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Cardboard Helicopter's would-be elves dream up toys, gadgets

The team at Cardboard Helicopter is always busy dreaming up new inventions and designs in their Lakewood workshop. Since launching in 2012, they've designed more than 349 products for their clients and their own interests.
 
Past inventions have included the Splash Infuser, a natural way to infuse fresh fruit into water and cocktails, and the Jokari self-sealing spout for oils and wine bottles. Now the team is getting into the toy market – just in time for the holidays.

“We did housewares for years, but I’ve always had a passion for toys,” says CEO and Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Tim Hayes. “It’s just plain fun. It’s making things that make people smile.”
 
The firm’s clients have launched a variety of toys for the 2016 holiday season, most of which are available at big box retailers like Walmart, K-Mart, Home Depot and Amazon.
 
"We've been getting into the toy market and designing for some big brands," says Hayes.
 
For instance, Walmart is now offering the Tricerataco holder, a stand-and-stuff taco holder Cardboard Helicopter designed for KidsFunWares. “The triceratops’ back is a perfect little taco holder and kids can play with it after they eat,” says Hayes. “We invent it and then we license it out.”
 
Then there’s a series of two-wheeled scooters and bikes the team designed for California-based Pulse Performance Products – a stand-up scooter designed to appeal to both boys and girls while attending to safety, and the Safe Start Transform rechargeable electric scooter for riders ages six and older with two speeds and a rechargeable battery.
 
“We designed a version for an older kid, but [Pulse] wanted it to be youthful,” says Hayes, noting that both scooters can be found at outlets such as Target.
 
Then Pulse asked Hayes to come up with an authentic, kid-sized chopper motorcycle. The result is the Chopster E-Motorcycle – designed to mirror a Harley Davidson, the bike has high handlebars, street-worthy tires, a rechargeable battery and sleek lines.
 
“We designed the look and feel of this little bike,” says Hayes of the Chopster, which is selling on like mad at places like Home Depot and Amazon.
 
For adults, Cardboard Helicopter redesigned a series of tools for Smith’s Consumer Products, an Arkansas-based hunting and camping products manufacturer. “They were kind of dated and wanted a while new look and feel,” says Hayes of the project. The result was a sharpener-and-knife tool, and the multipurpose tool, Pak Pal.
 
The small but mighty team of six - which goes up to eight when demand increases - is also entering the pet market, with offerings such as the Critter key chains, an LED-lit animated key chain for finding key holes and doing other small tasks in the dark. Fitting as the company mascot, a pooch named Penny, keeps watch over the Lakewood digs where the team aims to keep designing new products.
 
“We design anything,” Hayes boasts. “We meet to brainstorm once a week on new ideas. “We have a collaborative spirit here, designing new ideas by designing backwards. We turn our sketches into products and then say to our clients’ hey what are you looking for?’”
 
What’s next for Cardboard Helicopter? It all depends on what the team dreams up. “We focus heavily on design and fill the gaps for our customers who like to outsource that aspect,” Hayes says. “And we can do it rapidly.”

Bottlehouse, Rising Star team up to offer day-and-night libations

It’s been nearly a year since Bottlehouse Brewery and Meadery's Brian Benchek opened his Lakewood location in the old Sullivan’s Pub at 13368 Madison Ave. as the hub for the company's sour beer production.
 
Now Benchek is partnering with Rising Star Coffee Roasters to open a pop-up pour over and aeropress bar, as well as sell beans, merchandise and pastries from Fire Food and Drink, in Bottlehouse during the daytime hours, beginning on Monday, Dec. 19. As it is, the bar sits empty during the day until Bottlehouse opens at 4 p.m.

The partnership came about after Benchek bought the 5,000-square-foot space he is currently renting, along with a 2,000-square-foot storefront next door.
 
“Bottlehouse has been in this location for a little while and [Benchek] had the opportunity to purchase the property,” explains Rising Star general manager Robert Stockham. “It’s a typical Lakewood storefront and it was really crying out for a business. They were looking for a business that would be complementary to them.”
 
After Stockham and Benchek got together, they found that Bottlehouse and Rising Star were a perfect match. In fact, Bottlehouse brews its flagship coffee stout using Rising Star coffee beans.
 
Rising Star will take over the new space in March or April 2017. In the meantime, the company will operate out of Bottlehouse.
 
“We came out to talk to them and we realized we really have the same philosophy toward business,” says Stockham. “They specialize in hand-crafted brews and meads, we specialize in hand-crafted coffees. We realized this was a good pairing and renting the space next door made sense.”
 
The pop-up store will help Rising Start get a head start on establishing themselves in the neighborhood. “We can start building a presence now,” Stockham says, adding that the company has a number of wholesalers on the west side of Lakewood but no retail locations in the city.
 
Rising Star currently has three retail locations – in Hingetown, the Arcade and Little Italy – in addition to its roastery at 3617 Walton Ave.
 
“We will come in during the day and get people excited about the space,” says Stockham of the pop up shop. “Then they can come back at night to get beer and mead.”
 
Rising Star’s opening in its permanent Lakewood location will depend on how long it takes for Benchek to close on the two properties and how much work has to be done on the adjacent storefront. “The space is in good shape so it won’t take a lot of work,” assures Stockham.
 
In addition to the Lakewood location, Stockham says they hope to open a retail outlet in their roastery next year to cater to Cleveland’s tourism industry.
 
Bottlehouse’s Lakewood location hours are 4 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays; and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays. The original Bottlehouse is located on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. The Rising Star pop up will be open from 6 a.m. to either 4 p.m. or 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, opening at 8 a.m. on Sundays.

Historic century building in Old Brooklyn soon to house artisanal cheese shop

After spending 16 years in London as a chef, Michael Januska decided it was time to come home. He grew up in Avon Lake, and his family still lives in the area, so he settled in Old Brooklyn.

