As a teenager, Jeff Brown rode a metro bus from his home in South Buffalo to McKinley High School in North Buffalo nearly every day. He stared out foggy windows, wondering why parts of the city seemed so desolate.
“I couldn’t understand why no one was hanging out here,” he said. “People didn’t want to be downtown. For some reason, everybody would rather move to an apartment in the suburbs.”
Brown, a South Buffalo native, grew up on Pries Avenue. He attended grade school at St. Agatha’s, and after studying graphic arts in high school, attended St. Bonaventure University, earning a marketing degree and a MBA in 2013. He hoped to begin his career in Buffalo.
“But I couldn’t find a job that fit my mold,” he said.
St. Bonaventure works with a recruiting firm in North Carolina, where there is a burgeoning marketing and technology sector. Brown called it “the Silicon Valley of the East.” He landed a marketing job with a startup in Charlotte.
Fifteen or 20 friends headed south around the same time.
“Everyone from college with master's degrees in business and education looked for jobs in Buffalo, but they weren’t easy to find,” he said. “Another pull was to escape from the weather. At least that’s what I thought going down there. Funny enough, it was too hot for me.”
Despite the heat, Brown believes Charlotte was a good place to begin his career. He spent three years there, admiring the diversity. The city draws residents from across the country, so he enjoyed being submerged in a mix of different cultures.
“I learned how people live in other parts of the country, and that certainly shaped me,” he said.
Name: Jeff Brown, 26
Hometown: South Buffalo
Education: McKinley High School; marketing and MBA from St. Bonaventure University
Misses about Charlotte: Young city with people from all over the country; technology and marketing field is growing
Reasons for returning home: Family, dedication to Buffalo’s resurgence
But the lure of his hometown grew stronger. Leaving his friends behind, in June 2016, Brown returned to South Buffalo. He accepted a full-time job with Appetize, a technology company that develops point of sales software for concessions in stadiums and arenas. He also works part-time on the “My One Buffalo” app with Pegula Sports Entertainment.
“Family was a big portion of why I came back,” he said.
His parents, two brothers and a sister with two boys all live in the area.
“My nephews were growing up without me,” he said. “But I also had a fear of missing out. I didn’t want to be in Charlotte when there was so much going on in Buffalo. I’ve lived my life marketing Buffalo. I want people to realize how great this city is. The marketing job I have now is fairly new. Jobs like this didn’t exist here until the past few years.”
Growing up in Buffalo, Brown took for granted good chicken wings, pizza and neighborhood bars where friends gathered. He missed those things while living in the South. Now, if he was offered a great job that required relocation, Brown is confident he would turn it down and remain in the city he loves.
“I can honestly say there is no amount of money that would pull me out of here,” he reflected. “I did my three years away, but I’m a Buffalo guy."