Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vanished Rochester: Whitey's Restaurant

Today we are accustomed to convenience marts at round-the-clock gas stations where beverages, snacks, sandwiches and even pizza are offered. But in Rochester from the 1940s to the mid-1960s, if you wanted food and gasoline at the same stop the place to go was Whitey's Restaurant, located adjacent to the Rochester Gulf Station on the southwest corner of Main and Third streets.

The little restaurant was built by Louis H. Cole at 227 South Main in the spring of 1941 and held its grand opening on June 21, 1941. At first it was known as the Hamburger Bar, and a September 1941 advertisement in the Rochester Era boasted hamburgers for a nickel and round-the-clock service. By 1952, the cafe was operated by Lee R. White and was known as Whitey's, the name by which it is still remembered.

Whitey's wasn't just a convenient food stop for motorists, it was a handy lunch place for people who worked in town as well. My Dad and his fellow auto mechanics at Larry Jerome Ford walked up the block to take their coffee breaks there. Fellow historian and long-time Rochester resident Robert Michalka told me that he recalls patronizing Whitey's in the late 1950s, as it was just a couple of doors down from his father's store. Bob remembers that a pack of cigarettes from the machine at Whitey's cost 28 cents in those days, but the restaurant's vending machine took 30 cents, so it would dispense the customer's cigarettes with two pennies taped to the package.

Whitey's vanished from the local landscape in the late 1960s, when the Gulf station was being rebuilt and the area where the restaurant stood was needed for parking. When Gulf Oil Company's fortunes turned in the 1980s, the station was also torn down.

Do you remember Whitey's? If so, you are invited to share your memories with other readers by posting a comment. Just click on the comment link at the bottom of this post, choose Anonymous from the “Select Profile” drop-down menu, and type away! You don't have to reveal your name unless you choose to do so.

Photo: Robert Michalka kindly lent me this view of Whitey's Restaurant, taken just before the building was demolished. Today, this location is the home of the Hermitage Gallery and other boutique businesses in a building that was erected in 1984.

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