It would be easy to think the Parkside Candy Shoppe is no longer open.
The twin, chocolate-colored 1940s-era neon signs above the entrance are rusted and rundown. The two-story brick and stone exterior hasn’t been touched up in decades. Even the displays in the large plate-glass windows seem faded at the corner of Main Street and West Winspear Avenue in University Heights.
But all of that is about to change – dramatically.
Parkside Candy will be restored to its 1927 glory – thanks in part to a matching grant of $125,000 from the Buffalo Billion economic development initiative.
The $230,000 restoration project begins Aug. 15 and is expected to be completed in mid-October.
Crews will restore the enchanting, pistachio green-colored interior, with its small soda fountain, cream-colored dome ceiling, wooden display cases, dark walnut moldings and other ornamental details. Other features include torchiere-style floor lamps with frosted domes and a seating alcove with a curved, upholstered bench.
“That wonderful oval room is one of the great interior spaces in Buffalo,” said Francis Kowsky, an architectural historian who, with Martin Wachadlo, prepared the successful National Register of Historic Places nomination in 2015. “It’s perfect for what it was designed to be, a place to have lunch and ice cream.”
Owner Phillip Buffamonte has high hopes.
“If you’re not familiar with it, there is nothing that’s enticing you to come in,” Buffamonte said. “I think once this project is done, and the store is really brought back to its original grandeur, it will have a big impact on our retail business.” Parkside Candy was started by George and Molly Kaiser, along with Edward Kaiser, in 1917 at 2304 Main St. and Oakwood Avenue in the Parkside neighborhood. The chocolate-making factory, followed by the shop itself, later moved to the current location.
Parkside Chocolate was designed by architect G. Morton Wolfe, based on the Adams Revival style of 18th-century Scottish architect and interior designer Robert Adam.
Current owner Philip Buffamonte and his older brother Ronald bought the business in 1981. The idea to restore the shop crystallized in the summer of 2014, when Buffamonte was surprised by the public’s excitement over the painting of a faded, green-and-yellow sign bearing the company’s name on the chocolate factory building, located behind the candy store.
“It was amazing how all these people were walking by and saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re painting that,’ ” Buffamonte said. “I work in that back building, and I could see people stopping, taking pictures and talking to the painter.”
That led Buffamonte to apply for the Buffalo Billion grant. Getting on the National Register also meant the restoration project was eligible for historic tax credits.
On the exterior, neon signs will be replicated. The brick in front of the building and along West Winspear will be cleaned, repointed, recaulked and repaired. The original paired front wooden doors and ceiling will be refinished. Retractable awnings will be replaced.
A next-door building will also be redone, and two apartments upstairs will get new heating, electrical power and air conditioning, along with updated kitchens and bathrooms.
Inside the shop, a black-and-white tile floor will be installed over the current linoleum, which will be encapsulated because of asbestos. The domed ceiling, repaired and painted a few years ago, will have a section repaired and painted after water damage resulted from poor caulking around a new upstairs skylight.
The green paint and gold leaf will be redone. Candy cases will get new LED light fixtures. The alcove booth will get new cushions. The soda fountain will get new ice-cream freezers. Buffamonte also plans to refinish the tables and chairs. He also will seek additional Buffalo Billion funds to upgrade the daylight factory building, where Parkside Candy makes its confections. That includes replacing vinyl windows installed after a fire 25 years ago.
“I think the original-style windows, tied in with the front building and rebuilt loading dock, will blend in great with the front building,” Buffamonte said. “It’ll look new, but old-fashioned.”
Buffamonte, who now owns five Parkside Candy shops, said sponge candy is by far and away the top-selling retail item. Lollipops and then saltwater taffy – sold in amusement parks and fudge shops – rank as the best wholesale sellers.
Customers come for chocolate in large numbers for holidays, especially Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day, and for ice cream in the evening during the summertime.
He thinks restoring the building will boost sales throughout the year.
One neighborhood leader said restoring the building’s facade and sprucing up the interior will mean a lot to the neighborhood.
“The community is excited about the sign being restored, and the candy shop itself being maintained in the character of the old,” said Roseanne Scibilia, executive director of the University District Community Development Association, which sponsored the application grant for the Buffalo Billion.
“There is a lot of affection for Parkside Candy,” Scibilia said. “You can tell that kids are respectful. It’s a very cool place.”