When Kamalie Liyanage journeyed to New York City to practice general law in 2013, she admitted that she became "a bit of a capitalist" in some ways, departing from what she had known about herself. After living in New York for a short period of time, the 31-year-old experienced a change of heart.
"Buffalo is home and where family is. I think being homesick is what brought me back."
The lawyer did not arrive empty-handed. While living in Manhattan, Liyanage visited the many crepe cafes that peppered the neighborhoods. From sitting in the cafes she learned that crepes were a quick food to make. She began making them herself, and then eventually opened her own business in Buffalo, Wholly Crepe.
Wholly Crepe's walls are bedecked with illustrations by street artist Shepard Fairey, promoting a culture of social responsibility and forward thinking. The biographies of Malcolm X, Che Guevara, and other revolutionaries fill a bookcase near a window where a cascade of sunlight filters into the space, opening the room. Students are encouraged to participate in a "take a book, leave a book" policy of learning.
"I want to create a liberal hangout for the students," she says passionately. "I want the young generation going to UB to know about these people."
Liyanage starts from scratch with her crepes, making the batter daily and frequently, adding just the right amount of egg, milk, vanilla, and sugar. "I'm going to keep the quantities secret," she says with a hush-hush grin.
Aside from love, her not-so-secret ingredient, Liyanage's crepes are also made with wholesome products like cage-free eggs and hormone-free turkey, hence the name "Wholly Crepe." Another fun entendre fact: her crepe cafe is located between two churches on Main Street near UB South.
The location was deliberate. Liyanage wanted to open a business close to her alma matter as well as preserve the historical art-deco personality of the building which, at the time, was owned by her mother. "She spent years of blood and sweat building this [structure] from the ground up."
The neighborhood has responded positively to Liyanage and her penchant for crepe-making. So far, the personal favorite seems to be the Lox, a salmon-stuffed crepe filled with capers and cream cheese. Also popular is the drink menu, which contains coffee brewed locally by Plume Coffee & Roastery.
The menu is divided into sweet and savory flavors, all in the $5-$7 range, affordable for college students.
Wholly Crepe's official grand opening will take place on July 15 at 3292 Main Street. Call 835-0191 for hours and information.