Friday, December 28, 2012

The Year in Review--Part 2

2012: The Year in Review: Part 2
by Joanna Wilson

Here at the end of the calendar year, we are looking back over the most popular Akron Empire blog posts.  Brit posted her most popular posts earlier this week.  Click HERE to see that list again.  Now it's my turn to share and reflect on my most popular posts from 2012.  I've had so much fun meeting new people, discovering new places, and sharing some of my favorite locations to shop, eat, and hang out.  Thank you for following along on my journey and making these posts possible.  How many of these posts do you remember?

These are my top five most popular blog posts of 2012.  Click the title for the link to each post:

5.  Roger Hoover and the Hurt
A CD review for Lay My Rituals Down, the up-and-coming local band's latest release.  You can catch the band on Saturday, Jan. 12th at the Beachland Tavern

4.  Retro Dog
Share What's Good.  Have you tried a Retro Bomb shake yet?

3.  Wesley Bright and the Hi-Lites
This hot local band is playing on New Year's Eve at Mahall's 20 Lanes

2.  Cult Film series at Plaza Cinemas at Chapel Hill
The theater is closing down next week so I'm very sorry to see that there won't be a 2013 cult film series.

1.  The Reverend Howard Finster exhibit at the Akron Art Museum
Although the Finster exhibit has since moved on, the Akron Art Museum currently features haunting images by artist Robert Stivers.

One of downtown's best features: the Akron Art Museum.

An important part of Akron Empire is the community building and the contributions from our guest bloggers.  Check out these popular posts written by our readers:

5.  The Rail written by Stacey Lim
This restaurant review was inspired by Stacey's appreciation for The Rail's use of Ohio's food sources.

4.  Good Life Tattoos and Piercings written by Laura Maidens
Not only is this a nice introduction to the local shop but it also serves as an excellent primer to getting your first tattoo or piercing.

3.  Best Thrift Shop in Akron written by Dina from Dina's Days
As a fashion blogger, Dina knows thrift shops better than anyone.  Have you checked out the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop at Wallhaven yet?

2.  Dolly Rocker Ragdoll by Dominic Caruso
Inspired by a performance at Weirdfest in May, Caruso shares his experience of seeing this hot local musician.

1.  Yarn Bomb at Highland Square Library by Mary Oliver Bethel and Catherine Pyle-Raffle
Stitch n' Bitch, a local knitting group, explains their motivations for their street art this past summer at the Highland Square branch library.

Do you remember seeing this mustachioed frog sculpture this summer?

If you're interested in becoming a guest blogger for Akron Empire or have an idea of what we should write about next, email us at AkronEmpire [at] gmail dot com

Happy New Year! --and thanks for being a loyal reader.  Brit and I are looking forward to another successful and fun year with Akron Empire.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Year in Review

2012: The Year in Review
by Brit Charek

Since Akron Empire launched back in March, I've had the opportunity to work with some terrific people, found some new favorite places to eat, shop, and hang out; and also gotten to celebrate some of my old favorites as well. As we close the door on 2012 and approach our one year anniversary, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of our most-clicked posts of the year.

Without further adieu, here are my top five most popular blog posts of 2012:

5. The Winery at Wolf Creek
I had a blast writing this article-- I'd highly recommend spending an afternoon in their Tasting Room

4. Thrift O Rama
An extension of The Bomb Shelter, Thrift O Rama opened this summer, right next to Devil Strip Dolly's. It's a fun place to go shop. You never know what you'll find!

3. Hoop Group at Studio 2091 Mothersbaugh Roos
The Hoop Group (as in hula hoop) meets every Thursday at Studio 2091 Mothersbaugh Roos in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. It's fun for participants and spectators alike!

2. Hazel Tree Interiors
Karen and Jon, the owners of Hazel Tree, were kind enough to sit down with me right before their Spring Open House to answer a few questions, including the origin of the now-famous mural painted on the side of their building.

1. This Band Could Be Your Life: The Modulated Tones

I had so much fun talking with Kevin of the Modulated Tones to write this post. As a sucker for psychedelic music, I was beyond excited when I was asked to write this article-- I'm looking forward to following the now Akron-based band's success into the new year!

