Colin Delaney is finding it hard to describe his new venture, PopRoc (337 East Avenue). "There's nothing like it," he says. "We have to stop using the words 'coffee shop' because it's not, we have to stop using the words 'comic book shop' because it's not that either. Even if you combine the two, it's just gonna be so much more than we even know."
Delaney and business partner Jason Hilton (Nick and Liz Andolina are also partners) want to create a space that's going to veer away from the stereotype of East Avenue -- an area typically associated with bar culture. They want to create an environment that's not only family-friendly, but appeals to twenty-somethings who want an alternative to going out and getting schnockered.
PopRoc will hold its grand opening on Friday, April 6, and it does have a bar -- but it's a coffee and cereal bar. More than twenty different varieties of cereal will be offered, in addition to toppings like fresh fruit, caramel, and chocolate.
"We were just going to do Saturday mornings with cereal," Delaney says. "The more we thought about it, we thought nobody does cereal, we should do cereal all the time. We can play around with it, have different toppings, mix and match cereals, half-and-half cereals, it's another fun thing we can have."
Delaney and Hilton are all about that caffeine life. They've partnered with local roasters Fifth Frame and CanalTown to offer original flavored coffees. They will also be serving Death Wish coffee, which contains the highest amount of caffeine allowed in a cup of joe.
If that doesn't get your heart pumping faster, Hilton says they're also going to carry "every energy drink we can get our hands on locally," including Monster, Red Bull, and Mountain Dew. "We're also going to have some mocktinis done with different flavors and energy drinks," he adds.
What exactly do you do with all that caffeine pumping through your bloodstream? In Delaney's case, he's wrestled professionally for the past fifteen years. "I started when I was very young and got to the WWE when I was twenty-one," he says.
Delaney met Hilton at Kayfabe Dojo, the wrestling school for Upstate Pro Wrestling. Delaney still wrestles professionally, which occasionally takes him away from the business. The two also worked together at Hilton's internet marketing firm, Hilton Advisory. Hilton had an office in High Falls for his business, but since all client relations were done outside of the office, the space became a gallery for his extensive collection of toys -- specifically Transformers and Funko Pop! figurines.
"There was this secret thing inside of me, when I saw people walking by the office, that they could come in and be like, 'Look how cool that is!'" Hilton says. "Now we're offering a place where people can do that, enjoy the stuff that we have, I want people to be able to enjoy the stuff as much as I do."
Those figurines, along with others, will serve as décor for the space, and some items will be for sale. A shelf filled with comic books lines one of the walls, and PopRoc will offer a comic discovery program. Some comics will be available to read for free while others will be accessibly only to those enrolled in the program.
Hilton says the program fee will be about $20 per month, and that there will be twenty different titles you can read the day they come out. "Titles are typically $4 to $5 a piece, so you're looking at about a $350 value for around $20 a month," he says.
The comics will only be available for a few months, after which they'll be donated to Golisano Children's Hospital or the The Strong Museum of Play.
The main theme that seems to characterize PopRoc is inclusiveness. "We want people to sit down, have a drink, watch what's on TV, talk with people that enjoy the same things we do and things that they do," Delaney says.
"We don't want anyone to feel that they are not welcome," Hilton adds. "We're gonna try to figure out a way where everyone can feel included."
Hilton and Delaney say they want PopRoc to be the Rochester pop culture center, and they're prepared for whatever new phenomenon that comes out -- whatever is going to be the next "Stranger Things."
"It's pop culture," Delaney says. "It's what we do."
PopRoc (337 East Avenue) will be open Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. 310-2423. Find them at poprochester.com.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to [email protected].