Monday, April 30, 2012

Good Life Tattoos and Piercings in Highland Square

Akron Empire would like to welcome guest blogger Laura Maidens.  When not getting tattoos, Laura works as Project Cataloger at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Library and Archives.  I know, cool right?  Thanks to Laura for sharing this post about one of her favorite Akron Empire places.

Good Life Tattoos and Piercings
by Laura Maidens

I first visited Good Life Tattoos and Piercings while seeking an artist to design a peacock for me. On a friend’s recommendation, I looked up Jesse Strother’s portfolio. I was impressed with his inventive uses of color and found myself drawn to his bold art. I scheduled an appointment for a consultation stat.

What I found upon my first visit to Good Life did not disappoint: a clean, friendly environment with interesting flash on the wall, artists’ portfolios to peruse, an impressive array of body jewelry, and professional, yet laid-back, artists. Jesse Strother and Jeremiah Currier opened the shop in 2008; since then, the shop has won accolades from Fox 8’s Akron/Canton Hotlist and from the Akron Beacon Journal’s Beacon’s Best.

The artists keep reference books for inspiration and guidance.

Currier previously worked at the shop when it was Pain Hate Pain and later Akron Ink. In 2008, he and Strother, who have been friends since high school, talked about taking the shop over as business partners. Currier says he really never knew he could be a business owner until he tried it out. “From the very beginning, all that I did know was that I was confident in my abilities to pierce well.” He and Strother knew they were good at what they did and weren’t happy in their current job situations, so they decided to seize the opportunity to open Good Life. “I really never wanted to own a business,” says Strother. “It’s the most stressful, but also the most rewarding experience. Some days you wish you were just an employee, but I’m very thankful for my job.”

The tattoo artists at Good Life have unique and different styles, but none of them shy away from any style in particular. “I’m drawn to tattoos that look like tattoos,” says Strother. “You know, bold colors, a more traditional look.” But one look at his portfolio and the portfolios of the other artists will show you that their talents are not relegated to one particular style.

When I met with Strother to talk about my peacock tattoo, we discussed location, size, shape, and color. I went back into the shop a few days later to approve the drawing, and I was ecstatic; it was just what I had imagined in my mind. He completed it in two sessions, and I couldn’t be happier with the finished product. Since then, I’ve returned to the shop to work with Jesse and other artists, as well.

A display case shows off the many varieties of jewelery for piercings.

Strother lets me in on one of the secrets to why Good Life is such a unique shop. Over the years, Strother, Currier, and the other artists at the shop have formed friendships with tattoo artists throughout the country. This has given them the opportunity to bring guest artists into the shop on a regular basis. “We have some really great, talented friends,” Strother says. “That means that the people who live in the area can collect tattoos from all over the country without having to go too far.” Most recently, Good Life was host to Christian Beckman from Saints & Sinners in Baltimore. You can visit Good Life’s website ( to find out about future guest artists.

If you are more interested in a piercing, look no further than Good Life’s piercers, who utilize top-notch tools, offer a plethora of unique jewelry, and ALWAYS exceed all of Akron’s Health Department requirements. They’ve got all your poking needs covered with their menu of facial piercings, body piercings, and dermal anchors, which, I will admit, I was not very familiar with before this visit. “[Dermal anchors] are a single-point piercing,” says Jeremiah. “They allow you to have piercings in a lot of cool places that you previously couldn’t have them.” But he warns that dermal anchors are meant to be permanent. “Once they’re in, THEY’RE IN!”

A particularly unique collection of jewelry.

What I find to be most inviting about Good Life are the genuine and amusing interactions between the guys who work there. “Even just down-time here is a lot of fun,” says Currier. “Each day is quite different from the next and you usually don’t know what to expect…especially from Jesse!” he laughs.

So if you’re in the mood for something new, call or stop in to schedule a consultation appointment. You can browse portfolios by all the artists to get inspiration or to see who might best match your design aesthetic. I myself am itching for a Princess Bride themed tattoo; I think it’s time to set up another consultation!

