Poczkalski, Brugh inspired to ‘up their own game’ by creating ‘shopping experience’
In their travels through Europe, Michael Poczkalski and David Brugh were inspired by the multifaceted shopping experiences they saw throughout the United Kingdom and Italy.
With the world of retail changing as so many people turn to shopping online, the married couple thought it was time to “up their own game” and do something that’s different and unique to the area.
Enter the concept of the Monocle, a boutique department store that opened on Hertel Avenue in late May after an estimated $1 million renovation of a former synagogue. It is billed as a two-floor, lifestyle luxury shopping experience, highlighted by Room, a high-end furniture store, interior design firm Michael P. Design, and Brugh’s Crockett & Co. barbershop and salon.
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Inside, there’s also a full-service tea and coffee café and bar – which has yet to open as the two look to partner with a vendor, a library with a fireplace, and clothing, home and lifestyle product lines with a variety of accessories.
“We wanted to really provide something that people want to see and where they want to hang out,” Poczkalski said. “It’s where you can come to get a service, get food, buy a sofa – all that kind of stuff. As we start to build up, I think it will be exciting and embracing for the community.”
The two purchased the boarded-up synagogue at 1235 Hertel Ave. in January 2021 and gave it a radical new look, including a black-clad, brick and panel outside with a glass-walled lobby atop the grand front staircase and two new entrances on the ground level.
The location wound up being perfect for what Poczkalski and Brugh had in mind, but it was far from their first choice. They lost out on several other properties, Poczkalski joking that “this was the only place that accepted our bid.”
His furniture shop had been at 1400 Hertel Ave., with a design office at 1396 Hertel, for 14 years, and Crockett & Co. moved from 83 Saranac Ave.
“It’s funny because this was probably my least favorite of all the ones we were looking at, but it wound up laying out perfectly for us and the price allowed us to do everything we wanted to,” Poczkalski said.
Construction started in August, and despite some delays getting in windows and an electric panel, renovations were completed in less than a year. And while the pandemic did not disrupt either business too much or vastly change the timeline of construction, it made the two rethink their business model even further.
“Maybe it was a good thing, a wake-up call, in a way,” he said. “You’re just puttering along and then the world shuts down, and you have to wonder, ‘What’s next?’ As small business owners, you wonder how you’re going to survive.”
Inside the building, there are two very different experiences: The first floor is light and bright with the furniture store, which offers custom classic and contemporary designed items and will expand its offerings to include more jewelry, scarves, handbags, dishware, glassware and outdoor lifestyle products.
A mezzanine level overlooking the showroom houses Michael P. Design’s offices with five designers.
The bottom floor is darker and moodier, with the barbershop, café and bar, and areas for the library and additional retail, including unisex hair, face and body products and fragrances.
The café will eventually feature a light lunch and breakfast menu, pastry bar, full coffee and tea menus with proper tea service starting at 2 p.m., and full cocktail bar.
“It’s something different than what you’d normally see in Buffalo,” Poczkalski said. “It’s taking the retail world to a different level. We really have to reinvent to survive.”
They’ll also host pop-up shops and vendors starting July 23, featuring jewelers, florists, pottery makers, bakeries and coffee shops.
“Our vision for the Monocle is to be known as the premier shopping destination in Western New York that leaves you feeling inspired, excited and wanting more,” Brugh said.
Cereal Spot goes from Hertel to Elmwood
While up-and-coming areas of Hertel Avenue continue to gain businesses and shops like the Monocle, Buffalo’s first cereal-based business recently decided it was moving off the street and onto Elmwood Avenue – another city hotspot.
Cereal Spot Buffalo is moving this month into the former Village Beer Merchant on 547 Elmwood Ave.
Co-owners Daniel Korpanty and Eric Dacey at the start of July closed the 1212 Hertel Ave. location, which opened in 2020, in preparation for the move, but their food truck continues to operate at various locations throughout the summer.
“We are sad to see Hertel close but it only opens a bigger door on Elmwood,” according to a Facebook post from Cereal Spot.
