Once upon a time, the section of Bailey Avenue that skirts the South Campus was a thriving business strip, boasting elegant men’s clothing stores and family-run restaurants. These days, not so much, but a new partnership between UB and a reinvigorated Bailey Avenue Business Association is hoping to bring that entrepreneurial energy back to the neighborhood.
Starting early this year, the association is collaborating with the UB School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) to offer business owners along a four-mile stretch of Bailey Avenue a free skills-training program, funded by a grant from the Allstate Foundation.
The Bailey Avenue program will cover an area along the street that’s part of the “Buffalo Promise Neighborhood,” a section of the East Side earmarked for federal grant money to improve schools, community centers and health care access for local residents. The association also hopes to partner with UB on other projects for the district, which includes an estimated 150 to 180 businesses between Winspear Avenue and Genesee Street.
Participants of the CEL program will learn the best ways to start and grow a business, from creating business plans to tapping economic development start-up funds. Ultimately, the goal is to restore the street to its formerly energetic self, à la Elmwood and Hertel avenues. “We want to bring back that vibrancy,” says Ibrahim Cissé, the association’s founding president and owner of ABCIS Technology Services, a computer sales and repair company. “And UB has the resources to help.”
The previous incarnation of the business association dissolved in 2008 after a city audit exposed rampant corruption. But Cissé has been going door-to-door to convince business owners to band together again. With a partnership with the city to improve streetscapes and infrastructure, and a newly opened early-childhood education center next to Cissé’s building, Bailey may finally find that path from bust to boom.