“The cost of living in Central London is one of the highest in the world,” he says of his overseas home. “My two younger sisters are having kids and I decided it was the rat race or quality of life.”
 
Januska discovered the art of making cheese while living abroad and decided Old Brooklyn would embrace a quality cheese shop. By the end of October, Januska will open the doors to Old Brooklyn Cheese Company, 4138 Pearl Road.
 
“Cheese is simple, but it’s still complex,” Januska says. “I love using only milk and one or two other ingredients and making something quite exquisite and unique.”
 
Januska turned to the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) for assistance in finding the perfect space for making his cheese and serving his customers. Eventually, he secured a 1,200-square-foot storefront in the historic 1895 Krather building in Old Brooklyn’s Design Review District.
 
Januska was particularly attracted to the glass front and 15-foot ceilings. He got a loan to help with financing the shop and started plans to open. “The support from the City of Cleveland and Old Brooklyn has been amazing,” he says.
 
The feeling is mutual from OBCDC. “For us, Old Brooklyn Cheese Company is the kind of business we know residents want to see in the neighborhood, so it is important to us that [local businesses] feel well-supported and connected to the assistance they need so that they can focus on running a thriving business,” says Rosemary Mudry, OBCDC director of economic development, adding that they were able to connect Januska with small business support services and low-interest financing to establish the company.
 
“By building great relationships with entrepreneurs in the community, we are excited to continue to attract new business to the neighborhood that meets the needs of residents and provide additional amenities so that Old Brooklyn continues to be a neighborhood of choice in the City of Cleveland.”
 
As one of only two licensed artisanal cheese makers in Cuyahoga County, Januska will offer an assortment of his cheeses after they have been aged properly for at least 60 days –sometime in December – as well as from Ohio cheesemakers and artisanal cheeses from around the country and world. His first cheese will be an aged Gouda, available in December.
 
In the basement, Januska is building a 14- by 12-foot aging cave, where he will age his hard and alpine cheeses. He has room to build up to five caves, each for different types of cheeses requiring different humidity levels for aging.
 
“When I’m done with that one, I will build another one for stinky and soft cheeses,” he says.
 
Furthermore, Januska is one of only a handful of cheesemakers in the country who ages cheese for other cheesemakers. “It gives them control because the quality is still there,” he explains. “Once it’s vacuum packed and sealed for distribution, the flavor is choked out. I’ve got commitments from other cheesemakers in Ohio, Maine and San Francisco to age their cheese.”
 
Januska is perhaps most excited about his twist on cloth-banded cheddar – an English technique in which the cheese is wrapped in a cloth dipped in butter or lard before aging. His cloth-banded cheddar will be aged with bacon fat.
 
“I call it the Old Brooklyn version,” he quips. The cloth-banded cheddar will be aged for 12 months before it’s ready for sampling.
 
The shop will feature deli-style glass display cases for the cheeses, which will include an assortment of Januska’s cheeses organized by type – washed, or “stinky;” fresh;  soft; semi-hard to hard; alpines; and blues.
 
At the front of the shop will be two big commercial tables where customers can sit down and sample cheeses, as well as Ohio honeys, bread from Blackbird Baking Company, almonds, dried fruit and locally cured meats.
 
Patrons can choose three to five cheeses from a selection of 15. The experience will serve as a chance to try some new varieties before buying while also socializing with friends.
 
“It’s a happy place to go in because no one goes in angry to a cheese shop,” Januska says. “If they’ve never heard of this and taste it and say ‘hey, I like that,’ or if they say ‘I don’t like it, it’s too funky or salty,’ they can try something else.”
 
Januska says he's thinking of installing a back patio next spring.
 
Even if customers know exactly what they want, Januska wants Old Brooklyn Cheese Company to be a welcoming place. “It’s a nice, relaxed place to enjoy your cheese with a friend and just relax,” he says. “The tables are casual where everyone can have their cheese and gets to talk and share.”

ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Edwins campus completes second phase

When De’Anthony Harris was released from Grafton Correctional Institution last October, he had a new outlook on his future. And, thanks to Brandon Chrostowski, owner of EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant  Institute on Shaker Square, Harris also has a second chance at a successful life.

During his eight years in prison Harris, now 27, did everything he could to improve his odds in the outside world. “The best thing that happened to me is I didn’t have kids when I went in,” he says. “The only responsibility was myself. I was blessed that I did the right thing.”
 
Harris enrolled in Chrostowski’s culinary training class at Grafton. He also earned his temporary commercial driver's license (CDL) for truck driving, a certification in pet grooming and any took just about any other workforce training program the prison offered.


 
Chrostowski opened EDWINS in November 2013. The restaurant employs former inmates in Ohio prisons to teaches them the inside ropes of an upscale French restaurant. EDWINS has graduated 145 students men and women, with another 30 graduating in December. A new class of 30 started on August 8 and will begin working at the restaurant today.
 
In addition to the restaurant, Chrostowski has been busy building the EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center in the Buckeye neighborhood to further help his students get a solid fresh start.
 
Edwin is not only Chrostowski’s middle name, it also stands for “Education Wins,” says Chrostowski – the whole mission of the restaurant and the skills center campus.
 
“If we can educate our students to a new reality and maximize their potential and educate our guests on the level of quality of someone coming out of prison,” Chrostowski explains, “then we can educate the men and women in corrections that there is more than a number to [being] a human being and instill hope inside of our prisons.”
 
When phase two of the project is officially completed next week, Harris will serve as the Resident Advisor (RA) in the student housing dormitories on the 20,000-sqaure-foot campus on the corner of South Moreland and Buckeye in Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood.
 
