Why you (yes, you) should move to Olean, NY

It’s a new year, and one of your resolutions should probably be moving to Olean, NY. I’ll outline some of the specifics below, but the gist is that I’m frankly not sure you can afford not to, with everything happening here.


The Olean Business Development building is more than 130 years old, and has been fully renovated (except for the 4th floor – more on that in a minute). Besides providing offices for local businesses like the Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation, it also has incubation space and co-working space. I’m currently the only occupant of the co-working space, and I could – quite honestly – use the company:


Besides all the printers you could ever want, there is also conference space, private offices, and a cafe. Get on board.

Fourth Floor

This merits its own section, because it is really interesting. There’s a train depot across the street (now part of the Jamestown Community College offices), and apparently people would get off the train, troop across the street and take up rooms here on the fourth floor. One side of the building is a series of inter-connected rooms with a shared bath, and they’re all still there. It’s being used primarily for storage at the moment, but there are some really neat details still visible under the layers of dust and peeling paint.

What’s work without the possiblity of a haunting? Boring, that’s what.


The Walkable Olean project has been transforming downtown Olean one street at a time. The streetscapes are being re-designed to accommodate all stripe of walker and roller, with wide, smooth sidewalks, bike lanes and paths, and proven traffic calming measures. The rain gardens that are set along North Union Street are pleasant and add an extra barrier between pedestrians and vehicles. In the months that we’ve been back, I’ve seen more people out walking and riding than in the entire couple of years before we moved away.

What’s more, the revitalization has sparked more local business. About 20 years ago, Walmart moved to the edge of town and one by one all the dominos fell. There were more empty storefronts in downtown Olean than occupied. Generational residents have told me that the decline started with the introduction of the Olean Mall in the ’70s. Lately, though, that decline has begun to slow, and incredibly, reverse. There are cafes, a whiskey bar, a brewery, new shops opening, and plans for many more.


See, the thing about the weather is


(and this is important to keep in mind)


That even if the winter is a bit much


The summers are gorgeous!


We also have a spring, which is when everyone wears t-shirts in 40 degree weather and agrees that it’s lovely out, and a fall, which is very pretty, what with the sheer amount of trees we have here.


Boy howdy, do we have nature here. Besides it being just a very verdant place three seasons of the year, we are next door to Allegany State Park, which is a stunning natural park covering more than 64,000 acres, which is a hecka bunch of acres. The park is open year round, so folks who enjoy a good snowshoe or cross-country ski have ample space to do so.

Olean is also a designated Tree City, USA, by the Arbor Day Foundation, and has been for more than 30 years. The city is robustly forested – I think that all residential streets are tree-lined, and many or most of the commercial streets are treed as well. And let me tell you, when autumn flips the switch, all those trees are aflame with classic fall tree colors. Giddy up.



There are two elementary schools in Olean, Washington West and Eastview. They both go from pre-k to 3rd, and the intermediate school goes from 4th to 7th, and the high school is 8th-12th. My husband is a product of those schools (Eastview, the middle school – as it was then called – and the high school), and he’s turned out right good. I went to elementary school in the neighboring town, Allegany, and to high school at the local Catholic school, Archbishop Walsh. For higher education, there’s St. Bonaventure and Jamestown Community College, both of which have gorgeous campuses and solid reputations.

Property prices

This is where things get interesting. If you want a bit of a fixer-upper, you can spend less than $70,000 on a 6 bedroom, 3 bath house – you can go check some out here. If your tastes are more mansion-y, you can still squeak in under the half million mark with this gem. In general, though, you can probably end up with a 4 bedroom place that’s updated under the $200,000 line, though if you do updates yourself it may be lower, or if you prefer a lot of high end finishes, it’ll be higher.

New York is somewhat notorious for having high taxes, but focus on those property prices.


Everyone loves an underdog, and all our teams are underdogs! Now is the time to jump on the bandwagon and become a fair weather fan of the Bills (not that you would ever do such a thing, but if you were, now is the time) because after 17 years and the four falls of Buffalo, they’re in the playoffs again. Here’s my elementary school classmate and American hero, Pat Miller, reacting to the Bills win last week (and the … ravens? loss?):

Also, if you want your sports exciting, the Bills routinely play in blizzard conditions:


Although it’s New Era stadium now, this isn’t very unusual:


Even the Sabres get out of the rink and into the snow on occasion:


Buffalo sports fans tend to be pretty dedicated, no matter how badly the team is doing, which for the Sabres this year, has been pretty bad. But it gives the vibrant sports radio culture something to kibbitz over endlessly, so there is that.

