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Friday, August 24, 2012

Slovenian-inspired Hansa brewery, cooking school on tap in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood

Music, who is 55, took over the Hansa Import Haus in 1979 and built the current, Bavarian-style building in the early 1980s. He designed it defensively, with windowless sides and a gate out front, to deter vandals and burglars. Designs for the brewery and restaurant, and renovated store, show windows and patio seating lining Lorain.
"The neighborhood finally deserves and has accomplished what I was dreaming all along," said Music, who once tried to amass property for an international market in the district.
Encouraged by Mayor Frank Jackson's administration, which sent a trade mission to Slovenia in May 2011, Music tackled the brewery project to leave a legacy for his children -- and to satisfy "a little bit of personal ego."
The city of Cleveland is considering loans and grants for the brewery, which could be a first step in getting Lasko and other European brewers to expand into the United States. The Cleveland area boasts the largest Slovenian population outside of Slovenia.
"We are 99.9 percent sure that they will get a signature on this agreement that we can cook the beer on the recipe of Lasko," said Jure Zmauc, the Slovenian consul general in Cleveland. "We have tested the water in Cleveland, and it is good. The next step would be a real brewery, not a microbrewery, but a real brewery for Lasko in Cleveland. . . . The market is huge. America is a huge country. Americans love beer, and we have good beer."
The Hansa restaurant and brewery would offer food and beer from several European countries. When asked how likely the project is to proceed, Music said, "We need a stamp from [the] building department so we can start digging."
An Ohio City block club and a city design review committee must sign off on the plans.
"It's a great fit in the neighborhood," said City Councilman Joe Cimperman. "This isn't Applebee's, baby. It's the real deal. This is why people love Cleveland. It's authentic. It's original."
When Carl and Catherine St. John open their Ohio City cooking school, it will be a case of another Northeast Ohio stalwart expanding. The Hudson residents, who bought the 40-plus-year-old Western Reserve school in 2007, weren't looking to open a second business. But they couldn't resist the prospect of serving chefs and training cooks from Ohio City and nearby neighborhoods.
The Western Reserve School of Cooking will not change. But it will have a bigger, funkier sister in Cleveland, in a space leased from nonprofit group Neighborhood Progress Inc.
Food-focused bridal showers and bachelorette parties will be able to hop from classes to neighborhood bars. And the St. Johns, now forced to turn away some events at their 10- to 12-person kitchen in Hudson, hope to expand their corporate team-building business in a space for twice as many people.
The city also is considering loans and grants for the school, said Chris Warren, Cleveland's chief of regional development.
"One thing we've heard is that there are a lot of places to go in Ohio City, but not a lot of places to do things" said Tom McNair of the Ohio City Inc. neighborhood group. "This is really a kind of hands-on, interactive thing to give people something to do when they come here."
Several other projects are percolating in the neighborhood. Spurred by strong demand for apartments and some improvements in home sales, a few residential developers are looking at land deals. Paul Benner, a 29-year-old Cleveland native, is evaluating spaces for a home-brewing equipment store.
Great Lakes Brewing Co. is talking about another expansion. And serial entrepreneur Sam McNulty and his partners will open their fifth Ohio City business, Nano Brew Cleveland, on West 25th this week.
Property records show that McNulty and Mark Priemer recently bought the Culinary Market Building, on West 24th Street, for $800,000. McNulty, who leases storage space in the 43,000-square-foot building, described the deal as a defensive move. He does not have firm plans for the property.
But McNulty and his partners are looking for space for new ventures, such as producing charcuterie, aging cheeses and making bread.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sam McNulty is helping transform West 25th Street, one bar and beer at a time