After beginning the $1.3 million construction project on the EDWINS campus late last July, Chrostowski has transformed a once-rundown and somewhat abandoned portion of the street into a vibrant neighborhood. The campus's three buildings house an 8,000-square-foot, a three-story dorm, an eight-bedroom alumni house for EDWINS graduates, a fitness room, weight room, library and test kitchen.
 
“No one wanted to partner with us,” Chrostowski says of his early fundraising efforts. But then $1 million came from two anonymous donors and the execution of his vision began. “There’s a need for housing and there’s a need for someone who wants to be better.”
 
 Chrostowski extensively renovated and remodeled the interior spaces and spruced up the exterior with landscaping and freshly painted trim on the exteriors of the red-brick buildings. Much of the material and labor was done at or below cost by area contractors.


 
From the front of the library building, a sign touting "EDWINS" adorns new a glass front. Chrostowski is expecting granite glass tiles to be delivered any day now, sold below cost to EDWINS by Solon-based Granex Industries, which will border the bottom of the front windows. Fir trees in square wooden planters welcome passersby on the street.
 
The building that houses the newly-painted EDWINS library and test kitchen was in disrepair when Chrostowski took ownership of the property. Just 13 months and $480,000 later, thanks to generous donations and fundraising, the building features new plumbing and electrical.
 
“The building was a total wreck,” Chrostowski recalls as he looks around the renovated room, which at one time was filled with garbage and dead animals.
 
“It never seems to stop,” he says of the work required. “Our students needed this. The student is my boss, so they dictate what has to be done. It’s not what I want to get done.”  
 
Bookshelves and eight computers line the library’s walls, each with internet access and all of Chrostowski’s lessons via Grafton’s Hope Channel.
 
The library shelves are already stacked with about 100 culinary books. The collection continues to grow. “I want to build the biggest culinary library in the state,” Chrostowski says, adding that he hopes to accumulate 1,000 books.
 
Adjacent to the library is the test kitchen, with state-of-the-art equipment for the residents to hone their culinary skills and experiment with new recipes. “The dream is to always be around food,” Chrostowski explains of the setup.
 
Down the hall, past administrative offices, are lockers and showers next to an exercise room with workout equipment and a large-screen television, while the basement houses a weight lifting room. Another basement area is filled with donations of household goods, which will be sold in a planned store.
 
Beachwood-based Thomas Brick Company donated 10 pallets of tile for the test kitchen and locker rooms.
 
On the roof of the building are hives with 20,000 Italian honeybees, whose honey is harvested for many of EDWINS’ recipes. Below is a full sized basketball court, a greenhouse and a chicken coop that is home to three chickens. “The greenhouse will be the spring incubator for our summer vegetables,” Chrostowski explains.


 
Chrostowski recruited Lakewood artist Bob Peck to paint a mural on the wall abutting the basketball court. Chrostowski hopes to acquire the currently-vacant building from the Cuyahoga Land Bank for a future butcher shop.
 
The dorm houses seven apartment suites with room for about 20 students. The suites feature living areas, bedrooms and, of course, full-equipped kitchens.
 
While phase two is nearly complete, Chrostowski already has his sights set on the next phase of his dream to not only give former convicts a second chance at a productive, fulfilling life, but to revitalize the Buckeye neighborhood.
 
Chrostowski is eying a home just behind the EDWINS campus that he hopes to buy and convert into family housing for students. In addition to the buildings directly next door, he's also watching a couple of buildings down the street that would make good storefronts for a future fish market and butcher shop.


 
With the help of Jones Day, Chrostowski has set up the EDWINS Foundation to cover costs for current and future endeavors.
 
For Harris, the campus feels like home. He’s busy managing the final construction jobs, “giving a helping hand wherever needed and physical labor,” while also enforcing curfews and calming residents’ disputes as a certified mediator. “It works, it really does work,” he says of the mediation skills he learned at Cleveland State.
 
Harris is also continuing his pursuit to be a truck driver, hoping to see more of the country, as he’s never traveled beyond Cleveland. “I’ve never been nowhere,” he says, “I’ll go anywhere they tell me to go.”
 
For now, Harris is quite happy on the EDWINS campus. “People ask me, ‘how did you get that job?’ and I say ‘I educated myself,’” he explains. “You’re not just getting a job, you’re getting a family too. That’s your backbone. I would recommend this program to anyone.”

Six freelance friends transform former church space, launch Clockwork 9

After working as freelancers and small business entrepreneurs in graphic design, marketing and video production, a group of friends looked up last year and mused, “hey, what if we pool our talents and open our own company?”

That’s exactly what Chris Brown, Andrew Spirk, Eric Way, Adam Huffman, Nicholas Roth, and Dave Pelosi did when they merged their practices to open Clockwork 9 Studios in an old church office at 14305 Madison Ave. in Lakewood last month.
 
The group had worked together in various ways over the past six years, during which they had each expressed an interest in working together more regularly.
 
“One day the stars aligned and fate decided for us,” says Brown. “It wasn't a split second decision but rather a unique opportunity that we all saw as clear as day at the same time. When something like that happens, you don't ignore it. We embraced it and once we laid out our plans, we put everything in motion.”

The six-man company describes itself as “visual marketing redefined,” offering video production services to marketing and everything in between for small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike, with unique marketing plans for each client. “We want to do something that’s never been done,” says Brown of their approach. “We want to create the wheel, we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”
 
He continues: “We wanted to provide a place where if you wanted to, you could create a concept and see it through all the way to production,” says the marketing expert. “We offer everything [clients] need, from branding to commercials.”
 
But before Clockwork 9 could open its doors, there was a bit of work to do on the 3,000-square-foot space. The 1,500 square feet on the first floor had 20-year old commercial carpeting and laminate tile in the kitchen. The space required outlets and proper office space.
 
