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Legendary soul food restaurant will add to Northland Corridor
Empire State Development and the City of Buffalo on Monday announced the grand opening of Gigi’s Northland restaurant located at the Northland Workforce Training Center (NWTC) in Buffalo. The 3,900-square-foot, full-service kitchen and café, at 683 Northland Ave., will serve a clientele that includes students from Northland Workforce Training Center, area residents, and previous diners who enjoyed the restaurant at its former location on East Ferry Street. The well-known restaurant has been located on Buffalo’s East Side since the 1960s, but closed three years ago following a fire at its previous location.
“This project is a great example of the public-private partnerships happening across the Western New York region,” said Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “Gigi’s will further catalyze Buffalo's East Side redevelopment while adding to the overall success of the Northland Workforce Training Center.”
“Today is a day to celebrate new beginnings and a new future for Buffalo’s iconic Gigi’s restaurant,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who spoke at the event. “When a devastating fire tore through Gigi’s, the community rallied together, determined to reopen the establishment and continue serving residents. The new Gigi’s complements our investment at the Northland Workforce Training Center, which is transforming the East Side with an innovative workforce development strategy for Western New York.”
“Gigi’s is one of the most iconic restaurants in the City of Buffalo," said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “While I am saddened that Gigi's founder, Blondine Harvin, is not here for this grand opening, I am comforted knowing her legacy lives on at the restaurant. I am proud to partner with Gov. Cuomo and the Empire State Development Corp. to bring back this East Side staple to the sleek, state-of-the-art Northland Campus. I encourage residents to support this local treasure and enjoy some of the best soul food in the city.”
Buffalo Urban Development Corp. selected Gigi’s as a tenant for the Northland restaurant space to provide food for the NWTC students, employees and staff, as well as for diners from the surrounding neighborhood and elsewhere. The eatery is located on the northeast corner of the building and is accessible to the public either through the main lobby entrance or through a separate patio.
“Buffalo Urban Development Corp. is pleased to have Gigi’s Northland opening up as our second tenant at Northland Central (683 Northland),” said Peter M. Cammarata, president of BUDC. “Early in the planning process for the Northland Campus, we felt that is was imperative to have a food service operator in place to support the students, businesses and neighbors who would be gravitating to this transitional community. With its rich heritage on Buffalo’s East Side, Gigi’s Northland is the perfect match. The state of New York and the City of Buffalo have worked closely with Darryl Harvin to make his mother’s vision of a resurrected community icon come true.”
Gigi’s was operated for decades at 257 E. Ferry St., by Blondine “Gigi” Harvin. Gigi’s son, Darryl Harvin, is the owner and operator of the new Gigi’s, which features a menu that includes many of the soul food favorites that made it famous, plus some healthier options that include farm-to-table selections, yogurt and paninis that can be taken to go. The restaurant will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.
“Gigi’s is excited to be open at Northland,” Harvin said. “We thank BUDC and Empire State Development for this opportunity to once again serve the community the food they know and love with a few new specialties also on the menu. To the students of Northland and the entire region, I am pleased and proud to say, ‘Welcome to Gigi’s!’ ”
The Northland Workforce Training Center is a part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion vision for a new and vibrant Northland Avenue community. It is designed to create a successful workforce pipeline for qualified community members to become highly skilled workers in the advanced manufacturing and energy industries. Since it opened in the fall of 2018, the center’s focus has been on providing a comprehensive pathway to manufacturing and energy careers with good pay through industry education, job training, leadership development, life skills training, quality of life and community assistance, job placement, and follow-up to ensure a successful job transition.
NWTC President and CEO Stephen Tucker said, “We are excited about the opening of Gigi’s Restaurant in Northland Workforce Training Center. Their history as a staple in the community that provides quality food options is a welcomed addition to the Northland Corridor and supports the renaissance that’s happening on Buffalo’s East Side.”
The Workforce Training Center is being funded with $29 million from the Buffalo Billion and $15 million from the New York Power Authority.
NYPA Chairman John R. Koelmel said, “The return of Gigi’s is a welcome boost for the City of Buffalo and entire Western New York region, and is specifically significant in the economic transformation of the East Side. The Northland Workforce Training Center is on track to be a world-class facility, attracting new businesses and training for clean energy and manufacturing jobs in the region. The Power Authority is pleased to welcome back an enterprising business that will support existing tenants and encourage additional growth in the neighborhood.”
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “While this is a celebration of Gigi’s reopening here at the Northland Workforce Training Center following that devastating fire almost four years ago, it’s also a bittersweet reopening, because Blondine Harvin, the woman responsible for bringing Gigi’s to the Queen City, is no longer with us. But I can assure you she’s smiling down on us knowing that her legacy of bringing the best soul food, fried chicken, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler and my favorite, salmon cakes and grits, will continue for another 60 years. We thank and congratulate Blondine and her son, Darryl, for one of the greatest gifts you can offer anyone: a good, homecooked meal.”
New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, “For years, Gigi's has been an iconic Buffalo gem, embedded in the fabric of our city's East Side and cherished by the people who call it home. While a fire may have halted operations temporarily, I'm thrilled to see this restaurant reopen inside a new city anchor: the Northland Workforce Training Center. This new partnership will not only benefit the students and staff who visit the center daily, but the surrounding neighborhoods and the many who have missed the soul food Gigi's is known for serving.”
Common Council President Darius Pridgen said, “This opening is important to the Buffalo community. It's wasn't just a symbolic choice to open at the Northland Corridor, it was a necessary one for the city. I'm thankful Miss Gigi got a chance to know that her name would live on and that it will be located within a facility to help train and educate everyone that enters the building. Today, her legacy will continue to take care of men and women when they need it.”
Common Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. said, “We are proud to have worked alongside the Harvin family to ensure that the vision of Gigi’s staying on the East Side is realized. Blondine ‘Gigi’ Harvin would be proud of the progress and the coalition around keeping her dream of serving the community alive.”