Tag: living local

Living Local: Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe

Happy Friday! Today I’m here to share Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe as the second local business in my Living Local series. I first discovered Dog Ears while I was running. I kept passing by this eclectic little spot nestled between Potters Rd and Abbott Rd in South Buffalo, right on the other side of Cazenovia Park. I finally stopped by for a coffee and have gone back at least once a week ever since. I’m highlighting Dog Ears today because it’s Free Coffee Friday! You can get a free small coffee before 2pm every Friday. Need a bigger caffeine boost? A medium is just $0.25. Did I mention they also have a coffee card you get punched each time you order coffee? Between this and Free Coffee Fridays I’m in there all the time!

I reached out to the director of the non-profit bookstore and cafe, Thomas McDonnell, and then had a chance to meet him in person a few weeks ago. He shared a ton of information about various community literacy projects they’re running and showed me the upstairs space where they hold programming. They also do a great job of supporting the local community which is receiving a boost from South District Council Member Chris Scanlon. I always check out the flyers covering their entryway for upcoming events. While I could go on and on about this, I know you want to hear more about why it’s my favorite kid-friendly bookstore and cafe in all of WNY. The menu is fresh and healthy (don’t worry–you can follow it up with one of their baked goods), and the entire place is open and welcoming. Their kids menu options all come with a side of fresh fruit. They have this cozy space for kids in the back where I have spent many a hot afternoon enjoying an iced coffee while Lily perused their books. If you’re looking for a publication they don’t have in stock, they can order it–I’ve chosen to do this instead of Amazon-priming myself. They also meet my criteria for baby-friendly space: you can maneuver a double-wide stroller through the bookstore and cafe (plus they have a ramp in the back where their outdoor seating is), and they have a huge, spacious, clean bathroom that also has extra diaper-changing essentials if you forgot anything! It’s the perfect spot to relax on your own, or to meet some moms and babes for a mommy date.

I asked Tom a few questions and he shared some more info about current and upcoming programming for families and youth. So here we go!

Dog Ears Bookstore and Café is a really unique place. When you walk in, you’re met by the perpetually friendly and down-to-earth staff, and the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Coupled with the homey assortment of seating options and walls lined with books for all ages, you can’t help but feel welcome. Tell us more about the café and bookstore, and what they have to offer.

 What we really want the community and our customers to know is that we are a non-profit, and choosing to spend your money here helps us with our mission which is “Our programs are designed to develop life skills through reading with encouragement, facilitation and education while offering a bookstore to cultivate and support the reading and writing process.” My cry to all my fellow teammates is customer service and being part of something special. I never mind hearing good or bad stories about the place–it makes me feel good and gives me cause to improve. Here’s more about our establishment, from our mission statement:

It is the classic “around the corner” bookstore that is quaint, inviting, and a place where all readers want to go. Knowing that major bookstores can crush small neighborhood stores, it is necessary to apply for grants and operate on a not-for- profit basis. The sales from the bookstore help to pay employees and more importantly, the furtherance and continuance of the programs. With the bookstore generating 50% of our revenue, we show the community that we practice our preaching and offer more to the people than just programs. We offer a place of knowledge, gathering, shopping and friendly service out of dedication to books. Employees are not people that just point customers in the right direction, but readers who care about what customers are reading. How you are treated in a store and what you read are key factors in the return stages of any successful reading environment. The programs are very successful because of the bookstore as young and adult readers need encouragement and direction.

What does it mean to be a Literary Enlightenment Center?

It means that we are community-minded and want to give people the best opportunity to succeed in life, the workforce, school and being a contributing member of mankind and helping others. The Enlightenment Literary Arts Center is vastly different than the for-profit institutions to send children for help when they are faltering at school, which are usually in suburban communities and cost money.  Our goal is to staff the programs in a similar manner as learning centers but  offer facilitation paid for through the grants and bookstore sales, and not of the pockets of our community members with a desire to learn. We won’t just provide books. We go beyond that – as a center to encounter reading and writing.

What kind of programming do you offer families and kids in the community?

Our Puppy Tales program for 2-4 year olds is a 6-week program that includes stories, crafts, and snacks. Each child gets a book at the end to build their “Libraries for Life.” South District Council Member Chris Scanlon sponsors our Family Literacy Nights (the third Monday of each month) where family members get together to read, do crafts, and have a healthy snack. We also do movie nights the third Friday of each month, and have a free summer reading and writing camp. There’s always more information on our website and Facebook page about our program and upcoming events.

Where do you get the inspiration for your cafe menu? My personal favorite is the Turkey Garden Club, but you have a huge variety of options that I really enjoy and feel good about offering to my kids. Plus your hot drink menu and seasonal specials are a sleep-deprived mom’s dream come true.

