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these 'boomerangs' prove there's nothing wrong with taking the long way back home















With months-long waiting lists for many downtown apartments, it's clear that Cleveland is attracting plenty of new residents. But some aren't "new" at all. Boomerangs, native Clevelanders who've flown the coop only to return, claim a host of reasons for their homecoming. They miss family and friends, sure, but also a hometown that's high-access, low-stress and easy on the wallet.

The Cleveland many find when they return brims with big hearts and small egos. Vibrant emerging neighborhoods, a booming restaurant scene, and an awakening economy mean that boomerangs often find a hometown that's vastly improved from the one they left behind.


Boomerang: Graham Veysey, 28
Landing Pad: Ohio City

Flight Path: Entrepreneur Graham Veysey first left Shaker Heights for Bates College in Maine. Then, as Director of Marketing for Plum TV, he worked in locales as farflung as Telluride, Miami, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Dream job? Perhaps. But the glitter of those tony resort towns eventually faded for Veysey, who describes them as "revolving doors."

After returning to Cleveland in 2008, Veysey founded North Water Partners, a creative consulting and video production firm that employs six at its W. 25th Street offices. The group's PSA, "Stone Age 5," won a 2010 Emmy.

Call of the Cleve: "I loved growing up in Cleveland and wanted to come back to a community where there's a deep sense of place, where I could sink my roots down and start a business. I wanted to be part of the renaissance that's happening in Cleveland."

Local Picks: Fattoush from Nate's Deli; Happy Hour at the Flying Fig; the Roasted Imperial Blend from LOOP coffeehouse in Tremont.

With Fresh Eyes: "You have this new generation of Clevelanders becoming active in all different arts organizations," he says, citing the recent Summer Solstice party and the Cleveland Orchestra. "It's a special place to be at a special time."


Boomerang: Katie O'Keefe, 29
Landing Pad: Detroit Shoreway

Flight Path: In 2001, O'Keefe's family moved from Avon Lake to South Jersey, which was the launching pad for an eight-year "odyssey" through New York, Philadelphia and Europe as part of her art history studies. In 2007, she married and settled in Alabama.

O'Keefe says that she soon missed Cleveland so badly that she left it all -- including her husband -- to move back to town in 2009. With only a modest nest egg, the help of friends and perseverance, she made it all work out. Nowadays, she works as a web developer with Case Western Reserve University.

Call of the Cleve: While away, O'Keefe pined so badly for Cleveland that she'd gaze at live traffic webcam shots and cry. "I missed the spirit of Cleveland," she says. To prove her devotion, she's inked herself with all things Cleveland, including the Terminal Tower and Guardians of Traffic from the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.

Local Picks: Sunsets at Voinovich Park; biking to Hot Sauce Williams; and Gordon Square's Gypsy Beans & Baking Co.

With Fresh Eyes: "There's something about fighting for what you believe in, and I believe in Cleveland so I will fight for Cleveland," says the self-described evangelist. "Cleveland makes me feel right. I never felt right anywhere else."


Boomerang: Mary McCahon, 30's
Landing Pad: West Park

Flight Path: McCahon hails from Chagrin Falls. After graduating from Ohio University in 1995, she moved to Texas and worked as a TV anchorwoman for seven years, then joined Delphi Corporation for five years, working in Mexico and Detroit. In 2007, when family issues arose, she came back to Cleveland. McCahon says she wanted to buy a home in Cleveland proper, ultimately settling on the West Park neighborhood. "I had to get a passport to the West Side," jokes the former Eastsider. Currently, she works as media relations manager for the RTA.

Call of the Cleve: McCahon never felt at home in Detroit, she says, where the cost of living seemed to be twice that of Cleveland. Add to that the convenience of getting around Cleveland, a solid sense of community, and the call of family and the move back was a natural choice.

Local Picks: Kamms Corners Farmers Market; the Rueben at Public House; and, "when we need a break," P. J. McIntyre's.

Cleveland is for Lovers: "I leave for 15 years and I traveled all around the world. I come back and meet the love of my life. There must be something special about Cleveland."


