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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.

Chicken barbecue Thursday benefits ALS society

On Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Peregrine’s Landing, 101 Sterling Drive, Orchard Park, will host a chicken barbecue to benefit the Upstate ALS chapter.

A one-quarter chicken dinner costs $8 and a half-chicken dinner costs $12. For more information, call 675-1022.

Gear up for fall Alzheimer's walks at free party tonight at Brennan's

A gathering to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association WNY Chapter will take place this week in advance of the group’s annual autumn walks.

The free event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Brennan’s Bowery Bar and Restaurant, Main Street and Transit Road, Clarence.

The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s Kick Off Party allows participants to register or re-register a team, and pick up useful tips and information for recruiting walk team members and raising funds.

This fall, the chapter is organizing six walks across the region:

  • Sept. 6 in Chautauqua and Orleans counties
  • Sept. 20 in Buffalo
  • Sept. 27 in Genesee and Niagara counties
  • Oct. 4 in Wyoming County

The walks are the primary source of funding for the WNY chapter, which offers free education programs and services to educate the public about Alzheimer’s disease, helps those impacted by it, and funds research to ultimately end the debilitating, incurable disease.

To learn more about walk and chapter, visit at or call (800) 272-3900.

Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser to feature dinner, fishing

The 13th annual BassEye Celebrity Challenge, a fundraising dinner and fishing tournament to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Western New York, will take place next week at the NFTA Boat Harbor and the Atrium at Rich Products.

The event gets started Thursday evening in the newly renovated atrium, with cocktails, dinner and music by Heard of Buffalo; it continues Friday morning, when anglers can meet at the NFTA Boat Harbor dock for a one-day catch-and-release tournament in which anglers have the opportunity to fish for bass and walleye with a professional fishing guide.

Breakfast starts at 6 a.m. Friday, boats leave the harbor at 7 a.m. and return at 2 p.m.; an awards ceremony and dockside barbecue follows at 4 p.m. 

Tickets for the Club BassEye event are $75 in advance and $85 at the door. Visit for tickets or more information.

Dress like superhero for fundraising race

An annual race dedicated to raising mental health awareness in the region will have a decidedly superhero feel when it sets off on Friday evening.

The Road 2 Recovery Superhero 5K Race and Wellness Walk will start at 6:30 p.m. at St. George’s Church, 2 Nottingham Terrace, alongside Delaware Park.

Compeer of Greater Buffalo joined forces with the Mental Health Association of Erie County to host the event, which started in 1985 as the Run for Brain Research. Proceeds support the Compeer for Kids Mentoring Program and the CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, program sponsored by the Mental Health Association.

Organizers encourage all participants to dress up in their favorite superhero costumes to help raise awareness for the CASA program of volunteers, which helps abused children have their voices heard in court. The Superhero Foundation calls attention to the idea that while every child needs a hero, abused children need superheroes. Organizers hope participants will form teams for the event, and help to fundraise leading up to the event, for all those running and walking.

Race co-chairs Christine and Paul Phillips, parent advocates, are committed to promoting a better understanding and acceptance of those afflicted with mental illness, reducing the stigma associated with it and increasing outreach through public awareness and education.

This year’s race is in memory of Charlie Sabatino, professor emeritus of Daeman College, avid runner and a friend to the mental health community in the region.

The USA Track & Field-sanctioned 5K race walk will run in tandem with a 1.8-mile wellness walk. The public is welcome to attend the event, which includes a family-friendly after-party with food, drinks, beer, children’s activities, chair massage, food trucks, a dunk tank and live music from local band Flipside. Race organizers also are having a costume contest for best individual costumes and best team costumes.

To register for the run, which costs $30, and walk, which is $25, visit by Wednesday. 

Video: 'Double Up Food Bucks' promotes healthy diets

Rita Hubbard-Robinson of the ECMC Lifeline Foundation urges low-income residents to take advantage of the Double Up Food Bucks program. The ECMC Farmers Market at Grider is a pilot site for the new program that helps low-income clients make healthier choices.


People Inc. projects leader undaunted by recent controversies

Rhonda Frederick sees big changes ahead for individuals with developmental disabilities, and their families. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

When you get to be as big as People Inc. during the last generation, sometimes you experience growing pains – particularly in a massive public health care system wrenching through changes.

Rhonda Frederick – chief operating officer of the Amherst-based agency, and subject of today’s In the Field feature in WNY Refresh – is proud of what her company has achieved during the 34 years she has worked at the nonprofit, despite some recent bumpiness:

• Three years ago, Orchard Park officials worked to keep a low-income senior apartment complex from being built, including asking for the ZIP codes of tenants who might one day live there. People Inc. instead built the project in Springville, which is happy to have the residents in its midst.

• In October, the agency will open a complex of senior apartments just south of the Southgate Plaza in West Seneca, after town officials and nearby property owners looked to stop the project. People Inc. had to take its case to state court to get the go-ahead for construction.

