From CookieLand to the Upper Room: East Buffalo Entrepreneur

is One Step Closer to Realizing Her Dream

'TO GOD BE THE GLORY!" In top photo, Vivian Jackson (center in white top) cuts the ribbon for her new development which will feature a Prayer Room, skating rink, small diner and ice cream parlor. In photos above she poses with family and supporters. A large crowd turned out for the community event on June 5 and included a host of dignitaries: Fillmore Councilman David Franczyk, mayoral candidates Legislator Betty Jean Grant and Mark Schroeder, Rev. Cushing, and members of her Elim Christian Fellowship family.THIRD EYE PHOTOS

'TO GOD BE THE GLORY!" In top photo, Vivian Jackson (center in white top) cuts the ribbon for her new development which will feature a Prayer Room, skating rink, small diner and ice cream parlor. In photos above she poses with family and supporters. A large crowd turned out for the community event on June 5 and included a host of dignitaries: Fillmore Councilman David Franczyk, mayoral candidates Legislator Betty Jean Grant and Mark Schroeder, Rev. Cushing, and members of her Elim Christian Fellowship family.THIRD EYE PHOTOS

For the past decade Vivian Jackson has been dreaming of taking her career of providing care for children, to another level; one which would embrace the entire community. And for eight years, she said, a symbol of God’s promise has manifested itself to her in the presence of rainbows… literally everywhere and all the time.

On June 5, after years of dreaming, praying, planning and rainbows, Vivian (also known as Cookie), held what she called an “Inside the Rainbow Ribbon Cutting” to announce her new corporation, The Upper Room, and the creation of a one stop family entertainment complex and eatery rooted in the Spirit and located in the heart of the community. The architects rendering is as striking, exciting and visionary as Ms. Jackson’s goal of providing children with a safe alternative to the streets and offering spiritual guidance to adults and young people who may find themselves overwhelmed in times of need. “It’s been my dream for ten years and I never lost the faith,” said Ms. Jackson, the owner of CookieLand, a successful child care facility she’s operated in East Buffalo for 20-plus years.

The new venture, which will be located at 202 Walden Avenue at the corner of Wasmuth (located on the street right behind CookieLand) will consist of four components. The Prayer Room (The Upper Room) will serve mainly as a place where people in the community can receive prayer and guidance. “We need prayer,” said the long time member of Elim Christian Fellowship. A number of ministers she said, have already committed to volunteer and she’s hoping more will step forward to help. She’s especially excited about the skating rink, which will be called Rainbow Skating, and will feature two rinks - one large and a smaller version.

From CookieLand to the Upper Room: East Buffalo Entrepreneur is One Step Closer to Realizing Her Dream sion for little children. The last two components will be Mama Cookie’s Diner & Eatery and The Cross Ice Cream Parlor -where she hopes to bring back penny candy! “Everything just opened up,” she said of the rapid succession of developments. “It was all God. It’s just favor…. but I seek Him everyday…I don’t let anything come before God.” She said developers hope to begin building this summer, and the facility is anticipated to open by the end of the year. “God is so good!” she exclaimed. “I want to thank Christina a true partner for real…I love her with my whole heart…and of course my brother Darnell Jackson, Miss Denise, Okos the architect, Mike the developer, and Bishop Bronner and my Elim Christian Fellowship family."

Once the building is complete and the doors are open, Vivian said she wants everyone who enters to feel the love from the font of the building to the back. Despite the politics of neglected neighborhoods, she continued, “God has not forgotten about the East Side.” Her experience, she points out, is living proof. The role that the community must play at this point she concluded, is basic. “It’s time to start loving again,” she urged.

Jefferson Avenue Businessmen are some the most resilient and patient entrepreneurs in the city. Ignored for years, those businesses owners who bravely ventured into planting their dreams there -  continue to struggle to maintain and grow their establishments. And new businesses, like Solo Eats on the corner of Jefferson and East Ferry, have recently invested in the area.

They are all hopeful that the current focus on the once bustling main strip will soon bring positive results. But they are keenly aware that not all “progress” is good progress.

