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Shopping Challenge: Downtown Buffalo, Lunchtime

2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Once Western New York’s retail and entertainment heaven, Buffalo’s donwtown core has been a shopping wasteland for decades. From time to time there have been signs of life, but precious few shops survive.

We set ourselves a challenge: Without straying more than three blocks from Lafayette Square on foot, find as many reasonable gift-shopping opportunities as possible. By “reasonable,” we mean to exclude a stop at one of downtown’s numerous newsstands for a stack of scratch-off lottery tickets, though if that’s a holiday gift tradition in your family, I suggest you purchase them at the newstand in the lobby of the HSBC tower. It’ll be closed soon, as the building continues to empty, so they’ll have some historuc significance.

We also mean to exclude the purchase of batteries or notebooks at Rite-Aid, or gift cards for Tim Horton’s, or whatever else lame gift that the chronic procrastinator is forced to pick up at the late last-minute. We will also exclude the Main Place Mall, because we eschew malls and chain stores generally, but also because the Main Place Mall offers so little retail anyway: a couple Foot Locker shops, a shoe store, a food court, and that’s about it.

Real gifts from real gift shops. That’s what we were looking for, and we were pleasantly surprised by the choices.

Thank god, first of all, for Rocco Termini’s Hotel Lafayette. In its lovely, dark lobby are two shops: room, which sells soaps and candles, dishes and glassware; and Woyshner’s florists, the downtown branch of the Lackawanna store that is so much more than just a flower shop. In addition to flower arrangements and gift baskets, you’ll find all kinds of ornaments, jewelry, scarves, and other knickknacks of the sort that make great gifts. And downstairs is Butterwood Sweet & Savory, a fine place for a cocktail and to pick up a cake to bring to a holiday party.

There are books to be had downtown, too: The Central Library has a bookstore, and Old Editions (74 East Huron Street) is a treasure trove of rarities, some of which make reasonably affordable gifts, and some of which, quite expensive, are for serious collectors only.

And there is art to be had downtown—lots of it. Western New York Book Arts Center (468 Washington Street) offers handprinted posters and other paper goods, as well as a variety of objets d’arte. (Check out their Last Minute Panic Holiday Marketplace:Friday, December 13, 4-8pm and Saturday, December 14, noon-6pm). Main Street Studios (515 Main Street) hosts a local artists’ market on the second floor. And, just out of our three blocks range but worth the walk, is Michael Mulley’s Queen City Gallery, in the Market Arcade Building, where you can purchase Mulley’s photographs of iconic Buffalo architecture at eminently reasonable prices.

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