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Sailing Away on the Spirit of Buffalo

It’s no secret these days that one of Buffalo’s biggest gems is its waterfront. But as fun as it is on the shore, there’s nothing quite like taking in the Queen City from the water itself. Add in some refreshments, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a warm summer evening.

Luckily for locals and visitors alike, Spirit of Buffalo offers “Wine in the Wind” sunset cruises every Wednesday. An impressive, 73-foot schooner, the Spirit of Buffalo is the only such vessel to sail out of the Buffalo Harbor. You’ve probably marveled at her before, docked next to the Liberty Hound or sailing around the Outer Harbor, red sails billowing.

For $45, a Wine in the Wind cruise includes two hours on the water, magnificent views of Buffalo’s waterfront and skyline, a plate of cheese and crackers, and tastings of several varieties of wine to wash it all down. Leonard Oakes in Medina, NY, was the featured winery for my sail, but other nights feature different wineries in the region and international wines.

The Spirit of Buffalo is manned by a friendly crew of four, who interact with the passengers and make the voyage feel more like an outing with friends than a paid charter. Guests can volunteer to help hoist the sails and are encouraged to ask questions about sailing and the boat itself. There is a cash bar in case you’re hankering for something a little stronger than a few sips of wine, and there is also a restroom onboard.

My husband and I, along with a dear friend from college, were lucky enough to experience Wine in the Wind on the first official day of summer with about two dozen fellow passengers. With an enthusiastic breeze whipping through our hair and the setting sun warming our faces, we waved at passing sailboats and took in the gorgeous, sunset-soaked Buffalo skyline to one side and glistening Lake Erie to the other.






Everyone chatted and laughed together, and Wendy from Leonard Oakes made her way around with wine samples, helpful information about each bottle and friendly conversation. A playlist including everything from Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Hawaiian version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” an Irish sea shanty and a few reggae songs kept the atmosphere festive and relaxed. It all added up to a wonderful evening welcoming in another bustling Buffalo summer.

Wine in the Wind excursions are available at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. every Wednesday through the end of September, and for those who prefer beer over wine, there are also Craft Brew Cruises offered every Thursday evening. Though those trips are restricted to those who are 21 or over, there are also plenty other Spirit of Buffalo options for the whole family. Check out all of your options and book your trip today!

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8 of Garden Walk Buffalo’s Can’t Miss Gardens

In no particular order, here are 10 extraordinary gardens you can’t miss during Garden Walk Buffalo (July 24 & 25). There are 400+ gardens on the tour this year, not a bad one among them. In my mind, these are some standouts – out of dozens and dozens of standouts. If you go on the tour, make sure you hit up gardens NOT in the densely populated areas of the map. Good gardens are all over.

Baynes Street – Eight Paths Garden

Baynes Street
Eight Paths Garden – You’ll have to pick up the Garden Walk Buffalo map to find out the exact address of this garden. Mike, the gardener, is a Garden Walk Buffalo volunteer and a great advocate of the Walk.

84 Sixteenth Street
Joe & Scott’s spectacular garden – Dozens and dozens of containers fill out this spectacle of a garden – one of the most colorful gardens on the tour. And Joe, the gardener, is colorblind! Joe’s also a long-time Garden Walk Buffalo volunteer and makes the delicious appetizers and baked goods for our gardener thank you parties. It was even photographed for Martha Stewart Living magazine, but the article never ran.

75 Lancaster Avenue – Mary’s Garden

75 Lancaster Avenue
Mary’s Garden Annabelle & Jim’s side lot garden, dedicated to Jim’s first wife, Mary, who passed years before he met Annabelle – who came with her own plant collection. Retired now, the two lawyers have only one garden rule – to end the day with a glass of wine and appreciate the work they put into the garden. Don’t miss Cornelius’ doghouse! This garden has appeared in Better Homes & Gardens’ Garden Ideas and Outside Living, People Places Plants, Great Gardens – Solutions for Small Spaces, Containers Made Easy, Great Backyards, and the Garden Walk Buffalo book.

