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


The Top 10 Quotes from TEDx Buffalo 2013

By Griffin Jones

Probably a lot more, but this is what I wrote down.

10). “We will continue to report the story of me. But I remain skeptical that many will report the story of us, the collective story of society,” –Mike Connelly

9). “The longest running conversation you will ever have is with yourself,” –Matt Petroski

8). “We have so many problems and so far to go, so much is possible for us. We are all changing our neighborhoods. We’re changing our cities. Not so they look like someone else’s city. So they look like us,” –Bryana DiFonzo

7). “The unimportant is beauty. So what this means is, the things we might overlook…might be where beauty lies,”–Jeremy Speed Schwartz

Danimal Cannon rocking Chiptune.

Danimal Cannon rocking Chiptune.

6). “The hope for my life was lost and unexpectedly returned by the great hope provided by my good neighbors. Now we feel our life in the US is blooming, like marigolds in spring as in our native land,”–Bishnu Adhikari

5). “We can see everything but where we are. So we can see almost all of it. And we can understand most of it. But we don’t really have the full picture,”–Ben Siegel

4). “Capitalism only works if we are wiling to defend our human dignity, to protect your quality of life, and to stand for your own values,”–Gloria Zemer

3). “I hope that what we can think about, is that we were a version of Buffalo in 2013 that thought so much of itself, that we were going to create an attitude of curiosity,”–Ben Siegel

2). “You have to be able to overcome the fear of rejection of your own ideas so you can advance the ideas of someone else,” Matt Petroski

1). “Righteousness is seeing good in each other,”–Michael Martin


What Local Businesses Need to Learn from Five Points Bakery

By Griffin Jones

“Once you start something, people get excited. They want to be a part of it,”

It’s a good thing Five Points Bakery is open on Monday. Talking to Kevin Gardner at my least favorite point in the week was a good way to set my focus.

Kevin and his wife Melissa opened Five Points on Rhode Island Street in 2009. Melissa had worked at and managed Dolci Bakery on Elmwood Ave for a number of years. She brought in Kevin, who was working as a General Contractor. They liked it, but felt they had to start something new. People already loved it for what it was, why change an established business?

Kevin Gardner of Five Points Bakery at 426 Rhode Island St.

Kevin Gardner of Five Points Bakery at 426 Rhode Island St.

“Nobody had a bread made from local flour.” The Gardners were interested in breaking away from buying wheat as a commodity. It was volatile, unsustainable. A major wheat fire in Russia caused a shortage that led wheat prices to skyrocket. “Why should something going on in Russia affect me on the west side?”

So the Gardners negotiated a fixed price with local wheat farmers that meets the financial needs of both parties. “It’s a fair price,” Kevin said, referencing that he still pays the farmers the same price when wheat prices plummet. “It doesn’t matter what the market does,”

That’s scary to do in Buffalo. Conventional business  wisdom, especially in WNY, is to keep the bottom line as low as possible to protect profit. Kevin argues that responsible business is good for the top line.

“When you do it effectively, the customers care. They’re not the same customers they were fifty years ago. You have a product people feel, really, really, good about,” As a businessman and a capitalist, I dwelled on that last remark for a while. How many businesses offer a product that makes people feel really, really good? That’s the only thing that overcomes price in the digital age. “We’re not just getting by. We’re profitable,” Five Points Bakery has paid out $30,000 in bonuses to their employees over the last four years.

Five Points wasn’t somehow exempt from the uncertainty that all businesses face.”You never really know. There’s always an element of risk,”

But the Gardners recognized that being remarkable, and doing a few things very well, is the only way to be sustainable in all areas. As a digital marketer I spend my career trying to persuade businesses to step into this space. I asked Kevin if there’s any way to expedite the process.

“I really don’t think there is a way to rush it. What gets people to change their mind is when they see it on their news feed and think, ‘what am I missing?'”Kevin added that pioneers are always needed to set an example for the majority. “Present a model. Live well. Show people you can be successful,”

Thank you for figuring out a way to go first, Melissa and Kevin. Now we have a different, for me a more desirable, image of what successful looks like.

