Updated: 2 hours 44 min ago
In a Newsweek article titled "Bitcoin Makes the Jump to Brick-and-Mortar in Cleveland," reporter Joe Kloc describes the details of a new digital currency, Bitcoin, and how numerous retailers on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights have adapted the system. "Most of the customers at Mitchell’s Fine Chocolates in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, are locals who have been reared from birth on its chocolate-covered marshmallows, pecan turtles and half-dipped apricots," Kloc writes. "But lately, says Bill Mitchell, the shop’s 54-year-old proprietor, there have been some new faces." Mitchell goes on to describe a fresh-faced couple who recently shopped at his store, and while the visit was unremarkable, the payment was anything but. “I couldn’t even tell you what they bought,” the Mitchell confessed. But what he does remember is how the couple paid: "with about 0.12 bitcoins." "Mitchell is one of a dozen shop owners on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights who have joined together to accept the controversial digital cryptocurrency in the hope of attracting new customers, and as a way to avoid credit card fees. Since May 1, bitcoiners have traveled to the tree-lined street in northeast Ohio from as far away as North Carolina. Here, they trade their bitcoins for ice cream cones, haircuts and handmade Colombian bracelets, and are sent off with a 'buh-bye now,' the local parlance on what bills itself as America’s first Bitcoin Boulevard." “We don’t expect a windfall,” says Nikhil Chand, founder of the bitcoin consultancy CoinNEO, who conceived of Bitcoin Boulevard late last year. “This is about so much more -- about the hurt from the fees through traditional payment.” Read the rest of the story here.
Three organizations -- LaunchHouse, Civic Commons Ideastream and Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) -- have come together as the lead partners in supporting entrepreneurs with ideas to improve their communities. SEA Change, a Social Enterprise Accelerator, provides up to $50,000 in funding, coaching and connections to eligible candidates trying to make a difference in Cleveland neighborhoods. “We’re funding people who have ideas to improve their communities in a sustainable way,” says Mike Shafarenko, Civic Commons director. “A number of organizations came together last November to discuss how to revive development and support of social enterprises in Northeast Ohio.” Seven other groups are also involved, including JumpStart, Foundation Center Cleveland and Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU). SEA Change is funded by the Business of Good Foundation, the Generation Foundation, the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the George Gund Foundation. Shafarenko says SEA Change emerged as the involved organizations saw a need to support the growing number of social enterprises in Cleveland. “We have a tremendous amount of talented, active people in Northeast Ohio who just don’t have the means to execute their ideas,” he explains. “The entrepreneurial spirit needs a little bit of coaching and support to take it to the next level.” Examples of existing successful social enterprises include Edwins Restaurant at Shaker Square, which employs former inmates, Tunnel Vision Hoops, which manufactures and sells hoop houses to extend the growing season, and From the Blue Bag, which converts recyclables into works of art. Sea Change will host training sessions on Friday, June 13 and Friday, July 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The events will provide training, one-on-one consultation and networking to help participants get social enterprise ideas off the ground.
The new Westin Hotel in downtown Cleveland, which opened a few weeks ago, has transformed a formerly dreary concrete monolith into a showcase of modern design and local artwork, both inside and out. The contemporary facade includes a carefully screened parking garage and glassy facade that angles out towards the street to greet visitors as they approach. Inside the lobby, the warm, dark wood interior features chandeliers and a large art installation called "Cellular," a head fashioned from wooden mosaic tiles that was designed by local artist Olga Ziemska. The exterior of the hotel also features a 30 foot tall mural of the Cuyahoga River Valley, a work of public art that can be enjoyed by both visitors and passersby. Scattered throughout the hotel are more than 1,500 works by local artists, including Sarah Kabot, Liz Maugans, Michael Loderstedt, Dana Oldfather, Jen Craun and Anne Kibbe, to name a few. The operators of the hotel, Sage Hospitality, worked with the nonprofit group LAND Studio to select and feature artists in the lobby, public spaces and 400-plus guest rooms. (Check out this slideshow of the art here) "This is kind of an incredible investment for a group from outside of Cleveland to make, and they did it because this was a way to make this project truly local," says Greg Peckham, Executive Director of LAND Studio. "It generates a tremendous amount of goodwill, but also a true investment in the local arts economy. This project put a job on the table for three local framers for a year. There's a lot of spinoff effect and benefit of this one small aspect of a $68 million project. It also feels distinctively Cleveland; it's not something you could find in another city." For Peckham, Ziemska's striking sculpture is one example of the high-quality artwork found throughout the hotel. The work illustrates how humans are a part of nature, visually representing the correlations between the human body and natural world. It also highlights Cleveland's growing reputation as a sustainable city. The figure's eyes are closed, as if enjoying a restful night's sleep after an eventful day. "I work a lot with natural materials," says Ziemska. "My work bridges the gap between humans and nature, to help us better understand our place in the world." Ziemska is a Cleveland native who left Northeast Ohio after high school. When she returned for family reasons, she discovered a vibrant artistic community and began putting down roots. She has won several major awards and commissions since moving back to Cleveland, including twice being selected for an individual artist fellowship through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. "That grant has literally kept me here," she says. "I feel like there's such support for artists in Cleveland." Peckham says that the artwork, which was handpicked by Sage executives, reflects several guiding themes, including connections between the manmade and natural environments and Cleveland's history as a place where people make things with their hands. Much of the artwork has been reproduced from originals in order to keep the overall project costs economical. The original artwork is largely hung on the 22nd and 23rd floors of the hotel, in the higher-end executive suites. "The owners wanted to create a real streetscape -- they wanted people to come in, for it to be a living room for the city," explains Peckham. "People are invited and encouraged to come in regardless of whether or not they’re staying there." Other features of the 484-room hotel include the farm-to-table steakhouse Urban Farmer, a 3,000-square-foot workout studio and 20,000 square feet of meeting rooms. The new Westin, which has undergone a complete renovation into a LEED-certified green building, is located at 777 St. Clair Avenue.
