You've all seen the news. Cleveland is back, baby! New Cleveland! Young people are moving INTO the city! On purpose!
Downtown looks less like that Viggo Mortensen movie The Road!
We all wear T-shirts with our city's name on them now, to remind each other that we live here and we're fine with it!
The GOP convention is coming in 2016 and I've already rented out my Lakewood home to Mitt Romney, who apparently plans to use it as a temporary doghouse for his two purebred Irish Wolfhounds! Cha-ching!
LeBron James is back! And while I still don't consider it fiscally prudent to rely on the periodic presence of a man who is exceptionally good at throwing a ball through a circle as a cornerstone of our economy, I see no reason to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth. Also, I'm told that LeBron jersey sales are already close to outpacing those of former Cavalier small forward Alonzo Gee.
We bought a really big chandelier and hung it over the city, because we know that fancy people in movies have those and we want to let the world know that we're all fancy now! I hear there's a proposal currently moving through county council that will require us all to wear top hats while downtown in order to further project the image of civic prosperity.
But if you really want to see how much Cleveland has changed in the past 10 years, look no further than Ohio City's resurgent West 25th Street. It was not so long ago that the only businesses in that area were urban wig shops and payday loan stores where people could get high-interest short-term loans so that they wouldn't have to wait until their next paycheck to go and buy a new wig.
West 25th is simply KILLING IT right now, with new breweries and artisanal gift shops seemingly popping up hourly in response to intense hipster demand.
Would I prefer that Cleveland's economic turnaround were rooted in more traditionally viable industries, like steel manufacturing or technology or prostitution? Of course. I do have some reservations regarding the long-term sustainability of an economy based almost exclusively on organic cupcake shops and quirky boutiques that sell locally handcrafted Christmas ornaments.
But hey, any port in a storm, right Cleveland? So I say we ride this out and enjoy ourselves. With that in mind, here is a brief list of some of the exciting new stores opening up this week on West 25th Street.
CITI UNICYCLE: This grassroots business borrowed the successful business model of NYC's Citi Bike bicycle sharing program and adapted it to the personal tastes and desires of our area's more quirky denizens. Bicycling has become so popular in recent years that it's hard to maintain your individuality when riding a traditional model. Citi Unicycle is the perfect way to make certain that people recognize that you are unique in your approach to "going green." Simply insert the equivalent of $8 into the payment box in the form of credit card, Bitcoin, or three pounds of aluminum recyclables and remove one of the sturdy, unisex Unicycles from the docking station. The insufferable mode of transportation is now yours to enjoy as you roam the city pretending not to notice the contemptuous glares from those around you. Traditional unicycle accessories are also available for rent at additional cost, allowing you the option of donning an old-timey suit vest or thumbing through a paperback of Ginsberg's Howl while waiting at traffic lights.
OTHER PEOPLES' FURNITURE CO — OP.: Remember your Great Aunt's house that you used to visit in the '70s and '80s? Ever wonder where all of her hideously dated, avocado-colored furniture went? Well wonder no more! Other Peoples' Furniture sells nothing but the best vintage and retro pieces that no one else was bidding on at estate auctions.
We relentlessly scour garage sales and Goodwills in our immediate area, purchase anything that doesn't reek of cat piss, jack up the price considerably, then pass the savings onto us! So whether you're some awful chick who wants her living room to look like the set of Mad Men, or some dumb tool who wants a 3-foot-tall pedestal ashtray that used to be in a dentist office waiting room, we've got you covered.
THE WEARY NOMAD HOSTEL: Hostels are a great resource for budget-conscious travelers, and at first glance the Weary Nomad seems ideal. But based on the fact that the place has no power or plumbing facilities, I believe that I can confirm with certainty that it's not actually a hostel at all but just an abandoned crack house that a clever vagrant charged me $10 to sleep in one night when I was too drunk to drive home from ABC Tavern. I can't recommend it in good conscience. One and a half stars.
FEDORABLE: A shop that exclusively sells organic, free-trade fedoras.
