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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v9n30 (07/28/2010) » Five Questions With...

Mark Goldman: Restaurateur

(photo by Rose Mattrey)

Get to know a Buffalonian...

Often cited as the visionary who imagined — and then helped make real — a revitalized Chippewa Street, Mark Goldman’s knack for staying ahead of the local curve may be rooted in his deep understanding of our regional past. Here, he tells us a bit about running a restaurant, and why he joined a lawsuit to stop Bass Pro.

When you opened the Calumet 20 years ago, did you imagine Chippewa becoming the street it is today?

Frankly I have been concerned about the direction that Chippewa Street has taken. I am hopeful that the new owners of the Calumet Building—a law firm with over 60 employees—will help to move the street into a healthier, more diverse position than it currently finds itself. For a while in the mid-1990s, we had the opportunity to create a mixed-use, arts and culture oriented street there, but the inexorable force of the bars overwhelmed us.

What is it about live music that helps give a place a unique vibe?

It’s not live music per se but the kinds of live music that is presented. At the Calumet and to a degree at Hardware, I saw myself as a curator, a person with a distinct vision of the role that art, music and culture plays in the life of the city. I carefully selected from a very broad range of talent. When I travelled I was always looking for interesting talent—be they muscians, dancers or performance artists and then, when possible, I brought them to Buffalo. I am extremely proud of the fact that on that tiny stage at the Calumet , the most diverse range of artists—from jazz to Tibetan drummers—performed.

You just signed on as a petitioner in a lawsuit questioning the legality of the Bass Pro deal. Why do you think it’s a bad idea to give away huge amounts of public money to a private business?

Bass Pro...There’s nothing good about it. It’s bad public policy; bad economics and bad governance. Bad public policy because subsidies to private companies do not, and cannot work. Bad economics because the project focuses on increasing supply and not demand; bad governance because it sends a terrible message to any others interested in doing business that we do not have a level playing field here...that there are a certain chosen few who get the benefits while the rest do not. The deal is rotten from the head down.

You’re a successful restaurateur and respected local historian. Do you prefer one role over the other?

In my mind these two activities are related and integral. As an urban historian my focus has always been on the historical developments that create or undermine community. A well run restaurant, located on a city street, is a strong builder of community. I like stories too and the restaurants that I have been involved in are great stories.

Chippewa...Allen...where’s your next place going to be, and why?

Right after Labor Day we are opening The Black Rock Kitchen and Bar. Here too the intersection of history and commerce come together. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the historical development of Black Rock. Now we’re back here, forty years later. We’ve remodeled a fabulous 1890s store front and, working with the building’s owner, a dynamic entrepreneur named Susan Cholewa, we are opening a place that will feel as real and as authentic as the neighborhood it’s in. Being authentic, being real and committed to a grounded mission, is what has led our businesses to be successful and to play a role in the life of their host neigborhoods. I am sure that this will happen with the BRKB as well

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