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SUP yoga instructor will hit the Buffalo waterfront at two weekend festivals

Stand Up Paddleboard instructor Marie Phillips, right, teaches a class last week off the Little Beaver Canoe and Kayak Launch Area at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island, under the watchful eyes of two white heron and several gulls (not pictured) and her Pomeranian, Sophia. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Marie Phillips has had her share of ups and downs, but as she heads into a busy weekend, she feels a strong sense of balance.

A child snowboarding prodigy, Phillips had to give up the sport while out West in college because of a series of injuries. She feels grounded again being back home on Grand Island, after discovering a budding career as a Stand Up Paddleboard yoga instructor.

That’s right. She teaches others how to navigate a series of yoga poses while perched atop surf boards little more than 10 feet long by 2¾ feet wide.

While she does, she shares her board with her 7-year-old Pomeranian, Sophia, and ended a recent class with a headstand and scissors kick.

No kidding.

“If you fight the board – and the water moving underneath you – you’ll make it harder, and you’ll fall in,” Phillips said. “That’s what really drew me towards it. When I was doing the training, it made me realize how practicing on the water felt like life. No matter how grounded you feel on the earth, there’s always movement underneath you. You’re never really stable and secure. You have to feel and move with whatever’s coming at you, instead of fighting it, or it just makes it harder, whatever it is.”

Phillips, 27, a Nardin Academy alum with a bachelor’s in health care studies from Daemen College, figures into two big fitness festivals this weekend: the first annual Buffalo Paddle Festival, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Gallagher Beach; and the Budding Tree Yoga Festival, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Canalside.

The Saturday festival includes recreational and competitive races. Phillips – certified three years ago to teach Baptiste yoga on dry land, and last summer to teach Stand Up Paddleboard yoga – will lead a SUP yoga workshop at 1 p.m. at the free Sunday festival. She teaches yoga at Evolation on Elmwood Avenue; you can book her SUP yoga classes, which run $15 to $30 an hour, at Gallagher Beach and Beaver Island State Park, at

What are the differences between yoga and Stand Up Paddleboard yoga?

SUP yoga is really easy on the joints because you have to use your muscles. It’s lots of core. When people first see it, it seems scary and hard, but once you get out there and shift your weight side to side on your board, you really feel you are stable. Your body, naturally on the ground, is always moving, stabilizing you to hold you where you are. It’s just exaggerated more out there on the water. When you come back on the ground, on the hard surface, it’s so much easier. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done yoga, never tried paddleboarding. Being on the water makes it even for everybody. Even if you feel you’re a professional at yoga – not being able to use your joints, use compensations in your body you use on the ground – it’s just an amazing feeling.

Does this create a new level of flexibility?

Definitely. It’s physical and mental flexibility. Being in a room is different because you don’t have distractions. You have people around you, you have walls around you, but being out on the water, you have nature. You have birds, lots of distractions around you. Just being able to tell your breath to be an anchor, being able to – no matter what’s going on on your board or in your life – find your breath, gives you such a sense of accomplishment.

What are the benefits?

It brings a whole new meaning to finding peace and stillness. And balance. Balance on your board and off your board. You’re able to really translate how you are on your board in your practice to how you are in your life.

I assume when you started, you were falling more than you probably do now.

There’s a lot of fear around falling and resisting the fall. Once you fall in, you want to keep falling in. You push yourself more. You realize the water isn’t that far away from you. The water feels good when you fall in. It’s refreshing and it brings a whole new sense of play. We’re so serious in our everyday lives.

Is it also a learning experience? You’re not going to get better unless you do fall in taking a risk?

Absolutely. If you stop listening and you think you know what you’re doing and you don’t want to fall in, you’re not going to progress. There’s no lesson in that.

Can you make a living teaching yoga and Stand Up Paddleboard yoga in Buffalo?

Luckily I have a very supportive family that allows me the time to make this my living. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you love it – this is my passion – people see it and are drawn to it. It takes time to build a following.

I plan to do retreats. Jenny, who was one of the students out there (today), we’re doing a retreat in January in Guatemala and we’re going to do one in Costa Rica in February. Ideally, I will be in Buffalo in the summers and traveling and doing retreats throughout the winter months. I love Costa Rica and would love to eventually have a retreat center there … and build my life half the year there and half the year here.

