Empire No More

As I sit here moping about not being witness to the Goo Goo Dolls show at the North Park Theatre tonight, I figured I’d post my sadness about the recent news of the closing of Empire Grill.

Empire Grill announced on Sunday via their Facebook page that they have closed for good. The media quickly picked up the story. I guess it was inevitable, as rumors surfaced a few weeks and months ago, which turned out to be accurate, just premature.

It’s not really clear from what I’ve read or heard as to why they closed. All that’s been said is that owner, Nick Kotrides, was looking to sell all three of the restaurants he owns.

Nice to see the Hertel Ave location was the hottest commodity!

I recall so many experiences at Empire Grill, and quite honestly, every single one of them being good. From some corporate and Ad Club events to regular all-you-can-eat Sunday brunches to some epic private New Year’s Eve parties, I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad time or bad meal at Empire.

I know that wasn’t the case for everyone, but for whatever reason, I’m sad to see it close. But to end this post on an optimistic note, it’s great to see things happening so fast. New owners expect to close on the building soon and reopen it by summer. I wish them great success and hope that they put together a unique concept that will regularly fill such a big, but awesome building.


Hello Hertel Turns 1 !


Hard to believe that a year ago we posted our first blog – The Story Behind the Design – which explained why a pack of Camel cigarettes was rebranded into Buffalo Clarinets.

Since then we’ve posted about 40 blogs, earned a hundred or so followers and enjoyed almost 22,000 views of our site.

Buffalo Rising mentioned our blog in a few of their articles and Channel 2 even interviewed me in December for some thoughts on shopping local.

We connected with one particular neighbor, Meg Vaidya, who loved our blog almost as much as she loves Buffalo. Ok probably not that much, but enough for her to come on board and start contributing to the page.

In looking back, I think this blog did exactly what Karen and I had hoped. The blog shared stories of all the exciting things going on in North Buffalo, gave us some creative and artistic freedom, and better connected us with our community.

Hope this post doesn’t come off like were bragging about Hello Hertel. It’s quite the opposite really – just a big fat Thank you! Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting, and most importantly, for North Buffaloving.

Let’s plant some trees!

If you’ve been paying attention to NorthBuffalo.org, Hello Hertel or Hertel Avenue’s Facebook page, you should know about the upcoming Spring Clean-Up on April 26. (I’ve been practically crying for signs of spring since February)

If you just learned of this now, not to worry, it’s not too late to sign up to help out.

What hasn’t been as widely publicized is: in conjunction with that clean-up will be a Re-Tree spring planting on a few of our NoBo streets. I’ve been working closely with Ryan Sajdak, NorthBuffalo.org’s founder, and we’ve secured an order of 50 trees!

But I also promised Ryan that we’d have enough people to help plant those trees.

So again, it’s not too late to sign up, and if you’re someone who loves lining an urban neighborhood with some beautiful foliage like me, please check the box on the registration form that indicates you want to help with the planting. And feel free to mention Hello Hertel in the comments section too, I’d love to meet any loyal readers of this blog!

In closing, here are some pictures of the trees we’ll be planting, along with their funny names. Hope to see you on the 26th!

Cercis Canadensis (Redbud)

Cornus X Constellation (Dogwood)

Parrotia Persica (Persian Ironwood)

Prunus Virginiana (Canada Red)

 Eucommia Ulmoides (Hardy Rubber)

Ginkgo Biloba (Ginkgo Princeton Sentry)

Quercus Coccinea (Scarlet Oak)

Quercus Rubra (Northern Red Oak)

School 81: A Diamond in the Rough?

I gave birth to this kid four months ago.


Cute, right?

Well he wasn’t more than a day or two old, before Charlie and I started SERIOUSLY talking about where we would send him to school. Sure, we were getting a little ahead of ourselves given that he has to first master some basic life skills like eating and sleeping and cheering for the Bills before the bus pulls up and whisks him off to kindergarten. But still, now that we have a real-life tiny human in front of us, all of a sudden we feel like we have to start the conversation.

Many o’ times we’ve uttered the words “well there’s NO WAY we can send him to public schools, not in Buffalo”. The options were always Catholic schools, charter schools (whatever those are) or banking on the fact that we were raising the next Albert Einstein and we’d be enrolling him in the early achiever program at Harvard.

A pleasant Facebook conversation with a Hello Hertel reader I’ve never met now has me thinking otherwise.

This fellow North BuffaLOVER wrote me a quick note to say how much she enjoyed reading our blog. We exchanged a number of pleasantries and yada yada yada (thanks George Costanza for one of the greatest segues ever), turns out we have a mutual friend (classic Buffalo) AND turns out she’s a teacher at School 81 on Tacoma Ave.

I have driven by that school a million times and in the last four months have been wondering if that is one of the good ones you hear young parents living in the city talk about. According to her, it is. My eyes lit up.

She said the principal at 81 runs a “tight ship” and their students go on to Nichols and City Honors. She acknowledged that Buffalo Public Schools do have their challenges (putting it nicely) but said that walking into School 81 is unlike any other. Who is this Principal Tight Ship and what is he all about?

See this article from the Buffalo News on School 81’s Principal, Robert Clemens.

If you’re a young parent in North Buffalo, I truly hope you clicked that link. After reading that, I have a renewed sense of hope that a Buffalo public school, School 81 in our own backyard, could be a viable option for our child’s education someday.

A renewed sense of hope from a complete stranger, now Facebook friend, thanks to this very blog.

Now I just need Principal Clemens to stick around for another 13 years…ya know, in case that Harvard thing doesn’t work out.