Caffé Aroma on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo has been under the same ownership since opening in 1995, but that’s about to change.
Long-time worker and manager Michaela Schmidbauer is set to assume ownership of the Elmwood Village institution. She began working there as a barista in 2003, and in 2008, she stepped away from the coffee bar to become the corporate manager of the Aroma restaurant group, which also includes two Trattoria Aroma locations – Buffalo & Williamsville.
So, will there be any big changes to the café under the new ownership? Not at first.
“I think the main difference that a lot of regulars are going to notice, is that I’ll be back in there every day,” Michaela says. “I’m really excited to see all the old faces and meet some new ones too.”
Regular customers are the lifeblood of any business, but at Caffé Aroma, they add to the overall vibe of a place that feels like a long-forgotten dream. While a lot of modern coffee shops are pristine temples to the coffee bean, Caffé Aroma has more of a lived-in feel that evokes the low-key grunge vibes of its ‘90s roots. While the coffee is always good, the layout is a bit off-kilter. The decor looks a bit dated. And nobody seems to mind. In fact, they kind of like it this way.
“Caffé Aroma is almost like the neighborhood tavern, or the neighborhood dive bar of coffee shops. And I mean that in the best way possible!” Michaela beams. “I think I feed into that vibe because it’s reflective of my personality. We plan to keep things that way, as far as the vibe and atmosphere.”
Like any good dive bar, the café has welcomed people from all walks of life, from professional hockey players to random people shuffling down Elmwood Avenue to local-girl-made-good Ani DiFranco. During the Sabres heyday of the mid-2000s, Elmwood Villager Paul Gaustad was a regular at the café.
“He was a really nice guy and knew people by name,” Michaela says. “Being from Portland, of course he had great taste in coffee. I remember one day the staff called me in my office and said ‘Hi, Michaela, Paul Gaustad is here and he’d like to chat if you have a second……’ I was like, um, yes!”
A big part of curating such an inviting café vibe over the years has been holding regular cultural events, like acoustic live music and poetry readings. While the number of those events has dwindled over the years, Michaela says one change under her ownership will be bringing back more of these events.
There will also be changes to the food menu. The other Aroma restaurants had been supplying the café with food. With that corporate connection broken, Michaela will be looking to partner with other local producers to develop the new café menu. The café has had a full liquor license and that will continue.
But by and large, expect things to carry on as usual at Café Aroma: Regulars and people ‘just passin’ through’ finding succor and sustenance. Just as they do at your favorite local dive bar.
“I’m just really stoked to get back in there,” Michaela says, “bring some old-school vibes and preserve the legacy of a Buffalo institution.”
Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Sunday to Thursday, 7 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
957 Elmwood Avenue Buffalo, NY 14222 • $$$$$
Buffalo's longest running locally owned coffee shop. Serving great coffee and espresso, beer liquor and wine, fine italian panini and other lite fare. ...
- Dog-Friendly Patio
- Bar Area
- Handicap Access
- Happy Hour
- Late Night
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