Distinctly Downtown: Cascade Plaza

Cascade Plaza, a new addition to Downtown Akron’s vibrant atmosphere, attracts employees and residents of the area for games, music and relaxation.

The Cascade Plaza

The Cascade Plaza

Developed recently this summer, Cascade Plaza, located along South Main Street, is a public spot many people frequent during their lunch hour, for the lively and beautiful environment it provides. The tables and open field give people an outdoor lunching area and a great escape from the office.

Downtown Akron Partnership (DAP) hosts Summer on the Plaza, a program that brings events, musicians, and games to the new downtown hotspot, attracting more people to the area.

As the summer intern with DAP, I get to experience Summer on the Plaza firsthand. Participating in “Throwback Thursday” each week, a day that brings old recess games back to people in downtown Akron and onto the plaza’s field, I’m able to watch partakers roll up the sleeves of their office suits and get down and dirty in competitive games of corn hole.

Playing a game of corn hole with the DAP staff

Playing a game of corn hole with the DAP staff

While every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. reminds participants of their past with games like bocce, ladder ball, and badminton, other days of the week attract people to the plaza as well.

Tuesdays during lunch break hours, free concerts take over the Cascade Plaza. Artists such as Ohio’s own Michael McFarland perform free shows at the plaza. For the remainder of the summer from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m., Akron employees, residents and students are encouraged to enjoy their lunches on the plaza, entertained  by some rock ‘n’ roll.

Wednesdays welcome Namaste and downward dog with Yoga on the Plaza on evenings at 5:30 p.m. Akron Yoga & Wellness introduces free yoga classes, the perfect way to relax before heading home from work.

I highly suggest to anyone able to utilize the resources of these free events to take advantage of this summer fun. And for anyone unable to attend the Summer on the Plaza events, I still recommend enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful surroundings of the Cascade Plaza during your down time.

Summer on the Plaza occurs from now until September 3. Stop by to soak up the sun and free entertainment before the summer ends.

By Spencer Skolnick, Downtown Akron Partnership Intern

Distinctly Downtown: Pizza Fire

Of all the places to dine in Downtown Akron, one of the newest ones can be found at 22 East Exchange Street: Pizza Fire, a pizza restaurant with a new and different twist. Pizza Fire gives customers the chance to have the staff build their own pizza right in front of them, and cook and have it ready in a matter of minutes. After hearing about its new pizza fire interioropening, I decided to travel there on a cold and rainy Tuesday afternoon. The restaurant itself is well advertised from the outside, and as soon as I walked in, the warmth and smell of fresh pizza hit me quickly. The inside of the restaurant itself has a sleek and modern style, and has many tables and bar-esque seating against the windows. There is a big screen television in the corner, and the entire restaurant was extremely clean and well modeled.

When I first sat down with Pizza Fire founder and CEO Sean Brauser, his passion for the Northeast Ohio area and the industry became very apparent. He was raised in Hartville, Ohio, and graduated from Lake High School in Uniontown, just 20 minutes from Akron. After graduating from Bucknell University in central Pennsylvania, Brauser began working in New Jersey at a pharmaceutical manufacturing company, but soon left that job to open up his first pizza restaurant at the age of 24. He returned to Northeast Ohio and opened the first Romeo’s Pizza in Medina in 2001, and the chain has quickly grown to 36 locations since then.

Brauser first came up with the concept of Pizza Fire about two years ago, and after some careful planning, found the perfect location in Downtown Akron. “We got lucky with the location and space. It was previously a different pizza restaurant, and it was obvious that it would be the perfect location for the first Pizza Fire,” he said. “We’re at the juncture of Downtown, The University of Akron campus, and the nightlife.” The restaurant space was quickly designed and set up, and the first day of business for Pizza Fire was Sunday, October 12.

When it comes to pizza, Brauser cited great product and great customer service as the two most important things he focuses on. He’s traveled to Italy eight times, and talked with some of the most successful pizza chefs in the world in order to gain knowledge of what it takes to become successful in the industry. “Everything I’ve ever learned about pizza I put into Pizza Fire,” he said. “All of the ingredients here are fresh; we don’t have a freezer in the entire place. We hand crush the tomatoes, hand roll the dough, and make sure everything is high quality and that it tastes great.”