Marie Phillips ended a recent SUP yoga class with this move. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)


Twitter: @BNrefresh

Former Boulevard BAC to close today as LA Fitness opens new club nearby


The former Buffalo Athletic Clubs Boulevard and Eastern Hills malls were quieter after the sale of the coed BAC branches to LA Fitness late last year. The Boulevard Mall club closes today to make way for a new, larger LA Fitness nearby. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News file photo)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

The former Boulevard Mall location of the Buffalo Athletic Club will close at 5 p.m. today as LA Fitness opens a new club in the old Circuit City store on Sheridan Drive at Niagara Falls Boulevard.

The new Amherst club will open at 5 p.m., about the same time the mall club closes, staff and patrons at the location told me this week.

LA Fitness purchased the Boulevard Mall club late last year – as well as all other BAC coed clubs in Western New York aside from a CrossFit club – after it already had plans to create the new location it opens today.

The West Coast chain also plans another club in Hamburg soon, according to sources and its website.

It also owns two clubs in Buffalo and one each in Clarence, Niagara Falls and Orchard Park, as well as three clubs in Rochester.

The new Amherst club will be larger than the Boulevard location and include three racquetball courts, staff and members said.

“I don’t mind the change, but I liked the more intimate atmosphere of the BAC. It was more of a family atmosphere,” said Russ Dye, 61, a retired CSX safety coordinator who lives in East Amherst and has preferred to work out in the more comfortable digs of the Boulevard club since the BAC-LA Fitness sale in late December.

Like Dye, I was a longtime BAC member swept up in the change. You can read several blog posts I wrote during and after the transition here.

I will say that LA Fitness has begun to grow on me since I started visiting the Clarence club earlier this year.

It’s new, I like the “cycling theater” for my spinning classes and it’s nice to soak in the hot tub every once in a while.

I’m old enough to remember the hot tub and racquetball courts at the old Eastern Hills Racquet Club, which morphed into the BAC Eastern Hills and, for a very short time, an LA Fitness outlet.

Predictably, with a brand new club in the Walmart Plaza less than a mile up Transit Road, that club closed in late May.

The change brought growing pains for former BAC coed members:

• Many of the women followed some of their instructors to the BAC for Women.

• Many senior citizens – upset that LA Fitness won’t accept insurance plans that give them free or vastly reduced-cost fitness memberships – flocked to clubs that do, including YMCA Buffalo Niagara branches across the region.

• And numbers dwindled following the sale at Eastern Hills and the Boulevard where, at Eastern Hills in particular, equipment went unrepaired and grass, for long stretches, uncut.

Life isn’t perfect at LA Fitness.  I’m among those who isn’t crazy about trying to stuff work clothes and a gym bag into half-sized lockers, and  the BB-sized pellets of soap that squeeze out of the shower soap dispensers are a testament that the big new fitness player in town chooses to toe a stringent financial line. But things aren’t all bad, either, for the Dyes or me.

Dye’s wife stuck with the BAC for Women, but also has a month-to-month membership at LA Fitness, where she still works out with some of the group fitness instructors she loved at the old BAC Eastern Hills.

The suddenness of the BAC-LA Fitness sales, during the Christmas holidays, left many BAC instructors who opted to stay with LA Fitness wary of their futures.

The good news here: most of these instructors work part-time and hold other jobs; and LA Fitness has added classes and brought just about all of them into other clubs.

The same is expected in the aftermath of today’s club closing. With a larger facility, and another on the horizon in Hamburg, the prospect of more instructors working for the chain soon is growing.

Jenna Ziegler, an Alden high school Spanish teacher and one of my favorite spinning instructors, played “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” as her last spinning song in the old Eastern Hills BAC just before it closed several weeks ago. She’s teaching Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings at the LA Fitness Clarence location.

“The bikes are much nicer,” she told me.

Most of my fellow spinning class students from the old Eastern Hills site have followed Ziegler and other instructors to LA Fitness.

Dye is open minded about his impending shift, too, and predicts some of the faces in the LA Fitness clubs in Clarence and on Elmwood Avenue will change as they now have a more favorable location closer to home.

The long-term question: Will the regional fitness market be able to handle the proliferation of so many new clubs, of all shapes and sizes?

