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Celebrating dream come true at WUFO

For a very long time, Sheila L. Brown had a dream of owning a radio station.

But not just any station.

She wanted 1080 WUFO-AM, the LaSalle Avenue station where she started working as an account executive when she was 21 and worked her way up to general manager in 2008.

Friday, Brown celebrated as the new owner at the grand opening of WUFO’s new location at 143 Broadway near the Colored Musicians Club, the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“We have a vision for our new home,” Brown said during Friday’s ceremony.

She was joined by Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, a co-owner in the business venture.

Pridgen also has been a minister for the past 19 years at True Bethel Baptist Church, one of Buffalo’s largest churches.

He won a special election to the Common Council in 2010 and has been representing the Ellicott District ever since.

And in 2004, his East Side church became one of the first in the nation to operate a Subway franchise in part of its building.

Even with his busy schedule, he was interested when Brown approached him with the idea of jointly buying WUFO.

They worked on the deal for eight or nine months and created a new company called Vision Multi Media Group to run it.

“This is very important for the Michigan Street Heritage Corridor, as important for the medical corridor, Canalside and the revitalization efforts at the waterfront because it shows that Buffalo is open for all people,” said Pridgen, who has a talk show that airs at noon Fridays on WUFO.

It was WUFO’s rich historical legacy and the great names that came through its doors that inspired 49-year-old Brown to start thinking about purchasing the radio station.

WUFO began serving Buffalo’s African-American community in the early 1960s and had been in the one-story cinder block building at 89 LaSalle Ave. for 46 years.

The station started as part of a small chain catering to black audiences. It first went on the air at a time when the only other outlets for the black community were the weekly newspapers the Challenger and the Criterion, Brown said.

The WUFO call letters were chosen to rhyme with Buffalo.

In November 1962, the station began officially broadcasting with Disc Jockey Eddie O’Jay, from whom the famous rhythm and blues group the O’Jays got their name.

Another famous person who began at WUFO is Frankie Crocker, a well-known New York disc jockey who also was a host of shows at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and was one of the first video jockeys on VH1 music video channel.

The station was sold in 1973 to the Pittsburgh-based Sheridan Broadcast Corp.

Brown began working at WUFO in 1986, left for a while and then returned in 2006. She has been through all the name changes – from Pacesetter to Flight 1080 to Magic 1080 and Unity in the Community to the Spirit of Western New York.

WUFO will continue to play R&B and gospel music, plus airing locally based talk shows.

Its signal towers will continue to operate from a lot near the LaSalle Avenue location as the studio and towers no longer have to be near each other.

In addition to the radio station, Brown plans to add a print publication and television production at the new Broadway location as well as a coffee shop and a gift shop to promote the City of Buffalo.