Nickel City Gritty: We Must Dash

How amazing would it to be to be able to travel across the world with some incredible people and have everything taken care of for you from tours to accommodations to transportation?  The definition of worry-free travel.

Well thanks to Brandon & Stephanie Zarbo, this dream is now a reality.  The husband and wife team own their own active travel business called We Must Dash, and they are doing some incredible things.  Brandon & Stephanie take care of absolutely everything that you could think of, and make sure that you will have the time of your life.  All that you need to do is show up and have a blast.

I recently sat down with the duo, and we chatted about travel, music, and everything in between.

This is Nickel City Gritty, and this is Brandon & Stephanie of We Must Dash.

Travel photos c/o We Must Dash

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Tell me a little bit about how you started your business.

B:  We were taking our honeymoon and we wanted to spend a good amount of time in Southeast Asia, and I had been doing research about companies such as Contiki and Intrepid Travel, and I was completely dumbfounded at how many people were traveling to Thailand, and we had really fallen in love with the area. Ever since the first time I had been there, I was trying to get people to come with me, and then me and her (Stephanie) went, and we had done about five months in Southeast Asia, and that morphed into us saying, “We’re having our honeymoon, why don’t we just bring a bunch of people to Thailand with us?” I think at the peak we had about 24 people. It went really well, and everyone was raving about it. so we said, let’s just organize it and put the website up, and that’s that!

Describe your style of personality to me.

B:  I am a challenger.  I think that everyone wants to do things, they just need the motivation to do it, so I’m constantly the one to challenge you to do it. Do it, you are gonna enjoy it.  Sometimes people need that little bit of a push. I would say, like, my style is more of a friendly challenge. It’s just the little bit of motivation that you need. I’m super outgoing, really an extrovert. I want everyone to get along with each other and have fun, and this was another reason why this was kind of like, just fell into our laps, I think.  She is very analytical, and that’s not in a negative way, and I’m just jumping off the cliff like let’s do it and we’ll learn as we go.  So mine is leap first then ask questions later.

S:  I think we both are really strong in the mentality of creating fun.  Always trying to find a reason to have fun in any situation you’re in. I feel like it’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I can jump a little more than I used to because I’ve had a lot of loss in my family and learning that, and realizing that at no point is anything going to get worse.  There’s been things in my life that have been the worst situations, and I’ve been able to always come back out of them with growth and a new perspective.  I’m a little bit less scared than I used to be.  The fact that we’re freelancers, never in my life could I imagine this. I would have wanted some kind of safety net to fall back on.  At the end of the day, learning through all of this and the craziness to come out on the other end and say, “We’ll figure it out.”  We’re resourceful and passionate about this and I’d much rather throw my passion into something than wait ten years and go, “What the hell did we do?”

B:  I think that’s why we work well together.  Not just in this business but our relationship has been really strong because I’ve always been the one to be like, well *laughs* I guess peer pressure is a bad word, but in a positive way.  That’s why I say I’m more of a motivator and she’s the one to always take people aside and talk to them, and that’s why I said analytical.  She always more of the friend that you can confide in.  This has kind of been a push with our brand, because we’ve seen other travel companies that are like “Washboard abs! Boobs and butts and look at the beautiful travel!” and we really just want to radiate those friends that you can always confide in no matter what.  We want you to feel ultimately comfortable.  If you ever want to travel, just ask us questions. We just want people to get out there and experience the world.  A smile is the best currency that you can have.

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What is on your playlist?  What do you both love to listen to?

S:  We just started a We Must Dash Spotify actually! We are tailoring it specifically to certain moments in travel.  I’m a big closet EDM fan…that’s pretty much all I listen to.

B:  Yeah, we listen to a lot of Trop House and stuff like that.

S:  That’s the island thing, because immediately for us it’s like we’re back in a villa.  Also, right now, Lord Huron, we could listen to them all day, they’re just great, and easy to listen to.  Not too distracting and great background music.

B:  I just listen to such a wide variety of music.  I’m such a fan of corny 80’s music, though. It’s what I listen to all the time, and she hates it!  I also like to make playlists for every situation I’m in.  So, like, when I’m having some drinks around the fire, I’ll have a mood for that.  When I’m trying to get amped up to go out, I have a mood for that. And then I have one that’s silly when I’m trying to make her laugh.

S:  So yeah, I could listen to EDM at any moment on any day at any circumstance.   And that’s totally a post-cheerleading thing. I would make the mixes for cheerleading and yeah it’s bad sometimes.  Sometimes I’m like, “This makes no sense why I’m listening to this and how it fits this moment.” but it just works.

What is your most memorable or favorite concert you’ve ever been to?

S:  Mine was Edgefest 2006, and we were both in high school, Taking Back Sunday was playing and Anberlin, and it was like my mecca of high school bands, I was so excited.  And he goes, “We’re gonna go backstage!” and I’m like, “Get the hell out of here, who is this dude?” And we ended up watching the show backstage! He literally just walked backstage and was like, “Oh I’m here with the crew.” And they were like, “Okay!”

B:  I had played in bands for a while and all throughout high school, so you just know. It’s just confidence.

S:  So I was thinking, like, what is the worst that could happen? They are going to send me out into the crowd? That’s not even that big of a deal! What did you like, jingle your keys and pretend there was a pass on it?

B:  Yeah, I just grabbed my keys and was like, “Oh here” *waves keys quickly* And I did it so fast so they couldn’t actually see anything.

S:  Yes, we’ve been to some great shows but this was definitely the most memorable.

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What were you guys like in high school?

B:  I was a complete spaz.  Just Dr. Detention all the time.