Swim, Drink, Fish, Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

The relevance of Buffalo’s revitalization to the world, is its impact on the environment. If we rehabilitate urban spaces like Buffalo, we reuse existing infrastructure and consume less of the planet. Since this is a cardinal position for Buffalo, it’s important to represent that position in some kind of event.

photo (51)

The Conference on the Environment, which rotates throughout New York State, finished Saturday with 192 attendees and 35 presenters.

The keynote speaker was Tragically Hip front man, Gord Downie. I was skeptical of the theme, which was an evening of conversation and song. I thought that it would either fall short in substance of the topic, or entertainment of the music. No way. It was perfect.

As conference coordinator, Peter Rizzo, put it, “The weaving together of song and anecdote gave way to an experience that appealed to all in the audience. We received the same rave reviews from both Gord fans and those who had never heard of him before,”

Downie’s passion for Lake Ontario was amplified through his music and backed up by his rigorous understanding of the politics and the science involving the fresh water of the lakes. Downie describes himself as a Lake Ontarian. He reminds Buffalonians that we are citizens of the Great Lakes.

The swimability, drinkability, and fishability, of Lake Erie, and subsequently all of the Great Lakes, are directly tied to Buffalo’s marketability . Quality of life is currency in the Digital Age, and Downie’s mantra of “Swim, Drink, Fish,” is the benchmark for that currency. The rehabilitation of Buffalo is at least in part dependent on the health of the Great Lakes. People will move to areas where fresh water is more readily available.

As water supplies across the world become more stressed, more attention will be paid to Lake Erie. If Lake Erie is rehabilitated to the “swim, drink, fish” standard, Buffalo’s economy is poised to benefit. If waste and chemicals from Canada and the United States continue to contaminate our fresh water, Buffalo’s rebirth will be limited.

We must not only halt the current destruction to the lakes, we have to shift the baseline of health back to where it was before a century of industrialization.  Cities that can best preserve their natural surroundings will be the most marketable in the decades to come. As Portland is seen as an access point for the woodland of the Pacific Northwest, so too must Buffalo be for the Great Lakes.

We are very late to the game. The science is daunting. The politics more so. But all of my optimism for the world comes from trying to improve Buffalo as much as I can by helping a few unrelenting people. I looked for a glimmer of hope. I asked Rizzo if it was fair to call the conference the most successful in a decade, when it was last in Buffalo.

“It’s fair to describe it as the most successful CoE, ever,” he replied.

To get involved with any of the following waterkeepers, visit:





Improving Buffalo: How To See The Difference

By Griffin Jones

In 2010, Visit Buffalo Niagara released a very popular video called This Place Matters. I can’t back pedal now; I hated it. It drove me nuts.

Three years later, VBN co-sponsored another film, this time by Paget Films called Buffalo: America’s Best Designed City. John Paget’s film was beautifully shot, visionary, and masterfully edited. All things I had initially hated about “This Place Matters”. Yet, I allowed myself to enjoy John’s film the way everyone else does. I could articulate the difference immediately.

The Premier of "Buffalo: America's Best Designed City" at Larkin Square

The Premier of “Buffalo: America’s Best Designed City” at Larkin Square

At a recent event, I heard Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, President of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership make reference to Buffalo’s anonymous malcontents on the internet. I think the phrase she used was “basement people”.

In 2010 I was a basement person.  I resented Buffalo for everything it wasn’t. It’s low skyline, poverty, and lack of professional opportunities deeply aggravated me.  I was missing “the moment of our time” by living in Buffalo. My “basement” attitude was compounded by my first exposure to the This Place Matters video.

I watched it from link after link on Facebook and Twitter from Buffalo expatriates living in New York, Chicago, and Boston. I felt patronized. They were allowed to live “the moment of our time” in these incredible places, yet idealize Buffalo however they pleased. I projected that indignation toward “This Place Matters”, to VBN, and to just about every optimist in town.

