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Nearly 70 restaurateurs interested in former Gigi's space

Less than two weeks after popular soul-food restaurant Gigi's closed for good at the Northland Corridor, dozens of prospective new restaurant operators are interested in taking up the mantle at the new Workforce Training Center building on Buffalo's East Side.

Buffalo Urban Development Corp. President Peter Cammarata said nearly 70 people have expressed interest in receiving the city's new request-for-proposals to operate the restaurant at 683 Northland Ave. About 40 to 50 of them reached out to the agency in recent weeks, while the rest were contacted by BUDC officials.

That's a major reversal of the last time around, when the options were few when the space was still under construction and the success of the training center was still to be determined.

"It's a whole different matter the second time," he said. "We didn't have the beautiful space the first time. Now people have seen the space and seen the fantastic response of the community to the person who would be in that space."

Cammarata said BUDC – which owns the building – hopes to issue the RFP next week and have a new operator in place by June or early July.

Gigi's, a fixture of the East Side for decades that featured home-cooked favorites such as macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie, smothered pork chops and peach cobbler, was displaced by a fire that destroyed its previous home in November 2015.

Darryl Harvin, son of longtime operator Blondine Harvin, was chosen last year by BUDC to reopen in the Workforce Training Center to serve students and faculty, as well as the surrounding community.

Last month's opening was greeted with enthusiasm – so much that it overwhelmed the younger Harvin and his small staff, who were still grieving over Blondine Harvin's death a few weeks earlier. Gigi's struggled to stay open during its first two weeks in business, prompting Cammarata and Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown – who chairs the BUDC board – to meet with Harvin and ask him if he wanted to continue. Harvin declined, and BUDC announced the closure.

"We decided it was appropriate to end the relationship, and to seek out another purveyor for that space," Cammarata told the BUDC board. "We’ve been aggressively working on that."

[Related: Food editor Andrew Z. Galarneau picks 5 breakfast places he thinks would fit in Northland]

'We were over our head,' Gigi's owner says after soul-food staple closes for good

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