Time will tell.


Twitter: @BNrefresh 

Steve Hotz wants you to think date night at new ECMC dining center


Jim Hurlbut, left, behind the counter at Create, shows off healthy options for made-to-order meals to Steve Hotz, campus system director with Morrison food service, which just worked with Erie County Medical Center on a $2 million renovation of the ECMC dining center, which is now called the Great Lakes Cafe. (Sharon Cantillon)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Add Erie County Medical Center to the list of hospitals looking to bolster the look of its main cafeterias – and, more importantly, expand healthy dining options.

The Grider Street medical center last week officially opened its second-floor dining facility under a new name, the Great Lakes Café, following a $2 million renovation. Morrison food service, which handles similar duties at Terrace View Long-Term Care Facility and School 84, worked with ECMC to revamp the hospital dining experience, add seating and create a new made-to-order philosophy.

Steve Hotz, of Clarence Center – campus system director for Morrison and subject of today’s What are you Eating? feature in WNY Refresh – oversees the new digs.

Morrison, a food service, senior living and healthcare company, will look to improve  the patient menu, which often is limited because of dietary restrictions, but the company hopes that as patients heal and can move around the hospital, they will have their first sit-down meals with visitors at the Great Lakes Café.

The company – whose new dining experience will compete with Subway, Tim Horton’s and Mighty Taco on the ECMC first floor – sees great potential for the new cafe, Hotz said.

“The region will benefit from coming here as a consumer, not just patients, faculty, staff and families,” he said. “We’d like people in the area to come to us. Use it as a date night, use it as a lunch date. It’s such an inviting, warm facility ... and the options are fantastic.”

Hotz said the menu focuses on “fresh, creative, healthy meals” that provide comfort, nutrition and culturally diverse options.

Here’s how the café – which is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day – breaks down:

  • Crisp – This is the name of the salad bar.
  • So – A made-to-order deli sandwich station.
  • Create – A “very chef-inspired” station where a chef helps you devise your own meal, in rotating styles that include Cajun/Creole, Asian and Italian. Veggies and proteins are key here.
  • 2 mato – Italian cuisine.
  • Bake shop – By Rich Products.

“All of this is anchored by our flagship, which is Austin Grill,” Hotz said.

Austin Grill Express is the focal point of what’s set up as a sort of food court, and features a made-to-order burrito line similar to Moe’s and Chipotle Grill, along with options that include tacos, nachos, burgers, grilled chicken and baked chicken wings.

Mindful that the café has fast-food competitors in the hospital, the operation is designed to get food to customers in three minutes or less, Hotz said. The price range for meals is $3 to $8.

The Great Lakes Café is the latest effort for a WNY hospital that looks to embrace healthy eating principles in places which, after all, are designed to restore and maintain good health. Last year, I also introduced you to Kathy Kubiak-McAlpine, the food service manager at Kenmore-Mercy Hospital, who has used several creative approaches in recent years.

Those who stop into the Great Lakes Café may be comforted in knowing that Hotz is a healthy eater. His good habits start at home, with help from his wife, Johnna, a physician’s assistant and registered dietitian he met a quarter century ago while the two were at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., and is further inspired by their son, Joshua, 22, a body builder who is diligent about food choices.

“He’s a machine of discipline and nutrition,” Hotz said. “He knows from the prospective of science how food affects his body. He’s done pretty darn well in local competitions: all-natural competitions and the Mr. Buffalo competition.

“We couldn’t get him to eat something he’s not supposed to if we tried.


Twitter: @BNrefresh

Former power plant technician is now holistic health healer

Don Scott, left, a massage therapist and Qigong instructor, pictured Nancy Weil, founder of the Holistic Alliance of Western New York, used to be an instrumentation specialist at the AES Somerset power plant. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

When the Scotts, of Middleport, experienced a series of deaths in their family about a dozen years ago, Cindy Scott started looking into the “metaphysical side of life,” said her husband, Don.

Don Scott, who grew up in Wilson, was in the midst of a 28-year career as an instrumentation technician at the coal-fired AES power plant in Somerset.

The Scotts embarked upon a journey of self-discovery, and Don Scott learned through the process that he had “empathetic tendencies” that made him feel the pain of others. Instead of avoiding those tendencies by withdrawing from people as he had in the past, he said he decided to steer into them, and learn how to channel them to help others.

