Wednesday, April 15, 2015


A gorgeous mural seen along The Strip, Pittsburgh's historic market district.
My Experiences on the Trip: Akron2Pittsburgh
by Joanna Wilson

Early morning Monday April 13th, more than four dozen energetic Akron professionals--including myself--loaded onto a bus parked across from the Akron Art Museum, to make a day-trip to Pittsburgh.  The trip was designed to be an opportunity to meet and speak with Pittsburgh's business people and community-builders to learn about their successes (and failures.)  Maybe we would even bring back ideas to try out in Akron.  I have to admit the day was a delightfully exhausting adventure.  It is now two days later and I still feel like I'm recovering.  On Monday, I purposefully opened my mind and tried to absorb as much as possible from our activities.  My sponge-like approach also meant that I felt saturated by the end of the day.  Although many others in my group tweeted and hashtagged the highlights of their experiences spontaneously in the moment on Monday, I'm more of an old-fashioned, pen-and-notebook-kind of gal.  So I'd like to share the highlights of my experiences from Akron2Pittsburgh trip here.  Different strokes for different folks, right?

I was invited to take part in the Akron2Pittsburgh trip because I work as Assistant Director for the non-profit organization Crafty Mart.  However, this opportunity forced me to reflect on the variety of ways I contribute within this community.  Yes, I often embarrassingly overlook and take for granted my own experiences.  So not only did I feel like I was representing Crafty Mart in Pittsburgh, but I was also bringing with me the perspective of an Akron history/nostalgia book author (I co-authored A is for Akron and I have a new book coming out in July on Akron's own Archie the Snowman.)  I'm also a Den Mother for the local women's group Dance Dance Party Party-Akron (DDPP-Akron).  I'm the co-founder of this blog Akron Empire and I write for the new alt-weekly arts & culture paper, The Devil Strip.  These Akron-centric experiences also connect me to quite a few others who made the trip to Pittsburgh on Monday.  Already having worked with several others on the trip--and meeting in person several others I'd only previously worked with through email--made the trip that much friendlier and easier.  The community-building began on the two-hour bus ride on our way to Pittsburgh.

Hahahaha!  The bus must have been turning when I snapped this blurry photo.  At the front of the bus is Wesley from Akron Honey Company introducing himself.

During a break--outside Union Project.
On the ride to Pittsburgh, every participant took his/her turn to stand at the front of the bus and introduce themselves.  These introductions made it much easier to begin conversations later in the day.  It's also nice to actually put a face to many of Akron's familiar organizations and small businesses.  When we arrived in Pittsburgh, we gathered at Union Project in the Highland Park neighborhood.  Union Project is a re-stored church now used as a civic center and art space.  After a quick brunch, we were introduced to a half dozen Pittsburgh community leaders.  These leaders then hosted 'break-out sessions' in which we divided into smaller groups and asked questions about their projects.  I'm an arts & culture person, so I joined in on three break-out sessions with like-minded speakers.

Several of us started out on our own DIY walking adventure.

The walking group would break off 2 or 3 members at a time as they followed their own interests--and others would join us from other destinations.

In the afternoon, we were turned loose in the city for our own Do-It-Yourself Adventures.  All of us had done prior research and made preparations for the afternoon.  Many of Akron's ambassadors had made appointments with Pittsburgh leaders, business people, and community builders to exchange ideas.  I had pre-arranged to unite with two other members of the Akron group, Tessa from Neighbors Apparel and Kaley from Urban Buzz, to check out some of Pittsburgh's small business retailers and handmade and local goods shops.  We ended up finding several other people interested in doing the same thing, so we joined Tina Ughrin with Akron Better Block on a walking tour of several of Pittsburgh's notable neighborhoods.  It was such a beautiful day--85 degrees and sunny--our walking tour allowed us to observe in the residential and retail spaces more intimately than if we had driven the routes.

The distance we covered was helped by a car service.  We all took full advantage of Uber.  Our small group utilized them twice in the afternoon.  And, I got my first Uber ride in a Cadillac Escalade.

We roamed through East Liberty, Shadyside, The Strip (historic market district), and the Cultural District.  Yes--we were on our feet most of the afternoon.  I even got sunburned.  But it was worth it.  Our planned wandering even brought about a few surprises we never anticipated--including Boutique 208, a handmade art & maker consignment shop located across from Heinz Hall which started as a pop-up project.

