29-year-old Julia Delgado spent the last five years living and working in New York City as a fashion designer and business owner of an apparel store, Bloome.
“Every day was exciting. Riding the subway and walking the crowded streets to my store, you got such great energy from all the people around you in the morning. Faces become familiar and there’s this great sense of community as you say hello in the morning. But as you know, New York is expensive. In order to pay for my apartment and storefront, I was extending open shop hours to seven days per week, 10 hours per day, while freelance designing on my laptop behind the counter or when I was back home. It was a grind and I had no time to just live.”
The Staten Island native decided to pack up Bloome from Brooklyn, and bring it to Buffalo, hoping the need to make a little less money would allow her to enjoy her life more.
“I had been hearing about Buffalo’s scene. Some friends were trickling out of New York City for Buffalo since COVID, and I checked in with them often. They’d tell me, ‘Hey I mean, my apartment costs less than half that it did before, but I had to buy a car to get anywhere, so those savings weren’t as dramatic.’ But I knew the lifestyle from New York that I liked and so I wanted to check out Elmwood Village. The city touted it as one of the best neighborhoods in the country, walkable, dense. Sounded right up my alley.”
Delgado arrived in early November to get settled into the neighborhood and figure out where she wanted to open a shop. Buffalo rolled out a welcome mat with a massive snowstorm that dumped over six feet in the southtowns and over three feet in her new neighborhood.
“I was like, OK we’re in Buffalo. Everything should be back to normal in a day or two, right?”
Wrong. While the main streets were plowed relatively quickly, Delgado watched snow pile up and get packed down on the side street she lives on, on Elmwood Ave, and all over the city. The walkability she had been promised for Elmwood Village was no longer there.
“I was walking in the street where I couldn’t clear a snowpile in front of someone’s house, in front of another business, even though their parking lot was clear. The streets were clear but I was taking my life into my hands because all the cars driving on it would barely miss me as they flew by.”
She headed home for Christmas and was able to dodge the blizzard in Buffalo that weekend. When she returned on the 27th, the snow had been melting for days, but she was disappointed again.
“The streets were clear, the cars were moving, but every corner surrounding my apartment had a pile of snow on it that no one bothered to shovel. I’m a short person, I couldn’t see over some of these piles, let alone climb up and over and into an intersection. So it was back to walking in the street with cars for me.”
Still, Delgado was determined to make Elmwood Village work. Surely it must be better in the summer? But businesses need to pay rent all year long, and without any foot traffic through the winter due to uncleared sidewalks in and around Elmwood Village, she worried she wouldn’t be able to open until May.
She decided the best place to open would be 204 W Utica, formerly part of the Children’s Hospital campus.
“It had parking, but even better, it had a drive thru! After seeing how the sidewalks in this town become obsolete in November, December, and now in February when no one shoveled or even salted the ice in front of their homes and businesses, I knew that depending on foot traffic was not going to sustain me or my business.”
Delgado surmised that drivers in Buffalo don’t just want to drive where they’re going. They don’t want to get out of their cars. So she’s setting up her online storefront and rather than shipping apparel to buyers, she invites them to pull up to the drive through beside the building to pick up their order, and can use the window to display any other small items featured that week.
“I don’t even have to shovel our own walk in front of our doors. The city doesn’t make 7/11 or Rite Aid do it – why should I? I can just have everyone drive up.”
The city liked Delgado’s plan so much, they’re working with adjacent property owners of the Gallagher parking garage to retrofit the first floor into a shopping mall where drivers can buy and pickup the items they need without ever having to get out of their car.
“We’re actually going to give a tax subsidy to the ramp’s owner so that they can raise the ceiling of the first level. Should only cost about $30million, but we didn’t really have pressing needs elsewhere in the city, so now the ramp can fit the F-250 a bit easier when someone needs to drive to pick up just one carton of milk. This is going to be such a great way to make Buffalo an attractive place to live and raise a family. We’re proud to have Ms. Delgado and her ingenuity here in our town,” said one city official.
So there ya have it. Grab your car keys and check out Bloome when it opens in in Elmwood Village in March! If you want to walk there…. good luck.
(This was, of course, satire. And if it upset you, we suggest you grab a shovel and work those feelings out on your neighborhood sidewalks)