 “Somewhere along the line, people starting asking what it was I did, what my personal practices were,” he said. “I was more outgoing, more at peace, more content. Pretty soon, groups of people were asking, and I started to become comfortable with it. Now I teach to rooms I wouldn’t have been comfortable being in at one point.”

Scott, 57, retired early, two years ago, from AES Somerset, to focus more completely on his passions. He is a certified yoga instructor, and teaches Qigong – movement exercises similar to tai chi – as well as “spiritual insight training.” He’s on the faculty at Fellowships of the Spirit, a school that once rented space at Lily Dale and now has its own spot just outside that community’s gate.

As he went through the transformation, he also learned about manipulation of pressure points. Turning that into a business in New York requires a message therapy license, so he spent two years getting one, while working at his old job, and is a graduate of the New York Institute of Message, near the Eastern Hills Mall.

He does workshops on his Middleport farmstead – where he and his wife have raised beaver and ostriches in the past – and practices other parts of his new trade at Harisa Ayurvedic Wellness Center on Sweet Home Road in Amherst, and in Cassadaga.

Scott has been a godsend to Nancy Weil, subject of today’s In the Field feature in WNY Refresh, who was in a car crash 18 months ago.

Weil, founder of the Holistic Alliance of Western New York, said she continues to deal with some nagging injuries as a result of the crash. She looks to Scott and other members of the alliance for well-being.

“When I had my car accident, the nurse practitioner kept trying to give me drugs and I kept saying, ‘I don’t want a muscle relaxant.’ I had these wonderful (holistic) practitioners and I just went, ‘Help,’ and they responded. I went to the acupuncturist and Don was doing massage, helping me.

“The nurse practitioner looked at me on the second visit and said, ‘I honor you, because you’re willing to give your body the time it needs to heal. Most of my patients just want the prescription.’ If that’s what they want, that’s OK. That’s the right choice for them. It’s their body, it’s their choices. It wasn’t the right choice for me. I was willing to give my body the time and support it needed, and continues to need.”

I asked Scott how his journey of self-discovery and a new profession reshaped his religious philosophy.

“I was brought up Episcopalian and, as soon as I was able to make my own life, I didn’t have anything to do with church,” he said. “What I do is spiritual, it’s not religious. We are all inclusive. A lot of religions aren’t so all inclusive. My belief is that everybody is on their own path but we are all on the same path eventually.”

Weil said many of the folks who attend monthly holistic alliance gatherings are there to learn how to better care for their needs, and that many are devout Christians and followers of other religions.

“This has nothing to do with religion. It’s about education,” said Weil, who teaches therapeutic laughter and laughter yoga, and has an unrelated job as grief coordinator with the Diocese of Buffalo Catholic Cemeteries. (Find grief support groups here.) 

“The beauty of the holistic approach is the mind, body and spirit,” Scott added. “However that works for you is fine.”

Weil also answered several questions earlier this week about her work as owner of The Laugh Academy. Below are excerpts:

How does laughter fit into the grief counseling?

What we find is, because laughter is therapeutic – it helps to balance emotions, reduce stress, helps with memory retention, helps with the immune system – all these things, when you’re grieving, need support.

I say at the times we least feel like laughing is when we need to do it the most. When I do the grief work, they don’t want to laugh, but in using therapeutic laughter or laughing for no reason, you will still get those benefits.

I’m leading you in this, just like it’s an exercise class. ‘We’re going to do this now. It’s not, ‘I’m going tell jokes now.’ That’s not going to work when you’re grieving. It’s ‘I’m going to produce the sound of laughter because the brain’s not going to differentiate and it’s going to start to release those chemicals to start to make us feel better. I may not feel like going for a walk, but I’m going anyway, and my body’s going to react. It’s the same sort of thing with these exercises.

You don’t have to be born with a sense of humor, you can develop it. The more you start doing laughter exercises, the more you start looking for opportunities to laugh, the more it begins to come. Then you begin to develop what I call an HPOA, a humor plan of action. I teach people how to develop an HPOA, because we’re desperate for it.

Is this what you do on the grief side?