Case in point. News that a convenient store would soon be opening at 1390 Jefferson Avenue has given cause for concern.  A petition was circulated by business owners and some 350 signatures were gathered and delivered to Masten Council Member Ulysses O. Wingo ‘s CityHall office opposing the store’s location. It reads in part:

“Currently there are a substantial number of convenience stores already located in the area and the addition of another store at 1390 Jefferson Avenue will encourage loitering, which can only lead to more crime and will hurt our community. For this reason this petition has been established to prohibit the opening….”

The businessmen – of various ethnicities -  decided to go public with their struggle because after weeks of trying to meet and talk to Mr. Wingo they have been unsuccessful. He has yet to even return any phone calls, said Ahmed Salah of Mandella’s Market & Citgo Gas. “More than 25 people have called his office in the last two weeks,” noted Mr. Salah. 

It’s as if nobody is listening. The only thing they’ve heard indirectly from his office is that their petition to stop the opening is “too late.” But as far as these entrepreneurs are concerned, it’s never too late. And they want answers. They feel that they have been slighted and not given the opportunity to even voice their opinion before a final decision was made.

Mr. Wingo’s job, they say, is to represent and respect the people who elected him to that position.  Or face their disapproval on election day. There are so many other types of businesses Jefferson Avenue needs, they pointed out. Another convenience store is not one; especially in light of their concerns.

They believe they at least deserve a reply and conversation about a decision that may adversely effect their livelihood.

CNN Political Analyst to Keynote

CAO’s 52nd Anniversary Dinner and Awards Celebration

Keynote Speaker Bakari Sellers

Keynote Speaker Bakari Sellers

The Board of Directors of the Community Action Organization of Erie County, Inc. is proud to present its 52ndAnniversary Awards Dinner and Celebration on Friday, June 9 from 6 - 9 p.m at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. 

This year’s theme is “Changing Our Direction, Creating a New Future” and will include a recognition ceremony for this year’s outstanding community service leaders, partners and corporate citizens of the agency. Dr. Rev. James A. Lewis, III of Miracle Missions Baptist Church returns as Master of Ceremonies.

Keynonte speakerBakari Sellers, a prominent CNN political analyst,  made history in 2006 when, at just 22 years old, he defeated a 26-year incumbent State Representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina State Legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation. In 2014, Sellers won the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor and is widely considered to be a rising star within the Democratic Party and leading voice for his generation.

Sellers, who is also a practicing attorney,  earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and his law degree from the University of South Carolina. He has followed in the footsteps of his father, civil rights leader Dr. Cleveland Sellers, in his tireless commitment to public service while championing progressive policies. In addition to his impressive list of early accomplishments, Sellers served on President Barack Obama’s South Carolina steering committee during the 2008 election.    

As one of the largest, private, not-for-profit agencies in Western New York, the upcoming event commemorates 52 years of focused and dedicated efforts in promoting self-sufficiency through advocacy, partnerships and services.  The CAO serves over 34,000 low-income residents annually through a network of more than 50 locations across Erie and Niagara counties, providing essential services to individuals and families in need as they move towards self-sufficiency. Tickets are just $50 per person, $500 per table of ten. A limited number of tickets to the VIP Reception and Meet & Greet with Bakari Sellers are just $75.  For sponsorship information, or to purchase an ad in the souvenir journal, contact Keri Socker, Administrative Coordinator at 881-5150. Tickets are available online at

Five Star Bank Names Chiquita Rodgers

Branch Manager of Downtown Buffalo Financial Solution Center 

                    Chiquita Rogers

                    Chiquita Rogers

Five Star Bank (“Five Star”) has named Chiquita Rodgers as Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager of its financial solution center in downtown Buffalo. This new branch opened on February 13, 2016 at 40-50 Fountain Plaza. In her role, Ms. Rodgers will develop strategies for the branch and branch staff, manage her team to achieve goals, and develop strong relationships with the bank’s customers and the community.  

Ms. Rodgers joined Five Star in December of 2016 after 17 years with Citizens Bank and its predecessors Rochester Community Savings Bank and Charter One Bank. She started her banking career as a teller and achieved promotions to assistant manager, manager, branch business banker and small business specialist.  

