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new flats home for efficiency consultants dazzles

Earlier this month, TPI Efficiency Consulting moved into newly renovated offices at 2020 Center Street in the Flats. The energy efficiency consultants previously occupied a 3,700-square-foot space at 1250 River Road above the space that once housed the storied Watermark restaurant, which closed more than 10 years ago.
 
With natural light pouring in from a glass atrium roof insert and vintage floor-to-ceiling windows framing stunning views of the surrounding historic neighborhood, TPI's new office is a dazzler.
 
"It's a fantastic bright place to work," says Lenny Carlsen, TPI's director of client services.
 
Ironically, the company was obliged to forego a cutting-edge energy efficiency plan during the build out.
 
"With historical buildings," says TPI president and founder Roger Zona, "LEED certification goes pretty much goes out the window."
 
Hence, Zona did as much as he could, outfitting the offices with LED lighting and a robust air circulation system. Depending on how comfortable the space is in the summer, he may opt to have 3M Industrial film installed on the atrium glass to fend off the blazing sun, but it's a pricey prospect. Thus far, TPI has invested $100,000 in the remodel, a figure that could double courtesy of the 3M window treatment.
 
While Zona acted as his own general contractor, he hired Harrington Electric to upgrade the lighting and wiring. HSB Architects and Engineers helped with the interior design.

"Renovations started in late October on the day we closed," he says.
 
Per Zona, the handsome brick structure was originally built as a metal forgery in the late 1800's. Most recently home to queue of defunct restaurants, the 13,000-square-foot space works beautifully as a two-story office with an airy floor plan and room for expansion, unlike the Old River Road location.
 
Buoyed by a municipal economic incentive grant of $45,000, Zona purchased the Center Street building for $416,500.
 
"They really held our hand walking through it and made it as seamless and painless as possible," he says of Councilman Joe Cimperman and Kevin Schmotzer of Cleveland Economic Development during the grant application process. "They really helped us get it approved very quickly." To be sure: TPI closed the deal less than 60 days after they found the property.
 
The grant will be forgiven if TPI hires three to seven employees over the next three years. To Zona, the prospect is not problematic.
 
"We're anticipating getting a lot bigger than that," says Zona, adding that he anticipates having more than 40 employees in the Cleveland office by then. The company currently employs about 22. Zona is also eyeing expansions into Pittsburgh, Chicago and Columbus over the next three to five years.
 
He credits TPI's growth to an old-school business creed: you have to give clients face time.
 
"There's a value in physically walking out and shaking hands and meeting the people you work with," says Zona. As he watches demand for energy consumption consultation rise, he's confident that he'll have to hire more people to continue providing the level of service his customers expect. "We're not going to have call center in another state."
 
Clients include entities such as the Ashtabula YMCA, the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown and Hattie Larlham. TPI advises them on how to efficiently consume an array of resources, from electricity to refuse services.
 
"This is my first place on the West Side—the west bank of the river," quips Zona, who lives in a townhome on West 10th. He estimates the walk between the new office and his front door at five to seven minutes.
 
Zona founded TPI in 2009 out of a West 9th Street apartment, where he also lived. He moved the company to the Warwick Communications Building, 2806 Payne Avenue, in 2011 and then to the Old River Road location in 2012.
 
While he laments the loss of the river view, Zona enjoys the "old world" feel of the Center Street neighborhood.
 
"I like the flats," he says. "I like the history of it."
 
TPI's new offices are populated by several large-scale sculptures by Artur Vasilevich, many of which are for sale. The one featured in the above slideshow has a secret: her mouth is actually the deck of a commercial pizza oven, which is also for sale.

 

developer forsakes chicago for the 216, snaps up vintage space in campus district

Twenty-year development veteran Chris Matan is buying into Cleveland in more ways than one.
 
Not only did he leave the Windy City -- his hometown -- to marry wife Ivana three and a half years ago, he closed just last month on a 25,000-square-foot building at 2104 Superior Avenue.
 
Matan sees nothing but possibilities in the long-vacant space.
 
"It's raw, open, undeveloped loft space," says Matan, "basically gutted out to the brick." The building features four floors with 12- to 14-foot ceilings and a basement. Only the first floor has lighting, although the entire building is outfitted with sprinklers.
 
Matan believes the building dates to the early 1900's. It previously housed a chrome plating company and other tenants. He paid $185,000 for the property, which is his first foray into commercial development.
 
Matan envisions residential space for the upper floors and a new food concept that would "bridge the gap between food trucks and traditional brick and mortar restaurants," on the first floor.
 
"I want to be able to give the food entrepreneur the opportunity to get into a food space for themselves at a relatively low cost entry," says Matan. "I don't think it is being done right now."
 
He stresses that the plans are highly tentative. "There are no commitments or anything like that. We're just putting feelers out there," he says. "We're not swinging a hammer tomorrow."
 
Matan joins a growing list of non-Clevelanders coming to the 216 and finding a city in renaissance instead of a crumbling industrial ruin.
 
