Castle Community opening weekend draws a crowd

November 27, 2018

The public stormed the gates for the Castle Community ’s opening weekend.

The Castle Community is a collective effort to renovate the former armory in downtown Rochester into a collaborative art, studio and event space.

Although the renovation is incomplete, the upstairs event space was ready for a debut when Six Mile Grove played Saturday night. Organizers of the event said they were hoping to sell about 200 tickets to the concert. More than 350 people attended the show, said Naura Anderson, one of the Castle Community owners.

“It far exceeded our expectations,” Anderson said. “We learned a lot about the space, how it fills up and how it responds to certain numbers of people.”

The opening weekend kicked off with the Castle hosting Santa Claus for his Friday visit as part of the Rochester Downtown Alliance’s annual “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

Saturday, Six Mile Grove’s album release show was held on the third-floor ballroom.

Sunday, Castle Community hosted an artists open house and sale on the third floor. The second floor, still under renovation, will house artist studios, a book and record store and a coffee shop. Tenant changes pushed back those renovation plans. However, people could browse art, records and books and sample the “Queen City” coffee at the open house.

Ross Henderson staffed the record tables and played vinyl for the approximately 200 guests who attended the Sunday event. Henderson said he plans to volunteer some time at the record store when it opens at the end of the year.

“I’m hoping to make this happen,” Henderson said. “I can’t wait for there to be another record store in town.”

Alina Hyder flipped through the vinyl during the Sunday open house, eventually settling on a copy of Michael Jackson’s 1987 release, “Bad.”

“It’s just kind of fun looking through them and finding something I’m not really used to,” Hyder said.

Stephanie Kuglin brought her pottery to the event. She said she hopes to have some of it available for retail when the second floor opens.

“It’s a nice, new space,” Kuglin said.

“There’s been a lot of interest,” she added. “Everyone’s just curious about what’s been going on the past year.”

Erin Schambureck has worked with CRW, an architect and design group that helped on the armory renovation and attended the Sunday open house.

“I wanted to support a good, local project,” she said. “That, and find some Christmas gifts.”

The book and record store will help financially support the operation. The Castle Community already has an inventory of more than 40,000 books to draw from. Donations of records and books are encouraged, Anderson said.

Eric Anderson, an artist who plans to have studio space on the second floor, helped sell books Sunday.

“This is exciting,” he said. “This building keeps changing so fast.”

Breanna Holtan, owner of Queen City Coffee & Juice, which will open on the second floor of the building, had samples of coffee for visitors Sunday.

The Castle Community’s plan for the building was selected by the city last fall after the building was vacated by the Rochester Senior Center in 2016. The Castle Community group bought the building from the city for $675,000 and has since undertaken the massive renovation project.

The bottom level houses Cameo restaurant, which opened last week. The restaurant is keeping limited dinner hours, opening at 3 p.m., until early next year.

Naura said the whole space should be open by the end of December. Until then, people wanting a glimpse will have to settle for a visit to Cameo, attend scheduled events or make an appointment.

Despite some limitations, people responded well to seeing new life in the old building, organizers said.

“People have been wondering what lives behind these castle walls,” Anderson said. “Now they have an idea.”

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