Destination Monroe Avenue

Last Wednesday, one of the Monroe Avenue merchants I work with — Jim DeLuca from Abundance Coop — and I attended a breakfast and presentation called “Destination Main Street.” The event was sponsored by the Landmark Society of Western New York and featured a speaker named John Schallert. Schallert is an internationally-recognized business expert specializing in teaching businesses and communities how to turn themselves into Consumer Destinations. Schallert speaks to thousands annually on his proprietary 14-step “Destination Business” process, which he developed over the course of nearly 30 years of working with independent business owners.


Schallert’s presentation identified ways to make a business become a destination, so that traditional small establishments can pull consumers from 5 miles, 50 miles, or even 100 miles away. He gave examples of how businesses differentiate themselves from their competition. For example, by having an attraction, such as the world’s largest mattress on your show room floor. Or by serving food cafeteria style, which makes people feel like they are stepping back in time. Or by stocking a product that no one else sells.



As the Street Manager for the southeast quadrant, Highland Planning works in cooperation with the City of Rochester, the Monroe Avenue Merchants Association (MAMA), and the South Clinton Avenue Merchants Association (SCMA) to strengthen Monroe Avenue and South Clinton Avenue. Our work is focused on improving the appearance of each avenue, facilitating communication and promotion for each district, and facilitating investment in properties and individual businesses. The current scope of work for the program can be categorized into three areas: communication, events and promotion, and investment.

I was reflecting on Monroe Avenue throughout the presentation. That district has quite a few destination businesses. At the end of the event, Jim and I huddled up to discuss the implications for our collaborative work. We talked about developing a merchant tour of our own destination businesses to see if we can learn from one another about how to attract customers. We both agreed we’d need to include:

The Bug Jar. It’s a small, but authentic performance space for independent music. Also, the furniture installed on the ceiling upside down has always been a draw for me.


Voula’s Greek Sweets. Cozy atmosphere and delicious food. One waiter likes to bring each person at the table a spirit animal figurine at the end of the meal. Love that.


Osteria Rocco. The best Italian food that was ever made. If you ask, one of the waiters will sing a few minutes of captivating opera.


Whether you like it or not, Starbucks is a destination business for Monroe Avenue. It’s true.


Archimage. A Monroe Avenue institution for independent retail. When my six year old discovered their geode collection recently, he declared that we no longer need Target for birthday party gifts. Hear, hear, young man. Hear, hear.


So that’s a great list. Who did I miss? Park Ave Pets. Boldo’s Armory. Yellow Haus Bicycles. I am sure there are a few more. We have more than 135 businesses and they create a pretty eclectic mix of retail, service and restaurants.


I couldn’t help think about the best opportunity for a destination on Monroe Avenue. Unfortunately, it’s been vacant for several years. The Monroe Theater.


The property is in good hands. It’s owned by Monroe Goodman Associates LLC, which is held by the Rainaldi family. We are all a little impatient for them to fully develop it, as well as they have the Culver Road Armory and other properties. And they know we are all looking forward to the day that they find a long-term tenant.

I can clearly imagine it, renovated, occupied with an interesting business, filled with activity, and drawing people from throughout the region.

I hope that vision, or some version of it, comes true soon.

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