"You're starting to see foreigners (for lack of a better word) come in and look at some of this real estate and start snapping it up," he says. "When you've got eyes coming from other cities, be it New York City or Chicago, it's a positive for the area."
 
His recollection of coming to Cleveland and discovering the grid of streets that make up the Campus District stands in contrast to that of many natives.
 
"When I first moved here, I'd drive around the area and it shocked me -- the product that was here, the warehouse buildings so close to downtown. Nothing was happening," he says. "I kind of saw the future in some of these buildings."
 
So did his neighbors at Lake Affect Studios and 2044 Euclid Avenue, which are all part of the collective rebirth of the burgeoning campus area and Cleveland at large.
 
"I've seen over the last three years what's going on in the Campus District, on the West Side, Downtown, the development that's happening," muses Matan.
 
"People in Cleveland should take notice: this is happening before their eyes."

clifton boulevard-style transit eyed for 25th street corridor

A study conducted by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) and funded by the Cleveland Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners regarding the West 25th Street corridor (extending from the State Road intersection north to Detroit Avenue) has concluded that a dense residential neighborhood and reliable transit line go hand in hand.
 
The final report for the W. 25th Transit Oriented Development Strategy is due out at the end of this month, but Fresh Water got a preview from Wayne Mortensen, CNP's director of design and development.
 
"The study was designed to answer two sets of very critical interrelated questions. One being: what is the ultimate desired level of transit along corridor in terms of frequency, service and style?" says Mortensen, adding that the other focus was on the amount and type of area housing that would be required in order to support that transit and sustain it economically.
Wayne Mortensen 
"West 25th is perhaps the most critical north/south connection in the city of Cleveland," he says of the 3.8-mile stretch, "and definitely for the West Side."
 
The group conducted three public meetings using eight different working groups, each of which focused on a separate issue including, commerce, education, housing, the pedestrian experience, recreation, services, transit and workforce.
 
"One of the most poignant points of feedback came from workforce group," says Mortensen. The group cited a hypothetical single mother, who might rely on public transit for daily stops at a daycare facility, a workplace and a grocery store. "She is relying on transit to be on time and efficient six to eight times a day. That's not something a lot of people in Cleveland understand or empathize with."
 
To meet those needs, the study concludes that a transit system similar to the Cleveland State Line, which runs along Clifton Boulevard, would be the best fit. Mortensen cites the line's frequency, improved waiting environments and a dedicated bus lane during certain times of the day. The line is also branded.
 
"So everyone knows when they hop on exactly where they're headed. It's more friendly in terms of way-finding and getting around the city," says Mortensen. "That's the closest example to what we think we can achieve.
 
"I want to be clear: we don't think of this as the next Euclid Health Line," he adds. "This is not as invasive or as capital intensive as what we see on Euclid."
 
In order to support transit efficiency similar to the Clifton Boulevard experience and keep that mom on time, a certain level of population density is required, which leads to the housing portion of the study.
 
"Depending on which part of corridor we're in," says Mortensen, "every housing project should be at least eight to 12 units per acre in terms of concentration density and be of an urban quality."
 
But is density desirable? That's a subjective question. It is, however, natural for areas such as the 25th Street corridor.
 
"Urban neighborhoods are more predisposed to attracting residents that have proactively--or just through the logistics of their lives have--foregone private transit," says Mortensen. Since people opt out of public transit for different reasons, they breed diversity in the urban communities they populate while creating a customer base for the public transit suppliers.
 
Committing to residential density leads to perhaps the most challenging implication of the study.
 
"It's going to be really important that all the community development corporations and communities work together and nobody develops projects along the corridor or within a ¼ mile that create less dense residential neighborhoods."
 
It's a tall order, one that Mortensen estimates could take up to 10 years.
 
"What's most important is patience by the community right now."
 

new ohio city grocer offers organic, gourmet options from across the 216

Earlier this month, Rachel Kingsbury took a leap into the world of entrepreneurship and opened her quirky storefront shop, The Grocery, 3815 Lorain Avenue, riding on an indisputable impetus.
 
"Everyone eats," says Kingsbury as she prepares a pour-over cuppa for a customer.
 
True enough, but the waters run deeper than that. She elaborates: "If you go to Chicago or a European city or anywhere that's a little bigger than Cleveland, their neighborhoods are connected by having entertainment districts that meld into amenities for the people that live there: grocery stores, hardware shops, laundry services, things like that."
 
Ohio City is surely in that league, with it's bustling entertainment district along West 25th Street, but why take on established giants such as the West Side Market and Dave's?
 
"What makes me different is I will only carry organic produce," she says. "I feel it's important to take a stand and have good food readily available."
 
Here in the middle of a northeast Ohio winter, most of that produce comes from the Cleveland Produce Terminal, 3800 Orange Avenue, which carries certified USDA organic fruits and vegetables. Kingsbury will add locally grown items when they become available in the fairer months.
 