257 Highland Avenue
Ellen & Mitch’s little paradise – The PR maven Ellen and ad agency owner/writer Mitch have found-art creative touches throughout the garden. Mitch, founder of the Ride for Roswell, a large charity bicycling event, has raised millions of dollars for cancer treatment and research. And you can find many bike-oriented creative touches throughout the garden. Their bowling ball totem is a Buffalo classic.

86 Norwood Avenue

86 Norwood Avenue
This garden looks more like the set from The Sound of Music. The orchestrated garden has a river running through the property, along with bridges, an island and a lighthouse. And that pergola!? To die for.

417 Summer Street
Ellie – Everybody’s favorite guerilla gardener. Her tiny but charming gardens have been featured in Garden Gate magazine –  even her hellstrip (the area between sidewalk and road) has been featured on the Wall Street Journal‘s website! The driveway garden is technically a rooftop garden in that the entire garden (trees and all) is set on top of a driveway. Every postage-stamp-sized garden on Summer street is a delight. Seen in Horticulture, People Places Plants, Great Backyards, Backyard Retreats magazines and the Garden Walk Buffalo book.

20 Norwood Avenue – Dom & Arlan’s Garden

20 Norwood Avenue
This is my favorite garden on the Walk (don’t tell the other gardens). This garden, like many others, reflects its owners, Dom and Arlan. It is serene, quiet, smart, charming and creative, just like the two of them. You’ll find the park-like garden will be one of your favorites too. You’ll see a handmade matching shed and swing in the far back, creative water features, a moss garden complete with handmade village, an outdoor drinking fountain for garden visitors, a garage door-type greenhouse added onto the back of the house, planted stairs and more. And, if you’re lucky, and it’s not predicted to rain during the Walk, you just may see the scale model replica they made of the house complete with gardens (in the photo) – it’s eight feet long!

215 Lancaster Avenue (Bonus #1)
Okay, I can’t leave out my own, so I’m going for 11 of Buffalo’s “Can’t Miss” Gardens. If I came across my garden on a tour, I’d be sure to like it. The 1896 Dutch Colonial with matching shed has a lush grassless front garden, with a columnar apple tree, suited for the fairy tale looking house with the lightning-shape lightning rod on top. A hanging succulent garden faces a paver and grass checkerboard garden, next to a raised bed potager garden framed by a knee-high espaliered dwarf apple tree fence. A mirrored sitting area with a marble and granite scrap “carpet” sits beside a collection of coral bells (heuchera) with a handmade coral bell water fountain. A multi-level deck, with hot tub, features a super-long handmade picnic table, counters around a cooking area, and diamond-shaped espaliered dwarf pear trees. If that’s not enough, there’s also a Harry Potter Garden of plants from the Harry Potter books (it’s a fictional garden). Seen in Horticulture, Backyard Solutions, Fine Gardening, Great Backyards, and Real Gardens magazines and the books, The Garden BibleGarden Up! and was even featured in this June’s issue of This Old House magazine with an eight-page spread! You can read the article here. It was photographed for Martha Stewart Living magazine, but the article never ran. And I’ve never gotten over that.

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Discovering a Natural Oasis: Grand Island’s State Parks

Both Beaver Island State Park and Buckhorn Island State Park are perfect destinations for a few hours or a full day of outdoorsy R&R. Both are wildlife refuges bounded by the beautiful Niagara River and teeming with flora, fauna, and fun. Here are some of the highlights from the only town in Erie County with two state parks:

Beaver Island State Park

Beaver Island State Park is just off of Exit 18B on the I-190; just follow the very visible signs leading to the park entrance ($7.00 entrance fee). Beaver Island is 950 acres encompassing just about every outdoor activity.

One of the park’s main attractions is its half-mile beach accessible from a traditional boardwalk. During the summer the beach is open 11a.m.-7 p.m. and is staffed by lifeguards. The nearby Boardwalk Bar and Grill serves finger foods (including flatbreads and grilled fare) and has a surprisingly large array of beers on tap. Seating is available at the bar or at one of several tables under a large tent with views of the beach below.

