Thursday, July 2, 2015

Balance and Brews at Thirsty Dog

Balance & Brews at Thirsty Dog
by Brit Charek

Some partnerships just seem natural (peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, Hall and Oates, etc.) and then there are perfect pairings that take some time to warm up to before you realize they were meant to be together. (Think Harold and Maude or sea salt and caramel.) Yoga and beer might seem to fall into that latter category, but hear me out-- I think there's something to this.

"Yoga and beer ARE traditionally seen as two different lifestyles, and that's precisely why I like pairing them," says Balance & Brews founder Melissa Klimo-Major. "I don't think things have to be 'labeled' or fit neatly into only one box. I get the most out of my yoga practice when I back off and surrender a bit. When enjoyed responsibly, our guards come down and we are open to chat with the person sitting next to us at a brewery bar. We know at the very least we have that beer in common. It helps bridge a connection. And then you start to see that these two things actually are not that different... they're both creating unity, they're creating a like-minded tribe."

Balance & Brews events offer all-levels yoga in an unassuming environment (typically a brewery or a tasting room) so that anyone can feel welcome. After 60 minutes of practice, participants enjoy beers and a group brewery tour. Their next event is Wednesday, July 8th at Thirsty Dog Brewing Company.

From B&B's last event at Thirsty Dog
This class will be taught by Kara Sullivan, an Akron native who developed a love for yoga on the West Coast which she brought home to share with others. With her day job being the Northeast Ohio Sales Specialist for Deschutes Brewery, she's more than excited to combine her love of yoga with her love of craft beer.

Instructor Kara (left) and Assistant Sarah
You might wonder how this full-fledged business came to be. 

"B&B's original business plan was to be a supplemental side job to compliment my studio teaching but it grew into something really big really quick," says Klimo-Major. 

"Everyone working with me in any capacity now is there because they came to an event and we realized we have some sort of yoga and beer connection, and then they had the guts and smarts to say 'Hey, I like this vision, I also love these two things, and I would have this to offer to a team, if you are interested.' It's been super organic in how it's grown."

Do you want to help B&B grow? Start by joining them at Thirsty Dog next Wednesday at 6:30pm! You can buy tickets here. These events tend to sell out, so you might want to get tickets in advance!

And what should you order after your hour of practice?

Klimo-Major recommends Citra Dog. "[It's] a current favorite staple! I normally prefer a piney hop over citrus but this one is perfectly brewed and I really love it."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Brews & BBQ at Portage Lake Brewing Company

Brews & BBQ at Portage Lake Brewing Company
by Brit Charek

To me, the idea of a prix fixe menu set by a great chef sounds like an exhilarating opportunity, but I can see how it would be intimidating for some some people. I mean, what if you end up with a plate of mushy peas over a bed of kale? Sure, those things might be in season and locally accessible but, umm, no thank you.

Portage Lakes Brewing Company has come up with a fool-proof idea for a prix fixe dinner: Beer, Barbeque and Ice Cream.

Executive Chef Dick Kanatzar and Pav’s Creamery have teamed up this summer to offer a monthly Brews & BBQ dinner that features various Brewing Companies. The next event will be July 11, 2015, starting at 6pm and will be held at Portage Lakes Brewing Company.

"Everyone loved the first Brews & BBQ event so much, we decided to have one every month until it gets too cold," said Jason Keel, owner of PLBC. Along with a great atmosphere, attendees can expect three courses prepared by Chef Dick, some amazing beers from Hoppin Frog Brewing Company and a delicious dessert by Pav’s Creamery to top off the night.

If those names sound familiar, it's because we've written about them both. Joanna wrote about Hoppin' Frog's tasting room back in October of 2013, and I wrote about Pav's Creamery's Charity Ice Cream Eating Contest.

“The first event was probably the most fun I’ve had cooking. I’m so stoked to be able to collaborate with awesome people and bring my style back to my hometown," said Chef Dick.

