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Pleasant Ville

Dive Bar in Diva Town

Dive bars typically represent the working-class edge of their communities, projecting a low-down vibe, where pretensions are dropped in favor of ashtrays and pool cues.

So when it comes to Chagrin Falls—where the population's leisure-time heroes could be Martha and Payne Stewart—skeptics might envision the "local dive" as a solitary cafe without an eighteenth green off its parking lot. Now that's slumming.

But just beyond the quiet corner of the town's south side—a gemstone's throw from expansive Victorian homes—the Greenville Inn endures.

"Take the bar from Urban Cowboy and stick it in the middle of Nantucket . . . minus the mechanical bull," says Greenville music coordinator Jimi Kincaid of the inconspicuous hangout, which routinely attracts a young, multi-ethnic mix of bikers, khakis, bohemians, and urban travelers. "It's the kind of place that gets postcards from all over the world." True to the town's aura, which screams "wine spritzer," the bar gets fan mail from foreign women who fondly remember the days when they absconded from nanny school for a game of stick and a cold one.

Technically twenty yards into neighboring Bainbridge—and termed the "Ville" by the dedicated—the bar is an authentic American roadhouse, not contrived to look like one. The decor consists of well-worn everything. Looking around, local patron Bob Hartman concludes, "It's more barn than Pottery Barn."

No one seems to know its origins, but the bar's reputation has evolved over the years. "Before the real estate became so expensive, the town had three or four saloons and motorcycles all the way down the street," remembers Dave Benson, who, along with his brother Bob, has owned the bar since 1975. "At that time, the Greenville was actually a place for flattops, where a few of the wilder types on bikes were greeted with a shotgun."

Now upscale shops and restaurants have replaced the old bars, and the Ville is an echo of the town's looser days.

With the continued de-evolution from light-blue-collar village to an oasis for corporate execs, does Benson think the Ville can withstand the pressures to upgrade? "Yeah, we'll stay true to form," he says. "All we're planning on doing is fixing up the front of the building."

"They can paint it pink if they want to," maintains Hartman. "Inside, you gotta believe the Ville will always be the Ville." The dive survives.
—Tim Piai


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