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Expats to Repats: Lured away by nicer weather, lured back by Buffalo's renaissance

By the 1990s, Cindy Hebert was tired of Buffalo, eager to uproot for someplace warmer. In her mid-20s, she had met her husband in New York while he served in the Coast Guard, and they agreed that Florida would be a better place to make their home.

“I was young and thought the grass was greener somewhere else,” Hebert said with a laugh. “Part of me always wanted to get out of here.”

So the couple moved to Palm Harbor, on the Gulf Coast, then emigrated north to New Port Richey. Hebert worked in accounts payable at a software distributor, but she soon realized her dreams of sunshine did not align with reality.

“I didn’t like it once I got there,” she said. “It was too hot.”

Alyssa, left, and Gabrielle Hebert atop a rock formation in North Carolina.

Alyssa, left, and Gabrielle Hebert atop a rock formation in North Carolina.

Florida wasn’t right for her or her husband, who wanted to be closer to the NASCAR circuit. So in 2000, they moved to Concord, N.C., then Kannapolis, near Charlotte.  During the next several years, she worked for a construction company, got divorced and, eventually, remarried.

Missing her parents and siblings provided a lure back to her hometown.

“It was hard for me to fit in down south,” Hebert said. “I was having a difficult time in my marriage, and I missed a sense of community and belonging that I had with my family and friends from home.”


Name: Cindy Hebert, 48
Current location: Blasdell
Previous location: Florida for five years; North Carolina for 14 years
Family: Two daughters: Alyssa, 18, and Gabrielle, 13
Miss about North Carolina: Nice weather, great scenery
Love about Buffalo: Recent development; Family cabin at Kinzua Lake



It hadn’t always been that way. Decades ago, Buffalo felt run down. Once she left Western New York, depression set in anytime she came home to visit.  Too much was wrong with the region. But while she was gone, Hebert’s mother mailed her news clippings of updates, construction and positive changes happening here.

After studying to become a massage therapist, in summer 2014, Hebert and her two daughters moved back to Blasdell. Alyssa, 18, graduated from high school in June. Gabrielle, 13, will be an eighth-grader in the fall.

The move north wasn’t a complete culture shock for the girls. They regularly visited family in Western New York with their mother during summers, so they knew their way around, but no one was ready for the massive snowfall that paralyzed the Southtowns in November 2014.

Waterfront“In North Carolina, a little frost on the ground means no school,” Alyssa said. “If we got snow, it was an inch or two.  That storm was my first taste of a Buffalo winter. Snow piled taller than us, and we couldn’t leave the house for a week.”

While living in North Carolina, Gabrielle used to phone her grandmother to say how lucky Buffalo was to experience snowy winters. She quickly changed her mind after seven feet accumulated in a few days.

“Both girls wondered if it was too late to go back,” Cindy said.

The girls settled in and adjusted to school. They learned how different it is living in the north. Water here has a different texture, Alyssa says. Lawns are greener thanks to soil composition. And the pizza really does have a better crust.

Cindy’s family owns land along Kinzua Lake. She is grateful for a tranquil place to rest and regroup, ride a four-wheeler and relax with loved ones. Being reunited with her extended family, Cindy appreciates Western New York now in a way she never could when she was younger.

“I didn’t have respect for the city,” she said. “Once I moved back, I was driving along Route 5 and I realized it was so cool to live right next to the lake. The waterfront is beautiful. It’s encouraging to be here with the change and growth happening around us. You never know what might happen, but I have no plans to leave again.”

If you or anyone you know has a story to tell about moving back or to Buffalo, or about moving away, email
Jeff Schober is the author of Bike Path Rapist, Growing Up Gronk and several works of fiction. His newest crime novel, "Faces and Fingertips," was released June 7. Visit his website at


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