The new film was released two days ago. For me, the difference was palpable.  The environment in which I watched the film captured the way my habits have transformed my attitude toward Buffalo.  This time, I didn’t learn about it from people who will never have a role in this community. I didn’t watch it alone on a lap top in my apartment. I was among an audience of people who have invested their lives into making Buffalo a better place to live.

My friend Charlie Fashana said, Buffalo “is what it is, is for the people who stay,”

After the last year or so, I am honored to call many of these people my friends. As I watched helicopter shots of cloudless sky, and flattering redevelopments, similar to the shots that had infuriated me years ago, I looked around.  I stood next to people who’ve helped me push at-risk-youth on a tire swing, through Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I stood behind people who taught me how to plant chard in urban gardens. I was surrounded by the people from B Team Buffalo who cram their schedules with volunteering  until they have no more spare time. All… in a beautifully redeveloped area…under a cloudless sky.

Contributing to Buffalo is a life-long cause. We’ll never get to celebrate and say we’re done. So for those that stayed, and for those that come from elsewhere to take ownership of our city, it’s nice to let the world know we feel good about that. “America’s Best Designed City” does that perfectly.

Now back to work we go…

Martin Cooks a Case Study for Buffalo’s Success in the Digital Age

By Griffin Jones

A great many local restaurants have struggled in the digital age. For decades, national chains have been able to cut their margins so low, local eateries have been engaged in a price war they can’t win. Many are still trying to fight that battle. Most lose.

Trying to produce as much food for as cheaply as possible is a tactic of the Industrial Age. It ignores the benefits that small businesses have in the Digital Age. People’s interest is only captured when they find something remarkable, litterally something that causes them to make a remark. When they do, they can share it with more people than ever before.

Photo from martincooks.com.

Photo from martincooks.com.

Martin Cooks fits that definition. They don’t sell $6 meals because Chili’s sells $7 meals. They don’t do breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner buffet, seven days a week. They sell $60 dinners, twice a day, four days a week. They also serve lunch five days a week. The result? They have been packed since their Grand Opening in May 2013.

“I knew it could work,’ chef Martin Danilowicz said of the prix fixe menu and open kitchen environment. He thought of the idea a few years ago. When he saw the concept work in Brooklyn, with Brooklyn Fare, and a few other restaurants, he was eager to try something new in Buffalo.

The menu, which is 90% vegetarian, changes weekly. Food critics have acclaimed Martin Cooks since Day 1. “We have a twist on just about everything,”

The food is part of the unique experience required for success in the digital age. The social experience is another. So Danilowicz gets everyone’s name on the reservation and introduces dinner parties to each other. Of the open space kitchen, he says “it’s like a big think tank. We have an idea and it grows. We just keep talking about it until the dish goes from a 1 to a 10,”

The third reason to remark about Martin Cooks is it’s location in the up-and-coming, lower west side, and the impact new businesses have there.

Danilowicz would like to see the area attract clothing stores, shoe stores, art galleries, and even more restaurants. “Competition is a good thing,” he says. But why?

“Restaurants make neighborhoods” he replied. “If you bring a good quality restaurant into a neighborhood, you can draw people in that aren’t from there,” Danilowicz says that’s why he pays for the landscaping at the apartments directly across from the store and his employees pick up around the neighborhood after the weekend.

You must be different enough that people will remark about you. The proof? Martin Cooks is already expanding in the Horsefeathers building after only five months in business. Most restaurants go out of business within their first six months. The more places like Martin Cooks, the more we have to remark about Buffalo.

Cause Marketing: Putting Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

By Griffin Jones

Of course everyone should be involved with a cause to create the best possible version of themselves. And not just financial contributions to a charity, but truly believing in, advocating for, and wholeheartedly participating in the cause. So too for businesses. Many businesses (particularly large corporations) pick a cause celeb, slap whatever color ribbon on their product, and donate 2% from every purchase. Like any marketing technique, there’s nothing remarkable here, and it certainly doesn’t tug at any heart strings.

