Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Akron Ale Fest

Akron Ale Fest
by Brit Charek

If there's one thing that makes a nice summer day better, it's beer.

As the daughter, sister, and wife of homebrewers, I've been lucky enough to learn about the not just the effects of a good brew, but to appreciate the rich culture of the Microbrew community. (My very first Akron Empire post back in 2012 was about one of my favorite local beer spots: the tasting room at Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.-- click here to see that post again!)

And boy do we have a booming craft beer community in Akron right now!

The Akron Ale Fest plans to showcase that. It will take place this Saturday, July 25th, from 1 to 5 p.m. under a large tent at the Trolley Barn.

The tasting will focus on newer and emerging breweries — especially those in Northeast Ohio — as a way to separate itself from other beer events.

“We really want to make sure we’re featuring the newest breweries and the breweries that people might not have been to yet,” organizer Mathias King said.

"Almost all of the breweries pouring at Akron Ale Fest are in Summit County or adjacent counties and they have very limited distribution or they aren't even distributing beer outside of their tasting room yet," King said. "I'm very excited for people to possibly discover breweries they haven't been to yet, and to enjoy their beer enough to go to the taproom in the near future."

For a complete list of participating brewers, visit the Fest's website.

Akron Ale Fest will also feature local cusine from Nuevo Modern Mexican, Urban Eats Cafe, The Pierogi Lady, the Orange Truk and Stray Dog Cart for your snacking needs.

Also featured is a handmade marketplace organized by the fine folks at Crafty Mart, featuring beer-themed goods created by local artists.

You can learn more about featured brewers, makers and food entrepreneurs on Akron Ale Fest's blog.

Tickets are $45 and include 23 tickets (in honor of our hometown hero LeBron James's victory over the weekend!) for beer tastings from over 20 breweries. Designated Driver tickets are also available and include soda from NORKA Beverage Co. Click here to get your ticket!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Rubber City Comics

Rubber City Comics
by Joanna Wilson

Downtown is coming alive with new businesses. Rubber City Comics opened Wednesday, January 27th on Mill Street (next to Sweet Mary's Bakery and across the Street from the John S. Knight Center). I dropped by last Wednesday and there was quite a bit of activity considering it was their first day open. So I stayed out of the way and took a few photos. Below is a brief introduction. Go and check the new place out for yourself! And then, get a cup of coffee and a cookie at Sweet Mary's.

Rubber City Comics offers a convenient free subscription service. You sign up with them and when a new issue is released, they'll pull and hold a copy for you. If you sign up for the subscription service, you can even get a discount! Several workers were busy pulling subscription copies off the shelves when I stepped in the store. To learn more, follow Rubber City Comics on Facebook.

A significant portion of the new store includes action figures and toys as well. I spent quite a while looking at the Star Wars merch. Apparently, Rubber City Comics was the former shop in Quaker Square. This new location should be more convenient--it's across from the Akron Main library.

Rubber City Comics is located at 74 E. Mill St. in downtown Akron.
Facebook link: Rubber City Comics
(330) 289-1821
Twitter link: https://twitter.com/RubbCityComics

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2015's Most Popular Guest Posts, Part 2

2015's Most Popular Guest Posts, Part 2
by Brit Charek

While you've probably finally broken the habit of writing the date as "2015", we over here at Akron Empire are still reflecting back on the past year while we share our most popular posts written by guest bloggers in 2015. Last week, Joanna shared her list and this week I'm revealing mine.

Guest blogger and food aficionado Wendy Voelker shares the blessing and curse of working across the street from this fine establishment, where patrons line up outside before the shop's 4:30am opening time to get the best selection of fresh donuts.

2. Aladdin's Eatery

Our second most popular post of 2015, about this Northeast Ohio-based chain of delicious Lebanese eateries, was also written by Wendy Voelker. We hope to see more delicious food posts from her in the future! 

3. This Band Could Be Your Life: By Light We Loom

This band profile, written by our good friend Erica Scheutzow, is about a husband and wife duo who rose from the ashes of their former project, Bethesda. You can explore the complete archives of our profiles of local musicians here.

Erica also wrote about Modest Box earlier in the year, a subscription service full of goodies from Ohio-based small businesses.

