I’m sitting uneasily on a stool of an unexpectedly cool brewery.
“How long have you guys been here?” I asked the bartender at Roc Brewing, a girl about my age, with her hair piled atop her head.
“5 years,” she replied cooly, putting my can of craft cider in front of me.
The last I wrote, I was crossing into New York State. Before heading Northeast for a story, I decided to visit my parents in Rochester. It’d give me the opportunity to spend some time with my family, a quiet place to work, and some interesting places to check out.
I could go on some hikes, I figured.
For the first two days, I was attached to my laptop writing. When I wasn’t – previously mentioned hikes, at Chimney Bluff, then Ganondagan. Finally, with Morrie exhausted and overheated, I had an afternoon to fend for myself.
I decided to go into the city.
Rochester isn’t very large, about the size of Raleigh and Durham combined. There’s tall skyscrapers, industrial, yet aesthetically pleasing bridges and rolling hills. Plus some interesting gems, local treasures that only a true Rochesterian would know about… and although I don’t consider myself one, I know a few.
There’s Little Theatre, an independent movie theater I once saw Thirteen at, so I could write a review for the school paper. Dinosaur Barbeque, a specialty barbeque joint that people rave about, though I’ve always preferred Sticky Lips, a competing restaurant. Then there’s Strong Museum, which has a mini-Wegman’s grocery store inside it, and for children.
Except for next Wednesday, the Roc Brewing bartender Emily tells me.
“There’s this happy hour there next week,” she says, motioning towards a flyer on the wall. “Roc is pouring, but so are some other places. It’s just for adults.”
“You know, if you’re still around.” She adds.
I will be. I look around at the space, an industrial looking place with wood accents, and again, wonder how I didn’t realize this brewery was here. It was a thought I had throughout a walk I took earlier, stumbling across places like Hart’s Local Grocery, The Bug Jar and 2 Vine.
As I wandered through Hart’s, taking note of the Pittsford Farms ice cream, the coffee bar, and the local specialty meat, cheeses and beverages, I wondered how I missed this Rochester for so long.
I mean it makes sense. Usually when I come home, it’s for a graduation or a holiday. Not a lot of time to explore and look around. When I was in college, I mostly hung out in Philadelphia and New York, and didn’t really make Rochester a priority.
How Rochester has changed also makes sense. I’ve visited a lot of cities over the past few years, each of them having their own “moment”, their own “revival”. Coffee shops replace old storefronts, restaurants with names that sound like they were plucked from a Mad Libs game open, bright murals cover up cement walls and crumbling bricks. Every city has a 1st, 3rd or 4th something, and each resident surprised when I tell them that exists elsewhere.
“Really?” Sandra said, when she told me about 1st Friday in Norfolk. “I thought that was only here.”
Nope – millennials have spread their artisan crafted wings, nesting in cities such as Phoenix, Wilmington, Baltimore and now, Rochester. With them, they bring an abundance of locally sourced goods, cold brews, farmer’s markets, and strange flavors of ice cream to sustain them.
But unbeknownst to me, as I was hopping around Iceland and North Carolina, Rochester’s shift was less of a revival, and more of an evolution, over the past few years. There aren’t a lot of “coming soon” or “opening this fall” signs I saw in other places. Like Roc Brewing, they’ve been here.
You just have to know where to look.