SCHENECTADY — After a long day of running Ambition Coffee & Eatery, Marc Renson just wants a place to relax.
“I’m going to Key Largo!” he’ll shout to his husband, Greg, before stepping out the door of their Rugby Road home and into the tropical paradise his porch has become. It’s filled with tiki torches, palm trees, succulents, flamingo decorations and Florida-themed artwork that Renson installed earlier this year.
“This is like a sanctuary now,” Renson said.
He and Greg own a home in Florida, and before the coronavirus pandemi, they would visit nearly every other month. It’s become a special place for them over the years, especially since they got married there.
Yet, with the travel restrictions surrounding COVID-19, they have not been able to visit since March.
“I just can’t get down there and right now the community that it’s in, they are not allowing visitors. Unless you’re immediate family, you’re not allowed in because of COVID,” Renson said when The Gazette spoke with him this summer.
“So I can’t have a friend go down and check on the place. If worse comes to worst, I could fly down there and check it out, but now the quarantine is two weeks down there and two weeks back. I’m stuck for a month quarantining.”
On top of that, Renson has been working at the Jay Street eatery nearly every day because staffing has been tight during the pandemic and Greg also had to undergo major surgery this summer, so they had to be even more careful in terms of safety.
“These are all my little reasons for doing this porch. I’m just stuck,” Renson said.
This also isn’t the first time the porch has been reworked. In 2011, when Hurricane Irene hit, a large oak tree toppled onto their home, damaging the roof and porch.
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“That was when ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ was being filmed too. … So as I was feeding Bradley Cooper, I’ve got a freaking tree that falls on my house,” Renson marvels.
The year after they had the porch repaired, Renson began adding a few decorative touches.
“I started putting the plants out little by little. Then this year, I really went gung-ho just because I’m stuck here,” Renson said. “I put the pink flamingos out, put the turtle lights out, the tiki torches out. This year I went a little wild.”
There’s a brightly colored bench with drink holders, buoy decorations, a lighthouse (with a working light), a wine glass from their wedding and some outdoor furniture that’s been in Renson’s family for years, something that goes well with the historic Rugby Road home.
Built in 1909 and designed by Andrew Averrett, the house blends Queen Anne with a bungalow style.
It’s part of the General Electric Realty Plot, and the couple moved there from the Stockade in 2000. Most of the original molding is still intact inside and they’ve kept as much of the original fixtures as they could.
As much as Renson loves the house, the porch has become his main hangout space over the past few months. He spends as much time as he can out there, and the space is large enough for him to be able to host a few friends and remain socially distant, though he hasn’t done that often.
“I have to be very careful because of the restaurant and my employees. I can’t get sick. I can’t give it to my employees. I’ve got to be really careful what I do,” Renson said. “I’m really laying low.”
The porch provides the perfect spot to do just that, and the decorations culminate with a large print of the view outside their Florida Keys home. Taken at sunset, the photo reflects a sense of peace.
“That’s what I’m missing right now. I kind of tried to replicate that here,” Renson said.
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