Just a few short years ago, Chad Hornberger was jamming on the guitar and rocking out with his band, Crashfuse. But in early 2016, he traded in his vintage tees and worn jeans for a suit and tie, and moved to New York City to become a graphic artist for the Disney Theatrical Group. Hornberger, 25, spends his days designing branding materials and show kits at the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, where "Aladdin," the musical, is now playing.
"I've been involved with music and art all of my life," he said. "And for a while I was able to do both. I designed all the promotional materials for our band, including fliers and album covers. But eventually, I knew one was going to have to give."
Hornberger didn't want to leave Buffalo, he says. It wasn't part of his plan. The former Buffalo State grad and Derby native had originally hoped to find a graphic design job in his hometown. His girlfriend, Alisha Flowers, was here, too. She was just getting started teaching after graduating from St. Bonaventure University with a master's degree in education, when Hornberger decided to apply for the Disney job in late 2015.
"I was working in various marketing and design studios in the area but things started to slow down," he explained. "I saw that a few friends were interning with Disney and wondered if they were hiring any graphic designers. So, I went on the site and applied. I didn’t think I’d get the job but they called me back."
The Disney Theatrical Group asked Hornberger to come to New York City for an interview. He sat down with Flowers and shared the news.
"He told me that if he got the job, he'd have to move," she said. "And I told him that I'd support him 100 percent and if we have to move to New York, we’d figure it out."
Disney offered Hornberger the job. And he moved, just three weeks later, to Manhattan. He rented a sublet apartment with two other roommates, on the sixth floor (with no elevator). Hornberger stuck it out for four months until Flowers was able to move, too. She had visited after the New Year and set up a couple of interviews for teaching positions. After being offered both, she chose a long-term sub position and made the move. They found an apartment in Queens that fit and have been there ever since.
"It's a shoebox," Hornberger laughed. "But it's a nice shoebox. We like the area, we like the people. Queens is very diverse. There's always something to do and the food is eclectic."
Flowers, now a full-time kindergarten teacher, added another caveat. "Personally, I love celebrities. So, I love that I can just swing by 'Good Morning America' and the MTV Video Music Awards 'white' carpet to people watch. I get to see all those crazy things I used to watch on TV with my own eyes. I actually just went to 'Good Morning America' [the other day] and saw Hugh Jackman."
Names: Chad Hornberger, Alisha Flowers
Ages: 25, 26
Current location: Queens, New York City
Previous locations: Derby, Hamburg
Loves most about New York City: The diversity and celebrity sightings
Misses most about Buffalo: Family and pizza
Of course, with every new place there's going to be things that take some getting used to.
"Pizza," Flowers declared. "I know everyone raves about New York pizza but it's not the same. And I miss my family a lot. I've already been back home at least once a month since I moved here."
"New York is also really expensive," Hornberger added. "And it's a tough city. Everyone is hustling to get to where they are going. It took me a little bit to adjust."
Overall, Hornberger and Flowers say they are enjoying the experience. They've lived in Buffalo all of their lives, and there's something exciting about being in a new place – especially New York City. Hornberger also hopes to catch some concerts while he's there and take advantage of the bustling music scene. And there's always McFadden's, the Bills backer bar that plays the "Shout" song and serves up hot wings.
"I don’t think we see ourselves staying here for a long time," he said. "Right now, we’re going to see what happens here and enjoy it as much as we can. There’s no timeline for that. But honestly, no matter where we end up, Buffalo will always be with us. And we know we’ll find our way back there eventually."
If you or anyone you know has a story to tell about moving back or to Buffalo, or about moving away, email LynsD21@gmail.com.