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New Chagrin Falls Heinen's: "Urban in a suburban setting"

When brothers Jeff and Tom Heinen open their 23rd Heinen’s grocery store — 19 of which in Northeast Ohio and four in Chicago — in pedestrian-friendly Chagrin Falls next week, residents are sure to be pleased with not only the quality food offered by the Warrensville Heights-based chain, but also in its convenience.

“I think the number-one thing, is we’re very pleased to have a quality store like Heinen’s come to town and make an investment,” says Chagrin Falls Village mayor Bill Tomko. “With sidewalks everywhere in Chagrin Falls, to have a grocery store where you can walk to is a real plus.”
 
A series of grocery stores have occupied the new Heinen’s space since the Chagrin Falls Shopping Plaza opened in the 1980s, says Tomko, including two original grocers — Mazzulo’s and Fazio’s — and then finally, Russo’s Giant Eagle. Woolworth’s and CVS also occupied a portion of the original space.
 
CVS still remains, and Heinen’s will take over the 26,000 square feet at 20 Shopping Center Plaza that Giant Eagle left in 2014. The store will officially open on Wednesday, March 1 at 10 a.m with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
 
Tomko says the space didn’t quite fit the “big box” approach of Giant Eagle. “It didn’t fit the Giant Eagle format,” says Tonka. “It didn’t really receive the management attention and time it deserved.”
 
Tom Heinen agrees that the store needed work when they took the space over. “We gutted it,” he says of the renovations. “We made it a Heinen’s.”
 
With stores in Pepper Pike and Bainbridge, Tom Heinen says the Heinen's chain has carved a unique place in the far eastern suburbs. “The neighborhood demographic first the way we do business,” he says. “It’s just a good overall fit.”
 
Since 2014, Tomko says residents have been begging for a new grocery store to come into the plaza. “During the vacancy, the biggest complaint we received was ‘why don’t you put in a grocery store,’” he says. “Heinen’s stepped up.”
 
In almost as much time, while the Heinen’s downtown celebrated its grand opening in February 2015, the brothers were already in talks with the plaza owners about leasing space.
 
Tom Heinen calls the new store a bit unique, with narrower aisles and higher shelves than other grocery stores. “It’s kind of urban in a suburban setting,’ he says. “It’s a beautiful store.”
 
In addition to quality food and produce selection, Tomko says Chagrin Falls residents will enjoy Heinen’s emphasis on its ready-made chef-prepared foods and its close proximity. “On those days when you’re tired, you can walk up to the grocery store and get dinner and go home,” he explains. “Or when you’re grilling in the summer and you realize you forgot the ketchup, it’s a huge convenience.”
 
The food offerings fits with the lifestyle brand Heinen’s has created through its culinary team. “We’re always trying to create innovative, health foods,” Tom Heinen says of their offerings.
 
With 48 wines by the glass and 12 beers on tap, customers can also enjoy food and drink while they shop or try one of a series of food and wine classes, pairing seminars and other unique events.
 
Tom Heinen says two large garage doors will open up to curbside dining. “It’s going to be a fun gathering place,” he says, adding that Chagrin Falls has emerged as a popular destination for happy hours, small plates and casual dining. “We think this will be a nice addition to the Chagrin Falls array.”
 
Of course, the new Heinen’s will also offer its standard services, including an in-store butcher with source-verified meats, fresh seafood, quality seasonal and locally-grown produce, an assortment of organic products and a gourmet cheese department.
 
Regular store hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Beachwood Place launches parking app in a nick of time

It’s a December 13th and Clevelanders are rushing around and fighting crowds at area of the malls and shopping centers. At one of them, however, the familiar headaches of searching for a parking space, and then later wandering around the lot with arms loaded up with bags while muttering where the heck did I park? are a thing of the past.
 
Beachwood Place just made the parking process a little easier with its new parking feature in the Beachwood Place App that allows shoppers to find a parking space, locate the most convenient entrance for a specific store or simply check to see how busy the lots are in real time.
 
The app was created by the mall’s parent company, Chicago-based General Growth Properties (GGP) and released for Beachwood Place last month.
 
“One of the biggest things we’ve found in customer shopping and the customer experience is that parking can be a real pain point,” says Neisha Vitello, senior general manager of Beachwood Place. “With everyone turning to technology to find solutions, we’ve created a better shopping experience.”
 
Shoppers can download the app to their phones on both Apple and android devices by searching got “GGP Malls” or access the information online.
 
The app features a map that highlights available lots in green; lots with limited availability in yellow; and full lots in red. Or, users can choose the store they plan to shop in and the app will highlight the closest parking option and entrance to that store.
 
Users can even plot a future trip to Beachwood Place and see the forecasted parking situation for that day and time. “You can look at [the app] in advance to see what parking is available,” says Vitello.
 
Perhaps the most useful tool, she adds, is the ability to record where you park – making it easy to find your car after hours of wandering and shopping in the mall. “One of the best features I enjoy is you can drop a pin in your parking spot,” she explains. “You can get turned around inside. When you leave, you can access where you parked and the app will guide you to your parking space.”
 