If that wasn't enough to convince you, check out the full menu:

Hoppin Frog Beers - Turbo Shandy and Very Rare Mystery keg

1st Course - Turbo shandy battered walleye "fishsticks" beer vinegar, grilled lemon and lime aioli and purple and orange slaw

2nd Course - Peaches and cream Caesar, grilled lettuces, corn bread, grilled peaches, creamy strawberry IPA dressing, avacado, pickled strawberries

3rd Course - Sous vide beef rib with Chef Dick's signature sauce Smoked Cheddar beer pimento mac n cheese

Dessert - Cafe Boris Ice Cream Cake made with Hoppin Frog Cafe Boris

Portage Lakes Brewing Company is located at 503 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319.
For reservations (highly recommended) or questions about Brews & BBQ events, contact PLBC at (330) 644-2337.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Urban Buzz: Made in Akron

Urban Buzz: Made in Akron
by Joanna Wilson

Last April, I joined a group of eager-to-learn leaders and entrepreneurs on a trip Akron2Pittsburgh.  On this trip, I met Kaley Foster, a young woman with a refreshing attitude about her own business named Urban Buzz.  You may have already seen Kaley--she was at Crafty Mart's Mom & Pop Shoppe, and she also set up shop at North Hill's Better Block event last month.  When I first met Kaley, I was touched by her willingness to take her life in a new direction and pursue her own passion.  I asked if she was willing to talk to me about her business Urban Buzz and the following is her response.

Me: What is Urban Buzz--and what do you sell?
Kaley: Urban Buzz is a beeswax candle company located in Akron, Ohio which uses only the purest beeswax from local apiaries and all natural essential oils.  We sell Tea Lights, Votives, Aromatherapy Tins, and two types of Pillar Candles.

Me: How did you get started?  What inspired you to start your business?
Kaley: I have always wanted to own my own business and use my talents to create a unique experience for customers.  I enjoy natural products, but what I enjoy more is inspiring and motivating others to live their dream.

Me: What makes you unique from other small businesses or/and other candle makers?
Kaley: What makes Urban Buzz unique is its passion for the City of Akron.  I was born and raised here and want to make our city the best it can be.  If this business can inspire other businesses and motivate people to take action, in turn creating a more engaged city, I will have reached my goal.  One other thing that makes Urban Buzz different from a product standpoint, is the beeswax.  The beeswax used is from the Akron Honey Company and also an apiary in Ashland.  Both waxes are 100% natural and local.

Me: What's your biggest challenge?
Kaley: My biggest challenge is what the next steps are for Urban Buzz.  It could go in many different directions, and figuring out what is the best direction can be a tough decision.  Luckily, I have some great mentors who I trust will guide me in the right direction. 
Me: Where do you see your business five years from now?
Kaley: In five years, I see Urban Buzz having a large online presence with an increased product line and also a storefront in downtown Akron with an array of honey based products.

Me: What if anything should others know about Urban Buzz--but too few people ask?
Kaley: I would love if more people knew that our goal isn't just to sell beeswax products.  It's bigger than that.  We're here to inspire others to use their talents and live their dream.  To take action.  Have courage.  Do what makes them come alive. 

If you're interested in learning more about Urban Buzz, check out the Facebook page: Urban Buzz
the website:

And, you can check out Urban Buzz at a Local Artists Show this Fri June 19th, 6-10pm at Old 97 Cafe on Kenmore Blvd.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Akron History: Founder's Day and Alcoholics Anonymous Landmarks

The following essay will appear in the June 10thth/issue #7 of The Devil Strip--our new, twice monthly, arts & culture newspaper in Akron. Issue #7 will soon be available--go out and pick up a copy or read it on-line.  As many of you know, I love researching and writing about Akron history. I'll be writing a regular column about Akron history for The Devil Strip in upcoming issues.  If you have any suggestions or requests for particular topics, let me know.

855 Ardmore in West Akron--Dr. Bob's Home and Museum.

Akron, OH: Where Bill W. and Dr. Bob Changed the World
by Joanna Wilson

You’re so Akron hear the louder-than-usual rumble of motorcycle engines on W. Market Street in June and smile knowingly that it must be Founder’s Day. This year, the annual Founder’s Day celebrations take place June 12th, 13th, and 14th in Akron--the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous.  2015 happens to be the 80th anniversary of the founding of A.A.--the self help group that has had an enormous impact on our society.  Not only does the group help alcoholics achieve sobriety but it introduced the Twelve Step program for self-improvement.  The Founder’s Day celebrations bring visitors from all over the country and the world to our city to honor the group’s origins and to join with others who share the recovery experience.

Front yard marker at Dr. Bob's Home

The roaring sound of motorcycles on W. Market Street is an annual experience because it has become popular with AA members who own bikes to make the annual journey.  Akron’s west side has several landmarks important to those commemorating Founder’s Day and these locations have become must-see destinations over the years.  At the top of the list is Dr. Bob’s Home at 855 Ardmore Avenue.  The modest arts and crafts home was where Dr. Bob, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and his wife lived for years.  The Akron home has since been turned into a museum with its own gift shop. 

