Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Taste of Akron Kicks off the 32nd Annual Akron Arts Expo!

The Taste of Akron
by Brit Charek

Tonight from 6 to 10 pm at Hardesty Park in West Akron is the 7th Annual Taste of Akron. More than twenty local restaurants will be showcasing their best dishes and selling them in sample sized portions. There's also live entertainment, and the playground nearby for the little ones.

I look forward to the Taste of Akron every year not just because of my love for finding new favorite local restaurants, but mostly for the amateur chef competition sponsored by West Point Market that my dad competes in every year. Allan Charek won his first 1st place title in the Final Cut Steak-Off last year and is back this year to try to defend his title! You can check out his winning recipe from last year by clicking here. He has also won 3rd and 2nd place in years past, respectively. I might also mention that last year he was asked to compete in Gnarley Head Rib Contest in Chicago and the Berringer Steak Contest in Royal Oak, Michigan. (I couldn't resist tooting his horn, just a little!)

Dad with his 1st Place Prize last year!

The cook-off is so fun to watch! West Point Market provides each finalists steaks of their choice to grill on the spot. They are allowed to start prepping their grills at 5:30, and judging happens between 7:30-8:30, when the participants present their dish to the panel of judges.

The Taste of Akron is just the first event to kick off this weekend's 32nd Annual Akron Arts Expo. On Friday evening is a wine tasting and silent auction benefitting local businesses, and then Saturday and Sunday is the Arts Expo, a juried fine arts show featuring 160 artists. All weekend there will be great food, live entertainment, an interactive children's area, and fun entertainment for the entire family.

The 32nd Annual Akron Arts Expo is taking place this weekend at Hardesty Park on Saturday from 10 am to 6pm and Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Admission to the Expo is free, and there is free parking on the grounds and there's also a free shuttle busing guests to and from Firestone High School for additional parking. Check out their website for more details. The Taste of Akron takes place tonight from 6 to 10pm.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Retro Dog

Retro Dog in Cuyahoga Falls--you can't miss the spinning hot dog sign!

Eating in Style at Retro Dog
by Joanna Wilson

If you're from Akron, like I am, then you're probably used to drive-in restaurants, car hops and eating in your car.  I've been told by my out-of-state friends that drive-ins are much rarer than they are here.  I grew up eating at Skyway and spent my teen years parked at Swensons.  Of course, I still eat at these places too.  But when I heard there was a new drive-in restaurant in town, I wanted to check it out.

There's just something about eating food off a tray on your window that I love!

Retro Dog, located on the corner of Steels Corner Rd. and Wyoga Lake Rd. in Cuyahoga Falls, specializes in hot dogs and frozen custard.  But one quick look at their modern menu and you'll see this is no ordinary hot dog and ice cream stand.  They offer signature dogs with all kinds of amazing toppings as well as burgers, chicken and Italian Sausage dogs.  Proving just how modern this new place is--they also have veggie dogs, bean burgers, and Italian Veggie Sausage dogs.  Don't forget french fries and onion rings on the side.  And for dessert, they offer their frozen custard in sundaes, cones or cups, and milkshakes, floats and root beer.  You can even take home root beer in a growler.

In the above photo, you can see we ordered an Italian Veggie Sausage Dog with grilled peppers (left) and the signature Retro Veggie Dog with veggie coney sauce, yellow mustard and diced onions (right).  In the middle of the photo you can see a dessert item--that's a Retro Bomb: a strawberry shake layered on top of a hot fudge sundae with rainbow sprinkles.  I had promised to share the Retro Bomb but quickly turned into a liar!  This was a fantastic meal.

The cover of the menu features the funky Retro Dog Man logo

One of the things that first caught my attention about Retro Dog is the fabulous and modern look to the place and their logo.  Not only is the drive-in restaurant itself an impressive space with a retro 1950s spinning hot dog sign, but the Retro Dog Man logo for the restaurant is very eye-catching.  Each of the signature hot dogs has its own Hot Dog Man or Woman logo sporting a stylish outfit.  I just love the modern-retro feel of the whole place. The car hops even take your order on hand-held electronic devices.