Furthermore, once inside the mall users can refer to the app for directions to a particular store. “It’s a palm directory,” Vitello explains. “It will guide to right to the store. You really have a directory in the palm of your hand.”
 
GGP developed the app more than a year ago, according to Vitello, and began testing it with some of the company's malls in July. The app became available at Beachwood Place a month ago, and will be available year round.
 
Local feedback on parking app has already be positive. “It’s been fantastic,” says Vitello. “We want to make the [shopping] experience the best we can.”

Holiday decorating goes over the top, meets steampunk, the British and Higbee's

The holidays are approaching quickly and creating that perfect table décor for the season can be difficult. Want to see how the pros do it?

More than 25 of Northeast Ohio’s top interior designers will show off their tablescapes at Ohio Design Center’s Entertaining by Design, this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5.

All proceeds benefit Malachi House, a non-profit organization that serves the terminally ill who have limited or no financial resources and are in need of special home care in the final stages of life.
 
The juried competition began in 2012 as a small demonstration, but has grown to a much larger event. In recent years, attendance has grown to as many as 900 during the two-day event.
 
“It started as a one-day event with one person doing a how-to demonstration and then we realized how popular it is,” says event spokesperson Latoya Hunter. “It seems that every year the designs are becoming more and more elaborate and taking up more space.”
 
An open call for designers was issued back in March, and those who showed the best ideas will display them at the show. Some of the designs are over the top, Hunter says, with some of this year’s themes including Holiday at Higbee’s, Steam Punk Masquerade and British Invasion.
 
Holiday at Higbee’s, created by Cuyahoga Community College design students, harkens back to 1984, with Mr. Jingeling preparing for the holiday season at the once-beloved department store.

Steam Punk Masquerade, by 2 Sisters Design, represents a fusion of Victorian design and 19th century industrial elements in a futuristic masquerade atmosphere.

British Invasion by Kelly Millstone Interiors is inspired by the designers’ time living in London and their admiration of the spirit of the British people, complete with a stroll along Abbey Road.
 
Other designers are using hand-made plates from Italy, hand-made crystal table mats and thousands of dollars in exotic flowers, says Hunter. “They’re elaborate,” she observes.
 
A three-judge panel will choose winners in four categories: best of show, best interpretation of a theme, most over-the-top and best student presentation. A fifth award will be given to the design team garnering the most votes from attendees.
 
Event-goers will also have a chance to shop in many of Ohio Design Centre’s showrooms for furniture, accessories, lighting, rugs, art and other items.
 
The public event runs Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ohio Design Center, 23533 Mercantile Road in Beachwood. A VIP party is planned on Friday from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. In addition to the tablescapes, party attendees will be treated to dinner and live entertainment.
 
General admission is $10. Tickets to the VIP celebration start at $125. Tickets for both admissions can be purchased in advance or at the door.

Business owner, city, county and state collaborate to bring oasis to Euclid food desert

Simon Hussain has found success in the grocery business by listening to what his customers want and need. “If customers need something and you don’t provide it, they stop coming,” he says.
 
Hussain opened his first Cleveland grocery in December 2003 and will soon open his third Simon’s Supermarket in Euclid’s Family Dollar Plaza, 25831 Euclid Ave. The store is located in a neighborhood considered to be a food desert, with limited access to healthy food in an area of dense poverty.
 
Hussain plans to offer fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy food at Simon’s Supermarket, as well as hire 50 full- and 10 part-time employees. While hosting an open house last month at the 27,000-square-foot store, Hussain invited residents to have a look around and provide feedback on what products they'd like to see lining the shelves.
 
Of the 90 residents who turned out for the event, 16 provided comments on a feedback form. Suggestions such as ”Keep fresh food and the store will make it in this area,” and “Make the prices of fruits and veggies more affordable for low income families and single parent families” guided Hussain’s decisions in creating an attractive shopping experience.
 
“It’s a very good location on a main avenue,” Hussain says. “People really want a supermarket around here.”
 
In 2012, the city of Euclid applied for a Health Impact Assessment (HIA), conducted through the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) to assess the needs of a four-mile stretch of Euclid Avenue. The findings included a section on healthy food access - and the lack of it in this area. Other concerns included store security, employment opportunities and access to quality food options as a whole.
 
“Simon’s Supermarket is an opportunity to address health disparities in this neighborhood through increased access to healthy food, employment opportunities for local residents and by serving as an anchor business that may attract more businesses, jobs and investment,” says Roger Sikes, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s Creating Healthy Communities program manager. “[The study] surveyed residents regarding their perceptions and priorities related to health, jobs and environmental concerns. Some of the main issues cited by residents was the need for a supermarket and jobs.”
 
Based on the findings, Hussain, the City of Euclid and the Creating Healthy Communities program teamed up to make the Simon’s Supermarket in Euclid a reality. Hussain received $250,000 from the Healthy Food for Ohio Program for in-store construction and equipment. Euclid’s Storefront Renovation Program provided $125,000 for external renovations and a parking lot upgrade.
 