4. Waters Park and Chestnut Ridge Park

This post was written by Tessa Gaffney, and the photos were taken by Elise Gaffney. Not only do they take us through the history of the parks and the landmarks within them, but they share some exciting things that are currently being done with the land.

5. Akron Women In Tech

Newbie bloggers Rachel Krantz and Stephanie Baker walk us through the history of this Akron organization in order to celebrate their first anniversary.

Thanks so much to everyone who has guest blogged for Akron Empire! I've had such a pleasure getting to know and working with enthusiastic Akronites.

Didn't get enough? Check out my list from 2014.

Are you interested in blogging for us? Here are some tips to get started, and here is a complete list of all our posts written by guest bloggers.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Year in Review: 2015, Part 2.

The Year in Review: 2015, Part 2.
by Brit Charek

Just like we've done in years past (2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively), Joanna and I are reflecting on the past year's Akron Empire adventures before we embark on new ones.

Joanna has already posted her Year in Review, as well as her most popular guest posts, and now I'm excited to share with you mine!

1. Knight Arts Challenge in Akron (from September)

The Knight Arts Challenge is a $3 million, three-year initiative to draw the best and most innovative ideas out of local organizations and individuals seeking to engage and enrich the community through the arts. I wrote about this back in September when the challenge was seeking applications to encourage Akronites with big ideas for the arts to send in a proposal, and since then 58 finalists have been announced, including a project that I proposed on behalf of Crafty Mart!

2. The Bit Factory (from August)

I had such a blast touring this startup incubator in the heart of downtown. The space's design (by Dominic Falcione of Rubber City Fab) perfectly matches its contemporary and collaborative work philosophy. I've been lucky enough to return to the space for some really great after-hours events such as Pechakucha Akron and look forward to visiting it often in the future, as well as seeing what great ideas come out of the startups that are based there.

Handmade goods, live music AND food trucks?! I'm in! Not to mention the Gardener of Bath's Art Fest seems to always be blessed with the most perfect sunny-but-breezy Ohio fall weather. I enjoyed working with the fest's organizer, Heather, to write this piece, but enjoyed attending the event even more! I was delighted to see some of my favorite local artists there as well as discover some new favorites-- I even saw my friend Chicaloo Kate, who came all the way from Michigan to vend! I can't wait until their next fest.

This studio offers the best workout in the whole Empire! Although I have to admit that I've gotten out of the habit of attending-- I went and got pregnant, which has seriously affected my stamina let me tell you-- I am counting on them to help me find my pre-baby body again this summer.

5. NEXTOhio (from March)

This was another event that I had I had the pleasure of writing about beforehand and then I was able to see the organizer's vision come to fruition. Although Annal Vyas claimed that "the event organized itself," I'm pretty sure it took quite a bit of effort to find half a dozen dynamic speakers to present pertinent information to Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs, organize a startup Pitch competition (not to mention the funding that goes along with it), and get hundreds of people to attend. I might have just been there for the free pizza last time, but if there's a NEXTOhio Conference in 2016, I'll make sure I mark my calendar.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned next week when I share my Top 5 Most Popular Guest Blog Posts from 2015. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2015's Most Popular Guest Posts

2015's Most Popular Guest Posts
by Joanna Wilson

Last week I revisited the five most popular Akron Empire posts from 2015 that I wrote. Additionally, I'd like to acknowledge the top Akron Empire essays written by community members who guest blogged for us in 2015.  Remember the most popular guest written essays from 2014? Brit shared her list of most popular guest writers from 2014 too. (We usually split up the duties of working with guest bloggers.)

How many of the following 2015 essays did you catch the first time around? Click on the title to return to those original posts.

#3. City Hope's Annual Crestland Park Clean-Up Project
Community builder Jeremy D. Lile shared with us a review of the west side's Crestland Park revitalization efforts. I'm really impressed with this kind of work hard to improve the quality of life in Akron neighborhoods. The annual clean-up day is in April. If you're interested in joining the group and learning about how this sort of thing is accomplished, check out the links at the bottom of the original essay.  Thanks for sharing about this work,  Jeremy!