Of special note is River Lea at the southern end of Beaver Island: signs along roads in the park show the way to the historic building. River Lea is the former summer residence of family members of U.S. President Grover Cleveland and now it’s a history museum. The grounds are lovely and a hiking trail beyond the house (look for the cast iron gate) leads to a place where migratory birds, including snowy egrets, nest.

On the road leading to River Lea keep an eye out for several places to stop and observe nature along the lush shoreline of long grasses. There is one small wooden shack, replete with a bench inside, that is perfect for bird watching. Paddlers should also look for a sign marking a good place to put in to paddle out to Strawberry Island and Motor Island. Another less wild place to put in is at the park’s marina, to the right of the beach.

Buckhorn Island State Park

Buckhorn Island is the sister park of Beaver Island – on the opposite end of Grand Island and near the other set of double span bridges. Buckhorn is almost the same size as Beaver Island but is more rustic as it has no restrooms, concessions, sporting facilities, or picnicking/shelters.

While Beaver Island is easy to find, Buckhorn can be a little challenging for first-time visitors. When driving down East River Road, look for a sign for the park on the right side of the street if heading north. A small parking lot with a handful of spots is just off of a long driveway.

Like parts of Beaver Island, Buckhorn is a nature sanctuary attracting migratory birds and other species and features a meadow. One thing to note is that Grand Island has seen an uptick (bad pun intended) in ticks so do consider wearing bug repellent.

On either side of the trails and close to the marsh note several species of wildflowers: members of the orchid family, asters, and many more. It is possible to kayak or canoe within the park as well as bicycle. Most people are here to hike on the several trails.

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152 Years of Sahlen’s Hot Dogs

Buffalonians love charbroiled hot dogs. That’s right, hot dogs cooked over glowing coals are as much of a Buffalo food icon as deep-fried wings, beef on weck sandwiches and Friday fish fries. But in the case of hot dogs, there’s only one local brand that will meet Buffalo’s exacting standards for the kind of smoky, satisfying flavor that says summertime, picnics, tailgating and tradition and that’s the one that’s been around for 152 years and counting – Sahlen’s.

“It’s a staple of almost every family growing up,” said Mike Eckert, Brand Marketing Manager for Sahlen’s. “Summertime at the baseball diamond, family gatherings in backyards and grilling out. It’s really a time-honored tradition. It’s one of the foods you remember as a kid and that sticks with you. It’s a memory and a feeling that is passed down from generation to generation.”

Can you smell this picture? We can.

It’s a tradition that’s been passed down on the production side as well. Joseph Sahlen founded the company in 1869 when Buffalo was a boomtown and tens of thousands of hungry new residents and proximity to the Erie Canal and railroads made starting a business here a no-brainer. Sahlen located his business on Buffalo’s East Side near the rail lines that gave him easy access to the farms and livestock that provided the ingredients for his sausages, hot dogs and bologna.

Remarkably, that little start-up dating from the time Ulysses S. Grant was President of the United States is still in business on the same site and is still owned and operated by the same family – making Sahlen’s one of the oldest hot dog – if not the oldest — manufacturers in the country. Of course, Joseph Sahlen probably wouldn’t recognize the expanded storage facilities, modern machinery and loading docks his heirs have added over the years as the family business grew and prospered.

Sahlen’s packing facility at 318 Howard Street

The company long ago expanded beyond Western New York and today Sahlen’s hot dogs are sold throughout the Eastern United States, into South Carolina and Florida, the Midwest and as far away as Las Vegas and Phoenix. In fact, if you lay all the hot dogs Sahlen’s produces per year end to end, they would stretch for 850 miles, nearly all the way from Buffalo to Atlanta. But Buffalo has always been home to its most passionate customers.

“We became very entrenched in the community in the late ‘90s,” Eckert said. “In fact, one of Joseph Sahlen’s (the founder’s great-great grandson) first jobs was driving our grill truck to different events in the area. We wanted people to try the hot dogs, so if they were at fundraisers, charity events or baseball fields, we were there. Eventually, we started seeing people demanding the product at stores and the rest is history.”

Only Sahlen’s hot dogs at Ted’s!