Boomerang: Ken Surratt, 39
Landing Pad: Glenville

Flight Path: Surratt grew up in the Lee/Miles and Glenville neighborhoods. After attending the University of Virginia and Duke, and a stint in Washington, DC, he moved in 2003 to San Francisco. There he held managerial positions at the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Foundation, the San Francisco Unified School District, and Stanford University. He returned to Cleveland earlier this year to become the CFO of Breakthrough Charter Schools, which he says offers Cleveland kids with limited opportunities a "ticket to a better life."

Call of the Cleve: Not only did Surratt miss his extended family, he missed Cleveland so much that he joined a group of ex-pats dubbed the "San Francisco Bay Browns Backers." They'd meet on Sundays to watch the football game and reminisce about all things Cleveland. He plans to buy a home in Cleveland -- a far more affordable prospect here than on the West Coast.

Local Picks: Wade Oval Wednesdays; Old Fashioned at Lola; and the great patio at Tremont Tap House.

With Fresh Eyes: "I see small pockets of rebuilding communities and local pride. That's where it needs to start -- by changing the minds of the people who live here."


Boomerang: Beth Sebian, 27
Landing Pad: Ohio City

Flight Path: In 2000, Sebian and her family moved from the "far east" suburbs of Lake County to Maryland. After attending Oberlin College and Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Sebian moved to Washington, DC, to study Islam in the West. In 2010, she returned to Cleveland to work on Lee Fisher's senatorial campaign. These days, she's a project manager for the Cleveland Coalition and is working on the Transparency Action Plan Summit.

Call of the Cleve: The "friendliness, warmth and graciousness of the people here," drew Sebian back home, she says. She also was compelled by the residents' commitment to family and to leading decent, honest lives.

Local Picks: Bar hopping on W. 25th Street; the Armor Court at the Cleveland Museum of Art because it brings out the "modern day warrior" in her.

From the Heart: "Ohio and Cleveland in particular are microcosms of our country" she explains. "Whether it's gay marriage or race relations or economic disparity, we're living all those issues in a very intimate way. If we can figure out a way to work together and have an impact on problems here, that's 90 percent of what it takes to signal change across the country. Being back here, urging peers to jump into issues that they care about, it's very powerful."


Boomerang: Tom Gill, 28
Landing Pad: Ohio City

Flight Path: Born into an extensive Cleveland family, Gill grew up in Bay Village and Westlake. Following his graduation from Saint Louis University in 2005, he traveled to far flung locales like Madrid and El Salvador, where he did immigration research. In 2007, Gill moved to Boston to obtain a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard. After graduation, a job with the State of Massachusetts left him flat and he decided to move back to Cleveland in 2009. He currently works as Director of Development for the Urban Community School.

Call of the Cleve: Gill was set to pursue a career in urban policy, and no place made more sense than his hometown. Citing his "deep ties" to Cleveland, his family and for the city's future, he developed a strong desire to return. The prospect of "fewer agendas and smaller egos" figured into the move as well.

Local Picks: Salisbury steak at Sokolowski's; the Smart Seats program at PlayhouseSquare; and Manakiki Golf Course in the Metroparks.

From the Heart: "I've been to over to 25 countries and lived all over, but I always, always, always talked about Cleveland. I love it. I've stopped apologizing for it."


Boomerang
: Matt Rossman, 41
Landing Pad: Cleveland Heights

Flight Path: The West Park native attended Miami University for his undergrad work and New York University for his law degree. He practiced law in the Big Apple for three years before embarking on a teaching career that took him up and down the East Coast. In 2004, Rossman returned to Cleveland when he and his wife were expecting their first child. Now he works with law students in Case Western's law clinic, which offers gratis legal services to the community. He also serves on Global Cleveland's advisory council.

Call of the Cleve: Second only to friends and family, Cleveland's racial diversity, urban energy and old-stock homes drew Rossman back. "Cleveland has a lot of what we loved about the East Coast without the expense," he says.

Local Picks: The corned beef hash at Big Al's Diner; Mentor Headlands; and walking home from work.

Yesterday and Tomorrow: "We have an incredibly rich history in the area, and I think that's what makes it such and interesting place -- the way it was built by people with so many different cultures, perspectives and traditions. I'm hoping that will start again."


Photos Bob Perkoski
- Photos 1 - 5: Katie O'Keefe
- Photos 6 - 9: Graham Veysey
- Photos 10 - 13: Tom Gill


Read more articles by erin o'brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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