The inviting shop is also heavy on the gourmet goodies. Try beef jerky or smoked pork rillettes from Saucisson, an array of raviolis from Ohio City Pasta, or cheese from Ohio Farm Fresh Direct's grass-fed livestock. There's even Cleveland Kraut for old-school customers.
 
Kingsbury worked with the city of Cleveland to secure a low percentage Neighborhood Retail Assistance Program Loan in order to make the project a reality.
 
"Kevin Schmotzer of Cleveland Economic Development and his team really helped me through whole process." Specifics on the incentive are confidential.
 
She had another advocate, significant other Justin Carson, cofounder of Platform Beer Co., 4125 Lorain Avenue.
 
"(Justin) says the difference between an entrepreneur and someone with an idea is that the entrepreneur does it." Considering Condé Nast Traveler recently mentioned Platform's Anathema as a notable quaff in the country's #1 beer city (Cleveland), his simple advice is worth taking.
 
"You just have to do it," says Kingsbury.
 
The former employee of Town Hall, Johnny Mangos and Liquid Planet is indeed "doing it" as a steady flow of customers come into the approximately 600-square-foot space for sandwiches made with bread from the Stone Oven, sauces and oils from the Gust Gallucci Company, Randy's Pickles and vegan, gluten-free cookies, granolas, and treats handmade by her sister Liz Kingsbury, who also created the shop's sprawling tree mural.
 
The scene, however welcoming, is not necessarily what the fresh-faced businesswoman had planned.
 
"When I was little," she recalls, "I wanted to be a Supreme Court judge." That's a far cry from a Lorain Avenue grocer, but Kingsbury isn't disappointed.
 
"This is more fun."
 

unique vinyl record mastering engineer moves into 78th street studios

Considering only about 30 people across the nation do what Clint Holley does, Cleveland is very lucky to have him and his small business Well Made Music.
 
"I'm the guy who takes your audio and transfers it to a record for the first time," says the vinyl mastering engineer. "I make an acetate or a lacquer."
 
He heretofore operated out of his home, but will be moving into 78th Street Studios next month. He's been sprucing up the 1,200-square-foot space since July, along with digital mastering engineer Adam Boose of Cauliflower Audio. While the two will share the space and often collaborate on projects, their businesses are separate entities.
 
Vinyl is an odd business. While sales are soaring (some eight million vinyl records were sold last year, up nearly 50 percent from 2013 according to the Wall Street Journal), the machinery used in their production is as rare as the people who know how to operate it. This is doubly true for Holley as he owns two mastering lathes.
 
"I got in before the vinyl craze started and got really lucky with my first machine. I paid around $28,000 for it five years ago. Now they're $50,000 to $60,000," says Holley. "Nobody knows how many are still in existence. It's very difficult to get into this business now."
 
The lathes Holley uses were produced between the 1950's and 1980's. There were only about 500 made and their use is mandatory in the vinyl record making process. Holley's models were manufactured by the legendary Georg Neumann company in Germany and he uses them to machine the first record, which becomes a template of sorts.
 
"I make the first one," says Holley. "Every one after that is an exact copy of what I make. The pieces that I make become the stampers."
 
When he's finished with them, Holley's stampers go to a studio such as Gotta Groove Records and are used in special presses, rare in their own right, to stamp record after record.
 
The boom in vinyl was one impetus for Holley's move to 78th Street, but it wasn't the only one.
 
"It's kind of a solitary job. You work by yourself," and when you work from home you end up spending a great deal of time there. "You start to feel a little crazy after a while," says Holley. "I thought it would be good to get around some creative people."
 
He also sees his operation as part of a loftier goal for Cleveland, the creation of a music production infrastructure, which goes far beyond good musicians and hip concert venues.
 
"In cities like Nashville or New York or Los Angeles, they have an infrastructure to get people to produce music. They have studios and production facilities. Cleveland is starting to build that infrastructure," he says, tagging his business, Gotta Groove and area studios.
 
"We're looking for a way to bring all these people together and put us on the map."

new york developer bets on both sides of the 216: east and west

Two New York based developers have taken note of the renaissance illuminating the 216 and have decided to get in on the action on both the east and west sides of town.
 
Community, Preservation & Restoration (CPR) Properties has purchased apartment buildings at 13450 Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights and 3199 West 14th Street in Tremont. CPR partners Noah Smith and Ted Haber are naming the buildings Canterbury House and The Edison respectively.
 
"We're not in Cleveland by accident," says Smith, who has been in development for 25 years. "We're only in markets that we feel are exploding."
 
CPR purchased Canterbury House for $475,000 in 2013 and subsequently sunk $300,000 into renovations. The 20,000-square-foot building houses studio apartments and one-bedrooms with approximate square footages ranging between 400 and 650, and rents from $575 to $675. Currently, the building is at 50 percent capacity with eight units available to lease, which Smith believes will be filled by spring or early summer. He hopes to attract mostly eclectic "characters," which he defines as working people who are interesting.
 
