Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Crafty Mart's Mom & Pop Shoppe 2015

5 Reasons You Need to be at Crafty Mart's Mom & Pop Shoppe
by Joanna Wilson

Akron's own Crafty Mart is known for their two annual shows--the holiday show just after Thanksgiving and the spring show, The Mom & Pop Shoppe.  This Saturday, April 25th is The Mom & Pop Shoppe--an event that expands this year to include 75 makers across three venues in downtown.  You may have noticed that we here at Akron Empire like to promote Crafty Mart--we do it every year.  That's because we think it's the funnest days of the year.  We also do it because both Brit and I organize it.  Let me try to convince you that Crafty Mart is the funnest day of the year with the following five reasons.

 (click on image to enlarge)

1.  Supporting local is important.
The impact of shopping local is HUGE.  Crafty Mart compiled some of the statistics that were gathered after the last November show and MBL Design made an infographic.  Read more about Crafty Mart's local financial impact HERE.

Crafty Mart Pop Up Market at Artwalk in April.

2.  Crafty Mart is not your grandma's craft show.
Do you still think a craft show means an old-fashioned church basement filled with moldy leftovers?  I don't mean to bad-mouth church basements but the contemporary local indie-maker and artisan scene is different than that.  It's not only much bigger than that but it's covered in tattoos and knows how to rock out to funky R&B classics (Thanks The Mighty Soul Night!)

3.  What's a party without food and drinks?
All three venues have amazing food and drinks to satisfy your appetite.  While shopping at Musica (51 E. Market St.), you can enjoy the delights of Urban Eats with their specialty wraps, paninis, pizzas, and gelato.  The bar inside Musica will also be open.  At the Akron Art Museum (1 S. High St.), their own iQ-Café will be open with wraps, soups, fresh baked goods, and locally brewed beer. 

And, at Summit Artspace (140 E. Market St.) on the third floor, everyone will find a pop-up café with food from Nuevo Modern Mexican, Stray Dog Cart, Three Sisters Momo, beer from Thirsty Dog, and pop from Norka Beverages.  We'll even have a signature cocktail called the Strawberry Fizzle--featuring Norka's strawberry/cherry soda pop, orange juice, and Watershed Distillery vodka.  You can't get more Akron-centric than that! (Although shopping ends at 5pm on Saturday, the Summit Artspace 3rd floor café will stay open until 6:30pm so everyone can stay and hangout to enjoy the food and drinks longer.)

4.  You can learn to make something for yourself.
Crafty Mart also is offering four Workshop classes where you can learn a valuable skill from a local maker.  This Saturday, you could learn to brew your own Kombucha, make weavings on a loom, build your own air plant terrarium, and concoct a sugar scrub.  Registrations are required.  Click HERE for more info and all the links to sign up.

Crafty Mart Pop Up Market at Artwalk in April.

5.  Crafty Mart is the party of the season.
Not only do you get to shop local and support small business artists and makers but there's a whole other side to it all.  The family-friendly event allows you to explore the three venues surrounded by funky music, eat and drink from local restaurants and beverage makers, and learn a new skill in a workshop.  So invite your sister, your partner, and your children to join us for a day filled with new friends and new opportunities.

Crafty Mart Pop Up Market at Artwalk in April.

Again, Crafty Mart is this Saturday, April 25th, from 10am to 5pm.  It is spread across three venues (Musica, Akron Art Museum, and Summit Artspace) all in downtown Akron.  For more information, see the wesbite:

For a complete list of vendors and their locations, click HERE.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 6, 2015

Inside|Out with Akron Art Museum

Inside|Out with the Akron Art Museum
by Joanna Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, April 2, 2015

George's Donuts in Twinsburg

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

George's Donuts in Twinsburg
by Wendy Voelker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here are a few donut glamour shots:

Blackberry Filled

Chocolate Cream Filled
Chocolate Bavarian Cream

Inside Peanut Butter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George’s Donuts
7995 Darrow Road
Twinsburg, OH 44087

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

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