Funding supports West Side Bazaar expansion project
Congressman Brian Higgins joined the Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) Monday to announce $950,000 secured by the congressman in the 2022 federal budget for the West Side Bazaar expansion project.
“Small businesses, including these operated by Western New York’s immigrant and refugee population, enrich our community culturally and economically,” Higgins said. “This federal funding secured for WEDI will be critical in completing the West Side Bazaar expansion project, which will allow the organization to serve a greater number of up-and-coming, traditionally underserved entrepreneurs in the Western New York community.”
Higgins’ team said, “The West Side Bazaar is a small business incubator where new and aspiring entrepreneurs can test restaurant and retail concepts and learn the fundamentals of running a business. It also serves as a community gathering space where people of all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds can share their love for food and culturally unique products. The bazaar has food kiosks featuring Burmese, Chinese, Ethiopian, Japanese, Malaysian, South Sudanese and Thai cuisines. It also has retailers selling items inspired by the cultures of the lands in Africa and Asia where they were born.”
WEDI Executive Director Carolynn Welch said, “WEDI’s board of directors and staff are grateful for Congressman Higgin’s commitment to the entrepreneurs who enrich our community and contribute so significantly to our local economy. The rich diversity of food, languages and personal stories are what lure visitors and media from all over the nation to visit the West Side Bazaar. We are thrilled to partner with the congressman to make the new, expanded bazaar a reality.”
An artist’s rendering of the future West Side Bazaar interior at 1432 Niagara St. (Courtesy of Congressman Brian Higgins’ office.)
WEDI plans to expand the West Side Bazaar from its current 3,200-square-foot location on Grant Street in Buffalo to a 16,500-square-foot renovated historic factory building on Niagara Street. The new West Side Bazaar will offer more shops with a wide variety of eclectic imports and professional services. WEDI also plans to increase the number of small businesses housed in the bazaar from 12 to 24, and the number of seats will increase to nearly 200 on two floors.
Higgins’ team said, “This will make it possible for a greater number of community members and other organizations to table (an unmet need), enjoy food, shopping, music, cooking classes, tastings and special events.”
Community project funding secured by Higgins in the fiscal year 2022 budget will outfit the new West Side Bazaar with modern kitchen spaces for food prep, service and storage for the popular international food court.
Higgins’ team said, “The new kitchens will allow typically overlooked and disadvantaged, yet aspiring restauranteurs to start businesses and build toward opening their own brick and mortar establishments.”
Welch recently joined U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Alejandra Castillo, Higgins, and other Western New York small business leaders for a roundtable discussion to share ideas for promoting economic opportunity in underserved communities.
Again, the congressman’s office said, “As a Community Development Financial Institution, WEDI is a trusted local leader in helping entrepreneurs gain the skills, knowledge and network needed to run a successful and sustainable business. By providing microloans to aspiring entrepreneurs that lack access to traditional financial institutions, they are helping to uplift underserved communities and strengthen our local economy. Their expansion efforts at the West Side Bazaar will allow them to help a greater number of small, minority-owned businesses build from the ground up.”
To learn more about WEDI and the new West Side Bazaar, visit https://www.wedibuffalo.org/.