A big, sweet life is taking shape at Pinecrest

The Pinecrest site at I-271 and Harvard Road is buzzing with activity as construction workers keep moving—even through yesterday’s snow and frigid wind—toward the rolling opening of the $230 million mixed-use development project on 58 acres in Orange Village.

On a media tour of the site yesterday, Tuesday, April 17, Fairmount Properties principal Adam Fishman and other officials led a group through some of its anchor projects nearing completion. The tour included Silverspot Cinema (the fifth location for the boutique movie theater complex and the first in Ohio), Cincinnati-based Graeter’s Ice Cream, and a look peek into some model apartments.

But perhaps the scene stealer yesterday was Steve Presser’s and Tom Scheiman’s “surprise” announcement that the owners of Big Fun toy store and B.A. Sweetie Candy Company (the largest candy store in North America at 40,000 square feet) are joining forces to open Sweeties Big Fun at Pinecrest.

The store combines the pair’s first loves—sweets, candy, and toys—into one 2,155-square-foot space at 10 Park Ave. in Pinecrest. It will feature more than 1,000 toy items, 1,000 candy items, 200 varieties of old-fashioned soda pop bottles, an assortment of housemade popcorn varieties, and soft-serve ice cream.

“The joke is: he’s the sweets guy, I’m the cheesy guy, so hence the lollipop and the whoopie cushion,” Presser said during the announcement. “This unique opportunity came up, and Tom and I decided that because we both love our businesses, we have some serious branding. Why not just call it Sweeties Big Fun?"

Presser announced in January that he would be closing Big Fun in June after 27 years on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. He simply says, “It’s time.” But the chance to open Sweeties Big Fun was one he says he wouldn’t pass up.

“It allows me to stay in something I love—business—and to create it from the ground up,” says Presser. “It will have the details of Big Fun that I like and will get rid of what I don’t like.”

Scheiman has been Big Fun’s candy wholesaler for more than two decades, Presser says. In addition to toys and candy, Sweeties Big Fun will have Sweeties’ proprietary soda shop on premises, as well as a roll-up door front to serve walk-up customers who may be enjoying the adjacent one-acre park area.

“We’re going to be popping popcorn, making caramel corn and cheesy corn, [and] people can walk right in the front of the store and get it and enjoy the park,” says Scheiman. “We’ve got our proprietary Sweeties soda shop sodas and soft-serve ice cream, so you can come into the store and make yourself a float—or just roll up to the window and get it.”

Along with ample edible indulgences, Presser says the store will carry "old toys, Cleveland stuff, items from around the world, a baby section, lots of different things to go after a lot of people’s tastes.” The interior, designed by architect Jerry Herschman, will pay homage to local artists, Cleveland, and overall nostalgia. A 1968 Volkswagen microbus will hang from the ceiling, as will a nine-foot painted guitar.

Presser says he and Scheiman searched for the VW bus before a friend told them about a collector in Akron who had a “beat-to-crap” bus with no engine or seats. “This Volkswagen bus was found in a field and had been sitting there for 38 years with no engine, no seats, so we’re all about preservation,” Presser shares. “This thing had trees, it was growing roots. So, we’re resurrecting it.”

Scheiman and Presser have hired local artist Matt Ranello to paint the bus, along with a variety of other local artists to help make Sweeties Big Fun unique. Rafael Valdivieso Troya (Raffo) will be painting the giant guitar; muralist Jake Kelly is painting three garbage cans with fun and funky designs; Mark Jenks is designing a retro television that will broadcast toy and candy ads from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s; Presser’s wife, Debbie Apple-Presser, will be making a giant soda pop bottle; Dana Depew will design a sign and light fixture for the store; Ian Petroni will create a giant popcorn box; and champion sand sculptor Carl Jara will be replicating the rocket ship that adorned Big Fun. In addition, artist Wendy Mahon will be creating a chalkboard sign for the store.

Pinecrest affords an ideal location for a place like Sweeties Big Fun, says Presser, with the many hotels surrounding the area and the AC by Marriott actually located within Pinecrest. “We’ll get a fresh flow of traffic,” he explains. “For a bricks-and-mortar retailer, it’s all about traffic."

The goal is to open Sweeties Big Fun by June 1.

In other tour highlights, officials showed off Silverspot Cinema’s progress in the 10-screen theater that has no box office or concession stand. Instead, customers access an app for ticket orders and choose from a full menu including everything from popcorn to flatbreads and sandwiches. Food is delivered to patrons before the movie starts while they sit in recliners with swing-out tables.

The lobby consists of a full bar where guests can come eat or enjoy a glass of wine before the showing. Theaters range in size from two 38-person theaters to rooms seating up to 150—replete with comfy recliners. “It’s probably one of the coolest experiences you’ve seen in movies,” says Randi Emerman, vice president of programming and strategic partnerships. She adds that all theaters are all handicapped-friendly, with seats accessible from both the lower and upper levels and ample wheelchair areas.

In addition to showing mainstream, independent, and foreign films, Emerman says Silverspot will also have “event programming,” in which opera and concerts will be shown. Past selections have included Hans Zimmer, El Vivo, The Beatles, and Pearl Jam.  “When we have the new [opera] season start, we will have an expert on the opera from the local area [to] explain what you’re going to see before the opera starts,” she says. “There is nothing like seeing a concert on this screen.”

Emerman adds that they also host film festivals—both local festivals or one created by Silverspot. 

Another new entry is Graeter’s, a family-owned ice cream maker for 145 years. With 50 stores throughout the Midwest, Graeter’s signature flavor is their black raspberry chocolate chip. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a great following,” says Chip Graeter, who runs the retail operations for the business and is part of the fourth generation of the Graeter family. “Cleveland has been a great location for us in grocery stores and we have a store in Crocker Park, so we’re excited to be on the east side here in Pinecrest.”

Graeter says they signed on to be in Pinecrest early in Pinecrest’s development. The shop will employ about 14 people with four team leaders when they open in May.

The 87 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments are almost complete. Each apartment has its own balcony, and the model units were furnished by Laura of Pembroke, another future Pinecrest tenant.

Another new Pinecrest tenant, Woodhouse Day Spa, was announced in April and will open this fall. Voted "Best Day Spa" by American Spa Magazine every year since 2012, Brunswick residents Dawn and Elvis Matkovic will open Woodhouse’s fourth Ohio location at Pinecrest.

The first Pinecrest tenants will begin to open by mid-May, officials say, with others opening throughout the summer. The development is a joint venture between Fairmount Properties and DiGeronimo Companies, and its official grand opening will likely be in September.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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