Our group from Akron sought out all sorts of organizational and business interests.  I'm more of an arts & culture person and made my way to the Cultural District.

Things I learned: Nicole Mullet knows how to make teeny tiny origami boats. She folded these paper boats from discarded restaurant napkin wrappers at lunch. For size perspective: notice the fork tines in lower right corner.

In the evening, our group of fifty from Akron met back for dinner at a restaurant atop Mount Washington.  Tessa, Kaley, and I took the Duquesne Incline to the top.  Everyone was sharing their individual adventures from the afternoon over dinner.  And, then we relaxed during our two-hour ride home again.

Our restaurant for dinner included windows that looked over the downtown Pittsburgh skyline. Recognize The Point Fountain? (center of photo.)

While I feel like I'm still processing much of what I experienced on Monday's trip, I did pick up a couple lessons I'd like to incorporate in my work in Akron immediately.  My favorite part of the day was the break-out group sessions where we were able to ask questions from the Pittsburgh leaders.  I met Veronica Corpuz, the Director of Festival Management from The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in one of these groups and I was able to ask several questions about their events.  (Crafty Mart organizes arts & cultural events and piggy-backs on other organizations' events too.)  Veronica's advice based on her experiences with marketing to different audiences was invaluable.  Speaking with Anu Jain, a diversity and inclusion consultant from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, was also a learning experience.  She shared her experiences about changing strategies when communicating across racial and ethnic boundaries for better cultural inclusion in the arts.  A lesson we can all benefit from and an inspiring challenge from Anu.
Not to be overlooked was the community-building going on throughout Monday's trip just amongst the Akron participants.  I met with some hard-working individuals who have a vision and an energy for a better Akron.  Sharing the day with them and listening to them ask important questions of Pittsburgh's leaders was itself an inspiring experience that I've brought back to Akron with me.  I wasn't the only one forging future collaborations.  I've even had the experience since coming back home of connecting several of those I've met on the trip with resources here in Akron and introducing them to other like-minded individuals.  And, I can't wait to connect with everyone again in a few weeks to hear how everyone else has applied their experiences from the Pittsburgh trip.

Many thanks to Nicole Mullet and Kyle Kutuchief for their efforts in organizing the trip.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Inside|Out with Akron Art Museum

Inside|Out with the Akron Art Museum
by Joanna Wilson

The sun was shining and it finally felt like Spring had arrived.  On Easter Sunday afternoon, I was delighted to get out of the house, drive my car with the windows down, enjoy the fresh air, and look for art.  Look for art!?  Yup.  I was on a treasure hunt--in the best sense of the word 'treasure.'  The Akron Art Museum's new program Inside|Out--where they are placing copies of art from their collection outside the museum and inside our greater-Akron neighborhoods--is in full swing.  I spent my Sunday afternoon in search of the art pieces that are already up.

Untitled from the Scissors Jack Series (1965-66) by Larry Zox.  You can see this installation in Downtown, on the east side of the building where Crave is located (57 E. Market St.) Photo courtesy of Akron Art Museum.

The Artist and His Wife (1938) by Elmer Novotny.  This amazing portrait is located on the east side of Giovanni's Barber Shop in North Hill (343 E. Cuyahoga Falls Ave.)

While some pieces were hung up last week, more are going up later this week.  Soon, there will be 10 public art installations in Downtown, 10 in North Hill, and 10 on the Towpath and the MetroParks.  The one-to-one scale, high quality reproductions from art in the Akron Art Museum collection is a community activated project that brings art into the city's streets.

Man Eating Trees (1989) by John Sokol.  This reproduction can be found in North Hill on the south side of the building where Lentine's Music used to be (844 N. Main St.)

Recognize this Downtown location?  It's the Haven of Rest (175 E. Market St.) The painting is Riverside Plant (c.1927-28) by Carl Gaertner.