You can visit Good Life Tattoos and Piercings in the Highland Square neighborhood of Akron, at 752 W. Market St. They’re open every day of the week: Mondays-Thursdays 12-9, Fridays & Saturdays 12-11, and Sundays 12-5. Check out their website at Good Life Tattoos and Piercings ( or call them at (330)374-0100 to schedule a consultation. You can also “like” the shop on Facebook ( to get current updates on the shop’s goings-on!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hazel Tree Interiors

Hazel Tree Interiors Hosts an Open House to Spotlight Locally-Made Home Decor
by Brit Charek

On Market Street just west of downtown there is what has become a new famous Akron landmark: a gorgeous mural of a Hazel Tree.

The mural was designed by Kelly Tighe, who is used to painting on giant canvases designing sets for theater productions in New York City. When husband and wife team Jon Haidet and Karen Starr opened a new space in the old Norka Futon building to combine their Interior Design and Custom Framing businesses plus open a retail store for locally made home decor, they decided to paint a mural instead of purchasing a sign. The mural has drawn a lot of attention to the store from art lovers and community members a like.

On Saturday May 5, Hazel Tree Interiors is having their annual spring open house, right after the Akron ArtWalk. If you've never seen the building beyond the mural, it would be a great opportunity to stop by and see the inside of the building and what they have to offer. The owners are exceptionally excited to unveil and celebrate their newest offerings of reclaimed, re-purposed home decor from their ever-expanding network of local artisans. There will be refreshments as well as local artists on hand telling the stories behind their ingenuity upcycled pieces.

"Since we've opened we've been working hard to bring together the best and most unique home decor artisans in the area," says owner and Interior Designer Karen Starr, "Our goal with Hazel Tree has been to create a studio and store that connects both retail customers and my design clients with a source for locally-made, interesting home decor."
I absolutely covet this desk, welded together from industrial shelving.

Also made from industrial shelving, this chair seems to be comfortable for people of all sizes.
Some of the interesting new types of locally made home decor to be introduced include painted and re-purposed furniture, found object clocks and wall art, accent pillows, clay and glass accent tiles, and a variety of furniture, lighting and other items made from reclaimed steel.

Look at this giant robot designed by Patrick Gerber! There's a selection of several robots, including a Wizard of Oz set.

The other owner of Hazel Tree Interiors is Jon Haidet, who does custom framing. He believes that a frame should compliment the art it houses, not draw attention away from it. He has years of experience in his craft to benefit his customers and help them find something that suits their taste as well as compliment the artwork being framed.

An almost overwhelming selection of custom frames!

Hazel Tree Interiors is located at 143 West Market Street in the Old Norka Futon building. Parking is available on-street or in any of the St. Vincent/St. Mary parking lots. Their annual spring open house takes place on Saturday, May 5th from 5-9 pm. You can learn more about them by visiting their website or by liking them on Facebook.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Toys Time Forgot

A couple of months ago, I read on Wonderful Wonderblog, one of my favorite pop culture blogs, about a local vintage toy store located in Canal Fulton.  Then a few weeks later I heard a friend who collects unusual board games talking about buying one of his precious finds at this same vintage toy store.  So I finally went down to Canal Fulton to check out this place myself.  What I found there blew my mind!

Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, aisle after aisle--Toy & Collectibles Heaven

The Toys Time Forgot make the claim that they are Ohio’s #1 vintage toy store--and you’ll believe it once you step inside.  Specializing in baby boomer toys, they buy, sell and trade vintage and classic TV toys and movie memorabilia.  You can also find Barbies and GI Joes, Transformers, Match Box and Hot Wheels, non-sports trading cards, and comic books--both old and new.  But any fan of Star Wars and Star Trek items will find that this place is their paradise!

Sci-Fi Nerd Alert: the sheer volume of both old and new Star Wars and Star Trek collectibles in Toys Time Forgot is staggering!