“This example of collective support from local government, Euclid residents, the store owner, the County Board of Health and the Healthy Food for Ohio Program may also help to expand efforts to implement full service supermarkets in low-income communities across Cuyahoga County,” says Sikes.
 
In addition to the main floor, Hussain says there is an additional 13,000-square-foot space in the basement that's ideal for storage of dry goods.

Hussain plans to open in mid-November.

“It looks very nice, and it’s a decent size,” he says of his latest venture. “I’ve received very good feedback from the community. If you want to stay in the business, you have to have healthy food. People really want that. It’s the neighborhood store, so you have to have what they want.”

Presentation to highlight unique history behind Lee-Harvard neighborhood

As Cleveland’s eastern suburbs were just beginning to establish themselves in the 1920s, Cleveland’s Lee-Harvard neighborhood, bordering Shaker Heights, Warrensville Heights and Maple Heights on the the city’s south east side, was thriving in its own right.
 
The Lee-Harvard neighborhood, once known as Miles Heights Village and the Lee-Seville neighborhoods, was historically an integrated community of notable firsts. Ohio’s first African-American mayor, Arthur Johnston was elected in 1929 when the neighborhood was mostly white. His house on East 147th Street still stands today.
 
The neighborhood established many of the first citizen's councils and neighborhood associations in the region and had an interracial police force.
 
On Thursday, October 6, the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS), along with Cleveland Ward 1 councilman Terrell Pruitt, the Harvard Community Services Center and CSU’s Maxine Levin Goodman College of Urban Affairs, will present “Cleveland’s Suburb in the City: The Development and Growth of Lee-Harvard.”
 
The free discussion will be led by Todd Michney, assistant professor at the University of Toledo and author of Changing Neighborhoods: Black Upward Mobility in Cleveland, 1900-1980.
 
“We at CRS have been so impressed with the neighborhoods of Ward 1, Lee-Harvard and Lee-Seville,” says Michael Fleenor, CRS director of preservation services, "because they reflect our recent history – Cleveland’s last expansion, progress in Civil Rights, and the growth of neighborhood associations and community development corporations in the late 20th Century."
 
In 1932, Miles Heights was officially annexed as part of Cleveland, but the neighborhood remained a popular choice to settle for African-Americans who were looking to move to the suburbs. Many residents moved to Lee-Harvard from the Central, Glenville and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.
 
“It was an integrated community so early,” explains Fleenor. “During World War II the neighborhood served as temporary housing for returning soldiers because it was already integrated and many families came by train from the south and other parts.”
 
In the 1950s and 60s, the neighborhood really caught its stride, with modest brick homes going up all over the area. “A lot of the people who live there have been there for 50 years,” says Fleenor. “It’s been very stable. It’s a middle class neighborhood.”
 
Arthur Bussey, an African-American builder, began building the mid-century brick homes in 1949 on Highview Drive and Myrtle Avenue, off of Lee Road just south of Miles Road, and continued building until the late 60s. Bussey targeted African-Americans and designed the modest homes to be attractive to higher-income buyers.
 
The homes built during this period are all well maintained today, and many of the original residents are still living there or they are leaving them to their children. Fleenor also predicts that the neighborhood is potentially attractive to Millennials thinking about buying homes.
 
“Perhaps there’s an opportunity because the houses aren’t huge – about 1,200 to 1,500 square feet,” Fleenor says. “There’s an opportunity for young people who are struggling now and open to smaller houses. There’s a great opportunity to build on the rich history.”
 
Fleenor also notes that the Lee-Harvard neighborhood has plenty of greenspace and parks.
 
Early on, the north end of the neighborhood was made up mostly of Eastern European and Italian families, so there was a large catholic concentration that transitioned as the neighborhood became African American.

Throughout the years and changes, churches have played a prominent role in the area.
 
The former St. Henry Church parish at 18200 Harvard Ave. opened in 1952, with a convent and school added in 1954 and an administrative building added in 1959. After experiencing financial difficulties in 1969 the church closed the convent, which then became the Harvard Community Services Center.
 
Archbishop Lyke School, took over St. Henry’s school before St. Henry’s merged with other area Catholic churches in 2008 and relocated to 4341 East 131st St. The rectory was recently for sale.

What is now Whitney Young Middle School was formerly Hoban Dominican High School for Girls.
 
Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1962 as an interracial church with a white minister. The congregation bought a beer market with a bad reputation in the neighborhood and converted it to a church before hiring a prominent African American architecture firm to design a contemporary building in 1965. The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd was built in 1945.

John F. Kennedy High School was built in 1966.

The Lee-Harvard Shopping Center, built in 1949, became the first African American owned and managed shopping center in the country in 1972. Neighborhood residents bought the center when they noticed the property and surrounding area declining.
 
Also in the 70s, a group of residents formed an auxiliary police force to help patrol the neighborhood. The force operated out of small building on a used car lot. A taxi service donated two cars for patrol, while ladies in the community would provide coffee and pastries for the officers.
 
