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My View: Broadway Market is a treasure we must work to revive

By Barbara E. Ochterski

In Buffalo’s Broadway-Fillmore area, the early 1960s were the “glory days.” Today efforts are underway to begin revitalizing this area of significance in our city. It cannot happen soon enough.

Like most native Buffalonians of a certain vintage, my memory bank is stuffed with rich images of the keystone properties of the area: Kobacker’s, Sears, Sattler’s and the magnificent St. Stanislaus and Corpus Christi churches.

I know about this area because I was a “Sattler’s girl.” Dad was the appliance buyer at Sattler’s and I spent a considerable amount of time shopping at “998.” I worked after school in the bustling basement grocery department, selling laundry detergent, tub butter and even shoelaces. However, my most striking memories of the area have less to do with Sattler’s and more to do with the Broadway Market across the street.

At that time the market was the hub of daily life. Vendors operating open-air stalls at the rear of the market offered enticing displays of vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Prominent inside the cavernous first floor was an impressive array of butchers, produce sellers, candy, dairy and cheese vendors, prepared foods, tempting bakeries and convenient restaurant options.

The colorful sights and delectable smells are still evident on a daily basis, but in a more subdued form, with fewer vendors and more empty space. But from early March on through Easter time, the Broadway Market is a distinctly different story. Traditional foods, flowers, wine and novelties are for sale. Crowds of enthusiastic buyers cheerfully compete for sellers’ attention. Should not this positive scene be a weekly occurrence rather than a seasonal event?

In contrast: Our family regularly travels to Cleveland to visit our college-aged grandson. While there, we make a point of shopping at the West Side Market. It is described as “an integral and treasured facet of the neighborhood … and offers a wide variety of fresh meats, cheeses, poultry, seafood, fruits and vegetables … ethnic specialties, prepared foods, flowers and more.” West Side Market boasts of 100 vendor stalls, a busy  restaurant and loads of shoppers every day it is open.

So why not the Broadway Market? The cities are similar in many ways: significant ethnic populations, ease of transportation and folks willing to travel to purchase choice foods and ethnic specialties. The Broadway Market is branded with similar descriptors with an emphasis on family-owned businesses. One advantage is that there are about 40 well-regarded vendors already in place. There is a strong Polish heritage, a robust African-American presence and an emerging diverse community of immigrants living, working and shopping in the area. The building appears clean and well kept. Ample parking is a plus.

What will power a renaissance of this Buffalo-born gem in operation since 1888? Possibilities include focusing on increased weekend shopping and even adding limited Sunday hours. Or enticing Southern-style, Middle Eastern and Asian food vendors to set up shop with reduced rental options. Regular and increased advertising regarding the Broadway Market as a year-round tourist destination will create a buzz and may stimulate investment opportunities for the entire area.

Consider the success of Buffalo’s West Side Bazaar in nurturing the “shop locally” movement. It is no longer the ’60s. Broadway-Fillmore will not see a Sattler’s again. However, our city can’t allow a treasure like the Broadway Market to slowly fade away.

Buffalo’s regeneration must include a creative, diverse and expanded community vision for its renaissance.

Barbara E. Ochterski, Ph.D., a member of Buffalo Sunrise Rotary Club and a beekeeper, has high hopes for the Broadway Market.
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