I also wanted to make sure to acknowledge all the people who helped out with Akron Empire this year. If it wasn't for all the friends and community members that reached out to us, we wouldn't be able to post as regularly as we do.

Here are my top five most popular posts by a guest blogger this year:

5. Light-UP Lantern Festival
I still wrote the words for this post, but I couldn't have done that without Heather Higham's photos. Thanks again for contributing!

4. Comfort Kennels in Seville
Good friend and fellow teacher Marissa Marangoni was so pleased with the service at Comfort Kennels in Seville where she boarded her dogs while on vacation that she wrote this incredibly detailed review.

3. The Fourth Annual Crafty Mart at Musica
J Philip Hudson, who is becoming a regular contributor to Akron Empire, wrote this post about how he and Juniper Sage started Crafty Mart, which is now one of the Akron area's most anticipated annual events.

2. This Band Could Be Your Life: Bethesda
Ash Adams, an Ohio-born Alaska-based writer and good friend wrote this post about one of her favorite bands, kent-based indie rockers Bethesda (who have a new album coming out in the spring!) The photos were taken by Ash's husband, Brian Adams.

1. The Blue Door Cafe and Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls

My most popular post by a guest blogger was also written by J Philip Hudson, about the Blue Door Cafe in Cuyahoga Falls, which is officially my new favorite breakfast spot. We're looking forward to seeing more posts by J in the new year!

If you're interested in becoming a guest blogger for Akron Empire or have an idea of what we should write about next, email us at AkronEmpire [at] gmail dot com

Later this week, Joanna Wilson, the other half of Akron Empire, will post her top five most popular blog posts of this past year as well.  Happy New Year! --and thanks for being a loyal reader.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cleveland Christmas Memories book GIVEAWAY!

Cleveland Christmas Memories book giveaway
by Joanna Wilson

Cleveland Christmas Memories is a brand-new book by author Gail Ghetia Bellamy, published by Gray & Company.  It's a nostalgic guide to the Christmas experience for the Boomer Generation living in Northeast Ohio.  The book reminds readers of holiday shopping downtown at Higbee's and Halle's, visiting Mr. Jingeling at Halle's, holiday concerts at Severance Hall, performances of "The Christmas Carol" at the Cleveland Play House, and much more.

However, the book may have an interest to those beyond Northeast Ohio residents from the 1940s to the 1980s.  It documents Christmas culture with many color photos and personal stories and recollections about popular toys, Christmas tree decorations, and the traditions of families common to many during that time period.  The many photos in this book will stir Christmas memories whether you've ever lived in Cleveland or not!

Readers younger than Boomers and living outside of Cleveland may also enjoy reading about the filming of the 1983 movie A Christmas Story and the museum that now exists.  It is also interesting to read about the Cleveland resident, Pastor Schwan, who is said to have been responsible the first publicly lit Christmas tree in America, in 1851.  He was buried in Lake View Cemetery and his grave site includes a tree that is decorated each year for Christmas by members from a local church. 

The publisher Gray & Company has given me a copy to give away to one of our loyal readers.  To qualify for the book giveaway:

--leave a comment below with the book's title "Cleveland Christmas Memories."  You can enter again on Facebook and Twitter by commenting with the words "Cleveland Christmas Memories" once at each of the following locations:

twitter: @AkronEmpire
facebook page: Akron Empire
So you could enter up to three times by leaving the correct comment at all three locations.  This giveaway is for North American residents only.  This runs from today, Friday December 14 to Sunday, December 16, noon (ET).  On Dec. 16th at noon, I'll use to generate a number from the total number of qualifying entries to select a winner. I'll drop it in the mail ASAP after receiving the winner's mailing address--so you can have it by Christmas.  I'm also giving away another copy of this book on my blog Christmas TV History.  You are welcome to enter that giveaway as well.
This would make a great gift for any Boomer but especially one that lives or has lived in Cleveland during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  It is also currently available for purchase in bookstores throughout Northeast Ohio, on Amazon, and at the publisher's website.  Merry Christmas and Good Luck!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls

Akron Empire is happy to welcome back guest blogger and good friend J Hudson (He wrote about The Fourth Annual Crafty Mart for us last month.) J has run the Hudson Farmer's Market for the last three years. He's frequently seen eating in restaurants and talking with farmers.