We originally named all of our stuff after authors and still strive to listen to our customers and please them (while still being cost effective) . We had a teaching chef some time ago who managed the café and helped design the menu, but now Lainie is diligent in staying on top of trends and tweaking new and original ideas. Krista Van Wagner, formerly of Curly’s, is now helping and we look to stay fresh, relevant and here for the community. And we only use fresh and the best products for our menu.

What else would you like to share with families who might want to visit Dog Ears?

Just that we are here and have a mission and can help anybody through books, stories and words. We give people a chance and just like a Christmas song we work with 2-92 year olds. You can come in as a toddler and walk up our stairs of programming and we will be here when you are 92 ready to make your life fulfilling.

Maybe I’ll see you at Dog Ears today when I grab my free coffee!

Living Local: The Blue Eyed Baker

Hi everyone! When I started writing this blog (again), there were a few things I wanted to do. Since my first pregnancy, I’ve been so curious about other mom’s experiences: how they chose their OB/GYN and what they thought of them, how they did or didn’t prepare for their births, what their hospital experience was like, what their day looks like as a SAHM or WOHM or WAHM mom, what their childcare situation is like. Part of this is because I was completely new to Western New York when I had to choose my OB. I literally picked the first OB that showed up on Google, and I ended up leaving the practice after one visit. I had a really hard time finding helpful info about providers, and stories about labor and delivery in specific hospitals. I know others are curious too, because these are often the topics that get conversations started between us as moms meeting for the first time. That’s why I’m going to be featuring a Birth Story series, and a Day in the Life series. I would love for you to share your unique experience, from natural home births to planned C-sections, and stay-at-home-moms to single parents working full time. Contact me if you’re interested!

But the other thing I wanted to do with this blog was to create a place to showcase some of the awesome places to eat, shop, and play in WNY. There are so many fantastic restaurants, independently owned stores, and places for kids to get out and move, but half the time it takes stumbling across one or a chance encounter to find out about them. Today is the first feature of my Living Local series, which will explore what WNY has to offer! Do you have a favorite locally-owned clothing line for kids? A nearby art studio that offers low-cost lessons for little ones? An outdoor space with hiking trails perfect for preschoolers? Let me know in the comments section and I’ll feature them on the blog!

But today I am so excited to introduce Alex, also known as the Blue Eyed Baker! When I thought about who to feature for the first post in this series, Alex automatically came to mind. She’s a Western New Yorker and mommy-to-be who went out on a limb and started her own business in her early twenties–phew! The Blue Eyed Baker creates some of the most beautiful and delicious cakes, pastries, and, of course, French macarons you can find. I admit I let Lily have a French macaron every Saturday morning during the East Aurora farmers market season, where the Blue Eyed Baker has a tent. So without further ado, meet the Blue Eyed Baker!

Hi Alex! Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I am a mama to be who owns a small bakery business. I operate out of a commercial kitchen we put in our basement, doing mostly farmers markets, weddings, and supplying desserts to restaurants. I also take on personal orders. While it can certainly be challenging at times owning your own business, I love what I do and feel very lucky to bake for a living. 

Before you moved back to WNY and devoted yourself full-time to baking, you were living in California and working in a completely different field. How did you get into baking, and what made you decide to start the Blue Eyed Baker?

I was working a corporate job for 5 years and eventually moved out to California for it. I’ve always loved baking but my love really grew when I moved to LA and found myself venturing into all the beautiful pastry shops. I knew I wanted to leave the corporate world, that it just wasn’t for me. I began searching for an education in pastry and found a school that worked with my schedule, allowed me to go at night while continuing to work, and study French-style pastry. From there my love for baking took off and while studying the business of food I began creating ideas for my own business. When my now husband got into school back here in Buffalo, the time was right for us to move back and in turn I decided it was also the right time to take a leap of faith, leave my job and start my business.

What are some of your favorite events and occasions to bake for?

I love creating dessert bars for weddings and showers / parties. My favorite thing to make are my French macarons. They are decadent and its fun to get creative with flavors!

What do you get the most requests for?

Mostly French macarons! I also have a lovely following at the East Aurora farmers market.

What is your favorite thing about living in WNY?

I love that we have seasons, living in California will make you appreciate that! And the cost of living is great for raising a family. I also love the people here!

A lot of us will be celebrating our little one’s first birthdays soon. How can we reach out to you to ask about ordering a cake?

Email me! alex@blueeyedbaker.net … I don’t work with fondant but can certainly create a cake, smash cake, or cupcakes for the celebration!

Thanks, Alex, for being our first Living Local featured business, and congrats on your growing family!