You can find Sahlen’s hot dogs at supermarkets throughout Western New York and grill them yourself, but the best introduction to a genuine, charbroiled Buffalo-style foot-long is at the counter of one of our classic roadside stands such as Ted’s, Anderson’s, Old Man River, Mississippi Mudds, and Taffy’s, prepared by an experienced grill master who knows exactly how to poke and prod the dog so the casing splits just right and then tops it off with some combination of mustard, relish and pickles.

“There are so many great foods that have come from Buffalo and we are happy to be one of them,” added Mike Eckert. “We hear stories all the time of people beyond excited that we’ve started selling in the city they’ve moved to. Or folks that have turned their neighbors onto our hot dogs for summer gatherings. It’s nice to know we can have such a positive impact on people’s lives with something as simple as a chargrilled hot dog.”

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Perry’s: An Ice Cream Icon

The white-on-red Perry’s Ice Cream cone logo is an instantly-recognizable Buffalo icon, found at ice cream stands, corner stores and almost any place ice cream is sold throughout Western New York. It’s been a part of our region’s visual identity for generations, reminding us that we are home to our own unique brand of ice cream – as much a part of our culinary culture as pizza, wings, beef on weck, fish fries and charbroiled hot dogs. While there are a host of upstarts that would love to grab a piece of Perry’s market share, the Akron-based Perry’s remains the ice cream of choice for tens of thousands of Western New Yorkers.

“Buffalo definitely has a legendary list of foods and we are so proud to be part of that extraordinary group,” said Perry’s Vice President Gayle Perry Denning, via email. “What always blows my mind is when I think about the times and moments in people’s lives that Perry’s gets to be a part of. Perry’s has been at more birthday parties and holiday dinners than I can imagine.”

That local tradition can be traced to 1918 when H. Morton Perry, the current management team’s great-grandfather, purchased a milk route and began operating Perry’s Dairy. Bottling milk and making other dairy products like cottage cheese was the company’s focus until 1932 when Morton Perry and his son, Marlo, made a batch of ice cream on their kitchen stove and froze it in a hand-cranked freezer. The next day, Marlo took the ice cream to school and his classmates loved it. Encouraged by the response, Perry’s began packaging its ice cream and selling containers to stores around Akron. A new product was born and Perry’s Dairy eventually became Perry’s Ice Cream.


The company expanded into Buffalo in the 1930s, delivering ice cream to corner stores, delis and ice cream parlors throughout the city and surrounding towns. Today, the Perry’s brand can be found throughout upstate New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. From its plant in Akron, the company produces nearly 500,000 cartons of ice cream and novelties per day during peak season. That’s 12 million gallons of ice cream annually! Great-grandpa’s hand-cranked freezer would have a hard time keeping up with the demand his heirs have created.

The fourth-generation family leadership team includes President and CEO Robert Denning, Executive Vice President and Chair Brian Perry and Vice President of Strategic Branding and Sustainability Gayle Perry Denning. Together, they have made Perry’s the 24th largest ice cream brand in the country. The Perry family attributes the company’s longevity and growth to a commitment to maintaining their great-grandfather’s standards for quality.


“Great-grandpa was known for saying, ‘Make sure you put in enough of the good stuff,’” said Executive Vice President Brian Perry. “And we do! Our family recipe is unique to the Perry’s brand and you can taste the difference. We continue to use local milk and cream in our recipe and we still slow cook the ice cream, one batch at a time, just like H. Morton did back in 1932.”

In the hyper-competitive world of ice cream in the 21st century, Perry’s still relies on a kitchen (probably bigger than the one great-grandpa used) where its Master Flavor Creators can experiment and create new flavors. Inspiration for new products and flavors comes from a variety of sources, including fans, suppliers and team members.

“Trends change faster than ever these days,” said VP Gayle Perry Denning. “We stay on top of our food industry research internally, partner with our flavor houses for new product presentations, talk to our customers regularly and listen to our customers’ requests for what’s next.”

In fact, Perry’s product line has gotten so expansive that they maintain a web-based flavor finder so fans can locate a retail location carrying particular products. You can find it here: Perry’s Ice Cream Flavor Finder.

