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June Music at the Little Cafe

June 1, 2011 by in Center City, East End, Music
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Most Rochesterians find the Little Theatre quickly in their first expeditions into the heart of downtown Rochester. Movies at “The Little” frequently open to packed houses, who come in droves for the art house, foreign, and independent films that are impossible to find in the large, National-chain theaters. The Little Theatre also owes some of its popularity to its prime location in Rochester’s East End, a district that spans from the origin of East Avenue, where it intersects with Main Street, to the heavily trafficked club district at East & Alexander Avenues.

When the Little Theatre expanded from the original 1920’s single-cinema theater, to the five-cinema theater that it is today, they added the Little Cafe, a wise move, considering movie theaters make nearly all of their revenue on concession sales. When you’re wandering around the East End and suddenly decide to catch whichever independent film is playing next, and you find yourself with an extra half hour before the show, you can settle in to a cup of coffee, one of the Custom Brewcrafters beers on tap, and a slice of quiche or a slice of chocolate cake.

Surrounded by seasonally-rotated locally-made artwork, your Little Cafe experience will come paired with live jazzy music most evenings. This June, musical acts will range from a crooning a capella group, a five-piece blues band, and a classic piano-drums-and bass jazz trio, to a sassy Fionaesque import from Long Island.

Here’s the full June schedule:

The Uptown Groove Rochester NY

The Uptown Groove, a five member blues group from Rochester, is playing at the Little Cafe every Monday throughout June. Led by female vocalist, Amanda Montone, the Uptown Groove plays a variety of R&B, rock, motown, and blues. Here’s a sample of The Uptown Grooves playing ‘Just the Two of Us.’

The Bowties

The Bowties also consist of five members, but rather than the standard bass, drums, and guitar, everyone in the Bowties performs with one of the most challenging instruments of all, the human voice, a capella. Playing Wednesdays from 7:30pm – 9:30pm throughout June, except for June 8th, the Bowties will serenade you with their unique a capella blend of contemporary numbers, and time-tested classics. The Bowties’ most recent addition to their nearly 13-year-old a capella group, Madeline Forster, is the first woman to perform with the Bowties. Her renditions of two classics, ‘Broken Hearted Melody,’ and ‘Twisted,’ will fill the Little Cafe’s java-scented air this June. Alan Wertheimer, of The Bowties tells me that the set list planned for June 1st includes The Bowties’ own version of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and a cool jazz version of ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.’ He let me in on some other tricks they have up their sleeve for later this June, including a 4-part harmonized version of True Colors, and selections from The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and Annie Lennox. One ballad in store is about Laika, the Russian dog who was the first to fly in space. Another, is about a fisherman’s view of heaven, called ‘The Fisherman’s Green.’ As though those examples coupled with beloved PBS theme songs and Queen aren’t proof enough of the unique angle that The Bowties takes on perfoming a capella, they have arranged a version of the Jonathan Coulter cult classic, ‘Your Brains,’ about a zombie who knows proper office protocol.

Thursdays at the Little Cafe, sip your chai to melodic jazz classics performed by the Jim Nugent Trio, a quintessential jazz trio with Jim Nugent on piano, Mike Montelbano on drums, and Elliot Kirby on bass. As the Jim Nugent Trio plays, you’ll instantly recognize selections from the Great American Songbook, but you’ll hear them take on a new energy as the Jim Nugent Trio expertly maneuvers them. Here’s a sampling of The Jim Nugent Trio, that I’m especially fond of, ‘How Insensitive.’


On Fridays this June, Amanda Ashley will growl her sultry, romantic originals. This Long Island native, educated in Fredonia, will demonstrate her lifelong passion for music by publicly seducing her keyboard, with her snarling powerhouse of a voice, and then soothing it in her lilting, gentle pianissimo. Amanda’s performances blend her unique take on Top 40 tunes with her sexy original jazz compositions.

