10 Best Places to Shop in the Buffalo, New York Area
By Amber Nolan
Expert shoppers may be pleasantly surprised to find Buffalo's growing shopping scene, that includes many local specialty stores, artisan stands, outdoor (and indoor) markets, and trendy neighborhoods that rival those in other major cities.
Take Elmwood Village, a hip and bustling street full of restaurants, bars, mom-and-pop stores, boutiques, outdoor cafes, and public spaces for people watching. Or, Hertel Avenue (in Buffalo's "Little Italy") is quickly becoming another hotspot for shoppers seeking antiques and collectibles. If you seek homemade treasures and arts and crafts, be sure to explore the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora, a stunning historical campus full of artisans.
One of Buffalo's newest public spaces is Larkin Square, and during the summer months it is packed with visitors and locals strolling through the marketplace looking for items from local vendors. Not to far from the square is the West Side Bazaar, an international marketplace showcasing jewelry, clothing, and accessories from immigrants who have settled in Buffalo. You'll also find some of the city's best cuisine here, including Thai and Ethiopian restaurants within the Bazaar.
We've rounded up the 10 best places for shopping in Buffalo that offer a local experience and wide variety of options. See for yourself why Buffalo is becoming a new shopping destination for tourists from around the world.
This popular shopping mall is anchored by Dick's Sporting Goods, Macy's, Sears, Best Buy and JCPenney. More than 100 restaurants and shops can be found, including children's favorites like the Disney Store, Pottery Barn Kids, and Build-a-Bear. Other popular stores include American Eagle Outfitters, Bath and Body Works, Sunglass Hut, Ann Taylor Loft, Finish Line, Nine West and Williams-Sonoma. In addition to the food court, on site eateries such as Cheesecake Factory, Starbucks, Ruby Tuesday, Johnny Rocket's, and the hard-to-resist Auntie Anne's pretzels, offer plenty of choices for a treat. The Walden Galleria makes a great indoor shopping experience during one of Buffalo's cold winter days (716-681-7600)
The area of East Aurora is almost centered around the Roycroft Campus and is the place to be if you are interested in arts and crafts. You'll find a collection of original art, pottery, textiles, furniture, leather, paper and more. The Inn and shops are incredible and are overflowing with elegantly-dressed shoppers and wanderers. The campus is filled with huge trees, and with the imposing stone buildings one is reminded of the affluent small boarding schools of the Northeast. Be sure to take the tour and grab a bite at the restaurant in the Inn, it is a great place to people watch. (716-655-0261)
Larkin Square Marketplace
One of Buffalo's newest jewels is Larkin Square, a multi-purpose public space with casual dining options, retail market stalls, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, food trucks, public sculpture, free concerts and more. Ever heard of pickleball? You can learn how to play the casual game, which is a hybrid of ping pong, tennis, and badmitton, in the square on select days. During the summer, the marketplace showcases numerous vendors that rotate weekly. Some stands may include artwork and fashion, baked goods, books, spices, jewelry, holistic goods, coffee, and many other items from local businesses. The Marketplace is open during "Live at Larkin Wednesdays" and on festival days. (716-362-2665)
The Custom Hatter
Taking his time with clients who inevitably become friends, enables the owner to make the best custom hats possible. Don't let the Broadway-Fillmore location throw you, for inside the store you feel as though you have stepped back in time to an era when personal service was the rule and not the exception. As for pedigree, Custom Hatter products have appeared in feature films like Dick Tracy, Batman, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. A master of his craft, owner Gary Witkowski uses antique grosgrain ribbon, century-old tools, and the finest beaver, chinchilla and muskrat furs in his designs while applying old-fashioned design methods. (716-896-3722)
Talking Leaves Books
With two convenient locations on Elmwood Avenue and Main Street, this independent bookstore has been serving the local community for more than 30 years. Unlike the sterile, commercial feeling of many larger, new bookstores, Talking Leaves has a cozy, pleasant atmosphere. There are huge, comfortable areas in which to browse through magazines, books, and other reading items. You'll also find sections for philosophy, literary criticism, music, history, and even a psychoanalytic section. On select days, the bookstores hosts a number of book signings with local authors. Sign up to be a member and you'll save 10 percent on your purchases. (716-837-8554)
Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo
This wonderfully diverse neighborhood is populated with people from a variety of backgrounds including those of Italian, Russian, and Middle Eastern descent. It is filled with unique shops, charming restaurants, and nightlife hot spots as well as numerous ethnic grocery stores. With so many options, Hertel Avenue is quickly becoming a popular new shopping destination. Visitors will find several, antique shops, specialty chocolate and sweet shops, book and music stores, clothing boutiques, and more. At the heart of the neighborhood is the North Park theater, a stunning building that shows independent films. The theater is currently undergoing a reconstruction similar to that of Shea's in downtown.
This Elmwood Village shop specializes in contemporary home furnishings and creative gifts. Many of the items are relevant to the Buffalo area, while others were hand-selected from New York City. You'll be surprised what you find in the hidden nooks and corners of Neo. In addition to furniture, they also have kitchenware, lamps, candles, edibles, scented rocks, a large collection of all-natural bath products, lotions, and fragrances. They have a wide assortment of lighting fixtures, pictures and paintings, wooden art, and "nature" trinkets. Owned by two sisters with a background in fashion, you'll find the best clothing, handbags, jewelery and other accessories. (716-884-1119)
Specializing in meat and fresh produce, this giant indoor European-style market has been in operation since 1888 and just celebrated its 125 anniversary in 2013. In addition to the butcher shops and vegetable stands, you'll find bakeries, candy shops and eateries. Although they are open year-round from Monday through Saturday if you can, avoid Mondays as many vendors/tenants are closed or not there. In 2010, a rooftop community garden was installed that now boasts more than 100 plots, and during November and December Kristkindlemart kicks off with holiday crafts, visits from Santa, local wines, and a holiday bazaar and rummage sale. (716-893-0705)
West Side Bazaar
In 2009, a local business group was formed just as refugees and immigrants seeking the continuation of old-world customs flocked to the West Side of Buffalo. Six business owners from Rwanda, South Sudan, Peru, Indonesia and the United States launched the West Side Bazaar, and international marketplace. Shoppers can find handmade crafts, jewelry, clothing, woodcarvings, oils, peace baskets, hats, and more from Nepal, Africa, and Thailand (among other places). Several restaurants offer home-style recipes for a chance to try cuisines like Ethiopian, Burmese, Peruvian, and many more. The West Side Bazaar is a small business incubator supporting entrepreneurs so that they can launch their own full-scale business. ((716) 464-6389)
Elmwood Village Shopping Strip
An upscale urban hub, this mile-long strip features a string of unique shops, cafés, antique shops, pubs, galleries, and restaurants. When walking around this area, visitors will be treated to several parks, outdoor events, and photo opportunities (there are many historic homes and businesses in the neighborhood). The area hums with energy and creativity and specializes in boutique clothing stores. Many popular attractions are within a stone's throw from Elmwood, and there is always something going on in. Some popular summer events are the concert series that begins in June, the garden walk in July, and the art festival that kicks off in August.
About Amber Nolan
Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite places are Iceland for its remoteness; Panama for its parties; and Peru for its history. Her work can be found on MSNBC.com, Frommers, and Sherman’s Travel, where she served as the Cruise Editor and Senior Producer. She is currently working on a comic novel about her shoestring travels as she hitchhikes on airplanes across the country in an effort to visit all 50 states. See Jethiking.com.
Read more about Amber Nolan here.