“We have the best team of people bringing their own ‘good stuff’ every day, working hard together in their area of expertise to make our customers’ experiences with Perry’s exceptional,” added CEO Robert Denning. “We are constantly evolving what we do, yet making sure we are bringing our ‘good stuff’ to you each and every time.”

Perry’s Ice Cream | 1 Ice Cream Plaza, Akron, NY | (716) 542-5492 | perrysicecream.com

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12 Good Reads About Buffalo

You may think you know Buffalo’s story but like many things in life, there’s always more to learn. So why not dive in nose first to discover some amazing under-the-radar stories about our hometown? To make it easy, our friends at the Buffalo & Erie County Library have put together a list of Buffalo books for you to crack open. So when the time comes to get out explore our city, you’ll be armed with more knowledge about Buffalo’s past and a to-do list for the present.

Here’s a starting list of books all about Buffalo – Happy Reading!

The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City, Margaret Creighton

Available via: Library downloadable, Talking Leaves, Kindle

Buffalo’s 1901 Pan-American Exposition: very engaging read on the people and attitudes of the day behind the Exposition. Author is a Buffalo native who conducted her research here.

City on the Lake, Mark Goldman

Available via: Talking Leaves, Kindle

Early discussion of Buffalo’s recent history of decline leading to current resurgence.

City of Light, Lauren Belfer

Available via: Library downloadable, Talking Leaves, Kindle

Often discussed novel on Buffalo during the Pan-Am period, with many known landmarks and historical figures.

100 Things to Do in Buffalo Before You Die, Elizabeth Licata

Available via: Talking Leaves, Kindle

Great aspirational list of places and attractions once we get to leave our houses again.

Buffalo Style Gardens, Sally Cunningham & Jim Charlier

Available via: Library downloadable, Talking Leaves, Kindle

Garden inspirations/best available substitute for in-person Garden Walk.

Big Russ & Me, Tim Russert

Available via: Library downloadable, Talking Leaves, Kindle

Delightful read about a man, a family and the culture of South Buffalo.

Color Buffalo, NY, Annette Trabucco

Available via: Talking Leaves

Coloring book for adults about Buffalo architecture – stress relief while learning!

Buffalo from A to Z, Come Take a Tour With Me, Brigette Atlas Callahan

Available via: cityoflightpublishing.com

Children’s book on local architecture, but a good primer for anyone.

B is for Buffalo, Christopher Hyzy

Available via: cityoflightpublishing.com

Beautiful aerial photography highlighting local sites from A to Z.

The Last Fine Time, Verlyn Klinkenborg

Available via: Talking Leaves

A beautifully-written non-fiction account of a family-owned restaurant on Buffalo’s East Side in the years following World War II.

Buffalo Everything: A Guide to Eating in the Nickel City, Arthur Bovino

Available via: Talking Leaves, Kindle

From beef on weck to Buffalo-style pizza, this is perhaps the most comprehensive book ever written about Buffalo best eats. Psst, there’s a cookbook, too.

Available soon:

Olmsted’s Elmwood: The Rise, Decline and Renewal of Buffalo’s Parkway Neighborhood, Clinton Brown, Faia & Ramona Whitaker

Available via: cityoflightpublishing.com, Talking Leaves

Check out all of the free options to access books, music and more via the City of Buffalo Library’s website BuffaloLib.org. Sign up for your FREE eLibrary card while you’re at it too!

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Zawadi Books: Longtime Black-Owned Business Boosts Reading

Buffalo is home to one of the longest-operated independent black-owned businesses in the country, Zawadi Books. Kenneth and Sharon Holley have plied their trade as booksellers for over 40 years, in an earlier incarnation as Harambee Books, and for the past five years, under the name “Zawadi”—Swahili for “gift”—at 1382 Jefferson Ave. Hours are Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 12 – 4 pm.

Zawadi Books owners, Sharon and Kenneth Holley

Situated in the front of a house on the East Side’s main commercial thoroughfare, the bookstore is crammed full of tomes and artistic treasures “that are by and about people of African descent,” according to Sharon, a former librarian. In fact, she and her husband of 45 years, Kenneth, met while both were working at a local public library. She advanced in the library system, and he became an administrator for a community services agency. While working full-time at their other jobs, the Holleys managed to indulge their passion for books—and service to the Black community—with a little side book business. 