Connie Deming Rochester NY
On Saturday evenings, Connie Deming will perform her original folk music, calling your Joni Mitchell days to mind. Accompanying herself on an acoustic guitar, Connie Deming sings songs songs that often have a deep personal connection. I’ll admit that Connie Deming once brought me to tears, as I recalled my grandfather during her performance of “Pass It On,” a song she wrote for her recently passed father. She was performing, as she often does, at an autism awareness benefit (that particular benefit was a couple years ago at Calvary St. Andrews, in the South Wedge.) Connie is passionate about autism awareness, having dealt with the ups and downs of having an autistic son herself.

The Luxury Lofts of the Knowlton Building

May 7, 2011 by in Cascade District, Center City, City of Rochester, Cover, Featured, Featured New Digs, Rental Market Info, Rochester Metro Area
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Knowlton Building - Rochester NY Loft Apartments - Newdigs.com

Knowlton Building - Rochester NY Loft Apartments - Newdigs.com

The Knowlton Building is proof that high end loft living is alive and well in Rochester.    The Knowlton Building was privilege to a total overhaul in 1998, when the Loftus brothers, Jim and John, owners of the nearby Cascade Building, renovated it from top to bottom into luxury lofts and high-end commercial space.  Under the principals of what John Loftus calls “adaptive reuse,” the brothers took the unique space, with its high ceilings and panoramic city views, from its final days as underutilized manufacturing and warehouse space, to its present condition as some of the most attractive and popular lofts and offices in the city.

As you enter the Knowlton Building, you’ll pass through large lobby where you’ll be reminded of the building’s history as the former box factory of M.D. Knowlton Paper & Box Company.  The ceilings are barrel-vaulted brick, accented by the thick wooden beams that are characteristic of the building craftsmanship that was standard in 1895, when the Knowlton Building was established.  The huge metal sliding doors in the lobby denote the days when the space was used for much more industrial purposes than the current businesses that exist on the first, second, and third floors.  A newer elevator brings you to the residential lofts, located on the third and fourth floors.

Truly, no expense was spared in the renovation.  Each of the Knowlton Building’s fourteen residential units is meticulous in its details.  The sleek, modern fixtures add contrast to the beautifully refinished original hardwood floors.  The spacious kitchens come equipped with gas stoves, a delight to residents who are also foodies, since most loft buildings in Rochester offer electric stoves instead.  Even the kitchen cabinetry is a marvel: built by a local cabinet-maker, the drawers have the smooth, quiet, self-closing action that is indicative of a top-of-the-line kitchen.  The Knowlton Building features tankless hot water heaters, which heat water on demand, making them both more energy efficient, and better for anyone who wants to take a long shower, or fill a bathtub, without running out of hot water.  Windows stretch from hip height to the ceilings, which are 24 feet high in some units!  The closets are generously sized, with plenty of shelves and hanging space.  Laundry couldn’t be any more convenient; there is a washer and dryer in each unit.

In the same manner that you would expect from the gentlemen who took great care to convert the warehouse into such beautiful living spaces, the Loftus brothers demonstrate pride in their ownership of the Knowlton and Cascade Buildings by being present and available to tenants on a daily basis.

The building’s renovation from the defunct box factory to the dramatic apartment spaces that exist there today has helped to shape the Cascade District into the thriving residential and commercial center that it is.  “What they did in Soho in the 60’s and 70’s, we did here in the 90’s,” said John Loftus.  The Loftus brothers’ hard work has paid off for the Cascade District, which has been continuously improving since their 1985 renovation of the Cascade Building.  This April, Nothnagle Realty opened the doors of its own recently renovated warehouse building, relocating their headquarters from Brighton to the Center City. Today, there are only two remaining unrenovated warehouses in the neighborhood, both of which are currently undergoing renovations.  The Cascade Building is also undergoing some changes, with six additional units coming available this fall.  The new units will feature balconies, and have access to covered parking spaces.

