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Tops customers now riding a shuttle across Buffalo for groceries

Tommy Seay reminisced about his old friend, Deacon Heyward Patterson, while driving the midsize charter bus from the East Side to the Tops on Elmwood Avenue.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tommy Seay has driven some pretty special passengers. For years he helped drive celebrity guests when he worked at a hotel and he also drove for the NFTA before driving for Niagara Scenic Tours.

"Driven for major celebrities such as Burt Reynolds and Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Belafonte," he said.

Seay's latest charter is taking him to a place he's quite familiar with. 

"That's still home for me, right there on the East Side," he said. 

Tommy grew up on the East Side and told 11Alive's Karys Belger his parents owned a restaurant on Jefferson Avenue, not far from where the TOPS Friendly Market stands now. 

One of the 10 people who was killed, Deacon Heyward Patterson was a childhood friend.

"We were actually singing in the same band together. He had the most beautiful first tenor voice, next to Eddie Kendricks of The Temptations," Seay said. "And I think if you want to do a runoff, I think he would I think he would be really good."

Seay reminisced about his old friend while driving the midsize charter bus from the corner of Jefferson and Kingsley to the TOPS located on Elmwood Avenue. TOPS is providing the shuttle to people in the community who don't have reliable transportation.

For many, the TOPS on Jefferson was a lifeline. It was he only big box grocery store on Buffalo's East Side, and the only source of fresh produce. The area has long been a food desert that local activists and organizers have tried to address with plans such as the Healthy Corner Store initiative. 

When asked if he would help drive the shuttle, Tommy volunteered to help. 

"I came over and did the shuttle and devised this route so that the drivers, when I cannot be here, would be able to follow this route because it is the fastest," Seay said, adding that overall, he wants to see the store reopen and his community heal. 

The shuttle runs daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

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