A Happening Downtown

Rochester, Where Shopping Can be an Education

Glasswork by Heather Palmer, available at Artstream Gallery.

Photo by Susan Laughlin

In the clutches of winter, this city of Lilacs may not be blooming, but there are plenty of community-minded retailers keeping the fires warm and the doors open in Rochester. Studley's Flower Gardens maintains its greenhouse at 62 degrees for the orchids and welcomes guests to stroll through the greenhouse and enjoy the plants being readied for spring. Artstream, a gallery, art school and design studio, has the lights on for classes and rolling exhibits in the gallery while the guys at Sweet Kuppin' Cakes continue baking exotic cupcakes by the batch. This month, set the GPS for Rochester, bring along a little spending money and leave room for lunch. The roasted vegetable spinach wrap at the Portable Pantry drips with flavor.

Jetpack Comics in Rochester is a Main Street magnet attracting comic book lovers from near and far (they even reimburse you for your tolls). Big sellers include "Zombie," "Walking Dead," "Fables," "Hellboy," "Locke & Key" and "The Umbrella Academy." While the store prides itself on its "irreverence," owner Ralph DeBernardo is a teddy bear stuffed with comic knowledge who welcomes everyone, including those who seek the comic comfort of "Archie and his Friends." This March expect longer lines than at a Fenway opener when the highly anticipated first comic book collaborative penned by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill is released.

When it comes to furniture that is as beautiful as it is functional, look no farther than Distinctive Forest Creations. In this locally owned store you'll find distinctive, quality handmade unfinished work at amazingly affordable prices. Check out the wooden storage lockers ($129), dry sinks, hutches (custom made for small condos or small spaces) and a whole array of jelly cabinets and storage pieces. Who says your home is too small for style?

"Stunningly creative" describes Jennifer Stimac, owner of Jenny-Wren Gallery. She has blended together a gallery of fine crafts and tailoring. Unique jewelry, fine pottery and crafts fill this welcoming shop. Look for Jenny's own line of "re-purposed" handbags. One recent customer had five small purses made from her late grandfather's favorite sweater. Others bring Stimic their wedding gowns to be made into christening outfits. Dogs (including my own Rosie) are always welcome. See jennywrengallery.com.

The next time you need an old gas pump, rusted beer sign or discarded license plate, look no farther than We Buy Stuff. Owners Will Murphy and Bill Paesano are self-proclaimed interior designers who collect what they call "man-tiques" - things that men put in garages, basements and man caves. Just recently the pair delivered over $3,000 worth of old signs and gas pumps to decorate an oversized garage filled with antique classic cars owned by a New Hampshire executive. These two junk pickers run a successful eBay site that keeps the local UPS driver busy. Call (603) 948-1038 for information on the site and hours.

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