CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) — If you need help in the BFLO Gallery & Gift Shop at Eastern Hills Mall, you might ask one of the biggest Buffalo boosters around. He owns several local stores selling Buffalo-themed merchandise and he is just 22 years old!
Nathan Mroz of Clarence has three shops in the Eastern Hills Mall and one in the Walden Galleria. He has products in five local Bon Ton stores and also sells items online.
“I love people,” says Nathan, “and I love Buffalo and I want to make Buffalo great again.”
Much of the merchandise Nathan is selling in his stores is made by local artisans. He finds there is a real appetite these days for all things Buffalo.
“People actually love to support Buffalo now. It’s a resurgence. The vibe has changed.” he says. “Everybody’s excited about this area.”
Nathan, who has a twin brother and two older sisters is quick to credit his family and his faith for his business success at such a young age. He says it started when his parents gave him a film camera for his kindergarten graduation.
Nathan’s mother, Elaine, says: “I think we were driving on a trip somewhere and within 5 minutes in the car, all the shots were gone.”
“I didn’t know until after we got the photos back and we started seeing that creativity,” says Nathan’s father, Joseph Mroz. “The way he captured things and just was able to look at things differently.”
As he grew, Nathan developed an eye for architecture and and photographed the gems of the Queen City. In high school he worked up a business plan and opened his own kiosk at the Eastern Hills Mall selling his photos during the holidays.
“The response was unbelievable,” Nathan says. “People told me there was no Buffalo store out here and they appreciated even the kiosk at the time.”
This past spring, Nathan graduated from Buffalo State with a degree in Urban Planning and his plans as an entrepreneur flourished.
By September, with backing from his working parents, he was opening the expanded BFLO Gallery & Gift Shop in Eastern Hills and just weeks ago, mall management asked him if he wanted to open in the space that American Eagle vacated at the opposite end of the mall.
Now you’ll often find him on the mall concourse greeting others as he makes tracks from one store to the other. He’s earned the nickname: “the Mayor of the Mall.”
“I wonder what am I going to be doing; where am I going to be walking in 5 years? So it’s exciting.There’s a lot of potential.”
His mother says: “I feel like sometimes I just want to rein him in and say, ‘can we just rest and just go with what we have and take a breather?'”
Asked if that works, Elaine Mroz laughs and says, “No.”
Nathan is blazing all kinds of trails. He has become the youngest member to sit on the board of the Clarence Chamber of Commerce.
And in September it was his idea to launch the first-ever ‘Night of Worship’ at Canalside in Buffalo..
“It was just everybody coming together for the common purpose of celebrating life and celebrating our God,” says Nathan of the worship service. “It was a beautiful thing and something I’ll never forget and something I want to continue in the future.”
Nathan describes himself as a ‘blessed entrepreneur with a vision to make Western New York a better place to live.’ And that vision doesn’t end with these stores.
“Yes, we’ve hired 35 employees, but I think this is just the beginning. I think we can grow this thing to a certain point where we can have hundreds of employees. We can have an office tower downtown.”
They are big dreams that spill out of Nathan Mroz. Dreams that have a way of pulling others along with him.
“I’ve learned that if you have a passion for something and you really work at it that you fulfill that dream,” says Joseph Mroz.
Asked if Nathan will fulfill his dreams, Joseph Mroz says, “He will. Yes.”