Don't want to eat in your car?  Retro Dog also offers indoor dining for your family or group.

Retro Dog has been open little over a month since their Grand Opening and they are planning a movie night on Wednesday, August 8th.  Come watch a movie projected on a big screen under the stars and order yourself a Retro Bomb or a root beer float.  The next time I visit, I'm going to try the bean burger and a sundae they offer that I've never seen anywhere else: it's frozen custard with marshmallow sauce and Rice Krispies!  It's essentially a Rice Krispie Treat sundae!  Try something new and check it out.

Look for the tall rotating hot dog sign--you can't miss it!
Retro Dog is at 350 E. Steels Corners Rd. in Cuyahoga Falls. Open everyday from 11am to 11pm.
check them out on Facebook:

Check out the menu:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Comfort Kennels in Seville offers pets, and owners, stress-free vacation experiences.

Akron Empire would like to welcome guest writer Marissa Marangoni, a professional writer, educator, great friend and pet enthusiast who had such a great experience with Comfort Kennels in Seville this summer that she wanted to share it. Thanks, Marissa!

Do More than Drool Over Your Next Vacation—Book It! 
by Marissa Marangoni

When my husband and I made the decision to adopt two puppies a few years ago, we understood that our lives were no longer going to include the word “carefree.” Gone were the days of staying out all hours of the night and not worrying about when we would return home to work on “potty outside,” or if our latest couch purchase would find itself screaming for mercy in the jaws of a ten pound ball of big brown eyes with the saddest whimper that even the devil couldn’t ignore. While the responsibility of dog ownership turned out to be a pleasure, there have been many occasions where our people lives have been rather complicated by our canines’ inability to care for themselves.

Because our boys are nervous, fearful, and needy, I knew early on that boarding Herbie and Franklin in a standard kennel wasn’t going to work. I shuddered at the thought of the damage they may cause in a traditional kennel—chewing , scratching, interrupting sleep—and I couldn’t imagine them easily socializing with a pack of ten to twenty dogs turned loose in a play area as so many kennels advertise today. Luckily, trainer Jennifer Mauger from L’Chaim Canine referred me to Comfort Kennels in Seville, Ohio. And before I even made the trip out to visit the farm, the warmth and knowledge with which owners Dee and Greg Brenner spoke regarding their kennel and dog visitors set this concerned dogmom at ease.

Comfort Kennels is housed on a 14-acre farm in Medina County. Dee and Greg live on the property and have quick, convenient access to the kennel, which is under camera surveillance from their home when they are not in the building. When I first spoke to Dee about boarding my dogs, she explained that the main goal of her establishment was to offer animals (they take cats, too!) a home away from home, where stress is as minimal as possible and the needs of every boarder are met. One of the many ways this is ensured is that only eight to ten dogs are boarded at a time at Comfort Kennels. This allows for no dog-to-dog interaction and plenty of individual attention.
Comfort Kennels emphasizes the following services for its visitors:
·       Space/environment management
·       Usage of calming music designed by Through  A Dog’s Ear
·       DAP therapy (dog appeasing pheromone) diffuser and spray on the bedding, kennel walls etc
·       Lavender spray on the kennel walls and doors
·       Petting and massage including TTouch
·       Thundershirt therapy
·       Positive reinforcement methods for introduction to the kennel environment and daily interactions
·       Clicker training for positive reinforcement and mental stimulation
·       Mental stimulation
·       Exercise
·       Attention to emotional needs
·       Competitive pricing with lower rates to board more than one animal at a time