What I was most excited about were the vintage metal and vinyl lunch boxes that lined the shelves close to the ceiling.  Not only did they have the orange metal lunch box I carried in 6th grade--Sid & Marty Krofft Supershow--it was in amazing condition!  I asked about the most expensive lunch box and I was shown the iconic Beatles one.  But the one I most covet is Julia--a green metal lunch box from the 1960s sitcom that starred Diahann Carroll.

Do you see the Julia lunch box? It's top row, just to the left of the Hardy Boys and Knight Rider.

I was also blown away by all the vintage board games and the many classic Viewmaster reels.  My boyfriend was eyeing the Big Trak programmable vehicle that he desperately wanted as a child.  He actually hasn’t stopped talking about it since our visit!

Individual packs of non-sports trading cards on top of a display case loaded with cases of trading cards!  Yes, I was looking at past series of Wacky Packages.  Is that a Mrs. Beasley doll from the TV show 'Family Affair?' in the background--YYESS!

If you’re looking to make a stop down there, Saturday May 5th--Free Comic Book Day--may be the perfect opportunity.  The store is planning a huge event which includes: 200-250 different free comic books, all kinds of sales and discounts as well as prizes and a raffle.  They will also be the host to several special “guests” including: the Batmobile, the Joker Mobile, the General Lee (from The Dukes of Hazzard), Robot B-9 (from Lost in Space), several comic book artists making sketches, and more.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans take note: they will even have artist Kevin Eastman-signed copies of children’s coloring books on hand.

Did someone say STAR WARS?

What vintage toy would you like to have?  I’m willing to bet the friendly staff at The Toys Time Forgot know all about it.  The store is clean, well stocked and inviting.  Take my warning: you’ll be in the store longer than you planned.  There really is something for everyone to see there.  When you stop in to The Toys Time Forgot, tell them Akron Empire sent you.

Fraggle Rocks--one loose and one still in the original box

The Toys Time Forgot is located at 137 E. Cherry Street in historic downtown Canal Fulton, OH 44614.  That’s straight down Manchester Rd. (Rt. 93) into the small town of Canal Fulton--you really can’t miss it.  They are open Tues-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 12-5pm.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Record Store Day at Square Records

Celebrate Record Store Day 2012 at Square Records
By Brit Charek

For a music enthusiast, it’s a little unnerving to discover that the average teenager has never purchased an entire album, nor do they ever plan to. In an age when you can purchase individual songs and listen to them instantly on your iPod, music stores need to find additional ways to draw customers in.

Thank heavens a handful of geniuses started Record Store Day-- a sort of holiday that was created five years ago by a group of independent record stores, which started as a way to draw attention to the fact that physical retail record stores are still here, but need the support of music buyers to keep going strong. Several special edition records were made available on this day which were only available for sale at participating record stores. This year, there are over 250 special record releases available only in stores. And just in case you haven’t physically purchased a record in a while: almost all records produced within the last few years include a digital download code!

“We've got a lot of cool free stuff to give away this year including posters, promo cds, stickers, gift certificates and a lot more,” says Square Records owner David Ignizio. There will be DJs playing records in the store all day, and local musicians Cloud Nothings and the Bizarros will play a show at Musica to top off the evening. “I’ve snuck some pretty cool rare used records out in the bins in years past and probably will again this year,” Ignizio continues, “Also we usually have donuts, which make people unreasonably happy.”

Square Records is tucked between the Highland Theater and Revival in Highland Square
Square Records opened in August of 2003. It’s pretty much strictly a record shop: they sell new and used cds and records, maybe a few books and miscellaneous merchandise and the art on the walls (by local artists, naturally). They started out generally focusing on indie rock and punk albums, but have since branched out to carry a lot of jazz, soul and classic rock as well. “I’d say our selection has gotten much weirder and more mainstream at the same time,” says Ignizio.

