Bring ‘Em to Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

This is an easy assignment that almost everyone in Buffalo can pull off. We all have friends from elsewhere that have said they would like to visit Buffalo, but have never made the trip. Make it happen this summer. Invite your friends, and make sure you set the stage properly. I don’t recommend comparing Buffalo to major cities or over-selling it because my experience has been that it leaves people disappointed once they come here. Let them know cool things are happening, and we still lack for a lot. We just want to see what they think.

What have your visitors thought about Buffalo? Where did you take them?

Buffalo: Now Is the Time

By Griffin Jones

I still think about this all the time. Buffalo is what is is for the amazing people who work tirelessly and thanklessly to improve it on any margin they can. We need deeper ranks. There are so many people that have taken charge of different tasks and they need help.

Get up off of your ass Buffalo. There are too many lurkers. I’m not singling out, Buffalo, this is a pretty universal truth. Most people are passive observers. Still, for those observers that have it in the to become action-takers…do it. Every single person counts and it’s all hands on deck all the time.

Taking responsibility for a cause that you don’t get paid for is what it means to be a citizen, and there is no shortage of them to choose from, especially in Buffalo.

Should we care what people from Toronto say about Buffalo?

By Griffin Jones

Toronto is the fifth largest city in North America and it has an annual GDP of $316 billion. Buffalo can’t afford to ignore Toronto. It’s not about pandering to haters and it certainly isn’t about comparing the two cities.

It’s about investing in relationships in Toronto because having such a major economic and cultural center only 2 hours away is a major growth hack for us. If we get up to Toronto more often, and make real friendships, people from Toronto will become genuinely more interested in Buffalo.

To New York with Love from Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

In last week’s post, Buffalo filmmaker, David Jackson, made the distinction between what Buffalo means to people who want to create art, vs people who want to make a living from it. The demolition of the 5 Pointz warehouse in Long Island City, Queens, is the latest example of how other cities are increasingly unaccommodating to people who want to create art.

The people who spray painted the 5 Pointz Warehouse weren’t paid to do it. They wanted to create something of their own. The owners of the building have every right to tear it down, they own it. But it doesn’t serve the market of people who want something other than “bland, boring towers of boxes and glass.” This is where we offer our condolences.

Dear New York City artists,

We’re sorry to hear about your loss. We’ve read over and over again about the confiscation of your art space. We continually hear  that what made your city what it is, has been painted over, torn down, erased. That must be frustrating. It must be incredibly hurtful because New York City is known as the nation’s cultural capital, because of you. Your imagination, daring, curiosity, collaboration, and vision is why everyone wants to live in New York. And now it’s not yours anymore.

Regretfully we cannot offer you a world-class, arts metropolis in its stead. We cannot give you an entertainment economy that allows you to make a career of your craft. We don’t have an influx of millions of people from the world over to sustain your creative process.

We hope we can extend to you, however, a hopeful consolation in this difficult time. What we can offer you is 16,000 vacant lots and abandoned structures. Among them: Victorian houses, factories, warehouses, greenspace, brownspace, grain elevators, churches, hospitals, government housing projects, schools, and a train terminal. We promise to fight you on whatever you propose to do with them, but if you can persuade us with your talent and vision, we’ll find a way to let you win.

Now you may have heard about Buffalo’s rejuvenation over the last five years or so. To be transparent, it is true. Housing values have increased, large-scale developments are under way in our city center, and businesses are starting to venture into blighted neighborhoods. This may sound familiar to you. You may be concerned that you’ll once again be forced to relocate after contributing to your city’s glory.

Don’t get us wrong, we would love that. But it’s unlikely to ever happen. The proposed tower at the 5 Pointz site is taller than our tallest building. There is no nearby Citi Bank Tower to cause rents to go up. We pretend to worry about gentrification, but the truth is, we have no idea what it means. At least, not in the way you do.