#2. North Hill Market Tour
Roza Maille wrote about a group tour visiting some of North Hill's most unique locations. Of course this essay was one of the most popular from last year--it was connected to several larger outstanding movements from last year, including Inside|Out and Better Block in North Hill. What transformative efforts those were! I'm excited to see Inside|Out continue in new neighborhoods this upcoming Spring and a new Better Block is being planned for Cuyahoga Falls' Front Street area.  I'm so excited for 2016!  Thanks for sharing your experiences in North Hill, Roza.

#1. Better Block: Photo Essay
As a review of the North Hill Better Block, Svetla of Svetla Morrison Photography provided us with a collection of photos that captured the weekend's activities. Sometime a photo is worth a thousand words--the collection speaks for itself.

 Please check out all of the photos again. And many thanks to photographer Svetla for sharing her work. As stated above, I'm looking forward to more Better Block experiments in 2016.

Interested in being a guest blogger in 2016? We're happy to host a variety of voices about their favorite places, restaurants, bands, events, and experiences in the Empire.  For the complete list of links for past guest bloggers, click HERE.  What are we looking for?  Please read the suggestions at this link, and follow the simple instructions. We look forward to heating from you. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Year in Review (2015)

Happy 2016! Let's look back on the previous year.
The Year in Review: 2015
by Joanna Wilson

Before moving on with new content, Brit and I are looking back over the previous year.  For the past three years, we created lists of our most popular 2012 posts, most popular 2013 posts, and the most popular in 2014. So I'd like to once again, create a list for my top 5 most popular posts.  Click on the titles for the link to return to each of these posts.  How many of these posts from 2015 do you remember reading?

Next week I'll create a second list, one consisting of the most popular guest blog posts of 2015.  Thanks for joining me on this journey and giving me an excuse to meet some wonderful people throughout The Empire.

1. National Hamburger Festival 2015 (from August)

The summer street festival on Main Street each year is a popular event--with fries on the side. This past year's festival tried something new: a craft beer and indie band showcase. There was a new record set for attendance!  Sure hope they repeat that successful addition in 2016.

Girl in White (1901) by William Merritt Chase.  This reproduction was on Main Street across from Cilantro with Inside|Out.

2. Inside|Out with the Akron Art Museum (from April)

One Sunday last April, I got in the car and located several of the first installations of the outdoor art project Inside|Out. If you'll remember, the first series included 30 reproductions located in North Hill, the Towpath and MetroParks, and across downtown. Then later in the summer, the same pieces were moved to different neighborhoods--Cuyahoga Falls, Highland Square, and the University of Akron. What a fun project! And, it was an all-new way of interacting with art pieces from the Akron Art Museum's permanent collection.  I can't wait to see what the Inside|Out program does in 2016.

3. Akron History: Lawson's Chip Dip (from May)

I wrote a series of Akron history essays for the new arts & culture magazine The Devil Strip last year and shared them here on my website as well. What is an Akron party without Lawson's chip dip--am I right? This third most popular post from 2015 tells me that I wasn't the only one who was curious about the origins of Lawson's.

4. The Devil Strip and Its Kickstarter Campaign (from March)

Wow! Was this just one year ago? Akronite Chris Horne started his new arts & culture magazine The Devil Strip last March and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund refurbished newspaper boxes to help distribute it.  Were you one of its supporters? Those boxes are coming soon--in the meantime I've made it a habit of picking my Devil Strip up inside the Akron Art Museum.  Where do you find your copy to read?

(Thanks Unbox for the photo!)

5. New Book: The Story of Archie the Talking Snowman (from July)

Get it--Christmas in July? Yeah, this popular post from last summer was an announcement about my latest book project and the book release party. This was the second local history/nostalgia book I wrote (I'm also the co-author of A is for Akron from 2014). Still need to get a copy of the book? Akron history is relevant year round. Go get yourself a book!

Thanks for reading. I'm excited to bring you another year's worth of essays. Happy New Year Akron!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Crafty Mart 101

Crafty Mart 101: 6 Questions with the Folks Who Make Crafty Mart Happen
by Brit Charek and Joanna Wilson

This piece first appeared in the August/issue #14 of  The Devil Strip--our new, twice monthly, arts & culture newspaper in Akron. Issue #14 is now available-- go out and pick up a copy or read it online here.