As our restaurant scene continues to thrive, local chefs and owners increasingly are finding it difficult to fill all open positions. Institutions in town, including an accredited culinary school, have their merits, say local restaurateurs, but they also have a way to go before they reach the point where they'll plug the culinary talent gap.
For today's top talent, the job market is only one thing to consider when choosing a place to live. Young professionals increasingly desire a vibrant city to plug into, a creative place where they can network with like-minded people, and a dynamic place where they can land their next job.
In a New York Times post titled, "Maintaining a Classical-Music Miracle in Cleveland," writer Craig Duff covers efforts by local philanthropist Milton Maltz to increase the number of young audience members at Cleveland Orchestra performances. "When Milton Maltz looked down from his box seat in Severance Hall -- the stately home of the Cleveland Orchestra -- he used to fear for its future," writes Duff. "Where are the young people?" Maltz is quoted in the article. The aging of audiences is something all orchestras are contending with, but Maltz decided to do something about it. He and his wife donated $20 million to help the orchestra build a younger audience, with the ambitious goal of attracting the youngest audience of any orchestra in America by 2018, the band's 100th birthday. Incentives include "FanCards" that allow young concertgoers to attend as many concerts as they like per season for $50. Additional deals include free admission to summer outdoor concerts at Blossom for those under age 18. Students also can attend any concert during the subscription season for $10. Efforts are paying off: in 2010, students made up 8 percent of the audience. Last year, that figure was 20 percent. Read the rest of the good news here.
The new Westin Hotel downtown features more than 1,500 works of art by local artists. The exterior boasts a 30-foot mural of the Cuyahoga River Valley, while the lobby contains a large art installation by artist Olga Ziemska. In this slideshow, Fresh Water photographer Bob Perkoski offers a visual tour of some of the artwork.
An annual economic impact study conducted by Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs shows that companies that received support from 16 of the area’s business accelerators, incubators and other organizations generated $424 million for Ohio. Of the 245 companies surveyed, 236 companies are in Northeast Ohio, generating $306.2 million in the region. These numbers reflect good news for the startup community in Cleveland. “Companies that start here are growing,” says JumpStart chief marketing officer Cathy Belk. “The fact that companies are growing and generating jobs reflects that those courageous folks jumping into the startup world are able to access great people, capital and the expertise -- and are able to lead their companies forward. The ecosystem here is robust and getting more robust all the time.” Of the companies included in the latest study, 42 local businesses have participated each year over the past four years. “Over that time, they have grown payroll by $14.7 million and created and retained 134 jobs in this region,” says Belk. “This reflects that startups here are able to be successful, creating sustainable jobs for people who live here.” Belk wants to see these trends grow. “We want entrepreneurs to continue to decide to start companies in this area, and keep them here because of their ability to be successful here,” she explains. “We have to make sure we continue to have the successful startup programs and ecosystem in this region, ensuring companies are able to access the capital they need. And we must continue to help a broader number of small businesses -- including those that could create a significant number of jobs. These are all next steps for our community to maintain and accelerate our momentum.”
