Summer on the Avenue

Lately I have been spending most of my weekends in Rochester, which left me feeling distanced from Buffalo. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Rochester; but I love Buffalo more!

So when I finally ditched the Flower City for Queen City, I decided to spend the whole day Hertel-Hopping.

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It all started on the beautiful flower adorned patio of La Tavola. They had me at their beautifully crafted cocktails, but their food was an absolute home run too. And the fact that all the patio flowers were from their next-door neighbor Floral Explorations, it was an icing on the cake.

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Once well fed, it was time for a leisurely stroll on the avenue. And strolling and shopping come hand in hand. Now, don’t stop reading already. I am not going to talk about skater dresses and accordion-pleated skirts (I mean I can..but I won’t).

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On that note, enter Second Reader Book Shop. Now if you are anything like me (translation: book nerd), this place is absolute heaven. Like the name suggests, they sell pre-owned, vintage and collectible books. Buffalo, New York City, Frank Lloyd Wright, comic books from 1950’s, vintage Mustang poster books- you name it, they got it. And I can personally vouch for their collection because some of my very prized possessions were bought here.

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With a bag of books on my arm and a warm smile on my face, I moved on to New Buffalo Graphics. Now if you have not heard of this place; you, my friend, are missing out. Designed by Michael Morgulis, it is the ultimate destination for Buffalo-themed prints and posters. And for the most part, most of his art is lovingly and proudly created at the back of this very store.

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After all the shopping, it was time to quench the thirst. And Caramici’s offered a perfectly cold beer on a beautiful patio with a public piano. I enjoyed my beer, watching the hustle and bustle on the avenue serenaded by the melody of a pianist.

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And then I decided to venture out to Buffalo’s soccer mecca, mes Que. Traditionally a Bills and Sabres fan, I do not really follow the sport. Nonetheless, watching all the soccer enthusiasts, decked in their respective jerseys, cheering for their teams was fun. And the beers only made it more interesting!

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That concluded my Hertel-Hopping. Needless to say, I had a very nice time- all within two blocks of my house.

After all we only get 99 days of summer, gotta make the most of it.

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The Story Behind the Design

I can’t be alone. Among the thousands of pro-716 “BuffaLOVERS”, I think many of us have an unexplained affinity for the standing buffalo. An odd choice for a favorite animal, sure.  Especially for one that has no confirmed credit for the city of Buffalo’s name. But yet it’s slapped all over everything we love, from sports teams to street landscapes. So of course when Karen and I moved to the city, we immediately needed to adorn our new house with the burly image.

Enter New Buffalo Graphics, the standing buffalo capital of Buffalo.

The first piece that caught my eye looked like a pack of camel cigarettes. Closer inspection revealed creative detail with a purpose unrelated to smoking altogether. References to camel were replaced by buffalo both in writing and graphically. Cigarettes became clarinets and the subhead of Jazz & Geography Blend Clarinets brought it all together.

But what’s better is how those elements came about.

I inquired with Hertel Avenue shop owner and designer, Michael Morgulis (who I note is a former award winning Ad Club member), about his inspiration for this wildly interesting piece, and also (politely) demanded an explanation on how it related to Buffalo. He was happy to oblige, and went on to tell me about his days in the late 70s and early 80s where he would develop posters for the Just Buffalo Literary Center. Each poster announced an event, usually a poetry reading or other literary happening. In this case, poets and musicians from many geographical points around the country were coming to perform in Buffalo. It was sort of a rock concert, but with poetry and jazz.

He went on to tell me how the stars aligned at the 11th hour.

“So, there I was trying to meet deadline, up all night, drinking coffee and smoking one Camel after another, struggling to come up with the right combination of words and images. And then it was time to take my daughter to the Community Music School for her clarinet lesson. As usual, she complained that I smelled bad from smoking so much. So, I decided the only right thing to do was to listen to the wisdom and quit smoking then and there. All at once the elements of that moment coalesced. The sun came out from behind the clouds, the air was clear and I knew that the clarinet/cigarette rhyme and the “make music, not smoke” message was going to somehow be on the 17×22 piece of paper on my drawing board. I crumpled the pack of Camels with 3 cigarettes left, meaning to dump it forever… and then, in a double-take, uncrumpled the package, flattened it out and looked at it in an all new way.

I finished the poster in time and never went back to smoking. It was 1985.”

28 years later, it’s in my living room.