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Citizen investors sought for planned community-owned cafe in Parkside

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A movement is underway to open a community-owned coffee shop in Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood. Those behind the project say it would not only bring a business to the street but generate money for other neighborhood investments.

The goal is to raise at least $50,000 and open what will be known as Jam Parkside by the fall. A capital campaign is currently underway, encouraging people to buy shares, costing one dollar apiece, to become partners.

"We're asking neighbors, New York State residents, to become investors," said Amber Small, president of Parkside Progress, Inc., the organization leading the project. "You'll become a financial shareholder and the coffee shop, the store, will essentially be community owned."

It is a business model similar to one that, according to Small, has worked well in the community of Saranac Lake.

Small explained that Parkside Progress is a benefit corporation and needed approval of its prospectus by the New York State Attorney General's office to proceed with the Jam Parkside project. Although the Attorney General does not endorse the merits of any offering, she suggests having the office's oversight should build confidence by those who choose to invest. 

Additionally, as a benefit corporation, they will be legally obligated to invest some of the coffee shop's earnings back into the community.

"We'll be doing public projects," Small said. "Maybe public art, maybe benches, maybe community gardens. But the money we make every year, in addition to going back to our shareholders, it's also going to go right back in the neighborhood."

Parkside Progress plans to open Jam Parkside inside a former coffee shop space on the corner of Parkside and Russell, located across the street from the Buffalo Zoo.

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