Our View: Just some of the business closings related to DMC

The recent flurry of business closings leaves one with an indisputable conclusion: Rochester is changing rapidly as 2015 draws near.

Rochester natives, returning home for the Thanksgiving holiday, were sure to recognize downtown if they drove around the community during the holiday weekend. But if they came back next month, they would be stunned by the absence of iconic Rochester businesses. It would be like appearing in a "Doctor Who" episode, where the time-traveling alien returns to Earth, which he regards as his second home, only to find unexplained changes that he's compelled to investigate.

Hanny's Men's Wear, a downtown fixture for 75 years, is just the latest in a long line of Rochester landmarks to announce that it's going out of business on Dec. 31. In addition to its street-level store on First Avenue Southwest, Hanny's also is closing its subway-level women's wear store but keeping three of its locations — Hanny's Geiger, Hanny's St. Croix and Hanny's Couture — in the subway.

Last week, the owners of Michaels, Rochester's best-known restaurant since it opened 63 years ago, announced New Year's Eve will be their final day of business as they enter into a joint venture with Titan Development, which includes closing the restaurant and demolishing the building to make way for the Broadway at Center project.

While the loss of these longtime businesses can be linked to the Destination Medical Center, the 20-year development plan intended to secure Mayo Clinic's reputation as a global port of call for health care, other closures can be attributed to business cycles unrelated to DMC.


Christian Book & Gift is closing on Dec. 31 after 57 years, leaving an undetermined future for its high-profile 7,500-square-foot building at 815 N. Broadway. The owners said the growth of online shopping was the biggest factor in the decision to close.

The downtown Barnes & Noble bookstore in the historic Chateau Theatre building also will close for good on Dec. 31 after 20 years. The nation's largest retailer bookseller with more than 650 stores has been gradually closing sites for years. Barnes & Noble, though, will be keeping its Apache Mall location. The future of the Chateau Theatre building, with its distinctive castle facade and night-sky ceiling, is important to preservationists. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, dates back to 1927.

Sontes, a tapas restaurant on Third Street Southwest that spent the last eight years in the building that many longtime residents remember as housing Wong's Cafe for more than 50 years, is planning its final event on New Year's Eve. The space won't be vacant for long as it has been leased to a group that will open the Grand Rounds Brew Pub in the spring. On the same block, Bilotti's Italian Village was remodeled and reopened last month as The Half Barrel Bar and Kitchen. Until the rebranding project, Bilotti's boasted being Rochester's oldest Italian restaurant, having been open since 1955.

The series of changes leave us wondering what Rochester will look like as the DMC development accelerates. Sure, we've seen the artist's renderings, but right now, the only tangible transformation is the $138 million Broadway at Center development. The 22-story project, which received approval from the Rochester City Council last month, includes a 264-room Hilton hotel, retail space, a restaurant and 36 apartments. A skyway, made possible by the razing of Michaels restaurant, will link Broadway at Center with the the Shops at University Square.

As Rochester regenerates, perhaps DMC planners could humor us and add Doctor Who's blue police box to the renderings, so nostalgic time travelers could see what downtown used to be.


Dialogues addresses downtown dining

Two of Rochester's best-known restaurants — Michaels and Sontes — are among businesses that have announced they'll close at the end of the year.


To discuss the changes on downtown dining opportunities, the Post-Bulletin and Rochester Public Library will host a P-B Dialogues meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Planning to join Managing Editor Jay Furst, who will lead the discussion, are Sontes owner Tessa Leung; Karla Sperry, co-owner of Half Barrel Grill & Bar (formerly Bilotti's); and other business leaders.

The informal, one-hour event in the Rochester Public Library auditorium will include questions from the audience.

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