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- For years, passers-by saw only the dark, desolate alley. A place where you did not venture. So they kept walking. Quickly. Sam McNulty imagined something different. Nightlife. Opportunity. A new path for an old neighborhood. All it needed was a little light, some energy and a purpose. That dark alley is no more, thanks to Market Garden Brewery. Adjacent to West Side Market, McNulty's newest bar has transformed a dead spot into one of the city's most vibrant hangouts. Yes, they come for the beer; Market Garden serves more than a dozen homemade brews. Yes, they come for the energy of the place; it's crowded most days and nights. But it's the vibe of that once desolate alley -- now a walkway to a happening patio -- that sets Market Garden apart. "Look at that view of West Side Market Tower," McNulty says. "The stalls, that old poultry building that used to house live chickens." He sips a Forest City Brown Ale, a dark, malty Market Garden concoction that comes with the tagline, "Vintage is new again." "This is Ohio City," McNulty adds. "This is a real urban neighborhood with a proud past that's coming back to life." The always-enthusiastic entrepreneur has been instrumental in that process. McNulty, 36, owns three other bars within a bottle's throw of Market Garden: Bar Cento, Speakeasy and Bier Markt. He's also a relentless booster of West 25th Street, extolling the virtues of neighborhood establishments. Or housing on the street. Or the park at West 25th and Lorain. McNulty's enthusiasm is well placed, says Great Lakes Brewing Co. founder Patrick Conway. "The neighborhood is busier than it's been in a long time, thanks to the opening of places such as Market Garden or Crop," says Conway, referring to the latest additions to West 25th. "There's a renaissance taking place like I haven't seen in the 23 years that I've been here -- and the whole neighborhood is benefiting." Celebrations pegged to the centennial of the West Side Market in 2012 promise to increase business even more -- though McNulty is quick to point out that it's hustle and bustle more than sales that has him excited. "My partners would kill me if they heard me say this, but I'm not in this for the money," he says. "This is my passion -- to be part of a walkable urban neighborhood that's making a comeback." John Petkovic, The Plain DealerMarket Garden Brewery not only offers 11 homemade beers, it also boasts a stellar view of West Side Market That might sound like a line he picked up in a textbook about urban planning. After all, that's what McNulty majored in at Cleveland State University. Acting on it came thousands of miles away from class. It was fueled by his other, bigger, passions: traveling and drinking beer. "I was backpacking through India when I randomly met this Polish guy," says McNulty. "And it just so happened that he had worked in a Belgian-style bar in Australia." A light went off in his head. It was a little blurry and not just because the conversation made his head spin like a globe, he admits. After all, McNulty had been drinking all day. But the light kept flickering until he returned to Cleveland -- and until he opened McNulty's Bier Markt, in 2005. "At first, I thought about opening a bar that served all kinds of international beers," he says. "Then I realized: Belgian beer is my favorite -- and there weren't any in the area, or even Ohio." Staying ahead of the pack, but not so far that you lose it, has been a trademark of McNulty's style. "Sam has a unique passion," says Gary Ogrocky, of Dimit Architects, a Lakewood firm that designed Market Garden. "But he's a smart enough entrepreneur to know what people like and appeal to that." That includes redefining the concept of beer joint -- to make it less masculine and appeal to women, even families or people just looking for a bite to eat during the day. "Sam was conscious of the West Side Market, and not just its historical value," Ogrocky says. "You have shoppers who might not be beer aficionados, but they might want to stop in for a drink and something to eat." The alley between the market and Market Garden is vital in making the connection. The patio offers the open, people-friendly space urban planners always talk about. Then there was the installation of lights, to make the area visible. Even trimming the trees, in the market's parking lot behind the bar, was part of the makeover. "That's what makes Sam so unique," says Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman. "He's like these old ethnic ladies who keep their sidewalk clean. You know if you do it that everyone else will and it will make the neighborhood nicer." In McNulty's case, the cleanup involved rotted produce, which once littered the alley. "He makes the area look better and he gives back to the area," says Cimperman. "He buys most of his food from the West Side Market and he employs people from the neighborhood." The space that houses Market Garden was going to be a state liquor store and check-cashing operation if not for McNulty, adds Cimperman. "That would've been horrible," he says. "We can