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Debut of Lexington Co-op is latest sign of Hertel Avenue's resurgence

Cheryl Hogg-Chapman has seen the ups and downs on Hertel Avenue in the 30 years she has owned a home in the North Buffalo neighborhood.

There have been hip restaurants and retailers moving in, shoppers strolling the blocks and new people making homes in the surrounding neighborhood.

She's cautiously hopeful the vibrancy will last.

"Businesses seem to come and go on Hertel," Hogg-Chapman said. "How fragile is it? That's the question."

For neighborhood residents, Wednesday's opening of the Lexington Co-op Market was the latest sign of renewed neighborhood strength on Hertel Avenue. The project will be followed by a major expansion of Dash's Market planned just down the street.

Other signs of the street's revival include the opening of Deep South Taco, Lloyd Taco, Churn, Lake Effect Ice Cream and Hertel Avenue Poutine and Cream – popular projects from some of Buffalo's trendiest brands.

Thomas Eoannou, an attorney who has been a landlord on the street for 25 years, says the trend reached critical mass five years ago.

"We went from hoping a car would pull up to 'Where am I gonna park?' " said Eoannou, who bought and restored the North Park Theater in 2013 with a group of investors.

Jessica Literman and her son Miles shop at the Lexington Co-op on Hertel Avenue on Wednesday. Click on the image to view more photos from the co-op's opening debut. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

The trend became clear when young, professional families found themselves priced out of other neighborhoods such as the Elmwood Village and began scooping up singles and doubles near Hertel, Eoannou said.

[The Buffalo You Should Know: Hertel Avenue]

The neighborhood's old-world integrity, close-knit community, and walkability have been a magnet for people who aren't attracted to the suburbs.

"It's the last great neighborhood," Eoannou said. "We've maintained our identity. We haven't gone big box. There are almost no franchises on the street. That's a huge part of the draw."

The new Lexington Co-op location has 9,000 square feet of retail space, making it roughly twice the size of the co-op's original Elmwood Avenue store.

"I think it really fits with Buffalo's traditional 'local first' mindset, and I think we're a community where chains struggle in general to find a foothold, especially chains in the food business," General Manager Tim Bartlett said during the store's opening Wednesday morning, which drew a line of customers before dawn.

Deep South Taco on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo. (Mark Mulville/News file photo)

Dash's Market is also planning a significant upgrade. The grocer has submitted plans for a 45,000-square-foot grocery store with two stories. The first floor would have expanded grocery departments including full-service meat and seafood, as well as a Marketside Café. Plans also call for a second-story eating area, a community room, a virtual office area and outdoor space at the corner of Hertel and Starin.

Realtor Matt Quagliano has also watched the neighborhood transform before his eyes. What has happened on Hertel is the exact opposite of what happened a few decades ago when people were "fleeing" the city for Amherst, Tonawanda and Williamsville, he said.

"People started to recognize the architectural integrity of these beautiful old homes and began restoring them," Quagliano said.

The Buffalo You Should Know: Hertel Avenue

Those improvements, as well as the overall turnaround of the neighborhood, have caused some housing prices to double and triple in the area, Quagliano said. A recent client sold his Wellington Avenue home for $280,000. He'd bought it six years earlier for $130,000. Another home in the neighborhood listed at $266,000 was purchased for $66,000. Quagliano said he recently had 14 competing offers for a home on North Park Avenue. Because of those multiple offers, homes tend to sell above their asking price.

The residents came first; the businesses followed.

"Families are laying down roots in North Buffalo and the businesses are just flocking there," Quagliano said. "They're going to thrive."

Judy Porto, president of the Hertel Business Association, agreed. She has kept close tabs on all the new businesses and is excited as more come down the pipeline.

"The changes in the past couple of years have been tremendous," Porto said. "The businesses want to be where the action is."

Lexington Co-op makes splash with new North Buffalo location

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