Ray Ray's Bar is a family affair

05:00 AM, Apr 12, 2013

Bartender Keila Santiago of Rochester serves up a watermelon martini at Ray Ray's Bar & Grill, 2260 Clifford Ave. (Gretchen Lee Carletta)/

Written By Leah Stacy

Ray Ray's Bar and Grill

Location: 2260 Clifford Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
More info: (585) 413-1661 and facebook.com/RayRaysBarGrill.

When patrons return to Ray Ray’s Bar and Grill, it’s not unusual for the bartenders to greet them by name.

That’s due in part to the family atmosphere created by owners Raymond and Nelida “Nellie” Rivera, who opened the bar in July 2012.

People say they feel comfortable here, it feels like home,” says Nellie, who manages Ray Ray’s.

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The couple’s original plan was to open a liquor store, but they opted for the challenge of a bar and restaurant combination once they saw the space (previously occupied by Lombardi’s Bar and Grill).

My mother-in-law lives right up the street here, so we drove by and saw the sign for rent,” said Nellie. “We saw a bunch of possibilities and just went for it.”

Within a few months, they opened with the name Ray Ray’s (the name of their 18-year-old son) and began to hone a menu and vibe for the space.

The Riveras are both lifelong Rochester residents, so friends and family not only make up a large part of their customer base, but a large number of the 10-person staff is family as well.

Raymond, 50, is a full-time RTS bus driver. Nellie, 46, worked at Time Warner Cable for 22 years before her department was relocated to South Carolina in October.

When faced with the choice to accept severance or move with the department, Nellie chose to stay in Rochester and focus full-time on Ray Ray’s.

The restaurant’s menu has a local flavor: There’s a Ray Ray’s Plate and a Ray Ray’s junk wrap (a plate in a wrap). During football season, another favorite is the “Pitcher of Wings and Pitcher of Beer” combo.

For the next few months, Ray Ray’s will continue to mix the menu with major league sports on the televisions and a little live merengue in hopes of enticing a diverse crowd to fill the space seven days a week.

Being new owners, there are hard times and we feel overwhelmed sometimes, but most days we look around and say, ‘Wow, we made the right choice,’ ” says Nellie. “It’s the people that make us feel this way, because they’re so happy to be here and that makes us happy.”