About a week before our departure date, my husband and I drove our mutts the twenty-five minutes from Copley to Seville and were greeted promptly by the Brenners. We took the boys, on leash, into the office, where Dee suggested we let them sniff around and get used to the place before we toured the facility. The facility was impeccably clean, smelled fresh, and was bright and welcoming. Dee showed us a small section of kennels that are currently in use for the dogs at night, but these spaces are on their way to retirement as construction is currently underway to ensure that all boarders at Comfort Kennels will soon stay in their own separate bedrooms. In the center of the building is a living room that emulates the comforts of home, including a couch and plenty of toys with which the dogs can play. In the front office, the dogs are encouraged to hang out with more toys or take a nap on the cushion in front of the fireplace while Dee and Greg go about their daily duties. The idea at Comfort Kennels is that the animals there should feel as if they are having a normal day like they would at home. So, as Dee stressed, when she and Greg are preparing food, doing laundry, making phone calls, or just doing work around the farm, there is always a dog beside them.
Herbie and Franklin enjoying the scenery at Comfort Kennels.

What I really like about Comfort Kennels is that it caters to animals of all personalities—whether they are your pretty average cat with attitude or a dog afraid of his own shadow. Herbie and Franklin stayed at Comfort Kennels for a week, and during that week, Dee texted us daily with updates and pictures of the boys adjusting to and playing at the farm. Dee and Greg quickly noticed that our dogs were not doing well in the fenced kennels at night, so they moved them to the living room area instead, where my boys were more than happy to spend the night curled up on the couch together.  One of my biggest worries about leaving Herbie and Franklin at a kennel was that they wouldn’t get enough attention or activity. Luckily, a typical day for a dog at Comfort Kennels includes around eight hours out of the kennel. Those eight hours include supervised play in the field, walks, games, attention, companionship, training, and napping.
The living room area where guests enjoy the comforts of home during their vacations.
Herbie hanging out in front of the fireplace in the office at the kennel.
A guest enjoying the bright, friendly atmosphere!
Herbie and Franklin enjoying some attention from Greg in one of the fenced play fields.
Comfort Kennels caters to its clients. Whether a dog has severe separation anxiety, a history of dog-reactivity, or simply wants a lap to curl up on, Dee and Greg are happy to tailor stays to fit each canine’s needs. Over the course of the week when my husband and I were sunning ourselves at the pool, through the texts, pictures, and Facebook posts, we got the sense that our dogs weren’t simply being cared for at Comfort Kennels, but that they were being loved. When reunited with our furchildren, we were covered in kisses (and hair) by calm, happy dogs. Before leaving the kennel, Dee and Greg handed us a complimentary goodie bag—complete with a tennis ball (that Herbie promptly absconded) and a CD of wonderful photos the Brenners took of the boys during their stay.
Dee even offers her lap to guests who don’t fit on it.
The benefits of choosing Comfort Kennels for our dogs’ boarding needs, surprisingly, did not end when we picked the dogs up and headed home. In fact, nearly a month later, my husband and I are still surprised by the ways in which our dogs’ behaviors have changed. A week at Comfort Kennels seems to have shaped our guys into more manageable and independent creatures. They listen better, sleep better, and seem to enjoy each other more than they did prior to their vacation.  In short, if you’re hesitating taking a trip because you don’t know who will take care of your high-maintenance pets, I strongly suggest you consider boarding them at Comfort Kennels. The Brenners truly love what they do, and they’ll make sure your animals enjoy their time away so much that they’ll have no idea you’re out having fun sans pet hair on your clothes. 

You can reach Comfort Kennels by phone at 330-331-7454 or 440-829-4366 (cell) or by email at Check them out and like them on Facebook, too!

Want to be the next guest blogger featured on Akron Empire? Submit your ideas to

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cleveland Tattoo Expo: Review

Cleveland Tattoo Expo (July 13-15th): Review
by Joanna Wilson

It was a whirlwind of ink, art and new friends for the past three days at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland this past weekend. 

The booths were filled with tattoo artists and vendors from all over the country.
Rows and rows of booths covered the floor of the arena with tattoo shops and artists from all over the country.  There were also culture-related vendors selling interesting items.  If you're a tattoo artist, you could have shopped for new machines, papers and inks.  For the general public, there were vendors such as Ink Addict from Detroit selling tees and hoodies, Zombie Caricature artists, Burning River Roller Derby Girls, Jakprints printing company, and prints of tattoo art from nearly every artist there.