Instead of hiring contractors to do the work, the team decided to do it themselves. They read books and watched YouTube videos on how to create the space they wanted while also focusing on the environment.
 
Clockwork 9’s new floors are reclaimed wood pallets found on Craigslist and through local businesses. The group cut, installed, sanded and stained the slats themselves. They fashioned the desks from reclaimed wood as well. A fresh coat of paint and a hand drawn logo rounded it all out.
 
“We were using those beautiful resources that were available,” says Brown. “It was a six-week process to do the whole studio. We’re really trying to create an environment that thinks outside the box.”
 
The team transformed the 1,500-square-foot basement into a storage and hangout area, complete with darts, air hockey, a projector and ping pong.
 
Business has been great so far, reports Brown, and Clockwork 9 is forming lasting relationships with clients, including Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, Ridgid and Coppertop Pub.

“Our goal isn't to do a project once with the client,” he says. “Our goal is for a client to continuously use us for all of their needs. To date we have had three major video projects and many small projects.”
 

New bike lanes add to Lakewood's cyclist-friendly goal

In its quest to have bicycles be a primary form of transportation in the city, Lakewood recently added two new dedicated bike lanes along the entire stretch of Madison Avenue. The addition is part of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, adopted in 2012 as a way to encourage cycling.

“We want to establish cycling as a main means of transportation in Lakewood,” says Bryce Sylvester, the city’s senior city planner. “The goal is to be recognized as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the country.”
 
City officials began implementing the plan back in 2012 with shared bike-vehicle lanes, known as “sharrows,” on Detroit Avenue and dedicated bike lanes on Franklin Boulevard.  The lanes are clearly marked as sharrows or dedicated lanes.
 
In addition to the traditional bike lane markings, the new lanes on Madison implement two new bicycle infrastructure signs.  The lanes will have “door zone” patterns – small diagonal lines – to mark areas where people in parked cars may be opening their doors into the lane. The idea is to reduce the number of run-ins cyclists have with abruptly opening car doors.
 
Dotted markings through intersections along the route will reinforce the fact that bicyclists have priority over turning vehicles or vehicles entering the roadway – alerting traffic, both bike and vehicles, of potential conflict areas.
 
“Our hope is to make it a safer ride down Madison Avenue,” says Sylvester.
 
The city also has installed more than 100 bike racks in front of businesses since 2012, with the aim of installing 20 racks per year.
 
Sylvester says the Bicycle Master Plan and its execution are in response to the residents’ demands. “The people have built an environment of cyclists here,” he says. “People use their bikes to get around. We’re taking a proactive approach of active living in Lakewood. We feel infrastructures like this allow out residents to be active.”
 
Lakewood has been awarded a bronze award for its efforts by the League of American Bicyclists
 
"We're doing okay," says Sylvester of the plan’s progress.

Lakewood's first historic tax credit to benefit classic 1915 building

Frank Scalish, owner of Scalish Construction, is attempting to revive Northeast Ohio’s history brick by brick. His latest project is an historic 5,000-square-foot building at 12301 Madison Ave. in Lakewood’s Birdtown neighborhood.
 
Thanks to a $82,402 Ohio Historic Preservation tax credit, Scalish is renovating six apartments and the street-level store front of the 1915 structure constructed by Michael and Veronika Turza, who lived there until they died. Their children sold the building in the 1950s.
 
The classic retail downstairs/residential upstairs building had no name, so Scalish dubbed it The Veronika, after Mrs. Turza. He came to own it after the previous owner queried him about renovating the windows. “I got the impression he was just fixing it up to sell it,” Scalish recalls. So he decided to purchase the building and renovate it himself. “We’re only the third owners.”
 
Scalish is working with the Architecture Office to preserve the historic nature of the building while also updating the interior.
 
The former home of the Corner Pub, which was actually two storefronts combined into one 1,250-square-foot space, previously housed a hardware store and a candy store. Scalish is currently talking to two potential retail tenants including a coffee chain and restaurateur.
 
Scalish has already successfully uncovered the original wood storefront of the Veronika’s exterior. “What we’ve found intact we’ve refinished and restored to like the day it was built,” he boasts. “And most of the masonry is intact.” He is also restoring the building’s original glaze brick exterior while large glass doors are on order.
 
Inside, Scalish removed four ceiling layers to reveal portions of the original tin ceiling. “We should have enough to do at least one side,” he says, adding that one of the previous owners tore out the ceiling to make way for HVAC.
 
Scalish is refurbishing the original bar and the maple hardwood floors throughout the building. “It was a unique find hiding in plain sight,” he says. “We’re trying to preserve the original woodwork as much as possible.”
 
The one-bedroom apartments upstairs are being renovated in stages, with phase one nearly complete, says Scalish. The apartments will have updated LED lighting, quartz counter tops, clean white walls and vintage tile accents. The restored original storm windows provide plenty of light throughout the space.
 
Walls were torn down to open the kitchens to the living rooms, while also creating better natural light and ventilation. “It’s an open layout,” Scalish says of the plans. “The whole floor plan is more modernized. They’re pretty much new from top to bottom”
 
The first phase is almost complete and Scalish says he plans to start leasing the apartments at market rate within six weeks. The entire project is on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.
 
The Veronika is not Scalish Construction’s first restoration endeavor. Scalish is building a reputation for restoring local homes and businesses in Northeast Ohio, including his offices in the old Cleveland Trust building on Madison Avenue in Lakewood.
 
“Old buildings have history, and with that history comes a certain level of soul,” says Scalish. “Most of these old structures were built by true craftsman, by hand, with care and compassion and without the use of modern day tools. They are certainly hard to replicate even in this day and age. This is evident in all of the little details that are present on these historic buildings.”
 
Scalish freely shares his passion for his work.
 