S:  I was a pretty good student! So I was a weird one, because I was an art student, and president of band, and I was also the cheerleading captain.  I could never specialize in something, because I always had my hands in a million different things. And nothing’s changed, because I’m just used to trying a little bit of everything and never excelling at one thing, just always being moderately okay at a lot of things.

If there was a movie about your life, what actor would play the role of you?

S:  I’m trying to think of the person who I most identify with…Ellie Kemper from the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt…I feel like she’d do a good job for me.

B:  Vince Vaughn.  I don’t talk as fast as he does, though.  He’s just somebody who I identify with because he started out by writing his own movie and then he made his own way into the movie world. And he’s a Libertarian too, which I identify with…the only Libertarian in Hollywood pretty much.

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What is your spirit animal?

B:  Bald Mothafuckin’ Eagle. *laughs*

S:  You would say that.  I’m starting to think that my dog is.  In a past life I would have said something like a fennec fox, and I don’t really have a reason for that other than I just like them…they’re adorable.

B:  I would say a lion, but that sounds to conceited, so we’ll go with a mountain lion and/or a cougar.  Because I don’t want to call myself a lion, because that’s like, “I’m a fuckin’ lion” and it’s so big headed. It would definitely be a big cat of some sort, because there’s a certain amount of viciousness to them but only when it’s warranted, but then there’s gracefulness to them.

S:  So I think I would probably say a butterfly. I’m fascinated by the caterpillar to butterfly transformation, the whole thing…like I have a butterfly garden and keep the caterpillars and let them go.  And I love the idea that science doesn’t even know  why they shift and how that whole process happens, but they are becoming something else.  And the migration for monarchs blows my mind too, that they just instinctively know.

B:  Just born to travel!

What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?

S:  Our five month trip was out of this world.

B:  Yeah, we did so much in five months.

S:  That was life changing.  I know that for a lot of people that type of experience is not just something that they can do.  But, I shouldn’t even say that.  They think that it’s not possible.  But there are a lot of scenarios that a lot of people could make it work.  That trip just changed our lives.  We lived out of backpacks for five months and the people we met, the experiences we had, we stayed with families and to see how they live on a day to day, it’s just so polar opposite of what we do and the things that we worry about. And after I was overwhelmed just walking into a grocery store.  People don’t have these options.  It really opened my eyes that we have way more control in our lives than we think we do and it really comes down to prioritizing what’s most important.

B:  I think mine was this past trip with everyone, because we were taking such a leap and trying to expose people to something so different.  The Honeymoon trip.  We had a lot of people who meant a lot to us.  I had one of my best friends in my entire life who’s had a lot of shit happen to him and he took a chance to go on this trip, and just seeing how he changed from the first day to the end of the trip.  That happened to a few people.  And it was something coupled with us taking such a chance on kickstarting this business, and using something like our honeymoon, it was very personal, it’s like your time as a couple to go out and do what you want to do, and for us to take a chance and invite all these people.  It could have gone so horribly wrong, or so we thought.  And I think it opened our eyes that this could really work.  We were ready.  This does change people and it really does make people reevaluate themselves.

Where is your happy place?  Where do you go where you need to get away from the craziness?

S:  In a hammock.  It doesn’t even matter where the hammock is.  A house is not a home without a hammock.

B:  I would say the property.  We have property down in the Southern Tier and I could be mowing the lawn and just hang out and watch the dog run around.  Just hanging out and cooking shit over the fire and watching the sunset.  Super duper happy place.

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What is your favorite restaurant in the city?

B:  Currently, I’d say Kaydara.

S:  We really love it there.  It’s pho and it’s Vietnamese fusion, so it’s a mix of a bunch of different stuff, so we always go there.  It’s definitely pretty close to what we had in Vietnam.

B:  I would say that’s my favorite place right now. Either that or a fuckin’ taco place like Don Tequila’s or Cantina.  But Kaydara is the number one for now.

My last question that I always ask, because it’s very important.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

B:  I just want to be somebody who motivates people to be who they want to be.  That’s it. As long as I can do that, I just want to be somebody who makes it easier for people to achieve what they want to achieve.

S:  When I actually had to think about it when somebody asked me that after college and stuff, when I was asked what would be my dream job, it was something so lofty like, “Open a summer camp.” I think the about the happiest that I’ve ever been, and not to say summer camp was the end all be all, but as a general statement, all of the different things and activities and the people you are meeting, I think summer camp is a totally underrated thing that now, kids find a million reasons not to do that. That was such a defining part of growing up and learning to appreciate those things and trying stuff that you would never be able to do at home.  So I think we’re on the path for me getting to be what I wanted to be when I grow up…a camp counselor! But just in a very exaggerated form.

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Thank you SO MUCH Brandon & Stephanie for taking time out of your crazy schedules to meet with me.  It was a blast talking with you and I’ll definitely have to take a trip with you soon!

Are you thinking of doing a bit of adventure traveling but don’t know where to start?  Check out We Must Dash and you could find yourself on a trip that will change your life.

Nickel City Gritty: Caralyn Mirand

I’m sure many of us have had this experience- you come across a person online who looks interesting, decide to follow them on Instagram, Twitter, or any various social media sites, and become fast internet friends.  From this point on you either keep the friendship digital, or decide to meet up in person, in which that could go incredibly well or you could totally end up getting catfished.

