Every Thursday night, in an unassuming warehouse west of downtown Rochester, over a hundred people come together. Bumping hip-hop and R&B, they lace up their roller skates and hit the rink, moving and grooving under colorful lights.
By day, Skate Luvers Roller Palace is a tiny self-contained world of good vibes, great dancing, and wheel-oriented fun for all ages. By night (on Thursdays and Sundays), it’s the exact same thing, but for skaters aged 18 and above. In addition to a large roller rink, the space contains a kitchen that churns out the best fries you’ll ever have in your life, a stage in the center of the rink perpetually set up for a live band, and a variety of loosely-blocked-off spaces along the walls that function as birthday party and VIP spaces.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a seasoned skater or have your own shoes to shake it at Skate Luvers. This past Thursday, Senior Staff member Olivia Alger and I dragged Publisher Megan Browne out for some shenanigans. Should you need them, skate rental is included with the price of admission.
Alger and I have been to a few Thursday nights at Skate Luvers, and always had a blast. This time, I had the opportunity to sit down with the owner, Matthew Singleton, to learn more about the business.
When I arrived, the music was already booming as usual. While great for skating, a thumping bass makes it a bit difficult to hear or record interviews, so Singleton took me into the much quieter, well-painted space called “Midge’s ‘We Care’ Room.”
“There’s a young lady — she will be 94 this year,” Singleton said. “She’s a very strong pillar in our community. Good friend of mine, very supportive. I wanted to give her a room [where] she can bring friends of hers, and gather, and have a good time.”
According to Singleton, Skate Luvers is much more than a roller rink. They have a variety of community-oriented programs for skaters under 18. The space has a movie theater area, a bounce house, and an arcade. They put on events including open mic nights and talent shows, and when the weather gets warmer they hold picnics, eating competitions, and games of basketball and volleyball, too. In addition to their all-ages open skates, they offer lessons and camps.
Singleton said that he created Skate Luvers first and foremost to keep kids safe. “We realize in our community — the city of Rochester — that we have a lot of violence, a lot of children that wander,” he said. “We are here to keep them off the street, give them a safe place, something to eat, and some fun.”
“I’ve been skating for a long time, and it was one of the things that kept me off the street,” he explained. It also allowed him to meet new people, which he said improved his social skills. But even though the skating community is highly social, you can still roll up to the rink solo. “Even if you didn’t have anyone, you can put on some skates and enjoy the time being by yourself,” he said. “So I wanted to offer that to our youth in the community.”
To help cultivate this space, Skate Luvers takes safety very seriously. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a metal detector and an employee Singleton called a “Peace Officer.”
“From my years of living here in the community, I’ve seen […] different organizations open and close due to violence,” Singleton said. “That’s something we don’t tolerate here. I have very little tolerance, at all, for it […] We don’t wanna scare people. but we definitely want people to know we are about safety […] And for 11 years, it’s been very good.”
The first iteration of Skate Luvers was opened closer to downtown 11 years ago, where it stayed for about four years before moving to the current location.
How did Singleton come to rent this huge industrial space? “Funny you should ask, I used to work here back in the ‘80s,” he said. At the time, the space was a factory for the pasta sauce brand Ragú. (Apparently Ragú opened its first factory ever in Rochester in 1946.)
In between sorting and shipping boxes of pasta sauce, Singleton had quite a few other occupations, including starting his own home remodeling business in 1986. But Skate Luvers is currently his full time job.
“Skating and running this business has definitely had its challenges, but the customer really makes it more rewarding when I see that they enjoy it,” he said.
I’ve had my roller skates for about a year, and have been coming to Thursday night adult skates for a few months now. I’ve come to realize there are definitely regulars, and those regulars definitely all know each other. It’s not uncommon to see a spontaneous dance line start on the rink floor, or be passed by a group of smooth skaters all bouncing in sync.
Even if you’re new to the scene, the more experienced skaters are quick to share their advice if they see you struggling. on a move. On Thursday, I had the acute joy of being complimented by one such skater, who told me that my turns were getting “a lot better.”
“The roller skating community [is] very very big, “ Singleton said. “The thing that is so beautiful is that you get to meet new people.”