Make it Your Own Space: Silo City Markets Buffalo as Another’s Treasure

By Griffin Jones

I listed Buffalo’s five new marketing attributes in this earlier post. Come to Silo City’s, City of Night, this Saturday (Aug 17), and you will see all five in full effect.

But it’s the attribute of being able to create the environment of where you want to live, vs. moving to where you want to live, that rises to the top of everything right about SiloCity.

Jay Schwinger started his business, BFLO Harbor Kayak, at Canalside in 2009.  Think; only four years ago, BFLO Harbor Kayak  was the first business at what has become a darling of Buffalo’s renewal.

Alex Farrington and Jay Schwinger getting ready for "City of Night" at Silo City, Aug 17.

Alex Farrington and Jay Schwinger getting ready for “City of Night” at Silo City, Aug 17.

Jay lived in San Diego and Los Angeles for about nine years. He told me about what drew him back to Buffalo that he couldn’t find in southern California. In my words, Buffalo’s third new positioning attribute, Active Participation. In his words, “Buffalo is a blank slate”. That’s what Jay saw at Buffalo’s waterfront. There were boats, and slips for boats, but no one renting kayaks or paddle boards. So without $10 million to build a giant retail store, BFLO Harbor Kayak started a business with the only infrastructure they needed, Buffalo’s water.

After taking several paddling tours to Childs Street’s grain elevators, Jay became acquainted with Rick Smith, the owner of the Marine A Grain Elevator, a massive legacy of the industrial age. Jay and his partners Kevin Cullen, and Andy Minier saw this unused space and began creating part of the city they wanted to live in. They presented Smith with a proposal to craft a rock climbing gym in the Marine A elevator. Try finding an opportunity like that in most major cities. Jay said while of course there are cool buildings in other cities, “there’s never going to be a grain elevator where a really cool guy is going to say go for it,”.

SILO City Rocks‘ marketing director, Alex Farrington lived away from Buffalo for almost a decade. She encourages people in Buffalo “to break the routine”. Instead of going out on a Friday night, she suggests getting up on a Saturday morning and coming down to SiloCity or volunteering elsewhere in the city. One can create a life of abundance in Buffalo that way.

So it is with Silo City Rocks, who didn’t get a 3 million dollar commercial loan to hire a renovation firm. They went with the lean start-up model and asked passionate customers who wanted to see this project get done to pay a little in advance. As Alex said, “it’s a mammoth project, but a small operation,”

One cool business a time we’re realizing we can create the city we’ve always wanted. From a couple SUPs in the water, to a rock climbing gym, to a retail store and a yoga studio on the horizon, their team is proving that it is better to create what we want than to look for it somewhere else.

“How do you eat an elephant?” asked Andy.  “One bite at a time,”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s