“It’s a pleasure to be surrounded by a team of true modern day craftspeople who have the ability and share the passion to return these structures to their original glory,” he says. “I love the idea that these buildings have withstood the test of time and lasted a century. My passion is driven by the legacy that we are leaving behind for the generations to come.”

Building a big dream on a tiny slip of land

As the saying goes, good things come in small packages. In Lakewood, that package is tucked away at 1427 Scenic St. near the city's westernmost border, the Rocky River.

Three years ago, the Cuyahoga Land Bank took over a tiny abandoned house on a 35- by 95-foot parcel in Lakewood’s Scenic Park neighborhood.
 
As the Land Bank razed the 348-square-foot house, cleared the property and laid grass seed, LakewoodAlive, a community-centered non-profit organization focused on maintaining vibrant neighborhoods in Lakewood, took notice.
 
“We identified this vacant property in March 2015 while knocking on doors to introduce ourselves and our Community Engagement Program,” recalls LakewoodAlive executive director Ian Andrews, adding that the program focuses on the Scenic Park and Birdtown neighborhoods to make sure everyone has the resources to create healthy and safe homes. “We saw this vacant property and thought: what can we do with that?
 
After neighbors on either side of the property declined to annex the approximately 3,300-square-foot parcel, LakewoodAlive began working with the Land Bank and Lakewood officials to build a new house. The organization took title to the property in January and then transferred it to Lakewood developer Dana Paul with Prairie Stone Group in March.
 
Paul broke ground on a 1,425-square-foot, two-story home with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths on April 30. “It has a deck overlooking the Rocky River Reservation,” says Andrews. “It’s going to be a beautiful home.”
 
Last Wednesday, May 18, a group of community members, mayor Michael Summers, Paul and LakewoodAlive representatives gathered at the site to celebrate the project. Because construction has already begun, with concrete work well underway, officials dubbed the event the “Scenic Park House Project Launch Party” instead of a groundbreaking.
 
Attendees honored the future home by breaking beer bottles over a rock at the construction site.
 
Andrews says the market is hot for a house like the one being built on the pint-sized parcel. “There’s a big market for historic, other people want funky,” he says, adding that the neighbors are pleased. “They’re glad to see this little lot is finally getting some love.”

Talking Salt with chef Jill Vedaa and sommelier Jessica Parkison

Salt, which is unearthed from mines and evaporated from mineral springs and the sea, takes time to form and doesn’t come easy. The same is true of the journey that led chef Jill Vedaa and sommelier Jessica Parkison to become cofounders of Salt, which is slated to open in Lakewood at 17621 Detroit Ave. this June. The two met a few years ago when Jill Vedaa sauntered into Humble Wine Bar, where Parkison was manager, and ordered a flute of rosé.
 
At the time, Vedaa was earning media praise as executive chef of Cleveland Heights’ Rockefeller's restaurant, which was shuttered last May, while Parkison masterfully juggled her front-of-the-house career with the demands of her family with six kids.
 
“My dad was a chef, so if you wanted to spend time with him, you did it in his kitchen,” says Parkison. She spent the latter half of high school in the West Shore Career-Technical District at Lakewood High School immersed in the culinary program. Upon graduation, she was poised to follow in her father’s footsteps with a scholarship to Johnson and Wales University when fate intervened. Parkison shelved her college plans when she discovered she was expecting a child. Waiting tables led to more than a decade of management jobs before a trip to Napa ignited an interest in wine and inspired her to earn a level-one sommelier designation.
 
In the meantime, Vedaa was about to further develop her flair for painting and drawing at the Cleveland Institute of Art when she had a change of heart. Pint-size for the profession at 5’ 6” and 19 years old, she took a job as a bar back in Tremont in 1992, eons before it was solidified as a top dining destination. In three years’ time, she’d had three different jobs. Savoring Spanish food at KeKa on her day off, opportunity knocked when the owner Mark Shary approached her with a job proposition. He was short-staffed; she was an inexperienced, albeit eager, apprentice.
 
Under the tutelage of Shary, and then Michael Symon and Karen Small, Vedaa proved a natural in the profession but confesses opportunity preceded her passion.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” is her unpretentious explanation for what lured her into the business as a teen and the secret to maintaining her longevity over a 20-year span in the service industry.
 
As friends and colleagues, Vedaa and Parkison shared a common yearning for autonomy. With Rockefeller’s closing and a vacancy in a prime spot near the popular Beck Center they began realizing their dream of owning a restaurant about a year ago. “Everything has just fallen into place perfectly,” says Parkison
 
Work started on the 2,700-square-foot space in February, where Chris Pocus of McGrann Construction is the contractor. The space includes a 10-seat bar, 25-seat lounge and tables for 40. Kitchen hours are tentatively slated for 4 to 10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. on Friday, 5 to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Salt will employ 25.
 
A storefront grant from the City of Lakewood will help fund exterior signage for the restaurant, the balance of the project is privately funded by the co-owners and a throng of supportive colleagues and friends.
 
Every chef knows that a heavy hand with salt can ruin its magic. Nonetheless, when asked what the most under-appreciated ingredient in the kitchen is, the two reply in unison: “Salt!” but insist the name was chosen more for memorability than to foreshadow a sodium-laden menu. Expect an assortment of expertly-seasoned small plates and Spanish-style tapas crafted by Vedaa complemented by a seasonal craft cocktail menu developed by Parkison and an international wine list with selections from Chile, Portugal and Spain.
 
The “magic” is as much about the ambiance as it is the appetizers and aperitifs. Rustic and romance are intertwined in Salt’s dining room and lounge against the backdrop of an exposed brick wall. Without the distraction of WiFi or TV, you’ll discover a respite that harkens back to an era before electronics that will foster connection and conversation sprinkled with Vedaa’s favorite ingredient: fun.
 
