Featuring Asian delicacies like Tha Khway Yai, Kanom Jeen and Banh Mi, Wa Wa Khiang’s dream of opening her own business now is a reality.
“This is our eighth day open,” Khiang says as she smiles behind her counter at Buffalo’s West Side Bazaar.
Khiang arrived in the United States from Thailand eight years ago with her daughter Su Way. While they both worked in restaurants in the Buffalo area, Khiang always knew she wanted to be her own boss. Why? She says she wanted to be able to share her favorite Asian snacks and dessert recipes with the community, and WEDI’s popular international food court provided that opportunity.
Wa Wa Asian Snacks is the most recent startup at WEDI’s, or the Westminister Economic Development Initiative’s, West Side Bazaar, a small business incubator that grew from the organization’s goal to provide business opportunities to residents of Buffalo’s West Side.
Historically, this local neighborhood has been a hub for immigrant and refugee communities to settle, plant their roots and start businesses. Over time, the once-thriving area fell on harder times. Many businesses closed up as large groups of families moved.
But, today, thanks to initiatives including the West Side Bazaar, the area has become more popular and culturally diverse than ever. Burmese, Ethiopian, Sudanese and Thai immigrants, just to name a few, call the West Side home. And, the epicenter of this melting pot is the West Side Bazaar.
Located at Grant Street and West Ferry, this marketplace features authentic dishes and desserts from many different countries. Vendors sell handmade jewelry, textiles and art and artisans work at macrame, beading, and sewing. It has become a place where business owners and customers new and old now come to meet up and socialize and sample always changing fare.
For entrepreneurs like Khiang, WEDI provides subsidized rent and mentoring in small business development. Business owners, in turn, agree to comply with WEDI requirements that they share business information, accept business training and adhere to health and safety codes. This marketplace then allows small vendors the opportunity to grow, expand and eventually open up independent shops and restaurants in the community.