Fortunately for me, I ended up having a wonderful experience with my next Nickel City Gritty interviewee Caralyn Mirand.  Looking at Caralyn’s Instagram account, you’ll see that she is a successful plus size model, securing campaigns with huge clients like Macy’s.  Not only is she a model, she started her own business called Buffalo Beautiful.  She could have easily moved to New York City to work full-time, but instead stays true to her roots and is a Buffalo girl through and through, living here and commuting weekly for jobs.  She is a beautiful person both inside and out, and I’m so happy to share this fun interview with you all.

This is Nickel City Gritty and this is Caralyn Mirand.

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How did you start modeling?

I started when I was a senior in High School.  I applied and was accepted to Clarkson University.  My mom told me to go online and look up scholarship information, and instead I posted my pictures on the Tyra Banks website.  She was having a teen plus size modeling competition. So if you were a size 12 and you were a teenager, you were eligible.  So the next day I received an email saying “Please submit the correct images.” and I was like “Woah, that’s crazy!” because when you were posting the pictures, people were posting them so quickly that my picture went from page one to page ten when I refreshed it.  It was crazy that somebody noticed mine!  So the next day I posted the correct ones and was told “Congratulations, you are in the top 100!” and I was like “Oh my god, that’s crazy!” Next day top 50, then top 25, then top 10…things happened very fast.  They flew my mom and I to New York for about a week to compete on the Tyra Show.  It was a total whirlwind experience and we filmed two episodes.  We did three photo shoots and we did a model walk that had to be creative. We also did a video about Tyra’s beauty campaign that was all about exposing your natural beauty.  So long story short I was the runner up of the competition, and being 17 years old I was heartbroken!  But it’s kind of crazy, I’m the only one out of two cycles of this competition that’s still a working model.  After the show, I met with a modeling agency and they said if you’re not willing to move to New York  then you don’t really have a future, call us after college and maybe we could work something out.  That was kind of a bummer, but I was still able to negotiate myself to work with Seventeen magazine, so I would say “If you could pay for my flight, I would work for free.” and that’s how I got my start! I was feature in Seventeen four times, which was really fun.

How long have you been doing your side business, Buffalo Beautiful?

Living in Buffalo, post college, I thought okay I wasn’t modeling full time, what’s my passion?  What do I want to do? And I wanted to start establishing something here, so that I didn’t need to rely on modeling.  So, to not necessarily fall back on, but to put some roots here again.  So it’s so cliche, but it came to me in a dream.  I woke up and was like, Buffalo Beautiful! And I started writing stuff down in the middle of the night.  That’s how it was born.  It is a consulting company, but that idea is evolving, for sure.  I kind of threw everything at the wall to see what would stick and I’m in the process of updating my website.  I launched it in 2015.  Right now I’m focusing on helping people develop their confidence from the inside out.  So you could wear great clothes, but if you don’t feel good on the inside, you’re not going to feel good on the outside.  I love working with women and men of all ages and helping them become the best versions of themselves.

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Describe your style to me.

Oh gosh. Okay, my style would be classic, easy but polished.  And versatile.  And always evolving.  I think my favorite thing is to invest in pieces that will never go out of style.  Jeans, a leather jacket…I like to buy trends cheaply.  I don’t invest in trends unless it’s something that I’m really stuck on.  One of my goals this year is to invest in better basics.  Better white shirts, better pairs of jeans and getting them tailored.  Being smarter and not just buying to buy, but to actually curate a wardrobe that will last.

Do you have a favorite outfit or favorite piece of clothing?

Right now, I don’t know what it is, I’m all about my black jeans.  Whether it’s regular black jeans or ripped black jeans.  I bought like six pairs of black jeans this year…it’s crazy.

Where’s your favorite place to buy jeans?

I used to be a die hard Gap person, but not as much anymore.  This is crazy to say this, but I’ve actually had a lot of luck at American Eagle this year for jeans.  I recently bought jeans there, and I wear a lot of Fashion to Figure jeans and they start at a size 12.  Every once in a blue moon I will have good luck at TJ Maxx and Marshalls but I don’t really count on it.  I’ve also been all about the little white sneaker.

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Do you have a style icon?

Ummm…I feel like I should.  This is hard, because I really find my inspiration through street style.  I love looking on Pinterest, and let’s say that if I buy black jeans, I’ll type in “black jean outfits” on Pinterest and I’ll search that and get inspiration from that.  I also love to look at magazines and finding inspiration through normal people, as silly as that sounds.  It’s hard because there are people who I love the way they dress, but it wouldn’t look good on me.  Like Olivia Palermo, I love all her outfits, but I could never wear it.  Also, people that I work with, too,  Like everyone is always dressed so cool.  And it’s funny, because they’re not wearing anything crazy.  It’s simple and classic.

What is currently on your playlist?

I am obsessed with The Highway on Sirius Radio.  Backstory, never loved country music, moved to the furthest point north in New York State, fell in love with country music up there somehow.  I love Top 40 pop music, stuff you can jam and move to.  I love being able to sing along.  My boyfriend and I have bonded over country music.  Drake White is so good, I listen to him on repeat.  I like feel good music and the old early 2000 jams.

Do you have a favorite or most memorable concert?

It’s a tie between my first concert ever, which was Britney Spears at Darien Lake or every year my boyfriend and I like to get to Pittsburgh to see Kenny Chesney, he does the stadium tour.  It’s a fun vibe in the summer and a fun atmosphere.  Everyone’s drinking beer and tailgating.  It’s the kickoff of summer.

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Do you have a celebrity crush?

So, I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always loved Adam Levine.  I’m not really even that into tattoos, but I think he’s really good looking.  Blake Shelton’s personality really cracks me up, and it’s funny because I don’t even watch The Voice that much, but those two are good looking.  I’m all about the tall, dark and handsome, though.  It’s kind of my jam.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Buffalo?

