Distinctly Downtown: The Lockview

The Lockview – The Past, Present and Future

All throughout my college years thus far, one of my favorite weekend hangouts has always been The Lockview. There’s something about the relaxed and somewhat indie atmosphere that has always made for an enjoyable time and fits in seamlessly with the creative Downtown Akron vibe. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the owner, Danny Basone this week. We spoke of the past, present, and future of this Main Street treasure.

If we begin with the past, we would be referring not to The Lockview, but to a concert venue called Lime Spider. Before The Lockview was born, Basone opened this place in 2001 that has the bragging rights of being the venue of one of The Black Keys‘ first shows. A musician himself, Basone brought in any musical artist who wanted to play a show and also helped with the sound engineering. Unfortunately, the music scene in Akron just wasn’t giving enough business to the venue and Basone made the tough decision to close Lime Spider in 2008 and was forced to put use to his creative mind to rescue his place.

“As a business owner, you don’t want to walk away from a space. I’m going to make this work,” he told me. And he sure did. So he repainted, redesigned, and re-birthed this space that was to become The Lockview.

When brainstorming new ideas for the space, Basone thought of one of his friends who participated in grilled cheese competitions. This friend helped him build the grilled cheese menu that Basone’s customers enjoy today. He wanted a menu that was simple and kept people coming back.

As another rock to building this business, Basone’s family has always been a core support. His brothers and sister have helped him tremendously along the way, from being the restaurant’s food buyer to being day managers.

View of the Lockview from Main Street

When asked about thoughts of expanding outside of Akron, it’s definitely a thought but nothing is in the progress at the moment. He has considered the Cleveland area, but it remains an idea that will come to fruition when the time is right. Presently, Basone has his hands full with his latest project, taking place in the neighboring space to the right of The Lockview.

This new project is called El Gato Tacqueria. Formerly Hattie’s Cafe, this is something that will be very unique to Downtown Akron in the sense of it being a street taco type of place. El Gato will be a small restaurant, seating about 35 people and will offer quick service. It will have an eight item menu serving tacos, burritos, and salads, with vegetarian options as well. As far as drinks, it will serve beer and soda. El Gato is expected to open sometime this fall, with no concrete date set.

As a supporter of the arts, Basone will also bring in works from local artists to display in El Gato as he already does in the Lockview. Basone has always been a supporter of the arts and is proud to continue to give a place where artists can show their work. Recently, Akron has become a city that has allowed artists to express themselves more frequently, thanks to local business owners like Basone, and the rise of public art spaces such as the Summit Artspace and Ro3.

After hearing all that he had to say, I can tell that Basone is a practical and laid back sort of person that Akron should be proud to have raised. He says, “I’m also giving to the community in the sense that I am hiring people… There’s something cool about that.” Danny has definitely done his part to contribute to the city of Akron through his creative mind and optimistic spirit, and I for one cannot wait to see what new projects he will have in store for the future.

By: Audrey Fliegel, Downtown Akron Partnership Intern

Distinctly Downtown: Urban Eats

058Urban Eats is a pop-art cafe owned by Elizabeth Tyran and Jason Scala, two creative geniuses, who turned their former order counter into a visual, compelling & fun place to eat! Jason and Liz both have a passion for food as well as art. Whether it’s local art, or a masterpiece from home, they acknowledge the beauty in each piece and showcase them in the restaurant. Liz is an UA alumnae while Jason has mastered the art of culinary. When you put their two minds together and you witness the talent this power couple posses, the outcomes are unlimited. They both strive to provide healthy and hearty meals to the people they appreciate most, the people in their community.

Urban Eats is the center of a live, 053 work and play environment. The owners of this cafe appreciate all the walks of life they encounter and the relationships they build while residing in the this community. Since their work and personal home live here; they especially know the importance of community and supporting one another. Liz says, although the occupants of the neighborhood may change over time, the community and the city constantly grows. Outside of their cafe, they support local artist in attending art shows and hosting a children’s “artwalk”.

Along with the fascinating and eye catching wall art, their food is definitely something worth discussing. Referring to the menu, Liz says “they have something for everyone”. What’s so unique and diverse about Urban Eats is the fact that they change their menu each month. Sometimes it’s a new and captivating item or it could be a familiar favorite that you love and crave. In order to balance the variety of meals they offer they have to work together. Liz considered herself the “dreamer’ and referred to Jason as the “doer”. She thinks and creates these thoughtful and balanced recipes while Jason creates magic in the kitchen to bring her ideas to life. They listen and accommodate to their customers to make sure every trip is special.

Creative, exceptional and inspiring are just a few words to describe their establishment. working alongside Musica, which is now open during the week, Urban Eats tries to integrate and encourage originality and creativity. With help051 from their small but mighty staff, Max, who is also multi-talented and artsy, they are able to achieve the motto of live, work and play. Whether you are vising for lunch during the rush, or stopping in after an event at Musica, Urban Eats is a place where art meets food and community is welcomed. You will quickly be inspired by Liz and Jason’s refreshing personalities, their fine food and the original atmosphere, they cherish. Urban Eats is located on East Market and they are open 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday thru Friday and during any Musica events. You can always call ahead to order and delivery within downtown is available with a $25 minimum. Catering is also available for businesses and organizations upon request. Visit their website at www.urbaneatsmusica.com.

By: Chantel Burt
DAP 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: 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

 

Distinctly Downtown: The Peanut Shoppe

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Akron is home to many small businesses, but not many have been around as long as the Peanut Shoppe. It originally started in the 1930s as a retail shop for the Planter’s Peanuts Company. Sold to private owners in the 1950s, and then again the 80s, the Peanut Shoppe has been witness to a changing Akron for over 80 years.

The current owner, Marge Klein, attributes the shop’s longevity to the fact that, “Generation after generation of people have been coming here. So they enjoy coming in here and buying the nuts their grandpa or dad bought for them.”

The long history of the shop is evident from the moment you walk in. Photographs of Peanut Shoppe patrons are placed on nearly any space available on the walls. They bring to life the story of the shop over the years. Klein said that any customer is welcome to bring in any old photos; the only problem, they are running out of room.

The shop may have changed owners, and even buildings with a move across the street about 10 years ago, but things are still done largely the same at the Peanut Shoppe. The peanuts are still roasted in the old Planter’s roasters each morning and even the original scales are used to weigh out each customer’s order.

While the shop has retained the original look and feel, the products they offered have changed with the times. Originally the Planter’s Peanut shop only offered peanuts for sale, but the current incarnation of the shop offers a wide variety of nuts, chocolates, candies, and even ice cream starting in May. Klein says that some of her biggest sellers are honey roasted, cashews, and salted peanuts. While the candies and chocolates aren’t made in the shop there is a wide variety of treats from the traditional, like caramels and dark chocolate, to the adventurous, such as the chocolate covered espresso beans and dried bananas.

Klein says her shop relies heavily on the foot traffic in Downtown, something that’s not as easy as it used to be to come by in Downtown. That along with a 30 percent rise in the cost of peanuts last year has presented some challenges for the shop. Even with the downturn in traffic the shop still has a steady stream of customers, a testament to its popularity with locals.

Another draw of the Peanut Shoppe is the ability to buy small or big. Klein says she recognizes that people, especially some students, don’t have a lot of expendable income for treats. Klein says this is why they offer sales of just 1/8 lb for just 65 cents.

The historic atmosphere and fair prices make the Peanut Shoppe a truly unique business. This coupled with the fact that the Peanut Shoppe is only one of the three peanut stores left in Ohio make it one of Downtown’s must visit places.

By: Michael Crossland
DAP intern