Brit Charek and Joanna Wilson have been contributors for The Devil Strip, you likely recognize their names from their awesome Akron Empire blog. If you’re a regular reader of either The Empire or this mag, you probably know they’re also the engines that make Crafty Mart run. So we asked Brit and Joanna for a quick breakdown of what to expect at Akron’s crafts-centric, small-business lovin’ shopping extravaganza, now in its seventh year this November 28-29.

What kind of vendors will you have this year at Crafty Mart?

Joanna: Our makers and artists are as varied as Akron itself. We've got everything from one-of-a-kind jewelry and leather goods, to beeswax candles and locally-sourced honey, to Akron-centric tees and pillows, to crafted furniture and wooden robots, to hand-sewn bags and soaps and beauty products, to specially blended teas and artisanal caramels, to nerdy buttons and high fashion bow ties, and more! (See for yourself: craftymart.org/vendors-1/)

Has anything changed since last year?

Brit: This year, we are offering a series of workshops for folks who'd like to make their own gifts! We've done this before, but this time, due to a generous gift from the Knight Foundation, we are able to offer all workshops for under $15 (up to a $150 value!!) To check out available workshops, click here.

We're also featuring a signature drink at our 3rd floor bar at Summit Artspace: The NORKA Mule combines NORKA ginger ale, vodka and a homemade ginger spice simple syrup to keep you warm while you're shopping - YUM!

How has Crafty Mart grown, both as an organization and in attendance, over the past 7 years?

JW: As of the start of this year, we now function as a non-profit organization. In addition to the Holiday Show and the Mom & Pop Shoppe in the Spring, we now organize a monthly event at Summit Artspace during the Artwalk, as well as several pop-up markets throughout the year like the ones at Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. To give you an idea about our expansion, that first year, the Holiday Show in 2009, we had makers fill Musica.  This year, we'll have artisans not only occupy Musica, but take over the Akron Art Museum and Summit Artspace as well. The Holiday Show is a 2-day event as well, so if Saturday, Nov. 28th doesn't fit your schedule, you have Sunday (Nov. 29th) to take it all in.

Where do you get your inspiration?

BC: Holy loaded question! I'm pretty well-connected to the regional and national crafty maker scene, and am always exchanging ideas with other show organizers from around the country. I'm actually working with Crafty Supermarket in Cincinnati and Craftin Outlaws in Columbus to host the Midwest Craft Con - a 3 day retreat for mid-career crafters February 19-21 in Columbus. I'm hoping that this summit will be a great place for crafty folks to recharge after the holiday season, as well as share best practices and ideas to better connect the maker community on a national level.

What is your favorite thing about Crafty Mart?

JW: One of the things I love most about Crafty Mart is that it's more than just shopping for small business artists and makers--which is important to me. But it's also about bumping into good friends, enjoying the funktacular deejays, enjoying a beer or a meal before moving on to the next venue--it's a whole day's worth of experiences that I always look forward to.

What shopping tips would you give to a first-time attendee?

BC: Since it's a lot to take in, break up the day by making sure to stop for lunch or libations, which you can do at all three locations. Make sure to grab a program when you walk in, and hit up all three venues. If you get your program stamped at all three locations and turn it in, you can enter to win some awesome gift baskets courtesy of our awesome vendors and sponsors! Yelp will be offering free gift wrapping right by where our auction table is located on the 3rd floor of Summit Artspace, so make sure to hit that up.

JW: My advice: start early. Take your time. Dance to the music. Take advantage of the free admission to the Akron Art Museum's galleries. Re-fuel with a beer or a meal in the café in Summit Artspace, the iQCafé in the Museum, or at Urban Eats next to Musica. Overall, enjoy yourself--this is what it's all about!

Come prepared with your holiday shopping list. I'm willing to bet you can do most--if not all--of your holiday gift shopping and be more satisfied with those purchases.  There's a world of difference between supporting small business artisans and shopping big box stores.

If you come on Saturday (Nov. 28th) and wake up the next morning with regrets about what you missed or didn't buy, know that you can return on Sunday (Nov. 29th) and shop again.