Lounge in Village Gate offers a different 'Vibe'

05:00 AM, Feb 08, 2013

Vibe Lounge in Village Gate. (Gretchen Lee Carletta)/

Written By Leah Stacy

Location: 302 N Goodman St (in Village Gate next to Salina’s)
Hours: 5 p.m. - midnight Sunday through Wednesday; 5 p.m. – 2 a.m., Thursday through Saturday.
For more info: (585) 442-8423 or go to Vibe Lounge

For the visionaries behind Vibe Lounge in Village Gate, the kinks of working together were smoothed out 30 years ago during school lunch periods, gym classes and walks through the locker-lined halls of a historical Rochester institution.

Co-founders Gerald Cunningham, Tyrone Ashford and Gus Williams met while they were attending Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School (then, it was also a middle school and known as Wilson School of Performing Arts and Academy of Excellence in Science and Technology). Even then, they’d discuss business ideas and partnerships for the future.

The trio drifted apart after school, though Cunningham, a consultant at Xerox, and Williams, who worked as an electrical technician at Kodak and bartended at different clubs throughout the city, kept in touch. They didn’t talk to Ashford for nearly 20 years – but in the meantime, he was working in the real estate and financial industry. Without consciously trying, the childhood friends were building the individual skills and expertise necessary to run a business together.

All of the sudden we were reunited by chance (in 2011),” says Cunningham. “We decided to catch up and that’s when we brainstormed this concept.”

Using Ashford’s real estate network, they began to explore spaces for a possible nightclub. Village Gate was an ideal spot, but the first place they toured (now Dark Horse Coffee’s home) was too small for their vision.

Months later, the space that housed both The Houghton Book Shop and Moodmakers Books was up for lease—and the time was right.

The sheer size gives us flexibility,” says Williams.

Vibe Lounge opened in May 2012 as a live entertainment club and lounge. The interior has a big city loft feel, with exposed pipes suspended from the two-story ceilings, cement floors and raw brick walls. Groups of dark leather armchairs and coffee tables allow for a relaxing way to enjoy conversation and concerts alike.

We wanted to have a multi-functional space for events, dining, comedy shows and live music,” says Cunningham. “Rochester especially wants the music.”

He added that private party rentals have also been popular, from baby showers to birthday parties. Live entertainment like house DJs, stand-up comedians and local jazz singers draws a regular crowd. Friends and families of the trio have responded excitedly, though everyone is anxious for the impending opening of a kitchen (which is scheduled for late spring or summer of this year).

A lot of people were surprised when we came up with this idea,” says Ashford. “But our goal is to maintain and enlarge a diverse audience.”

Part of that goal includes expanding their reach by word-of-mouth referrals and to host performers during the next annual Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.

For all three men, opening Vibe is a dream come true – and one they hope to sustain.