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The Happy Swallow survived when other taverns didn't. Now it's fighting for its life.

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Buffalo Next

Iconic Polish tavern closed by fire is struggling to stay open

The Happy Swallow has been serving Polish food and drinks on Sycamore Street since 1941. Back then, it was swarmed by nearby workers after their shifts and hosted milestone parties such as baptisms and First Communions for parishioners of the two bustling churches across the street. 

For the past 35 years, the Happy Swallow has been owned and operated by the Golimowski family, part of which lived above the tavern, raising the next generation.

The business became harder to run as the decades wore on. One by one, the businesses and churches that supported the tavern have closed. Consumer habits, which once brought families in for lunch and dinner, have changed. Still, the Happy Swallow has remained one of the few taverns of yesteryear that has survived.

But it is being tested once again.

Happy Swallow, an old time tavern with heart

The Happy Swallow in happier times.

An electrical fire tore through the building in July. It left the two apartments upstairs unlivable, displacing the family, and left the restaurant unusable.

The family and the tavern's customers were devastated.

"First he got hit with the pandemic, almost two years of lost business," said Tim Rados, a Happy Swallow customer. "Now, just when things were beginning to normalize, he gets hit with this fire."

The family has managed to do enough work to reopen for Friday fish fry pickup – the tavern's most popular offering. But there is much more work to be done to make the bar and restaurant fully operational again.

Now, family, friends and customers are wondering. Will this be another triumph in the Happy Swallow's story of survival? Or will it be the final chapter in a story that has ended like so many of the East Side's classic taverns? 

"It's the end of an era if the Happy Swallow closes," Rados said. 

– Samantha Christmann   

Welcome to Buffalo Next. This newsletter from The Buffalo News will bring you the latest coverage on the changing Buffalo Niagara economy – from real estate to health care to startups. Read more at

Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs beats out 3,000 to make finals

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Octapharma is headquartered in North Carolina and has 160 donation centers in 36 states.

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Recent news tied to Buffalo Niagara's economy

Developer Douglas Jemal is setting his sights on Lackawanna now. He's been picked to develop a $35 million project to bring apartments and retail to a former church site on Ridge Road.

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AllPro Parking is being acquired by a national parking chain.

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The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region’s economic revitalization. Email tips to or reach Deputy Business Editor David Robinson at 716-849-4435.

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Related to this story

It is hard to get others to believe him. They say, “‘Nobody works for free,'” Tom Golimowski said. But it is true. “Otherwise, we might not be here,” Golimonski said. By “here,” he meant the East Side tavern called the Happy Swallow. Owned by his family for several decades, it has roots that go back long before that. Golimowski

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