Buffalo, Then (Part One)

Certain neighborhoods can be a magnet to those that inhabit them multiple times over several years. Main Street in Buffalo is no exception. Specifically the section located between Hertel Avenue and Niagara Falls Blvd.

In the 1990’s, Main Street was a destination for high school and college students alike. The main meeting place was a coffeehouse called Stimulance. Inhabiting the space next door to Talking Leaves bookstore, Stimulance offered not only some of the best coffee and bagels in town (they mixed, boiled, and baked them in house) but also events that were geared toward the teen and twenty something Gen Xers that were hanging around at the time. This was before NYS passed the no smoking laws so a night at Stimulance could include not only the stimulation of an espresso laden beverage, but also a pack of smokes which you could buy on the premises in the old fashioned cigarette dispenser between the two unisex bathrooms, located across from the counter.

Upon entering the space, one would be greeted immediately by the friendly, hipster staff. For regulars, a specific coffee cup and a seat at the bar awaited them. A refuge from the cold weather or the aggravation of the daily grind was something that could always be found there. A small area with couches and coffee tables was situated up front, to the left of the door and a stage was setup in the back right corner. Open mic night and poetry readings abounded in this space and most Music and English majors from Buffalo State, UB, and Canisius eventually found themselves on the stage singing or reciting poetry and prose.

Staying open late into the next morning was a feature of all the coffee houses during this period of caffeine excellence in Buffalo and Stimulance was no exception. Patrons would shuffle in from the local bars, after a night of drinking, and sober up over a pack of Marlboro reds and a cup of Fair trade Sumatra. Stimulance was one of the only establishments to brew beans that were ethically sourced and they led the movement to get other coffee houses on board as well. Always forward thinking, the owners were happy to provide the best quality products and stressed the importance of these items in the greater landscape of the coffee industry.

When the smoking laws began kicking in, Stimulance tried to keep up by enclosing the front room for smokers. Once the full indoor smoking law was passed though, Stimulance could no longer remain open. Coffee and cigarettes were so intertwined that they lost large swaths of their customer base causing them to sell the business and move on. Much like Java Temple, Topic, Cybeles, Coffee Bean Cafe, and 3Bs, Stimulance was an institution of coffee in Buffalo that will never be recreated. The 90s were truly a golden age of coffeehouse culture in Buffalo and no matter how many pour overs one ingests it can never replace the feeling one obtained from sitting at the bar at Stimulance, smoking a cigarette, reading the artvoice, drinking a quad shot mocha, and talking about the latest news in the world of culture, activism, or music with a truly interesting barista. Those days are most certainly gone and all that remains are the memories of a better time in Buffalo.