alison said.  “I wanted to stay for that so I didn’t have to worry about finding a new doctor right away.  For myself I also wanted to stay through September, because that’s sponge candy season.”

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Names: Joe and Alison Russo
Ages: Joe, 45; Alison, 33.
Current location: Overland Park, Kansas (suburb of Kansas City)
Previous location: West Seneca
Miss about Buffalo: Family; friends; winter weather.
Love about Kansas City: Barbecue and Mexican food; something to do all the time.

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After leaving Channel 4 to raise a family, Alison began doing public relations and marketing from home.  One of her clients was Park Edge Sweet Shoppe, and she looked forward to kicking off their annual sales.

Having lived in Buffalo all their lives, the Russos have deep ties to Western New York, so moving has been hard.  Family and friends have been left behind.  They knew almost no one in Missouri, but vowed to make the best of it.

“I always hated when people relocated to Buffalo and said they don’t like it here and want to move back,” Alison said.  “I wasn’t going to be that person.  We want to embrace the city we live in.”

Each weekend they make a point to experience something new in Kansas City, whether searching for a restaurant or participating in a festival.

The Russos check out the Midwest Balloon Festival in their new home.

The Russos check out the Midwest Balloon Festival in their new home.

“During summer in Buffalo, there’s always something going on,” Alison said.  “it’s like that in Kansas City all the time.  We went to a Renaissance Festival and the Great Midwest Balloon Fest.  I’ve never seen hot air balloons up close.”

Having lived in Missouri for six months, they have made friends with neighbors and people through Joe’s work, but the adjustment has been slow.

“Secretly, I don’t want to get too attached,” Alison said.  She even remains loyal to her hair stylist in Buffalo, scheduling an appointment whenever she visits home.

Alison stayed with family in Buffalo for two weeks and Christmas, another two weeks at Easter, and expects to spend much of July in New York to avoid the heartland humidity.

“It’s been devastating to not ski or snowboard,” said Alison, a former Buffalo Ski Club freestyle coach.  “I love the cold and get excited when it snows.  I had hoped to ski when I came back at Christmas, but there wasn’t enough snow.”

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Joe and Allison Russo make frequent trips back to Western New York to visit family.

While he misses home, Joe is pleased to find himself back in radio programming.
“My first focus is to do my job well,” Joe said.  “I work for a good-sized company and in the future there may be opportunities in other parts of the country.  Work happened to be in Kansas City this time, and I enjoy it here.  While it’s not Buffalo, it shares similarities.  The Midwestern values are very similar to our values, and they have a passion for sports as well.”

The Kansas City Royals won the World Series last fall.  Joe was pleased to see the championship celebration firsthand — something he always hoped to experience with the Sabres or Bills.

“It would kill me if they were to win something when I lived somewhere else,” he said.

The Russos are adapting to Kansas City.  They only wish that it were closer to home.

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If you or anyone you know has a story to tell about moving back or to Buffalo, or about moving away, email  JeffSchober@hotmail.com

Jeff Schober is the author of Bike Path Rapist, Growing Up Gronk, and several works of fiction.  Visit his website at www.jeffschober.com.

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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated Overland Park was in Missouri.

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