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Kathy Turiano & Christin Ortiz

On a Thursday at Joe Bean

Interview No. 78

1 - Kathy intro1 - Kathy intro

Where are each of you originally from?

Christin: I’m from New Paltz. I ended up moving to Rochester because of my brother, who went to RIT. He got married and wanted to stay in the area, while I was more nomadic. I was living in California and really missed New York State. I moved back to the east coast eight years ago now!

Kathy: I’m a Rochester native. I grew up in Irondequoit and live in Webster now. My husband has a family business in the area; I always meant to leave, but my roots kept me here. And then I grew to love it!

What’s your favorite part of living in the Rochester area?

Christin: When I first moved here, I lived on Oxford Street, and I loved how close everything was. I had this running joke with my friends in the suburbs—whenever they asked me to go hang out in the suburbs, I’d be like, “do I really have to leave the city?!” I have everything I need here, and it’s relatively walkable!

Kathy: If you never left Rochester, it’s almost not natural to be here and love it here. But at some point, you fall in love with it. For me, it was when Joe Bean moved to University Ave. I remember the exact moment: I crossed the city line on the expressway and realized I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You have to be really intentional about it—and then you start to see everything with fresh eyes.

When we first opened Joe Bean, there was this explosion of energy. We were doing so many collaborations! We were finding places like Staach, Thread, the Brainery, Roc Brewing, and people like Shawn Dunwoody—just so many collaborators. We felt this liquid explosion coming; we really felt like pioneers, at the beginning of something new and amazing.

Do you have any favorite/secret Rochester spots?

Christin: I love attending compline at Christ Church—it’s the last prayer of the day, and Eastman students sing the whole thing. 200 people enter and leave the church in silence.

Kathy: For me, it’s the Strong Museum of Play—I take my two year old granddaughter there a lot. We didn’t have it when my kids were younger! I love that kids now think this is a normal part of Rochester. We’re a nationally competitive city, and the next generation already thinks that! It’s not just the Strong Museum, either. It’s things like Jazz Fest, the Lilac Festival, and more. It’s normal for our city to have accolades. And who knows how this will impact the next generation? Maybe they’ll grow up with a sense of no boundaries.

Christin: On a food note, for favorite spots, Lento and Fiorella are both up there for me. We also had our holiday party at the Playhouse, and I love that place! It’s so cool that it’s a legit bar, with amazing cocktails, and great burgers.

What’s the most unique or interesting event you’ve attended in Rochester?

Kathy: The first regional barista competition we went to, in Ithaca, in 2009, was really the beginning for us. We walked out thinking, “We don’t know anything about coffee!” There was another event around that time where the speaker was 19 and came from a family business; I left feeling like, “I gotta figure this out.” It was also the first time I saw a young person speak with authority—like an entrepreneur—and that blew away my concept of “the path.” I thought it was so exciting that a 19 or 20 year old could do that!

Christin: One that comes to mind for me is Remote Rochester at Fringe Festival. Sine I’m not from the Rochester area, I kind of live with a sense of FOMO. I’m always trying to go on urban expeditions, make new friends and figure out the city I live in. Remote Rochester helped me go places I wouldn’t have gone and see things from a different perspective.

Kathy: Another event that was impactful for me was the Yelp HQ event in San Francisco last year. There was a women’s panel on the last day, and I raised my hand and asked, “How do you deal with your heart?” There was a great discussion from that, and someone suggested I get involved with women in business in Rochester. I had never thought of that before! Breanna from Yelp connected me with Sarah Knight from Roc Girl Gang. I love the work they’re doing to make women and the city feel accessible. Camaraderie is important.

Do you have a favorite charity/nonprofit you like to support?

Kathy: The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. My sister works there. One thing I don’t think a lot of people know is that all the money raised stays local! I started doing their 5k race, and it’s very emotional—just a sea of pink filled with so many survivors.

Christin: I love Open Door Mission. I lead the youth group at Trinity Community Church, and we do a can drive for Open Door every year. They are feeding and housing so many people! Open Door has two campuses and does so much for nothing. They rely on the community and do so many great things with their volunteers. They’re always so grateful when you volunteer, I’m just over here like, “You have graciously included me in your work!”

What is your personal coping mechanism for cold/gray weather?

Christin: Lamberton Conservatory. I also like to go do a salt float and Bodymind Float Center on Park Ave.

Kathy: I love visiting the Butterfly Garden at Strong. Other than that, I don’t mind it much! I like to go for walks in the cold—it makes me feel alive. I also try to take in a lot of music and culture during the winter months.

What would you say makes Rochester unique?

Kathy: The proximity to the Finger Lakes, for one thing. We have so much access to farmers and agriculture.

Christin: We’re such a small city with so much going on. We have so much life! There’s plenty of food, music, art, slam poetry, and strange experiences. All those things might not be available in other cities of this size.

