The Eastman House Cafe's Anti-Local Habit

Eastman House Cafe's Coolers in December, 2011

Eastman House Cafe's Coolers in December, 2011

About a year ago I complained to the George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) about the coffee in their cafe. I noticed the cafe had replaced the fair-traded coffee from The Coffee Connection (681 South Ave., formerly the Women's Coffee Connection) with Eight O'Clock Coffee. More generally, the cafe had been replacing (and continues to replace) locally-sourced products with non-local ones. In a letter from Commercial Development Director Peter Briggs, he said that the Eight O'Clock Coffee was replacing Paul DeLima coffee, not the fair-traded coffee from Coffee Connection. He added that he was pleased to note that nearly all the checks sent out go to Rochester addresses. Poor proof indeed: my RG&E check goes to East Avenue, but that doesn't mean that it's local [hint: follow Carmen Sandiego to Spain].

Well, now it's come to pass that all that's available at the cafe is Eight O'Clock Coffee (unless you specifically ask for them to brew a pot of fair-trade just for you) [and I have not yet mentioned how flagrantly inferior Eight O'Clock is to locally-roasted beans, but that's another topic]. I've also noticed that the cooler — pictured above — is also sparse of local products. If you can't see close enough, the products and their manufacturers are:

  • Minute Maid, Dasani, SmartWater, Coke, Mello Yello, Fanta, Sprite, Barq's, Dr. Pepper, Power Ade, Vitamin Water: Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, GA
  • V8: Campbell Soup Company, Camden, NJ
  • Tropicana: PepsiCo, Inc. (Purchase, NY, NYC area), Chicago, IL
  • Red Jacket Orchard: Geneva, NY
  • Honest Tea, Honest Ade: 40% Coca-Cola, Bethesda, MD
  • Silk: White Wave Foods, Dallas, TX
  • Hood: HP Hood, LLC, Lynnfield, MA
  • Perier: Nestlé Corporation, Vevey, Switzerland
  • Jones: Jones Soda Co., Seattle, WA
  • Crystal Geyser water: CG Roxane — of mysterious sources around California

Thus, there actually is what I'd qualify a "local product" tucked in there: Red Jacket Orchards from Geneva. But why no milk from Pittsford Farms Dairy, or even Byrne Dairy (from Syracuse), or even Upstate Farms? Why no soft drinks from Saranac (F.X. Matt Brewing Company in Utica)? Why no cider from Schutt's Cider Mill? And expanding to the rest of the cafe: why no snacks from Stever's, Hedonist, or the Nut House (two-of-three of which are available at the Little). At least the gelato is locally sourced and the cookies are baked on-site.

In my mind, the Eastman House has equal responsibility to support its community as its community does to support it. Given George Eastman's contributions to this city, it's apparent he was proud of it, and I can only assume he had an interest in supporting it.