Show your local pride by sporting a t shirt-- it's one of the few items sold in the store besides music.
Among all the other limited releases going out on Record Store Day, Square Records will have a special release of their own: a cd called Novos Akros, a soundtrack to a mysterious movie venture from the 80s that was never finished but was to be filmed in Akron, supposedly. It will be co-released with Patternbased, and it will be the first ever release on the Square Records label.

Record Store Day will take place on Saturday, April 21 from 11 am until 9 pm at Square Records, located at 824 West Market Street in Highland Square. You can visit Square Record’s website to learn more or RSVP to the event on Facebook to see a list of all the special releases they will have stocked.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Midway Twin Drive-In Theater

Midway Twin Drive-In Theater
by Joanna Wilson

Some of my fondest memories from childhood are the excitement of getting in my pajamas, filling the backseat of the car with pillows and going to the drive-in theater.  I remember not being old enough to stay awake through the double feature but waking up when my parents laughed out loud at the action on the screen or being carried into the house after arriving back home.  I also remember my parents taking me to see a re-release of Disney’s Bambi at a drive-in theater but watching an R-rated film in the side mirror showing on the screen behind us!

We like to arrive early to select the perfect spot.

I still love going to the drive-in theater, even if I no longer wear my pajamas, fall asleep or watch the movie in the side mirror.  The drive-in is one of those cool retro places where it feels like a trip back in time--one of the last hold-outs of an experience from an earlier era.

You are charged per carload rather than per person for admission.

Last weekend, I went to see a horror film double feature at the Midway Twin Drive-In Theater.  We saw the new movies Cabin in the Woods and Silent House.  Something about seeing horror movies at the drive-in just seems right.  But I never have to worry too much about what's playing--seeing a movie on the giant screen of the drive-in makes just about any movie a good movie.

Located just beyond Kent Sate University along Rt. 59, this drive-in has two screens each showing a double feature.  Gone are the window speakers--instead you receive the sound through your car radio tuned to the theater’s own frequency.

The Midway Twin Drive-In charges admission by the carload instead of per person ($18 per car).  This makes going to the movies far more affordable for families and groups of friends. Take note: drive-ins make their money at the concession stand so if you bring in your own food, you’ll be required to pay for a $5 food permit.  But at the concession stand, they offer the quintessential drive-in snacks: pizza, burgers, french fries, nachos, popcorn, soft drinks, candy, ice cream and more.  Help keep the drive-in open and buy your food there.

As the sun goes down, the lights turn on.

Midway is currently showing movies each Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.  Click this link for Midway's website for movie times and directions to the theater.  This summer, they will be open on week nights as well.  Follow their Facebook page for updates on the movie schedule and screening times.  So throw the kids in the backseat and start creating memories of your own.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shivering Timbers

This Band Could Be Your Life: Shivering Timbers
by Brit Charek

Never underestimate the power of parenthood. The birth of their daughter inspired Akron based couple Jayson and Sarah Benn to start making music, and they haven't stopped since.

Getting ready to perform at Rowdy Indie Craft Fair in August of 2011. Photo courtesy of Kalie Boshara.
Shivering Timbers got their start in 2010 by playing their nursery-rhyme inspired folk rock songs at their friend Dan Auerbach (of Black Keys fame)'s 30th birthday party. Impressed with the performance, Auerbach went on to produce the duo's first album, We All Started in the Same Place. The acclaim of which lead the duo into an unexpected career in rock n roll.

Since then, the band has played several shows throughout the Mid West, and even took the time to stop at the Horseshack in Rock Island, Illinois where they recorded a Daytrotter Session to add their share to the studio's extensive but exclusive library.

They are currently working on a new album which is expected to be released this autumn. Brad Thorla joins the duo to play drums, and the band is really excited about having a fuller sound. The husband and wife team will still both sing, with Sarah playing upright bass and Jayson on guitar.