The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery
by J Phillip Hudson

Breakfast has always been my favorite meal to eat out but when you think about it, most breakfast places are diners, not the type of place a foodie can find an unusual or exciting meal. But now greater Akron has a place that serves an outstanding breakfast and lunch for foodies and does it using mostly local ingredients—it’s called The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery.

All photos courtesy of the Blue Door's Facebook page
The Blue Door sits on the southwest corner of the intersection of State Road and Broad Street in Cuyahoga Falls. It’ easy to miss because there’s not a sign outside, but you’ll know it by its eponymous blue door. The Blue Door is unusual because its menu take standard breakfast fare like corn beef hash, bacon and eggs, crepes and omelets and makes them with the care usually reserved for dinner food.

For instance, the corn beef for the hash is corned on premises and is made using grass fed Ohio beef. The meat is in chunks and has a slightly sweeter flavor then most corn beef. It’s not salty and doesn't have the bright red coloring of cheap corn beef. The potatoes are also fresh and local and this give the hash a bite that most hash doesn't have.

The same goes for the eggs and bacon. The yolks for the eggs glow with flavor and nutrition. That’s because they are sourced from places like Brunty Farms in the Cuyahoga Valley and are from pasture raised chickens. Pasture raised hens eat a more diverse diet and can move around so they are healthier. Eggs from pastured raised hens have roughly half the cholesterol, 50 percent more vitamin E, and three times more beta carotene than eggs raised by corporate farms. But most importantly, these eggs taste better because they weren’t shipped from Arkansas or some other place a thousand miles away and raised in a building with a quarter million other chickens.

The bacon at the Blue Door is like nothing you’ve ever had, hand-cut thick and meatier then most bacon. Two slices are equal to about four slices of standard bacon. Rather than being crunchy, the bacon is chewy and has more lean than fat.

The Blue Door has standards that it serves all the time but the culinary staff makes lunch specials new each week. I’ve been there on weeks when they’ve made sauerbraten and other weeks when the specials were shrimp and grits. That adds to the fun at the Blue Door. You never know what new dish you’ll find there, of course, if you want to know what the specials are, you can befriend them on Facebook. They post the day’s menu on their page.

Fresh baked goods, made daily
As its name implies, the Blue Door is also one of Akron’s premier bakeries. The bakery staff turns out traditional European breads and pastries that are rare in Akron. Croissant, Muffins, Braided Challah, Brioche Nanterre, Ciabatta and Pain au levain are made daily or almost daily. Around the holidays, specialty breads like Stollen, Babka, Schwartzwaelder Kirsch and Buche de Noel are baked. These baked goods can be picked up and brought home but many are also worked into the daily menu.

The making of a baguette
If you’re a foodie looking for a great breakfast or lunch spot, give The Blue Door a try.

The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 7am to 3pm. They are closed Mondays and Tuesdays. They are located at 1970 State Rd, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio 44223. Their number is (330) 926-9774 but they do not take reservations. You can also check out their Facebook page.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Archie the Snowman is back!

Archie the Snowman at Chapel Hill Mall in the 1980s.  Photo used with permission from Bring Back Archie the Snowman Fan Page on facebook.
Archie the Snowman is back!
by Joanna Wilson
Thanks to a grass roots movement organized through Facebook, Archie the Snowman has returned as one of Akron's favorite local Christmas traditions.  If you grew up in the 1970s, '80s, or '90s in Akron, then you probably remember the giant-sized snowman at Chapel Hill Mall.  Instead of sitting on a department store Santa's lap, children took their place in line for the opportunity to step up to the platform and share with Archie their Christmas wish lists. Archie not only would talk back but his eyes would flash!

I certainly remember Archie from Chapel Hill Mall.  For several years in a row in the 1970s, I stood in line with my big sister to talk to Archie--but I always panicked before I got my chance to step up on the platform.   Maybe this is finally my year?

The new Archie currently at Lock 3.  Photo used with permission.