It’s a very small part. I’m doing comprehensive grief support. We have a Heavenly Hearts Choir and we sing. We do a drum circle. We have potluck dinners if there’s a fifth Tuesday; we meet first and third Tuesday. We do inspired Western New York day trips. We’ve gone to plays and we’ve gone to movies, and we have those on a Sunday afternoon. Why? That’s a really hard day for people who are grieving.

How did you fall into laughter?

I was working at one of those county dining sites for seniors and doing adult education at the Jewish Community Center and I saw in the Parade section in The Buffalo News something about Steve Wilson and the World Laughter Tour. I thought, ‘I could take my seniors and we could do laughter exercises and that could be really fun.’ So I drove to Columbus, Ohio 11 years ago and I signed up to become a laughter leader. I began to run these laughter classes. It’s therapeutic laughter. It’s laughter for no reason. And we began to do these exercises, so you waddle around like penguins and you’re laughing. You’re pretending you're on a cellphone and you’re laughing.

It’s using your whole brain. The reason they call it laughter yoga is it’s using sound, movement and breath. It was created by this gentleman, Madan Kataria, in India. He was a cardiologist and his wife was a yoga teacher. He began to see that his patients who laughed a lot were getting better faster. He began to look into this and develop this entire process. He connected with Steve Wilson, who’s in Columbus, Ohio, and Steve began to formalize the training. I’m teaching there in the advanced laughter workshop in November.

I started doing more reading and I got sucked into this research that’s showing why laughter is the best medicine. The more you look at what the research continues to show, the more you continue to realize why laughter needs to be as much for our daily health regime as going to the gym, as taking our vitamins. We have to laugh. We are hard wired for it. Babies laugh. Research shows that it reduces stress, it boosts the immune system; you breathe deeply, so you have fewer upper respiratory illnesses. You begin to use whole brain thinking. It helps with circulation, pain reduction; all of these things because I go hahahahaha.

Very little humor and laughter is because of somebody telling a joke; 80 percent of our laughter is because we’re interacting, because we’re very social beings. So being with other people gets you relax.

It’s also a way that people let go.

Exactly. I call it our pressure relief valve. When you look at emergency room nurses and doctors, when you look at first responders, when you look at these people who work in a very intense environment, the humor they use away from patients may seem odd to those of us on the outside but it’s understood among them as their pressure relief valve. I can’t go up and use humor like that, because I’m not part of that dynamic, but they can with each other. It’s understood humor.

Humor is very difficult. Laughter is a sound, a burst of air that repeats. No matter where you travel in this world, if you laugh or smile, people will understand. It’s a social cue of, ‘I’m here to be friends.’

What makes you laugh?

My pug, Simone, because pugs are hilarious. I was a dog groomer for 20 years, so animals bring a presence and a joy. I love going online and watching “Bored Shorts.” This father tapes his kids and other kids, starting with, ‘Tell me about … a driving lesson or a job interview.’ It’s silly humor. I also love “Modern Family.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh

It's not every day you see a cancer team in big red boots

Dr. Meir Wetzler is third from the right in this photo of the Kickin' Leukemia with Kinky Boots team at last month's Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Gelatin Splash in Amherst. (Courtesy of Andrew Brocato)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Dr. Meir Wetzler, chief of the Leukemia Section at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, takes his role so seriously that he’s willing to sweat to help raise money to fight the disease.

In fact, he’ll even wear a pair of bright red boots – if the price is right.

I had the honor last month to be asked to judge the costume contest during the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 25th  Anniversary Gelatin Splash at Bachetti by Rizzo’s, an event that raised a record $127,000.

All proceeds from the Gelatin Splash will be spent by the local chapter to fund programs of blood cancer research, local patient aid, public and professional education, advocacy and community service.

Wetzler and his team from Roswell – Kickin' Leukemia with Kinky Boots – won the costume contest by dressing provocatively, to say the least. It’s not often you see a medical team dressing this way, including one team member in drag, then sliding into a pool of cherry gelatin. But embarrassment comes easier when you do it for a cause.

Wetzler and his team, who always come to the Splash in costume, are perennial favorites, said Andrew Brocato, a Tops Friendly Markets executive and fellow judge who kindly shared the photo above.

The gift certificate the team won during the contest was given to a Roswell Park patient who is being treated for acute myeloid leukemia.

And the team wasn’t finished with its good deeds, said Annie Deck-Miller, a hospital spokeswoman.