According to Executive Director and CEO of the Akron Art Museum, Mark Masuoka, “Inside|Out helps us to have a much deeper conversation about the value of the arts and culture in our community. The project also allows us to deepen the conversation between the museum and the community by offering numerous opportunities to build strong partnerships and friendships across Akron’s diverse communities."  Roza Maille, Inside|Out project Coordinator adds, “One of the most exciting facets of Inside|Out is that it promotes exploration around Akron. It’s a chance to visit neighborhoods and outdoor spaces you normally don’t get to spend a lot of time in.”

The Seine at Andelys (1923) by Abel G. Warshawsky.  This installation is visible on the east side of the International Institute (207 E. Tallmadge Ave. in North Hill.) Photo courtesy of Akron Art Museum.
For those living in the neighborhoods with these works of art, interaction is encouraged--whether it's a block party, street festival, bike tour, or whatever inspires your imagination.  The International Institute did just that, last week when students from a language instruction class gathered around a new installation and began using the imagery in the landscape painting on the side of their building to exercise their English language skills.  Video of this lesson can be watched here:

Arrangement with Billboard (late 1930s) by Harvey R. Griffiths.  This reproduction can be better enjoyed near the entrance to Akron Children's Hospital in Downtown (1 Perkins Square.)

Girl in White (1901) by William Merritt Chase.  This reproduction can be found Downtown on the north side of the Kaiser Building (323 S. Main St.) across the street from Cilantro.

 The Museum encourages people to photograph themselves with the art works--and use #InsideOutAkron so everyone can enjoy what's happening at each location.  You don't want to dawdle too long on your own Akron art treasure hunt because these locations are merely temporary.  The thirty reproductions in Downtown, North Hill, and the Towpath and MetroParks will be up from now until mid-July.  Then the thirty art installations will move to the neighborhoods of West Hill/Highland Square, Cuyahoga Falls, and the University of Akron area until October.  

Another Downtown portrait: Miss Molly Duveneck (c. 1888-1890) by Frank Duveneck.  This gorgeous face can be found between the windows on Bricco (1 W. Exchange St.)

A copy of this abstract painting can be found in North Hill on the building next door to The Office (778 N. Main St.) across from Akron's Alcoholics Anonymous Archives.  It's Not Easy Being Green (1980-2000) by Julian Stanczak.
Let's have a little civic pride here!  Akron is only the second city to attempt this community activated art project.  It was first done successfully in Detroit--and now we are following through with it!  How awesome is that?

Go find this one for yourself!  It's the tall and skinny colorful abstract on the wall between the Peanut Shoppe and Baxter's (205 S. Main St.) in Downtown.  Firecracker II (1968) by Gene Davis.

Again, soon all thirty art reproductions will be installed.  The above photos and locations are just the beginning of this inspired program.  I purposefully took my photos to better reflect the location of each art piece--and not capture the beauty of the art itself.  I want to encourage you to go and find these pieces yourself! Let us each discover and enjoy the beauty of these art works in our neighborhoods for ourselves.

For more information about Inside|Out from the Akron Art Museum, check out:

They will be giving info about maps and apps soon.  Keep an eye out for those and stay close to website.  Happy Treasure Hunting!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

George's Donuts in Twinsburg

Akron Empire is beyond excited to welcome back guest blogger Wendy Voelker! She wrote a delicious piece about Aladdin's Eatery back in February. Wendy is a professional events planner, and recently moved to NEO from the Capital Region of New York State (just north of Albany). A New Yorker born and bred, she's slowly adjusting to the Akron-area food scene. An accomplished home cook, Wendy was organically trained in culinary skills by her mom, and is particularly obsessed with baking (usually bread). Her favorite food is hummus, and she is still in search of an authentic NY-style pizza in Ohio. Wendy can also be found at, which she's been writing since 2007.

George's Donuts in Twinsburg
by Wendy Voelker

It’s a blessing and a curse working across the street from George’s Donuts. It’s terrific when someone brings in a fresh dozen to share with the office. But it’s torture when the smell of donuts wafts across the street and smacks you in the face when get out of your car. Especially when you’ve made yourself a promise to cut back on the donuts.

That’s a very real, very specific struggle for me.

George’s Donuts is a treasure, nestled in an unassuming little strip mall on Darrow Road in Twinsburg, just north of the Hudson line. It’s a popular place, and seems to have achieved a sort of cult status among locals. It’s one of the first places I heard about when I moved here, from people who didn’t even leave nearby: “Oh, you live in Twinsburg? You have to try George’s Donuts!”

