The stories of Old Brooklyn come alive at FreshWater's On the Ground storytelling event

As Cleveland’s largest neighborhood—and one with more than 200 years of history—Old Brooklyn certainly has no shortage of compelling stories. Many of them were highlighted at our On the Ground storytelling night last Wednesday, October 10.

Held at Metropolitan Coffee, the event was designed as an engaging way for neighborhood residents and business owners to share their Old Brooklyn experience and lend new meaning to the hashtag, “What’s Your Old Brooklyn?”

Storytellers included resident LaRaun Clayton, Lilly Chocolates & Confections owner Amanda Montague, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress director of neighborhood marketing Jeff Kipp, and 2020 W. Schaaf gallery owner and artist Michael Gutierrez. Also in attendance were Cleveland City Council president Kevin Kelley, and Julie Brown and Carlos Laboy of Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, with the evening MC-ed by local comic Mike Strenk.

Clayton spoke of the apprehension he felt as both a gay and African-American male during his house-hunting process—and the warm welcome he and his husband have received in Old Brooklyn (where he now serves on the marketing committee of OBCDC). Kipp shared his experiences as an Old Brooklyn resident of 17 years and the insights he’s gained through his work with Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

Montague told stories about the beloved house at the corner of Spring and Starlight where her husband’s grandparents once lived (and she and her husband later inhabited), the deliciously romantic story behind Lilly Chocolates & Confections, and the reasoning behind the recent choice to relocate their chocolate shop from Tremont to Old Brooklyn.

Gutierrez told a poignant and powerful story titled “Crossroads,” in which he talked about how the intersection of Broadview and Schaaf has served as a crossroads throughout his life in many ways.

The common thread? Community pride. Montague may have summed it up best when she said, "This is not a starter neighborhood, this is a place to plant your roots. A community. A place to raise your family, make memories, and leave a legacy. We are proud of where we live and we don’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops…. We don’t need to be the next cool neighborhood. We are a community, not a trend."

Watch Gutierrez tell his story:

Watch Kipp tell his story:

This event was part of our On the Ground - Old Brooklyn community reporting project in partnership with Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Cleveland Development Advisors, and Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Jen Jones Donatelli
Jen Jones Donatelli

About the Author: Jen Jones Donatelli

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast.

When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.