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Queen City Pop-Up returns for holiday season

Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News

The Queen City Pop-Up market opened Friday for the holiday season at The Shops at Market Arcade in downtown Buffalo.

Now in its ninth year, the pop-up project highlights local small businesses and aims to fill empty storefronts along Main Street.

“At one time, downtown Buffalo was one of the most vibrant retail centers in the entire region. We think it can be that again,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown during the pop-up’s kickoff event. “These are some of the best of the best small businesses in our community and it is great to see them having this opportunity to be in a brick-and-mortar location.”

The five businesses featured in this season’s Queen City Pop-Up were selected through a competition that opened in September and sell everything ranging from beard care to books.

Credit Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News
Bearded Buffalo specializes in beard and tattoo care products.

Bearded Buffalo, which also dabbles in tattoo care, was founded by SUNY Buffalo State senior Dylan Krajnik. The Black Bohemian, a purveyor of all-natural body products, tapestries and crystals, was founded by artisan Lashonda Bryant.

There’s also a jewelry company, Blessings of the Bling, owned by retiree Kim McWilson, who said Friday that she had always wanted to start a business, and the Buffalo Women’s Consortium, which will offer a rotating selection of home décor products crafted by female artists. City of Light Publishing, a longstanding local book publisher, rounds out the group.

The Queen City Pop-Up has graduated 41 retailers since its founding, and many of them have gone on to open permanent stores downtown, according to Vice President of Downtown Development for the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation Brandye Merriweather. She said the featured businesses share a rent-free space in the Market Arcade (617 Main Street) for the duration of the pop-up season and receive onsite trainings to support their future growth.

Credit Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News
Marti Gorman, left, and Hannah Gordon are co-founders of City of Light Publishing.

The rental space is donated by Sinatra & Company Real Estate, the owner of Market Arcade.

Bryant, founder of The Black Bohemian, said opportunities like Queen City Pop-Up help entrepreneurs navigate the difficult process of getting a business off the ground.

“We’ve been in business for about two years [and] it’s hard. At first, you’re making these things for yourself and you’re loving it, your friends are loving it, and then co-workers and so on, and then you’re finding yourself selling your products,” she said.

Credit Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News
The Queen City Pop-Up is located near the Washington St. entrance of The Shops at Market Arcade in downtown Buffalo.

“You just have to plan. You keep your job, you keep your eye on the prize and you use your 9-to-5 to fuel your dream. And before you know it, you get an opportunity to spend more time in your dream than in your 9-to-5, and I’m in the middle of that right now.”

The Queen City Pop-Up will be open from Friday, Nov. 15, to Tuesday, Dec. 31, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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