George’s was named a finalist in’s “NEO’s Best Donuts” competition last fall and though they didn’t win, they received lots of votes and plenty of accolades from fans. People drive from far and wide to enjoy the treats made by George Vadaj and his family for the past 46 years.  George’s original location was in Streetsboro; they moved to their location on Darrow Road in Twinsburg in 1997, and the business is still operated by Vadaj and his family.

The interior of George’s is nothing out of the ordinary: two large glass display cases, holding giant silver trays of their famous fresh-baked goodies. There’s a small room on the left filled with tables and chairs, where folks can enjoy their treats with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. Though they do sell some other types of pastries and coffee, donuts are the draw. There are at least 28 varieties, though a few are specialty and not available every day. George’s Facebook page lists the varieties they typically have available. Prices are reasonable, though slightly more than the average national donut chain: $1.15 per donut, $11.90 for a dozen.

For this little experiment, I bought a dozen different donuts and invited my lab rats co-workers to enjoy and give feedback.

Here’s the gorgeous dozen I picked up, along with a grid like they give you in Whitman’s Samplers:

And here are a few donut glamour shots:

Blackberry Filled

Chocolate Cream Filled
Chocolate Bavarian Cream

Inside Peanut Butter

Finally, the reviews (I didn’t get reviews from all of them, because not everyone reported back to me):

Peanut Butter - this one was me. Overall, this was tasty, but it could have used a little more peanut butter in the filling. The chocolate frosting was thick and sweet, with a nice chocolate flavor.

Raised with Rainbow Sprinkles - Tania called this one a winner. Actually, what she said was “Sprinkles are for winners!” I could not agree more. There’s not much better than something simple topped with rainbow sprinkles.

Chocolate Iced Bavarian Creme - Rosanne liked this one a lot. I couldn’t hear her review over the enthusiastic chewing.

Chocolate Cream Filled - Cathe likened the filling to a chocolate mousse - light and fluffy, nicely chocolate-y.

Cinnamon Sugar Cake - Jennie ate hers at 12:46pm, but noted that it was still moist a tasty.

Blackberry Filled - Deb particularly enjoyed the white icing on this one, and said the filling was fruity and not too sweet

Overall, these donuts were winners. Fresh, sinful, sweet. Everything you could want in a donut. Best eaten as soon as you can make it to the store. By 4:46pm the edges were beginning to go a little stale, but the insides were still flaky and delicious. I ate three donuts today. For science. SCIENCE. Many people will contend that donuts are not snacks, but I disagree with that assertion. They are an ideal afternoon energy source: portable, sugar and fat in perfect proportions, providing a burst of energy to get you through hours of webinars and email writing. Or maybe that’s just my afternoon and I’m making excuses for eating donuts at 4:46pm.

I ended up bringing home the glazed and peanut, so no reviews on them unless I decide to eat 4 donuts today. Oof.

Be prepared to wait a bit to get your donut fix: there always seems to be a long line. And, if you can, get there early. George’s operating hours are 4:30am-noon (there are a lot of industrial complexes around, so they are likely catering to first and third shift workers). Anytime after 8 or 9:00am, and I think you’re taking your chances with selection. And forget about sleeping in on the weekends if you want donuts – many Yelpers report empty cases by 8:00am on Saturdays. Just plan to set your alarm and get there early. You can always go back to sleep when you have your little gems stowed safely in your kitchen.

One of these days I’m going to get there at 4:30am and see what a full case of donuts looks like. Who am I kidding? That’s never going to happen. But let me know if you go at 4:30am. And take a picture for me, because I’ll still be sleeping.

George’s Donuts
7995 Darrow Road
Twinsburg, OH 44087

Hours: 4:30am-12:00pm, Closed Sundays

No website - check out their Facebook page for updates and specials

Monday, March 30, 2015

For the Love of Fashion Event at blue

blue is located at 118 E. Main St. in downtown Kent, OH.