Another popular destination is the Gate Lodge at Stan Hywet.  This is the place where Dr. Bob first met Bill W.--the other co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.  At meetings at the Gate Lodge, the two men shared their experiences and understood each other’s struggles with alcohol.  Although they didn’t originate the concept of group meetings, it was the power of the shared experience that convinced them to incorporate it as an important element of A.A.

Dr. Bob's Way, also known as Olive Street, runs adjacent to Summa St. Thomas Hospital.

You’ll probably also see people gathering at Mount Peace Cemetery on Aqueduct Street in West Akron.  The rolling green span is Dr. Bob’s final resting place and a popular place to honor the man who dedicated his life to helping others. Another destination of historical importance includes the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel (now the Mayflower Manor apartments) downtown where Bill W. used the public phone in the lobby to call Dr. Bob--the man who would help to change his life.  Additional locations include the A.A. Archives located on N. Main Street, and the Dr. Bob’s Way street sign (Olive Street) next to Summa St. Thomas Hospital in North Hill which acknowledges Dr. Bob’s work alongside Sister Ignatia Gavin with alcoholic patients.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Akron History: Lawson's Chip Dip

The following essay first appeared in the May 27th/issue #6 of The Devil Strip--our new, twice monthly, arts & culture newspaper in Akron. Issue #6 is still available--go out and pick up a copy or read it on-line.  As many of you know, I love researching and writing about Akron history. I'll be writing a regular column about Akron history for The Devil Strip in upcoming issues.  If you have any suggestions or requests for particular topics, let me know.

Akron History: Why are Akronites so loyal to a chip dip they can only get at Circle K?
by Joanna Wilson

I hosted a party a few weeks back and made sure to include a tub of Lawson’s chip dip on the snack table. What Akron party is complete without Lawson’s chip dip, right? But why did I need to go to Circle K to buy another convenience store’s product? This is the question that lead me to seek out a logical answer. 

While I’m old enough to remember Lawson’s convenience stores on what seemed like every corner in the greater Akron area, what I didn’t know was that Lawson’s began right here. During the Depression, dairy businessman James “J.J.” Lawson was looking for a way to cut costs, making the bold decision to eliminate milkman delivery service and the necessary bill collection it came with in order to pass on the savings on to his customers. Starting in 1939, customers could visit The Lawson Milk Company store at the corner of the dairy plant in Cuyahoga Falls and fill a gallon jug of milk, saving themselves 16 cents. Lawson’s business plan was a success and he could barely keep up with the demand. Soon branch stores were opened. The industry took notice when milk was cheaper in Akron than any other major market throughout the country. In 1958, after 20 years, Lawson sold his company which included almost 200 stores to a national firm, Consolidated Foods. 

Many former Lawson's/Dairy Marts in the area can still be identified by their distinctive decorative storefronts.  This building has since been adapted into an auto repair/sale company near the corner of Oakwood Drive and Graham Road in Cuyahoga Falls.

Consolidated Foods expanded the Lawson’s stores to more than 700 and eventually sold them in the mid-80s, at which point they became Dairy Marts. The convenience stores were sold again in 2002 and became Circle K stores. Despite the change in company ownership, there continues to be a huge demand for Lawson’s chip dip. Dairymens Dairy in Cleveland now makes it and it continues to be carried in local Circle K stores. And, that ladies and gentlemen, is why every Akron party needs Lawson’s chip dip.

This is where the history of Lawson’s gets weird. 

In the mid-1970s, Consolidated Foods signed a deal with a Japanese company to expand the Lawson’s convenience stores overseas. That is why you can visit Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and China today and shop at what they call Lawson (and Lawson Station) in more than 12,000 locations. More recently, they have expanded into Hawaii. If you’re wondering if you can buy Lawson’s chip dip in Japan, the answer is ‘no.’ Only Circle K carries it.

Friday, May 29, 2015

City Hope's Annual Crestland Park Clean-Up Project

You may have noticed that there's a tremendous amount of energy these days in Akron.  Many are working within the neighborhoods to revitalize and breathe new life in under-valued spaces.   Akron Better Block in North Hill received a lot of attention a few weeks back--and the event seemed to be a spectacular success.  But there's more going on than just Better Block.  I'd like to share with you the work of City Hope--a group working in a west side Akron neighborhood in Highland Square.  I recently met Jeremy D. Lile on the Akron2Pittsburgh trip.  The more we talked, the more I grew impressed with his hard work and dedication to serve.  