In the digital age, the only way to make a full impact with cause marketing is to be a tireless champion for the cause. Anything less goes unnoticed or worse, comes across as disingenuous. Now everyone knows I make no bones about my favoritism for the Made In America Store, and this is why.

I was at a country music festival this past Fourth of July weekend sponsored by the Made In America Store. Most sponsors would set up a booth, hang up a couple signs, and leave early. Could you blame them? It’s the Fourth of July, who wouldn’t want to be relaxing by the pool with a cold one?

Yet, all three nights, MIA Store owner Mark Andol, showed his patriotism through his actions. He took the stage, praised the flag, encouraged everyone to show their gratitude to the troops, and spilled his pride for American workmanship. He walked through the crowd and thanked veterans for their service. He had a smile from ear to ear like he always does.

If you want to be successful at cause marketing, take a page out of that guy’s book. Cause marketing only works if you truly care about the cause. No one does that better than the Made In America Store.

The Motivation of a Marketer

By Griffin Jones

“By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising…kill yourself. There is no rationalization for what you do, you are Satan’s spawn, you fill the world with vile and garbage,” –comedian, Bill Hicks.

No, I’m not offended, I think it’s hilarious. And I can easily rationalize what I do.

Bill HicksWhen I was a radio AE, I remember asking a client what he liked about his favorite rep. This was at the very beginning of 2009–the bowel of the Great Recession.

“She doesn’t push me to do stuff,” was his answer.  He liked that she didn’t nudge him out of his comfort zone. That place has been out of business for three years now.

He was a good guy, had been in business for a long time, and he knew his product as well as anybody. We’re marketers because we know that isn’t the point. In my not-so-long career I’ve seen this more times than I can count.

Like most marketers, I don’t like the feeling of pushing people. It’s not natural to me. But I would rather deal with that brief uncomfortable feeling at the very beginning of a relationship than ever have anyone describe me as their favorite because I “didn’t push” them enough.

Buffalo’s Best In Social Media: Real Estate

By Griffin Jones

When it comes to social media, I don’t know of any category like real estate. Imagine if the restaurant category were like the real estate category. Instead of the restaurants themselves having the largest followings, it would be individual waiters and chefs who had bigger presences than their companies. That’s real estate.

I can’t speak to the relationships between brokers (the real estate companies) and agents (the licensed individuals who work for them). But no broker in Western New York has established dominance in any of the major social media platforms.

I wonder why, because I can tell that many of their agents see the value in it.


A quick search for an agent who I see advertising her own Facebook page shows Beth Stablewski with far more (post) likes, comments, and shares on her page than any WNY broker. Beth has really great content on her page (photos of sold homes, features of her team) that definitely differentiate her in my eyes as a customer.

That’s also true for Rob Measer who answers local WNY real estate questions in his well optimized blog, www.realestatewny.com.

I’m one of Colleen Kulikowski’s nearly 3,000 Twitter followers. She has relevant information every hour and I don’t see any broker with that kind of following.

So for this year, best in social media goes to the agents. They’ve taken the initiative and have a lot more to offer current and potential clients because of it. I hope, by this time next year, I can say the same of the brokers.

The simplest way to know if my business HAS to use Twitter

By Griffin Jones

A peer of mine wisely said, ‘you don’t have to be active in every form of social media. You have to master one thing, and then maybe move on’. He’s right. My advice: reserve your real estate on Foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ but focus on where your customers are.

At time of publication, for most direct to consumer businesses, that’s Facebook. More than 60% of all US adults are active on Facebook. Therefore, your customers are most likely to interact with you and refer their friends through that platform.

But how do you know if Twitter is a priority? Do an advanced search for your business name in http://www.twitter.com/search-advanced. If you see that people are talking about your business on a regular basis (this is different from tweeting to your handle), then you have to be on Twitter.

People use Twitter to talk about what’s on their mind or on what they’re doing at the very moment. If that involves you, wouldn’t you like to have a voice in that conversation?