Kathy: The roots go so deep here. I got involved with some of the Rochester TEDx talks not too long ago, and it turns out Rochester was one of the first TEDx pilots on the East coast. We have so many innovations here—even hearkening back to basic human rights and freedom. It’s just this bizarre convergence of so many things. We’re uncovering them and tapping into them now, and trying to figure out what it means for today.

Christin: We have tons of young people getting excited and connected in Rochester now.

Kathy: And what we’ve been—that’s exciting too! We’ve always been innovative, and we’re getting a great reputation now. At national coffee events over the past six or seven years, when we mention Rochester, the response is “That’s a great city!”

What do you think could be improved?

Christin: Mass transit. My favorite city right now (other than Roc) is Chicago. The culture here wants mass transit! Bike lanes are improving, but we need public transportation that’s more reliable and more frequent.

Kathy: I’d say walkability and public space are two big ones. New initiatives here seem to take a long time. We’ve been working on our parklet project for awhile, and one thing we’re excited about is that it would slow down traffic. Rochester seems to be very traffic-oriented.

If Rochester were a caffeinated beverage, what kind what would it be?

Christin: Spro bombs—they’re kind of unexpected. Plus, it’s got uppers and downers! And you always come back for more.

A lot of people are excited about the awesome coffee community in Rochester, while others aren’t as familiar with it. For those who are less familiar, how would you describe the community and what would you say makes Joe Bean unique?

Kathy: When we opened, we listed our goals, and number one was to create a coffee community. We were seeing what was going on in coffee around the country, and there’s this mutual respect among the community. We didn’t even know that people could gather around coffee in that way—but it was a place to be.

Our initial crew really bought into the vision—Rory, Jared, Wade—we were the nucleus when we launched. And we knew it was new turf. It blows my mind how we’ve come so far in such a short amount of time!

This last year has been a growth period for coffee in Rochester. It can be hard to say goodbye, and we wanted to walk things out in the right way. We had lots of conversations because there’s so much mutual respect in the community. We were able to do it in a way that our whole team could celebrate this growth and development. Back when we started, we didn’t know a coffee community would look like this; we may have moved apart, but we’ve gotten better. I’m so proud of all these people making the decision to be in coffee.

Roasting has come a long way, too. We had our first Roasterside Chat recently, and folks came out from Buffalo, Syracuse, and Ithaca for a true regional event. It was a coming together of craftsmen to talk about their craft. There’s so much respect in the industry.

What’s new and exciting on the horizon for Joe Bean?

Christin: Collaboration is the name of the game! We want to work with people who love the city, bringing them into our space and going out into their spaces. Soon we’ll be adding a family meal experience so that you can share food with strangers, meeting new people and hopefully walking away as friends!

Kathy: This mutual experience really connects people! Hospitality is at the core of what we want to do—allowing people to actually talk to each other. There’s a craft corridor really growing on University—a little pocket. There’s so much life here! You can eat and you can do stuff. Soon we’ll be collaborating with Rochester City Ballet for booze and ballet—stay tuned for that!

We have so many people in the room—beer and wine distributors, musicians, etc.—and by being here, you become a part of us! If you’re in this room, I’m wondering, how do I work with you? How do I make you part of the community?

The parklet is still in our future too. It’s slow going, but we still have the vision. We advocate for public space and walkability.

I also want to touch on actual coffee. My son, Ben, is one of the co-owners, and he just traveled to Nicaragua to visit with farmers. We have a great relationship there. We won a national award with their coffee. We have also purchased an entire lot of the Rwanda from a farmer—we own it! That’s unheard of! It’s a dream for us. Every year our purchasing power changes, and this year is the best program we’ve ever had. Plus our great equipment is changing the game! Our roaster, Janine, is too—she competed in our first national roasters competition and scored really well.

Do you have any advice for up and coming entrepreneurs, creatives, coffee lovers, or Rochesterians in general?

Christin: Keep moving! My brother is an electrical engineer, married, and a father of four. I’ve taken a windy road—but everything leads to the next thing. Keep walking the path your walking. Not all advice is good advice (I guess that’s ironic advice to give). Take advantage of the next thing that comes your way!

Kathy: I’m the kind of person that always has vision for someone else—I get excited for other people and want to help them. That’s how my life moves forward. The reason we have music at Joe Bean is because one of our staff members got excited about music and is very connected with the local music scene. I like to nurture and care for other things. What Ben saw and wanted to bring to Rochester—I saw his vision. So even if something is not necessarily your passion, but someone else’s, you can help bring their vision to fruition. I’m passionate about the next generation and helping them cultivate ideas. Sometimes you just have to be alongside the right person. I knew Christin would erupt what we’re doing—you just have to find the synergy and the turf and then let it grow.

Kathy Turiano is a Rochester entrepreneur and one of the owners of Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, a popular meet-up for our interviews! Christin Ortiz is head chef there as well. See more of Kathy and Christin on our Instagram.