Brauser mentioned how pleased he was with his staff so far as well, and that he has hired many University of Akron students who have done a great job. He also praised the revitalization of Downtown, “I love what they’ve done to the city; it’s a very clean and safe environment. With places like Lock 3 and Canal Park with the RubberDucks, Akron is definitely headed in a great direction.”

pizza fire chefs

Approaching the order line, Pizza Fire definitely has the feel of a Chipotle or Subway-style system. All of the ingredients are laid out in plain view for everyone to see and choose from. Customers start at one end of the line and first choose which one of six sauces they would like, followed by their choice of five different cheeses. After that, it’s onto toppings, where there is a choice between 11 different meats and 18 different vegetables. When it was my time to order, I admittedly had a tough time deciding between all of the different possibilities, but finally settled on a pizza with authentic Neapolitan pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and topped with pepperoni, mushrooms, and green peppers. The staff did a great job pointing out all of the different options available. After my order was complete, the staff put it in the oven, and I grabbed a drink and sat back down at my table in the restaurant, and the pizza was ready about 90 seconds later. Cut into six slices, the first thing I noticed was the crust. It wasn’t too thin or thick, and had a great crispiness to it. The rest of the ingredients were light and fresh, and it all combined to create a great-tasting pizza. After eating about half of my pizza, I grabbed a box and packaged the rest of my pizza to take home with me. All in all, it was a great experience, one that is definitely different from any pizza restaurant I’ve ever been to before. The restaurant was clean, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the pizza was delicious and came out extremely quickly. It is an ideal place to grab a quick bite at anytime, as one could easily walk in the door, design and order their own pizza, sit down and eat, and be out the door in 20-30 minutes at most.pizza fire pizza

Brauser also mentioned his desire to expand and open up at least eight new Pizza Fire locations in the near future, stretching from Cleveland to Canton, and even expressed interest in opening up locations as far as Columbus and Pittsburgh as well.

Pizza Fire is open seven days a week: Monday-Thursday from         11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; and Sunday from 12 p.m.-9 p.m. They are now offering delivery services to downtown locations during lunch hours as well. Pizzas can also be called in or ordered online ahead of time and picked up anytime during business hours at (330) 535-4545 or their website.

By: Brent Flanik, Downtown Akron Partnership Intern.

Distinctly Downtown: My Summer with DAP

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Hillary working on her final blog for DAP

The summer is finally coming to a close and so is my internship at Downtown Akron Partnership. To be honest, I am quite sad that I’m leaving such an excellent non-profit organization. As a small town girl from New Philadelphia, Ohio and a KSU student, I never knew or heard of DAP until my advisor informed me of the opening. As soon as I heard it was a non-profit, I applied immediately mainly because I’ve always wanted to work for a non-profit organization to help out the community.

My words to express the atmosphere of Downtown Akron Partnership is endless, I’ve had loads of fun during my summer doing several different tasks, like promoting new businesses, working the Market at Lock 3, helping out with the Akron Art Prize, and writing blogs. I would have to say, working the Market at Lock 3 with Tony Long (Assistant Operations) was the most fun because I was out of the office, interacting with the community advising them to be healthy. As a health freak myself, I really enjoyed giving some healthy tips to Market-lovers and telling them different ways to live a healthy life.

I also did a lot of writing for DAP, one of my biggest projects of the summer was writing a press release about all the new businesses in Downtown Akron, that was also a lot of fun. I got to go around downtown and interview business owners and CEO’s of new companies and write about what they do, what they offer, and how they benefit Downtown Akron.

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Getting recipe cards for the Market at Lock 3

I wrote a blog about The Coffee Pot that’s located in the Akron-Summit County Public Library. I went down on a Friday morning and met with the owner, Scott Malensek. We sat, drank coffee, and talked for about an hour about his two businesses. This was by far the best interview I have experienced. He was so excited and so enthusiastic about his business, it made me excited for him. He even let me try out some of his new menu items and talked me into going to his other business, The Stew Pot Kitchen. I tried some of his famous Tomato Basil Soup, and let me tell you, BEST SOUP EVER!

There are so many restaurants and activities to do in Downtown Akron, it’s quite overwhelming! But it also makes me want to move here because it’s such a great community with something always going on. Downtown Akron provides a great community for locals and that’s what I love the most about DAP. They really care about providing a fun, safe, and clean place for people to live and have fun.