Members went by the name Team Heme (short for hematology) last weekend, and raised $2,735 during the Ride For Roswell

“There probably aren’t too many people – maybe no one – who did the Gelatin Splash and the Ride,” Deck-Miller said, “but this group of employees really gets involved in programs and events to help cancer patients and those with blood diseases. And Dr. Wetzler raised funds through RPCI through his participation in the Buffalo Marathon two years ago.”

Deck-Miller said the hospital recently re-energized its Team Roswell program to coordinate and encourage participation by employees in activities benefitting Roswell Park or other health-related organizations, including the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, Carly’s Crossing, Bosom Buddies Walk, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure WNY and the Undy 5000 Buffalo 5K.

“It’s all about having fun, getting fit and showing our Roswell Park pride all at the same time,” she said.


Twitter: @BNrefresh

Celebrate and drive responsibly this holiday weekend

The July 4 holiday weekend will be a favorite time of year for many Western New Yorkers, but the celebrating can turn deadly when people drive after drinking alcohol. 

“Impaired driving can turn celebrations into tragedy in an instant,” said Monica Farrar, director of The Resource Training Center Drinking Driver Program. Two years ago, she said, 179 people were killed in crashes over the Independence Day period. “Of those deaths, 44 percent were in crashes that involved alcohol,” she said.

“The tragic reality is that impaired driving isn’t a new concern,” added Farrar. “During the Fourth of July holiday periods from 2008 to 2012, there were 765 people killed in impaired-driving crashes. We’re asking for your support to remind everyone to plan ahead to ensure their Fourth of July includes not only fireworks at the park and hot dogs on the grill, but a sober ride home for themselves or their guests.”

If you drive impaired, you not only put your life and the lives of others at risk, you also face a DWI arrest. The average DWI costs $10,000, making it difficult to recover financially. Arrested impaired drivers also face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses from attorney fees, fines and court costs to car towing and repairs, lost time at work and more.

The Resource Training Center in Amherst recommends taking the following precautions:

Plan a safe way home before the fun begins.

If you’re impaired, call a taxi, ask a sober friend or a family member for a ride, or use public transportation.

If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.

If you know someone about to drive or ride impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements.

For more information, visit

Free home care checks for seniors available through Tuesday

Buffalo-area seniors can receive a free home safety check from Home Instead Senior Care’s local office through Tuesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of the 20 million emergency room visits by seniors each year are for injuries, and doctors estimate that half of those injuries can be avoided with a few changes to the home environment.

“The home should be the safest and most comfortable place for aging seniors,” Lisa Wiedemann, of the Home Instead office serving Buffalo, said in a news release.

Most injuries are the result of falls, and most falls occur in the bathroom or bedroom. Beds should be the right height, floors should be free of clutter, and there should be a phone close to hand in the bedrooms. Bathrooms should be well lit, floors should have nonslip rugs and grab bars should be installed in bathrooms.

Safety experts recommend that family members do a thorough safety check of their seniors’ homes at least once a year, making sure there are secure railings and good lighting, and that floors are slip-proof and free of clutter and electrical cords.

For a free home safety check, call the local Home Instead Senior Care office at 630-0657. For more information, visit

New Williamsville maternity business looks to grow online

Lou Ann Cane, owner of Bee Maternal in Williamsville, has made the next round of the 43North new business competition. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Lou Ann Cane may have just opened her new maternity clothing and services boutique in May, but she’s already looking at the future.

She recently made the first cut in the $5 million, 43North online Buffalo incubator business contest – more than 6,900 entered and she made the top 1,500 “finalists” – and she sees big this ahead for her Bee Maternal brand. (Read more about the contest here.) 

“We have a secondary phase for this business. I’m gunning for it,” said Cane, the subject of today’s In the Field feature in WNY Refresh.

Cane said her bricks-and-mortar maternity and postpartum boutique, at 5742 Main St., between Evans and Mill streets, is just part of her future. She also looks to use her website and other social media to drive business traffic.

“I’ve come up with an idea for a secondary business called Bee Live,” she said. “It is all interactive classes for moms and moms to be and their partners. They’ll do live webinars for childbirth education, breastfeeding, grief support, cloth diapering, lots of different classes. They’ll be able to go online and have a live instructor teaching them a class, and they’ll have an opportunity, if they need to, to purchase a one-on-one consultation with a professional advisor.