They raised three daughters—Nzinga, Asantewa, and Makeda—along the way, enlisting their help as they visited other cities for such events as Juneteenth, traveling vendors setting up pop-ups where their books were on display, for sale to a wider readership.

“The girls hauled and unpacked books, set up displays, and learned to count money,” Kenneth recalls. It was a fun family adventure, and they learned, as he did from an early age, to enjoy reading. Though it was once an illegal activity for Blacks to read, books were always coveted, and sometimes purloined, if necessary. 

“Reading has always been a part of our history,” he notes. “I grew up in a family of readers. I remember my mother would buy bags of books from the Goodwill store for my father to read. I saw the pleasure he took from books.” When they had their own family, Kenneth and Sharon continued the tradition of reading for entertainment as well as education. “We always had books in our home,” says Sharon. Now the proud grandparents of six, the Holleys continue to share that love with young ones. Holley offspring are well-acquainted, for example, with the Kwanzaa (the annual celebration of African-American culture) tradition of the gift of a book.

Surviving the pandemic has been a challenge for most businesses, and the Holleys closed their doors, from March to July, in 2020. Their online presence was practically nonexistent, but they did see a surge in phone orders from mid-March through April, and continued on with curbside pickup. Many of the titles they stock—from histories to classics of Black literature which are hard to find or out-of-print— “we were carrying before Black Lives Matter ever started,” notes Kenneth.  

In addition to current popular fiction and non-fiction, Zawadi shoppers can find poetry, genealogy, cookbooks, young adult books, a local authors section, greeting cards, artwork, T-shirts, and seasonal items, as well as an array of strikingly-illustrated books for children “that give positive images—where they can see themselves,” adds Sharon, who is also an accomplished storyteller. She and her colleague Karima Amin founded Tradition-Keepers: Black Storytellers of Western New York.

Zawadi Books is part of a national Black Bookstore Collective, which has been meeting regularly on ZOOM. Newer owners are looking at this as a business, their primary source of income, and that’s fine with Kenneth, but it was never the Holley way. Their store functions as a community center, and they are grateful for the support they’ve received over these many years. They do have plans to use some of the stimulus funds coming their way as minority-owned business owners to upgrade their online presence.

And they will continue to do what they do best, pass on a love of reading to a younger generation, and encourage folks to keep reading. As official Zawadi t-shirts proclaim: What you read matters.

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Get Your Next Sundae at This Sweet Summer Spot

When you make your way around Western New York, you’ll find dozens of ice cream shops scattered throughout. Some pop up seasonally, while others sling sugary treats all year-round. And like their menus, these shops come in every shape and size.

But I don’t think there’s a more unique and historic ice cream spot than Sweet Jenny’s Ice Cream in the quaint Village of Williamsville.

Tucked into a corner of the one-way East Spring Street you’ll find delicious desserts served out of a 215-year-old former water mill.

The 1811 Williamsville Water Mill was essentially saved from demolition several years ago when the Cadmus family purchased the old building after leasing it for years.

Sweet Jenny’s has been dishing the freshest frozen treats you can find since the mid ‘80s. How do they make everything so fresh? Because they produce their small batches of ice cream and chocolates right on site.

And believe me – you can taste the difference.

Our family of four visited on a recent June evening, and before knowing it was produced on site with wholesome ingredients, we commented how fresh our scoops tasted. According to their website, products are often available for sale the very day they’re made.

Before ordering from the front window, peruse their large menu of scoops, shakes and sundaes. They have flavors served daily, as well as special flavors rotated in from, quite literally, thousands of options. So, it’s worth several trips just to occasionally catch a new flavor.

In addition to traditional ice cream, they also make frozen soft serve custard, vegan ice cream, sorbet, low fat frozen yogurt, fat & sugar free ice cream and even doggie safe scoops for your four-legged friends. Parent tip: we opted for kiddie sizes for our little ones since we were pushing bedtime. But even the kiddie sizes were pretty generous.