I love Sinatra’s in Kenmore.  You know you’re going to get a good Italian meal. I love Acropolis and La Nova.  Tempo I love for the fancy date night.  I also love Andersons, is that bad? Also, I will gladly get a health problem for Paula’s Doughnuts.

What’s your favorite place to grab a drink?

I would say Vera is a really good place to get a drink, and my boyfriend and I would go to Templeton when we first started dating.  That’s more for scenery.  The patio with the fire pits…that’s where my  boyfriend and I fell in love.  We go once a year on our anniversary.  Or even just Canalside or Liberty Hound…that area is just fun.

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What’s your spirit animal?

A turtle.  So I was a Delta Zeta in college and turtles were our mascot.  Ever since then my parents would buy anything with a turtle for me, to the point where it got a little excessive. I have my spare bedroom that’s tastefully turtle themed.  I have this really beautiful turtle keepsake box from Room and I have little turtles all over my house.  And slow and steady wins the race, I guess!  So yes, a turtle.  Or my dog is my spirit animal, because he doesn’t get out bed until noon and really has one hour of active time…so maybe he is.  His name is Walter.  He’s a 30 pound pitbull mix.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

I’ll tell you the best and the oddest.  The best one, I’d have to say, is that I know how to make people feel good, and that relates back to my Buffalo Beautiful.  Helping people feel good about themselves after I help them.  The oddest one is that makeup artists tell me all the time that I have really good spacing between my eyes and my eyebrows for makeup.  So I’ve never thought about that, but that’s cool!*

*Editor’s note: The instructor who taught me in makeup school called this orbital space*

And, always my last question.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

My go-to answer to this is usually a stay at home dog mom.  I actually want to be happy and be able to travel and have a family and improve my cooking even more…I’m an amateur chef.  I want to find happiness and laughter every day, and family for me is number one.  As long as you have your health and your happiness  and family…that’s all I could ever ask for when I grow up.  I wish I was funnier *laughs*  It’s never been about where I am, it’s who I’m with.  I would rather be sitting with someone like you in a shack than being with low quality people in the most beautiful place in the world.  It’s important to surround myself with good people, especially in the industry that I’m in.  I want to continue to surround myself with people who challenge me to do better and to care about important things.  That’s all I could ever want and ask for.  Man, that got me in the feels!

Nickel City Gritty: Hertel Avenue

By now, you’ve (hopefully!) read two of the interviews in my Nickel City Gritty series…if not, go ahead and click the link, I’ll give you some time.

Now that you have made yourself familiar with this project that is near and dear to my heart, let me present to you the very first Nickel City Gritty video!

This video was made possible by the incredible duo Brandon & Josh at Buffalo Above. I’ve been working with these guys for a few months now and from our first meeting I knew that we had something special. After hashing out a few ideas on where to take this series, we quickly decided to focus on the one thing that inspires me every day- Buffalo. This city, its neighborhoods and its people are a HUGE inspiration to me, so why not showcase it?

For the first video, I wanted to talk about my neighborhood- Hertel Avenue. I have never felt more at home than where I am now. In this video, I talk about why I love Hertel so much, I touch on my personal style, and you’ll see some gorgeous shots of the street and its businesses.

Big props to my husband for being a good sport and agreeing to be part of this project. He’s an avid cyclist who also has a passion for Buffalo and its culture, so it was only fitting that he would be the first subject. Also, I know that it was difficult for him to describe his personal style, but everyone has a style identity, even if you’ve never thought about it!

The team at Buffalo Above and I have a few more projects in the works, so stay tuned!  Where will Nickel City Gritty be showing up next?

Nickel City Gritty: Two Guys Good Buys

At the beginning of November, I attended a Two Guys Good Buys pop-up shop (you can view my post about it HERE)  This was my first time meeting the duo, Frank Fina and Tyler Annalora.  After talking to them for a short while, I quickly learned a few things: they were super passionate about their vintage clothing business, they loved traveling across the country in their van, and they were suckers for a good adventure.

After randomly running into them multiple times since our first initial meeting, I just knew that they had to be the next subjects in my Nickel City Gritty series (check out my first post about Elizabeth of Buffalo Black Book!)

After my interview with Frank & Tyler, I quickly learned a few more things:  Tyler’s spirit animal is a zebra, Frank is terrified of bears, and they are still suckers for a good adventure…and an amazing playlist.

This is Nickel City Gritty, and this is Frank & Tyler of Two Guys Good Buys.

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Describe your style to me.

Tyler:  Laid back, not trying too hard to be comfortable and relevant, always try to be fashion forward…it’s actually tough.  I don’t really think about it too much!

Frank:  Yeah, that’s it.  It’s like, I guess, pretty simple.  Not thinking too much about it.

T:  I try to stick with a timeless aesthetic…the basics.  You can’t go wrong with a nice plaid, but I think simpler is better for sure.  So solids, and right now I like neutral tones and earth tones.

F:  As far as clothing, for me, I’m pretty simple.  Ty is definitely more fashionable than I am.  Clothing wise, I’m most comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt and a jacket. I like stuff that works, I like stuff that lasts.  Especially with doing things in the outdoors, it’s worth buying something that’s gonna last you.  You’re using it every day and you want it to withstand the test of time.

T:  Yeah, that’s the thing, for us we don’t have so much space for clothes, so things that will work day in and day out is really what we’re looking for.