“ If they’re wondering if they should go to a doctor, or having some postpartum issues, they’re not feeling good or the baby’s crying and they’re not sure what to do, they’ll be able to talk with someone.”

Meanwhile, below are some excerpts from our recent interview that I didn’t have room for in the print edition:

What did you learn about the fashion industry while living in New York?

It was more about public relations, so I think I really learned to promote my business. It was a really great learning experience. That’s about as high powered as it gets, doing that kind of work. I wasn’t high powered but working for somebody who had that job, you’re always gunning for that space and fashion’s very cut throat. It was pretty intense, but it’s something I loved, so it was fun. Putting together their packages, promoting their new products and repackaging old products was really so cool. You get a lot of respect for the whole line, beginning to end. I also temped for a few years, so I got to work at National Geographic, worked for the mayor at Gracie Manor, a lot of fun stuff.

Were there some things you would have changed about your two pregnancies from the fashion end of things?

Yes. The clothes that I wore, I felt like I looked great, but in reality now, I feel like I was frumpy looking. You feel like you’re in survival mode, so you just put on what you can. I was trying to wear regular clothes. I remember being in a dressing room trying to get on a regular dress, trying to zip it, going, ‘I can get into this,’ because I didn’t really fancy the maternity clothes here. Between that and working as a midwife assistant, and listening to moms talking about their needs and their wants, and just their feelings – how they were feeling about themselves – really inspired me to start this part of my business.

What were some of those moms’ needs, concerns, interests?

The main thing is that nothing fits right. Having well-fitting clothing, anyone will tell you, is the key to looking great. Also, I noticed a lot of women generally weren’t feeling their best, weren’t feeling great about themselves. A lot of people have body image issues, and women, especially, are put on the forefront of that. It inspired me to go out and search for things that would look great on anyone, and not only fit them while they were pregnant but postpartum, too. That’s really a huge challenge, to find something that’s going to expand and shrink with you.

When did you start the business?

I had this idea during the winter, when nothing grows. It happened extremely quickly. I had never worked with wholesalers or knew where to order clothing, but I had an idea, I started talking about it and everything fell into place. A space fell into my lap, I started talking to my friends in L.A. and New York, and clothing distributors. I was able to take a peek at what they had and everything came together in about eight weeks. It was extremely stressful, but it opened (May 17) and we’ve actually had a great response.

What was the process like as you were determining what you were going to need and offer?

As a maternity aide, I kept a journal of all the births I had attended, how the women felt and how I felt. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but while coming up with this idea, I kind of used that journal as my springboard. It was like field research for several years without really knowing it. I was able to focus in on what was missing.

What was really needed was dresses for big events – Christmas parties, weddings, holiday parties – so I spent a lot of time looking for beautiful dresses that women could feel great in when they went out with their husbands or their partners.

It’s critical to have a good sense of self during this time. You’re getting ready to embark on a completely new adventure. You’re going to have a very small stranger in your house who doesn’t speak English for a long time. It’s funny, but it’s true. You need to feel good about yourself, and these are things you can do to make that happen.

I can sit here and talk with women and maybe put them at ease with what they’re going through, just be a good listener. I feel trusted by them.

What sort of lines did you focus on?

Dresses, nursing bras, washable breast pads, postpartum leggings, dresses, scarves, oils, charms.

What is the price range for the dresses?

They start at about $88 and I think $188 is the highest we have. We have a range of people who have nothing, and come in and buy everything, and we have people who just need a dress for a couple of events and they’ll find one dress that can carry them through. And it depends what number baby you’re on. Baby number one seems to get more clothes than baby number three. A lot of people dislike their maternity clothing and they are looking for something better.

Has there been a product that has surprised you in terms of how popular it's become in the last one or two weeks?

I’ve really been surprised about our leggings, called Blanqi. The main complaint is that women buy leggings that are less expensive and they fall apart or fade before they can even wear them a few times. ... I’m surprised that they still want to wear them because it’s summertime, but women still want to wear them. And our nursing scarves, our Infinity scarves, have been a real surprise, too. You get to combine fashion with something you really want to use.


