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Up Start Update: Aloha Japanese Bento Express

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 26, 2016


Last November, Zaw Nyein and his wife, Thaw, opened Aloha Japanese Bento Express, the first restaurant in Syracuse that fuses the flavors of Burma, Japan and Hawaii. Located at 217 South Salina Street, Aloha was the dream of Zaw, a geologist from Burma who left his home country to find other economic opportunities.  He moved to Japan first, and then Hawaii, where he took a series of restaurant jobs. As he learned the ins-and-outs of running a restaurant and creating traditional Japanese and Hawaiian dishes, he started to contemplate opening his own restaurant in a city where his daughter could also receive a good education. He chose Syracuse.

Click below to watch Zaw’s update on Vimeo!



Video by Daylight Blue Media

To learn more about Aloha and take a look at their menu, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.

Stay tuned to learn more about some of our first Up Start entrepreneurs as we celebrate Up Start’s birthday.

Up Start is a collaborative business development program that connects entrepreneurs to the resources, tools, and networks to help their businesses thrive. 



Photo Friday: Lunch Date with Daddy at Oompa Loompyas

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 23, 2016


Welcoming Week 2016

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 22, 2016


September 16th marked the start of National Welcoming Week  (Sept. 16 – 26), a movement “recognizing that immigrants and refugees make our communities stronger economically, socially, and culturally.” This week and throughout the year we’ll be sharing stories gathered from our own work, as well as the work of our friends and partners, about New Americans whose talents have made our city a better place to live, work, and play.

Below is a list  which includes a collection of stories from the archive that discuss how our city has been shaped by New Americans, past and present. Many thanks to organizations such as InterFaith Works, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, Hopeprint and the Northside Learning Center for all of their hard work in helping make Syracuse a friendly and welcoming place for these newcomers.

42 Million Have A Name by Hopeprint (2012)

Nicole Watts reflects on the question, “Why do we as America open our gates wide to the immigrant and the refugee?”: ”It is not possible to objectify the refugee. They are no longer simply 42 million; they are one and another one. They are orphaned children and homeless families. They are uprooted business men and blossoming adults. They are teenage girls and old men. They are Ah Shim, Jerome, Rana and Bhim. They are friends and they are strangers. They are people. And some of them are our neighbors.”


Video: Monu Chhetri, video produced and edited by Ross Taylor (2014)

Monu, a young chef from My Lucky Tummy, shares her story about giving back to the deaf refugee community: “Humans are social creatures. They’re not meant to be alone and for them to be in their house all the time with absolutely no interaction is boring and sad and lonely. And it’s so important for them to come out and share their feelings whether they’re happy, whether their sad. They have a connection here seeing this. We’re all deaf. We all come from similar experiences that not a lot of people have.”


Fastest Hands on the Northside by Joe Russo (2012)

As a child, Joe Russo remembers visiting the Italian bakeries on the Northside: “Not so long ago I ran into an old school friend who now makes his home in California. ‘I’m back for a visit’, he said, ‘I gotta get a couple loaves. You just can’t get crust like this in California.’”


Green Train Students Act in Play About Their Past (2010)

The Post-Standard discusses the play, “Reflections of the Unsung Genocide of The Congo” developed by Emmanuel Irankunda and Mahirwe Dina Ndeze, graduates of Green Train and refugees from the Congo.


Dinner with Strangers by Adam Sudmann (2014) 

The founder of My Lucky Tummy talks about the food and stories shared as he meets with potential chefs: “I had an idea for a party. Maybe we could convince families to cook foods from home for a popup food court. And so over several weeks we trudged up sludgy snowbanks and into strangers’ homes. Lots of removing of shoes in the cold air. Lots of sitting on floors, being brought bottled water or pepsi or chai. And meals. Meals I will never forget.”