Five Star Bank’s financial solution center concept is designed to meet evolving customer banking needs. It accommodates a wide spectrum of customer preferences with no teller lines, no barriers between bank associates and customers, and hands-on support. Customers have the ability to choose their banking experience by accessing available on-site technology devices, mobile banking demonstrations and a staff of Certified Personal Bankers (CPBs). CPBs provide a complete banking experience, whether processing a transaction, opening an account or providing advice to help customers make an informed financial decision. Commercial banking, mortgage, insurance and wealth management advisors are also be available on site to offer Five Star solutions. 

Ms. Rodgers attended Medaille College. Throughout her career, she has been an active community volunteer and has participated in many organizations and events including Junior Achievement, the Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, the Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival, the Martin Luther King Celebration, and the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers Tax Preparation Program. Ms. Rodgers resides in Buffalo with her three children. 

More Five Star Bank information is available at, on Twitter, and on Facebook.



Kerns Bowling Center

Committed to Serving Best Interests of the Community 

Newest Venture is Saturday Bowling Program for Youth 8-16 !

                          Mr. and Mrs. Dan Adams, Proprietors, KERNS Bowling

                          Mr. and Mrs. Dan Adams, Proprietors, KERNS Bowling

by Jennifer Strickland

Bowling, to some, might seem like a bygone sport; one that our parents and grandparents savored, but the United States Bowling Congress’ website ( boasts its membership at nearly 2,000,000.  A local entrepreneur and retired manager from Verizon, Dan Adams, Jr. recognizes that bowling is far from its final resting place in the archives of American sports history. 

Whether hosting the weekly bowling competition, “Beat the Champ”; or serving as the venue for local celebrities’ birthday parties, and other events, Adams and his team at the Kerns Avenue Bowling Center (KABC) are making their mark in the community as an African American owned and operated enterprise whose goal is to serve the best interest of our community.  

 Adams’ commitment and passion to make the bowling center a destination for bowlers, both amateur and professional, and others seeking an attractive place to enjoy sports and recreation, is evident in the excellent customer service and inviting atmosphere, they are so determined to deliver to its clients.  Their mission’s objective is to provide a safe, clean, recreational environment within the urban community.

Adams bought the crumbling lanes nearly nine years ago.  He has since rejuvenated and revitalized the facility to accommodate events from bowling tournaments and fundraisers, to league bowling and private parties. They’ve also designated special times for our seniors to enjoy the bowling experience.  The KABC is the only African American owned bowling center in New York State, and, according to Adams, one of only eight Black-owned, in this country. 

The center can safely accommodate 130 bowlers, in the recreational area, where there are 16 lanes with updated electronic scoreboards.  An additional 80 patrons can find comfort in the bar/restaurant area where they can relax, eat from their tasty menu, and enjoy a variety of beverages. 

Dan Adams is always thinking of something new to enhance his clients’ experience at the Bowling Center. The newest, child-friendly venture is a Saturday morning program for children, ages 8 – 16 years old.  The proposed date to begin is Saturday, April 1, 2017. The program will operate from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. each Saturday through June 10, 2017. Coaches will be available to help the children develop their style and technique, while having fun in a clean, safe, and nourishing environment.  Registration is limited. Sponsors are welcome. Please contact the Center at (716) 892-3331, stop by at 163 Kerns Avenue, email to, or hit them on Facebook at Kerns Avenue Bowling Center, for more information.

Mr. Adams, keep up the great work of representing entrepreneurship in the African American community. Your unwavering and tenacious spirit serves as a model for all of Western New York’s small business owners.

New Housing on Jefferson Ave Must be

Incorporated With Local Business Development

           Betty Jean Grant 

           Betty Jean Grant 

As we know by now, two developers, Nick Sinatra and Davie Pawlik of CSS Construction Company, have partnered with People, Inc. to bring a mixed use, new housing complex to Jefferson Ave. This is probably a good idea because with Buffalo’s booming construction at SolarCity, the Medical Corridor, Canalside and the ‘Say Yes’ education program that can provide up to a free college education, many individuals are coming here to live in addition to making this their designated town for partying. 