Ever out of the box, Vedaa is adamant she doesn’t want to “get painted into a culinary corner ... Salt is more about a way of eating and dining and less about a specific cuisine,” she says.
 
“I’m focused on creating amazing food inspired by dishes I love, with many different ethnic influences.”
 

Handcrafted sour beer, mead, eats and board games coming to Lakewood

When the BottleHouse Brewing Company opened on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights in 2012, owner Brian Benchek brought a slightly different approach to the craft brewery – no mainstream beers or televisions, but plenty of picnic tables and board games to create an atmosphere the whole family could enjoy.

The idea was a success and Benchek is on the verge of opening a second location. The BottleHouse Brewery and Mead Hall will occupy the space that formerly housed Old Sullivan’s Irish Pub at 13368 Madison Ave. in Lakewood.
 
Everything is complete and management is ready to open the doors pending approval of their federally issued brewing license. Jared Plotts, general manager of the Lakewood location and trivia host on Monday nights at the Cleveland Heights location, says the license should come through any day.  
 
“We’re well past the 120 days, which is the normal time it takes,” he says. “We’re at 150 days. Once that email comes, we’re open. It just gives us an opportunity to tweak things.”
 
While the team had been floating the idea of a second location, it was fate that brought it to life.
 
“Brian had been toying with the idea of how we could get more people interested in our beer,” says Plotts. “We were discussing a second location, but we planned on opening in a year or two and we thought we’d build it out ourselves.”
 
Then, Plotts says Benchek was tooling around town in November and happened to see the former Sullivan’s location was up for rent and in a blink, the second BottleHouse location was determined.
 
“Every day since the end of November we’ve been working hard to get everything up to code,” says Plotts of the 5,000-square-foot space. The team ripped out the saloon-themed décor from the last tenant only to reveal an Irish cherry wood bar and other imported Irish wood. New embellishments include rustic chandeliers, barrels lining the room and highlights on the stone work arches.
 
“The majority of the work was cosmetic,” says Plotts. “It’s more like a 17th century castle.”
 
Picnic tables will encourage a community feel, and the customary board games will be available.

"Valhalla," a private party room, features a 22-foot-long table. Plotts says he plans to host monthly craft brewing workshops here, including one specifically targeting women. He also plans to host monthly fundraising events for local charities.

A game room in front has reclaimed wood floors salvaged from a vintage Irish barn, glass sculptures made by Benchek and old school arcade games.
 
While the Lee Road BottleHouse will continue to be the brewing headquarters for the operation, the Lakewood location will focus on sour beers, which rely on wild yeast for fermentation, and barrel aging. The two locations employ about 10 people.

Twenty-four taps will offer a rotating selection of BottleHouse-brewed clean beers, sour beers and meads. The sour beers take between six months and three years of barrel aging, so that selection won’t be available until late this year. There will also be a variety of cocktails made with the beers and meads.
 
Menu items include crackers made with the spent grains from making the beer and BBQ sauce and beer cheese made from BottleHouse brews, as well as soups and salads. Offerings will change seasonally, Plotts says. And as always, patrons are welcome to bring their own food into the bar.
 
Plotts says the overall atmosphere and attitude in Lakewood will be similar to the Cleveland Heights location. “Lakewood has such a rich history,” he says. “We wanted to give the community someplace they could be proud of and a place they can go with a lot of energy and the idea of community.”

Lakewood fish shelf coming along swimmingly, officials say

A "fish shelf"  designed to stabilize about 300 feet of riverfront on the Lakewood bank of the Rocky River is on track for completion this fall.

Last June, the City of Lakewood received a $123,000 grant from the Ohio EPA for streambank restoration and construction of the shelf, which will be comprised of former sound barrier walls or other repurposed concrete construction materials, notes city engineer Mark Papke.

The fish shelf will be built near the Rocky River Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks, close to the Lakewood Animal Shelter off Metropark Drive. Bidding will begin in April while construction on the approximately $204,000 venture is scheduled for June. Lakewood will pay $82,000 toward the project cost.

The portion of the riverbank slated for restoration is unstable and eroding rapidly, says Papke. "The trees there have fallen into the river," he says. "There's no vegetation at all now."

While the fish shelf won't replace the 15 feet of land lost to erosion over the last several years, it will protect the bank from further damage, Papke says. In addition, the shelf will prevent the influx of phosphorous-laden sediment into the river. Phosphorous, a primary plant nutrient, is known to play a role in creating potentially damaging algae.

Meanwhile, new trees and shrubs will serve the dual purpose of beautifying and further firming up the space. Gaps in the rubble can provide a habitat for additional greenery as well as animal life.

If planners have their way, the fish shelf will also be site a for sport fishing. The water around the proposed shelf is already known for steelhead trout.

"We met a couple of fishermen last week to show them the plans," says Papke. "They appreciate the chance to have better access to the river."

Partner organization Cleveland Metroparks will conduct a survey prior to and following construction to determine if the enterprise can attract even more fish to the area, Papke says.

City officials estimate the fish shelf to be ready by October. Papke is confident the project will be both an environmental and civic boon for the region.

"It's giving us an opportunity to stabilize the bank and provide a nice place for fishing," he says. 

Marketing firm Spruce moves into iconic Gordon Square landmark

The building with the iconic turret gracing the intersection of West 58th Street and Detroit Avenue in Gordon Square now houses more than just a popular eatery. The marketing firm Spruce took up residence on the second floor of the building at 5800 Detroit Ave. earlier this week.
 
"Primarily what I do is work with small businesses that love what they do and usually have some kind of connection to the community," says Tom Sarago, owner and founder of Spruce, noting that many of his clients are non-profit organizations. His portfolio includes work for Cleveland Print Room, Seeds of Literary, Kalman & Pabst Photo Group, the Near West Theater and Borrow Rentals among others.
 
