Golden Lion Coffee House & Studio Collective

In September of 2020, I posted a story about Jennifer Bohlen, Buffalo’s “Local Honey.” Since that time, the Local Honey Beauty Hive, located at 1255 Niagara Street, has continued to thrive. Not only has the salon thrived, so has the surrounding section of Niagara Street, which is now home to, among others, CooCoo U, the Niagara Street Vintage Collective, Mortalis Brewing Company, Mint, Great Point Studios, and there are more businesses on the way.

Now that everything is going swimmingly with Local Honey, Jennifer is embarking upon a grand new adventure on Niagara Street, in a commercial space that is essentially an extension of her salon. She’s in the process of opening a café called Golden Lion Coffee House. She’s also building out a set of seven incubator-type spaces that will turn the broader commercial space into a collective of sorts.

The dream of building out the coffee shop and collective came about a year ago, when Jenn and her retail manager, designer Ashton Warner, noticed that many of the customers walking through the door had cups of Starbucks and Tim Hortons in their hands. Seeing that a corner of the salon that had been dedicated to retail clothing sales wasn’t performing as well as they would have liked, and co-tenant Buffalo Brow and Lash Lounge had relocated to a larger space on Delaware Avenue, there was plenty of room to build out a café.

To their advantage, it just so happens that, in a former life, Ashley had worked as a barista at Variety Coffee Roasters in NYC.

“We went on a trip to visit Variety,” Jenn told me. “Now they’re our roaster – they have five locations, and we will be their first wholesale account outside of NYC. They’ve been so great to work with – they’ve helped us with everything from the beans to decor ideas. We toured the roastery, and I ended up taking a barista class. We’ve also been getting some guidance from Maggie Silvestri here in Buffalo. She owns Buffalo Coffee Cart – a mobile coffee cart. Between Variety and Maggie, they’ve been a huge help and have answered all of our questions.”

Along with coffee, espresso, latte, cold brew, iced teas, energy drinks, etc., Golden Lion Coffee House will have some delectables including baked goods by Blue Eyed Baker, hummus, and other delicious – and easy to serve up – treats.

“We want to see what customers want, before going overboard with the food,” said Jenn. “The café will open to the salon, with a set of French doors. They will be completely different businesses, but they will work off one another. Plus, I’m building out seven studio spaces in the back, where I had some extra room to play around with. Ashley has already signed on to take one of the studios for the clothing that she designs. I want to get like-minded entrepreneurs to lease the other spaces, so that it really becomes a collective. That way, we can all support each other in a lot of different ways, from marketing to sharing customers. The studios for small businesses should be ready in a couple of months – Ashley will be managing the spaces.”

I still can’t believe how Niagara Street is changing. It just goes to show that with the right vision, anything is possible. In the café and collective, a lot of credit has to go to building owner Bill Breeser, who thankfully realized that the time was right to develop his real estate portfolio on the street a few years back. He also expertly curated the storefronts, by finding the right mix of tenants that would bring a healthy mix of products and services to the neighborhood. Golden Lion Coffee House and the incubator studios will greatly add to that (his) vision.

Golden Lion Coffee House is expected to officially open on June 18, 2024.

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