So why did I say“ probably”  a good idea as opposed to it being a really good idea?  There are several reasons. For starters, one of the developers, David Pawlik is a former employee of the city under the administration of then Mayor Tony Masiello.  Mr. Pawlik worked for the Office of Community Development, now named the Office of Strategic Planning. My problem with him is not where he used to work or whom he worked for,  but his company’s lack of being a widely diverse enterprise in terms of the ethnic makeup of the men and women who worked on many of his CSS development projects. Those projects included many of his East Ferry Street jobs as well as the old 1490 Enterprise Building that was recently rehabilitated.

I don’t know that much about Mr. Sinatra except that he is a fairly new player in the Buffalo development landscape as he owns the Market Arcade complex on Main Street as well as many vacant properties on Main Street, Jefferson Ave and other places I am sure that I don’t know about. I read, sometime last year,  that he is also developing housing units in an old factory at Jefferson Ave and Florida St. to accommodate additional housing for the students at Canisius College.

My biggest peeve is that this is not the first time, when the community talked about economic development on Jefferson Ave., city leaders threw housing units and not for profit agencies into the mix. A few year ago, it was Gateway, Inc. that was going to build a rehabilitation center and housing for wayward youths in the area at Jefferson andBest St. I have nothing against housing units, rehabilitation facilities or even a big, new shiny health clinic in the area but tell me, how is that going to spur jobs and customers when the long ago, viable commercial strips are being totally left in the dust? A couple of weeks ago, a local newspaper ran a story about a new $20 million dollar health and wellness center being built in the same area. In this area we have, already, GIBAUHN Health Agency, ECMC Clinic on Main Street, Jesse Nash Clinic on William St., theCommunity Health Center on Benwood Ave, a clinic in the Jefferson Utica Plaza and less than a mile away, the whole Medical Corridor Campus! We have enough service providers for our health and wellness needs; what we need are stores to buy a pair of shoes, hardware goods, loaf of fresh bread, clothes, fresh fruits stands, markets and souvenir shops so when relatives come to visit, we can take them to a store around the corner from where we live like we used to do a few decades ago.

Even though it has been documented that there will be stores and businesses in the new buildings, they will not be owned by the merchants who are expected to lease them. Those business owners will be leas ‘at the pleasure’ of the landlords and could be subjected to all kinds of anti-business practices such as rent increases, unannounced visits and merited or unmerited evictions.

True economic development is not measured by how many housing units one puts up for, in most cases, responsible tenants who are shuffled from one poor, inner city neighborhood (thus destabilizing one area) to try and stabilize another. Furthermore, where one rests his head at night or go for a morning physical, has less to do with financially empowering a part of the eastside than where one gets a haircut, buys a shirt or sits down for a Sunday afternoon dinner at the local neighborhood restaurant.

Again, my biggest beef is that I am concerned about this project because no minority subcontractors have been identified, no compliance officer is mentioned and with the exception of this non-economic development project, the unneeded health and wellness center and the apartments units being discussed for Florida Ave, the Jefferson Ave Commercial Strip seems to be in the position of being kept waiting for its Renaissance, yet again.

‘Pop Up’ Stores Can Be Economic Boom for the Eastside!

          Betty Jean Grant

          Betty Jean Grant

Pop Up Shops can be defined as temporary stores that can be set up easily, take very little space and can bring new cash, customers and vitality to a specific area. The city of Buffalo and BUDC partnered with some downtown landlords and some of their own properties to open up such stores on Main street, particularly around and near the Hyatt Hotel and the Ellicott Square Building. The most visible Pop Up storeI know about is Phenominal Xpressions, located at 517 Main Street. That store is doing a great business because the owner, Ms. Nikita Williams, advertises and promotes the business heavily on social media, especially Facebook.

The beauty of Pop Up stores is that the proprietor gets incentives such as no rent for a time lasting as long as six months; no long term lease and no heavy investment in buying or maintaining the building; and the ability to open or close the business, if needed, in a day or less. Specialty shops such as those that cater to a particular season, purses and shoe stores, novelty and souvenir shops seem to do well all over the country. They can be set up quickly for a one day event like festivals or they can be around for months or even years. The property owner benefits by acquiring extra financial resources without giving up ownership of the building and he/she can terminate the lease quickly if they get a long term tenant or decides to sell the property.