For the Love of Fashion event at blue
by Joanna Wilson

Have you been waiting for an excuse to check out the new Goodwill Boutique named blue in downtown Kent? When it opened a few months ago, I dropped by at the first opportunity. I get my hair cut around the corner at Skullz Salon so I'm in downtown Kent regularly.  Just what is a Goodwill Boutique--you may ask?  It's a specially curated boutique with upscale clothing, jewelry, shoes, and accessories selected from Goodwill donations. This store takes thrifting to the next level!

This is not a typical Goodwill--it feels like a boutique just as the name implies.

The upscale boutique is located in the former Ohio Music Shop--and the walls are still decorated with rock murals!

I first learned about blue from reading Dina's Days, the blog written by Dina, Akron's own thrifting expert. You may remember that Akron Empire asked Dina to share with us the best local thrift shop.  That was three years ago--I wonder if she'd change her answer if asked that same question today?  She may because Dina now has her own pop-up space inside blue filled with items for sale that she has specially selected.  This pop-up space is called Spice--a must-see when you're at blue.

Against the wall inside blue, you'll always find Spice.

Spice is Dina's pop-up space featuring her own collection.

Back to the excuse you've been waiting for to visit blue.  Saturday April 11, from 2pm-4pm blue is celebrating their grand opening with For the Love of Fashion event.  There will be a live model fashion show, a style challenge contest, a style demo on creating your own unique style, and refreshments.

According to the Dina's Days announcement of the For the Love of Fashion event, the fashion show will feature local bloggers and Goodwill frequent shoppers including:
Lauren Ward:
Lisa Davala & Collyn Floyd :
Rachel Breece:
Abby Rode Drennen:
Danie Minor:

And, Dina will have Spice stocked with her Spring collection for the more discriminating shoppers.  This event looks to be the fashion happening not to be missed!

blue in downtown Kent

Once more: Goodwill Boutique blue is located at 118 E. Main St., Kent OH 44240
For the Love of Fashion event is Sat. April 11, 2-4pm

Dina's pop-up space Spice is inside blue--their hours are:
Mon-Thur: 10am-8pm
Fri-Sat: 10am-9pm
and Sundays: 12pm-5pm

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tru Barre Studio in Merriman Valley

Tru Barre Studio in Merriman Valley
by Brit Charek

I hate working out. There, I said it. I hate everything about it. I hate dreading going to the gym. I hate being at the gym. I hate putting on my gym clothes and comparing the way I look in my gym clothes to other people at the gym. I hate all the stupid inspirational sayings that come along with fitness culture. I even hate my bad attitude.

But I love having more energy. And sleeping better. And having better posture. And feeling stronger. And looking good in my skinny jeans. And even sweating-- sometimes it just feels great to sweat.

Basically, I love all the benefits of working out, but I don't want to put the work in, which makes the idea of a quick, painful, effective workout surprisingly appealing to me. Enter Tru Barre Studio.

Tru Barre Studio is located in Parkwood Plaza in Merriman Valley

I've been going to the gym out by my work twice a week since the beginning of the school year (Shoutout to my carpool buddy Jillian and Levels Gym in Plymouth, Ohio!) but after a significant relapse over Christmas break, I started looking for something additional to kickstart my progress. After some searching around, I purchased a series of 10 Barre classes at Tru Barre Studio in Merriman Valley.

I have a bit of a sorted history with Barre. It started when I took a ballet class as my Phys Ed credit in college thinking it would be "easy" and came close to significantly compromising my GPA. Later on, I found myself working the check-in desk and folding towls at the Bar Method Studio in San Francisco in exchange for free classes, which I wouldn't have been able to afford in addition to Bay Area rent on my waitressing salary.

What got me so addicted to Barre? The combination of intense strength training and immediate stretching actually changed the way my body looked. Over time, I sculpted long, lean muscles like a dancer.

A decade later, I want that body back and Sue Costigan is going to help me get it.

Sue Costigan (center) and her staff of instructors

"I fell in love with the technique and the effectiveness of the exercises," says Costigan, founder of Tru Barre Studio, who discovered barre while recovering from shoulder surgery. "I felt my body changing from the first few classes. I knew this was an amazing workout and I wanted to share it with my clients."

After earning a certification in Barre from Barre Company, adding to her long list of accolades and accomplishments in the fitness field, Costigan eventually opened Tru Barre in June of last year.

