BUFFALO, N.Y. — For 11 years, the West Side Bazaar stood on Grant Street as a center of cultural exchange.
“I think every time you see it, it kind of hits you another time," said Carolynn Welch, the executive director of WEDI, the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, which runs the West Side Bazaar. “Everybody that is currently running a business at the bazaar is a refugee from another country. So they're bringing their culture to us.”
Four retail stores and seven restaurants are now left without a place to do business after a fire broke out on September 20.
"The bazaar means something a little bit different to everyone. It really is a community hub,” said Welch. “I think I'm still kind of in a little bit of a state of shock. We're obviously jumping into action, but it's been very traumatic, I think, for all of us.”
Remnants of the chaos and destruction are left behind. The sight of the bazaar in this condition makes it hard for Welch to look ahead.
“I think everyone's having trouble imagining themselves someplace new that's not the bazaar,” she said.
But through tragedy, the good of people shines through, from Buffalo to Texas.
“What we're seeing from our community is absolutely amazing," Welch said. "I think that helping hands coming together really is a good symbol of that. We're seeing people from every different phase and walk of life contact us about the bazaar.”
From donations to a temporary location, people want to help.
“Whether that be a restaurant space or a retail space for our businesses to go to within city limits that is really turnkey, we need something somebody could walk right into and open up their restaurant,” explained Welch.
Because it was more than just a building that went up in flames; it was people’s livelihoods.
“For every single restaurant with the exception of one, this is how they support their family,” Welch said.
It's support that they won’t receive from the new Niagara Street location until at least next year.
“It's kind of our light at the end of the tunnel,” said Welch about the new location.
For now, they will have to find that support in each other.
“I know they're helping out each other right now, as we're kind of going through this tragedy and navigating it, but it really is like an extended family, you know," Welch said. "We’re gonna help everybody get up and move forward.”