Sarago spent his first day in his new 250-square-foot office this past Monday.
 
"It's not a big room," notes Sarago, adding that he does have access to a shared area. The second floor offices are also home to Spice of Life Catering, which is a sister business of Spice Kitchen & Bar, the building's first floor restaurant. While Sarago is delighted with the new space and gets along wonderfully with the Spice team, he concedes there is confusion between the two names Spice and Spruce.
 
"It's never easy," he says, laughing at life's little stumbling blocks, but it's a fair assessment considering he's in the business of name recognition and brand management.
 
Spicy distractions notwithstanding, Sarago moved his operation, which he founded in May of 2014, from his Lakewood home to the Gordon Square neighborhood in order to lend more legitimacy to his growing business. The move also supports the separation of home and work, particularly when home matters include a curious 16-month-old daughter who does not always understand the requirements of a professional setting.
 
"I owed it to myself and to my clients to have my own space outside of the house," says Sarago. "Business is going well."
 
The Gordon Square address was appealing for many reasons, including the energy in the area, a compatible space and a feeling of homecoming. Sarago worked for the Detroit Avenue Arts nonprofit in the mid-aughts, just ahead of the neighborhood's boom. The group occupied the then-vacant parish hall in the former Orthodox church campus.
 
"I felt like we did a really great job of bringing a young demographic to the neighborhood," says Sarago, "which you see now but you didn't see back then. It was a little bit ahead of the curve." He did that work while holding down a day job. Sarago worked as a marketer for Playhouse Square from 2005 to 2012.
 
While Spruce is starting 2016 in its new home as a one-man operation, it may be ending the year with the addition of a part-time employee.
 
"Presently I'm working with a team of freelancers that's working well for me, but being able to rely on that extra person, that extra set of hands and that extra brain would certainly be beneficial," says Sarago. That future employee will be busy. Sarago is already planning big for 2016.
 
"I'm hoping to be active with the Republican National Convention in some capacity, whether it's assisting an organization with trying to get their message out during the event or working on parts of the campaign myself," says Sarago. "I think there will be a lot of relationships forged out of that event," he adds.
 
"There is so much going on in the city right now, it's tremendous," says Sarago. "The sky's the limit for anyone looking to be in in any type of business. And really, if you're focused on being as passionate as possible about it, those results will be there."
 
Two additional units are available for let at 5800 Detroit Avenue, including an 800-square-foot space and another that is 200 square feet. Contact Nathan Dent of fit home realty for more information.
 

February opening eyed for duck-rabbit coffee in Duck Island

Calvin Verga, founder of duck-rabbit coffee, has very specific standards when it comes to pouring a proper cuppa, starting with where the beans are grown.
 
"We roast in such a way to highlight all the different characteristics," says Verga, adding that a good cup of coffee is defined by its origin. He tags berry, currant and grape notes in coffee from Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi; citrus and floral flavors from Ethiopian beans and rustic earthy notes in those from Sumatra. Unlike the more common dark roasted beans, a delicate light roast brings out those nuanced flavors.
 
"When you roast light in order to highlight those origin-specific characteristics, you need a phenomenal coffee. Any sorts of defects in the coffee will show in clean cup. It's imperative that our coffee is of the highest standard," says Verga.
 
He launched duck-rabbit in 2014 as a bean-roasting venture and sold his product wholesale. Verga's coffee was heretofore available only at a handful of locations such as Root Café in Lakewood.

As early as February 1st however, Verga will be offering his high-end brew at an emerging storefront at 2135 Columbus Road in Duck Island. The coffee house will be part of the Forest City Brewery project, which is also slated to include a meadery and brewery and is currently home to the quirky Cleveland Cycle Tours operation, with its two 15-seat bikes.
 
duck-rabbit will occupy an 800-square-foot space and will employ about five, with both part- and full-time positions. Verga tentatively plans to have about a dozen seats. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Not surprisingly, the menu will be Spartan in order to showcase Verga's painstakingly chosen and roasted beans, with the star being pour-overs. He'll also sell roasted beans and some brewing equipment. A deep respect for coffee, where it comes from and how it's processed comes free with every purchase.
 
"We'd like people to really get into coffee in a close personal way and be able to replicate/brew great coffee at home," says Verga, adding that he hopes to host workshops in the future.
 
Verga will offer some espresso drinks, including macchiatos, cappuccinos and lattes. As for sugary flavored syrups and cups topped with clouds of whipped cream, they will not be found at duck-rabbit.
 
"The main focus is the coffee going into the drinks," says Verga, who also concedes, "mocha is one thing I could see possibly on the menu at some time." He does, however, plan to offer a very limited selection of small bites such as French macaroons or madeleines, which he will source off-site. 
 
"No details on that yet," says Verga.
 
While construction hums along, Verga has taken delivery on a high-end La Marzocco espresso machine and is roasting beans in a unique vintage German Probat machine, which he chose as carefully as the beans he puts in it.
 
"When you're roasting on this," says Verga as he displays the Probat, "there are no computer programs. It's full sensory engagement by the roaster." Hence, success requires experience and a honed sensitivity regarding the sight and smell of the beans, all of which is married with timing and temperature.
 
Verga, a Lakewood native, was in the San Francisco Bay area when he became engaged in the world of high-end coffee while immersed in academics. He eventually opted for joe over the lecture hall and after he "cut his teeth" in the coffee business on the west coast and established a network, he returned to Cleveland to launch duck-rabbit.
 
"It felt like a great time to come back to Cleveland," says Verga. "That sentiment has really been reinforced since I came back. There is a good energy in Cleveland these days."
 