The auxiliary police would hold costume parties on Halloween and bicycle rodeos for the community. “The kids got to know the police officers and the officers got to know the kids,” explains Fleenor. “It was so successful, they got federal funding to increase officers in the neighborhood.”
 
Such community involvement and pride is what has kept the Lee-Harvard area steady over the years. “Lee-Harvard has one of the first community development corporations in Cleveland,” says Fleenor. “There are very few abandoned properties, and if there’s one property abandoned it’s the talk of the town.”
 
While Carl Stokes was mayor of Cleveland, residents lobbied in Columbus to keep liquor licenses out of the neighborhood. “It shows how politically active they were,” Fleenor says. “Then they fought Mayor Stokes to keep public housing out and Mayor Stokes called them “black bigots.’ They didn’t want to jeopardize the middle class lifestyle.”
 
“Cleveland’s Suburb in the City” will be held at the Levin College of Urban Affairs, 1717 Euclid Ave., from 4 to 6 p.m. this Thursday. Click here to register. The program is part of the Levin College Forum.

Euclid Brewing Company settles in as local gathering spot, launches "Tap Talks"

Doug Fry spent the past 20 years working in corporate America as a chemist. Last year, he got tired of the rat race and decided to take a risk as an entrepreneur.

“I worked for 20 years for four different companies,” Fry recalls. “At some point, every one [of the companies] had been sold and gone through changes and layoffs. I talked to my brother and my daughter and her husband, who own their own companies, and they said the only kind of job security is in entrepreneurship.”
 
A home brewer by hobby, Fry and his wife, Kim, decided to open Euclid Brewing Company, 21950 Lake Shore Blvd. This past April 30 the Frys opened the doors to a 1,000-square-foot bar with a 200-square-foot tap room that houses three two-barrel fermenters and one 15-gallon fermenter that produce about 23 kegs per brewing cycle.
 
Fry’s brewing business model is based on what he and Kim witnessed in their travels to Germany. “In Germany every little town has their own beer,” he explains. “Those are the places we seek out when we travel. We’re not going to bottle or can our beer, or distribute.”
 
Euclid Brewing Company has six taps that will have some regular brews, like its Moss Point pale ale or Isosceles IPA. “Because I like pale ales and IPAs we probably will always have that on tap,” says Fry, “because it’s my brewery and I’m selfish.”


 
Other selections include a Hoppy Wheat, G.D.G.B. amber, Session Saison and Sims Beach Blonde, as well as seasonal brews. Fry will release pumpkin ale this week, followed by an Oktoberfest and some kind of holiday ale.
 
The entire brewing system is displayed behind the bar. “If you’re tall enough you could reach across and touch it,” says Fry of the close proximity in a bar that has a 30-person maximum occupancy. “We wanted everything to be in plain view. It’s like a sculpture.”
 
While Fry doesn’t serve food, he keeps menus from the nearby Beach Club Bistro, Paragon, and Great Scott Tavern to order take-out, or patrons are welcome to bring their own food into the bar. Great Scott just began serving its first keg of Euclid Brewing’s Sims Beach blonde on tap.
 
Fry got a lot of help from the city of Euclid to open the brewery. “Euclid had never had a brewery open within city limits before, so opening the business was a new experience for them as well,” he recalls, adding that Jonathan Holody, Euclid director of department planning helped Fry find the location and with regulatory concerns, while other city officials kept the Frys informed of Euclid’s storefront renovation program and helped with other regulatory hurdles.
 
Councilperson Charlene Mancuso also helped with communications. “She and I discussed starting a concierge service at city hall that could help parties with no small-business experience - like Kim and me - work with the city to accelerate the process from conception to opening,” Fry recalls.
 
In the nearly six months since Euclid Brewing opened it has become known as a place for locals to gather for good beer and conversation. Fry says he and Kim have made many new friends and enjoy the fact that the bar is only a quarter-mile from their Euclid home.
 
“People come in as strangers, sit at the bar and we have all kinds of discussions,” says Fry. “And then they leave as friends.”
 
That’s exactly how Fry wants it. “We have a television, but it doesn’t work very well so people are forced to talk to each other,” he explains. “This is a place to discuss ideas and that’s been a real benefit. I’ve met some nice people.”  
 
In keeping with that neighborhood bar feel, Fry is introducing Tap Talks on Thursday, Oct. 6 – a weekly short lecture series on poetry, policy, history and science. The series runs throughout October and is open to all ages. Attendees are welcome to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages. The first speaker is poet Dan Rourke, who will read from his book Catch Me.
 
If the series is successful, Fry says they are considering hosting Tap Talks twice a year.

$4 million expansion coming to University Heights Library

In 2010, the University Heights branch of Heights Libraries began talking to community members about what improvements they wanted to see in the now 64-year-old library at 13866 Cedar Road.

After some talk and initial planning, library officials conducted surveys at various locales including the library, neighboring Whole Foods and John Carroll University.
 
“Participation wasn’t heavy, but there was repetition of key points, so we knew we were on the right track," says Heights Libraries director Nancy Levin, noting that lack of a rear entrance by the parking area was a familiar complaint. "People wanted to see us solve the back door problem, and we knew the building needed updates and repairs.”