"You build a certain type of mouse trap," says Smith, "you get a certain type of mouse."
 
At first blush, the intent sounds subjective, but on a deepere level it speaks to community development and nurturing an investment. Smith explains: "Our work over the years has showed us that when you renovate a building and bring in good people you increase the desirability of the neighborhood. In turn, they make your property more desirable and the value of the building goes up."
 
Canterbury House also has two vacant retail spots, both of which are approximately 800-square-feet. Smith hopes to attract start up businesses to fill the spaces by offering them at "a very low price." To that end, he's been in contact with Cleveland Heights Economic Development Department.
 
Renovations for The Edison on the other side of town have not yet begun, but are slated to commence as early as next month or March. CPR paid $400,000 for the 28,000-square-foot building, which houses 35 units and is at 50 percent capacity.
 
Of the evocative names, says Smith, "Part of what we do is brand buildings to create a unified image. It helps to create a sense of place." In keeping with that concept, CPR's vision for The Edison is sure to attract a certain demographic.
 
"We're going to refashion the apartments in sort of a steampunk style," says Smith.
 
Both projects are a perfect fit for CPR.
 
"We're always looking for good deals in parts of town where we can take things that are outliers and make them really nice so we can attract good people. Slowly by degrees, that's how places get better," says Smith. "You won't find a single building in our portfolio that isn't a beautiful historic building. Part of our passion is preserving things for generations to come."
 
Above all, however, he credits people for recreating places.
 
"Those tenants that come in are the greatest asset to any neighborhood revival," says Smith. "They become an ambassador, to the area and the businesses."
 

habitat for humanity set to open second restore in north randall

Fortified with grants of $25,000 and $75,000, respectively from the Gund and Cleveland Foundations, Habitat for Humanity will be opening the area's second ReStore location this spring at 4601 Northfield Road.
 
Similar to the existing ReStore at 2110 West 110th Street, the North Randall location will sell a mix of new and used furniture, appliances, housewares and construction materials. The new location is adjacent to a number of discount retail outlets as well as a Salvation Army thrift store, but ReStore director Matt Haren feels confident that the venture will add a new dimension to the existing competition.
 
"I think we're bringing in that uniqueness of furniture and building materials and household wares," he says.
 
The new 22,000-square-foot space requires some updates. The work is being financed by the grant money and will include flooring repair, new restrooms, a delivery door and a new employee/volunteer lunchroom to accommodate the planned staff of five and diverse volunteer pool. ReStore attracts volunteers through organizations that cater to the disabled, low-income and disadvantaged such as Bridges to Transition, Towards Employment and LEAP.

The new site, which formerly housed a Unique Thrift outlet, will feature a 16,000-square-foot showroom and the same policies, product mix and layout as the successful West Side store, which turns around its inventory in a brisk 90 days.
 
"We're going to try and mimic the same philosophy and culture we have here and transport it over to the east side," says Haren. One of the reasons the formula works is that it's a win-win-win, for customers, workers and even the folks supplying all the merchandise.

"The donor population sees us as being able to move stuff into the community in both a recycling aspect and repurposing aspect," says Haran, "but also in taking those proceeds and applying them to our mission of putting families into homes."
 
The grand opening is tentatively scheduled for April 2. Haren hopes the day marks a new partnership between Habitat for Humanity and the North Randall community, as well as that entire southeast quadrant of the county.

"From our perspective," he says, "it's a community center. The community will shape what we're going to be all about."

indian street food, international sports bar coming to campus district

If the student can't get to Mumbai, Mumbai shall come to the student … and teacher, and regular Cleveland joe and anyone else who's interested in a plate of vada pav or pani puri.
 
Those dishes, along with an entire menu of classic Indian street food will be available at the new eatery Bombay Chaat, 2044 Euclid Avenue, as early as March 1st. Entrepreneurs Hetal Patel and her husband Nehal are putting forth the venture. 
 
"They wanted to do something interesting and unique," says building owner Richard Bole. "This is the first dedicated Indian street food concept in Cleveland."
 
Bole is leasing the entire first floor of his building, 8,000-square-feet, to the Patels. Half of the space is under construction, including the kitchen, restrooms and seating for 60. The space will also feature a mural by local artist Erin Mazza. Work on the other half of the project, an international sports bar, is slated for later this year.
 
Plans for the bar include a limited late night menu and showings of international sporting events such as Premiere League games and cricket matches from countries afar (think India versus Pakistan) in an effort to attract international students.
 
"That's kind of the niche they're looking for," says Bole. The couple also manages a convenience store at 1900 Euclid Avenue Lofts and some Subway franchises.
 
Tentative future plans include bringing an actual street food stall from India and nestling it right on Euclid Avenue, from whence hungry passers-by will purchase exotic paper-wrapped snack foods.
 