"I was ready for a change," she explains. "I had always toyed with the idea of going out on my own, but never felt I had the right product. Barre differentiates me from all the other fitness facilities in the area."

Tru Barre also houses a boutique, with stylish and functional fitness and casual attire-- which will hopefully help me with some of my gripes about not feeling confident in my own gym gear. "All our clothing lines come from Los Angeles," says Costigan, who hopes to expand Tru Boutique in the near future. "You wont find our clothing anywhere else in the area."

Almost a year later, Costigan is nothing but enthusiastic about taking the leap from employee to entrepreneur. "My favorite part about what I do is that I am helping people. Assisting them to create a change for the better in their lives. Watching clients become healthier, happier and stronger everyday."

Three weeks into my own Barre classes, I'm still struggling and shaking through the intense workouts, but I do find myself feeling healthier, happier, and stronger, which is a tall order considering my bad attitude. Now I just need to keep it up!

Tru Barre Studio is located at 1474 N. Portage Path in Merriman Valley. You can learn more and sign up for classes at

Monday, March 23, 2015

North Hill Market Tour

Please welcome guest blogger Roza Maille as she shares about her experiences while taking a tour of North Hill.  Roza has written for us several times before, most notably about the Artist of Rubber City and the Box Gallery.  Do you have an Akron-specific experience you'd like to share with us on Akron Empire?  Contact us--we'd love to hear about it.

North Hill Market Tour
by Roza Maille

Have you ever explored a neighborhood in Akron that’s not your own?  Well, I’ve been doing plenty of that lately and I must say, it’s pretty awesome!  I’ve lived in Akron for over nine years and have basically stayed in my little Highland Square bubble, which I realize that many people also do. My recent job change has allowed  me step outside this bubble and it’s been rather eye opening.  

In October, I started working at the Akron Art Museum as project coordinator for Inside|Out, a community activated art project.  We are installing 30 reproductions of artwork from the museum’s collection all over Akron at outdoor locations starting this April.  I won’t go into too many details, because this blog post is about something else, but I will say we have been working with a variety of organizations and community members for this project.  This has given me the chance to get to know Akron better than I ever have before. 

One of the first communities that I have had the pleasure of working with is North Hill, which is as it turns out chock full of really committed, active community members.  This year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (who is also sponsoring Inside|Out) is funding a program called Akron Better Block.  The idea of Better Block is to take a single block in a neighborhood and transform it into pop-up businesses, bike lanes, cafes, art galleries, or anything else the community would like to see be permanent fixtures for one weekend.  This will hopefully encourage permanent changes in the neighborhood.

North Hill’s Better Block will take place from May 15-17, 2015 but until then, the North Hill Community Leaders are organizing monthly market tours of their neighborhood to educate community members about its uniqueness.We visited four locations for the February 28th tour, including Stonehedge Entertainment, Patterson Park Community Center, Dhimal’s Mini Mart, and San Miguel’s Latin Market.

We started at Stonehedge Entertainment which houses bowling alleys, arcade games, a sports bar, and Stray Dog Grille.  Stray Dog has recently partnered with Three Sisters Momo. (Momo is a type of dumpling from Nepal.) We learned that Stray Dog Cart and Three Sisters Momo are teaming up for Better Block, so look out for some menu specials that weekend. We also got to see a momo making demonstration, which included samples and Nepali spiced milk tea!  

Next we hopped on the trolley and headed over to Patterson Park Community Center.  We heard about their programming and their commitment to community engagement.  I was impressed by how much they accomplish at their community center.  They serve between 400-500 kids with their sports camps, meal plans, and after school programming.  They even have classes where they learn basketball and math simultaneously.

From there, we then headed over to Dhimal’s Mini Mart which is a small Bhutanese market on Cuyahoga Falls Avenue.  Dhimal’s is owned by a family of refugees here from Nepal who settled in Akron about five years ago.  This type of  story is not unusual in North Hill.  The International Institute helps many new immigrants and refugees settle into their new homes in Akron, resulting in a very diverse community.

Dhimal’s carries a variety of grocery items including produce, spices, grains, flours, and so many different types of lentils.  In addition, they also sell ceremonial wedding attire, religious items, and gifts.  I bought some coconut ginger candies which were amazing.  The owners also brought us some complimentary mango drinks.