Future of Olean

I feel strongly about the future of Olean. The revitalization projects are kindling a new vibrancy here, similar to how cities like Detroit and Buffalo are investing in their downtows and reaping the benefits of increased community. A lot of people are invested in building a strong city here, and they’re all working together diligently. I’m proud of the way Bob, as the director of public works for the city, has applied himself to doing the best job he can for the city and the residents and visitors to Olean.


But wait! There’s more!



These squirrels are all over the city. You can see all of them here. Who doesn’t like squirrels?

Tim Hortons

We have not one but TWO Tim Hortons here. And people tend to pay for you in the drive through (or at least, people tend to pay for me, and I think you should come and take your chances).

Local brew / uncork NY

Besides the brewery in town, Four Mile Brewing, regionally we also have Southern Tier Brewing, and Ellicottville Brewing. About 90 minutes east of Olean is the Finger Lakes Wine region, with wineries, breweries, and distilleries. If you plan ahead, you can even book a Winewagen to cart you around the beautiful lakes as you tipple at each stop.

Niagara Falls

Olean is also only about 90 minutes away from Niagara Falls, one of the wonders of the world. On the other side of the falls is the entire country of Canada (Ontario specifically, though), which opens up interesting vistas to visit and enjoy.

Challenger Learning Center

Want to go to space? We do that here. The Challenger Center features themed missions that are fun for all ages (well, really like 10 or older, because we have to set some limits on space travel).

The arts in the region

The Cattaraugus County Arts Council is particularly active, featuring music, dance, performances, and art installations. If you have a taste for a particular art form, you’ll probably find it in Cattaragus County, thanks to the support of the arts council. Furthermore, the Quick Arts Center, located at St. Bonaventure, has a performance series as well as an extensive collection that is routinely rotated, and regularly features traveling exhibits.

Farmers market

From May to October, there’s a weekly farmers market, featuring fresh local produce (of which there is a bounty, thanks to the rural locale). All the abundance of the enchanted mountains can be yours! The market is going to be getting some upgrades, as it was recently the recipient of a $600,000 grant.


I’m just really fond of our Y. It’s really good. Lots of classes, a great facility, and plentiful childcare (Grant goes to Y daycare and the twins have Y aftercare, which takes place at their school). With all the stuff we get from the Y, you would expect their fees to be a bit steep, but that’s not the case. Aftercare for the twins is $70 a month. Go get a kleenex and wipe up the coffee you just spit all over the screen, because that’s not a typo. Our family monthly membership is $71. Grant is $180 a week, but that’s decreasing this year, as he just turned 18 months and rates are going down. Take it all in.

Just move already

Between the low cost of living (taxes aside), an accessible downtown, ample co-working space, and a return to local businesses, I’m shocked that your bags aren’t halfway packed. If you want to be somewhere where you can save money, buy a home, and be part of a community at the start of a really exciting time, this is where you want to be.

I’ll see you soon.

4 responses to “Why you (yes, you) should move to Olean, NY”

  1. Olean is beautiful (except for winter). This a great article but it makes no mention of employment, which is one of the reasons people, including myself, left; there was none……………..


    • That’s definitely been true historically. However, there is some uptick in new local businesses that provide jobs – which isn’t the same as there being a lot of opportunities for skilled workers or people with higher education. If you’re lucky enough to have a remote job, then you really have it made here (like I do), because there’s lovely co-working space, and if it’s TOO cold, I can just stay home and work there. I think that we’ll see Olean continue to grow (probably slowly for awhile yet, however), with more and more opportunities developing again.


  2. Olean will always be home. It is the best small town in Western New York. If you grew up in Olean in the 60’s and 70’s, you undoubtedly have an appreciation for the fall of the year (it looks like a bowl of Trix when the trees change to beautiful colors); but, kids of the 60’s and 70’s will remember Paul Venable, Jimmie Weed, and Kenneth Van De Mark…all educators and motivators.Olean is believed to be named after the first white child born in the region, oil was discovered as the Indians were skimming the top of the pools of oil for medicine (nitroglycerin), and the history of great food is unmatched by any small town in the USA. Piccolli’s, the Castle, L’Alcove, Antonio’s, and so many more.


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