"I think it could be very popular and I think it has a lot of appeal to the younger demographic on campus," says Bole. "Everything they're doing is trying to authenticate what you would see in India."
 
Bole purchased the 66,000-square-foot building in 2007.
 
"When I bought it," he says, "it was a 70 percent vacant, Class C office building."
 
He went to work converting much of the space into apartments. The 22 units range from 720- to 2,000-square feet with monthly rents from $800 to $1,950. Plans for five more units are in the works, with construction slated to begin once the restaurant is complete. The existing units are fully leased, with 80 on the waiting list.
 
The building also houses 8,000-square feet of office space. Tenants include Donley's Construction and Dorcherty Talent and Modeling.  
 
Most of the work on the project, which Bole characterizes as "long and difficult," was completed last year. Doty & Miller were the general architects; however, Mahler & Associates were the architects for the restaurant. Investment details for the project are confidential.
 
Bole muses on the meteoric rise of Downtown's residential scene. "As recently as 2003," he notes, "the population on our block was pretty much zero and now it's got to be three or four hundred."
 
The impetus for Bole's development effort was born during a stint living in New York City. "I thought we had the same architectural bones as some of those neighborhoods and the potential to do something similar," he says.
 
"I'm kind of a crazy dreamer like anyone else in this business."

near west theatre set to debut its new $7.3m home in gordon square arts district

At an upcoming open house on February 28th, Near West Theatre is set to debut its long-awaited new home in the Gordon Square Arts District. The $7.3 million, green-built, state-of-the-art theatre is the kind of space the nonprofit has long been dreaming of, and this year will be its chance to shine.

Before the winter break, Fresh Water took a tour of this bold new space with NWT staff. The impressive building is set back slightly from the street, yet it's large enough that you can't miss it. A plaza that will be constructed in front of the building should offer a gathering place for theatre-goers, visitors and community members alike, with planters, bioswales, a mural and a large, artistic sign.

"The entrance will get across that Near West Theatre is the 'magic factory of transformation,'" says Josh Padgett, Technical Director with NWT. "We transform people."

Within the facility, the expansive lower level offers 3-4 separate spaces that can be customized to the theatre's needs. The space will provide a rehearsal studio and changing rooms (NWT's productions are often quite large and can include 60-65 people), and it will be rentable to outside groups. In the future, the group hopes to build out a small cafe that can serve concessions during shows.

The entire building is ADA-accessible, with both an elevator and ramp access, details that were sorely lacking from its past performance space at St. Pat's.

Yet it's the main level of the theatre that truly conveys that NWT has hit the big time. The soaring ceilings offer a full theatrical production facility with fly space. For the first time, the theatre company has wings that can be used during its shows. The theatre itself is at once intimate and capacious, with its 275-seat capacity offering opportunities for proscenium, thrust or in-the-round seating. If that's not enough, there's also a small balcony that may offer the best views.

All of the seats are completely removable and flexible. "It used to take us four days to set up the seats, and now it will take us four hours," quips Padgett, who adds that NWT has purchased state-of-the-art theatrical equipment for its new home. Expect a level of technical proficiency that hasn't been done before.

A few more cool facts that we gleaned during the tour: For the first time, cast members will have their own restrooms (in the past, they had to traipse, costumes and all we imagine, into the same bathrooms as the audience). The large I-beam behind the stage bears the signatures and well wishes of people who attended a recent Gordon Square Arts District festival, and it will remain exposed and visible. The beam was also signed by cast members and theatre supporters.  Padgett and others refer to it as the "we beam," reflecting NWT's community spirit.

Part of the beauty of this facility is that NWT owns it free and clear, having raised the funds during the GSAD capital campaign. Also, because the structure was built using ultra-sustainable techniques borrowed from European passive house design, it will be a very affordable building to operate, limiting capital outlay.

In addition to the February 28th open house, NWT is holding a "blowout party" on March 14th. The group's annual benefit will be held on March 21st, while the upcoming production of "Shrek the Musical" will open on April 24th and run for four weekends. Later in the summer, NWT will produce the musical "Hair."

portside distillery and brewery opens tasting room in warehouse district

This week, Portside Distillery and Brewery officially opened the doors to its new tasting room, a spot that boasts inspiring views of freewheeling gulls circling an ice-covered Lake Erie and the Port of Cleveland. Portside has the honor of being among the very first new distilleries in Ohio since Prohibition. Brewmaster Dan Malz has created some the most interesting, unique beers in Cleveland, adding to the area's growing scene.

"There was a day in Cleveland when breweries were everywhere," offers Portside's Keith Sutton, who owns the company along with Malz, Matt Zappernick and John Marek. "Cleveland was known as brewery town; they were all over the place. We’re kind of becoming a beer town again, which is great."

In addition to flagship beers like the 216, a very drinkable, dry hopped pale ale with 5.7 percent alcohol, Portside has also won awards for its silver rum. When the venue's liquor license is delivered later this month, Portside will be able to start serving liquor in its tasting room. But for now, it's mostly just beer and light, tasty snacks, which are served up through a partnership with Willeyville.