Neighborhood Spotlight: Jai Subedi by Lexie Kwiek (2015)

Our guest blogger from NEHDA introduces a Jai Subedi: “Jai plays numerous roles in the Syracuse community. He is a local business owner, a Northside resident, an InterFaith Works case manager, and he is active on multiple committees. But one of his overarching duties is using his experience as a Bhutanese refugee to help other refugees acclimate to a new country while keeping their culture alive.”


Newhouse Profiles Hari fro UP Start Syracuse, audio recording by Marwa Eltagour (2014)

Up Start entrepreneur and Bhutanese refugee, Hari, shares his idea for a restaurant: “There was nothing of the sort — momo and a few other food — that is not introduced to this place . . . we can make Syracuse as a ‘food of the world.’”

Northside Festival: September 24th

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 21, 2016


This Saturday, join the community in celebrating the Northside! The Northside Festival is a free, family-friendly event in Schiller Park featuring face painting, live music from the Jerry Cali Band, children’s entertainment by the Twin Magicians, a puppet making workshop by Open Hand Theater, and access to the Mobile Rec Unit from Syracuse Parks & Recreation. Games for both kids and adults will be available, as well as light snacks. Around 2:15 PM Senator Defrancisco will stop by the festival to share a few words with the community.

The Northside Festival is organized by members of the Northside TNT group and the Danforth/Pond/Butternut and the Court Woodlawn Task Forces. For more information, check out the event flier.


The Butternut Center’s Call For Volunteers

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 20, 2016


The Butternut Community Policing Center needs volunteers to help with a Free Electronics Recycling Event on Saturday, November 19 at Destiny USA. All proceeds from the event, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, the Syracuse Police Department, and Destiny USA, will benefit the Butternut Center and it’s mission to “enrich the lives of area youth through education, recreation, and community involvement.”

A total of 60 volunteers are needed to unload the electronics from vehicles and place them on a pallet. Both adults and teens are welcome to volunteer by contacting Officer Kenn Burdick at 466-9029 or cop@butternutcenter.org. For a list of items that volunteers may be unloading from cars, take a look at the event poster.

Happy Birthday Up Start!

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 19, 2016

Happy Birthday Up Start

It’s been three years since we launched our Up Start program! Originally piloted on the Northside, this collaborative business development program has continued to connect entrepreneurs to the resources, tools, and networks to help their businesses thrive. Since its launch in 2013, Up Start has undergone some changes to help grow and sustain the effort under CenterState CEO‘s Economic Inclusion pillar, gaining inspiration from similar work at the Neighborhood Development Center in Minnesota and revamping its look with a new logo.

To celebrate the milestone we’ll be giving updates about some of the first entrepreneurs who graduated from the program and their businesses: Curtis Washington from That’s What’s Up food truck, Aaron Metthe of Salt City Coffee, and  Zaw Nyein of Aloha Japanese Bento Express. Stay tuned!

Photo Friday: By A Show of Hands

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 16, 2016


Place Your Vote For Best of Syracuse

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 12, 2016


Syracuse New Times needs your vote for the Best of Syracuse, an annual online event that celebrates local businesses in over 170 categories. We were excited to see a handful of Northside businesses nominated for the contest, including

Francesca’s Cucina for Best Date Night and Best Italian Restaurant

ArtRage for Best Art Gallery

Hairanoia for Best Hair Salon

New Century for Best Asian Restaurant

Columbus Bakery and Biscotti Cafe for Best Bakery

Karen’s Catering for Best Local Caterer

Red Olive for Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Biscotti Cafe for Best Birthday Cakes

Vinomania for Best Liquor Store

Laci’s Tapas Bar for best LGBT-friendly Bar

Rocky’s Cigars for Best Smoke Shop

Another nominee on the list is Up Start entrepreneur Curtis Washington as Best Local Chef and his food truck, That’s What’s Up, for Best Food Truck/Food Stand.

Voting ends September 21st. You can place your vote here and learn more about the Best of Syracuse here. The winners will be announced in the October 5th edition of the New Times.


