Evelyn Ingram is the director of community engagement for Wegmans Food Markets; she partners with area nonprofits and helps them fulfill their missions of helping others in the community. She and her husband, Chino, recently purchased a former Presbyterian church on the South Side of Syracuse and they are renovating it into a multi-use event space called The Castle, which is scheduled to open in 2022. Ingram lives in Onondaga Hill.
Were you born and raised in CNY?
I was not. I’m originally from Long Island and I came to Syracuse as a student at Syracuse University.
Why do you choose to stay and make your home here?
You know, I came here as an 18-year-old, full of hope for my future [and] I will be honest that I never intended to stay in Syracuse after I graduated. I’ve really had some great professional opportunities that have led me to find great fulfillment in this area.
What does your “good life” look like and how does CNY play a role?
My good life looks like being able to live in an area where the economy is stable but affordable. And looking at the comparison between the type of home you can purchase in Long Island as compared to the type of home in Syracuse, it’s really a no-brainer. And my good life involves my husband Chino and my son Austin. So it really has provided me the type of life I’ve always wanted to live. I’m blessed to have a great career working for a great company, to have a great family and to have a support network here.
What do you like most about living here?
Well, it’s not the weather! (laughs) My favorite part about living in Central New York is that I feel that Syracuse is a small big city. I feel like I have the ability to have such an impact. I feel like the exposure that I’m given, the opportunities I’m given because of our size — not too big, not too small — it really gives me a sense of achievement and fulfillment. I can really see directly how I’m making an impact on life in Syracuse.
One thing I would add is, I mentioned that I have a son, [he] is in public school here and I think we have a good public school system. When you’re coming from different areas, I do think that’s a benefit. So I am appreciative of the fact of my son being in a smaller school district but having the opportunity to really be exposed to some opportunities that he may not have been exposed to in other larger cities if he were in a public school system.
What makes CNY different from other places you’ve lived?
I think, obviously, not to harp on it, but our weather makes us different. Even though our longest season seems to be winter, I do like being in an area where we get all four seasons. I think there are so many different things that happen with each season. During the fall, you have all the apple festivals and fall festivals. In summertime, you have the Fair, you have all the different downtown festivals. Wintertime, it’s the different ski resorts we have in the area. Spring, just really being able to break through and see all the flowers and birds. I really like the fact that we have all four seasons and there is something to offer at each season from a recreational perspective.
How would you spend a day off in the area?
I am a fan of Skaneateles, so my day would be going to Mirbeau, having a spa day. After that, I would probably walk through the village and have dinner at one of the restaurants there. I like the quaintness, the [feeling] I get when I’m there. I do also like Armory Square, [which] to me, gives you a feeling that you’re in a metropolitan-type city because of the style of shops and restaurants. So, I [would] do a mix of both.
Go-to place to eat?
One of our favorite restaurants is Basil Leaf in North Syracuse and you can’t say no to The Clam Bar, that’s right next door. I like A Mano Kitchen & Bar downtown. I also like Otro Cinco. [When] we just want some good wings, Clinton Street Pub.
First place you take out of town friends or family?
Wegmans and Destiny [USA], those typically are the two places.
Summer; I’m a summertime person.
Favorite way to take advantage of our beautiful outdoors?
I do like Onondaga Lake Park, being able to go there and walk some of their trails and be by the lake. Syracuse Inner Harbor, that’s almost, I feel like, a little hidden treasure. We like doing the wine tours. It’s just a beautiful day; I’m not necessarily a wine drinker but I like the atmosphere of doing the wine tours and going to the different wineries and having lunch. That’s a favorite activity in the summertime.
A place or business you think is underrated or under-discovered?
That’s a good question. I can't think of anything off the top of my head that would fit that.
Favorite memory related to living in CNY?
One of my memories when I came here as a freshman at SU, and I'll never forget, I mean, I knew I was going to Upstate New York. But I think I underestimated how cold it was going to be. And I recall calling my mom and dad and saying “Ya’ll have to send me some other winter wear.” Like, I need some more. This jacket I have up here is not going to cut it and they were like, “What do you mean?” It is freezing up here! Then you’re walking to class… so, I remember that. I also remember a day where I was deceived because it was the wintertime, but the sun was out. So I’m thinking, “Oh it’s a beautiful day, it’s winter,” so I went outside, and it was so cold I barely could stand it. So now that is always my thing, don’t let the sun deceive you in the wintertime in Syracuse because even if it looks sunny, it is still cold out.
How would you describe CNY in a few words?
I would say Central New York is a vibrant up-and-coming city that’s a great place to raise a family.
What do you think we take for granted here?
I'd like to see more opportunities for us to take advantage of the rich diversity that we have in our city. There’s a lot of diversity here, there are a lot of different cultures that are here, so I think being able to provide more opportunities for the blending of these cultures so that people can have [access] to other cultures in a comfortable setting.
Best way to get to know the area better?
Being able to connect with others that are from the city, that’s always a good way. I get asked, “Evelyn, where do you get your hair done?” or do certain personal things. Being able to have that personal interaction with people helps. I do think that initiatives like the Good Life [are] a good way for people to connect, but a lot of times I just think that personal touch and knowing you can connect with a person, even if it’s through an affiliation or an organization. For example, my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, we’re an international organization, so if I move to another area, that could be a connection for me to that city. So, I find that that’s the same way with people coming into this area, connecting with us, connecting to each other through that particular organization. I always encourage people if you have organizations that you’re affiliated with, [connect] with the Syracuse chapter. That gives you an instant connection to people who can direct you, who can help you really acclimate to the area.
Myth about CNY or Upstate you’d like to dispel?
The myth that it's so far away from everything. We’re what? A four-hour drive from NYC, a three-hour drive from Philly, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Toronto. I think we are literally Central New York. We are located in a way where we are accessible to a lot of major cities.
I don't think people always recognize that. My husband and I, we take a lot of day trips to the city (New York). We’ll jump in the car early one morning, drive down to the city, shop all day and come back. And we’re in a place where we can do that. So, I think the myth that that it snows all year round and people are stuck in their houses because of the snow, those kind of myths to me are not true because yes, we get snow, but we’re equipped for it as well. We can still maintain our daily activities even throughout the wintertime.
What do you think people outside of Central New York should know about living here?
Syracuse is a happening city. Syracuse offers a lot. Again when you do the comparison to our cost of living, to even the transportation to get around in the city. I call it the 15-minute city. Everything is 15 minutes away, those are really benefits. We don’t have to worry about rush-hour traffic and things like that. Even for the airport, you don’t have to be at the airport 5 hours early. You can have a 6:30 flight and leave your house at 5 o’clock and be there on time and get through the gate and everything. I mean, those are benefits. If you lived in major cities, that would not be the case at all. Those are things that I really enjoy. When I’m preparing to go to an event or go somewhere, I don't have to account for traffic in my planning. ‘Well, I have to give myself an extra 45 minutes because of all the traffic,’ we don't have to do that. I love that.
You can live your best life in Central New York too!
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