Oh, but what beer it is ... from the Rusalka Vanilla Stout, which promises "a kiss of vanilla with a clean finish" and surely delivers, to the Pop Smoke Rauchbier, a smoked beer nicknamed "The Bacon Beer" for good reason, these fine brews are some of the most interesting in town. They certainly add to the brew mecca that has sprung up in the area, including newcomers Brick and Barrel and Platform.

The venue itself is worth checking out. The spacious interior feels like a secret basement bar where you could happily while away a Saturday afternoon. It has wide-planked hardwood floors, a beautiful square bar in the middle, and two private rooms available for a cozy drink and rentals. Photographs of historic Cleveland scenes burned onto planks of wood by local artist Jim Lanza adorn the walls, and pretty soon, the owners plan to install Portside barrel tops, too.

Although Portside's owners once planned to open a restaurant, they nixed that plan when retail sales rose faster than production and the Flats East project took longer than anticipated. So last year, they purchased a full bottling line and have now begun selling six-packs of the 216 and other beers to local establishments, with plans in the works to introduce several of their beers in Heinen's by March.

Some fun facts about Portside: the distillery used to create the rum was designed and fabricated by Sutton with the aid of a metal shop in Tremont. Several of the beers you can quaff at the tasting room are served directly from giant metal tanks in the brewhouse (now that's fresh). The building itself dates back to 1870, having done stints as a brass foundry and a place where church pipe organs were made.

Portside, which is located on Front Street just up the hill from Flats East, will be open from approximately 4-8 pm Tuesday through Thursday, and will open at 1 pm on Saturdays. The plans are to stay open until at least 11 pm on weekends. GM Matt Zappernick says as long as there are customers, they won't close.

In addition to the unique flavors and styles that can be found on the draft beer list, Zappernick says that Portside customers can count on the fact that nothing is more than three weeks old. "That's unbelievably fresh beer," he says.

warrensville heights demolition makes way for heinen's expansion

Last month, a collaboration between the Cuyahoga County Land Bank (CCLB), the city of Warrensville Heights and local grocery mainstay Heinen's finally came to fruition—or demolition—depending on how you look at it.
 
Backhoes and bulldozers went to work taking down a 77,000-square-foot structure on South Miles Road to clear the way for Heinen's new $9 million 70,000-square-foot food production plant. The facility, which is slated to open in 2016, will house food packaging and preparation functions, but no retail. It will be adjacent to Heinen's existing warehouse at 20601 Aurora Road, which is just under 100,000-square-feet.
 
The effort began in 2012 when Heinen's approached the city after efforts to purchase the 5.2-acre parcel, which carried a $1 million lien, came to no avail. In turn, the city contacted the CCLB.
 
"There were three businesses operating in the building when I took my first look at in December of 2012," recalls CCLB's director of acquisitions, dispositions and development Cheryl Stephens. "When I walked into the building, I saw a ton of code violations." The property also had $208,000 in delinquent taxes incurred from as far back as 2009. When the owners declined to donate the property, CCLB started foreclosure procedures.
 
"We make sure legally we have dotted every I and crossed every T. We make sure we're not relieving anyone of their property rights without notice and due diligence on either part to make sure that every offer has been made," says Stephens. "Because property ownership in this country is recognized as a sacred right, we don't relieve someone of it without doing every step that we can." One of the three resident businesses, all of which were leasing, was already in the process of relocating. The other two vacated over safety concerns. The foreclosure, after which the CCLB took possession of the property, took about a year.
 
Other services provided by the county include demolition supervision and a level one environmental abatement on the property, which was essentially asbestos removal. Stephens estimates the demolition project will cost between $625,000 and $650,000.
 
"We don't have final number yet," says Stephens. "There are always change orders."
The CCLB is selling the property to Heinen's for $50,000.
 
To further facilitate the deal, the county granted a $500,000 interest-free loan to Heinen's, courtesy of the Cuyahoga County Western Reserve Fund, to cover the cost of the demolition. The loan is contingent upon Heinen's creating at least 15 jobs at the new facility.
 
"This is one of those really good job retention stories where a mayor realizes that if he doesn’t do something, a company can expand and grow outside of his community," says Stephens. "This is a good deal, not just for Heinen's, but for the communities involved.
 
"This is quintessentially good economic development."
 

tremont athletic club opens in the newly-renovated fairmont creamery building

On Dec. 8, the much-anticipated Tremont Athletic Club, 2306 West 17th Street in the Fairmont Creamery building, opened with little fanfare.
 
"We simply walked to the front door at 5 a.m. and unlocked it," says managing member and majority owner Nick White. "That was the grand opening."
 
Considering the club already had 300 members courtesy of pre-opening sales drives (and now nearly 400), the move underscores White's approach to the business of running a fitness center.
 