An artist from Ft. Wayne Indiana specializes in piping and lettering, selling these popular hand-painted humorous tattoo removal signs.

But the major attraction were the booths filled with tattoo artists eager to show off their skills.  It was good to see some familiar Akron Empire faces amongst the crowds.  Akron's own Good Life Tattoos and Piercings crew was there.  I got to meet Brent Vann, the newest full time artist now at Good Life. 

Good Life's John Rippey keeps busy on Saturday afternoon at the Expo.

It was also good to meet Eric Starr from Arkham Tattoo located on N. Main Street in Akron.  I have quite a few friends who get their tattoos at that shop.  It's always nice to put a name and a face to a shop I've heard so much about. 

At the Arkham Tattoo booth, Eric, standing, is busy talking to a client.

I also got to briefly say 'hello' to the guys at Art Bomb Tattoos--another local shop located in Massillon.  They were also kept busy all weekend.

The Massillon guys were so busy working I didn't want to disturb them for the photo!

When I was walking around, I bumped into a friend who is a tattoo artist who works in a Cleveland area shop.  He came to the Expo to get a tattoo from Krooked Ken, an artist he admires from Black Anchor Tattoos in Maryland. It says alot when a tattoo artist is willing to stand in line to wait for an out-of-town artist's work.  I went to the Expo looking to get a new tattoo as well.  I was looking for a woman to do my next piece and I met a very talented tattoo artist named Sarah from West Anchor Tattoo in Cleveland. 

Sarah hard at work on creating something special on the top of my foot.
A cool thing put together by the organizer is video footage from each of the three days during the Expo.  Check it out:

I can hardly wait for next year's Expo.  Some events in Northeast Ohio are so attractive, it's worth leaving the Akron Empire to check them out.  Will I see you there next year?

Check out Cleveland Tattoo Expo 2012 for the complete list of artists and vendor links.
Also: the Facebook page Cleveland Tattoo Expo for more recap information.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thrift O Rama Opens Friday the 13th!

Thrift-O-Rama Is a Perfect Fit Between DevilStrip Dolly's and The Bomb Shelter
by Brit Charek

If you haven't been out to The Bomb Shelter or DevilStrip Dolly's yet, this weekend might be the perfect opportunity. Not only can you check out two of the most unique shopping experiences in all of Northeast Ohio, but this weekend is the grand opening of a third store in this quirky building: Thrift-O-Rama, which will sell odds and ends at Goodwill prices.

(By the way, DevilStrip Dolly's, Akron's one and only "Anti-Gallery," keeping Akron weird by selling handmade "weird art and oddities," was just dubbed the Best Thing to Happen in Akron this year by Akron Life Magazine! But of course Akron Empire knew it first-- check out our post on them by clicking here!)

Thrift O Rama will be located right next to the Bomb Shelter, on Bank Street where Buchtel dead ends

Thrift-O-Rama is a spin-off of the Bomb Shelter, where they can sell smaller items that aren't quite worthy of the showroom but not quite worth the effort to sell online. It's kind of like they're adding a clearance section, which is great news being that their prices are already reasonable, especially considering the uniqueness of practically every item in the store. 
The Bomb Shelter sells everything you didn't know you needed!

The Bomb Shelter sells a variety of vintage kitschy goods, from furniture and cars to smaller items like kitchen accessories, telephones and radios. The staff (including the shop dog, a mutt resembling a terrier-beagle mix named Gravy) is really friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Although it's a big warehouse so don't be shy about going up to the counter and ringing the bell to get someone's attention. 

Also in the same building is Rubber City Vintage Cycle, who restore, sell and repair vintage motorcycles and are just all around nice guys. You can learn more about them by clicking here and liking them on Facebook or by browsing their eBay store.