thank for Sam moving in and bringing something positive there." Breathing life into the area couldn't come at the expense of the old vibe, though. Market Garden, located in a former grocery store and poultry shop, is a prime example of repurposing space. "Initially, we were going to knock down the poultry building," says Ogrocky. "But we decided to consciously make it look like found space. We even kept the graphics on the building and just put the sign out back over them." The idea fit in with the trend in urban design to embrace the past to give the present an air of authenticity. But it also fit with McNulty's love of all things old. "I love Tom Waits," he says, referring to the musician. "His songs sound like something from another time -- something authentic, where everything isn't perfect, but it has this real personality to it." At the other end of the spectrum is processed pop music -- and what he sees as the architectural equivalent: lifestyle centers such as Crocker Park. "We're building fake small towns instead of embracing and conserving what we have," he says. "I want something real, without the artificial sweeteners." It's an attitude that was instilled in him at an early age, says his father Bill McNulty. "We always stressed recycling and making due with what you had," says Bill McNulty, who lives in St. Petersburg Beach, Fla. "Sam was always very frugal and never liked to waste things." He also was a builder, even as a child. "He would sit in his sandbox all by himself, creating things," Bill McNulty says. "He was always quiet and studious and so focused and hard-working." For good reason, says Sam. Thomas Ondrey, The Plain DealerSam McNulty. "I grew up in a big family, with six siblings, and we never had much money," he says. "So I always had to hustle to get ahead." McNulty started hustling at 11, delivering The Plain Dealer. "I delivered the paper 365 days a year," he says. "And kept on doing it until I started school at Cleveland State." He entered CSU in 1992 with dreams of being an urban planner. His biggest learning experience came with operating an eatery in the student center. "I knew nothing about operating a restaurant and made every mistake imaginable," he says. "I thought you could prepare everything on the spot -- which is why people ended up having to wait for 45 minutes for a sandwich." Bill McNulty imagined his son as an architect, not a restaurateur. But that's not why he was worried about him. "Sam was a bit gullible, and his mother and I thought that people would take advantage of him," he says. "He was a dreamer and more connected to spiritual things." Sam McNulty grew up in a home where spirituality was always emphasized. Bill and his wife Ruth are born-again Christians. Prayer and Bible readings were commonplace. Sam was home-schooled for much of childhood. And there was never any alcohol in the house. "My wife and I were both social workers," says Bill McNulty. "We saw the negative effects drinking can have on people and we always tried to emphasize a moral life to our children." Sam McNulty came to see the social effects of drinking -- the positive kind. "In many ways, I see having a beer with a friend as social work," he says. "You sit down on a bar stool with someone who's having a hard time about something -- some good conversation over a really good beer will do wonders." It also helped Sam McNulty become more sociable. "I was painfully shy as a child," he says. "I could barely make eye contact with people, until I put my mind to it and try really hard to break out of my shell." He made his biggest breakout when he was 18 and decided to go to London. "I took my bike with me and my backpack and went all over the city," he says. "I didn't know anyone -- I set out to explore on my own and force myself to meet new people." It was the first of many international excursions, and he has a world of experience in his backpack. He's traveled countless times across Europe and Asia. Sometimes, he flies solo and follows his spirit. "My mom is Lithuanian and was born in a refugee camp in Germany after World War II, and my dad came over here from Ireland," he says. "So I've always been a wanderer -- I'm a bit of a gypsy who grew up with an immigrant work ethic." Both go a long way in explaining why he remains single. "A lot of bar owners get into the business because they want to meet girls," he says. "I have a hard time keeping a girlfriend." And not because they have a problem with him drinking beer, which he does daily, with pride. "I'm already married, to my bars," he says. "It's frustrated people I've gone out with in the past, but this is what I love." That doesn't prevent him from taking trips. He's going to Mexico in November -- "to explore and drink beer." But don't expect him relocating from Cleveland. Or even West 25th, where he lives. "I can't imagine leaving this city or this street," McNulty says. "This is my home. And this is probably where I'm going to buried." By John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mitchell's Ice Cream to buy former nightclub spot, move headquarters and kitchen into Ohio City

