Rochester booming despite looming construction downtown

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 6, 2012

ROCHESTER — Main Street in downtown Rochester will be closed from April to August, tentatively, while crews work on the Main Street Makeover project, but that hasn’t affected the city’s development one bit, according to Deputy City Manager Nik Banda.

Just last month, Banda said, a host of new companies signed leases in the city, and many existing businesses have set their sights on expansion.

“In the throes of getting ready for Main Street Makeover, many companies announced they were going to open and signed leases in the city,” he said. “In my opinion, people believe in the town and the city administration — including the elected officials and the people at City Hall that are going to make things as business-friendly and one-stop ready as possible.”

Holy Cannoli’s is in the process of opening its flagship store at 415 S. Main St. in the next couple of weeks, in the former Bonjour Cupcakes location. The four women who own the store include three generations of cannoli-makers who use a fifth-generation recipe — among them Nicole Franey; her sister, Christina Granger; her mother, Cathy Schulte; and her grandmother, Sharon Beheler. The store will offer cannoli, biscotti, crème puffs, baklava, cannoli chip and dip, and a variety of other baked goods, as well as a selection of nonalcoholic beverages, candy and a small “Made in Michigan” food section. Holy Cannoli’s will also offer gluten-free baked goods made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

Franey said opening a store in Rochester was a “no-brainer” for the team of women, who received positive feedback from customers when they opened a temporary store downtown the last two years over the holidays and from those who visited them at the Rochester Farmers Market.

“We’ve been wanting to find something in the community, and when the opportunity came (to lease this space), it fit everything we were looking for, so we knew this was where we were supposed to be and what we were supposed to be doing,” Franey said. “We’re really very excited, and we’re very thankful that the community has embraced us from the very beginning and really helped us grow, so we feel comfortable about opening a store, even with all the construction on Main Street,” Franey said.

Proprietor Robert Lenartowicz is relocating Dublin Fish & Chips in Clinton Township to Main Street in Rochester, in the former Jimmy John’s location between University Drive and Fourth Street. The restaurant, which is slated to open April 1, serves Irish-recipe fish and chips, as well as shrimp, crab cakes and other seafood items.

“They’ve been voted, for nine years in a row, the best fish and chips in Macomb County, so we’re glad to have them here,” Banda said.

Moon River Soap is moving from New Baltimore to 339 East St. in Rochester this April, Banda said. According to the business’s website, Moon River makes omega-rich olive oil soap from pure and natural botanicals and uses no petroleum, artificial preservatives, or synthetic fragrance in its products. Moon River also offers paraben-free lotions, natural balms, and body oils made with certified 100 percent pure essential oils.

Liz Aprea of Moon River Soap shared the news of the move with clients on the business’s website. “While it is with a heavy heart to leave our beautiful New Baltimore 1800s building, I am confident something wonderful will replace us. The bottom line is we have outgrown the space and cannot wait to have extra room to move forward and make our natural soaps, salts and balms in friendly, hip and historic downtown Rochester,” she said in a statement on her website.

Another newcomer is Smackwater Jack’s Neighborhood Café, a deli based in Lexington that Banda said is opening a new location in the Designhaus building at 301 Walnut in the next couple of weeks. The restaurant will offer gourmet pizzas, New York-style sandwiches, homemade soups, a variety of nonalcoholic beverages and more.

Along with the new kids on the block, Banda said existing businesses are also investing in downtown Rochester by expanding.

At the end of last year, Sposa Bella bridal shop moved from its former location on Fourth Street in downtown Rochester to a much larger space at 314 S. Main St.

“They doubled their size and took a chance by moving into the old Flirty Fashions store on Main Street, which is pretty cool,” Banda said.

Tower Pizza, which recently snapped up a bistro license from the city, is another existing business that is doubling its size. The plan includes opening a back room for the extra seating and some children’s activities, and adding an outdoor dining area in the back of the establishment, among other things. The restaurant — which will be renamed Tower Pizza, Cafe and Bistro — is slated to open in a couple of months, according to Banda.

O’Connor’s Public House is also gearing up for the Main Street Makeover by putting a huge deck on the outside of the back of the building so people can dine outside during the construction.

“They have front dining, but now they are going to have rear dining too, so they’ve expanded right in the middle of the construction. They want to have that open by April 1,” Banda said.