Tom Scheiman believes in doing things the old-fashioned way. Some things are just better that way. Take candy, for instance: His store, B. A. Sweetie Candy, also known as Sweeties, is the largest candy store in America. Shoppers will find things there that are available nowhere else, like candy cigarettes, which, while not politically correct, are a top seller. Last year, Sweeties attracted over 250,000 customers to its store. On any given day, the venue has $2 million worth of candy inventory on store shelves. And now, after multiple expansions to his original space at 7480 Brook Park Road in Brooklyn, Scheiman is constructing an all new, 40,000-square-foot candy emporium in Old Brooklyn -- the old-fashioned way: no debt, no grants, no incentives. Just his own cash that he's socked away for years selling candy. The $3.5-million project will feature a 36-hole mini-golf course called Sweeties Golfland (18 holes already are open). In the coming years, Scheiman also has plans to build another 18 holes -- Candyland-themed, of course -- and an ice cream shop. He purchased the five-acre property from an estate in 2012. A highly visible sign featuring a 40-foot lollipop soon will rise along I-480, where approximately 135,000 cars pass by on a daily basis. Talk about a great marketing opportunity. "I've been in the candy business since I was 15 years old," says Scheiman, who purchased Sweeties in 1982 and has seen it grow by about 10 percent each year. The company employs about 40 people. "I don't know how to do anything else." If you've been to Sweeties, you know it offers good deals in a warehouse-style environment. The new store, which Scheiman says is 90 percent complete and is expected to open later this year, will continue in that tradition. "I’m not about being a hootie tootie, frilly, wood floor, beautiful lighting type of store," he quips. "I’m about volume, and I’m value priced. It’s my business philosophy. I'd rather have a little dust on my shelves and sell you a candy bar at 67 cents than offer you the same bar at $1.29 because I've got a wood floor and halogen lighting." Sweeties is known for its incredible selection and variety, including throwback items available at few other places. The new, larger store will offer even more display space. One prominent feature will be a 30-foot-long, 12-foot-tall Jelly Belly display that reportedly holds $100,000 worth of jelly beans. At the entrance, visitors will be greeted by a restored '32 Ford truck once used to deliver candy. The company is unusual because it sells both wholesale and retail. Yet its direct-to-consumer approach keeps prices down at the store, which has become a family destination. As Scheiman puts it, "There is no middle man. I am the middle man." Thinking about securing a five-finger discount on any of those sweets? Don't. Scheiman is installing 32 cameras throughout his new showroom. "We've been doing this a few weeks," he says. Scheiman predicts that about 400,000 people will visit his store next year. The new Sweeties Candy and Golfland will be located at 6770 Brook Park Road, on site of the old Brookpark Fun and Games. Golfland is now open Sunday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.
Growing up in Akron, Ryan Sheldon landed his first job in a bike shop after applying for one approximately 20 times and hanging around the shop like a groupie. At the time, he was 17 years old and working as a bagger in the grocery store next door. Eventually, the owners hired him, seeing a spark of passion that was worth nurturing. He worked there for 15 years. Now, the 33-year-old bike lover has struck out on his own with Beat Cycles, which recently opened in a long-vacant storefront in Lakewood (15608 Detroit Avenue). Sheldon renovated the place himself from the studs up over the course of five and half grueling months -- opening just in time for good cycling weather. "I saw the opportunity to bring a really cool shop with a unique vibe to Lakewood," says Sheldon, who says he has a particular passion for working with all levels of cyclists and getting new folks interested in cycling. "My approach is really open; I'm passionate about what I do, and I love getting kids on bikes." Sheldon says that Lakewood, a dense city of 52,000 residents, is a great place for biking. He says there's room for another bike shop even though there are at least four (Spin, Century Cycles, Blazing Saddles and Joy Machines) within a few miles. Sheldon may be new to the whole entrepreneurship gig, but he's pretty much always been into bikes. "It’s that first sense of freedom you get," he says. "As a kid, you can get away from your parents on a bike... and they can’t quite catch you." Sheldon was bit by the entrepreneurship bug after rising to the level of regional manager at his previous job. He saw opening his own store as "the ultimate level of creativity." First, he had to identify the right spot and pull together financing. He had savings but not enough, and no bank wanted to touch the deal. They wanted him to be able to show some profit before they'd loan him money. Then he contacted the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), a nonprofit community-oriented lender that was eager to help him get started. After a lot of ups and downs, the loan finally closed and he was on his way. Beat Cycles features warm, refinished hardwood floors and walls wrapped in reclaimed wood. The colors are bright and eye-catching. Sheldon and his coworkers removed a drop ceiling and replaced electric and other mechanicals. "It's fun to walk in the store and really see your vision in finished form," he says. He couldn't be more excited about being an entrepreneur. "From a young age, I thought it would be cool to have a job that you loved. I carried that mentality and mindset up to ripe old age of 33. It doesn’t feel like work if you enjoy it."