"I love the commitment of Akronites to being Akron-proud," says singer Sarah Benn, who considers Akron to be her home although she didn't grow up here. "People I know here are not willing to give up and let our city dwindle in the bad economy.  Keeping optimistic and being creative are hallmarks of Northeast Ohioans in general."


Shivering Timbers are playing with Diego Garcia, former front man of garage rock band Elefant, at Musica tomorrow, Friday April 13. The show starts at 8pm. You can learn more about the band, find out about shows, and purchase their music by visiting their website or by liking them on Facebook.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Devilstrip Dolly's: Shameless Shopping for the Rest of Us

Devilstrip Dolly’s: the Anti-Gallery and Handmade Marketplace
by Joanna Wilson

Several times in the last couple of weeks, friends have grabbed me by the elbow, pulled me aside and asked “What’s up with Devilstrip Dolly’s?  Have you been there yet?"  Somehow everyone knows I’ve already been there.  Having opened just last month, Devilstrip Dolly’s is our new local resource for the wonderfully weird, the nightmarish and the deviantly delightful.

The friendly entrance to the Anti-Gallery
If you’re originally from Akron, you may already know that we call that portion of land in everyone’s front yard between the sidewalk and the street the devilstrip, a term that others call a tree lawn.  By naming the place Devilstrip Dolly’s, the owner has identified the store with a term unique to those of us in Akron.  There's nothing else quite like Devilstrip Dolly's anywhere else in Akron.

Inside, a treasure trove of the bizarre--all made by local artists

Including D'Kay's creepy doll critters--don't cha just WANT one!

The Devilstrip Dolly’s store, or “Anti-Gallery” as it’s been named, is owned and operated by Georgie D’Kay.  You may know Georgie as the artist of the unforgettable deviant dolls she sells at Oddmall, the twice annual indie craft show in Hudson, OH.  Check out her website:  She shared with me that she was inspired to open this store front to give weird local artists like herself, a place to show off their work.

Skull painting by artist Jack Larson

Inside Devilstrip Dolly’s, you’ll find items across a range of prices, all made by local artists including: Georgie’s horror dolls; sketches, paintings, prints and photographs by Steve Beltrondo, Rod Antilla, Sean P. Jones, Isby, Vince Packard and Elizabeth Isley; sculptures by Garry Kirsch and Russell Stephanchick; jewelry by Diane North, Jenelle O’Malley and Angela Szaraz; and yes, even hand-embroidered greeting cards by myself, Joanna Wilson.  But there is so much more coming in each day as more and more artists outside of the mainstream find Devilstrip Dolly’s.  I find new things there each time I visit.

The second room in the back, the Red Room, evokes a bit of "Twin Peaks" for those so inclined.

But Devilstrip Dolly’s is more than just a handmade market.  Georgie also has plans to use the space for performances and events.  The next big event, Weirdfest, is an all-day outdoor craft show with bands and food coming Saturday May 26.  Check out the link for Weirdfest.  Georgie D’Kay is also the force behind the new movement Keep Akron Weird an initiative to pull together like-minded individuals that want to support the Akron-area and it’s weird and wonderful culture that is often overlooked by the mainstream.  I’m proudly driving a car sporting a Keep Akron Weird bumper sticker--how about you?

You’ll find Devilstrip Dolly’s at 923 Bank Street, Akron, OH 44305.  It shares the same building with the vintage shop, The Bomb Shelter, and the motorcycle shop, Rubber City Vintage Cycle.  You’ll find it literally at the end of Buchtel Avenue when driving east,  away from the university.  Shop local, buy handmade, keep weird!
the facebook page: Devilstrip Dolly's on FB

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Local Author Kiki Howell

People in Your Neighborhood: Local Author Kiki Howell
by Joanna Wilson

Kiki Howell may appear to be the typical wife and mother living in a local Kent neighborhood.  But after her sons go to school every day, she focuses her energy at a keyboard.  Kiki is a very successful writer and published author.  In fact, she has over thirty one books published between eleven different small presses and publishers.

