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A string of new businesses replacing shops closed during COVID are run by existing business owners

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 07:02:03-04

CLEVELAND — Falling COVID infection rates mean Ohioans can keep getting back to out to bars, restaurants, and local shops, many of which are already taking the place of businesses that couldn’t survive the COVID pandemic.

That’s the case at Lakewood AF, where the sign out front is new to the community but the owners are not. Cassandra Fear opened up Fear’s Confections next door in 2014 and Daniel Ang turned his Dang Good Foods truck into a storefront down the street in 2019.

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Fear works in Fear's Confections next to where Lakewood AF opens Thursday.

They were both looking to expand at the same time when they decided to partner for Lakewood AF, which will serve poke bowls, and Weber’s Premium Custard and Ice Cream, with toppings created at Fear’s.

The biggest obstacle has been the pandemic.

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Ang says Lakewood AF's new home was perfect for poke bowls because the dish, which features raw fish, doesn't require large cooking equipment.

“Supply chain has been behind, equipment ordering has been behind,” said Fear, who pointed out that they wanted to open weeks ahead of their July 8 targeted opening.

But, Ang says the combined knowledge of two existing owners helped them navigate the difficulties of starting a business on top of the added complexity of doing it in a pandemic.

“If you haven’t had any of that experience, it is a stab in the dark,” said Ang.

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The former ice cream shop doesn't have too much room for dining in, which Ang says works well for both ice cream and poke, which can be eaten on the go.

Lakewood AF isn’t alone.

In the heart of downtown Cleveland, StoneFruit Coffee Company opened its first Cleveland location after Pour Cleveland shifted to e-commerce during the pandemic.

Right next door, Sixth City Sailors Club has taken over the space where Hodges once stood on the street level of The Residences at 668. Owner Joey Fedrickson also owns Society Lounge around the corner on East 4th Street.

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Fredrickson owns a business around the corner and was attracted to the current location because of it's large patio space.

Fredrickson says current business owners are the ones expanding despite the pandemic because they are the ones most ready to capitalize on the newly-empty space.

“Those that are open and able to do a good job are able to suck up that business,” said Fredrrickson.

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A large sign along Euclid Avenue attracts customers back onto Sixth City Sailors Club's patio.

Sixth City Sailors Club has been open for almost a year, but Fredrickson says it could be another full year before the new space is maximizing profits. He has existing staff at Society Lounge nearby that can help smooth out the hiring challenges he’s facing right now.

“Maybe staffing is difficult but I think a lot of leadership is still there with these organizations, so being able to use them to create more opportunity is always on people’s minds,” said Fredrickson.

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StoneFruit Coffee Company opened up its first Cleveland location in Pour Cleveland's former home.

Economic experts at PNC Bank tell News 5 they expect those supply chain and staffing issues to sort themselves out by the end of the year and they expect the economy to grow through 2022, sparked at least partially by Americans eager to resume their pre-COVID activities.

“Friends of mine are going out probably ten time more than they did before because they missed it so much and they’re afraid it’ll go away,” said Fredrickson.

That’s good news for owners trying to create something where there could be nothing.

“It’s a difficult water to navigate when it’s not a pandemic so I feel like we’re very lucky that we already knew what we’re in for,” said Fear.

Lakewood AF is planning a grand opening to the public for July 8. Sixth City Sailors Club says it’s thinking about having a special one year celebration in the middle of August.

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