Joining in the Fit & Green Ride at The Market at Lock 3

Being a Downtown Akron Partnership Intern, I’ve learned so many great things that I will carry on all through my life. I’ve learned how to interview people professionally, I sharpened up my writing skills, I learned how to use different software to update the DAP website; I also learned how to break out of my shell and talk to people in the community to promote a healthy living style. I am truly thankful that I got to experience working at Downtown Akron Partnership.

By: Hillary Walker
DAP Intern

Distinctly Downtown: The Coffee Pot

photo 5The owners of the Stew Pot Kitchen are proud to announce the opening of their new business called “The Coffee Pot” located inside the Akron-Summit Library near the Main Street entrance. Scott Malensek, the owner, thought it would be a wonderful idea to offer customers a quick, grab-and-go, breakfast that’s not offered at the Stew Pot. The main reason why Scott decided to open The Coffee Pot is because his customers kept asking him to serve breakfast. Since the Stew Pot Kitchen is only 180 paces from the library, he gets a lot of people and employees from the library come into the Stew Pot. The employees from the library told him about the empty space inside the first floor of the library and Scott thought it was the perfect place to serve breakfast to his customers. The Stew Pot Kitchen and The Coffee Pot are both family-owned; Scott works with his wife and kids which makes both restaurants family-friendly.

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The Coffee Pot has a very settled, calm, and quiet environment with veggie plants growing in the windows and new paintings and photos hung on the walls. The vegetable plants growing inside of the Coffee Pot are used in the recipes at both restaurants, which makes the food even better since the plants are homegrown! The plants consist of basil, (for the tomato basil soup), hot peppers, lettuce, cherry and yellow tomatoes, cucumbers and much more. Since the Coffee Pot just opened they are still doing renovations on the inside. Scott likes to feature local artist work and by the end of the year he wants to make the Coffee Pot an “urban jungle”. He wants it to be warm and a bright green space whenever it’s grey and nasty outside in the winter. “Next time we get seven months of winter, I want it to be summer in the Coffee Pot,” he said.

The Stew Pot Kitchen offers soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch while the Coffee Pot offers grab-and-go food and drinks that are made to order. They serve a wide variety of coffee and tea that change daily.

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They offer Jamaican coffee that smells strong but taste light, kind of like tea, and it tastes amazing. Another coffee they offer is Kenya coffee, the smell is just what you would imagine Africa to smell like with a strong taste. The Coffee Pot also offers salami and American cheese, custom roast beef with homegrown lettuce sandwiches, basic salads, muffins, fresh fruit, and to-go snacks for when you’re in a hurry. In the near future, Scott plans to add more items to the Coffee Pot menu that includes more flavors of coffee and more sandwiches. He also wants to grow more varieties of plants in the Coffee Pot along with getting more artist work on the walls to give it that urban jungle feeling.

The Coffee Pot and The Stew Pot Kitchen have pretty much everything in common. Everyone who works at the Stew Pot Kitchen also works at The Coffee Pot. The customers that come into the Stew Pot for lunch also come into the Coffee Pot to grab a quick coffee and sandwich for breakfast. The Stew Pot offers a wide variety of soups, have you looked at their website? There are over 100 different kinds of soups, all from the customer’s feedback! Scott is the kind of person who loves customer input, every soup and sandwich on his menu has had some kind of customer feedback, like if they have suggestions on what he should add to it. He really values his customers and what they have to say about his recipes. If you don’t like the soup that you ordered, tell them and they will keep trying until they get it perfect just for your satisfaction. Most of the ingredients put into the soups are homegrown or they get them from a local homegrown market. They not only grow plants inside of the Coffee Pot, they also have their own garden at their home and that’s how the Tomato Basil soup is made.

The Coffee Pot is a unique addition to Downtown Akron with a homey, calm, and green photo 3 (1)environment that is always welcoming. He wants to make his customers happy by offering the best coffee and food in town. So stop by and have a cup of coffee before work or stop by the Stew Pot Kitchen and try their phenomenal tomato basil soup or their famous chili.

This year in July marks the 4th anniversary of the Stew Pot Kitchen and they are offering specials everyday and lots of awesome deals. Check their Facebook daily to catch the new specials offered the whole month of July.

By: Hillary Walker
DAP Intern