Just a few of Howell's many book covers.

Howell's first published pieces were paranormal erotic romances starting in 2007.  Howell's mastery with paranormal characters, such as witches, vampires and sorcerers, and her skilled use of intimate imagery has made her professional reputation.  Since then, she's gone on to write in other fiction genres as well, including erotic fiction, contemporary romance, mainstream adult fiction and even a children’s picture book.  With the explosion in popularity for the book series of Twilight and its movies, as well as the TV series Being Human among others, I think Kiki Howell is on to something big.

Howell is currently working to promote her latest book which is the first in a series of exciting titles.  The Vampire’s Witch is the first of the At War in the Willows series and was just released a few weeks ago.  The second title The Vampire's Wolf is due for release in July and The Vampire’s Human, the third in the series will be released in November.  A brief synopsis: The Willows is a resort town run by vampires, werewolves and witches. Here, their true identities are kept secret from humans, and intimate relations between the individual clans are strictly forbidden.

I asked Kiki about her new series and she replied, "I enjoyed the twists and turns in the At War in the Willows series, writing the action, but more this was a series for me that allowed me to deal with intolerance and prejudices which is something I just despise in the world. I’m all about compassion, live and let live, etc., and I think anyone reading this story will see that.   I love when these kind of messages slip into my fiction."

Book Trailer for Howell's upcoming release Hidden Salem

Kiki Howell and I have been friends for several year after we were first introduced to each other at a party by a mutual friend.  Among other things, she and I share a love for Christmas TV movies that make us cry.  What Howell most looks forward to is her upcoming release in October 2012, Hidden Salem by Knight Romance Publishing.  Since I’m friends with Kiki, I remember when she took her first trip to Salem, Massachusetts and came back with the inspiration for this book and excitedly told me all about it.  I can’t wait until October!

Due for release in October 2012
 For more information on Kiki Howell, check out her website, her author page on and her blog, Authors By Authors.

Do you know an interesting person in the Akron area?  Send your suggestions for Akron Empire profiles to: AkronEmpire [at] gmail dot com.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cleveland Urban Iditarod: Ready, Set, Mush!

Akron Represented in Cleveland's First Ever Urban Iditarod
by Brit Charek

Yesterday was Cleveland's very first Urban Iditarod. 

So what exactly constitutes an "urban iditarod"? Basically, each "sled team" (the sled here is a shopping cart) has four "dogs" and a "musher" which race through the city from one checkpoint to another where they must complete ridiculous tasks such as compete in dance contests, read poetry or see who can eat the most Cheetos, all to raise money and canned goods for Harvest for Hunger.


While on route, each team is responsible for bringing in at least forty pounds of non-perishable food items to donate. They are also allowed (and encouraged!) to sabotage others as they collect canned goods that have been placed along the route, which makes the race a whole lot more interesting.

Just under thirty teams competed in Cleveland's very first Urban Iditarod on April Fool's Day, one of which was from Akron. The Akron Art Monkeys, lead by "Dr." Bill Lynn, branch owner of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School Akron, decided to make their "cart" Godzilla themed, with the "dogs" dressed as fleeing civilians and the musher as Godzilla himself! 

Some of the other teams were dressed as pirates, classic superheroes, or the cast of "Ghostbusters."

So maybe there was no clear winner despite everyone's efforts, but all in all the Cleveland Urban Iditarod provided over 2,200 meals to those in need in Cleveland. If you look at it that way, everyone's a winner.

The race ended with delicious beers at Market Garden in Ohio City.

The Cleveland Urban Iditarod was sponsered by The Yoyo Syndicate of Cleveland. You can learn more about the Akron Art Monkeys and Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School by visiting their website. They meet up for drawing and drinks the 2nd Tuesday of each month at The Backstage at The Lounge at 370 Paul Williams in downtown Akron, right above 69 taps.

Let's hope to see more Urban Iditarod Adventures in the future!