"We're not interested in the slick marketing and the hype of getting people in the door," he says. "We're trying to be straight forward. So often the deals you see in this industry are anything but. You always end up paying on the back end whether it be in fees or parking tickets, somehow they get their pound of flesh."
 
Smith vows not to charge surprise fees and offers a simple membership plan: $60 per month with a one-year commitment. A one-month pass can be had for $75 and a day pass for $20, but White adds that special deals may be available for those interested in trying out the gym prior to securing a membership. Members can always bring a guest for free.
 
Amenities in the 14,000-square-foot facility include two full strength circuits, 35 cardio machines, a functional training area, a free weight room, a large class area, towel service, saunas and multi-use lockers that do not require a lock and are reset with every use.
 
Most classes are free with membership and include offerings such as Kettle Bell Happy Hour, Cardio Blast, Three Sisters Yoga and Butts & Guts. Hot yoga will be offered shortly.
 
"We're trying to get a nice varied collection of classes," says White.
 
Members can look forward to possible rooftop offerings such as sunrise yoga as well, although that space is not yet built out.
 
The club, construction for which took about a year, is the anchor tenant in the Fairmont Creamery building. The architect on the job was (ARC)form LLC. The building is also home to 30 apartments, all of which have been leased, and businesses such as Twist Creative and the soon-to-open Good to Go Café, which will no doubt be a favorite fueling spot for gym-goers.
 
"We'll have the best juice bar of any gym I've ever known," says White of Good to Go Café proprietor Anna Harouvis's natural and health-conscious concoctions.
 
Club hours are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday. Saturday and Sunday hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The space is commercially cleaned after hours three times a week.
 
What's to love most about the Tremont Athletic Club? White enumerates: "It's an old creamery. It's an industrial space. It's got tons of natural light. It's got all brand new equipment and we keep it spotless." He also touts stunning views of the city for those who choose window gazing over the televisions aboard each treadmill. Mostly, however, White sees the venture as a much-needed service in the Tremont neighborhood.
 
"We really understand that this area has no fitness center," he says. "People here need a place to exercise."

 

gigi's goes after dark, expands opportunities for customers and giving back

Earlier this month, Gia Ilijasic and husband James Patsche, owners of Gigi's on Fairmount, 3477 Fairmount Boulevard, opened Gigi's After Dark adjacent to their clubby Taylor Fairmont eatery. The soft opening was Dec. 6, with the grand opening the following weekend.
 
"We didn't know what to expect and we were mobbed," says Patsche. "It was off the hook."
 
The expansion was in response to the overwhelming popularity of the 45-seat Gigi's, which opened in November 2013.
 
"If there was a line or a wait," says Patsche, "we'd maybe lose those customers. Now we have a wonderful cozy environment they can go to next door and have a cocktail before dinner while waiting for a table or to have a cocktail after dinner." When doing so, they'll have more options from which to choose, including apothecary style craft potables created by Eric Mattimore, previously of Katz Club Bar Car, who is helming the new bar.
 
If the opening is any indication, people seemed to grasp the concept.
 
"We kept the customers here longer and kept them happier."
 
The new 50-seat expansion includes an 11-seat bar, plush seating, 16-high top seats and a chef's table for up to 10, the only one for which Gigi's will accept reservations. The new 1,100-square-foot space will serve small plates only and will open at 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closing time depends on the customers.
 
"We close when customers says we close," says Patsche, although 2 a.m. will be the witching hour.
 
Patsche, who was previously an investment banker before his rebirth as a restaurateur acted as general contractor on the revamp.
 
"We took a shell of a room and converted it to this night club lounge in just 27 days," he says, adding that acquiring the permit took as long as the renovation work. Mark Fremont Architects of Cleveland Heights did the design.
 
The expansion was born of need and opportunity. When home furniture boutique duoHOME went dark earlier this year, Ilijasic and Patsche knew it was time to act.
 
"The space became available," says Patsche. "We knew that we'd never have the opportunity to expand in this address unless we took the space now. We probably weren't really ready for it, but who is ever ready?"
 
When the snow melts, customers will enjoy another benefit of the expansion: twice the sidewalk patio space. Local charities, however, won't have to wait that long to reap the benefits of Gigi's increased receipts courtesy of the "Magnificent Mondays" program, which launced in July.
 
Each month, Gigi's selects a local cause to support by donating 10 percent of the Mondays' gross sales to it. December's beneficiary is Roots of American Music. Previous beneficiaries have included FutureHeights and the Effective Leadership Academy. Patsche says the practice makes a bigger and more focused impact than traditional donations.
 
"Instead of just giving a small nominal amount or $25 gift certificate," he says, "we can give a large check, maybe a $2,500 check for the entire month. It goes towards much better causes.
 
"It's been a great way for us to give back to the community."

 

ilthy makes a local move, looks to national stage

Coming off a successful stint in Gordon Square, the edgy Cleveland-based clothing and accessory shop iLTHY has moved to a new location at 15613 Detroit Road in Lakewood.
 
