While Buffalo’s restaurant scene has seen a massive resurgence lately with openings like, it would be fair to say a good chunk of that resurgence has been powered by the powerful; deep-pocketed developers who have carved up the city like Charlie the Butcher slicing away at a steaming roast beef.
The story behind JAM Parkside, a new cafe in the city’s Parkside neighborhood, could not be more different.
Monica Cichon, Jesse Crouse and Amber Small founded the cafe with community involvement and community ownership in mind.
“We have a community-centered business model where we actually have shareholders,” Cichon told us in a recent phone interview. “Anyone who is a New York State resident is eligible to be a shareholder in the business.”
With the minimum buy-in set at $100, shareholders get a portion of the cafe’s profits every year and have a say in executive decisions.
“It’s similar to, but not the same as the co-op structure,” Cichon explained. “We’re a for-profit business, but we founded with that model because we wanted to hold ourselves accountable to giving back to the community. We’ll be doing neighborhood clean-ups and we’ll hopefully be doing some sort of impact project yearly. But, giving back to the community is something that we’re really focused on doing throughout the year.”
The story behind JAM is all well and good, but how good is the cafe?
On our visit, we found it to be an ideal pitstop for park-goers or zoo visitors. It’s also conveniently located for those looking to work on a laptop, socialize with friends or just grab coffee and a bite to eat. You know, no big whoop. When we went on an early Wednesday morning, there were several people on laptops, and a young dad brought in his little boy for a quick bite.
In addition to baked goods from Breadhive and Mundy Cakes, JAM has a range of coffee options that can suit either those who have a passion for artisanal beans, roasted locally by Crouse’s Tipico cafe, or those who just want something that doesn’t drink like motor oil.
“I drink coffee everyday and I love coffee, but I can’t tell you the difference between a $20 bag of coffee and a $5 bag of coffee,” Cichon mused. “All I can tell you is that our coffee tastes really good.”
The décor is modern, a contrast to the Norman Rockwell vibes that tend to permeate the area. The somewhat stark interior of the cafe acts as a blank canvas for whatever happens to be going on at any given moment; whether its a gathering space or de facto office for remote workers.
“In Parkside, you’ve got the zoo, the park, the Darwin Martin House, Medaille around the corner, St. Mark’s and Canisius. So, we’ve seen a lot of people come from all over.”
Cichon recommends that everyone stop by to check out the new cafe and we do too! If you become a big fan of the cafe and want to get in on the ownership action, all you need to do is fire off an email.
“The best option for someone who wants to get involved is to just reach out to us, at one of our email addresses (located on the official website), because we have to verify that someone is a New York State resident in order to allow them to invest,” Cichon said. “We have an inquiry form that people have to fill out.
“It’s not to be secretive or exclusive or anything like that. It’s literally just to make sure we follow the law.”
301 Parkside Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14214
Hours: Every day 7am – 7pm