Radah Baked Goods Offers Delicious Treats at South Campus

Lavenia and Lee Thomas of Radah Baked Goods
Lavenia and Lee Thomas of Radah Baked Goods

Radah is a Hebrew word for rule or to have dominion over. But for Lavenia and Lee Thomas, it means much more.

Lavenia says their journey started in 2017 when her husband Lee suggested they start a business. Lavenia said she initially didn't know what type of business, but she did know she was passionate about artsy things and science. So, her husband suggested she try something that combines the two. He suggested baking.

Lavenia admits she didn't know a lot about the science or art of baking, so she set out to learn how to channel her passions into making beautiful and tasty baked goods by enrolling in the Baking and Pastry Arts program at SUNY Erie Community College. To make matters even more challenging, she began the program while pregnant with their first child.

Immediately after graduating in 2020, Lavenia says, they got their LLC, and Radah Baked Goods was born. For them, the name captured their vision of financial independence and their desire to give back to the community.

Like many small businesses, Radah Baked Goods started in the couple's home kitchen, but it wasn't long before they moved into the Westside Bazaar on Grant Street in Buffalo. The couples' baked goods were such a hit that in just one year, they moved into their own brick-and-mortar location on Amherst Street in the city's Black Rock neighborhood.

Lavenia attributes the success of their business to one thing: their commitment to serving the community.

"Who doesn't enjoy a sweet baked good? A brownie? [Or] a cookie?

But what that does for us is allow us to be a part of our community. Eventually, we would like to give donations and help people go through school, college, and things of that nature. That's who we are," Lavenia said.

Now, thanks to the Erie County Level Up program, Radah can spread that mission beyond Buffalo's west side. Radah Baked Goods is one of five local restaurants participating in Erie County's Level Up Taste of Diversity Program at SUNY Erie's South Campus.

The program is the brainchild of Erie County Legislator April Baskin. Following the May 14 shooting at the Tops Market on Jefferson Avenue that claimed ten lives, Baskin decided to create a program that addresses some of the issues highlighted by the tragic shooting, such as the economic disparities and lack of economic opportunities in communities of color.

The program also provides long-term support and guidance for minority and women-owned businesses. It also helps prepare businesses to compete for contracts at the new Bills Stadium under construction in Orchard Park. Under the new stadium community benefits agreement, 30% of concessionaires are required to be a local minority or woman-owned business enterprise.

The project kicked off in November and runs every Monday through January. The Bills have committed to a small business grant at the end of the six-week project.

In the meantime, Lavenia feels the Level Up program is a great way to connect businesses and the community.         

"It's a good collaboration among us restauranteurs. It's nice to see a group of black-owned businesses working together for a common goal. It's good to see us striving toward something as a unit. It can show the world that it can be done," said Lavenia.

As for a chance to sell their tasty treats at the new Bills stadium?

"It would probably be overwhelmingly beautiful at the same time."