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A homegrown ice cream company plans to move its headquarters to Cleveland, transforming a former nightclub building into a commercial kitchen and shop.

Mitchell's Ice Cream inked a purchase agreement Tuesday to buy the former Moda building in Ohio City. With an expanding lineup of shops and sales to restaurants and grocery stores, the company has outgrown its kitchen in Rocky River.

And its co-founders, brothers Mike and Pete Mitchell, want to be part of the growing food scene around the West Side Market, in a neighborhood being cast as Cleveland's Market District.

"We have no interest in having a store anywhere outside the Greater Cleveland area," Pete Mitchell said. "So we want to make sure we have a presence in the city of Cleveland."

Founded in 1999 and based in Rocky River for about eight years, Mitchell's has focused on the suburbs: Bay Village, Beachwood, Rocky River, Solon, Westlake and - coming up - Avon and Strongsville.

For their foray into Cleveland, the brothers considered downtown and several near-West Side neighborhoods before choosing a building at 1867 W. 25th St. in Ohio City.

View full sizeRUL, Ltd.The new logo for Mitchell's Ice Cream. The company, founded in 1999, is updating its branding materials and plans to launch a new website soon.

That property gained notoriety as the home of Moda, a nightclub that lured politicos and celebrities - and, eventually, large crowds and brawls. Moda closed in 2006, after the club's owner pleaded guilty to laundering drug money through his business.

Since then, neighbors have resisted proposals to fill the space with another bar or club.

Mitchell's plans to renovate the first floor, about 8,600 square feet, for its kitchen and an ice-cream shop along West 25th. The second floor would be used for offices or maintained as apartments.

Mike Mitchell would not comment on the purchase price for the building, which last sold to Rialto Corp. for $80,000 in 1999.

"They're a fantastic retailer with a great product moving into what has been a troubled property in the neighborhood," said Eric Wobser, executive director of neighborhood development group Ohio City Inc.

The company hopes to move by spring 2012.

The new headquarters, kitchen and shop would employ about 35 people. The city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are working with Mitchell's to cut the cost of the $2 million project.

Cleveland has offered Mitchell's $220,000 in loans, through programs aimed at reviving vacant properties and supporting retail businesses.

Mitchell's will assume the balance - $76,798 - on a $120,000 loan that the city provided for the Moda redevelopment in 1999. The loan term will be extended to 20 years.

"We've been working to find a buyer for this property for a number of years," said Tracey Nichols, the city's economic development director. "This is really a hole in the neighborhood."

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is focused on the Market District's transformation into a food hub encircling the West Side Market, said Chris Warren, the city's chief of regional development.

Cuyahoga County is talking to Mitchell's about a $50,000 forgivable loan, tied to job-creation in the city.

"There's a lot of attention on the huge projects, the Medical Mart and the east bank of the Flats" said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. "But we actually think that the biggest part of our portfolio should be in investments in small businesses that want to expand and need a little bit of help."


Michelle Jarboe McFee, The Plain Dealer

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ohio City Home Tour is Here

Online ticketing is no longer available, however you can still get tickets on the day-of the event! We look forward to seeing you this weekend!
A few Evening in Ohio City tickets are available for $130 each and can be purchased at 5:30 pm on Saturday at Lutheran Hospital, the starting location of the tour.
Ohio City Home Tour tickets can be purchased for $20 each on Sunday at the Gould Court on W25

Evening in Ohio City Saturday, May 14th 5:30pm to Midnight
Progressive food, wine and beer tastings in six fantastic Ohio City homes. Featuring dishes from award-winning restaurants and transportation via Lolley the Trolley.
Admission (includes Ohio City Home Tour):
$130 ($85 is tax deductible)
Group ticket purchases of 6 or more (must be purchased by one person) receives $5 off the price of each ticket.

Ohio City Home Tour Sunday, May 15th 10 am to 4 pm
Tour of nine additional homes and one urban garden representing the diverse architectural styles and personalities of the neighborhood.
$18 prior to May 12th
$20 day of the event
$15 for group ticket purchases of 6 or more (must be purchased by one person, online, prior to May 12th).

The annual Cleveland tradition, Weekend in Ohio City, sponsored by Lutheran Hospital, makes its appearance in 2011 on the second weekend in May. It comprises two popular events: Evening in Ohio on Saturday, May 14, and the Ohio City Home Tour on Sunday, May 15. Both events offer attendees the chance to experience neighborhood life on Cleveland’s Near West Side, the vast diversity in housing options in Ohio City, and how residents have applied their skills and creative talents to bring life into their homes.

