Living Large in a Small Town

Authentic people, engaging stories and hard work make up the essence of Penn Yan

By Christen Smith
Photos by Lyndsi Stoltzfus

Josh Rosenbloom has worked all over the country: Las Vegas, Utah, Maryland, Connecticut and Boston, just to name a few. But his memories of growing up in Corning, NY, and vacationing on Keuka Lake were never far from his mind. “Keuka was always my happy place,” he said. “Then it dawned on me: I should live in my happy place.”

Rosenbloom is the owner of Union Block Italian Bistro in Penn Yan, the second Union Block location he’s opened. The first, located in Hammondsport, NY, has been around for almost 15 years. Union Block specializes in Italian comfort food and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, along with craft beer, wine and cocktails. Rosenbloom says when given the opportunity to open a Penn Yan location, he knew it was a good idea.

“There’s an amazing wine and beer scene in Penn Yan right now,” he said. “Of course wine has always been around and we have some of the best on Keuka Lake in the region. There’s a new brewery popping up every day—I have 10 rotating beers on draft, and I try to use the majority of beers from regional, small, craft breweries.”

Rosenbloom says he believes Penn Yan is about ready to “explode.”

“There are a lot of younger professionals moving into the area with new condos and apartments coming up. Plus there are a lot of neat little restaurants and stores on Main Street. We are right at the beginning of a ‘renaissance’—great food, great restaurants and bars coming in. We welcome all of the new restaurants—nobody is in competition. Penn Yan is a destination to enjoy each other’s company.”


Rose Curry, co-owner of Burnt Rose Wine Bar & Restaurant, didn’t know much about the area before her partner, Chet Thompson, convinced her to give Penn Yan a try.
“I’m from Los Angeles,” she said. “So, I’m used to big cities, but about a year ago I found my way here. Penn Yan is an adorable little town.”

Curry said Chet had spent 25 years as a chef and had always wanted to get back into the restaurant business. When they found the perfect spot on Main Street in Penn Yan, they made the move and began developing the concept for Burnt Rose—with an emphasis on wine and food that is locally sourced.

“We are doing a fresh concept—everything is made daily. If we can’t serve it fresh, we won’t serve it,” said Curry. Burnt Rose offers a menu based on seasonal items with a focus on shareables.

“This is meant to be a full experience,” she said. “Our entire menu is sharable so every person can get an experience. Our menu is representative of many different cultures: French, Italian, Mexican. For example, we just served elote, a Mexican street corn I grew up on that’s common in LA. Our food is just super simple. It’s all about technique and the love that goes into it.”

Having opened this past July, Curry said they also like the idea of tapping the resources from the other local establishments right in town. “We’re trying to cross-utilize by sourcing coffee from Amity Coffee and we get all our bread from Blue Heron Bakery,” she said. “They do such a good job—they are bringing a very similar concept to the area, trying to cross-utilize.”

Chet Thompson and Rose Curry, Burnt Rose Wine Bar & Restaurant


Penn Yan’s name is a shortening of “Pennsylvania Yankee,” said Tricia L. Noel, executive director/curator for the Yates County History Center. “In early days, there were many settlers from New England, who were called ‘Yankees’; a large number had also come from Pennsylvania. To reflect the origins of both groups, Penn Yan was the decided name.”

Opportunity is still drawing people to Penn Yan. It’s what Dan Mitchell says drew him and his wife, Rachel, to open Staving Artist Woodwork on Main Street. Dan says there have been several ideal business locations available in Penn Yan over the past few years and that the local Economic Development team has done an excellent job in finding diverse businesses to fill them.

“The addition of two new hotels has ensured a steady flow of new customers as well,” he said. “We also love the collaborative spirit that we find amongst fellow business owners in downtown Penn Yan.

Maybe this is due to the example set by Finger Lakes wineries and their natural tendency to join forces and lift each other up.”
Dan says Staving Artist is unique because they personally make a majority of the items they sell. What they don’t craft themselves is from other small makers, and almost everything is made locally and 100% USA-produced.

“We believe in creating a unique shopping experience where you can find a number of sustainably designed items [primarily using recycled wine barrels and other reclaimed materials] to encourage a non-disposable lifestyle,” he said. “Rachel and I are partners in every sense of the word and we’ve been told that is really apparent when you enter our shop. A combination of our influences and styles comes through in each corner of the store.”

Sam Solomon, Spotted Duck Creamery
(left) Dan and Rachel Mitchell, Staving Artist; (right) Josh Rosenblum, Union Block Italian Bistro


Just outside of Penn Yan sits Spotted Duck, a farm-to-cone destination specializing in duck egg frozen custard. Their ice cream flights have grown in popularity over the last six years, allowing customers to sample different flavors highlighting the freshest offerings from local farms.

“All of our custards are made on the farm, which is a gathering place for families as well as ice cream aficionados,” said owner Sam Solomon. “We offer a unique experience where you can sample the award-winning ice cream and feed the ducks responsible for your sweet treat.”

Solomon says he sees an exciting future for Penn Yan, with even more food, beverage and entertainment offerings. “We are still in the early stages of growth for the region, and Penn Yan more specifically. With a supportive town that has the back of its businesses, I believe Penn Yan will prosper in the short and long term,” he said. “Hospitality entrepreneurs are driven to Penn Yan because the surrounding wineries, breweries, restaurants and lakes create an ecosystem that is ripe for hospitality. Penn Yan is located perfectly to capitalize on them all.”

Christen Smith is a Canandaigua resident and freelance writer who loves all things Finger Lakes: wines, brews, people and food.

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