There didn’t appear to be indoor seating available, but there are plenty of options outside. You’ll find a cute courtyard area with a few tables, as well as a few just left of the ordering area. And don’t forget, Glen Park with Glen Falls is just steps away if you’re looking for a pretty spot to enjoy your Sweet Jenny’s.

Step inside Sweet Jenny’s and you’ll find their retail shop featuring rows and rows of chocolate, candies, confections, and cakes to order. Oh, and if you’d like a pint or quart of their ice cream to go – they have you covered with tons of flavors.

To add to the fun of this old building, on the second floor of the Mill there’s a comic shop, aptly named 1811 Comics. Look through comics – new and old – as well as toys, collectibles, and take a selfie with their life-sized superheroes.

1811 Comics

Ice cream, comics and a cool setting – this place has it all.

Summer is here! And I can’t think of a better complement to the season than a fresh, homemade scoop (or three) of Sweet Jenny’s Ice Cream while soaking in the sun.

Sweet Jenny’s Ice Cream, 56 East Spring Street, Williamsville
Hours: Mon – Sat. 10 AM – 8 PM | Sun. 11 AM – 8 PM

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Stores With Stories: The Flower Stand

Zooming up in her compact blue utility vehicle outfitted with a cup holder teeming with pens, a cargo bed holding gardening equipment and paperwork, and a bright yellow sign on the back showing a lady behind the wheel of a tractor, reading “Buy Locally Grown Fresh Flowers and Produce,” Ellen Krzemien (née Rumfola) has just been checking on the progress of her crops.

The late spring fields are planted with rows of emergent flower seedlings – about a month and a half away from summer’s full blooms. Ellen shows spreadsheets of dozens of columns of fine print tracking species, colors, heights, and propagation success.

The Flower Stand owner Ellen Krzemien

“This is the layout of the field, areas A to J, in 18 rows making up the main garden. Then the area behind it is a duplicate of it. There are several kinds of zinnias available, for example, in different stem lengths.” There are perennials, ever-popular dahlias, lavender, Queen Anne’s lace, feverfew, cosmos, baby’s breath, and many more. Flowers in the “everlasting section” include rows of lisianthus, strawflowers, status, and verbena. “I also have an herb area with dill, basil, chamomile, and huacatay – Peruvian mint, with bright green, spiky leaves,” she says.

Transforming a portion of her third-generation family farm, Ellen has created a unique u-pick of a myriad of fresh flowers. It’s agri-tourism, and a fun, family-friendly destination in Springville, New York that’s an easy 36-minute drive from downtown Buffalo.

The Flower Stand, located along Route 240, typically opens around the Fourth of July after what Ellen refers to as her “tax season to get the entire field planted.” She, her husband Jon, her dad Joe, and other helpers plant thousands of seeds for a yield lasting through the first frost, usually mid-October, when several varieties of pumpkins enter the mix.

“My whole life my family has owned this farm – and Rumfola’s Market – since the 1930s and all told it’s 100 acres,” she says. “It’s always a leap of faith. I plant things in the middle of May, hoping there will be no more frost.” What began as 1.5 acres is “pushing into 4 acres now. We’ve had consistent growth and popularity,” she says.

Visits for posy picking are by appointment only; reservations may be made via their website for a 90-minute time slot on one of their days of operation. This, Ellen says, keeps the farm’s plants and grounds healthy by limiting visitors during their open hours Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Everyone is asked to check in and out at the desk located under the awning at their adorable, wooden farmstand, close to the road and adjacent to the parking spots available to u-pickers. Displays outside sell already-cut bouquets, and vegetables grown on the farm. Inside, the small shop carries flower-related gift items like themed t-shirts, tea towels, pots, dried herbs, and bottled water.

All of the necessary equipment is provided for picking – pruners and containers – but anyone may use their own pruners. Bouquet pricing is by the container size/width of its opening: half-gallon or gallon-sized jugs, buckets (small, large, or event-sized), bud vase, and flower box vase. Ellen says that the gallon jug is their biggest seller, priced at $35.