Evening in Ohio City is one of Greater Cleveland’s most popular social events with a limited number of tickets available. The event begins at 5:30 p.m., when guests will experience progressive food, beer and wine tasting in six unique homes in the neighborhood. Evening in Ohio City Guests are escorted by Lolly the Trolley to each site, where they spend 30 minutes touring the home, enjoying wine and craft beers from Ohio City’s own Great Lakes Brewing Company, and sampling the food from a variety of Ohio City restaurants and caterers. Participating restaurants include: Alaturka Turkish Cuisine, Campbell’s Sweets, Dragonfly Lounge and Restaurant, Farkas Pastry Shoppe, Fulton Foods, Heck’s Cafe, Johnny Mango, Koffie CafĂ©, Market at the Fig, Market Avenue Wine Bar, Momocho Mod Mex, Old Angle Tavern, & Souper Market. Guests will experience historic renovations, modern condos, and breathtaking views of Downtown Cleveland.

The following day, the Ohio City Home Tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring nine homes not included on the previous night’s event. The tour will commence on West 25th Street where patrons will board Lolly and tour the neighborhood to stop at each home and with the opportunity to jump on and off at their leisure to explore the neighborhood. Tour goers will experience the Ohio City lifestyle through touring the featured homes including lady Victorians, an exemplary mixed-use renovation, green innovation homes and an urban garden stop registered as a backyard wildlife habitat. Free parking is available in the parking lot off of West 25th and Bridge Avenue.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ohio City property owners agree to form special improvement district

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland City Council is being asked to approve a special improvement district that will bring additional security and will help keep the Ohio City neighborhood clean.

Just more than 70 percent of the 160 commercial and residential owners in the Near West Side neighborhood have agreed to create the district, surpassing the requirement of 60 percent.

If approved by council, the district will begin operating next year with a $125,000 budget administered by Ohio City Inc., the community development corporation that worked with property owners to organize it.

Businesses in the district will be assessed a fee to pay for the services, which will range from about $150 a year to $25,000 a year, said Eric Wobser, executive director of Ohio City Inc., formerly known as Ohio City-Near West Development Corp.

The boundaries for the district are Bridge-Jay avenues on the north; Lorain-Chatham avenues on the south; West 28th-West 26th avenues on the west; and West 24th- West 25th and Gehring avenues on the east.

Cleveland already has special improvement districts for downtown and the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.

Pat Conway of Great Lakes Brewing Company on Market Avenue said membership in the district will cost his company about $10,000 a year. He said he and others have been pushing for years to create a SID in Ohio City.

"All of those things that would develop out of a SID is nothing but good news for a neighborhood like ours that is on the cusp of becoming great," Conway said.

Wobser said none of the property owners contacted by his staff refused to sign the petition to create the district.

"Everyone acknowledged that it was something they wanted to get done and it would have a tremendous impact on the neighborhood," Wobser said.

Ohio City Inc. has agreed to forgo its 10 percent fee for administering the district for the first five years to reduce the assessment owed by residential property owners.

Wobser said the Ohio City SID will provide the same services as downtown, including security patrols and workers who pick up trash and remove graffiti.

Creation of the district comes at an opportune time, Wobser and Councilman Joe Cimperman said. The West Side Market celebrates its 100th anniversary next year and Cleveland will be host for the International Public Markets Conference, which is expected to draw participants from all over the world.

Cimperman said the downtown district had its critics when it first formed in 2005.

"There were a lot of people downtown questioning whether it was a good thing," Cimperman said. "I don't know if those people are saying that now."

By Mark Gillispie, The Plain Dealer

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Springtime in Ohio City means celebrating history and embracing change

Spring is always an eventful season in Ohio City. First there's the "Weekend in Ohio City" which features and evening open house with progressive food, beer and wine tasting as well as a Sunday home tour. The sunday tour alone brings well over a thousand people to the neighborhood every year to enjoy the beautiful homes that make this neighborhood so special. Then we have OCNW's Annual meeting with award presentations, community project announcements and this year the unveiling of a new brand and website for the organization and the neighborhood. Later in the season kicks off "open Air at Market Square" an urban outdoor market featuring different vendors and live music every Saturday at W.25th and Market Ave. at market Square Park, which is set to undergo a major renovation in the near future. Just across the street there is a building that will be celebrating its Centennial, The West Side Market. OCNW is teaming up with the City of Cleveland to help promote and plan events for this huge anniversary. I know I've enjoyed the last few years living in this amazing neighborhood, I cant wait to see what the future holds.