Photo Friday: The Elephant In The Room

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 9, 2016


Syracuse ELL Classes Teach More Than Just English

Written by Lexie Kwiek  • September 7, 2016

Lexie2_for webEditor’s Note: Lexie is a proud AmeriCorps VISTA alum with a master’s degree in Communications & New Media Marketing from Southern New Hampshire University. She currently works as the Volunteer & Community Engagement Coordinator for NEHDA and the Syracuse Northeast Community Center. As part of our collaboration with NEHDA, we’ve asked her to write guest posts for us each month, taking a deeper look into the Northside, its businesses and residents. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.



Typically, I hear at least three different languages being spoken throughout my workday. I am constantly amazed by the number of cultures that are represented in our city, so I was thrilled to be invited into an English Language Learner (ELL) class at the White Branch Library.

As I waited in the hall outside of the library’s community room, I could hear students reciting different colors. “Brown,” “green,” and “blue” were met with responses of “very good” and “excellent!”

Once the morning class began to leave, I was welcomed into the classroom by Rozlynn and Chyloe—teachers with the Syracuse City School District.

Both women teach three ELL classes a day through the City’s Refugee Assistance Program, also known as “Bob’s School.” Their classes are broken into beginner, intermediate beginner, and advanced beginner—by the time students have made their way through the three levels, they will have developed basic English conversational skills.

“We went to Hospital Land on Monday, so that is what we will build today’s conversation around,” Rozlynn said as she readied the room for the next class. Hospital Land is a program offered through Crouse Hospital that lets groups spend the day in a clinical setting learning things like personal hygiene and medical protocol.

Once Rozlynn finished getting all of her supplies together, she let the next wave of students into the room. With much energy, she and Chyloe greeted students by name and asked about their neighbors and families. You would never guess that they had just finishing teaching a two-hour long English class only five minutes prior.

“Did you like Hospital Land?” Chyloe asked the class, which was met with a chorus of “yes!” from the students.

Field trips like the one to Hospital Land serve many different purposes for the ELL class. For starters, they offer talking points for the next lesson, but they also teach New Americans other life-skills that they need in order to thrive in Syracuse. On just their trip to Hospital Land, students learned about boarding a Centro bus, asking for a transfer, calling to schedule doctor appointments, reading the labels on prescription medicines, and much more.

Some of their other trips include: visiting Rite Aid and learning how to use the store’s tablets to communicate with the pharmacist; going to the Farmer’s Market and asking for prices and then paying with American currency; and going to the Fire Station, where everyone learns how to make a house safety plan and can sign up to have fire detectors installed in their homes. These trips are an opportunity for New Americans to learn about their community with people they trust, but they also help the community to engage with refugees. These interactions lead to understanding, acceptance, and a level of comfort on both sides.


When the class meets after one of their field trips, they cover everything they learned while actively practicing English. First, Rozlynn and Chyloe ask students questions and guide them through the correct answers. Then the students take turns asking each other questions and offering answers. There is also time for writing their answers down, and spelling out words with letter tiles. All of these techniques get students reading, writing, and speaking—covering all aspects of the English language in an engaging way.

Throughout the class, I watched Rozlynn and Chyloe help students one-on-one and as a group. If they were both occupied and someone needed help, their volunteer Teacher’s Assistant, Lawrence, would step in. Lawrence is 78 years old and helps with the ELL classes every day. As a graduate of the classes himself, he knows the importance of learning English in order to navigate Syracuse.

“If you don’t know the language . . .” he trailed off while raising his hands. Lawrence explained that you cannot get things accomplished if you are unable to communicate.

Sitting in the class, it hit me how hard the refugees on the Northside have to work in order to participate in our community. As someone who took French in high school and Spanish in college, but now can only recognize a few words of each, I admired how much information all of the students remembered from their field trip and how hard they worked to speak a new language.

We are lucky to be part of a city that has so many vibrant cultures and people from different backgrounds; and with support like these ELL classes, New Americans are able to gain enough skills and confidence to actively engage with our community and share their unique traditions and perspectives.