The main entrance will be moved to the rear of the building, with new glass panels to be installed in the front. A side entrance with a ramp on Fenwick Road will also be added. 
 
In addition to obvious work such as updating the HVAC and electrical system, making the building energy efficient, fixing roof leaks and installing ADA-compliant bathrooms, the survey led to plans for a fully functional elevator, an easily-accessible back door and children's and teen areas.
 
The $4 million project will add 5,282 square feet to the existing building, which will bring the total space to 10,500 square feet. The cost of the project has already been worked into Heights Library's budget.
 
The lower level will include a dedicated area for kids with a story room, teen space, meeting rooms and ADA compliant bathrooms. The new children’s area and elevators will make a family trip to the library much easier, says Levin. “It’s obvious when you have a stroller and go downstairs for story time, or go down with a toddler who is potty training,” she notes of the current situation.
 
The upper level will have large meeting rooms, independent study rooms and bathrooms. The book collection will be split up, with children’s books going to the children’s area and adult books going to an adult section upstairs.
 
The new HVAC system is in dire need of replacement. “Now we have many systems that have been added, with multiple air conditioning and multiple heating [systems],” says Levin. “It will certainly save us in the cost of operating with a modern, efficient system that turns up during the day and down at night.”
 
The library has purchased three houses on Fenwick Road, which were sold willingly by the owners for $140,000 each. They will be demolished to make way for the addition. A new parking lot will provide 10 additional parking spaces, which will increase from 37 to 47.

Levin also hopes to add a patio off of the new addition. “We’re creating something beautiful for the community and it will become an asset,” she says. “It won’t be a park, but it will be really nice.”
 
This summer, a citizens' landscape committee will discuss ideas for trees and a garden sculpture at the bus stop in front of the library. “There will be a neighborhood component,” Levin says.
 
CBLH Design is the architect working on the project, while Regency Construction Services in Lakewood is managing construction. Plans will be finalized this summer with construction slated to begin in September. September 2017 is the estimated completion date.
 
Library officials a trying to find a temporary home during the renovation, but so far have had little luck. Levin says they want to stay close to their permanent location, to be accessible to library staff and patrons, many of whom rely on the bus to get to the library.
 
Levin says temporary space at Cedar Center may not be feasible because of long lease requirements and vacant space at University Square is in receivership.
 
“We have heard from a number of city officials with good suggestions but they haven't worked out yet because of location,” Levin explains. “We really need to stay in the Cedar-Warrensville area if at all possible. The alternative is to close the branch and store the materials but continue all of the programs in other locations.” 

Cleveland Bazaar coming to Legacy Village with new Retail Lab

The Cleveland Bazaar has steadily grown since Shannon Okey started holding the pop-up independent craft show events in 2004.  
 
Beginning as a single holiday show in 78th Street Studios, the Cleveland Bazaar today has expanded to host year-round events all over Cleveland and has formed partnerships with both community development corporations and venues around the city.
 
“We have worked with hundreds of small local businesses over the years, and many have graduated over time to their own full-time retail locations,” says Okey, citing Cleveland Clothing Co. and We Bleed Ohio as two examples.
 
This week, Okey announced Cleveland Bazaar’s latest partnership with Legacy Village in Lyndhurst. Beginning in May, Cleveland Bazaar Retail Lab will operate as a business incubator out of two vacant 1,400 and 1,200 square-foot storefronts.
 
The Retail Lab will serve as a storefront for a revolving list of artists and craftspeople to sell their goods and experience life as small business owners.
 
“It’s space they could not necessarily afford, or get, on their own,” Okey explains, adding that Legacy Village approached her about doing some outdoor events this summer.
 
In addition to serving as a location for the vendors, Cleveland Bazaar will also host themed pop-up events around holidays such as Father’s Day or Legacy’s annual art festival.
 
The Retail Lab spaces are across from Restoration Hardware in the heart of Legacy Village. They provide the perfect temporary space for Cleveland Bazaar Retail Lab vendors and events this summer.
 
The deal is a win-win for both Cleveland Bazaar and Legacy Village. Okey says she’ll be working closely with Legacy Village management and the public relations team to mutually boost awareness. “We're all incredibly excited about the project,” she says. 
 
Before potential vendors are admitted to the experimental shop, however, they will have to apply. “They will be required to submit working proposals that include everything from their marketing and social media plans for the time they occupy the space to an agreement to work through an educational program we're developing,” explains Okey, “everything you need to think about if you’d run your own business.”
 
She adds that many vendors are concerned about the cost of opening a brick-and-mortar business, but there are an array of issues associated with opening a store that go beyond dollars and cents. And, Okey says, “It’s definitely a lot more work than people think.”
 
With the number of experienced artists who have worked at Cleveland Bazaar events, Okey is sure the concepts will be well-received. “From the get go, we’ve been fortunate to have experienced vendors who have done shows in other cities before,” she says. “We’re going to bring our A game.”
 