Vintage TVs, radios, luggage and anything else you need to make your home hip and unique!
For those of us who still have a landline...
After visiting The Bomb Shelter, I was extremely temped to buy a giant neon star (hey my three year old needs a night light!) as well as a row full of theater seats and an old fashioned bakers table with a butcher block-- It's probably a good thing I don't own a truck. I left with just a Ventures record but I'm excited to go back this weekend and see what I can score when Thrift-O-Rama opens. Who doesn't love a good bargain?

Thrift-O-Rama, located at 298 Bank Street Unit "B" opens tomorrow, Friday the 13th at 11am. They are open Friday and Saturday 11-8, Sunday 12-4, and Monday through Thursday 11-5. Make sure to visit DevilStrip Dolly's, Rubber City Vintage Cycle and The Bomb Shelter while you're there!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Plaza Cinemas at Chapel Hill--Cult Film Classics

Plaza Cinemas at Chapel Hill, 500 Howe Ave., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Cult Movies Scheduled at Plaza Cinemas at Chapel Hill
by Joanna Wilson

Saturday nights just got a whole lot more interesting!  Plaza Cinemas at Chapel Hill are featuring a once-a-month line up of cult films as part of the Melt Bar & Grilled Late Shift Series.   Next on the schedule is the 1975 classic summer blockbuster Jaws--my favorite horror movie of all time!  I first saw this movie when I was too young.  It scared me so badly and made such a huge impression that to this day, I'm frightened of the water--including swimming at Munroe Falls lake.  If you're interested in knowing what other horror movies scarred me permanently, check out my guest post at Kindertrauma.

Jaws (1975) directed by Steven Spielberg

Remaining schedule of the Melt Bar & Grilled Late Shift Series at Plaza Cinemas:

Saturday, July 21: Jaws (9:30pm & 11:55pm)

Saturday, August 19: The Big Lebowski (9:30pm & 11:55pm)

Saturday, September 15: The Evil Dead (9:30pm & 11:55pm)

Saturday, October 20: Ghostbusters (9:30pm & 11:55pm)

Saturday, November 17: Donnie Darko (9:30pm & Mid)

Saturday, December 15: Home Alone (9:30pm & Mid)

You will be entering a world of pain--if you miss out on seeing The Big Lebowski in August.

I'm also the hugest Big Lebowski fan and I'm especially looking forward to seeing this again on the big screen. There's nothing quite like the experience of seeing this movie in a crowded theater full of other Lebowski fans.  Not only have I made the trek to Louisville, Kentucky to attend Lebowskifest (I attended in 2008) but I've had the pleasure of working alongside David Huddleston, the actor who portrayed Jeffrey Lebowski (not the Dude).

David Huddleston and myself--December 2011
Not only is this a stellar line-up of cult movies but the price can't be beat.  Tickets are only $5 each for this retro film series.

Who ya gonna call?

Did you know Plaza Cinemas at Chapel Hill also has midnight screenings of Rocky Horror Picture Show on Saturday nights--once a month?  Tickets are only $6 if you come in costume--$9 for everyone else.  

Tell Frank all about it--at the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Rocky Horror Picture Show is shown the third Saturday of each month--the same as the cult film screenings: July 21, August 19, September 15, October 20, November 17 and December 15th.

Will I see you there?

Keep up to date on what's happening at Plaza Cinemas at Chapel Hill on Facebook.  
On Twitter: @PlazaCinemas
The special screenings events schedule is on Facebook: Click HERE for the FB schedule.
The schedule is also at the Plaza Cinemas website.  Click HERE.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Acorn Alley in Kent

Acorn Alley Offers a Variety of Local Businesses to Enjoy
By Brit Charek 

Acorn Alley, located on Main Street in downtown Kent between Water and Depeyster Streets, opened in September of 2009. As a long time enthusiast of the Kent community, I was nervous that the only people who could afford to rent out a space in the new construction would be corporate chains and therefore I was a little apprehensive to go check it out. Fortunately, I was wrong, as I often am. The alley, which is a pedestrian walkway not unlike East Fourth Street in downtown Cleveland, is home to several local businesses—some expanding and some brand new. It’s awesome.

