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I’ll admit it. I look down my nose at chain restaurants. Local stores have more personality. Chains seem so faceless and corporate.

Then I met Nidhi Pino.

Nidhi and her husband, George, opened two Tim Horton’s shops in downtown Rochester.

“I never thought this was going to be something I’d ever do,” Nidhi said. “I’m a school psychologist. I’ve always worked with children. George is a finance guy.”

Nidhi and George are from Boston. They’re in their early thirties. They live in the East End. They’re young professionals eager to see Rochester reach its potential.

The Pinos’ route to Rochester was not easy. Nidhi’s family frequently visited Canada and became enamored with Tim Horton’s. Her father opened three stores in Rhode Island. Nidhi enjoyed spending time in the stores and helping out. She and George decided to open their own franchise in Connecticut.

Referring to it as “Tim’s,” Nidhi speaks reverently about the company.

“They’re not a franchise out there to make money on the backs of somebody else,” she said. “They’re very family-oriented.”

But Tim Horton’s struggled to get a foothold in New England. The company shut down all of the stores in the region in November 2010.

“My dad felt so guilty,” Nidhi said.

Nidhi said the president personally met with all of the franchise owners. “They did whatever they could to help us out. ‘If anybody wants another franchise, it will be somewhere you will be happy and successful.’ They didn’t have to do that.”

“We as a family decided to stay with the company. It took a couple months, but they offered George and I an opportunity in Rochester. We checked it out and liked it.”

Nidhi’s dad was offered two stores in Irondequoit, “because they knew the family wanted to stay together.”

“No matter how traumatic everything was in Connecticut, it ended up being a situation where I’m more contented with life.”

Life in Rochester

The Pinos’ store in the Central Library opened in November 2011. Their Main and State location opened last month.

“I’m still doing what I was meant to be doing,” Nidhi said. “I’m still working with kids, because I have them on my staff. I teach people in different ways, so they feel good about themselves. I feel like I haven’t lost that connection.”

Nidhi refers to her staff as a “team.” She wants her stores to be welcoming. She’s putting up tables outside the Main Street location when the weather gets warm. That will really change the feel of that corporate corner.

The Pinos love the Flower City.

“There are great bars and restaurants. I find the people so down to earth and very friendly, not aggressive. People are way more laid back here,” Nidhi said. “Everything is close by. You don’t feel congested in any facet of your life. There’s a natural ebb and flow of one’s daily routine. I like that my family is here.”

But they would like to see downtown improved.

“Downtown needs a place people can congregate and enjoy. I’d like to see more diverse restaurants. There really isn’t much going on here,” Nidhi said. “Downtown feels almost like a fake city. It’s not a place that thrives when the workday is over. I’m hoping that will change.”

Nidhi has gotten to know our city through her customers.

“I meet CEOS. I meet bums. At the end of the day, it’s everyone’s city and they want more from it. If I can be a part of it, that’s good.”