Nearly 100 potential vendors have already expressed interest in private messages to Okey through Cleveland Bazaar’s closed Facebook page. “I’d say we got interest,” she says.
 
Cleveland Bazaar Retail Lab is due to open in early May and will operate at least through August.

Local chocolatier rebuilds facility destroyed by fire

Debbie Stagan will never forget Thanksgiving 2014. It was the day that fire destroyed the 342,000-square-foot Fannie May/Harry London warehouse in Maple Heights. “I was in shock,” the wholesale supervisor recalls, “left wondering if you had a job.”

Last Wednesday, March 9, Stagan and the other 45 permanent warehouse employees returned to the rebuilt warehouse for the grand opening after spending nearly 16 months working out of a temporary warehouse in Twinsburg and the chocolate manufacturer’s North Canton headquarters.
 
It was an emotional day for Kevin Coen last week as he welcomed the employees back. All of the permanent employees were able to keep their jobs throughout the rebuilding process. “I see the spirit of the team here,” says Coen, president of Fannie May/Harold London. “They’re coming back home.”
 
Ten million pounds of chocolate is made in North Canton each year and the Maple Heights warehouse ships it all in four million packages to the company’s 85 retail locations in six states and Canada as well as to online customers.
 
When Coen got news of the fire, he was first relieved that no one was there at the time and no one was hurt. He then went into "team mode,” following the long-standing Fannie May motto of "Fannie May Strong," and ensured operations could continue. ”It’s about spirit and how we go about doing things,” he says of the motto. “When you’re faced with that, you deal with that.”
 
By Monday morning, the employees were being bussed to the North Canton facility. “We didn’t miss a day of work,” Coen boasts. “The [Canton employees] applauded as they walked in. There was such a sense of comaraderie.”
 
Two weeks later, the temporary Twinsburg warehouse was found, to which any of the employees were shuttled each day from Maple Heights until last week. After the fire, Coen made sure all existing orders were fulfilled and the 75 seasonal employees were paid through December.
 
“Everyone knew what to do and they just did it,” Coen recalls. “Everyone stayed, anything we had to do as a company we did it. [Warehouse manager] Brandon Baas was literally sleeping in his office. He and [director of warehousing and distribution] Ron Orcutt took charge.”
 
The rebuilt 276,000 square foot Maple Heights facility has better LED lighting and a new, relocated 32,000 square foot freezer. “It’s much brighter,” Coen says of the lighting system. “It feels much more open. As you go through the facility, everything has been redone.” The only evidence of the fire is a pile of dirt, marking the location of the old freezer.
 
Coen says there was no question the company would rebuild in Maple Heights. “For the employees, this is where they’re from,” he explains. “This is what makes it so special. This is a homecoming. They give 100 percent every day. And the city’s been great.”
 
Mayor Annette M. Blackwell, fire chief Vito Kayaliunas, fire captain Dan Sypen, police chief John Popielarczyk, police captain Todd Hansen and members of city council welcomed the company and the employees back at the grand opening celebration.
 
After a tour, guests were treated to a lunch. The employees were also given lunch and goodie bags full of treats from parent company 1800Flowers.com.

Even though Stagan lives in Canton, she is says she is happy to be back in Maple Heights. “It’s great to be back,” she says. “Everybody is under one roof.”

PRE4CLE issues grants for four new classrooms

PRE4CLE, an extension of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District that aims to expand high-quality preschool options across the city, has awarded three grants totaling $120,000 to start four new classrooms, each of which will house 20 preschoolers.
 
The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland will open two of the new classrooms at the Oakwood Child Development Center, 9250 Miles Park Avenue. Another will be the first preschool classroom at The Citizens Academy, 10118 Hampden Avenue, which is operated by The Centers for Families and Children. The fourth will be at the Buckeye-Shaker Fundamentals Academy, 12500 Buckeye Road, under the umbrella of the Fundamentals Early Childhood Development Academy.
 
"The grants cover things like furniture, small tables, chairs and shelves," says Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE director, adding interactive toys, enrichment activities, books, puzzles and blocks to the list. "It's all the basic -- but very critical -- parts of a high-quality early childhood classroom."
 
The grants, which total $30,000 per classroom, will not cover any new construction, but the funds may be used to cover minor facility upgrades to make the spaces safe, healthy and inviting. In addition, the funding will cover staffing, but only for a short time.
 
"They have to hire the staff and have them on board before the state will give them their license," says Kelley of the chicken-or-egg dilemma. "That is a upfront cost; so the funds from the grants will also cover very short term staff costs that are related to that startup effort."
 
The areas impacted by the grants (Glenville, Buckeye-Shaker Square and Union-Miles) all have a demand for those preschool slots and are near the top of their supply capacity.
 
"Part of our effort is to strategically expand high quality programs in neighborhoods that are in the highest need," says Kelly. "These neighborhoods that were chosen have a variety of needs. We wanted to make sure that we continue to build access."
 
The Buckeye Road classroom is slated to open this November, with the CEOGC classrooms in Union-Miles opening by year's end. Citizens Academy in Glenville expects to have its preschool classroom ready for an early 2016 opening date. All of the grantees have space that's available and ready to be used for programs.