Though Archie was retired in 2004 when the mall was sold to another owner, this year you can see Archie again down at Lock 3.  Cleaned up and rebuilt, Archie is currently a part of the activities in downtown Akron at Lock 3 which also include ice skating, riding the children's train, sledding, and checking out the holiday vendors in the cottages.  Click HERE for the Lock 3 website for more details and times for those events.

The next generation gets the opportunity to greet Archie the Snowman.  Photo used with permission.

You can see Archie the Snowman the rest of this month on Fridays 6pm-8pm, Saturdays noon-8pm, and Sundays noon-6pm.  After Christmas, the Archie Encounter will be open December 26-31, noon-8pm.  I wouldn't be surprised if there end up being just as many adults in line to talk to Archie as there are children!

For more details and information about how Archie was brought back, check out the Bring Back Archie the Snowman Facebook fan page, run by Tommy Uplinger.  

Did you visit Archie when you were a child?  Share your stories. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thirteenth Floor Gallery Opening in Canton

Thirteenth Floor Gallery
by Brit Charek

On Thursday, December 6th during the Light Up Downtown festivities, Thirteenth Floor Gallery and Bizaare Boutique will officially open the doors to their new location in the Canton Arts District. (RSVP to the event on Facebook by clicking here!) Though the Grand Opening is on Thursday, the celebration will spill into Canton's famous First Friday the following day.
Thirteenth Floor is an art gallery focusing on the focusing on the bizarre and macabre. The one man operation run by Billy Ludwig hosts various themed and featured artist events with live music and performance artists. Ludwig is an artist (as well as a musician) in his own right, producing work under the name Impale Design
Thirteenth Floor originally opened July of 2010 when Billy Ludwig converted his band's rehearsal space in Massillon into an art gallery.

The work of Thirteenth Floor owner and operator, Billy Ludwig (Impale Design)

After going through several different ideas for the gallery name, 'Thirteenth Floor' seemed to make the most sense as Ludwig wanted everything in the gallery to be original, unique and one of a kind. 
"As you rarely will see a 13th floor in a building, you will rarely find what the gallery has anywhere else," he explains. 
The name "Thirteenth Floor" was also the title of a song written by Ludwig's band, Ludwyg. The song was lost along with a nearly completed full album when Ludwig's hard drive crashed. Hopefully the gallery doesn't follow suit.
Erin Mulligan will be resident artist at the new location. Though Mulligan's work resembles the surreal slightly uncomfortable feeling often provided by Ludwig's own work, it is unique. Though her work is modern, she was trained in the age old oil paint technique of glazing. Her mission is to capture life as a whole: the beautiful and the grotesque. To learn more about Erin and see her work, check out her website:

'Poetry of Deception,' by Erin Mulligan
For those Massillon-ites nervous about Thirteenth Floor picking up and leaving town, don't fret. 
"Just because Thirteenth Floor doesn't have a physical address in town doesn't mean we won't have a presence," Ludwig assures his loyal fans. It also doesn't mean he'll stop throwing fabulous events like last summer's circus-themed 'Eerie Street Sideshow.'
Thirteenth Floor Gallery will be located at 310 4th St. NW in Canton. For more information, check out their website or like them on Facebook.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Akron Glass Works

Akron Glass Works is located in the Northside District, directly across from Luigi's.

Akron Glass Works
by Joanna Wilson

You may already be familiar with glass blowing demonstrations that you can watch at Akron Glass Works during the Art Walk each month.  But did you know that Akron Glass Works has extended their demonstrations throughout the holiday season to include every Saturday night from 6-9pm?

Here, Jack Baker works the liquid glass at the end of the long pipe, as he adds bits of colored glass.

At one of the demonstrations, you watch through a large picture window into the studio as a glass artist takes liquid glass from a 2100 degree oven onto a long pipe, adds color, and works the hot substance into a desired shape.  Right now, the studio is busy making blown glass bulbs--colorful light catchers to be used as Christmas tree ornaments or gorgeous window decorations.

Look how these bulbs catch the light! 

Akron Glass Works even offers workshops to make your own blown glass projects.  Though the current ornament workshops are already full, Jack shared with me that you can still take advantage of an open workshop day on Saturday, Dec. 15th from noon until 10pm--no reservations needed.  For more information, you can call them or check out the link to their website: Akron Glass Works.