F:  With being on the road, style wise, it’s like you’re really falling in love with these few items that you have, you know?  Back home, I have way too many clothes, and when we spent the 9 months on the road I had a bin of clothing that I wore and everything was really useful.  There was a point about 6 months in where I actually sent some stuff home because we weren’t using it.  It’s like, now we know what works and what’s lasting and what we’re staying warm in. So we sent a few things home and simplified things even more.  So all this, and our personal style, also relates to the clothing that we sell.  Stuff that’s been around, these companies haven’t been around for 60 years because they don’t work.  People trust the quality.  We definitely wear a lot of what we sell, too.

T:  That’s what we’re going for.  A simpler lifestyle.  No frills other than the necessity.

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Do you guys have a favorite outfit or a favorite piece of clothing?

T:  This jacket, for sure.  I’m not sure what type of jacket it is…denim or maybe canvas.  It’s definitely warm.

F:  I’d say, for me, a Pendleton shirt as of lately.  The past couple years.  It always wasn’t my favorite piece of clothing, but now I think a Pendleton wool shirt is something I would not leave behind wherever I went.  I’m just like, so confident on how warm it’s gonna be.  I just trust it.  I actually have Ty to thank for liking certain brands so much.  He definitely has more of a fashion background.

T:  I think we’ve been more or less interested in a certain look or aesthetic.  Sometimes brand specific but just trying to understand certain fibers.  Very elementary level, but to understand, like, wool.  And what type of natural fiber that is.  And then understanding what brands now days still carry on the tradition that was started over a hundred years ago.  It might be made in a different place, but the integrity of the fabric…I’d like to think it’s the same.  Just trying to focus on that more.

F:  Even before we really started getting into the older, vintage stuff, just like in High School, Ty was always going to New York City and he was digging different clothing than other people.

T:  Just goofy stuff. Just being aware of what’s going on in places besides here in Buffalo, whether it be in Europe or Japan. People are doing different things and obviously style is different.  Keeping a keen eye on what’s going on in fashion and style. I’ve always been interested in big cities and like what they’re doing in New York.  So it just kind of opened my eyes to other things.  Going to New York was always fun.  We would do weekend trips quite often.

F:  We would take trips to New York, and at the time I was working full-time.  So I would work until 4:00, hop on a megabus after work, get there Saturday at 5am, meet up with Ty and we would pretty much just walk around the city for two days straight and I would leave Sunday night at like 10pm and get back to Buffalo Monday morning.

T:  Remember that?  We would stay at the hostel on 27th and 3rd. You’d call me at like 5:30 in the morning, wake up, get a coffee, and we’d walk like 60 blocks.

That’s so fun!

F:  We would just go and walk around and take photos.  It’s really sweet to think back to those trips, and this was probably 2010 or 2011, and just to look back and we were just like hanging out.  It’s just crazy how it evolves into this now and our love for photography and traveling and just seeing new things and seeing new faces and seeing new styles.  It’s always been there, just now it’s evolved.

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Do you guys have any style icons?

F:  *laughs* Yeah, Ty.

T:  I can’t say that I do, but I get my eye from my mom.

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Where do you look as your source of inspiration?

F:  Being on the road is a constant inspiration for me.  Just seeing so many new things, whether it is the scenic views  or just talking to different people from all over the country.  Just a lot of different walks of life.  It’s cool because the traveling community is a huge thing for me.  I didn’t know how amazing it would be.  It’s amazing to meet up with strangers.  Back home, before leaving, you know I had a group of friends but I wasn’t the type of person to like, go out to a bar and meet all new people.  So now I’m much more open to meeting new people and finding out similarities.  Automatically when you’re on the road, I feel like there’s just a connection right away that’s so much quicker.  We’re away from home, and traveling and sitting around the fire and cooking breakfast together.  You just automatically have the connection and that’s really inspiring to me.  We always say strangers become friends so quick.  I feel like you gain trust and grow to like these people.

T:  Yeah, and moving around, it’s not just “Wooooo we’re gonna go crazy and start driving somewhere!” You have to have a general plan.  Just being exposed to more is inspiring, because you see just so many more possibilities and different ways of life.  Not everything is so glamorous, but there’s different possibilities out there in other places than in Buffalo or New York or wherever you are.  I think once you move yourself from one specific place, it just opens your eyes naturally.  For me personally, that’s a huge inspiration.  I want to continue to push what we’re doing here because right now it’s working and I know we’re not gonna fail, and if we do there’s many more things that we can go and pursue and continue to do what we’re doing.

F:  Yeah, you just see all these different opportunities and all these different people that are able to travel full time and are doing all these different things.  Whether it’s a traveling nurse or substitute teaching or people running their own brands or blogging or photographers.  All these people are doing things and they have their shit together, they’re making a living, they’re traveling full-time.  They’re not just out there doing whatever.  It’s hard work to travel full-time, so there’s just other ways to do it and make a living other than working 40 hours a week 9 to 5.  There’s ways to do it.

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What’s on your playlist?

F:  Music is SO huge for us!  Obviously, anyone taking road trips, it’s huge.  We’ve definitely expanded what we listen to a lot.  We pick up music from the people that we met.  Our good friend Jackie took our iPod one day and put all this music on, this was one month into our trip, and filled it up with all new music and we started listening to all these different, completely different artists that we didn’t even know about.

T:  For a while I was listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I listen to Foals.  We always listen to 70’s Smash Hits, that’s for sure!

F:  Yeah, that’s the playlist!  70’s Smash Hits.  The Lumineers are really good.  There’s just something about being on an open highway and certain music works so much better.

T:  Also been listening to a lot of J. Cole recently.

F:  I was always really really into hip hop.  Definitely went to a lot of hip hop shows and kept up on different hip hop blogs, so we continue to listen to hip hop music too, but we are listening to so much more.  I’ve always appreciated different types of music.