Unlike the city’s other main loft district, the St. Paul Quarter, the businesses in the Cascade district are mostly offices functioning on the standard 9am-5pm work-week schedule, making for a quiet neighborhood in the evenings, and allowing much of the parking to be freed up by the time residents of the Knowlton & Cascade Buildings arrive home.  Not that parking is ever a concern for residents of the Knowlton Building and Cascade Building, since there is both covered parking, and ample space in a nearby surface lot owned by the Loftus brothers.  Residents of the Cascade District often find themselves saving a great deal on gas money, because of the convenient proximity to Rochester’s central business district, where one can conduct nearly their entire business and social lives without ever having to walk more than a mile.

Of course you must be wondering what one of these gorgeous and fabulous lofts costs to live in.  One bedroom units start at $1250/month, and two bedroom units start at $1600/month, plus utilities.  Fortunately, the Loftus brothers have thought of everything, and have added almost double the hard-foam insulation to the roof than is commonly used to create more energy efficiency in the lofts.  In addition to the insulation, the tankless hot water heaters make for very energy efficient units.  If you”d like your new digs to be in the Knowlton Building, contact their rental agent, Ben, at 585.415.6330 today, or check out our listing on Newdigs to see more information about pricing, amenities, and lease policies.

Spot Coffee will Reopen in May! Hooray!

April 28, 2011 by in Center City, Events, Restaurants
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Spot Coffee Rochester

Guess what!  According to the Democrat and Chronicle, Spot Coffee, one of Rochester’s favorite wi-fi hotspots, will reopen sometime around the 3rd week in May!

For anyone who is a newcomer to the area since Spot closed in mid October 2010, you should start looking forward to your first Spot Coffee experience!  The first thing you’ll notice as you approach Spot, is that its in a retro Chevrolet dealership, from the days when automobiles weren’t all sold on huge lots of paved farmland in the suburbs.  Now, here’s where my description becomes an approximation, because as much as I can tell you about what it was like inside Spot Coffee before the renovation (it was pretty awesome), I am just as in the dark as the rest of you about what will be unveiled after the renovation!  I am guessing that Spot Coffee hasn’t strayed too far from their previous concept of a two story floor plan with various areas to choose from that will all have a different sort of vibe, however a comment left on RocWiki, by user ChrisLaRosa leads me to believe that the once massive space has been segmented into two smaller spaces: “As part of the renovation, a wall has been built down the center which divides the former space into two halves.  As of 11/27/10, the half on the right (facing the building) has a sign on the outside which says available.”

Pre-renovation you had your choice of window-side tables, a popular location for the students who choose Spot as their study location.  There was also a curtained off “fireplace” area with comfy furniture, great for group gatherings, another window-side section with bar-type seating, and a balcony on the second floor, where one could sip coffee as they peered down below at the hustle and bustle.  The coffee bar was located in the center of the floorplan, organized with ordering on one side of the center island, and pick-up on the other, creating a nice flow that allowed for plenty of space for the often long lines that come with Spot’s busier days.  The original decor was a funky blend of colors and textures, with antique sofas, modern bistro tables, mirrored tiles around the fireplace, and long velvet curtains creating room like areas.  Although Spot never lost its groovy charm, over the years the  fabric curtains and the antique sofa had become grungier with time and use, making the renovations a welcome catharsis for the space.

According to a quote in the Democrat and Chronicle, Richard Gress, president of Spot’s U.S. operations, says that “the millwork is done, the coffee bar is in place, and they’re doing the flooring now, which is the last piece.”  So, it sounds like we should be expecting a total overhaul of the venue, though Gress has stated that the homey feel and wi-fi that Spot was well known for, will remain as features at Spot.