After we sampled our purchases, we visited San Miguel’s Latin Market which is located in front of Stonehedge. As expected, they offered a variety of hot sauces, spices, and everything you need to have the best taco night imaginable. They also carry intriguing flavors of candy, many with chilies or tamarind, which I didn’t have the courage to try at the time. Of course, many people from our tour crew were seen walking away with Mexican Cokes.  

An orange taco stand called Mr. Trompo’s sits on the side of the San Miguel’s building.  We were offered samples of some tacos but I was slow to the draw and couldn’t make it over before they vanished.  That’s no surprise but I’ll need to return to do some sampling of my own.

On Saturdays and Sundays, San Miguel’s offers a variety of Mexican sweet breads that are handmade by a gentleman named Damien and his family.  We also got to taste his delicious desserts including cake (which I believe was tres leches) and flan.  Damien takes orders for custom cakes for celebrations or you know, just because you feel like eating a delicious cake.

We finished off our tour back at Stonehedge at the Stray Dog Grille.  The owner, Charley, explained his evolving small business that now includes twelve employees and five hot dog carts in addition to the Stray Dog Grille.  As a former pastor, his need to help people is always an important factor. As a result, he hires many people with disabilities.

We also got samples (you get well fed on these tours) of all the unique hot dogs he offers as well as pizza. The toppings range from pulled pork to fried fish to the filling from the momos. There’s even a hot dog that has cheese balls as a topping.  

I’ve learned so much about North Hill on this tour and appreciate the rich diversity it has to offer.  Also, if you like food, this is the place for you.Going on these tours really gives people the opportunity to get to know their neighbors.  I have definitely enjoyed getting to know mine.

If you are interested in learning more about Akron’s North Hill neighborhood, follow Akron Better Block’s Facebook to keep updated on tours* and events. Happy exploring everyone!

(*Walking tours are scheduled for March 28 and April 25.  The April tour will include a tour of some of the Inside|Out reproductions.)

Friday, March 20, 2015


NEXTOhio: A Free Internet Startup Conference 
by Brit Charek

One of the most daunting things about starting your own business is navigating the law, particularly when you begin selling online. Fortunately, as I have learned over the past few years, entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio have a lot of resources at their disposal, and the NEXTOhio Conference plans to collect many of those resources and put them all in the same place.

The conference, which will take place the evening of April 9th at Quaker Station and is completely free of charge, will start with a series of seven TED-like talks from area professionals, and end with a Pitch contest where local startups will compete for a cash prize. After that, there will be free food, a cash bar, and the opportunity to network with other local entrepreneurs.

"The event organized itself," says Annal Vyas, the event organizer, a professor at the SEED Legal Clinic at the University of Akron School of Law. "The heartbeat of Northeast Ohio's entrepreneurial spirit is incredibly strong."

I've been working with Professor Vyas and the SEED Legal Clinic for the past year. They've helped me take my inherited passion project, Crafty Mart, from being a simple bi-annual event to a full-fledged nonprofit arts organization.

The conference will be held at Quaker Station near the University of Akron

"We are a population of creators," Vyas continues, speaking of Northeast Ohioans. "I've had so many conversations with so many internet entrepreneurs who want to learn, grow, and network. This Conference emanated from those conversations."

Some of the that will be covered include:

  • How to Start Your Internet Company is You Don't Know Code
  • How to Learn Code and/or Find a Technical Cofounder
  • The Lean LaunchPad Methodology Gaining Traction in Silicon Valley
  • What Angel Investors are Looking for and How to Attract Funding in the Midwest
  • Killer Mistakes that Startups Make
  • Local Resources for Startups

The event is geared towards tech startups, but according to Vyas it will be "worthwhile to countless other demographics investors, designers, programmers, artists, and techies all will benefit!"And most importantly"If you're a fan of free pizza and a cash bar, we have that as well."

NEXTOhio will take place at Quaker Station on April 9th from 5:30-7:30, and the networking will continue until 10:30pm. The event, which is exclusively sponsored by Thompson Hine, is free to the public but advanced registration is required. You can RSVP here.

For more information, visit their beautiful website at