Category Archives: Community

A Dash of Culture

How Local Groceries Are Shaping Rochester
by Salma Caamir

More than ever, international grocery stores are available to Rochester residents. With an extensive variety of stores popping up in recent years, these shops are hard to miss, but some remain largely overlooked in our community. The range of spices and foods offered truly gives citizens a taste of the whole world only a few blocks from work or home. 


Rochester prides itself on its diverse community. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing half the world’s countries represented through its people. No matter the origin story, it isn’t a challenge to meet someone who has a different worldview from yours, and quite possibly this person is an immigrant. 

You can imagine the frustration when said immigrants came to America and realized they couldn’t find ingredients for foods they have spent their lives preparing. That is the most common underlying thread of these grocery stores—that no matter where these people come from, they bring pieces of their culture.

Walking into a metaphorical—and literal—new world can understandably be intimidating. The initial greeting of foreign music, aroma of spices and chattering of an unfamiliar language may seem like a lot for the average Rochester citizen. However, the beauty in these stores is that we get a tiny glimpse of the experience that these shop owners left behind. It’s like a free vacation to a foreign, mystical country. The only difference? You can walk out of those stores and resume your regular routine. In contrast, the majority of these owners put their lives on pause in their home countries to pursue new life in America. For them, this is no vacation.


That story is not a new one. The immigrant narrative is an underlying theme in American history and is deeply embedded in Rochester’s roots. But because of a tightly knit culture, many people feel a sense of anxiety walking into these groceries. Even as a child of immigrants,
I still find myself a bit nervous when I have to run an errand for my mom and go into one of our wonderful Somali grocers in Rochester. With these stores there is no language barrier. There is no culture barrier. Why on earth would I be so intimidated to walk in?

This is a prime example of the mere-exposure effect, a social psychology phenomenon that we often submit to in our daily lives. According to the American Psychological Association, the mere-exposure effect is “the finding that individuals show an increased preference for a stimulus as a consequence of repeated exposure to that stimulus.” In simpler terms, people are naturally less inclined to go out of their way to do something that deviates from their personal norm. For me, growing up more inclined to go to Walmart than Halal Meat made stepping into a store of my family’s origin incredibly nerve-racking. But while finding variety in our lives is a challenge, it’s important to try so we can grow as people.


Consider trying to diversify your food palate. There is an extensive range of international grocers here in Rochester, and each holds a multitude of cultures. Instead of being intimidated by the experience, try to put yourself in the shoes of the people who had to grow accustomed to the feeling of unfamiliarity. Remaining tied in the bonds of fear of what you don’t know limits yourself from making new bonds, meeting new people and trying some great food!  


Collecting and Preserving
the Stories of Local Women
By Erin Pagel

At times, women of history can be obscured or hidden.  Their lives, their work, their art and their stories can be overshadowed by spotlights focused elsewhere or the ongoing passage of time. In the spirit of Women’s History Month, we look to a group of Rochester women who are telling the stories of local women and illuminating the extraordinary accomplishments of women in our communities.   Continue reading

Around the Town

Unique Products from Local Businesses
By Elizabeth Harris

Weighted Blanket – Ashley’s Hallmark
Weighted blankets have become very popular for people of all ages. They are known to help reduce stress and anxiety by mimicking the feeling of a cozy embrace. This supposedly increases Continue reading


Great dates, chance encounters and memorable gifts
By Melissa Peterson

My husband and I have gone on a date every Monday night since our very first date in 2015. As I write this, we have been on 213 Monday Night Date Nights, which typically involve dinner and a nightcap. We’ve let nothing stop our tradition—not holidays, traveling or business. 

Here are some ideas for you to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your special someone, as well as with friends. Continue reading


By Maka Boeve

Tenacious is the best way to describe Annalissa Johnson. “Work harder. Work smarter,” is her motto. Her work ethic has paid off in both her professional and political careers. Johnson has not only built a successful dog training business, but has also been Rochester City Council’s Ward 6 member since 2016.   Continue reading

Gray Duck Theater

By Leanna Gerry    

In a world of ever-growing technology, it sometimes seems that our capacity to connect with one another is slipping away. Sensing this relational deficiency, businessman Andy Smith jumped in to fill the void. With the help of his wife, Anna, Smith opened Gray Duck Theater and Coffeehouse near downtown Rochester last May. While expressing international sensibilities, the cinema aims to bring local people together around thought-provoking films.    Continue reading

The Loneliness Epidemic

How It’s Affecting our Seniors
By Nicole L. Czarnomski

Humans live their entire lives as a part of a community. Our social circles begin with family and grow exponentially until the age of retirement, after which they can start to shrink. Because isolation is increasingly common in seniors, it’s believed to be contributing to a loneliness epidemic.    Continue reading

Your Voice Counts!

Vital Civic Engagement in 2020
By Brittney Marschall

2020 Census
An accurate and complete 2020 Census count is vital to our community and state. Census data is used to determine funding for programs and projects ranging from early childhood education to senior nutrition. Here are some of the most important things to know.  Continue reading