At times, it can seem like everybody living in this town was born in this town. After all, who would choose to move here unless they had deep family roots and a lasting bond with the geography of the region?
But those who have relocated here -- many of them sight unseen and with no family ties -- are more than pleasantly surprised by what they find. Most report significantly higher qualities of life, lower costs of living, larger and better circles of fiends, and easier access to amenities like food, drink and the arts.
Here, we introduce four transplants who moved to Cleveland and never looked back. Not only have they made the most of it; they've made a life of it.
Ron Fountain, 1974
When Ron Fountain, a Georgia native, was offered the CEO position with White Consolidated Industries in Cleveland, he wasn’t so sure about the location. "To be honest with you, when I was first offered the job it was easy for me to turn it down because it was Cleveland," he recalls. "I didn’t see much future there and I didn’t see it as a place I wanted to live."
But Fountain ultimately accepted the job and moved first to Rocky River and later to Shaker Heights with his wife Joan and two children. Nearly four decades later, the Fountains are some of Cleveland’s biggest cheerleaders.
Almost immediately the family felt at home in Cleveland. For the past 16 years Fountain, now 74, has served on MetroHealth Hospital’s board of trustees. He also is an adjunct professor at CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management and an executive coach, among other posts.
Additionally, Fountain serves on Shaker Heights’ Civil Service Commission and the safety and public works department and is a member of Shaker’s volunteer police department. His wife Joan is involved in many of the arts and cultural organizations in Cleveland, including the Cleveland Museum of Art
and the Cleveland Orchestra
Opportunities to go elsewhere have come and gone over the years, but Joan and Ron decided long ago that Cleveland is where they belong. When Ron had the opportunity to take a high-level position in Atlanta years ago, he assumed Joan would want to return to her hometown. "I was pretty sure she was going to say, ‘I’m leaving now, I’ll meet you in Atlanta,’" he recalls. "But she said, ‘Don’t accept this job because you think I want go back to Atlanta, because I like it here.’"
Fountain says Cleveland offers everything they desire. "I don’t think there’s another place we could live where the people are nice, the quality of living is better, and what we like in culture is both accessible and affordable as it is here," he says. "We’ve integrated our lives with the activities in Cleveland and we’re really enjoying the opportunity to give back some."
Stuart Rowan, 1999
In 1998, Stuart Rowan was working as a research associate at the UCLA when he had the opportunity to interview for both an engineering professorship at CWRU and a position in Miami. He chose Cleveland over Miami for the weather, if you can believe it, because it reminded him of his native Glasgow, Scotland. "The first time I came to interview it was in January," Rowan recalls. "It was 70 degrees at LAX, and I got off the plane in Cleveland to 20 degrees. I hadn’t experienced that temperature in a couple of years, but it was bright blue skies and just cold. My first impression was it was normal. It was what I was used to growing up."
Although Rowan admits he had to look at a map to find Cleveland, he knew almost instantly this was where he wanted to be. "I think you get a gut feeling about a place when you’re traveling around the country, a 'Yeah, I could live here or No way in hell,'" he says. "I’m used to being in a city. Growing up in and around Glasgow, it was a shipbuilding/steel town that was very into sports."
Rowan lived through Glasgow’s transformation from a steel town into the second-most cosmopolitan city in the United Kingdom. "Glasgow today is completely different. I saw Cleveland in 1999 was about to go through, or had just gone through something similar," recalls Rowan. "It was the year the Browns had come back and Chris Palmer was announced as the new head coach the day of my interview. It all just felt easy and familiar."
Rowan admits that he made most of his first friends through his students and the Barking Spider Tavern
on the Case campus. He lives in Cleveland Heights and didn’t have a car for the first two years. "I didn’t know anyone when I first came here," he says. "But I was 29 when I came so I was similar in age to my more senior graduate students. I just loved hanging out at the Barking Spider and meeting people, especially in the summer."
Rowan has had three opportunities to move -- two back to the UK and one to another U.S. city. He’s passed on all of them. "Multiple reasons come into my decision to stay or leave," Rowan says. "My standard of living, my quality of life would have dropped -- there aren’t many places that have this quality of life and cost of living," he says. "The sports, the art scene, the great selection of restaurants that overlook the lake. Pier W
is a fantastic restaurant with great views."
