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In yet another sign the East End is gentrifying, a chain restaurant wants to move in.

Yes, it’s a fast food joint. But Moe’s Southwest Grill is moving into the Sagamore, where condos sell for more than a few hundred grand. This isn’t a sign the Sagamore is failing. It’s a sign someone has some some serious money, as the franchise requires a $1.5 million net worth and $600,000 liquid cash available.

This is not a story about Henry B’s closing. (I’m sorry for the staff affected, but it was not a popular place. In a town with 1,000 Italian restaurants, fancy and high end is generally not going to work.) This is a story about the chains jumping Jefferson Rd. into the Inner Loop.

Chains take fewer risks than independent business owners. And when they do take risks, they’re very calculated. Tim Horton’s recently made its first push into downtown Rochester after 10 years in the market.

“It was a mix of the proper location and right opportunity. We know downtown is being revitalized and we want to be a part of that,” said Adam Grandmont, Tim Horton’s district manager of operations. He sees a chain moving to the neighborhood as a big vote of confidence.

The danger of chains swooping in is an area loses its identity. I will not be happy if Matthews East End Grill sells out to Applebee’s or Spot Coffee becomes Starbucks or Veneto morphs into Olive Garden. A neighborhood’s soul is in its unique architecture, streets and businesses.

In Buffalo, Elmwood Village neighbors freaked out when Panera announced it was moving in. Even though the chain was taking over a Blockbuster, residents worried about the character of their enclave. The debate made me think about a conversation I had with the owner of a historic W. Main St. church who wants to tear it down to put up a dollar store. “Panera isn’t coming here,” he said, pointing to the low-income housing going up nearby.

At least Henry B’s is being subdivided to include both Moe’s and a local bistro. (By the way, Havana Moe’s cigar shop across the street has got to be throwing a fit right now. It’s been around longer than Moe’s Southwest. I can see some drama ahead.)

While I don’t think there’s any danger of East Ave. becoming W. Ridge Rd., we have to keep an eye on the chains. On the one hand, they’re a sign of success. (Anyone see the Dairy Queen lines?!) On the other hand, they’re a sign of gentrification…and the generic.

9 Responses to Ch-Ch-Ch-Chain(ges)!

  1. so, would it be better for the buildings to sit empty than to have a paying and probably successful tenant?

  2. August 15, 2012 at 7:30 am dennis responds:

    Good story Rachael…………I think Moe’s Southwest will give that area a nice flair – and do better than henry b’s. Several times going by.the place always looked empty!
    Why do you think Moe’s cigar shop across the st. — should be worrying about this —- ”its a cigar joint” and who like stinky cigars!!!!yuk

  3. August 15, 2012 at 8:56 am justaguy responds:

    I remember the guy who owned the old Park Ave Deli being the loudest voice against chain restaurants and bars being allowed on Park Ave. The bar thing was him using his position on the Park Ave Merchants Assn. to proliferate a myth that the City had laws against bars on the Ave. The owner of Oxfords/Lola/etc. proved that guy was full of b.s. via legal channels and the guy sold out his deli to a shirt lived national chain when ‘he’ decided Park Ave was ready for a chain restaurant. There was no uproar. It just shows that nobody really cares other than the people spending or making money by owning or going to said places. The people upstairs better like the smell of taco meat. They new retail was part of the deal when they bought there.

  4. Its important that the city change. The East end has always been gentrified but lacked people who lived there. The people who live there need friendly places to go. Let them have their restaurant and I bet it will be popular with the bar crowd too.

  5. Spot Coffee is a chain. Several locations in Buffalo, and one in Roc, Toronto and Florida. A chain can fit into a neighborhood but it takes extra work and thought about they do so. Personally, I think that’s a weird location for a Moe’s and doesn’t reflect well on the high-end image of that building, although I don’t have a problem with them moving into that neighborhood.

    • August 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Spot only had a couple stores when it opened on East Ave. It is hardly a “box” chain store. Still a relatively small company. Boulder is also a chain, but no one sees it that way.

  6. August 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm Patrick C. responds:

    Maybe I can get a franchise for an antacid chain to put next to Moe’s. The one in Henrietta is a dive.

  7. August 16, 2012 at 12:13 am Mittens responds:

    Moe’s is great. It’s not like a McDonalds, or a Taco Bell. More like a Subway. First time I had one was in Northern VA before it even came to Rochester, and it was awesome. I like that Rochester gets riled up over a chain moving in though. I wish all metros were like that. Most I’ve visited lack the amount of privately owned restaurants we have, and if you drive down the road at night you will see Applebee’s, Red Lobster etc. packed and no cars in the smaller, independently owned restaurants. It’s a shame.

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