T:  Dan Auerbach, Black Keys, listened to Modest Mouse for a while.

F:  I listen to pretty much everything.  One thing that we don’t listen to though is country.  I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it’s just in my head.  That’s one thing we just never listen to. Other than that we just listen to pretty much every genre.

T:  Beatles are great always and listen to the Stones for sure.  The Doors are great, listened to The Eagles for weeks.

F:  There would be long drives, I think Ty would put on a Beatles playlist, and there’d be like 25 songs and that would last a while, and I would doze off and then wake up and look over and Ty’s just jammin out to The Beatles and singing, and it’s stuff like that that’s just awesome.  We had some fun in those front seats of the van.

What was your favorite or most memorable concert you’ve been to?

T:  It would have to be your first concert…

F:  What, mine?

T:  Yeah, Billy Joel!

F:  The first concert I ever went to, my parents took me to a Billy Joel concert.  I don’t remember it so I wouldn’t say that it was my favorite. I was young.  Growing up, my parents always wanted me to play instruments.  Which I do too, but when you’re younger, it’s different.  My mom was always like “When you’re older, you’re gonna wish that you stuck with the piano or the saxophone.” So they took me, and that’s back when I was taking the piano.  But I say my favorite one…we would go up to Toronto for a show, and saw Jay Z and Kanye West, just a huge stadium concert.

T:  Does a music festival count?

Yeah!

T:  I think that would be my favorite concert…Hangout Festival.  Gulf Coast of Alabama.  3 days on the beach.  So many people performed.  On the last night, the headliner was Paul Simon.  That was a cool performance to see.

F:  I think my favorite live show…I went to New York to see Nas at Radio City Music Hall on New Year’s Eve.  That was a few years back…that was an amazing show.  Also, right here at the Ballroom, Atmosphere.  Have you ever heard of Atmosphere?  It’s like underground-ish hip hop.  It’s all real instruments and it’s awesome.  That was one of my favorite live shows.

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Who would play you in a movie about your life?

F:  Adam Sandler!

T:  *laughs* Yeah, for sure!

F:  I don’t know why, but everyone’s always joked around that I look like him, and as a kid he was my favorite actor.  Honestly, I’m not huge into movies, but that’s who came to mind first.

What’s your spirit animal?

T:  Oh man…hmmmmm…zebra.

Zebra?  Why?

T:  When I went to the zoo as a kid, I always wanted to take the zebras home with me.

Awwwwwwww…

F:  I’ve never thought of my spirit animal.  I’m like petrified of bears.  That’s a fear  that I have.  It’s not my spirit animal, but I’m definitely scared of bears.  The first time we were out in grizzly territory out west, and we were doing hikes all over the place.  That first hike where I knew there was a chance that there could be a grizzly bear around, I was like thinking about it non-stop. Looking up and always making sure I know what to do if I see one.  But I don’t know, I never really thought about the spirit animal.

T:  I don’t think you could skip that question.

F:  A bald eagle!

T:  Ooooh that’s a good one.

F:  Forever free.  Bald eagles are sweet.  I always wanted to see one so bad, and we went months on a trip without seeing one, always talked about it.  They’re way more common out west.  We were in Oregon one day, which was 5 months into the trip, and we were at Mt. Hood and we saw two bald eagles above us.  I was filming it, and in the background of the video I’m like “This is amazing!” and I’m bugging out.

T:  It was hilarious, I’m like looking at the bald eagles doing their thing and he’s like “Oh my god!”

F:  I wanted to send it to my grandpa.  He is a huge inspiration, and the reason why I like the outdoors so much.  He’s 90 years old and I would always keep him updated on the trip. And send him videos.  He’s somehow really good with an iPhone at 90 years old, so I took that video and sent it to him.  And after that we ended up seeing a few more.

Did you see a bear?

F:  We did see a bear, our first bear in Yosemite.  That was sweet.  It was far away and there was a lot of other people around.

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What’s your favorite childhood memory?

F:  I’d say, going to the ocean once a year.  My parents would take me on little trips to Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach.  I’d say, trips to the ocean with my family.  That’s why I have the constant travel bug.  It was always something I looked forward to.

T:  I think probably doing things on the weekends with my dad.  My sister and I would go and do something outside.  Whether is be a day trip or weekend trip camping or something.  Do everything together and make dinner, start the fire and cooking out.  He would be in the country so we would go to his house and shoot bb guns and have fun outside. He was always adamant about getting my sister and I outside.

F:  I think my grandpa really got me into the outdoors.  He was the hunter and fisherman, so those were the times that we would do that- going out fishing and things like that.

What’s your favorite local place to grab a drink?

F:  So when I go out to bars, I like to have something else to do there other than just sit at the bar, whether it’s pool or darts.  I really like going to Frizzy’s  because I think the photo booth there is a blast.  So if we go there with a group of friends, I just like taking photos.  It’s such a cool little keepsake and you can have it forever for $3.

T:  Yeah, that’s the first thing that came to my mind.

Where do you go to de-stress?

F:  Nature, hikes, the Adirondacks.

T:  It’s been tough, I didn’t realize it.  Even just being in Buffalo, it’s fast enough and there’s enough lights and it’s loud enough where you can get rattled a little bit.

F:  Especially when you get used to living on the road, there really is a lot less stress, so coming back you’re just like “Woah!”

T:  We’d go to Public in the Lafayette Hotel, go around the corner and sit by the fireplace.  That’s a nice place to relax.

F:  For myself, and Ty too, just being out in nature is really calming.

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Okay, and always my last question is, what do you want to be when you grow up?

