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Visitors “Walk All Over Waterloo” in celebration of area revitalization

The Waterloo Arts district in Cleveland, Ohio has seen its share of problems throughout the years. This half mile block of storefronts on Waterloo Rd. between E. 152nd and E. 160th streets, was once a hangout for gangs of all kinds. From the days of the Irish Mob around the 1970’s and the Danny Greene legacy to lesser current-day Eastside neighborhood ruffians, the Waterloo district has been a difficult one to tame. It is an area of Cleveland that had fallen upon hard times as little as four years ago when the recession was in full swing, and Cleveland was losing control of many of its far off neighborhoods. However, about three years ago the neighborhood started to turn around. As local artists started to move in, Waterloo experienced a sort of revitalization that many are hoping will expand to other parts of the city.

Now home to over twelve independent music and art retailers, Waterloo is a pretty hip place to be and it’s safer than it has ever been. To celebrate this milestone and create some foot traffic in the area, merchants held “Walk All Over Waterloo” on Friday, Sept. 17 from 6 to 11 p.m. All businesses were open throughout the event and offered sweet hookups for customers interested in supporting local business.

Arts Collinwood, a non-profit organization that benefits the greater Collinwood region has been especially influential in cultivating the arts in the neighborhood. Sarah Gyorki has been running Arts Collinwood since 2003 and in addition to running the gallery which displays local artists as well as emerging young artists, she has recently opened the Waterloo Café with the help of the entire organization. Several reincarnations of restaurants and coffee shops have existed in this building, but Waterloo Café seems by far the most delicious of all of them. They offer a full menu of coffee concoctions as well as a full bar and lunch/dinner menu. In back of the gallery and restaurant, Arts Collinwood offers weekly and monthly art classes for anyone in the community for a small fee.

The organization also just established an outdoor performance-art podium in the middle of a newly constructed greenspace commissioned by the city of Cleveland. The structure resembles a deconstructed, stainless steel, leaning tower of Pisa, but was decked out for the art walk with lights and a DJ. “The tower on Waterloo stakes a flag of sorts,” a large sign by the structure reads, “into reclaiming the area as a new civic heart for this reawakening district, now reprogrammed for the visual and entertainment arts.”

In addition to Arts Collinwood, Azure Glass Studio and Salty Not Sweet also serve as miniature art galleries. Azure is the home studio of artisans Ben Parsons and Mary Zodnik who have been creating classic stained glass pieces for a combined 50 years. Salty Not Sweet is a tasty little boutique that serves as a letterpress studio and showcases handmade goods from Clevelanders. They have a strong emphasis on do-it-yourself aesthetic as well as re-engineering and reusing everyday items to create something beautiful.

Music Saves is a mainstay for addicted indie-holics looking for their fix in the form of a well stocked and knowledgeably staffed record store. They have a huge selection of CDs and vinyl, mostly new titles from independent and alternative labels. They also are known to host great puppet shows, bands, and patio ragers from time to time. Blue Arrow Records just celebrated its one year anniversary on the street and are getting ready to open a spanking new addition: The Blue Arrow Boutique. Friday was the sneak peek of this new vintage apparel store for men and women. Blue Arrow specializes in classic, used vinyl, and vintage memorabilia. Their floors are covered with 100% shellacked album covers, a huge undertaking for owners Pete and Debbie Gulyas.

The Beachland Ballroom is perhaps the most well known of all the landmarks on Waterloo. Established in 2000, The Beachland used to be a Croatian workman’s home during the 1950’s. During Walk All Over Waterloo, Peter Case, formerly of power-pop act The Nerves, and Deadbeat Poets played in the Tavern while the Beachland Barn Dance benefit was going on in the Ballroom. Strings and square dancing was provided by Hiram Rapids Stumblers, One Dollar Hat, and others. The Beachland Ballroom is slated to host some fabulous national acts coming up including Dr. Dog, Menomena, The Thermals, and !!!.

Brand spanking new businesses on Waterloo include The Head Shop, Star Pop Vintage Toys, Rebel City Tattoos, and CLE Clothing Company. All of their owners are excited for new business prospects on the street. CLE Clothing Company has existed as an online business for years, but now has a permanent location to call home. All of these entrepreneurs are smart, thrifty, and streetwise as well as really friendly. However, they should be warned that it is a struggle to survive for businesses on Waterloo. Galleries such as Low-Life and Waterloo 7, as well as Shoparooni all closed their doors this past year due to low street traffic and a mixture of other problems.

However, events like Walk All Over Waterloo have been a huge success and helped to publicize this growing arts district and bring new blood onto the street. As more businesses make North Collinwood their home, hopefully Clevelanders will realize that it’s the place to be for weekends on the Eastside. Look out for more artwalks, concerts, and festivals throughout the Fall. Waterloo definitely has something for everyone with a flair that makes it a little different from anywhere else.

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