Saturday, February 20, 2010


On a whim, I decided today to visit Buffalo, the second most populated city in New York state.  Known mostly to those of us in Toronto for its Cross-Border Shopping, Buffalo's economy is very much driven by the retail industry.  Depending on how quickly you drive, it would normally be a two hour trip each way and although I haven't visited in quite some time, today's visit turned out to be well worth it.

At the Fashion Outlets on Military Road, I found a Burberry Dress Shirt for $60 US, which is almost unheard of since higher-end fashion retailers like Holt Renfrew and Burberry's actual Flagship Store in Toronto charge well over $200-$300 per shirt alone.  I am ecstatic about this find and also found myself a tie in a classic Burberry print, which happened to be lost under a pile, for just $40 US. The tie would normally retail at around $150 US.  Amazing.

I was completely unaware that the Fashion Outlets also had a Brooks Brothers store. The American retailer has the distinction of being the longest surviving men's clothier in existence, specializing in high-end classic looks.  You'll find many tailored cut dress shirts and wool pieces here.  Although I found a couple fantastic ties,  I am most in love with my Purple/Orange Bow Tie which the staff there kindly gave me a tutorial on how to assemble. For $22 US, this was literally a steal as similar quality Bow Ties in this city can retail for about $100 CAN.   The shop has many neat items like guides on how to properly toast at a party and books on Etiquette, which peaked my interest. I definitely need some lessons in that!

I am perpetually obsessed with foods from my childhood which I would see on American television, but nowhere to be found on Canadian shelves.  Two items I've always wanted to try are Mrs. Butterworth's Table Syrup and Smucker's Goober Grape.  I  remember seeing television ads of the former, where the bottle would come to life and an endearing Mrs. Butterworth would talk to receptive children.  As an adult I've been spoiled by the taste of Organic Maple Syrup, but I am still curious to see what this really tastes like.  The latter is a combination of Concord Grape Jelly and Peanut Butter intertwined in one product.  I can now die happy with my two jars in the cupboard.  Cannot wait to open it!

A while ago, MSN.COM published an article on which chain retailer really had the best brewed coffee.  Survey participants were given a blind taste test: Starbucks versus Dunkin' Donuts.  Overall, Dunkin' Donuts beat out its pricier competition fair and square in terms of value and taste.  I just had to try it out myself and picked up a bag, even though I am pretty much an Espresso snob.  I was very surprised to find that Buffalo natives really love Canada's Tim Horton's.  It seems everywhere I turned, someone was holding a Tim Horton's cup.  As disloyal as it might make me seem, I really do not get the big deal with their coffee; we all know in Canada that they are a deeply-rooted part of Canadian culture.   I find Horton's blend weak and lacking body. I hope Immigration Canada doesn't revoke my family's citizenships after reading this.

One of my favourite finds of the day was a Pink Flamingo Shower Curtain from discount chain retailer Target.  To those of my readers in the U.S., visiting the store might not seem like that big a deal, but we unfortunately do not have them yet in Canada.  Although they have recently announced plans to launch their first Canadian store in 2013, it will be a grueling wait til that day arrives.  This shower curtain is kitschy, perfectly embodying what Target is all about.  No, I haven't yet seen the John Waters film of the same title, so my choice is not a tribute to him.  Staring at this however, makes me happy and happiness is a cheap thrill in this instance.  The curtain was $7 US.

Where the heck is Archer Farms?  Are there pretty horses and rainbows there?  This brand of health-conscious products available exclusively at Target has quite a few enticing selections in its line-up.  I picked up this Pecan Sticky Bun Granola because some mornings just aren't complete with Yogurt, Berries & Granola.  It claims to contain Multigrains and has an All Natural label, which sometimes worries me because it's as if they are overcompensating for something.   My main concern though is, does it really taste like Pecan Sticky Buns!?  I also saw Organic Fair Trade Coffees and various treats like Smoked Jalapeno Sourdough Squares, Raspberry Tea Biscuits and Shortbreads from them.  It's good to see large corporations focus on quality and ethics for a change.  Looks promising.

And last but not least, what is a trip to Buffalo, New York without eating some Buffalo Wings, which the city is famous for?  The Butter and Tobasco-based dish has pretty much been adopted throughout North America, but it means that much more to have had them in their rightful birthplace.  Yes, I only had them at chain restaurant Applebee's, which is mediocre at best,  but I still enjoyed them immensely.  I won't even tell you about how good the Coconut Milkshake was that I had with my wings.  Oh wait, I just did! Oops.


  1. Will, I'm interested in your experience crossing the border. Which crossing did you use? Wait time? Did you declare on the way back?

  2. target is well worth the wait. not sure why it is so much more than just a discount retailer for me. their products just seem to have that little bit more character than Kmart or wal-mart. and the stores are nicer, too.

    the husband and i find ourselves sometimes going to target just because we're bored.

  3. oh, and about the outlet malls: so many retailers have forgone the "discount" aspect of these outlet stores, and charge pretty close to full price for their unsold merch. lucky you for the finds you snagged!

  4. Hi Steve - there's no way to avoid the Customs Taxation process these days. Even if you make a $20 purchase, it has to be declared. Going and coming back was a little slow. I normally use the Lewiston Bridge as this is closest to the Outlets!

    Hi Ken! I agree - despite the Discount Signs/Tags, I wasn't seeing sale prices overall:p I had no luck finding the Target Dog though. Was hoping to find one of those for my nephew!

  5. Ah, the outlets on Military Road. I remember them well. And you crack me up with the food items coming back from your childhood. But Applebee's? Argh! I am hoping to make it to upstate NY this summer, and I think a border crossing may be in order...

  6. That would be amazing, John! Okay what's your opinion on Applebee's vs. Chili's? I saw a Chili's beside it and regretted not trying it instead:(

  7. I would always go to Chili's over Applebee's, but if I am in Buffalo, I'm going to drive a little further to find authentic wings. I'm a bit of a purist, I suppose.

  8. Thanks Will!

    I was just asking as I haven't been to Buffalo since I was a kid. Any outlet shopping we do is down to Grove tax on clothing!

    I'd also agree on Chili's over Applebee's however if I'm going for a chain I know there is a Cheesecake Factory in Buffalo somewhere.