F:  I just want to be happy and successful in my own terms.  As long as I’m progressing every year in my life I’m happy with that.

T:  I think right now it’s kind of hard to put into one specific thing.  I think to be living by my own best means, I’ll be happy.

F:  You know, it’s interesting, when I was a kid and thought about that question what I wanted to be when I was growing up or what I thought I wanted to be doing 5 years from 21 even, I didn’t think I’d be doing this.  And this is what I want to be doing right now.  I want to be traveling.  It’s just crazy. I never thought it would be possible.  And it IS possible, for anybody.  Not just for us.  If there’s something you wanna do, and you just sit down and plan it and take your time with it and think about it, it’s so possible.

Nickel City Gritty: Elizabeth Siematkowski

I present to you, the very first interview in my Nickel City Gritty series.

Nickel City Gritty is a very special project of mine.  It is a series of interviews, videos, and photos of the very thing that made Buffalo what is is today- the people.  I’m interviewing and photographing those very people that run this city; those who are doing incredible things and living outside the box.

But these aren’t just any old interviews.  These interviews are getting down to the core of the person- their favorite music, food, memories, and things that they love about this amazing city that we call home.

This is Nickel City Gritty, and this is Elizabeth Siematkowski.

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If you don’t know who Elizabeth is, then you’ve probably been living under a rock.  Girlfriend has been EVERYWHERE lately.  Liz is the mastermind behind Buffalo Black Book.  If you don’t know what Buffalo Black Book is, then you are definitely living under a rock.  The BBB is a quarterly print magazine committed to highlighting and exploring culture, subculture, love and people through candid conversation and busting of social stigma.  Its very first issue, Bodies, has been wildly successful, being sold online, as well as in few select boutiques around Buffalo and even at print stands in New York City.

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From the moment that I met Liz, I instantly felt a strong connection with her, like we’ve been lifelong friends.  Her infectious personality draws you in and when you are speaking to her, you can tell that she she is really interested in your life story and what you have to say.  That’s why she’s so perfect at what she does.  She truly cares about the people that she interviews for Buffalo Black Book and knows how to make a person comfortable.  She’s super chill and the authentic “cool girl” that many of us women strive to be.

I recently dragged Liz out in the freezing cold and snow to my favorite restaurant Toutant for brunch.  We ate waffles and bonded over our mutual love of Hanson (she’s a Zac girl and I’m a Taylor fanatic) and I learned that she’s got a very interesting, yet dangerous, hidden talent.

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Describe your style to me.

That’s really tough.  Sometimes I can get a little wild in what I wear. I like to mix in pieces that are really classic.  I like the idea of having one really nice sweater versus ten semi-decent pieces that could get kind of weird in a year or two.

So you stay away from trendy?

Yeah, so something classic, like my grandmom’s sweater, something that somebody made that’s a classic piece.  But then I also love the bohemian street style.  So it’s not quite grunge, but it’s not like full boho.  I love heeled boots and nice tight pants.  It’s definitely a blend of the two styles.

Do you have a favorite piece of clothing?  Something that means a lot to you?

Yes!  Well actually, one of my favorite sweaters I just lost, which was really sad.  So now, probably my favorite outfit would be in the summer, it’s jean shorts and this vintage Police tee that I haggled in Toronto.  Like haggled it down from like $212 in a glass case, and I was like “This is ridiculous, how long has this been in there?” to like $30 Canadian.  And so that Police tee is just like, my heart. So probably that and jean shorts in the summer and in the winter, tights pants and what used to be my favorite sweater. So now I need to get a new favorite sweater!  But I have one that my grandmom made me and it’s fitted, white fisherman knit, and I like that a lot.  And boots.  I like my black Rainbow boots.

Rainbow.  Like the store Rainbow?

Yeah, the store Rainbow!  I’m like, I don’t know. I just LOVE Rainbow.  I have some bodysuits from there that are just out of this world.  And I was gonna get these really nice black leather boots a while back but they didn’t have my right size. So I walked into Rainbow one day and they had the exact thing for $15 and I was like DONE!

Do you have a style icon?

I love Nicole Richie’s style, oh my god I love her style.  I also love Gwyneth Paltrow.  Love her style.  And also Sienna Miller a lot.  It’s kind of like that simple but classic kind of look.  And of course Audrey Hepburn.

Where do you look for inspiration?  What inspires you?

I think what inspires me is seeing people do things that are kind of off the beaten path and do it with in amazing flair and just absolutely dominate. I love seeing people who are unexpected or people who are underdogs. Like they wouldn’t expect them to be crushing it or to do well.  Against the odds, crush it at life doing whatever they are doing. I think that inspires me because that is so great.  When people are themselves.  It’s really hard to kind of just be who you are.  Sometimes you are pigeonholed into a job or a profession or family expectation. I love people who are just like “We are out here, that’s it!” Just own it.  That is so cool to me.  I think that’s the closest you can get to somebody, when they are themselves and you are really having a genuine connection.

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What is currently on your playlist?

I just made a BBB playlist on Spotify.  I really love a lot of French 60’s music, like Francoise Hardy. She’s a French 60’s Pop artist and she’s radiant and I love her style as well.  She’s just absolutely flawless and her music is beautiful.  I was into Bossa Nova for a while.  But now on this mix there’s some Hip Hop and a little bit of Folk.  I love Folk music.  But I also love great aggressive Hip Hop music.  For Hip Hop, Wycleff is my man.  Like “Gone Till November.”  Ugh, so in love.  And then I like Dance music, but not too much of the EDM, just like what really makes you dance.  I love Tracey Chapman, oh my god. She’s one of my faves.  That’s one of the first artists that I remember when I was a kid. I played “Fast Car” over and over and over again.  You can just feel so much from her songs. I love Debbie Harry and of course Madonna and Michael Jackson.  My mom loves Cyndi Lauper and Dolly Parton so I know all of their stuff.  I liked Cher a lot when I was a really young kid!