Besides The Flower Stand, Ellen runs a CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription for bouquets, with pick-up sites at the farm, in Orchard Park, and in Larkinville. Since 2005, as Ellen K. Design, she has created floral arrangements and bouquets for weddings and events, and home staging for her real estate clients.

“I first grew flowers to put in my staged homes,” she says. “I sold my surplus flowers at our farm’s roadside stand; it was a hobby at first and then I started getting phone calls – then orders – for my flowers so then the growing became more intentional. And then I was designing little bouquets all the time in my mind.”

“The Flower Stand is part of the ‘Grown, not Flown’ movement of flower farms,” she adds. “It’s a different vibe, and it’s organic. It’s also about mixing native plants with others for a more diverse, natural look.”

Ellen completed the Master Gardener Program at Cornell Co-Operative Extension training course in 2017. “Now I’m an active member,” she says, noting that she is always actively learning more about growing, flowers, and business. She’s also a proud, certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) in Erie County. She says she’s contemplating opening a wedding venue on the farm, another seemingly natural progression of her business experience.

“A lot of good things happen here on the farm, people have a visceral reaction to this field. I always say ‘Come with your people, or alone. It’s a meditative experience and there are benches, and butterflies to just sit and be.”

The Flower Stand, 13187 Vaughn Street, Springville | theflowerstand716.com | (716) 913-0626 | Facebook | Instagram

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Eat Your Way Through Elmwood Village with Buffalo Food Tours

There’s no better time than the start of summer to get out and get acquainted, or for locals – get reacquainted, with Buffalo’s local food scene. That’s exactly what I had the opportunity to do with Buffalo Food Tours on a picturesque June day.

Newly launched, Buffalo Food Tours is determined to prove that Buffalo is “more than just chicken wings.” They currently offer a walking tour of the Elmwood Village, complete with diverse small plates, sips and a side of Buffalo history. Owner and international traveler Adam Sandecki returned home to Western New York with a plan to explore his passion for food and shared experiences.

Vegan Smoked Salmon “Lox” sandwich from Tipico Coffee

“During the pandemic, our plan was to return to the states, more specifically Buffalo, and I knew this would be a perfect time to attempt something new,” Adam explained. “Food has always been a passion of mine. I love to find new or old restaurants that are either hidden gems or unexpectedly putting out quality food.”

Walking tours occur rain or shine and typically include 5-7 stops. My adventure included bites at Tipico Coffee, Taste of Siam, Charlie the Butcher’s Carvery, Forty Thieves Kitchen & Bar, Watson’s Chocolates, with a refreshing palate cleanser at Squeeze Juicery. Each stop featured a sampling unique to the establishment and in some cases, a history lesson. At Taste of Siam, I enjoyed handmade wide rice noodles with chicken and fresh vegetables while learning of Thai family recipes that began on Hertel Avenue more than 20 years ago.

House Noodles (Savory Peanut) with Chicken from Taste of Siam, Banana Crunch Rolls from Forty Thieves Kitchen & Bar & Mini Beef from Charlie the Butcher’s Carvery

At Charlie the Butcher’s, I dined on a classic beef on weck sandwich and learned that Charles E. Roesch, Mayor of Buffalo from 1930 to 1934, went on to open up the now infamous butcher shop at the Broadway Market. Needless to say, the local history was as robust as the food itself.

We enjoyed an incredible vegan smoked salmon “lox” sandwich from Tipico, stuffed banana pepper crunch rolls at Forty Thieves, capping off the experience with dark chocolate sponge candy and ice cream from Watson’s. Each location demonstrated that one beloved street can showcase both famous favorites and the diversity of Buffalo cuisine. One thing is for sure: you will not go hungry.

“This past year and a half has been so hard on so many. It’s been a pleasure getting to talk with new people who are excited about getting back outside and going to restaurants again. It’s been great sharing that with them,” Adam says.

A gorgeous display at Watson’s Chocolates

Online booking is now open for tours on Thursdays and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Private tours are available for groups seeking a personalized itinerary. Each tour will include appetizers, a lunch item and dessert. Drinks are available for an extra fee. The maximum party is 10 people, age 12+.

Buffalo Food Tours | buffalofoodtours.com | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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