If this is going to be your first visit to Spot, be prepared that your coffee won’t be the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had. So, that’s why you’re not even going to order the coffee.  No, instead, try Spot’s excellent take on the grilled cheese sandwich, with colby and cheddar cheeses, tomatoes, and creamy dijonnaise sandwiched between grilled focaccia.  Pair your sandwich with a refreshing jet tea, a blended iced tea drink with your choice of strawberry, wildberry, strawberry-banana, mango or peach.  Now, I know what you’re thinking: “A coffee shop where the coffee’s no good, and this girl’s still telling me to check it out?”  Yes, this girl, while not being able to bring herself to say that Spot Coffee’s primary focus is the flavor of their coffee, cannot deny that Spot Coffee has always been such an interesting venue that it’s worthy of your patronage despite not being able to make a decent cup of joe.  So, menu choices in mind, brace yourself to make a visit to the newly renovated Spot Coffee when it is finally revealed at the end of May.

First Friday: Get Your Art On

October 1, 2010 by in Atlantic-University, Center City, Events, High Falls, Neighborhood of the Arts, South Wedge, Upper Monroe
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Alright, I’ll admit it: Where quality of life in Rochester, NY is concerned, I’ve drank the kool-aid.  There’s so much to do in Rochester, at such obscenely low costs, that I ponder nearly every day why Rochester (as a community) seems to have so many self-esteem issues.  Although I can’t agree with the average Rochesterian’s complaints about our weather, I can understand where they stem from (Two words: Lake Effect).  But what I will never understand is the oft heard complaint that Rochester is boring.  Boring??   That’s just crazy.  Tomorrow’s First Friday event, started by the Rochester Contemporary Art Center, is just one more ballot to add to the “Rochester is a Happenin’ Little City” ballot box.

This evening, take yourself on a little tour of Rochester’s artistic spaces.  First Friday takes place from 6PM-9PM at a variety of art venues in Rochester, many of which are, predictably, in The Neighborhood of the Arts.  Many other participating venues are in the Central Business District, and there a handful of participating venues located in High Falls, South Wedge, and Upper Monroe.  The First Friday website has a very handy map to help you find your way around.  There are 27 participants in total, so while you may not be able to experience every single thing the night has to offer, there is no doubt that you’ll be able to fill your evening with as much art as you can handle.

Mixed media piece by Nancy Tropolski

Mixed media piece by Nancy Tropolski

If you begin downtown at Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RCAC), you know, just to pay homage to the creators of the First Friday event, you’ll be treated to the labor-intensive abstractions of Christopher McNalty and Andy Gilmore.  From there its not far to the Strum Gallery, inside Black Dog Studios, where Regi Hendrix will pay tribute to his late cousin, Jimi Hendrix, with several new works from his “Room Full of Mirrors” collection.  Just around the corner, The Windsor Family Folk Band will be folkin’ it up from 7PM-9PM at Bernunzio Uptown Music, whilst Jan Wenk Cedras reads poetry at the nearby Greenwood Books.

If you’re in a krumping sort of mood, head North to Cobblestone School Contemporary Space to enjoy the energetic choreography of Caitlin Bowers, whose modern fusion dancers dedicate their energy to “those whose lives are defined by struggle.”  On the way from RCAC, you’ll pass a number of other exhibits, such as Carol Acquilano’s paintings of Cortona, on display at Philips Fine Art, and Anne Clement’s striking photography at the American Association of University Women.

Those looking to get off the beaten path can visit Chait Fine Art, in High Falls, where Stu Chait will display his dreamy watercolors.  On the other side of town, the Gallery at Record Archive will display Nancy Tropolski’s mixed-media explorations of gender-roles, and their effect on our attempts to “create certainty in uncertain times.”  South of the main action, South Wedge’s Equal Grounds Coffee House will display Hope Zaccagni’s geometric, colorful paintings, which beautifully depict the architecture we tend not to notice, and the details we’re normally too busy for.  Nearby, in Upper Monroe, Genesee Pottery will host demonstrations of wheel-throwing, as they create bowls for their upcoming annual Great Bowls of Fire Chili Cookoff.

If this sampling of events hasn’t been enough to convince you to join Rochester’s cultured many on this crisp Friday evening, you can always check out the full First Friday itinerary at their website.