The plot of land between West 58th and 57th Streets on the north side of Lorain Avenue is one of those spaces Clevelanders pass again and again while their brow knits and they mumble to themselves … huh.
On it sits just one old building from days gone by, shuttered since who knows when. It is the only structure on that block, which is bordered to the north by West Aspen Court. For years, it has looked curious and perhaps lonely, but courtesy of a local entrepreneur that quirky old building in Detroit Shoreway's Ecovillage at 5718 Lorain Ave. is undergoing a transformation.
"We've decided to house our first Cleveland Coffee retail environment there," says Brendan Walton, who founded Cleveland Coffee in 2003. He currently roasts at a midtown location and serves his brew at the downtown café and bar, A. J. Rocco's at 816 Huron Road.
While Walton has owned the Lorain Avenue building for six years, he only began working on it recently. The first floor café area is approximately 850 square feet. Future plans for the second floor, which is zoned residential, are pending.
"Our focus is definitely on the first floor," says Walton, who is acting as his own general contractor. Leslie DiNovi of Mark Fremont Architects is doing the design for the privately funded project. While Walton has not yet submitted an application, he hopes to take advantage of the city's Storefront Renovation Program.
"I have to go through the process," he says, adding that he's working with staff at the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization to apply for the popular program.
While interior work is ongoing, thus far Walton has replaced all the windows save for the large front window and has installed Dutch lap siding, which is often fashioned from vinyl, but Walton opted for wood.
"We tried to match what was there," he says.
While specifics are still yet to be determined, Walton is planning to be open seven days a week and have a limited selection of edibles that will complement his high end coffee, which he'll prepare via popular methods such as pour-over and Aero and French press.
"A. J. Rocco's doesn't really lend itself to that," says Walton of those slower per-cup methods.
He hopes to be serving up his joe – including the new and popular Cavs/Aussie inspired blend – at the new Lorain location by the beginning of summer. Until then, home brewers can purchase Cleveland Coffee at some 40 retail locations across northeast Ohio.
While Walton is a bit of a pioneer on this stretch of Lorain, which has more than its share of vacancies, he is quick to tout neighboring successes such as the venerable Lorain Antique District, the gravity of which is loosely centered amid the West 70's, and the burgeoning easterly part of Lorain in Ohio City, into which ventures such as Canopy, The Grocery, and Platform Beer Company are breathing new life. He has stalwart faith that he can pull that energy inward to West 58th Street.
"I've always loved Lorain," says Walton, adding that his new coffee spot may inspire others to invest in the area around West 58th Street. "I think this is an important intersection for Detroit Shoreway," he says. And while many of the area storefronts are vacant, they have a certain vintage charm, one that could reemerge with what Walton calls an "old-school Coventry feel," referencing the storied east side neighborhood.
"We're Clevelanders," he says. "We like urban renewal and we would love to be a part of a renaissance in this area. We are very optimistic it's going to happen."