I advise the readers of this article to take a moment and imagine this concept of Pop Up stores on Jefferson, Broadway, Bailey, William and East Ferry Street, selling everything from shoes, candles, t shirts, baked goods, fresh fruits and meats, greeting cards, hardware items and the like. There are many vacant, abandoned ‘eyesores’ on these and other east-side streets which are not slated to receive any kind of help or improvement and many of them are owned by the City of Buffalo. Why not rehabilitate these old, worn down buildings, turn the lights and gas on,  and provide short term leases to people who want to start or already have a business but don’t have the resources to purchase a building to sell their products. The City of Buffalo or the private owners of these buildings and their tenants can either enter into a long term lease or the tenant can purchase the building or vacate the space and a new tenant can move in.

In addition to the slowly dying commercial strips identified above, other great places for Pop Up shops are the nearly vacant William Gaiter Resource Center on the William Gaiter Parkway and the Beverly A. Gray Resource & Small Business Center on East Street at Jefferson Ave. Struggling businesses on Jefferson Ave and other streets need ‘new blood’ via increased foot traffic, with cash in hand, in the area where their businesses are located. The benefit of bringing Pop Up shops to these and other streets helps not only the city or private owners with the rental cash and the tenant with a way to grow their business with limited investment on their part; it also gives life and vitality to areas that are begging for a helping hand from our city and local leaders. The idea of Pop Up Shops on Jefferson Ave.? Sounds pretty good to me!


Six outstanding members of the community will be honored at this year’s Black Tie for Black History Extravaganza on Friday, February 24 from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Metropolitan Entertainment Complex, 1670 Main Street.

The honorees are: Gospel Ambassador and Federal Agent Charisse Freeman;  Franchelle Hart, founding Executive Director of Open Buffalo;  political activist and retired City Council executive Jackie Rushton; attorney, author and community activistJohn Elmore; Roebling Avenue Block Club activist and Stop the violence Coalition member Myra Moses-Robinson; and fashion designer/stylist Stevo Johnson.

“We are constantly trying to celebrate a diverse group of people in our community who often fall under the radar but are still doing powerful things ,” said founder and organizer Marnetta Malcolm.  “The Black Tie for Black History gala is an opportunity for people to know more about them and to give them their just due.  These are individuals who are inspired by life and will do what they do with or without recognition….it does not stop them from ‘walking their walk.’” 

Now in its 9th year, the Black Tie for Black History event, she added, is an opportunity to remind us all that “ we have to get back to supporting ourselves and our institutions.” In line with that thinking, this year’s location is a departure from the usual downtown venue, she noted. “We’re trying to do everything in the community to support the community.”

Entertainment will be provided by Denzell Ward and Cool Platinum. DJ Papa Trini will DJ the affair. Tickets are $25 and available at Doris Records.  Net proceeds will benefit the Stop theViolence Coalition & Peacemakers.

LP Ciminelli is the gala’s primary sponsor. Additional sponsors includeDr. Catherine Collins, CASNY, Geneva’s Auto, Camellia Foods, Three 2 Go Music Alliance, MND Accounting, Challenger Community News, WUFO, AM1400 and American Commodore Tuxedo.

The (Buffalo) Billion Dollar Question...

     Betty Jean Grant

     Betty Jean Grant

Another look at the plannedinclusion of the East Side of Buffalo in Phase II of theBuffalo Billions Project : Is it enough to improve our neighborhood commercial strips?

Recently, it has been brought to our attention that the East Side of Buffalo has been included in the Buffalo Billion Phase 11 funding plan before the state legislature. If approved$60 million dollars will be invested for several East Buffalo initiatives that are being considered for this 2017 budget year. 

That’s the good part.

The bad part is there are several other high priced initiatives in this so calledmoney pot that Buffalo’s Eastside must compete with. These East Buffalo initiatives include funding for capital improvements to the Central Terminal and Dr. Martin Luther King Park; a homesteading program to encourage people to buy existing homes and, finally, investing in unnamed commercial corridors. 

The truth is that when you are talking about fixing up aging infrastructure, redeveloping a park and fixing up commercial corridors like Jefferson, E. Delavan and Broadway, it is going to take more than $60 million dollars for the business districts, let alone lumping these projects together in this too small pot with other initiatives and not increasing the funding allocations to pay for them.