Jack finishes this ornament with adding a bit of liquid glass at the top, creating a loop so the bulb can eventually be hung.

I first met Jack Baker, the owner of Akron Glass Works, at the Urban Eats Pumpkin Slaughter carving contest at Musica last Halloween.  Remember the Akron Empire/blimp pumpkin I carved?  This week when I stopped by the studio, Jack was kind enough to allow me to make my own glass blown ornament!  Several things I learned: gravity is a powerful force that is constantly tugging at the liquid glass--so you always have to keep the pipe level with the ground and slowly twisting to keep it attached to the pipe.  The multi-step process to create a glass ornament includes three ovens--the first one stores the liquid glass, the second is used to heat the pipe and re-heat the ever-cooling glass as you manipulate it.  And, the third oven slowly cools the finished glass ornament over a 12 hour period.  Yeah, it's warm in the studio!

The gift shop includes more than just ornaments.  There are bowls, vases, paper weights, and other glass delights.

This month's Art Walk is this Saturday, Dec. 1 and Akron Glass Works will be holding their glass blowing demonstrations from 6pm-9pm.  What an interesting way to spend a Saturday night!  If you're like me, you're keeping your eyes open for locally-made items to give as Christmas presents.  The gift shop at Akron Glass Works is certainly the place for that!

The gift shop is filled with these locally made, gorgeous glass ornaments-what a wonderful gift idea.

Akron Glass Works is located at 106 N. Main Street, Akron OH 44308
Phone #: 330-253-5888
Facebook page: Akron Glass Works

holiday hours: Mon-Thur 12pm-6pm, Fri 12pm-8pm, Sat 12pm-10pm *glass demos from 6pm-9pm*

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shop Local This Holiday Season!

More Opportunities to Shop Local
by Brit Charek

Regardless of whether or not you made it to Crafty Mart this past weekend, there are still plenty of opportunities for you to buy reasonably prices handmade goods made right here in the Greater Akron Area.

This Saturday is Artsy Mart, from 10am to 8pm at Summit ArtSpace presented by the Akron Area Arts Alliance in cooperation with the monthly Akron Art Walk. If you've never been to an Art Walk, this weekend would be the perfect opportunity to experience this unique Akron event. There's free parking in the Main Library garage, just a block away from Summit Artspace. From there, you can hop on the free trolley that runs between galleries and local businesses downtown.

The Akron Zoo is having their annual Trunk Sale on Thursday night, November 29, featuring local artisans who make animal-themed and/or re-purposed or upcycled goods. If you're a Zoo member, you'll get 20% off your gift store purchase, and for each $10 spend you'll be entered in a raffle.

But wait! There's more! There's also the Portage Trail Barn Sale in the valley starting on Thursday December 6 and wrapping up on Sunday December 9.

Another great place to purchase local handmade gifts is DevilStrip Dolly's, Akron's only self proclaimed "anti-gallery" and leader of the "Keep Akron Weird" movement. It's a great place to shop especially if you're looking for something a little offbeat. While you're parked make sure to check out The Bomb Shelter next door for all things vintage.

For the music lovers, make sure to head to Square Records in Highland Square, and drop by Revival next door while you're there or across the street to The Market Path, where you can find fair trade gift items from all over the world.

If you're willing to travel, Collective Upcycle, who sell strictly re-purposed and upcycled items, is setting up shop downtown Cleveland and the Cleveland Handmade Markets' Last Minute Market on Saturday December 15 at the Screw Factory is a must! Also check out the Cleveland Craft Coalition's Annual Handmade Holiday Show that same weekend, on Friday December 14 and Saturday December 15 at Breakneck Gallery in Lakewood.

Look for the cute little flags!

Is there any place we left out? Let us know your favorite local shopping destinations by emailing us at akronempire [at] gmail dot com.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Fourth Annual Crafty Mart at Musica

The Fourth Annual Crafty Mart
by J Hudson

design by

I met my Crafty Mart co-founder, Juniper Sage, while shopping at Square Records the record store she owns with her husband Dave in Highland Square.  I like to support local businesses and so I buy my records and cds there instead of from big box retailers.  I also like to shop local art shows for holiday gifts.  About eight years ago, when I worked in downtown Cleveland, a designer coworker gave me the heads up about a new holiday bazaar on the West Side called Bazaar Bizarre.  The first time it happened in Cleveland I loaded my kids in the car and made the drive up to check it out.

