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Column: Bittersweet has got all the sweet with none of the bitter

by Tori Martinez - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Apr 4th 2017 10:35 pm
Photos taken by Emma Misiaszek/PHOTO EDITOR

Bittersweet offers a variety of crafts, knick-knacks, pottery and jewelry. Store owner Darlene Trento has operated Bittersweet for 35 years, opening the store very soon after graduating from Brockport.
Photos taken by Emma Misiaszek/PHOTO EDITOR Bittersweet offers a variety of crafts, knick-knacks, pottery and jewelry. Store owner Darlene Trento has operated Bittersweet for 35 years, opening the store very soon after graduating from Brockport.
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 If there's one thing people close to me know, it's that I love small and cute things, the kind of things that are miniscule enough to fit in your hands and be set somewhere as a decoration. Little trinkets, figurines, toys and random decor; if it's small and collectable, I am guaranteed to like it. Imagine my delight when I stepped into Bittersweet, a shop I'd describe as something between a country store and boutique, on the corner of Main and Market Street. 

Heavy wooden double doors open up to a wondrous maze of an emporium, walls and shelves overflowing with vintage candle holders and picture frames, American art work in a multitude of forms whether it be paintings, jewelry or pottery and so much more. You'll have to go in and see everything for yourself, because that would be a lot more fun than reading a long list here.

You've definitely seen Bittersweet before, even if you didn't know what it was. The building is arguably Brockport's most famous landmark. Originally a bank, the 1871 three-story brick Victorian building, with its old Ivory soap advertisement, is the center of our historic downtown Main Street in Brockport.

Bittersweet, owned by The College at Brockport alumna Darlene Trento, opened up 35 years ago in the building that is now where The Red Bird Cafe and Giftshop is and has been in its current location for 25 years. I can't imagine that building being anything but Bittersweet and I'm glad it's there-Bittersweet deserves to be in a building as beautiful as its products. The historic look of the building adds to the atmosphere and beauty of the store.

Similar to the owner of Java Junction, Trento graduated and almost immediately opened Bittersweet. After graduation, she worked at a Pier 1 Imports in Irondequoit. She said she used to joke with other employees, saying, "You know, I'm going to do this someday. I'm going to open my own place." 

And what do you know, four months later she started her own business at the age of 21.

"I just took out a loan, gave it a shot, and here I am 35 years later," she said.

At the time, her father suggested she go work for Kodak in Rochester. With five children, her father had money on his mind, but as a young woman ready to chase her dream of owning her own business like her mother and grandmother did, Trento wanted more. She originally went to school for nursing, but after two years, she realized it just wasn't for her and switched over to business and psychology, preparing to follow the footsteps of the women before her.

"I think it was in my blood to own a store," she said.

The store was significantly smaller than it is now. When she started, she only really sold wicker baskets and jewelry. As time went on and she earned more money, she slowly added to the merchandise, turning it into the store it is today. 

The store was named after the bittersweet vine, a beautiful yet invasive plant with yellow flowers and orange bittersweet berries. Whenever Trento's mom saw bittersweet growing somewhere, a rarity for them, she'd pull the car over and have all her kids jump out to quickly pick it. These are memories that Trento holds near. Without the inspiration from her mother, both as a business owner and from cherished memories, I don't know how different the store would be, but it would be noticeable for sure. 

She keeps a vine wrapped around a ladder hanging from the ceiling, something you'd probably never notice if someone didn't tell you. Like the vines of bittersweet, Trento's own history is tangled, intertwined in the history of Brockport.

I have finally decided this is my favorite store in Brockport (sorry Lift Bridge). I don't think I could ever feel anything other than happiness when I walk in, exploring for treasures. Long wide windows stretch from the ground almost to the ceiling with displays that show only but a glimpse of the magic inside. You'll see wind chimes, bird cages, wooden and metal signs and posters, and various pottery like plates, mugs and salt and pepper shakers. Like I said, only a glimpse of everything else.

What I love is that there's something for everyone's price range. There are definitely things in there that are completely out of a college student's price range. Some jewelry, art and pottery can get pretty expensive, but there's tons of stuff that students can afford. I'm not about to walk in and buy a bird cage or $100 jewelry, but I can afford a $5 incense burner or a $13 mug, you know? 

Trento is always ordering and buying new things to sell in her store, typically from art and craft shows in Pennsylvania, New York City and Boston, so you'll never run out of things to search for. Bittersweet is the kind of store you can get lost in, wondering how you spent an hour walking around when it only felt like 15 minutes. 

Now that spring is upon us, it'll be too nice not to take a stroll down Main Street. Go grab a latte or a cappuccino across the street and saunter on over. I promise you won't regret it.

lifestyles.editor@gmail.com

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