Among the new businesses is Popped!, a specialty popcorn shop, who celebrated their grand opening in early April. Among a rotating stock of miscellaneous recipes, they always carry their three signature flavors: caramel corn, kettle corn, and firehouse popcorn, which kettle corn with cayenne pepper that is sweet but with a kick.

Tree City Coffee in the Alley extends there hours during exams to give Kent State students the boost they need. They also collaborated with Bent Tree Coffee Roasters, another locally owned business down the street, to collectively make the popular Two Tree Blend. (Click here to check out our post on Bent Tree Coffee Roasters!) Tree City is a great place to sit and chill, but for those on a time budget they also have a drive-through.

Also at Acorn Alley is The Arctic Squirrel, an aptly named ice cream shop that prides themselves on being the “coolest” spot in Kent; Wild Earth Outfitters, an active outdoor lifestyle store who sells everything from tents to kayaks; Lazizia, who offers a modern twist on Mediterranean cuisine; and Funky Ladles, formerly known as Zoupworks, serve up a variety of cheap but delicious soups everyday.

With a growing number of unique and diverse shops being added on a regular basis, Acorn Alley is a great representation of the Kent community, which is really one of a kind. Don't miss out on spending an evening there this summer!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cleveland Tattoo Expo: July 13th-15th

Cleveland Tattoo Expo
by Joanna Wilson

Some events are so spectacular, it's worth leaving the Akron Empire to participate.  Such is the upcoming Cleveland Tattoo Expo.  Less than one hour's drive away, you can experience some of the best tattooing the Midwest has to offer.

I recently asked several of the tattoo artists at Akron's own Good Life Tattoo & Piercings "why should someone go to a tattoo convention?"  Their response was both swift and certain.  The Cleveland Tattoo Expo is going to be a good opportunity for both artists and people looking to get tattoos in Northeast Ohio.  This is an inside look at the subculture of tattooing with world-class artists exhibiting a variety of tattooing styles.  Even if you're not going to the expo to get a tattoo, there are many amazing and fun things to see and experience.  It's also the perfect place to go and talk to artists about their work and about tattooing in general.  If you are at all interested in tattoos or the subculture, this is the place to be this summer.

Front of Good Life Tattoos & Piercings located in Akron's Highland Square.  Photo courtesy of Laura Maidens

On the Expo website, there is a list of artists who will be attending.  Click HERE for that link.  Among artists from all over the country, you'll also find Jesse Strother, Brian Mcfadden, John Rippey and Brent Vann from Good Life Tattoos & Piercings.  They let me know that they will be including several guest artists in their booth as well.  Scanning the Expo website's list of artists reveals that there will be artists from Washington DC to Hawaii, from Philadelphia to Chicago, from Michigan to Florida, from Texas to New Hampshire, and places in between including Akron, Canton, Elyria, North Olmstead, Ashtabula, Parma, as well as Cleveland proper.

Another Cleveland Tattoo Expo poster, this one designed by Akron's own John Rippey.

If you're interested in getting a tattoo at the expo, check with the attending artist to see if they are taking appointment times.  Not all artists are scheduling appointments--some prefer accepting clients on a first come, first served basis--while other artists are welcoming appointments.  I was also advised by some who have attended tattoo conventions in the past to bring plenty of cash.  Often the ATMs at the sites run out of money by the end of the event.  You wouldn't want to be shut out that way. And, after the Expo each night, there is going to entertainment at Peabody's Down Under which is right around the corner.  Click HERE for the link to the list of bands playing.  There will also be seminars and contests--check the website for those details.

Tickets are now on sale for the Cleveland Tattoo Expo 
July 13, 14 and 15th
at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center (2000 Prospect Ave. E, Cleveland OH 44115)
Tickets are $20 per day or $50 for a weekend pass.
Facebook page: Cleveland Tattoo Expo

We'll see you there!

Have you seen these postcards for the event all over town?