Buffalo Game Changers: Brandon Davis, Patrick Finan, and Ben Siegel

The team from Block Club—Ben Siegel, Patrick Finan, and Brandon Davis—are three of Buffalo Spree's 2012 Game Changers

Nancy J. Parisi

Siegel: “Buffalo needs more incubators for small businesses—like what happened in San Francisco–to attract smart people here. We need more access to seed funding for non-traditional businesses. Here it’s very easy to get seed funding for companies that are traditional in nature.”

Block Club emerged on the scene in 2007 as a smartly designed magazine looking ahead to a better Buffalo: it’s now a three-pronged operation with offices on downtown Main Street. Besides Block Club magazine (published quarterly), the company includes a design studio and a hyperlocal coupon company—the City Dining Cards. A portion of profits from the sale of the cards benefits Food Bank of Western New York and other local nonprofits.

I spoke to the trio behind Block Club in their sunny boardroom, and found that the three young men (founder Patrick Finan, creative director Brandon Davis, and editor Ben Siegel) often complete each other’s sentences. Being in the room with them is to be in the presence of creative entrepreneurs who not only love Buffalo, but are determined to make a difference here. Each was raised in the area.

Davis begins, “I’m passionate about my city and very conscious about the impact of the choices I make as a citizen and as a consumer. So in everything that we do, business-wise, we focus on local in a very positive way.”

“I don’t think of myself as a game-changer,” Siegel says, “but I do think that the work that I do—and the company does—is meant in part to change the way Buffalo works and the way that Buffalo thinks and talks about itself.”

Finan says, “People have to think outside of Buffalo. We have wonderful people and wonderful resources and assets, but we don’t have everything, we don’t have all the answers here–we need to talk to other people who are doing similar things in other cities with similar challenges. We need to accept what our limitations are, that’s necessary for self-improvement.”

Davis cites other improvements that could be made in the city. “I would add condos to the city, not just on the low end, but high end. There’s a huge market for condos in the city of Buffalo. I’d also like the city to be more bike-friendly.”

 Siegel agrees: “Buffalo does need more incubators for small businesses—like what happened in San Francisco–to attract smart people here. We need more access to seed funding for non-traditional businesses.” The three discuss the success of their company, Finan stating that that success has been “a collection of little moments that have added up to this,” with Davis summing it up: “We’ve made plenty of mistakes but we are small enough that we can turn the ship quickly, correct it and get out there again.”

According to Finan, “If I were living somewhere else, I would still try to have a unique experience and also make a difference there.” “There” could be New Orleans, as his workmates suggest, “or New York, the big mountain to conquer.”


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