Twitter: @BNrefresh

Fitness helps relaunch long-slumbering Buffalo waterfront

Hundreds of Western New York Zumba lovers lined the city waterfront Tuesday night, a testament to the drawing power of Canalside. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Tom Robinson lives in Colden but he’s been hanging out in Larkin Square every Thursday evening for the last two months.

Meghan Schimmelpenninck lives in Lewiston, while Olivia Ebsary and Jen Wright have homes on the same block in Snyder. On Tuesday nights all summer, their favorite place in Western New York is Canalside, where they teach Zumba classes from 6 to 7 p.m., and often hang out at the Liberty Hound restaurant for awhile afterward.

“What people have told us is there’s nothing better than working out on the water with this backdrop,” Wright told me this week. When we started the classes a few years ago, people asked, ‘How do we get to the waterfront? Where is it?’ They didn’t even know how to get here.”

“Now, instead of people saying, ‘Let’s go to the waterfront, it’s ‘Let’s go to Canalside,’” Schimmelpenninck said.

Canalside has become the symbol of resurgent downtown Buffalo. As it has grown during the last three years, a growing number of suburbanites, once fearful of wandering into the city, are returning to the area where many of their parents and grandparents used to dine, shop and play.

That includes the fitness-minded among us.

This really struck me as I reported this weekend’s Refresh cover story on outdoor group fitness.

Robinson and members of the Buffalo Bicycling Club have spent one night a week since early May racing around the streets of Larkinville, where cops and volunteers have closed off the thoroughfares. Last Thursday, folks sat at the Larkin Square Grill – an outdoor bar – and at nearby tables and on Adirondack chairs, and watched bikers blaze by them at speeds up to 40 mph.

Meanwhile, Tuesday night Zumba classes at Canalside – sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of WNY – have drawn as many as 400 people.

And that’s just a start of what Canalside has to offer outdoor group fitness-wise this summer. The slate also includes power yoga and barre classes, as well as run training. (See a list of outdoor group fitness options across the region here.) And those who want to go it alone or in small groups can take a kayak or other watercraft out of Buffalo Harbor Kayak.

Budding entrepreneurs are taking to the city waterfront, too, including the Outer Harbor, as well as other Buffalo neighborhoods. I’ve written about some of them since The Buffalo News launched Refresh in March 2013, and look to write about others in coming months. It’s been striking how many of these 20- and 30-somethings are suburban Western New York natives.

The excitement for folks like me in the newsroom is palpable. Many of us grew up in the Buffalo suburbs in the 1960s and ‘70s. We had a taste of window shopping at Christmastime at AM&A’s and Hengerer’s and at Eastertime at the Broadway Market, as well as visiting our grandparents, many of whom lived and went to churches in the city.

But this new Buffalo is different, and in many ways more exciting.

The Buffalo I remember as a child of the ‘60s in South Cheektowaga never approached the diversity I witnessed on the downtown waterfront this week.

I never played in the sand as a kid along the Buffalo Harbor, like I saw kids doing Tuesday night at Canalside.

And harborfront restaurants were limited.

The bustle of the old Erie Canal days along the one-time western terminus of the waterway has begun to reemerge – this time with a much healthier twist.

“This is Buffalo’s best asset,” said Ebsary, one of the Zumba instructors, “and it’s great to see it really being developed and used.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh

Family fun Fridays at Canalside

Explore & More Children’s Museum will return to Canalside this summer with free family outdoor fun on Fridays.

Wegmans will sponsor the events, which run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and include Imagination Playground on Friday and Aug. 29 to Sept. 26, and Family Fun activities from July 4 to Aug. 22.

Family Fun themes will include:

July 4 – Independence Day inspired crafts and activities

July 11 – Pirates of the Queen City

July 18 – International Games

July 25 – Fish: Including carp kites, fish prints and fishing pole play

Aug. 1 – Transportation: Build a spool racer and explore transport of all kinds

Aug. 8 – Wind: Kites planes and foxtails, make a craft and play with the wind

Aug. 15 – Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Day of Sharing

Aug. 22 – Clay: Mold your masterpiece

The Explore & More Children’s Museum will move from its current location at 300 Gleed Ave. in East Aurora to Canalside in 2016. For more information on this summer’s programs, visit or call 655-5131.

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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

@BNRefresh |