The total additional funding request by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the state legislators for the upcoming budget is $500 million dollars. That’s is a lot of money. However to put the Eastside, which has not benefitted from the other two billion dollar allocations (Buffalo Public Schools in 2003 and SolarCity and the Medical Corridors in 2015), in a package with severalother projects is mind is boggling, especially when the other requests include, for example,   the conversion ofthe Scajaquada Expressway to a low speed parkway ($30 million); extendingthe MetroRailto DL&W Terminal ( $20 million) ;  funding a study (mind you, a study) to see where to put a new train station in Buffalo ($25 million); support for the 43 North project ($40 million)  and improvement to Darwin Martin House & Graycliff Estate a($10 million).The rest of the remaining $325 million dollar seem to be slated for cities, town and villages outside of Buffalo. 

There have been rumors and signals that the request for this additional money, that will clearly allow Buffalo two and one half bites of the ‘billion dollar apple’, may have a difficult time being supported by those politicians in Albany who feel that the city has gotten more than its fair share. That may be true but try convincing those struggling owners of businesses in the inner city that are barely makingenough money to keep the lightsand gas on, let alone fixing up city code violations, repairing cracked sidewalks and paying city and county tax bills. Ask them and they will tell you that the ‘already approved, allocated and spent’ last billion dollars we received to improve the lives and businesses of residents and our commercial strips did not even register in communities east of Main St.

Over the past year and a half, we have lost three restaurants, a cricket store, a barber shop and several other stores on or near Jefferson Avenue. GiGi’s Restaurant burned in a fire over a year ago.  Itis still closed. Another restaurant opened and was closed in less than six months. There is very little ‘foot traffic’ on Jefferson Ave. between East Ferry and East Utica that does not have to do with the Merriweather Library, the Apollo Media Communication Center, the Challenger Community News, Jim Bell Cleaners, the health clinic or the human resource initiatives located in the GROUP Ministries Building.

When I came to Buffalo in 1970Jefferson Ave. had seen better days but it still offered a variety of goods, entertainment and commercial services to the community. There were shoe stores, clothing stores, bakery, and several well filled taverns and eateries. Many of the businesses left over the succeeding several decades and the street and other streets like it suffered due to CDBG and other ‘poor people’s’ money being spent elsewhere to build condos on the waterfront or downtown; subsidize rich landlords by awarding them outright redevelopment grants;  or property or sales tax incentives or using scarce anti poverty resources to increase the city landlord’s status.

And yet, year after year, these long suffering business owners on Jefferson Ave. and similar Eastside commercial corridors wait patiently for the city leaders to develop a conscience and do the right thing by them. I hope they are not holding their breath .

When I was a young child in Tennessee, my mother had a saying; “A closed mouth does not get fed.” With sixteen children in the family, I learned to open my mouth and yell long and loudly. I would be guilty of remiss if I did not counsel the business owners to do the same thing if they want the city, county and state leaders to take care of the multi generational indifference or neglect what is blatantly obvious to the community.

As an Erie County Legislator, we are charged with approving the CDBG monies that are allocated to the county to collect and later disburse to the towns and villages in Erie County according to federal guidelines. All cities in the county such as Buffalo, Tonawanda and Lackawanna get their CDBG monies directly to their city’s treasury. That is why roads, bridges and streets in Buffalo cannot be repaired with the county’s money and must be fixed with the CDBG package and other funds the city gets from the state or the federal government.

It is incumbent upon all residents of the east side who are not happy with the way the area looks or who feel that the east side commercial strips and infrastructure have been neglected, to contact their elected representatives and let them know how they feel. Tell them that a $60 million dollars funding pot that includes multiple project is not nearly enough to improve the conditions of our neighborhood commercial strips and individual storefronts. For my constituents, I will make it easy for them to contact me. I can be reached during business hours from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. @ (716) 894-0914 after work hours and on weekends @ (716) 602-5877

New Kwanzaa Forever Stamp Unveiled for

50th Anniversary of Celebrated Holiday

With a vibrant new stamp design, the U.S. Postal Service continues its tradition of celebrating Kwanzaa by dedicating a new Kwanzaa Forever stamp . The First-Day-of-Issue dedication ceremony took place recently in Marion Square in Charleston at the MOJA Art Festival celebrating African-American and Caribbean arts.