It was in an old warehouse in a run-down section of Cleveland’s Near West Side. The vendors all had fun handmade products that you can’t find in the mall or in a chain store.  Juniper was one of the vendors.  She was selling bowls made from old vinyl records, coasters made from the LP labels and a variety of knit goods. Both my kids and I loaded up on presents that night and then drove home in the snow for an hour.

The next time I went into Square Records, Juniper and I talked about Bazaar Bizarre.  I told her how much I liked it and wondered if Akron had a show like this. She said she didn’t know of one.  I said there should be and she agreed.

The next December, the same thing happened again and this time, we said we should put one on but we didn’t.

Then the next year, we said it again, except this time we actually did it.  We began meeting in the summer of 2009 along with my daughter Juliet and began planning an Akrocentric, idioscycraftic holiday market that we called Crafty Mart.

artwork for the first ever Crafty Mart!

The good people at Musica volunteered their space for a Saturday in November.  Juniper and I filled Musica with a mix of our artistic and crafty friends.  That first Crafty Mart had about 500 patrons.  Since then, we’ve had a show each fall and spring. We’ve expanded into We Gallery and Uncorked Wine Bar on High Street above Musica and we now have around 55 vendors and about 1000 shoppers at each show.

As Juniper and I grew busier with our regular jobs, we started succession planning and asked our friend and Crafty Mart vendor Brit Charek to take over Crafty Mart. Despite being very busy herself, Brit agree and is running this year’s Crafty Mart. Juniper and I are helping where we can, but Brit has taken over and is a doing a great job.  Brit has even developed a relationship with the Akron Area Arts Alliance and that group is putting on Artsy Mart the same day as Crafty Mart.  Artsy Mart is going to spotlight local fine arts artists.

Artsy Mart will take place the same day as Crafty Mart at Summit Artspace

This year’s Crafty Mart is on November 24, 2012 from 10am to 5pm at both Musica (on Maiden Lane) and We Gallery (on High Street).  Artsy Mart is taking place at the Summit Art Space at the same time, and again on December 1.  For full details, go to the Crafty Mart website at

Thursday, November 15, 2012

2012 Akron Comicon: Review

2012 Akron Comicon: Review
by Joanna Wilson
Photos courtesy of Erick, special correspondent from Wonderful Wonderblog

Akron Comicon was last weekend, Saturday Nov. 10th.  Since then, I've seen a very long list of bloggers complimenting the first-ever Akron Comicon, co-founded by Michael Savene and Robert Jenkins.  From the sound of it, this is headed to be an exciting annual tradition you won't want to miss.

Welcome to Akron Comicon 2012!

I asked Erick from another blog Wonderful Wonderblog to be Akron Empire's special correspondent at this first-time event.  He knows more about comics and conventions than anyone else I know, so I trust his judgement about this event.  He agrees with what I'm hearing:  THIS was a well-organized, well-attended, fantastic event.  Erick can't wait for next year's Akron Comicon, already scheduled for Sat. Nov. 9th, 2013.  Here's a collection of photos from last weekend's event:


Joe Staton

Gerry Conway

Norm Breyfogle

Tom Batiuk

Mike W. Barr

Chris Yambar
Bob Ingersoll

Cosplay attendees:

Judging the costume contest


Winners of the Akron Public Schools Comic Book Cover Contest

HeroClix Tournament

Additional fun:

Local Star Trek group: USS LaGrange.

Fans shopping for comic books

Fans could also look at and purchase toys and cards.

JC Comics & Cards--sponsors of the HeroClix Tournament

John from Kenmore Komics and Games--sponsors of the comic book cover contest

Thanks Erick and PSY!

If you'd like to read more reviews, please check out the Akron Comicon Facebook page (click HERE for the link) because they are re-posting them.  Will you be joining me next year at the next Akron Comicon?