It’s been years since the building at 200 East Avenue traded in its Chevrolet Corvettes and Impalas for cappuccinos and mochas. Still, everyone who walks into SPoT Coffee today pays a small tribute to this former Chevrolet showroom with a catch of their breath and a sweep of their eyes up and over the expansiveness of the venue, which now sells coffee instead of cars.

SPoT has one of the most unique histories of any caf in Rochester. When Hallman Chevrolet closed its location in the 1990’s, the small chain of SPoT Coffee, originating in Buffalo, bought the property and converted it into a new sort of machine, revolving around espresso and tea instead of cylinders and carburetors.

When you approach SPoT on the corner of East Avenue and Matthews Street, remember to look up for a reminder of the venue’s history. Resting above the metal-plated doors of its corner-front lie two tell-tale reminders of the past. The sign immediately above the door reads ‘Chevrolet.” The other sign bares the words ‘Super Service” and (ironically) the face of a clock that is no longer ticking.

Although the clock is broken outside, that doesn’t mean the service inside is slow.

On the contrary, the service is some of the most expedient and friendly in Rochester cafs. The only thing broken about the time would be how quickly it might seem to pass while sitting over a cup in the former Chevy showroom.

The showroom-turned-caf is cavernous, as seems fitting, since the place used to house cars, not coffee mugs. The ceilings are lofty, the walls are wide, and both voices and drafts get bounced around in the spaciousness of the room.

Surrounding conversation and music becomes a blended din of white noise lost in the rafters. Cool drafts pass through the space, as the large size and openness can make heating a challenge. The temperature isn’t uncomfortably cold, but it’s cool enough to prevent students from getting so comfortable they fall asleep.

So what happens when you turn a car showroom into a caf? The atmosphere created by its gargantuan size makes it an ideal place to study, similar to the feeling of sitting in Bridge Lounge of Wilson Commons. In fact, nine out of 10 people in SPoT are college students or college-aged people, and eight out of 10 (by day) are hard at work over laptops and textbooks.

The floor is divided, compartmentalized into five areas: the bar acting as a hub of activity in the center of the room, on one side, a fake fireplace nook with antique chairs and lamps, a high-topped bar with matching high-seated stools lining the other side wall, a den of round tables along the front (formerly eye candy to draw others into the car showroom) and a lofted section in the rear, overlooking the spectacle below.

SPoT has been decorated in the usual caf style: eclectic furniture, funky pottery, swirling paint and mosiacs. But here in the showroom, these features, like the people and conversations themselves, are dwarfed by the former grandeur of Chevrolet in this space.

SPoT represents a fusion of industry and art an environment of productivity and creativity much like the students who come to enjoy this joint.

SPoT is possibly the best caf for concentration in Rochester. One student cranked out a review sheet so thorough you could barely find blank white space on all 8.5 by 11 inches. Another raved that the tea she was drinking (Rooibis) was better than Ritalin.

SPoT’s menu is one of the more diverse and extensive of Rochester’s cafs, as well. Like Boulder Coffee Co., SPoT offers real, substantial meals as opposed to just desserts (although they have plenty of these, as well).

The real food includes breakfast served all day, such as overstuffed omelets and wraps made to order on-site; sandwiches, ranging from (the excellent) spicy tuna focaccia to chicken wraps; and lighter selections (on both your wallet and your waistline), including yogurt and granola or, possibly, the soup of the day.

The dessert menu is equally extensive and entirely on display behind the convertible-style dessert case. Selections include pastries like the blueberry bear clas, croissants, muffins like blueberry and cranberry crumble, cookies like oatmeal, sugar, chocolate chip and peanut butter, as well as pies and cakes, including whipped-cream-loaded pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie and black forest cake. Picking your poison here is a difficult task, but, to put things in perspective, if this is the hardest decision you have to make in a day, it’s probably been a pretty good day.

SPoT Coffee is the reigning largesse of Rochester cafs, hands down. And environmentalists, take note: It has also been the most creative use of space and reusing what is already there in present-day Rochester, which is yet another good reason to support this local enterprise. If you’d like more information, visit their Web site at

Ryan is a member of the class of 2009.

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