‘You want the support you thought you were getting,’ Business owner speaks out on Downtown Bazaar controversy

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A small business incubator located in Downtown Buffalo is facing controversy within our community.

The Westminster Economic Development Initiative, also known as WEDI, launched the Downtown Bazaar less than a year ago. The Bazaar has been facing financial straits for months, but after a meeting Friday, board members say the location will remain open. 

A business owner spoke with News 4 about the struggles she’s faced since setting up shop at the Downtown Bazaar location. She explains that a lot of the other businesses at the Downtown location and other Bazaar locations feel a similar way.

“You put your idea out on this platform so you want the support that you thought you were getting,” she said. “If you’re not going to get it here, where are you going to get it?”

The business owner explained that when she made the decision to lease from Downtown Bazaar, she was told she’d get a lot of support helping her navigate the challenges of starting a business. She was also told she’d receive some help with marketing, but she says those promises have not been kept. 

Just eight months after opening, WEDI board members met to discuss closing the Downtown Bazaar as the organization faced a large deficit. Board members say that all of the staff is actively working hard to keep the location up and running.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our board and our staff in terms of finding ways to be creative and find a way,” said WEDI board member Steve Zenger. “There was never going to be a decision today about closing it tomorrow. Today’s meeting was about putting our heads together and getting some feedback from the collaboration between our staffing and our business partners down there and trying to find a creative way to keep that facility open.” 

The board will not explicitly say how they came to the decision to keep the Downtown Bazaar operating, citing that it’s too early to share the details. But they did admit that keeping the location open has been an uphill battle. 

“There are some challenges down there, I’m not going to lie. Much of those challenges really have nothing to do with our choices or their choices but the economic reality of downtowns in every city in America,” said Zenger. “The workforce and changing habits where people live is affecting opportunities for businesses that are located in downtown corridors.”  

Zenger emphasized that WEDI is looking into making changes to fully support the up and coming entrepreneurs. 

“Our team is always doing things to try and help our business owners. That’s really our mission,” said Zenger. “I think we probably need to take a look at efforts to work harder and do more work to promote the Downtown and West Side Bazaar.”

According to the business owner, WEDI wants to hold another meeting a month before their lease is up to come up with a plan for the future. WEDI is also looking for people to serve on the board to help their effort to keep locations like Downtown Bazaar open.

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