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Maria Gorre

I Heart ROC Creator/Editor

Interview No. 36

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I like the feeling that even if I leave for a long time and come back, the true heart of Rochester will still be there.

What part of Rochester are you from?

I grew up on the west side of the city, in a little village called Spencerport. I spent most of my time hanging by canal, riding my bike to 7-Eleven, and eating LuGia’s lemon Italian ice.

Where are you originally from?

I was born in Anaheim, California. My family moved from the Philippines to the U.S. in the 80s, and settled down with the rest of our transplant clan in Southern California. 

Why did you move to Rochester?

I think they decided life was too easy in California, and wanted somewhere a bit more challenging to live. Or they saw a picture of a blizzard and thought, “That looks fun!” Just kidding. My theory is they got sick of commuting three hours every morning, and were looking for a place to settle where they could live simple, happy lives. And they found it.

What is your favorite part about Rochester living?

I’ve thought a lot about this question, especially after moving away, which usually gives you a new perspective on places. And to be honest, it’s hard to pinpoint one favorite thing. I think what I miss the most is the feeling of home and community. It’s a palpable feeling that isn’t as present in many places. I like the feeling that even if I leave for a long time and come back, the true heart of Rochester will still be there.

Do you have any favorite/secret spots?

What secret places? I think we’ve managed to reveal every secret spot out there in the past year! All joking aside, Northampton Park is one of my favorite spots that isn’t as talked about as the other parks. Besides being a killer sledding hill in the winter, it’s just a fun spot to go at night, look at stars, and get creeped out by the woods. 

What is your favorite day to hang out in the city?

Happy hour, summer time, Park Ave. Best time to walk around, grab a drink, see people you know, meet someone you don’t. And then the sun sets, but no one leaves. Drinks flow until you spot your boss at a restaurant, and you reluctantly decide to call it a night.

What is your favorite day of the week?

When I lived in the city, it was Wednesdays. I’d walk down to the bars with my best friend and always run into someone interesting. Again, one of the great things about Rochester is that the bars are never empty, even during the week. But summer Saturdays are my all-time love, and always will be.

Describe your dream Rochester day.

I wake up slowly. It’s summer time, so I have tea on my porch. Then I meet some friends at Frog Pond for breakfast. Afterwards, I change and drive to Greece in my convertible VW with my bike, and ride the canal path all the way to breakfast. We have a celebratory drink at Barber’s before riding back to Spencerport. I meet my family there, and we all pile in the car and drive to Braddock Bay for a dinner cookout and a fire. Then it’s back out to the city for drinks, and the night ends closing down the bar and shenanigans until 4am.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood?

I think you all know how I’m going to answer this one. I lived off of Park Ave for 2 years, and it was extremely hard to leave. I loved the houses, the tree-lined streets, the diners, the stray cats, all of it. Most of all, I loved my porch facing the street, and long walks in the fall.

Favorite bar?

Anywhere you are, and I can buy you a nice cold Genny.

Favorite hungover eating spot?

Not a spot, but a meal. Leftover loaded fries from the Daily Refresher food truck, mixed with scrambled eggs, and lemon ginger tea. 

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

I’ll be honest, the last winter I spent in Rochester, I threw my hands up several times and yelled, “I’ve had it!” The temperature never broke 10 degrees for a month, and I spent my mornings and nights unburying my car from the massive ice and snow. The only way through it is to get through it. And trudge through the snow to your local watering hole, and commiserate with your fellow winter warriors.

What is your favorite Rochester memory?

Too many to count. My favorite times are when the night ends with some kind of wacky adventure, and you end up on a street you haven’t been, or at an old familiar spot with people you love. In my experience, Rochestarians are down for anything, and can turn a seemingly boring night into an adventure. We don’t need trendy places or curated things to be happy. Just friends, booze, and curiosity.

What makes Rochester unique?

It’s authenticity. I know that’s kind of a buzzword these days, with everyone searching for “authentic” places and things. But Rochester never tries to be anything other than what it is. What you see is what you get. The good and the bad, it’s all laid out for you. Rochester is what you make of it.

What do you think could be improved?

Every city has it’s problems. No matter where you are, we could all stand to give more of our time toward helping the parts of our cities that aren’t doing so well. Think global, act local.

We don’t need trendy places or curated things to be happy. Just friends, booze, and curiosity.

What made you decide to start I Heart ROC?

It was actually a project idea for a website design class in college. I was inspired by the amount of pride that New York City locals had that was amplified by the I Heart NY logo. People began thinking positively and wore their pride literally on their sleeves. I wanted something like that for Rochester, but a bit more personal. I was also looking for a creative outlet where I could combine my love of design, writing, and storytelling. One year later, I'm shocked and thrilled about the response to this project. I have three amazing team members that embody the passion and talent that exists in Rochester. While it was the right decision for me to move to San Francisco, I feel comforted that I am still connected to my hometown through this community.

If Rochester were a person, what would it be?

Rochester is that man or woman you see at a bar or in a coffee shop, with a weathered look, sharp eyes, and a welcoming smile. They’ve been through a lot, but they’re learning. They look rough around the edges, but will offer to buy you a drink. They’re complex, but laugh easily. And when you leave, you hope you run into them again someday.

Maria Gorre is a designer and founder of I Heart ROC. When she isn't making stuff on her computer, she enjoys eating and spreading the love for Rochester from 3,000 miles away. Check out more of Maria and the rest of the I Heart ROC team's perspective on our Instagram.