There is no doubt that downtown York is an incredibly exciting place. The only thing missing to make it the perfect vision of artist paradise I know it will soon be? The opening of it’s very own wine bar! A local LGBT businessman is working hard to correct that. If you’ve never met dashing and classically charming local entrepreneur Robert Godfrey hosting a gallery wine tasting or a special event, just know that you will soon. A victim of harsh teenage bullying, Robert even entered into a heterosexual marriage seeking to earn the approval of his family and community. Today, he is a prime example of a courageous man who chose to turn being harassed into motivation for personal success and community empowerment. Meet today’s life HERO!
I am Robert C Godfrey Jr, but you don’t have to be that formal… I am 49 years old and have lived in York my whole life except during college. I am a senior clinical consultant in healthcare and I help hospitals all across the country implement and maintain their electronic medical record systems.
I am a downtown supporter. I eat, drink and shop downtown York. I am involved in the art community and an art collector. Had I not gone into the computer field, I would have been an artist. I have some talent and have done some of my own painting, but never had the experience of training. I love what is happening with the art scene in York. We are fortunate to have this grow and grow every year. Growing up there was nothing in the city to do. My high school friends would ride the circuit, something you don’t hear about much anymore. I was never interested in that. I started working at 15 for Spangler’s Grocery store as a bag boy and saved money to go to college. I don’t remember there being any resources available when I was young, but I really wasn’t looking for them. I really focused on my career. It was an easy way to shut out those thoughts.
I really don’t even really have a “coming out” story. I was never really interested in dating, went to the Prom with friends… was interested in my career and worked and went to school. I was picked on as a kid in school quite a bit and called all the bad gay words you can think and never understood what they were talking about but it made me feel so bad about myself that I just went the career path instead. As I got older I had some inclinations, but always had this other voice that knew I wasn’t a bad person and those feelings from back in junior high would come back and I would suppress my true self… to the point that a few others pushed me to get married to a woman I even remember on my wedding day I wanted to walk out but felt I would disappoint my mother. I ended up with 2 children and a wife who years later was in a terrible automobile accident… that event made me realize that I wasn’t happy doing what everyone else expected and needed to move on.
I raised both of my children as a single father. It wasn’t until about 6 years ago that I actually met Andrew, the love of my life while working in Detroit, MI. A year later we were married and now we are opening a wine bar… who knew?? Raising children is the hardest job anyone will ever do.
I think today it is much easier, but I don’t initially trust anyone with the information about my sexuality. I know that some people will discriminate against me for that fact and have had that situation early on in my career. I always persevered, moved past them, left the company for something bigger and better. Today I don’t feel the need to tell people that I am gay. It is a part of me like my eyes are blue. People will either like me for me or not. Being gay should have nothing to do with it.
My husband Andrew and I were married in August of 2010 in Toronto. It was legal there and not here. My children are great with everything. We really never had a big gay discussion. My daughter was out living on her own when we met and my son is fine with everything. He attended the very small service in Toronto along with a few family and friends (only 20 people were there). Andrew and Corey have a strong relationship. I think my son looks at Andrew as more of a friend than parent and often times will discuss things with him, that he won’t with “his dad”. My son recently graduated from college and is now back in York trying to figure out what he is going to do with his education and back living with us
For fun, I like to dine out with friends, art openings, movies, wine tastings, most types of music and I love to entertain. I also throw in a play every now and then. Andrew and I enjoy traveling the world. That is what introduced me to wine. Traveling will open up your experiences and your culture. It gives you new perspectives on the world we live in.
A little over 3 years ago the idea popped into my head that we should have a wine bar in York and that it would be fun to open and run one. It would add to what is going on downtown. I was excited to see the new shops opening, new restaurants and wanted to be part of making a difference in my town. I also enjoyed visiting wine bars through out my travels and with the opening of so many brew pubs in York, it only seemed logical that we needed a wine bar.
I discussed the idea with Andrew and we started looking at properties. We looked at quite a few spaces. The former Formpress building was one and I pretty much knew that day, it was the space for us and for The Handsome Cab. The building itself also allowed us to add an element of art to the building with its space upstairs. We are going to have a 2 room art gallery that will be called The Cab Gallery, with ongoing shows through out the year and 5 artists that will rent studios from us. We are hoping to open this space sometime this summer. We will also be serving small plates, be open for lunch, have a late night happy hour on weekends, open 7 days a week, and the kitchen will be open after 9PM. We will have micro brews, bottled beer and artisan cocktails available as well.
It just kind of happened in a way almost like it was meant to be. As most things in my life there have been so many obstacles in the way, I usually won’t take no for an answer, my father always told me that and I guess it is true.