… it’s places like this … where we get to know each other, we get to understand each other … and we get to respect one another... ~ Brian Higgins
The 2016 Easter season at The Broadway Market opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on March 11th. Improvements continue on the 90,000-square feet of retail space. The city of Buffalo’s $200,000 renovation investment includes resurfacing the floors and the addition of a commercial, shared-use kitchen, set for installation. A new energy pervades this historic place these days, and you can have a say in the future of the Market by taking this Survey.
The first time I went to the Broadway Market was in March, 2001. I had come to Buffalo for a visit the previous October and ended up staying. Instead of finding a job, I took up knitting. I knit scarves to give as Christmas presents. Over the winter, I watched as the scarves loosened and unraveled around the necks of family members. By March, the scarves were no longer and the yarn was cat bait. I felt as wayward and misdirected as those tangled yards of yarn.
I was born in Buffalo but spent 27 of my 35 years in various locations on the west coast. My parents, like many young people in the '70s, left Buffalo for better opportunities. I had returned a bit disoriented and wondering where my life was going; I relied on the steadiness of my grandmother and the stability of her home. She had lived in the same house in South Buffalo since before I was born.
She didn’t ask for much - not rent or groceries, not even a job. Accompanying her on a trip to the Broadway Market at Easter time seemed a fair exchange for her rootedness. I didn’t have a home of my own to cook in or to decorate. I carried her bags and trailed along as she nosed through the baskets of painted wooden eggs and searched for the group of monks who hand-crafted her favorite pierogis. She pulled a number and we waited for the butcher to wrap up her Easter ham and polish sausage. She had a favorite vendor for jelly beans and another for chocolates. Spicy mustard was on the menu, as well.
My grandmother smoked for more than 60 years. She tired easily and could become impatient. Often a growl emerged when she spoke. I had been a waitress for fifteen years, so I effortlessly engaged in the jovial exchanges of customer service. I flashed smiles and mouthed a thank you when I received her purchases from the vendors while she shuffled along to the next booth.
Around lunchtime we ran into her sister and daughter. My uncle, who was then a police captain in C-District, also arrived. Before long we were huddled together lunching on Reubens and pastries. I busily fetched more chairs when other family members strolled up to say hello. At the time I assumed that my grandmother had made some phone calls to set up this seemingly impromptu rendezvous, but in hindsight, this may not have been the case. The Broadway Market at Easter time was family ritual. The very act of returning year after year set us into a groove.
Started by a group of citizens on a city-donated parcel at 999 Broadway in 1888, the Broadway Market quickly became a community meeting place–a place ideal for combining business with socializing and for sharing with one another the latest in gossip and news from the old world. ~ The Broadway Market Website
It began with immigrants from Eastern Europe sharing their culture, traditions, and heritage. For many families, the Broadway Market became a gathering place, a hub for all of Buffalo’s diverse cultures.
Traveling from South Buffalo to the East Side with Gram at Easter became an annual tradition. Sometimes her sister, niece or daughter came along, and then, during the last years of her life, my son, her great-grandson Sam, accompanied us. We enjoyed the convenience of his stroller for our bags.
Over the years, I found my own favorites among the vendors; I purchased pussy willows and pierogis to celebrate my in-laws’ Polish ancestry, shea butter for my adoptive son’s black skin, butter in the shape of a lamb for my Easter table, and puppets from a Native American vendor for the kids’ Easter baskets. And I return more than once a year for the deli meats and particularly, to visit the vendor who fills cannoli to order.
Last year, my youngest and I went alone. I pulled him through the market in a wagon. I miss my grandmother so very much, but she's closest to me when I return to the places she loved.
Now, it seems, it is my turn to etch the groove for the next generation.