Christy Mills ’17: Where everybody knows your name

Spring 2018

Christy Mills '17 in her kitchen

Sitting on the mantle at Christy’s Café in Victor, N.Y., is a sign that states “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” a quote from Lewis Carroll’s famed sequel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

It’s fitting for owner Christy Mills ’17, who was once an omelet novice — she now makes some of the best in town.

“I don’t like eggs, but I made tons of omelets the first two weeks [since opening],” she says. “I thought, ‘What if I’m making them wrong and no one’s telling me?’”

A few days later, she had her answer.

“This woman took me aside and said, ‘I used to tell my son he makes the best omelets, and now I’m going to have to tell him that someone else makes better omelets than him.’”

The woman is now a regular at the café, and from time to time, she loans Mills books. (Mills is an avid reader, and vintage book covers adorn the café’s walls.) In a small town like Victor (a suburb of Rochester), the people who keep coming back, whom she has a relationship with, are Mills’s favorites.

Mills’s interest in coffee was piqued when she worked as barista at The Barge in Hamilton (which closed in 2014). After researching the history of coffee and developing a passion for the culture around the drink, Mills decided she wanted to open her own shop.

Serendipitously, last summer, space opened up where a family friend had recently closed her business. That friend not only had the perfect spot for Mills to open up her own venture, but she also served as Mills’s mentor to help get Christy’s Café off the ground.

Though Mills’s passion lies in coffee, Christy’s Café focuses on serving breakfast and lunch. She hopes to delve into more upscale drinks eventually, but for now, she mainly offers locally roasted, fair-trade, organic, drip coffee and a few espresso beverages.

The food menu includes typical café fare — salads, soups, sandwiches, and breakfast items — but there are nods to her favorites from Hamilton restaurants. She offers her own take on the Hamilton Eatery’s “Rachel” (a coleslaw and turkey reuben) as well as Hamilton Whole Foods’s tofu melt.

“I’ve gotta have my favorites,” Mills says.

Mills is 23, and many of her former classmates and friends are entering graduate school. Though she’s not in a conventional classroom, Mills sees owning the café as a vehicle for continuing her education. There are many elements of the coffee world that she doesn’t yet understand, but through learning on the job and reading about coffee on her own time, she’s schooling herself.

“I’m learning every day by figuring out what needs to be done to keep going,” she says.

When she needs inspiration to keep going, Mills can look up on the mantle and see that Lewis Carroll quote.

“The whole café is something that felt impossible, so the fact that it’s happening and we keep going forward, it’s fitting.”

  Rebecca Docter