You see a valley; they see a bridge. You see a busy intersection; they see a roundabout. You see a vacant building; they see the gleaming tiger mahogany bar inside drawing patrons from around the world.
These are the Ohio City entrepreneurs. And, they see solutions. Take a lesson from these dreamers: don't live in the past.
Ohio City, one mile west of Downtown Cleveland, is buzzing with energy.
Restaurant patios clatter with the sound of laughter over craft beer flights and big bowls of locally sourced food. Cyclists pass along West 25th Street making their way between a neighborhood lined with historic Victorians homes and the towering skyscrapers of Downtown. And, it all happens as generations of shoppers — young and old — dip in and out of the historic West Side Market.
Every venue you visit was envisioned by an Ohio City maker.
A Fighting Chance
Entrepreneurs are a passionate lot. Ohio City was a fierce business competitor with Downtown Cleveland, which was three times its size in the 1830s.
Back then, Cleveland's new Columbus Street Bridge diverted commercial traffic away from Ohio City. So, with explosives, axes and muskets in hand, an Ohio City mob marched on toward Cleveland to remove their half of the floating commercial bridge they shared. When they met up with the Cleveland mayor and militia, they rioted. And they lost.
But all's mended. In 1932, an art déco truss bridge was erected between the two
neighborhoods, as Cleveland's Carnegie Avenue flowed onto Ohio City's Lorain Avenue. It features towering, 42-foot-tall sandstone sculptures called the Guardians of Traffic, which celebrate the progress of transportation and serve as iconic Cleveland monuments.
The bridge was named the Hope Memorial Bridge to honor comedian Bob Hope's father, who worked as a stonemason on the sculptures. That's rather apropos since hope drives passion.
Just north of the feisty Irish neighborhood known as the Old Angle, Ohio City was the epicenter of Cleveland boxing, with an illustrious history of world-renowned boxers.
The West Side Market
Without a doubt, one of the most significant landmarks in Ohio City is the beautiful and stately West Side Market, which sits stoically on the corner of West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue.
Opened in 1912 as a public marketplace, the West Side Market is a stunning architectural masterpiece boasting a 44-foot-high Guastavino-designed vaulted tile ceiling and historic clock tower.
For more than a century, the West Side Market has been bustling with more than 80 family-owned vendors selling their meats, dairy, produce and ethnic delicacies - a tasteful calling card home for the many immigrant families who resided in the neighborhood. And, it's still humming today - with some booths still operated by second- and third-generation family members.
Ohio City has always been a beer brewing center - from small, family-run businesses in the 1800s to today's modern brewpubs and craft breweries.
Beer sales first took off in the 1840s after German immigrants brewed "lager beer" for a thirsty working class who wanted something much crisper than the fruity English ales. By 1910, there were 26 brewing companies in Cleveland.
Then Prohibition, two World Wars and the Great Depression took its toll on the brewing industry and Ohio City. Cleveland's last brewery closed in 1984.
But Patrick and Daniel Conway imagined better times. It was in Ohio City that they came upon a run-down Market Avenue building once known as the Market Tavern that had a rather unsavory - yet interesting - past.
From 1932 to 1942, Eliot Ness, the famous crime fighter who brought down Al Capone, was the Safety Director for Cleveland. Ness was known to throwback a few drinks in this Ohio City bar. During one of his stints, it's rumored that his gun discharged a bullet that became lodged in the Market Tavern's mahogany bar.
Today, that bar is home to the brewpub of the Conway brother's brewing empire, the Great Lakes Brewing Company, which they opened in 1988. Now the award-winning brewery is respected as a magnet for other visionaries who also are attracted to Ohio City's potential.
As for the bullet hole? It's still there. If you can't find it on your own, ask your bartender.
Next Gen Dreamers
Sam McNulty, owner of Market Garden Brewery
Makers first dream it. Then they do it. Although the Conways were on the forefront of transforming the Ohio City neighborhood, it was Sam McNulty who continued to evolve the vision of a vibrant, walkable West 25th Street.
So, in 2004, he opened Cleveland's only Belgian beer bar, Bier Markt. Shortly thereafter, he opened Bar Cento and Speakeasy (with all three now becoming a single, new concept by McNulty opening soon). Then came Nano Brew and Market Garden Brewery with its signature beer garden overlooking Downtown Cleveland.
Other Ohio City establishments followed suit.
Chef Steve Schmoler, who'd operated his popular Crop Bistro in Downtown Cleveland for many years, moved his upscale eatery to an opulent and historic bank building within Ohio City in 2011. Now, the space will transform again under the guidance of restaurateur Morgan Yagi to Bartleby, a modern supper club with a menu from Chef Dante Boccuzzi and drinks by Will Hollingsworth, set to open in 2022.
Opening The Cleveland Hostel in Ohio City in 2012, Mark Raymond has been showing visitors and residents just how close Ohio City is to everything Cleveland.
Paul Brenner and Justin Carson opened Platform Beer Company's 100-seat tasting room and patio in Ohio City in 2014.
And, also in 2014, Pete and Mike Mitchell, the brothers/owners of beloved Mitchell's Ice Cream, opened their flagship store and 6,000-foot production kitchen right in the heart of Ohio City.
It was Graham Veysey and Marika Shioiri-Clark, a couple determined to turn around a small part of the northern section of Ohio City, who purchased, refurbished and eventually opened retail and office space in an historic firehouse in the neighborhood.
Soon, their work invited investors, new living spaces, additional businesses and beautification projects.
Today, this hotspot is known as Hingetown and features (among many businesses) contemporary art space Transformer Station, budding brewery Saucy Brew Works, indie coffee shop Rising Star and eclectic JUKEBOX Cafe.
Nary a visitor to Ohio City leaves hungry thanks in large part to the chef-driven menus offered up at the dozens of eateries that line the avenues of Ohio City.
They're always winning culinary honors at places like Momocho and Larder, while casual eateries like TownHall, Ohio City Burrito, Heck's and Soho Chicken & Whiskey typically require an extra belt buckle for maximum gratification.
Or, get a true taste of the neighborhood at cultural faves like Kan Zaman (Middle Eastern), Phnom Penh (Cambodian), Nate's Deli (Mediterranean), Xinji Noodle Bar (Pan Asian), Boaz Café (Mediterranean), Johnny Mango World Café (international) and Le Petit Triangle (French).
Welcome to Ohio City
Ohio City is a neighborhood of passionate people who decided 200 years ago to become change makers. So what kind of maker are you? Decision maker or mischief maker? Both play here in Ohio City.