Pandemic times have been ones of low lows and high highs. Case in point: The closing of Woodlawn Cycle Café east of downtown Birmingham was a low low for its fans, but the news a few months later that the team behind it was opening a neighborhood market, wine shop and takeaway cafe in West Homewood was certainly a high high. Add to that good news that the store will have a sister home goods retail selection, and that Buka owner Armand Margjeka’s wife, Meg, will be running a new location of Etc. with sustainable ready-to-wear collections along with their mix of unique jewelry and accessories next door to Buka in the 186 Oxmoor building on Oxmoor Road. As of the publication of this issue, the Buka team was aiming to open the market in early spring, so to tide us over until then, we asked them some questions about what we will find there soon. Watch for updates on their opening on or @bukabhm on Facebook too.

Can you share the back story on Buka? What was the previous experience with Woodlawn Cycle Cafe, and why did you want to start this new concept?

Buka initially grew from the current climate of the industry due to COVID-19. When we weren’t able to host guests for indoor dining safely at Woodlawn Cycle Cafe, like everyone else, we had to think of ways to adapt. For years, customers would ask to purchase our cafe selections of wine, house-made jam and charcuterie selection to take home, so it felt like a natural progression for a new market concept. We have always loved West Homewood and how close-knit it is, so it felt like a perfect fit when looking to open a neighborhood market.

Where did the name Buka come from?

Buka means bread in Albanian. Its broader meaning refers to the essential needs for the table and sometimes food in general. With the owner being born and raised in Albania, we felt inclined to have a name rooted in his upbringing, which consisted of his mother doing her daily shopping at the neighborhood market.

Can you tell us more about what we will be find inside the space?

We are looking to be a reliable neighborhood market stocked with essentials from wine, meats, cheeses and bread to olive oil, spices and healthy snacks. In addition to the market, we will have a healthy take away menu focused on local, seasonal offerings. We will also have our home goods selection with some of the same brands customers know and love from our other concept, Public Office.  We have designed the space to be inviting while highlighting the selection of goods we have.

Will we see any elements of Woodlawn Cafe’s design or menu there?

Of course there will be some nods to the cafe, but we are really excited about this new chapter!

Many people who were fans of Woodlawn Cycle Café raved about the “toastie,” a breakfast sandwich with egg, spicy sausage, Swiss cheese and pepper jelly. Will they be in the menu at Buka?

We will have our sweet potato biscuits on the menu.