The annual Crestland Park Clean-Up takes place in April each year.  Below is Jeremy's well-spoken summary of the event and his experiences.  At the bottom, you'll find contact information to find out more or to join the movement.  --Joanna Wilson

City Hope's Annual Crestland Park Clean-Up Project
Essay by Jeremy D. Lile

"Neighbors make neighborhoods." That was my takeaway from our 4th annual Crestland Park neighborhood clean up and cookout. Three years ago, we started with a mix of folks from the neighborhood and folks from without...we were essentially pulling in anyone who was willing to help clean things up. 

This year, with the exception of one family, every volunteer came from within the neighborhood and surrounding streets. That is something to celebrate! We are seeing the need in our own community and taking care of that need as a community. We also celebrated that, after four years of hard work in the neighborhood, there was less trash to clean up. Our first year, we covered an entire devil strip with bags, tires, computers, wood, etc. We even boarded up a couple of homes! This year, the 40+ volunteers canvassed the neighborhood in a short amount of time and came back with less garbage. That tells us something is working! 

Several years ago, a group of us wanted to do something to show love to our neighborhood so we started asking, "What would look like love?" That's when we decided the answer was "A good cleaning and a shared meal." We love the vision of Keep Akron Beautiful and their Clean Up Akron Month initiative. However, we felt like it wasn't quite enough to just clean up together. We wanted to grow a sense of community that goes beyond a service project. The first year, despite miserable weather conditions, we had over 15 new families participate in the event. And then we noticed something: people were starting to come out of their homes more. And people were starting to get together outside of programmed events. And new friendships were blossoming. 

We knew we were on to something good, and so we decided to keep this going as an annual event. It's a great way to kick start the warmer weather and encourage people to get out and get to know each other. The basics are pretty simple: we reserve the Community Pride Trailer from KAB; we hand out flyers throughout the neighborhood the week before; we start about 9:00 a.m. and walk through every street in Crestland Park picking up trash; and then we finish with a cookout at someone's home where we provide the grilled items and everyone brings a side dish and/or dessert. It's really that simple. Anyone can do it. 

The goals for the clean up are quite simple: (1) Clean up and beautify the neighborhood and (2) Celebrate our community through a shared meal. 

Why Crestland Park? We chose Crestland Park because it is where we live. Sometimes those are the people and places that are hardest to love. So, we decided to start close to home and expand out from there. Also, Crestland Park is, in many ways, a microcosm of our city. We are demographically diverse - ethnically, racially, socioeconomically, age, etc. So, we believe that if it can happen here, then it can happen anywhere in our city and beyond. 

The group of people [that comes together] is really the best part. We started our day at the Community Pride Trailer (thank you KAB!) which was parked in front of our community garden (thank you Let's Grow Akron!). As we started to gather, an elderly neighbor came out of her home with a basket full of suckers for the kids. She knew that she wasn't physically capable of helping, but this was her way of participating. Everybody participates! 

As I wrote earlier, the group was pretty much all from the neighborhood and a walkable distance. We had over 50 volunteers ranging in age from 60s to 3. That's what I love so much. The kids get a chance to serve in their own community and play a vital role. They represented at least half the group. Over the years, we have moved from being neighbors by proximity of homes to becoming friends by proximity of heart. 

That's why after reflecting upon the number of lives and the diversity of lives that had been touched after this year's event, I thought to myself "Neighbors make neighborhoods." We could have an outside group come in and clean up, but there wouldn't be any sense of ownership, of pride, of dignity. It's the people that matter. Everyone does their part and that's what makes this a great place to live.

Thanks Jeremy!  
For more information about City Hope, check out their website:

or follow along with them on Facebook: City Hope  Community Development

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Akron Better Block: North Hill Photo Essay

Akron Better Block: North Hill (May 15-17th) Aftermath Photo Essay
by guest blogger Svetla from Svetla Morrison Photography

The three day event Akron Better Block took place on the block of N. Main Street and E. Cuyahoga Falls Avenue from May 15-17 this year.  Not only was it a huge success, but it proved to really serve its purpose as a teaser for what our neighborhoods could look and feel like. The incredible amount of interest from the visitors and their expressed hope will turn this project into either a seasonal or reoccurring event.  It caught not only the attention of the organizers Tina and John Ughrin but also of a number of councilmen who came to North Hill that weekend and sparked a desire for a discussion about how could this idea be implemented in a more long-lasting way in our town. Team Better Block is collecting information through a short questionnaire about the changes we saw at the North Hill Better Block event and which are most desired to become permanent.  You can find the link to the questionnaire HERE.

***click on the photos to enlarge***