Full disclosure, you will not be among the first pioneers. Sorry. An arts festival in Buffalo’s industrial grain elevators with dozens of artists and over 12,000 attendees is entering its third year.  Two micro-breweries already operate out of old commercial space, and two more are opening now. A small business incubator, serving New York’s largest refugee community, Thai, Peruvian, Burmese, and Ethiopian restaurant kiosks opened in the last year. There are now more than half a dozen urban farms and dozens of community gardens.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg that you’re used to. We cannot offer you the brilliant masterpiece that you once saw in New York. Neither can they. All we can offer you is a space to use your bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo.

Again, we are deeply sorry for your loss. New York was completely unlike anywhere in the world because of you. We hope we can give you a chance to make something completely unlike New York.

Keeping you always in our thoughts,


P.S. In the nearly impossible event that Buffalo becomes TOO commercially successful…Detroit is only four hours away.

Painting the wall at Silo City.

Painting the wall at Silo City.

This 1700 sq ft house is on sale for 50 grand.

Looks a bit like 5Pointz actually.


This 1700 sq ft house is on sale for less than 50 grand

Party in the abandoned Central Terminal.

Party in the abandoned Central Terminal.

Individual Significance: The Ability to Make an Impact in Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

There are more remarkable things in Buffalo than most people realize. But when we brag about the Allentown Art Festival to someone from San Francisco, or rave about the Elmwood Village to someone from Manhattan, we sound like the mayor of Flint, MI in Roger and Me. It’s not that these things aren’t great, they actually are, they just fail when positioned incorrectly. Buffalo is positioned correctly with these five new marketing attributes. The second of which is individual significance, the results one person can initiate and the meaning it gives to his or her life.

In most cities, Larkin Square is just a few renovated buildings. What has it meant as a  statement for Buffalo?

In most cities, Larkin Square is just a few renovated buildings. What has it meant as a statement for Buffalo?

“You can get involved in larger areas, but your ability to have an impact might be limited. Buffalo is ripe with opportunity,” is how Justin Booth, director of GOBike Buffalo, described part of his decision to relocate to Buffalo from the New York City area. How much better do our streets look with a little extra paint on them? Our new bike lanes make Buffalo more connected, progressive, and marketable because one man and his small team aggressively pushed for the changes.

If Kevin and Melissa Gardner of Five Points Bakery opened a locally-sourced bakery in Chicago’s gentrifying Logan Square, no one would bat an eye. But one couple revitalizes one strategic corner on Buffalo’s west side and it’s reinforced the desirability of the whole neighborhood.

Someone opens four avant-garde restaurants in five years in Washington, DC and they are like every other restaurateur. Rocco Termini and Mike Andrzejewski do it in downtown Buffalo, and it breathes life into our city center.

Boutique marketing agencies in Brooklyn follow norms set by their competition. On the 700 Block of Main Street, Patrick Finan and the talented people at Block Club are changing Western New York business culture for the better.

Everywhere in the world, there are forward-thinking people who are frustrated that they can’t disrupt the destructive habits of our universal human culture. Look at national politics, international affairs, and vast sprawling cities. Is your picture of the world brighter when the scale is larger or in focus?

Buffalo is for people whose hope for the world is framed by their own role in making it better. Anyone with ambition can collaborate with others to create small victories. Now Buffalo didn’t see sixty years of decline because change is readily accepted here. Yet, that’s what compounds the significance of every little improvement.

The big fish in a small pond analogy doesn’t fully work here because it doesn’t have anything to do with the fish. It’s about the change it makes on the pond.

Hate This City: Artistic Freedom in Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

Hate This Films is a  metaphor for Buffalo’s art scene, a very impressive showcase of talent that most of us had no idea was here.

Hate This Director, David Jackson, thinks that Buffalo’s art scene is about realizing how much of it exists. “It’s either big or it’s growing. When I started Hate This, I thought I was the only person in Buffalo with a camera,”

Actress Shana Rose. Totally robbed from

Actress Courtney Janicki. Totally robbed from

Jackson’s choice to be a filmmaker in Buffalo follows what I call the city’s fourth marketing attribute, artistic freedom“If I was in LA, I would be making commercials or music videos. Don’t get me started on music videos. Living in Buffalo allows me to work on something I’m passionate about. Where, if I lived in New York I would just be trying to make ends meet and not working on something I’m proud of.”

