Music Leads Way To Black Rock Community Revitalization

Photo Credit: Robert Kirkham, Buffalo News

Thirty-five years ago, Dwayne Hall put his roots in the ground on Amherst Street near Grant Street in the Black Rock community.  The establishment of the Sportsmen Tavern was born.  Both inside and outside the walls of the fabled tavern, Hall has seen and overseen changes in the community.  Some perhaps unwelcomed during the years while others were more positive.  Never lost was a passion to build a music-oriented community.

Chandler Street

Recently, in the last few years, the area that surrounds the Sportsmen Tavern location and beyond has been undergoing a revitalization at an unparallel pace than any time in the last 35 years.  Music has played a significant role in the revitalization efforts still underway.  Consider the following:

  • Launching on Sunday, August 4th is the new Sportsmen Park.  Located behind the Sportsmen Tavern, this outdoor park will include an amphitheater stage and lawn area for bringing your own folding chairs seating.  The first event, Ameripolitan Day, will feature Dale Watson, Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun, the Steam Donkeys, the Skiffle Minstrels, and the Lustre Kings from 1:00 pm to 8:30 pm.  Tickets are $30.
  • Sportsmen Tavern also recently purchased the Imagine Recording Studio and Imagine Event Center that was led by the admirable efforts of Chuck Anderson to return music to the community.  The plan is to reopen the event center as The Cave and create a walkway connection between the Sportsmen Tavern and The Cave via Sportsmen Park.
  • Chandler Street, located a few blocks up off Military Road, is undergoing a major transformation led by Rocco Termini’s Signature Development Company.  This summer, the inaugural Jazz at Chandlerville, produced in partnership with JazzBuffalo, has been holding concerts every Thursday at the new Thin Man Brewery / Tappo Wood Fired Pizza.  Further music is planned that is spurring the community to discover the transformation of a once-industrial hub to a vibrant community gathering destination.  The area also includes a courtyard with murals by artist Chuck Tingley with two other food and drinks establishments taking root.  Look for more music to take place in the streets.
  • Hot Mama Canteen, located on Amherst Street, continues to expand its presence in the community, as well as, its music offerings.  Building a loyal following of patrons.
  • Allentown Music Store, forced to move from its multiple decades’ location on Elmwood Avenue, relocated on Amherst Street between Grant and Elmwood Avenue.
  • Swing Buffalo, an organization dedicated to swing-style dancing, has been using the venerable Polish Cadet Hall on the corner of Amherst and Grant for its dances that often includes live swing bands.

In an article by Jeff Meirs of the Buffalo News, Hall is quoted as saying:

“We’re trying to create this whole idea of ‘Music Town,’ ” he said. “I mean, you have Larkinville now, you have Chandlerville. With us, and Hot Mama’s Canteen around the corner, and the two new music stores that moved in and opened on Amherst Street because of what we’re doing – well, why not?  “It’ll be like a small Music Row,” he said, referring to the legendary music-related district southwest of downtown Nashville.

(For an excellent interview describing Hall’s vision, visit the referenced article at this link: Buffalo News article)

Hot Mama Canteen

Central to the revitalization underway has been music of all stripes.  Indie, Americana, Rock, Blues, Swing, and Jazz.  Only the future will tell whether the area becomes a full-fledged “Music Row” as mentioned by Hall.  However, it is promising to see the level of commitments, both by way of investments and passion, being made to the community and to music. 

Another example of the types of commitments contributing to the overall revitalization of the City of Buffalo.  It is great to see music, including jazz, be a part of such ongoing redevelopment and revitalization that we are witnessing in the Black Rock Community.

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