BREWTOPIA!: Cleveland is renowned for it's many fine microbreweries, but the good people at Brewtopia! are counting on you to totally ignore all of those delicious craft beers and take a crack at fumbling through the beer-making process yourself. After all, they're sure that you'll be way better at it than all the professional local brewmasters who have studied the art for decades.
Try getting creative and putting something weird like jalapeños in your mix. Because that's not gross at all. The owners have simplified the process to the point that you pretty much just mix three things together like you're making Kool-Aid before throwing it into a dark closet in your basement for a really long time.
Roughly $65 and seven months later, your 12-pack of "Jeremy's 69 Oatmeal Stout" (Killer label you printed yourself there, man!) will be ready for you to convince yourself that you enjoy and foist upon your unfortunate friends.
NO BOUNDARIES CREATIVE SPACE: This trendy little art gallery that was most recently a Quiznos features eclectic pieces created by the owner and his fellow baristas with Cleveland Institute of Art degrees. Be sure to attend this Friday evening's exhibit opening featuring work by the gallery owner's on-again, off-again girlfriend who fancies herself a photographer because today's cameras are so user-friendly that even our moms can accidentally take decent pictures some times.
Enjoy the self-absorbed timer photos that she took of herself leaning against things and trying to look vulnerable and the ham-fisted metaphorical pictures she took of some unaware homeless guys sitting on the steps outside a major chain bank because, you know, classism.
There will be a skinny DJ awkwardly standing in a cramped corner, periodically adjusting something on his Macbook to give the illusion that he's not just playing an iTunes playlist he made that afternoon. Get there early if you want a plastic cup of boxed wine for a "suggested donation" of $6. It goes pretty fast once the horrific Q&A with the featured artist begins.
ONE LOVE TRANSGENDER RESTROOM: Built and maintained with a grant procured from the ACLU, this restroom is open to EVERYONE regardless of how you identify yourself.
The owner/lead restroom attendant considers traditional names to be "Label Prisons" and therefor represents itself as an asterisk symbol (*). * does not identify as any sex but instead considers itself a living, gaseous cloud of atoms. A cloud that contains no judgment. * encourages people of all genders, ages, races, sexes and creeds to use the same bathroom, all at the same time if they so choose, and says it can't possibly conceive of any potential issues arising from such an arrangement.
GIN RICKY'S SPEAKEASY: Modeled after the Prohibition-era speakeasies that kept thirsty patrons ginned up during even the driest of times, Gin Ricky's prides itself on authenticity and attention to detail. All staff is required to dress in genuine 1920's apparel and speak with accents representative of the time. A small jazz outfit plays a heavy rotation of Duke Ellington hits, but ironically, a sign at the entrance makes it clear that "Coloreds Aren't Welcome." Now that's authentic!
We can't tell you exactly where this covert night spot is, as there is no sign indicating where the bar is located. The secret entrance is changed every three to four days. Luckily, while perusing some of the stuffed owls for sale at Secondhand Gnus, the kitschy taxidermy boutique on Church Avenue, one of my friends stumbled on the head of a bearskin rug. In an attempt to regain his balance, he grabbed onto a pair of wall-mounted elk antlers that, when pulled downwards, revealed a spiral stone staircase that led us into Gin Ricky's.
Regrettably, when we tried to go back the next week, the store had vanished and all that remained was an empty lot where an elderly Native American was selling turquoise jewelry to passersby. He told us that the taxidermy shop had burnt to the ground in the 1950s and that nothing had been on that spot since. We looked away for just a moment and when we looked back, he was gone and all that remained was a lone eagle feather, dancing in the wind.
If you do manage to find the entrance to Gin Rickys, try the deviled eggs. Best in the city. And a steal at $25 for four.
Those are just a handful of the exciting, new, locally owned and operated businesses West 25th Street has to offer. Please be a good citizen and support these brave entrepreneurs. I'm about to head down there right now to have my tarot cards read, do some Pilates, then build a ship in a bottle at "Li'l Schooner's Model Ship Building Community Education Center." Maybe I'll see you there!
Mike Polk Jr. can be found just about everywhere. Someone buy the guy a sandwich.