Rowan has witnessed many of the improvements he sensed were coming when he first arrived. "The most impressive thing I’ve seen is the growth of downtown," he says. "In 14 years downtown has completely changed; it’s great. University Circle has improved a bit, and Uptown, the Euclid Corridor project has dramatically helped the connection between University Circle and downtown. I think it’s exciting when you see a lot of building in the city, and we’re seeing that. It seems to be going in the right direction."
Rowan and his wife Hilary still reside in Cleveland Heights.
Andy Roth, 2011
Originally from New York City, Andy Roth has lived in New Jersey, Chicago, Buffalo and Philadelphia while pursuing a sports radio career. Then in July of 2011, Roth had the opportunity to come to Cleveland to serve as program director for 92.3 The Fan
. The opportunity to work in a die-hard sports town was too good to pass up.
"The only reason I came here was because of the opportunity and job," says Roth, 41. "Cleveland is a sports hotbed and known around the country. I thought, Hey, this is Cleveland. If you’re going to be a sports programmer, this is the place for you."
So Roth and his wife Lynn moved with their two children. Initially, when selecting a neighborhood in which to live, Roth says he was overwhelmed by the geographic expanse of what is considered Cleveland. "From Bay Village to Willoughby -- that’s a huge drive," he says. "It’s the largest area-wise town, except for Chicago. One area and you have every kind of lifestyle you would ever want."
Ultimately the Roths settled on Shaker Heights. "A friend of mine who used to live in the area highly recommended it," Roth says. "We liked the schools, the businesses around the area and the convenience of doing what you want to do -- walking around, sports."
The transition wasn’t always easy. Roth reports feeling like a fish out of water trying to figure out how to get around the East Side. "I grew up driving in New York City and it was hard," he recalls. And the summer they moved into their home it was the wettest on record and their basement flooded.
But Roth also credits Shaker residents with making the transition easier. "We got adjusted because of the Shaker schools," he recalls. "Our kids love school; it felt so comfortable to them. Then one night we were at dinner at the Tavern Company
in the Cedar-Lee area and a little girl ran up to our son and said 'Hi Matthew. See you in school,' and ran away. The parents of this little girl ended up being our best friends."
Nearly two years later, Roth feels right at home in Cleveland. "It’s a down-home place, even though it’s so big," he says. "People in Cleveland really take the time to show you where everything is. This is an underrated place to live, because of the people and the food. It’s such an easy place to live."
The Roths have enjoyed discovering the variety of food in Cleveland, from Mama Santa’s
in Little Italy to the CSA at Fresh Fork Market
, to Lolita
in Tremont. Vietnamese favorites include #1 Pho and Minh Anh
. "And we’re beer-bar junkies," he adds, citing Willoughby Brewing Company
, Buckeye Beer Engine
and Tavern Company among their favorite hangouts.
Anna Beyerle, 2013
Anna Beyerle first moved to Ohio from her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, as a student at the University of Dayton. Her college friends piqued her interest in Cleveland and, after living in Dayton for about a year post-graduation, Beyerle was deciding between Cleveland and Washington, D.C.
"Honestly, I just really loved the city," says Beyerle, 23. "The place offered amenities without the prices you find in other cities. Cleveland has a low cost of living but at the same time you get the things you find in Chicago or D.C."
So Beyerle picked Cleveland, and in January she got a job with Downtown Cleveland Alliance
in the economic and urban development department. "All the people I knew who had lived here loved it and it offered some pretty great things. Even my friends who are from here and don’t live here anymore love coming back."
Beyerle lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood and loves it. "I work downtown and it’s really convenient," she says. "I take the Rapid every day and it takes me less than 15 minutes to get to work. And the places I like to go to on the weekend are really close, too."
Beyerle cites Cavs games and drinks in Tremont as some of her favorite activities. She and her two roommates love that they can afford a house with a yard.
"I’ve never lived in a city this large before, but it’s so easy to get from place to place," Beyerle marvels. "It’s nice to go to sports games or Edgewater Park. The restaurants in general are awesome. I’ve never experienced a culinary scene like this."
Photos Bob Perkoski except where noted