Rustbelt cities along the Great Lakes were once used as examples to illustrate the despair and devastation brought on by the loss of manufacturing industry jobs. Once places of pity, cities like Cleveland and Detroit are experiencing a resurgence. Buffalo is no exception, and an independent garden center with more than a thousand owners helped spark a revitalization in one west side neighborhood.
Urban Roots Garden Center, which now occupies four city lots, has a storefront in a Victorian home that was once a rundown corner store and a center for crime in the neighborhood.
The idea for a garden center in the Buffalo neighborhood began a decade ago, when a group of about two dozen residents, including community activist Blair Woods, began beautifying the area, greening intersections by planting small gardens on busy streets. They shared and swapped plants. They lamented the fact that they had to drive to the suburbs for their gardening goods and wished they could keep their dollars, and jobs, in their community. Someone suggested the idea of a garden center co-op. A food and grocery co-op in the area — Lexington Cooperative Market — was successful, so why couldn’t they establish a retail garden store with the same community-owned business model?