Several hours after a devastating pre-dawn fire gutted the interior of her long standing GiGi’s restaurant in 2015, owner Blondine Harvin stood heartbroken, surveying the scene at 257 East Ferry St.
The community shared in her pain. “Just keep praying,” she said softly. About a week later Blondine, with her brother Rochester Davis at her side, sounded a lot more hopeful. “Yes we’re going to rebuild,” she said with confidence. It was too soon to offer a timetable she said, and it would probably take some time, but GiGi’s would reopen. “Everybody has been so supportive,” she continued, thanking the community. “We have heard from a lot of good people …we have had a lot of good support.”
Sadly, she did not live to see her beloved restaurant reopen..
Blondine Elizabeth Harvin, an iconic entrepreneur and devoted community pillar, passed away on January 16 at the blessed age of 80.
The community bid her a loving and heartfelt farewell during homegoing services at her home church, True Bethel Baptist Church on January 22.
Blondine was born on August 9th, 1938, in Buffalo, New York to the late Rochester Davis, Sr. and Sarah (Anthony) Davis as the second daughter of six children. She attended Buffalo Public schools, graduating from Fosdick Masten Park High, always managing to maintain high honors. She met Alfonzo Harvin Sr. and they eventually wed on July 30, 1955. From this beautiful union came two sons, Alfonzo Jr. (Butch) and Darryl.
A strong work ethic was built within Blondine at the tender age of 12 years old. She cooked biscuits alongside her sister, Doris, at the YMCA, not knowing how this experience would impact her later in life. She became a nurse’s aide al 19 years of age and then a secretary at the A&P offices on Jefferson Avenue.
Determined to become her own boss, Blondine took a leap of faith and purchased the original GiGi’s Restaurant in 1960 from Ena Hartman who went on to become a famed actress in Hollywood.
Blondine was a pillar in Buffalo’s community, and took care of those around her. Awaking al 4 a.m. and ending her work days at 8 p.m., 5 to 6 days every week, she served new and old friends along with her staff for decades. She was known for her strength and humility, and was devoted to keeping the “community’s restaurant” doors open.
Spanning over 50 years of service to the Buffalo area GiGi’s serving as a neutral meeting ground for local politicians and many famous faces from Lena Horne and Joe Louis to Rev. Martin Luther King.
Yet it was Blondine’s selfless acts of giving; her unconditional love for her community; and her incomparable mouth watering Southern recipes that made her restaurant a legendary landmark to this very day.
Affectionately and notably known as GiGi, Goodie, ‘G’, Ms. Harvin, and Bum Bum, Blondine was a loving mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. Blondine leaves behind a legacy and everlasting memories for her beloved family and the City of Buffalo that is built on integrity and grace. Her three loving sisters, Marilyn Davis, Maxine Davis, and Doris Peake; loving brother, John Davis; and niece, Tajanae Davis, preceded Blondine in death.
Blondine was an amazing woman who is remembered in love by two sons: Alfonzo Harvin, Jr. and “Darryl W. Harvin ; one brother, Rochester (Beverly) Davis, Jr., four grandchildren, two great grandchildren and a host of special friends and relatives.
(Her son Darryl is currently working to reopen GiGi’s inside the Northland Workforce Training Center.)