"These early childhood programs that are community based (and not within the public school district) operate on tight margins," says Kelley. "So something like opening up a new classroom can be cost prohibitive. We don't want that upfront cost to be a barrier and often it is."
 
While the grants do not fund tuition, which is usually covered by the families, childcare subsidies and federal and state funding, Kelly is glad to be creating high-quality learning spaces for the area's preschoolers.
 
"The grants are only for classrooms, but we think it’s a great start," she says. "This is really our first brick and mortar venture into making sure that those neighborhoods have what they need," she adds. "This will serve 80 children, which we're really happy about."

CPL 'book bike' set to ride this summer

Engaging with patrons and the community has always been a priority for Cleveland Public Library, says youth services librarian Maria Estrella. CPL is taking this all-important mission on the road this summer with a brand new "book bike."

The bike, actually an oversized orange tricycle, will serve nearby neighborhoods as a roving book depository and check-out station. Community members will be able to sign up for library cards on the spot, and search for reading materials in the system catalog thanks to the bike's capability as a traveling Wi-Fi hotspot.

"We'll have popular books and new releases as well as children's books," says Estrella.

The bike, introduced to the public on May 29 in the main library's Eastman Reading Garden, will act as a roaming literacy advocate and outreach tool at downtown events like Walnut Wednesday. Daycare and school visits will also be part of the bike's hot weather agenda.

"Local branches can borrow the bike, too," says Estrella. "It's going to be all over the place."

The three-wheeled library joins CPL's BookBox, a mobile unit of the main library that will offer its wares this summer at University Circle for the Wade Oval Wednesdays concert series. Both book-distributing entities are meant to reach communities lacking easy library access, with the hope of catching interest from downtown Cleveland pedestrians.

Ultimately, CPL's newest initiative is pedaling a creative way to implement library services, Estrella maintains.

"The bike is a wonderful opportunity to get information to people and show them what we're about," she says. "It's great to be able to bring the library to the community." 

Small scale projects can be a big deal for downtown, says neighborhood group

In recent years, cities have utilized the concept of "tactical urbanism" to enhance downtown neighborhoods with short-term, community-based projects like pop-up parks and street art campaigns.

Cleveland planners have engaged the metro in its own urban improvement endeavors including SmallBox, an initiative that changed refurbished 8 foot by 20 foot shipping containers into startup small businesses. Livable city advocate Mike Lydon will discuss both local and national urbanism trends during a June 11 luncheon sponsored by Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation, Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation and PlayhouseSquare District Development Corporation.

Lydon is an internationally recognized urban planner as well as a partner in the Street Plans Collaborative, a group aiming to reverse suburban sprawl through walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. Lydon's talk is opportune for a downtown aiming to jumpstart ambitious change via low-cost, potentially high-impact techniques, says Tom Starinsky, associate director of  both the Warehouse District and Gateway neighborhood organizations.

"Cleveland has a very strong community-led urban design community," Starinsky says. "(Lydon) is bringing these innovative ideas here so the city can stay in step with what's happening in the world."

Among other projects, the Cleveland organization has transformed parking spaces adjacent to the small-box stores into a pocket park. The park, decorated with shipping pallets converted into funky furniture, will host mini-concerts and other events, and is designed to be enjoyed by residents, office workers and visitors alike.

The Gateway District group, meanwhile, has plans for a parklet and bike corral on Euclid Avenue that will repurpose parking spaces in front of several businesses and create a semi-enclosed respite for pedestrians. In addition, the group is planning to build sidewalk parks throughout the neighborhood in areas where the pavement is especially wide, using a variety of seating types where people can sit and eat lunch. 

Urban planner Lydon, who has promoted similar efforts throughout the world, believes tactical urbanism projects can scale up without losing their connection to the neighborhoods that spawned them. This connection is a vital condition for any enduring successes locally, says Starinsky, particularly if new projects can empower a generation of engaged citizens, urban designers and policymakers.

"People involved with the city know more than anyone what will make it livable," he says. "There are infinite ways to make Cleveland better long-term."

Flashstarts move aims to create centralized innovation hub on Public Square

The Flashstarts business accelerator and venture fund recently moved from Playhouse Square to a much larger location in Terminal Tower for two basic reasons, says cofounder Charles Stack.

The first reason was to make it easier for startup companies to find stable office space. The second was to condense newbie entrepreneurial efforts into StartMart, a single, highly energetic nucleus where water cooler moments can foster new ideas and economic growth.

This concept of "engineered serendipity"  began May 16th when Flashstarts, which provides coaching, funds and other resources to new companies that participate in a 12-week program, left for its new 30,000-square-foot headquarters on Public Square, a space six times larger than its previous office.

"I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've never been more optimistic about startups having the opportunity to turn this region into a powerhouse," says Stack, who began planning StartMart with fellow Flashstarts founder Jennifer Neundorfer last spring. "This move is a small step in that direction."

