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Exploring North Tonawanda's Markets and Shops
by Patricia Watson
Each of the region’s farmers markets has a special personality. Buffalo’s downtown farmers market is great for shopping on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a vast selection of flowers, produce, homemade salsa, and the wonderful Hanzlian sausage. Bidwell’s array is impressive, too, including farm eggs and some organic produce, and it offers a singularly Buffalo experience: You can bring your dog, shop, and chat with all sorts of people who haven’t been seen since last summer. It’s a party! There are often planned events for kids, and local chefs offering samples of great food—I particularly remember a cold soup that distilled corn’s essence into a heavenly mouthful.
But why not plan a trip to North Tonawanda for a Saturday in the summer? Yes, North Tonawanda. This town is beginning to rock! It’s not a quaint, preserved, upscale village, but a living, breathing, small city that capitalizes on its strengths—old buildings and the Erie Canal. Start at the farmers market on Robinson Road. The prices tend to be somewhat lower than those in Buffalo, and the produce just as fresh and varied. Many of the farmers have retired from other careers, and grow food for the sheer love of it. My friend Maryann enjoys the family spirit of Robinson Road—buying fruits and veggies from the farmer’s kids when they’re eight or nine years old, and buying from the same kids when they’re in college.
When you’ve completed your shopping, head to Webster Street in North Tonawanda. Park the car and wander around the stores. At number 83, Everything Annie Likes has just opened. The racks are jammed with unusual vintage numbers—my friend Laura S. picked up a bright red quilted jacket for $8, and Laura G. snagged a short denim jacket that looked fabulous. There are cute little sleeveless dresses perfect for a summer’s night out. In case looking through oodles of great clothing isn’t your thing, you can head across the street to Ava’s Place for a $2 Bloody Mary (before noon) or a $3 one after. The fryer and the grill will be heated up—much of the time French fries are handcut, and there is the usual bar food, including a fair number of chicken finger sandwiches, burgers, and the like. Something of a sports bar, Ava’s Place is where the Roller Derby players play after a match, and their pictures are on the walls.
The most famous building on Webster is the Riviera Theater, with its renowned Wurlitzer organ. Take a peek in, and pick up the schedule for summer events. There is comedy, music, and even opera for a special night out. Further fame is rumored for the street—it’s said J. P. Losman is turning a vacant brick building into a boutique hotel.
Heading down Webster toward the canal are some other interesting stores. The stalls at Treasure Market have some of the best-priced vintage jewelry, dolls, glassware, books, and clothes around. Keep a sharp eye browsing through piles of lace, matchbook cars, and other kitsch because there are some treasures to be found—I saw a Shirley Temple doll. Affordable Luxury Under $20 Boutique has bright summer purses, scarves, and jewelry for $10 and $20. There is also a designer section in the store with more upscale items, and Swarovski crystal.
Cruising Webster Street is as much fun as a stroll on Elmwood. But Webster Street has the Erie Canal! If you walk down the street, cross the bridge, turn right before Walgreen’s, and angle down to the water, there are paddleboats for rent. It’s summer, and in North Tonawanda you can actually get on the water—you’re not in Buffalo anymore. Here is a chance to cool off and burn some calories, which is a good thing because there are some nice places to eat. Crazy Jake’s is a vast restaurant on Webster Street, with a bar inside and out, and a patio. The menu is extensive-ranging from pastas to Cuban sandwiches, to fried oysters and salads. The ocean perch in leek cream sauce is outstanding, and you can eat inside or out on the patio.
Other choices on the strip include Lou’s, a well-loved diner-type cafe, or you can go to the canal and dine inside or outside at the Dockside Inn. Bar fare is on offer here—hamburgers, chicken wings, sandwiches, and salads. The water sparkles, and boaters pull up to the dock.
North Tonawanda’s parks offer a variety of concerts, and in July there is Canal Fest. Check Artvoice listings for these special events.
Finally, for a special rainy day, try the Herschell Carousel Museum (180 Thompson Street). In days long gone, Herschell’s created the horses and carousels used in fairs around the country. Both a kiddie and adult carousel still go round here; take a tour and a ride and get nostalgic for times past.blog comments powered by Disqus
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v8n23 (Summer Guide: week of Thursday, June 4, 2009) > Summer Guide > Exploring North Tonawanda's Markets and Shops
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