Then why the name, “Hate This”, for a group that makes Buffalo proud? “If I told everyone to like our movies, they’d hate them. I don’t care if people are negative about our movies. We’re out here doing things.” 

“Doing things,”is pretty much how Seth Godin defines art, “the work of an individual seeking to make a statement, to cause reaction, to connect.”

Jackson’s cinematography and design allowed him to connect with other talented people who wanted to make a similar statement.  “We try to do our best. Anyone with a camera can make a movie, so we try to set ourselves apart. Animation is a big part of that. As we grew we started attracting more people who knew what they were doing. Now we have a big team. It’s cool to see it grow.”

To effectively market Buffalo’s benefits, it’s better for Buffalo to admit what it is not. Jackson agrees that Buffalo is a great city to create art, NOT necessarily make a living from it. “We all have full-time jobs. We try to find people who aren’t in it for the money. This is our release from our 9 to 5,”

As an artist, Jackson says he’s motivated by what I’ve called Buffalo’s second marketing attribute: individual significance. “If you stay here, you’re going to help (the city). You can make a real impact here. I want to be a trailblazer. I want to MAKE something. I don’t want to be told what to do”.

That’s Buffalo third new attribute, active participation. If you want to be a part of a movement of change, Buffalo is what you’re looking for. If you’re waiting for large-scale improvements, you’ll likely be dissapointed. “Buffalo is a little too hopey,” Jackson said. “What I would like to see more of is just completed things. Whatever is the next big idea, I want it now.”

The artists here are the new Buffalo. They have created something for us to be proud of. Every small work of art created from nothing is worth more than any ambitious project that may or may not come to life. Hate This Films captures this picture with stunning clarity.

“It’s all about passion. We don’t make a dime. Buffalo’s got talent. It’s just scattered all over the place. We’re trying to be that portfolio for Buffalo”.

Ten Conclusions Regarding the Generation Gap in Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

These are by no means direct quotes. I am paraphrasing from memory from the “Bridging the Gap” event at the Mid-Day Club of Buffalo on November 5, 2013. In no particular order, these are ten interesting thoughts considering the Generation Gap from people who are actively working to make Buffalo a better place.

  1. No matter which generation we come from, we all seem to be bound together by a genuine love for Buffalo. We all have a deep civic interest in bettering Buffalo in business and community. –Scott Murray, Lumdsden & McCormick, Mid-Day Club of Buffalo
  2. We have to occasionally revisit and reform our etiquette of how we communicate with each other. Technology shouldn’t hinder respect in communication. Social Media and mobile are tools. They are the means but not the message. Ultimately, in-person communication is still the very best.–Tony Maggiotto, Buffalo State College Small Businesses Development Center, City Love Clothing
  3. Millenials are not the only people who are eager for changes in workplace culture/market practices. Many Baby Boomers have been eager for change for some time and have longed to have their voice heard. –Althea Luehrsen, Leadership Buffalo
  4. Communication is what binds all generations together. Everyone from each generation wants to be heard and acknowledged. When we come in to discussion with demands, that’s when we meet resistance .If the vision coming from the leader is a shared one, generational differences won’t matter.  They will help –Tim Finney, Alcott HR Group/infoTech Niagara
  5. We have to be willing to listen. A lot of times, we (Generation Y) want to be the leader and the star. But there may be several other people already doing what we’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes we have to take the time to learn, and to put in the work, before we can jump ahead.–Liz Callahan, Buffalo Niagara Partnership/B-Team Buffalo
  6. Generation Y “knows” everything but we’re usually not focused on anything. We need to have a clear statement of purpose and focus on that.–Louis Benton, AXA Advisors
  7. We (Generation X) follow a legacy of litigation from our parents’ generation. So while we want to make speedy changes, grant more autonomy, and try creative approaches, we’ve learned to be cautious of the consequences that come from such a quickness to litigate. Brian Kulpa, Mayor of Williamsville
  8. “Let’s do each other a favor and start the conversation and find some common ground. Let’s bridge that gap between generations, learn from each other, and empower one another to lead our communities toward the creative and successful future that we know it has the potential of reaching”–Katie Costello, Buffalo News. (That one is a direct quote).
  9. Each generation seems to have the same concern about the next generation, as the previous generation had about them. Is this the same thing, or is something actually different? Chris LaFleur, M&T Bank
  10. The cardinal difference  between Generation X and Millenials is having grown up without the internet. The experience of using a phone book, having to call someone at their house, and not having everything on demand is a very identifiable mark on the generational timeline. Charlie Fashana, First Niagara Bank, Advertising Club of Buffalo