Flashstarts itself will be the hub's first official tenant in the lead-up to a public launch in September. Over the summer, the accelerator will engage the community for feedback on StartMart's design and begin identifying and communicating with potential members. Though the group's focus is on use of software and technology, Stack expects a diverse range of occupants to fill the space.

"It's wide open to anyone who wants to join," he says.

Participants will work in a flexible space where privacy is an option even as collaboration is encouraged. Ultimately, StartMart will stand as a focal point for large-scale innovation.

"We want this to be a global center for startups," says Stack. "Cleveland can be a great home base (for small businesses), and we need to play up that strength."

Odeon Concert Club to reopen in May after nine year hiatus

Before it closed its doors in 2006, the Odeon Concert Club was a famous Flats entertainment venue that once hosted such eclectic acts as Nine Inch Nails, Björk and the Ramones. This spring, the sound of rock music will be shaking the walls of the East Bank club once more.

The Odeon is scheduled for a grand reopening on May 1st, in the same 1,100-capacity spot it held in the old Flats. Cleveland-based heavy metal group Mushroomhead will headline the event, kicking off what owner Mike Tricarichi believes can be a new era for the much loved rock landing place. 

"I don't know if people are going to expect a nostalgia trip or whatever," says Tricarichi. "This is going to be a destination compatible with what's forecast to be on the street with the (Flats East Bank) project." 

The Odeon's interior is getting revamped for its new iteration, Tricarichi notes. Though the room's basic design will remain unchanged, a new sound and lighting system will be installed. In addition, inside walls will be painted and the club's infamously grotty bathrooms will get an overhaul.

"Everything's going to be fresh," says Tricarichi. "We're trying to make people more comfortable."

Tricarichi, president of Las Vegas-based real estate company Telecom Acquisition Corp., owns both the Odeon and Roc Bar, a 250-capacity club located nearby on Old River Road. He bought the Odeon building in 2007, one year after it shut its doors. The decision to reopen Odeon came in light of early success Tricarichi has had booking acts at Roc Bar, which itself reopened in December. 

"We opened Roc expecting it to bring people down here, and it did," Tricarichi says.

Along with Mushroomhead, the Odeon has set a date for a Puddle of Mudd show and is working on bringing in horror punk act the Misfits for an appearance. Tricarichi, who spends part of his time in Las Vegas booking hotel shows, also expects to host comic acts at the refurbished Cleveland club.

"I've produced Andrew Dice Clay shows in Vegas, and he wants to play here," he says.

As Tricarichi owns the building, he views re-opening the Odeon as a worthy, low-risk experiment that can be a key component of a revitalized Flats entertainment scene.

"It's a stepping stone," he says. "We can be a piece of what's happening down there."

long-time area construction firm to move into flats

Nestled between the old Superior Viaduct and the Center Street swing bridge in the Flats sits a building that once housed a foundry for the White Sewing Machine Company. The squat, one story brick structure dates back to the late 1800's.
 
Vacant for 15 years, the space is now in the final stages of a major update as the John G. Johnson Construction Company (JGJ) gets ready to move into their new digs at 1284 Riverbed Street. The company is scheduled to move into the space on November 10th.
 
"Being in construction, we like to see renovation/adaptive-reuse projects," says JGJ's business development manager Matt Large. "We're doing that right now; we're turning a steel foundry for sewing machines into construction offices for the modern era."
 
The transformed 7,500-foot space will feature an open office/industrial warehouse layout designed to facilitate collaboration between employees. Cleveland-based architects Herman Gibans Fodor, Inc, completed the design work. Cost for the project is confidential, but county records show that the previous owner, Riverside Construction, sold the building to M&M Companies LLC for $530,000. It transferred in February. The space is approximately twice as large as the firm's current facility, which is housed -- believe it or not -- in a house at 8360 East Washington Street in Chagrin Falls. The company has been there for 27 years.
 
"We feel the employees are really going to like it," says Large of the new space, "and that it will really make them excel at their work."
 
Founded in 1928 and incorporated in 1943, JGJ specializes in construction management, commercial and general contracting. Their portfolio is mostly dedicated to houses of worship, educational and governmental buildings. Examples of their work include the Euclid Public Library, the Cuyahoga Heights Elementary School, the Chabad Jewish Center of Solon and a number of structures for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
 
"We just want to have a greater Cleveland presence," says Large on the impetus of the move. "We feel that moving to Cleveland is a great thing for us to do right now. A lot of our work is in Cleveland and the surrounding counties. Things are booming."
 
The company is currently at work on projects such as an east side maintenance facility for the city of Cleveland, renovations to Judson Park in the University Circle neighborhood, and a renovation of Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point.
 
Business for JGJ has nearly doubled in recent years. The company is hiring and expects to have about 15 employees in the new offices. He cites the popularity of Merwin's Wharf, the anticipated opening of Brick and Barrel Brewery and activity along Columbus and Elm Streets as harbingers of good things for the area.
 
"We're getting caught up in that little area of the Flats, caught up in the potential growth. We feel like it’s a great area to be a part of and we plan to be there for a long time."
 
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