Undergrounds brings life to the coffee scene in Buffalo

By Eisa Hashmi

Features Contributor

It goes without saying that Buffalo is home to some of the most interesting restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, each with their own unique flair and personal local story. One of the newest entries in Buffalo’s long list of unique places to grab a bite and relax with a cup of coffee is Undergrounds Coffee House and Roastery, a coffee shop with an interesting and slightly ominous backstory based in Buffalo’s Old First Ward. At first glance, the rather sizeable store looks like nothing more than a cozy place for coffee that you could imagine yourself sitting in, enjoying the atmosphere while studying or hanging out with friends. But as you spend a few minutes inside, the pieces start to come together and the skull and crossbones themed artwork and logos become more than just a fun and spooky theme. See, the Undergrounds building isn’t just some old house a couple of people decided to stick a coffee shop in. It used to be a funeral home.

Open for just under two years now, Undergrounds started as a passion project among friends and now co-owners, Bill Metzger, Sara Heidinger, and Bridget Morris, who were interested in bringing a local coffee shop to Buffalo’s First Ward. Each member of the trio brought their own particular set of skills to the starting of the shop. Metzger has a rich background in brewing both beer and coffee, Heidinger is from the First Ward and specializes in marketing, and Morris rounds out the group by bringing her 13 years of corporate management experience working for Starbucks to the table.

All three saw an opportunity to bring a unique coffee shop like Undergrounds to the area and had the perfect set of tools to do it. When speaking with Morris, she said, “We were hoping that with establishing this, especially at this point in time in the Buffalo area when things are really growing, and there’s a lot of support from consumers and other local businesses for those small businesses to open, we could make an impact.” Morris also expressed their mutual desire to be the catalyst that brings even more local businesses to open in the area.

When it came to choosing a location in the First Ward, the former funeral home seemed like a no brainer. The building itself checked off a lot of the things they were looking for, including the size, the location, and, most importantly, the decently sized parking lot. The three then decided to use the building’s backstory to their advantage and ran with the theme. Morris said, “Why not have a little bit of fun with what the building used to be, translate that into our theme, and use it to move the building into the future.” While the story behind the building is interesting and unique, it’s the food and coffee that keep bringing people back. Morris said, “Conceptually, there’s no one else doing what we’re doing. And we’re just backing that up with really high quality food and drink because that what keeps people coming back. A lot of times you’ll go to local coffee houses, and they’ll either have really great coffee or really great food, but we wanted to knock it out of the park with both.”

Undergrounds is first and foremost a Buffalo company. The coffee shop features the work of local artists and has a menu that celebrates the history and culture of Buffalo, with dishes called The Ralph Wilson and a sandwich named after President Grover Cleveland. Morris commented on the shop’s support of the city, saying, “Everything is built upon what has come before, so we wanted to highlight a lot of the people who have had a huge historical impact on the Buffalo Area.”

As a relatively new company, Undergrounds has enjoyed some of the early success but still knows there is some room to grow. Morris said, “It’s fun to be this early in and already have the support we do.” To continue to grow and become the business they aim to be, Undergrounds is paying close attention to coffee trends and listening closely to the customers and fans that have brought them this far. With the great coffee, excellent food, and interesting history that Undergrounds brings to the table, it’s no surprise they’ve experienced such an incredible amount of success.

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