Want to know more? Two stories to catch you up:
• Monocle developers plan to bring new look to former synagogue
• The Cereal Spot welcomes guest pop-ups for National Cereal Day
Welcome to Buffalo Next. This newsletter from The Buffalo News will bring you the latest coverage on the changing Buffalo Niagara economy – from real estate to health care to startups. Read more at BuffaloNext.com.
Catch up on the latest news from Buffalo Next:
Clarence contracting and development firm VisoneCo. plans to put up a new five-story, 111-unit apartment building on River Road in North Tonawanda by cleaning up and reusing a largely vacant and polluted site along the Niagara River.
The new owner of electronic instruments maker Trek Inc. wants to move to a new and larger facility in the Town of Cambria and is now seeking $5.56 million in tax breaks, a year after Niagara County had approved tax breaks for the Lockport company’s $8.2 million expansion project.
Amazon.com’s plans and tax-break request for a new $550 million e-commerce distribution facility in the Town of Niagara has received a warm reception from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, whose members called it a “generational” project of historic proportions.
Cedarland Development Group has purchased three historic Allentown apartment buildings with 35 units for $4 million and plans renovation work that will “highlight the character of the properties while bringing each unit up to date.”
A redevelopment project to a fire-damaged former industrial property on the banks of the Scajaquada Creek in North Buffalo has undergone a series of design revisions, as developer Savarino Companies address concerns raised by neighbors and the city’s Planning Board.
The Tops Markets store on Jefferson Avenue will reopen Friday, two months and one day after 10 people were killed there in a racist mass shooting.
Neighbors have been watching with interest as Tops prepares for the reopening of its Jefferson Avenue store. Many are looking forward to the reopening, others are bracing themselves and a few aren’t sure if they’ll ever go back.
Buffalo biopharmaceutical firm Athenex is unloading another asset for $19 million, the latest sale the company has made in its turnaround bid.
Two retailers in Buffalo Niagara region, including one with four shops in the area, have been ordered by the state’s Office of Cannabis Management to stop the unlicensed sale of cannabis.
The new owner of the Jersey Street Firehouse on Buffalo’s West Side plans to convert the three-story brick building into apartments after a previous redevelopment proposal by another group ran into neighborhood opposition.
St. Joseph Campus has been through many changes over the years, ranging from the abrupt transition to a Covid-19-only hospital in 2020 to the ongoing reinvention into an outpatient and ambulatory care center. Constant reinvention is what it takes to fit within the future of health care.
A former church rectory that later became home to the Larkin Men’s Club for workers at the Larkin Co. is getting ready for a new use as market-rate apartments and commercial space, with the husband-and-wife team of Michael Myers and Kayla Zemsky renovating the 696 Seneca St. building.
Buffalo Next reporters Jonathan D. Epstein, Jon Harris, Natalie Brophy, Matt Glynn, Janet Gramza and Mike Petro contributed to this roundup.
Five reads from Buffalo Next:
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2. Eastern Hills Mall owner Uniland Development is preventing the BFLO Store from moving out of its space in the mall and into Transitown Plaza, and has parked vehicles and equipment in front of its door to block them as the two sides fight over who owns fixtures and other improvements made to the space.
3. Which WNY companies’ pollution poses biggest potential public health risk?: The Buffalo Niagara region improved when compared to other metropolitan regions in overall total pollution releases to air, water and land – moving from 44th most in the nation in 2015 to 163rd most out of 893 urban areas.
4. Dollar stores are booming: Do these retailers help or hurt communities?: The dollar store industry is one of the fastest growing in the country, often bringing a wide-ranging store to communities and neighborhoods where shopping options are limited. But not everyone is happy.
5. Buffalo Together grant recipients putting dollars behind ideas: The Buffalo Together fund’s mission is to address long-range community needs. But fund leaders also thought it was important to “get money out the door as quickly as possible” and support organizations working on the front lines since the May 14 massacre at the Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue.
The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region’s economic revitalization. Email tips from the restaurant and retail industries to [email protected] or reach reporter Michael Petro at [email protected]