How 3 families live, work & play in Cleveland—and why they wouldn't have it any other way

Find out what urban living looks like for these three families that choose to live in the city of Cleveland.

Edgewater: The Shakarian-Kvidera Family

For the Shakarian-Kvidera family, the epic Cavs championship parade in 2016 turned into an epic trek through the city of Cleveland. The family of five walked from their home in Edgewater The Shakarian-Kvidera Familyto downtown and back, earning a few more notches on their proverbial FitBit than they’d expected.

“We tried to take the bus and Rapid, but everything was full, so we loaded the kids into the stroller and walked 10 miles round-trip that day,” laughs Melanie Shakarian, who works as Director of Development and Communications for The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.


Though unexpected, the journey was unexpectedly wonderful—a storeowner in Detroit Shoreway gave them water, and others joined in as they progressed toward downtown. “By the time we got to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, the crowd of walkers was over 15 people deep,” says Shakarian. “After enjoying the parade, we broke up the walk home by stopping at Happy Dog for dinner.”


Of course, walking is nothing new for their family—Shakarian, her husband Peter Kvidera, and their three kids (3-year-old Eliza, 5-year-old Aida, and 9-year-old Rose) often walk to nearby Edgewater Park, Lucky’s Market, and restaurants like Liquid Planet and Landmark. They also take what Shakarian calls “urban hikes” to nearby neighborhoods like Detroit Shoreway, Lakewood, and Ohio City.


And when they can’t walk, their chosen destinations are usually a short Uber ride or drive away from their late-1800s colonial home. “From our house, we feel like we are right in the middle of Cleveland’s east-west divide, so we can have the benefit of both worlds,” says Shakarian, who grew up in the Edgewater neighborhood on Lake Avenue. “We can get to Severance Hall in 15 minutes, or to Kamms Corner in 15 minutes.”

The family likely spends a lot of time at Severance, as Kvidera sings in the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. Their children seem poised to follow in his musical footsteps, currently studying Suzuki violin and cello at The Music Settlement in University Circle.


Aida and Rose at Campus International SchoolShakarian and Kvidera, who is the Interim Dean of the John Carroll University College of Arts & Sciences, send their two older children to Campus International School and are “very happy” with their choice of CMSD—though at first it was somewhat overwhelming.

“When we went to pick schools some years ago, the list of possible schools to pick from was overwhelming,” says Shakarian. ‘There is a cool dual-language school option. There are Montessori-style options. There is a school in our neighborhood focused on children with physical disabilities. There are nearby high-performing charter schools.”


Most of all, Shakarian appreciates the blend of people that make up her Edgewater neighborhood. "We have the best neighbors—people of different races and backgrounds. There are families with young kids on our street. There are LGBTQ families. There are older people. Recent refugees are often placed in an apartment nearby," says Shakarian. "Cleveland’s diversity is what makes us special."

The Glaze Family

Slavic Village: The Glaze Family


After spending 13 years as a licensed social worker for both the Hospice of the Western Reserve and the Cleveland Clinic, LaToyia Glaze was feeling burned out and ready for a professional pivot. “The experience helped me to understand that life is short and that we should do the things we enjoy doing, because tomorrow is not promised,” says Glaze.


In her pursuit of the sweet life, Glaze found her second calling: opening an ice cream shop! Glaze opened Just Glaze three years ago at 3949 E. 71stStreet in Slavic Village and hasn’t looked back since.


“Initially, I wanted to just order ice cream from a vendor [for the shop], but I ended up doing a lot of research and consulting with local vendors to learn about the ice cream world,” says Glaze. “I ended up developing my own authentic, exclusive recipe.”


Glaze’s recipe is preservative-free and all-natural, and the store offers over 500 flavors including Sweet Potato Pie and White Chocolate Caramel.


The endeavor ended up not just being a career change, but a whole life change for the Glaze family, which includes LaToyia’s husband James (a barber) and five girls—a set of 2-year-old twins, a set of 6-year-old twins, and a 14-year-old. The Glazes purchased the Just Glaze building as a live-work space, relocating from Garfield Heights to Slavic Village to live above the shop in a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a backyard.


“I had been looking for places for about a year, but most of them were on really busy main streets with parking lots rather than yards,” says Glaze. “It was hard to find places that had a mix of a play area and work space. This was the perfect building.”


LaToyia Glaze with her five children at Just GlazeNow all of the areas of their life are integrated, as Glaze homeschools her three older kids along with living and working in the space. Glaze says she often incorporates Just Glaze into their lessons by inviting her kids to work in the shop. “They’ll greet people, take inventory, help with calculations,” says Glaze. “I incorporate everything we do into their learning.”

Three years in, Glaze is proud of the progress she’s made toward creating the life she envisions. “If I wanted a life in the suburbs, I would go do that, but that’s not what I want right now,” says Glaze. “I’m invested in working for myself, having a family, and taking pride and ownership in our community. That’s what’s important to me at this time.”

Old Brooklyn: The Gutierrez Family


When Mike Gutierrez reflects on what he loves about life with his family of four in Old Brooklyn, he lands on what he calls the “three A’s:” affordability, access, and architecture.

On the architecture tip, Gutierrez lives with his wife Danielle and their two children, 6-year-old Maddox and 9-year-old Juliette, in a 1926 Craftsman in the South Hills neighborhood (comprised of mostly colonial homes). The home is right around the corner from the art gallery and community space the Gutierrez family runs—2020 W. Schaaf.

The Gutierrez Family


According to Gutierrez, their five-bedroom house was built by one of the original chief architects of the South Hills neighborhood, and St. Leo’s Church first began in its basement. “It’s pretty cool to live somewhere where there was Eucharist [given] in the basement,” says Mike.

The neighborhood is familiar stomping grounds for Mike, who grew up there with his grandmother (who lived in South Hills for 40 years) and then returned again in 2011 after a long stint in Southern California.


“Since the 80s, I’ve seen the city transition from one people were fleeing out of, moving out in droves, and pulling their children out of school districts to put them in Catholic schools into what it is today,” says Mike. "It’s been incredible to watch that happen."


The Gutierrez family at Ben Franklin Community GardenOne of the things Danielle appreciates most about the neighborhood is the Ben Franklin Community Garden, which is also within walking distance. “Being able to grow our own food and hang out with our neighbors is definitely a draw,” says Danielle. “The community also donates produce to the local food bank at the end of the summer, which is nice to teach the kids.”


In terms of access, both Mike and Danielle note the central location of Old Brooklyn (“with I-480 and OH-176 being in the dead center of the metro area, we can access any place in Greater Cleveland within 20 minutes,” says Mike), as well as its proximity to recreation. Thanks to a neighborhood trail that connects directly to the Towpath, the family takes a lot of bike rides, and they also take their canoe out to the Metroparks frequently.


2020 W. SchaafBut more than anything, the Gutierrez family appreciates the sense of community in Old Brooklyn, and they hope to further that with their efforts at 2020 W. Schaaf. Along with acting as a showcase for both emerging and established local artists, the gallery is also evolving into a mixed-use event space with various classes and gatherings. Mike and Danielle are also offering free painting sessions this summer at the community circle located at South Hills Blvd. and Cypress Rd.


Mike sees their efforts as part of a greater movement to enhance all Old Brooklyn has to offer. Says Mike, “Everyone in the community is investing together, rising together and creating a cohesive nucleus for the future.”

Read more articles by 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.