Four Easy Ways the Average Person Can Support Urban Farming in Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

To recap my previous posts about urban agriculture, here are the four easiest ways to support urban farming and community gardens in Buffalo.

1). Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You’re going to buy food anyway. Placing your order a head of time makes organic farming economically viable. They sell out quickly, but Buffalo Spree compiled a nice guide to WNY CSAs here.

2). Make sure your elected officials know that you support farm-friendly legislation. Michael Raleigh writes about some of the important issues here.

3). Donate your compost. It’s cheap and good for the environment. You can go through services like  Farmer Pirates Cooperative.

4). Volunteer. During the season, Massachusetts Avenue Project has volunteer hours from 11a-1p each Saturday. The Wilson Street Urban Farm has volunteer days the second Saturday of each month. Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo also encourages volunteers at their affiliated community gardens. It’s like babysitting, you get the joy of spending time with the kids for a little while, and then give them back to their parents when it gets annoying.

The Wilson Street Farm: Urban Agriculture in Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

There’s a reason most of us love the IDEA of urban farming. It’s the idea of turning nothing into something. It’s the core of urban renewal. It’s productive. It’s healthful. And it’s usually started with little to no outside funding. Living the idea is another story.

“We have a very different life from most Americans,” said Mark and Janice Stevens. They  began their Wilson St. Farm six years ago. They moved from a rural area in Wyoming County after connecting with people through their home church group. The family found a lovely house in the Broadway-Fillmore district with a sizable plot of land around the back for homesteading.

photo (60)

According to Mark, the house and land “had everything we needed to transfer our lifestyle from there to here. There’s not many cities that we could do this in. For the people who have what they really want to do in life, but aren’t going to make that much money from it, Buffalo is the perfect place for that.”

Janice talked about how they’ve come to be accepted by their neighbors. At first people thought they were Amish but “we genuinely had an interest in everybody.”

Mark added “I think we’ve earned our place here. Treat everybody like they’re a valuable human being, and they’ll generally respond.”

Mark and Janice agreed that “Our vision for urban farming is small farms in the midst of people who are excited about it. They would be the center of vibrant communities.”

That’s a radical departure from our food economics today. But is there any other way to control the food we eat? We’re more weary of consuming chemicals with our food. We’re suspicious of government definitions of organic. “If you’re really interested in real, good, food, you have to know where your sources are,” Mark concludes.

The Wilson Street Farm defines organic as, “We’re going to farm by learning from nature. Nature always wants to come into balance with itself,” There is a role for the consumer here, as well. We usually want our food to look perfect but as Janice offers, “Most of nature is not perfect.”

Urban agriculture isn’t simple. The Stevens family has years of experience. Most of us  won’t make the true commitment needed to be fully involved in it. But I do believe we can help the people that have. I asked what that is.

“We have volunteer days the second Saturday of each month,” Janice replied. “We’ll give you a job,” Well, volunteer Saturdays are over until April or March, so there must be something else we can do. Organic farmers seem to need all the compost they can get. There are residential composting programs through the Farmer Pirates Cooperative.

“The purpose of the co-op is to make it easier for the average Joe to get into it,” said Mark. Janice suggested that getting involved with community gardens is also a good way to learn. “You have to ask a LOT of questions,” she said.

We may not know how to build urban farms, but we can at least help the Stevens family and the other urban farmers in Buffalo who do. They are the small farms in our midst, we are the people who are excited about it.