Founded in 2009 by artist Glen Infante, the popular brand is stretching out, so to speak. The previous shop at 6602 Detroit was 800-square-feet, just a fraction of the roomy 3,600-square-feet in the new space.
 
"Last year, we were handling online orders, manufacturing, and customer service at our warehouse in North Royalton while retail, management, and design was handled in our Gordon Square space," says iLTHY co-owner Kumar Arora, who joined the operation in 2011. "We were constantly having to shuffle between two locations to get things done. Now we're able to bridge two distinct parts of our business."
 
Renovations on the new location started in July and included new flooring, plumbing and electrical work. Features include an expansive showroom and large storefront windows to attract the high foot traffic generated courtesy of neighboring hotspots such as Jammy Buggars, Lakewood Public Library's main branch and the Merry Arts Pub and Grille. The shop held its grand opening in October.
 
"Being right on Detroit in Lakewood provides opportunities for us," says Arora. "We felt that a move to Lakewood better aligned with our long term goals," which include elevating the brand to the national stage.
 Machine Gun Kelly and LeBron
The shop's street-smart offerings include items such as the Cyclops Snapback hat, which features an unusual interpretation of a usual local suspect, ladies' swimwear, a host of accessories and prints that blend funk, doughnuts and fine art. High profile fans of iLTHY merch include LeBron James, Joe Haden and Machine Gun Kelly.
 
That celebrity exposure has contributed to the brand's unprecedented growth, which Arora estimates at 30 percent annually. Other factors he cites include ongoing product development, the buzzing local sports scene and Cleveland's overall renaissance.
 
"It doesn't look like it's stopping any time soon," says an optimistic Arora of iLTHY's success.  
 
The former Case Weatherhead School of Management student's business acumen does not stop at the threshold of iLTHY (an acronym gleaned from I Love The Hype). He is also the founder of the innovative Rogue Eyewear. Moreover, his website enumerates his litany of eclectic ventures, which range from entertainment management to nanochemicals.
 
Arora's energetic entrepreneurial style is a perfect fit for iLTHY as well as Northeast Ohio.
 
"I like to think that all of us can create change or make something to make a name for Cleveland. Cleveland was known for certain things in the past but what's to say we can't be known for fashion or streetwear? Who says that we can't do it? Who says that we don't have the resources?"

"That's kind of my belief."

cake royale opens new storefront and commercial kitchen in old brooklyn

Yesterday, notable Cleveland baker Michel Kahwagi of Cake Royale, his partner/wife Denise and their staff (which includes their sons Elijah and Nick), hosted the grand opening of their new retail spot and commercial kitchen at 4276 Pearl Road in Old Brooklyn. The company's kitchen was previously located at 3800 Pearl Road.
 
"We needed to move," says Denise. "We needed to expand. We had outgrown our other space. It was very small, only 1000-square-feet." They also had fielded requests from retail customers at their West Side Market booth D-7, where they've been for 10 years.
 
"On off-market days, customers wanted a place where they could pick up," says Denise.
 
The addition of two new impressive clients, the Metropolitan at the 9 and the Cleveland Indians, cemented the upgrade. Other long-standing clients include Joe's Deli in Rocky River, the Mayfield Country Club and the Canterbury Country Club, among others.
 
Construction has been underway for more than a year. The new building is 4,000-square feet, 2,000 of which are dedicated to kitchen space. The retail area occupies 400-square-feet and is adorned by murals created by Ohio City artist Danilo Zammattio. They have yet to renovate the basement area.
 
Denise estimates the building was vacant for between five and eight years before they purchased it. Previous incarnations included a coffee shop and a pizza joint. The Kahwagi's financed the $140,000 renovation themselves.
 
The couple's story started back in the 1980's. They met in Texas where Michel, who originally immigrated to America from Lebanon in 1973, was a maître 'd in an Irving restaurant. He made Denise a mango cake that he had first tasted years ago while working with his brother in Kuwait.
 
"I said, 'Wow. This is fabulous. You need to be selling these.'" It must have been some cake. Not only did she marry him, she followed him to Cleveland in 1989 to support his fledgling wholesale pastry business, which has flourished over the past 26 years. Michel has taken the title of "best pastry chef" twice at the Art Therapy Studio’s Creative Confections Dessert Competition, in 1999 and 2000. Not bad for a self-taught artisan.
 
Denise reveals the simple secret of the business: "We still do everything the old fashioned way. We do it from scratch, which you don't see very often anymore. (Michel) roasts his own nuts. We still juice all the lemons. When he makes truffles, he rolls them by hand. You can tell we don't take short cuts."
 
As for the decision to keep the business based in Old Brooklyn, the Kahwagis' reasons are home-baked and close to the heart.
 
"We live in Old Brooklyn and have always lived in Old Brooklyn. We want to give back to the community we live in and pay taxes in," says Denise. "We're just a very small business out there trying to do our fair share contributing to the economy."
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