• Frederick also has been the point person for the agency in Newstead, where residents expressed deep concern earlier this year upon learning that a registered sex offender would be among those housed in a new group home for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to work with the town officials in Newstead,” Frederick told me this week. “I believe they handled the situation very well, in that they formed a group home committee and one of the council members, Marybeth Whiting, chairs that committee. There’s another council member and interested parties. We’ve been able to meet and discuss things.”

The registered sex offender remains in the group home, Frederick said, and it’s the first time People Inc. has taken someone into a group home with such a registration.

Is this scenario likely to play out in other group homes over time?

“Right now, for us, probably not,” Frederick said. “Our board and administration have decided to study the issue a little bit more, but there are other individuals with developmental disabilities who will need housing in the future. As you see developmental centers closing, people will be returning to their hometowns, so we may see others. I don’t know.

“New York State needs to be a little clearer on what they’re going to allow...,” she added. “Organizations like ours, it’s our business providing services to people with developmental disabilities. First and foremost, that was this gentleman’s issue. We do provide 24/7 care; we have all kinds of security measures and a very good staffing pattern and I do not feel the community is in any way, shape or form in harm’s way.

“My phone is always open. Last week, I met with a neighbor. This morning, I took a call from a neighbor about the grass. We’re very open, we want to do the right thing. As an organization, we feel we have the clinical expertise and resources to provide services to this particular gentleman.”

Here’s what Frederick had to say on the West Seneca senior apartments – one-bedroom flats open to anyone 62 and older with an income of less than about $23,000 a year:

“In West Seneca, there seemed to be a lot of issues. There were issues with the particular parcel. There were issues with who would live there. I think part of it was just NIMBY, not in my backyard, without a specific concern about what it was. I did not anticipate it in West Seneca. If I learned anything, it was perseverance.

“I think it’s a great project. Right now, we have 161 initial inquiries for tenancy there. There are 46 units, and we won’t be done until October, so the interest and the need is very high.”

What would she like people to know about the seniors who are going to be moving into those apartments, and the agency’s senior projects altogether?

“These are affordable housing units. These are your parents, your grandparents, predominantly women – about 90 percent women – who are living on Social Security and maybe a small pension. The average age is in their 70s.

“When people move in, they’re there for a long time. This isn’t transient housing; people don’t come and go. It’s delightful. I can think of no other word to describe it. We don’t have a lot of parties. We don’t have a lot of cars. We have no one going to school so we have no impact on the school system.”

Tenants can have pets, she said, but they must weigh under 25 pounds.

The controversies have garnered much of the media attention when it comes to the agency in recent years. Meanwhile, People Inc. continued to grow behind the scenes.

• The agency in January 2013 affiliated with the developmental disabilities part of DePaul Developmental Services, which continues to operate its much larger mental health services in Rochester and Buffalo. The developmental disability piece chipped off is now known as People Inc. Finger Lakes.

• They also forged an affiliation with Headway of Western New York, an organization that helps people with brain injuries and continues to work under its original name

• Almost a year ago, it affiliated with Agape Parents’ Fellowship, a small, faith-based developmental disabilities organization in Lackawanna which also kept its name.

* And last month, Rivershore, an organization based in Lewiston and also working with developmental disabilities, became affiliated.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve seen as a large organization with a great infrastructure and resources, we’ve been able to reach out to smaller organizations that were either struggling or their boards looked at the future and felt that they needed to be affiliated with a larger group,” Frederick said.

What do the affiliations mean?

“We share the same board of directors but the groups have maintained their own 501c3 status,” Frederick said. “Their boards have become advisory. As a small organization – like Agape for example – we do payroll and purchasing and hiring and training, all those things the executive director did but couldn’t continue to do.

“We live in a very incredibly regulatory environment, both from the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities as well as every other group that governs not-for-profit organizations. It’s getting harder and harder without people who are specialized in human resources, corporate compliance analysts. With something like Rivershore, nursing is an incredibly important part of what we all do. They have two nurses. If one of them is sick or goes on vacation, or decides to retire, you have a problem. Here, we have a large number of nurses, including supervisors. We have a certified home health agency, a licensed home health agency, the Elmwood Health Center, so we have all kinds of things to help.”

It’s a matter of regulation and resources?

“As the state calls for you to become more efficient, you don’t want to cut direct support services to people,” Frederick said. “You’ve got to cut at the top, so to join forces and work together is a good thing.”

Frederick said all of these changes are just the beginning of how the Affordable Care Act will reshape the care of people with developmental disabilities in the years to come.

How has the desire to decentralize settings for people with developmental disabilities changed People Inc. over the years?