What is your favorite or most memorable concert that you’ve ever been to?

Oh my god.  Okay, I was in Hershey, Pennsylvania  with my family and I was probably the only person that I knew who liked the Hanson brothers and I’m not afraid to admit that.

Okay, who’s your favorite?

Oh man.  I liked the young one. I liked Zac, you know that little “Lucy” song.  I named by dog Lucy, which now I’m just realizing I wonder if that was some subconscious thing from my Hanson days!

*Note from Lindsay:  At this point we both broke out singing “Lucy” and it was probably one of the top five moments of my life*

So  we were in Hershey Pennsylvania park and we were camping out and my parents had a pop-up camper and we heard that Hanson was playing.  So my brother and I stood on the roof of my parent’s van in a parking lot with my dad’s binoculars and watched the Hanson brothers and then I went back to the campground and was listening to their cd on my little walkman cd thing crying because I was so happy that I got to see them!  So I think that was definitely my most memorable concert.  Everyone was like, “Can we go home, we can’t see anything and we hate Hanson.” and I was like “Oh my god my life’s complete!”

What were you like in high school?

I was kind of quiet, I still am, which is surprising.  I’m generally pretty shy.  Which I may not seem like it.I love people, obviously, and I love interacting. But getting to know people, it takes me a while to get pretty comfortable.  So I was pretty quiet, and I was also a competitive figure skater.  I graduated high school and just went and figure skated.  I always just thought I would do that, and then one thing lead to another and I was like, meh, maybe I should go to college since I guess that’s what people do.  I was pretty much just skating and being quiet.  I didn’t like school, I hated it.  I just didn’t like sitting and I didn’t like homework and it was just so constricting.  I was just bouncing around and was a bit of a lone wolf and just did my own thing.  I liked everyone and appreciated everybody but also was just like “Get me out of here!”  I was always just weirdly trying to push boundaries, even in high school.  I would sit with different groups of people every day and try to just not do what everybody else was doing.

What made you get into skating?

I think just from where I’m from the Great North.  It’s cold, there’s nothing to do, and when I was a kid my dad would build an ice rink in our backyard and I think that made me love it and I just kept going with it.  I LOVE Canalside…that rink is amazing!  I actually got kicked off the other day.  It was one in the afternoon and I was like “I’m going down there” so I brought my skates and hopped over the thing and just started skating and then this security guard was walking after me and I was like “Can’t catch me!” and he was like “You can’t be out there.  I’m calling the police.” and I was like, I probably shouldn’t get arrested today so I said “Please oh please let me just skate” and he was like “No I really can’t.” but that was the best outdoor rink I’ve ever skated on in my life!

 

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Do you have a celebrity crush?

Oh god, I’ve got a couple.  Let me think…definitely love James Franco.  I love Sienna Miller.  I love Jake Gyllenhaal and I really love Ellen Paige.

Favorite local restaurants?

I really love Merge. I love how even in the early days they were doing beautiful vegan foods.  I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan but a lot of what I eat is and I love going to places where people make these beautiful creations with all sorts of cashew cheese and really cool things. Lloyd tacos are obviously incredible.  ABV’s chickpea burger is out of control good and I like their beer.  I love going to the West Side Bazaar and I always get this chickpea naan special.  It’s like $5 and the guys is so nice, and for some reason every time I go there I’m like having a hard day, so I’m holding back tears and I’m so upset.  But he’s always there and is like “Do you want the lunch special?” and I’m like “Yes!” and I just sit there and eat it by myself in silence and enjoy the atmosphere and end up feeling better.  You know what I love about it?  It comes on a tray and they use real bowls so it’s like a family feel and it’s just like off the grid and I really like that place for lunch.  I love Hydraulic Hearth…definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Buffalo! It’s the most beautiful.  I like Larkin a lot and the energy down there.

Favorite place to grab a drink?

I like Essex Pub a lot.  For a good beer, ABV is really good.  I like going to Vera and Buffalo Proper.  And Frizzy’s for some reason, I have no idea why.  I like some of the classic spots like that.  Essex and Vera are definitely my go-to’s.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I can do a cartwheel on roller blades!  Whipping that one out is always a good idea.  One of these years I’m gonna not have done it in so long and I’m gonna try it and actually break my neck. Like “Look what I can do! Just kidding, I need a hospital!”

Backstreet Boys or NSync?

Oh my gosh, I never got into either!  I was too hooked on Hanson, and Tracey Chapman.

Okay, so what about either Britney or Christina?

Britney forever!  Love, love…I will always carry the Britney torch.

Where is your happy place?  Where do you go to de-stress?

Definitely anything involving nature.  I have my dog, an 85 pound Golden Retriever Siberian Husky mix named Lucy and I love her so much. So I’ll go for walks with her. I love the new Outer Harbor trails so that’s our new spot.  I also love the Artpark Gorge and of course being from the North Country, the Adirondacks.  So anything like a walk or nature, that is my happy place.  Or rollerblading as fast as I can, really as I can.  I like going fast, as fast as I can!

Okay, so my last question is…what do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be somebody that my goddaughter will be proud of.  That’s it.


Thank you SO MUCH for the Interview, Elizabeth! You were so sweet to answer all of my questions and now I’m so happy that I have someone to talk about Hanson with.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Nickel City Gritty!