Home Style Cooking on Clarissa Street

~ Photos by Bruce Cook

Pops & Mom II” is a true a mom-and-pop restaurant run by Michelle and Oliver Little. Located behind the former Clarissa Room at 293 Clarissa Street, it opened in January and has already established itself as a go-to place, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Michelle once worked for Kodak until she got laid off in 1995 after twelve years with the company. She said to Oliver, “What am I going to do?” Oliver asked her if she would like to take some time off and let him do the work. She worried that they might not survive on one income but decided to give it a try.

By the year 2000, money became tight as the couple struggled to keep up with the various needs of four active children. (The children’s ages range today from 23-31; they also have nine grandchildren) Maintaining a five-bedroom house in Brockport was also expensive. Michelle felt the need to help out financially. 

The couple loved cooking and, over the years, all family events were held at their Brockport house; “from his family to my family, we’re always in our home.” Michelle began selling cakes and pies and to members of their church. Every Sunday they’d come home from church with $300-400 worth of orders and that helped their budget.  

About seven years ago, Oliver was working for a very popular restaurant in Greece and decided he wanted to start his own business on the side. This couple has amazing energy and they both work very hard! They started a liquor store—(Pops & Mom I)—on West Main Street in Rochester, very near Corn Hill, and ran it for six years. Michelle says, “We weren’t too fond of it.” No wonder. They were robbed twice. “ After the second robbery, we decided to close the door.” Then, last year when COVID-19 sent us all into quarantine, Oliver decided he didn’t want to continue at the restaurant where he’d worked for eighteen years. Once again, the food business beckoned. Michelle said to her husband, “I’d rather cook. Let’s feed people what we cook at home.”

The man who’d been the landlord for the liquor store also owned the Clarissa Room and said there was a space in the back of the building. It was empty but needed a lot of work. The office that supervises code enforcement examine the place and found 117 violations. The couple went to work clearing up most of the violations. The few that remain did not prevent them from opening Pops & Mom II in January. The only restriction was that everything had to be takeout. No dining in because of COVID restrictions. It was slow at first.

“We had somebody go hand out flyers throughout the neighborhood and let them know that we’re a small family-run restaurant and you’re more than welcome to come in and try us. We’ve been getting more and more Corn Hill people, which is very good.”

Their best-selling item is a meat sauce made from Oliver’s secret formula. “I don’t know the recipe,” says Michelle. “So I make a lot of the side things.” Among those sides is Michelle’s very popular salad—their second best-selling item. “Everything [in it] is organic. Everything. The only thing that not good is the dressing because people love “the ranch. But everything else is organic.”

Their offerings have become so popular that they have branched out into catering. They’ve already provided food for five wedding receptions this year and more are on the schedule. Then, in August, they will move into the front part of the building.

“It’ll just be a little eat-in place. There won’t be any alcohol, except on special occasions. I didn’t want to dibble-dabble with that. We still have our liquor license and we’re waiting for Rochester to give us the okay to do a wine and cheese tasting. There won’t’ be any curtains on that front window. It’ll be nice so you can see in. There’ll be two televisions. I think there’ll be one pool table, a couple of dartboards. Just a lounge. There’re be some jazz playing, a little bit of country [provided by a juke box], but there’ll be a lot of jazz because we both listen to jazz.”

[Pops & Mom II is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Mondays.]

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