Since Freshwater reported on the Forest City Brewery project last April, partners Matt Mapus, Jay Demagall and Cory Miller have realized their funding package, which now includes a Vacant Properties Initiative grant from the City of Cleveland. Mapus reports that the rental space for Western Reserve Meadery will be ready by February 1st and that Forest City Brewery will be offering up beer by this Saint Patrick's Day.
 

Up to 250 new sharing bikes coming to the 216 ahead of the RNC

Bike Cleveland has teamed up with the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability to secure 250 bikes for a bike sharing program in time for the Republican National Convention next July. The move is part of a larger countywide initiative.
 
"Over five years we need 700 bikes in 70 stations," explains Mike Foley, executive director of Cuyahoga County's Department of Sustainability.
 
In order to get started on that tall order, last month the team identified CycleHop-SoBi as the preferred vendor for the new bike share system. Negotiations are ongoing, although Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) awarded the county $357,000 in federal funding to bring the plan to fruition. With 20 percent in matching funds, the group has $446,000 available to purchase the bikes.
 
"The federal government requires us to own these things at least for their usable life," explains Foley, "which is deemed five years." The program in its entirety will cost more, he adds, and will depend on a private-public partnership that relies on business and other private sponsors adopting stations and systems. Downtown will be the initial focus area for the first wave of bike stations.
 
The CycleHop-SoBi brand is a collaboration of two entities.
 
"CycleHop operates the system,"explains Foley. "SoBi manufactures the bikes," which he describes as sturdy and equipped with GPS systems. "Heaven forbid a bike is stolen or not returned," he says, "they'll be able to find it. It also helps figure out routes. They call it a smart bike. We were impressed with technology."
 
The bikes can also be locked anywhere.
 
"You don't have to go to a SoBi bike station," says Foley. "You can lock it up at regular bike stop and go get your coffee."
 
The versatility doesn't stop there. Although still tentative, Foley sees the program having flexible membership options, with yearly, monthly and weekly fee structures available, as well as an hourly rental system for one-time users.
 
As the program expands to reach that 700 number, Foley sees it reaching across the county.
 
"There are suburban communities that I know are interested in this. Cleveland Heights is chomping at the bit to be part of it," he says, adding that Lakewood has also expressed interest.
 
"We want this to be larger than just the city of Cleveland."

Unique staff at Ranger Cafe prepares for October opening

On October 27th, the Ranger Café will open its doors to the public. The 50-seat venue will offer a smart selection of salads, sandwiches and entrees. The hours, however, are a bit limited; the eatery is only open three hours a week: on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 1:30 p.m.
 
Why such tight time slots? The Ranger Café is housed inside Lakewood High School (LHS), 14100 Franklin Boulevard, and is run completely by students.
 
"The juniors are here from 8 to 11 a.m. They really help prepare and setup the restaurant," says culinary arts instructor Devan Corti. The seniors take the reins from noon to 2:15 pm. "They also prep and help setup, but then they are the ones who are here during hours of operation. They are cooking, serving, hosting, dishwashing.  Any real positions out there in an actual restaurant, that's what they're doing here."
 
"It's a self-contained little business," adds culinary arts instructor Rob McGorray.
 
The 6,000-square-foot café is housed in what was once LHS's East Cafeteria. The space includes a demonstration classroom, dining room and a gleaming kitchen loaded with professional equipment including six ovens, three industrial ranges, two convection ovens, a freezer, walk-in cooler and a smoker for processing turkey and homemade pastrami.
 
"We've been brining it, curing it and smoking it," says Corti. The savory meat then gets piled onto sandwiches with cheese, pickled onions, and various other toppings. The menu also includes soup of the day, quiche of the day, a smoked cheddar burger, fish 'n chips and filet mignon among other offerings. The group is still working out the dessert menu.
 
The program is under the aegis of the West Shore Career-Technical District, which offers a host of vocational programs and caters to students from Lakewood, Rocky River, Bay Village and Westlake. Currently, the culinary arts program serves 20 juniors and 11 seniors, all of whom are hard at work preparing for next month's opening.
 
In addition to running the café, students perform any number of food labs that center on skills such as cooking techniques, making homemade stocks as well as some standards.
 
"They always love making pizza," says Corti. Other favorites include soup lab and ice cream lab. Homemade breads (focaccia, Asiago, sandwich buns) are also house specialties.
 
Students can eat food they prepare and take home lab leftovers. As for the café, which is marking its sixth year in the former cafeteria space, customers include regular janes and joes, teachers, staff members and community groups. During school hours, however, the café cannot sell food to students on account of regulations surrounding public school lunch programs.
 
Culinary arts students also complete a formal food safety curriculum, and learn about aspects of the industry the laymen takes for granted such as the proper labeling for items in the "Grab and Go" cooler. As in any kitchen, unpredictability always looms. When it strikes, McGorray teaches kids to tackle it with an "adapt and overcome" methodology.
 
"How do you restart the fryer or lift the heavy thing without hurting your back? How do you fix a vinaigrette?" poses McGorray. "What do you do if the chef forgot to order the chicken? What if there's a power outage? What do we do?" He recalls when a snow day wiped out 30 reservations. The solution? A staff lunch for the teachers the next day.
 
"We’ve had it all," adds Corti of life's little surprises. 
 
In addition to instruction, hands-on learning and running the café, students round out their experience with culinary competitions, bake sales and field trips to serve families at the Ronald McDonald House. But the real the icing in this kitchen isn't on the cake.
 
"We're not just teaching you how to sauté," says Corti. "We're teaching life skills. We're teaching you how to function in the real world and how to make money at it."
 
"It's thinking on your feet—problem solving," adds McGorray. "That will get you farther than just a degree."
 
The public is welcome at Ranger Café, although reservations are strongly recommended. Call 216-529-4165 and select "1."
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