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The Frog Pond, full of Rochester history and memories, is for sale

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Jacob Walsh
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CITY
The Frog Pond, a Park Avenue landmark, is for sale.

Any diner can serve up a hot mug of coffee, an omelet or a burger, but The Frog Pond is uniquely Rochester — and it's packed with decades of local history.

"It's this historical, special little bistro with so many Rochester memories," said current owner Kevin Crego, who is looking to sell the restaurant.

When it opened in 1975, it was Charlie's Frog Pond. The original owner, Charlie Carrado, was friends with artist Ramon Santiago, who lived in an apartment upstairs. Santiago's distinctive art still graces the walls of the restaurant where he once hung out.

Crego bought the place 12 years ago from the second owner, Betsy Wilson, and now he feels it's time to sell.

"It's not about selling it for the most money or any of that," he said. "It's about finding, really, the right people or group that are going to run it and take care of it through the next chapter."

There have been a few celebrity sightings over the years at The Frog Pond, including Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and the late actor Robert Forster. Crego said Forster, a Rochester native, stopped by with his friends whenever he was in town.

In August 2013, Park Avenue was abuzz when then-President Barack Obama's motorcade rolled down the street. Obama had lunch at Magnolia Deli & Cafe, but Crego said some of the Secret Service detail ended up at the Frog Pond.

Some customers celebrated big life moments there.

"It's a sentimental place for us," said Leah Noonan. She and her husband, Patrick, had their first date at the Frog Pond in 2011.

"We had a similar schedule where we could only meet for breakfast 'cause I was too busy at night doing a play at Geva," Patrick recalled. "I asked her out to IHOP and she said, 'IHOP? Oh no, no, no.'"

Noonan wedding-Frog Pond.jpg
Stephen Craddock
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Leah and Patrick Noonan on their wedding day in their favorite booth at The Frog Pond in 2014. The Noonans, who now live in Yonkers, had their first date at the restaurant three years earlier.

They sat in a booth near the front window and tried to claim that spot every time they ate there. That's exactly where they were seated when they had their picture taken on their wedding day, Aug. 22, 2014.

"I remember friends and family dining on Park Ave. between our ceremony and reception and then excitedly waving at us as they filed past the window," Leah said.

Crego, a Rochester native who lives most of the time in Miami, is sad about selling The Frog Pond, but his longtime manager, Teresa Martin, is moving on and he knew it was time.

"Most people think she's the owner 'cause she just treats it like her own place and knows customers by name and she's there every day," he said.

Theresa's last day is Sept. 2, and a going-away party is planned for her at the restaurant that day.

Crego, who said he expects to announce a sale in the next few weeks, added that he won't place restrictions on what the next owner does with the place.

"But I don't think it would be smart for them to change (the restaurant) radically because you'd alienate really longtime, loyal customers," he said.

Crego recalled that shortly after he took ownership, he decided to strip off the bright yellow frog motif wallpaper and replace it with a more subtle frog skin pattern.

That didn't go over well with some of the regulars. Luckily, Crego saved the wallpaper and handed out pieces of it to the more nostalgic patrons.

A fact sheet for prospective buyers lists potential opportunities to expand the business by offering delivery options, extending operating hours to include dinner, and selling Frog Pond merchandise.

The current lease for the 1,400-square-foot space ends in 2025 with an option to renew for another five years, according to Crego. He said the landlord, Joseph Alloco, has expressed a willingness to work with a new owner.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.