“The philosophy has changed and we want to see more folks fully integrated into the community,” Frederick said. “It’s not quite as easy as teaching somebody how to cook and how to clean and saying, ‘Here’s your apartment.’ There’s more to it. A group home becomes your family. There’s always somebody there, somebody to talk to, and what we’re finding with some people is they have wonderful skills and get out into their own apartment and social isolation is a problem.

“We’ve started a roommate connection with other organizations in Western New York to let others know who’s looking into an apartment or looking for a building where others rent and that might be your support system. I think we’ve started to forget as a field about the social isolation.

People Inc. also has life coaching.

“It’s probably a little different than what most people think,” Frederick said. “It’s more like, ‘Now I’ve got to find the bus and I’ve got to find the pharmacy,’ all these things our folks might need a little more help on.

“We have someone who deals with your service plan and somebody who does your employment, somebody comes and helps you cook. This life coach is somebody who comes and helps you put a whole bunch of things together. Not forever, it’s a temporary thing."

Only a small percentage of individuals with developmental disabilities that People Inc. serves are ready for apartment house living. In fact, roughly 1,000 are on the waiting lists to get into group homes.

As they wait, those people can stay at the agency’s respite homes during a crisis, but otherwise – like the vast majority of those in the region who are developmentally disabled – they will continue to live with family members.

“There’s been no new (group home) development over the last couple of years,” Frederick said, “other than people moving into group homes from institutions, so it’s all crisis management. Right now, the system is totally crisis driven.

"There’s many changes. When we move into a managed care model, thing are going to be different.”


“People will be assessed,” she said. “There’s going to be a standardized assessment tool to assess people’s needs and you and your family will be told what you’ll be eligible for.

“For instance, in the past we might have had people who could start in a group home – gain some skills and some confidence – then move into an apartment. The way we believe the system is going to go is you would be assessed and you would be told the only services you would be eligible for are some supports that are available while you are living in your own home, and that you can’t start in a day program; you need to be competitively employed.

“People were more transitioned into services in the current model. It’s not to say there are people who can’t do this, but not the vast majority.

“We’re really turning around the ship here in a short period of time. It could get very uncomfortable. ... Starting now, and over the next 10 or 15 years, we’re going to see some pretty significant changes. We have to be more efficient and more creative.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh

Buffalo teen grounded when it comes to advocating healthy food

Riverside teen Dillon Hill hopes he and other students can keep working to support healthy food alternatives next school year in the Buffalo Public Schools. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Chances are most of you reading this have never heard of the Youth Advisors Council of Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities – Buffalo and or the Food Policy Council of Buffalo and Erie County.

Both organizations are relatively new and have been working pretty much in obscurity.

The youth council aims to improve food and fitness prospects in Buffalo Public Schools.

The food policy council looks to create a healthier, more sustainable local food supply – particularly for citizens most vulnerable to a lack of affordable options.

Both groups are concerned about health in the region, particularly the obesity rate. During a press conference several weeks ago, group leaders pointed out that 45 percent of Buffalo seventh-graders are considered obese.

“Students themselves are giving us a solution to this problem,” said Jessica Bauer Walker, executive director of the Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo and Health Committee chairwoman for the District Parent Coordinating Council. “They are building partnerships with the Buffalo Schools Food Service Department, as well as parents and community supporters. It is imperative that we as adults get behind our youth to support improved student nutrition and their overall health.”

Dillon Hill, 17, of Riverside has a hand in both food groups.

The Frederick Law Olmsted High School student, who just completed his junior year – and is featured in today’s What are you Eating? piece in WNY Refresh – was one of two students who launched the youth advisors council, which since November has met every third Thursday of the month during the school year. By the end of this school year, two representatives from 14 city schools were participating.

“We started with different ideas, from making healthy vending machines to having fresh, local apples in high school lunches,” Hill said. “In the end, we decided on salad bars because everybody agreed it was more realistic to try and do.”

By the end of the school year, salad bar options were available in about 15 schools, Hill said, including Olmsted High.

Meanwhile, the food policy council’s time has yet to come.

“We haven’t really decided what we’re going to do,” Hill said. “We were just allowed to be created this year. That’s more a community effort. It’s a group made up of people from various places, from farmers to youth to senior citizens to people who run restaurants, just a very general group of people. We’re trying to improve our local (food) economy and environment, and make it more sustainable.”

Hill’s involvement with the Massachusetts Avenue Project spawned his interest in agriculture. He has been part of MAP’s youth program for four years, planting, tending and harvesting a variety of vegetables on the West Side urban farm.

It’s an effort that has rubbed off on his family, including parents Daryl and Heather Hill, and siblings Koury, 22, Kyle, 15, Sara, 11, and Eli, 10. All benefit from the produce he brings home from the MAP farm stand.

The entire experience also may help shape the future for Hill, who looks to go to college after his senior year.

After that?

“I don’t really know yet,” he said. “I was thinking about trying to stay at MAP. I like what we’re doing there, I know what we’re doing and I have a lot of experience there.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh

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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 |