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Akron's Kenmore neighborhood continues to delight with its 'Music Row'

Posted at 8:49 AM, Nov 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-23 08:49:31-05

AKRON, Ohio — We have no shortage of amazing nooks and crannies scattered across Northeast Ohio. Those businesses and attractions helping create community and drive growth. Some have been in place for decades, others are new to the scene.

We give you a look at how people who live and work in one historic neighborhood in Akron are writing a new soundtrack for an area that once fell flat.

In the heart of Kenmore, once a streetcar suburb of Akron, history is preserved along the boulevard.

"There's a big center area there, that's where the trolley car used to drive up and down," said Tina Boyes, Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance.

From its inception in the 1900s, the community was known as a place to create.

"It wasn't a place to get dirty and work, that was Akron, that was Barberton. The trolley car could connect you. But when you came home to Kenmore, you let loose a little bit," Boyes said. "We're here to revitalize the area and make it what it used to be," Boyes said.

That laid back vibe is making a triumphant return after decades of downturn.

"We never had any signage, we wanted to stay somewhat under the radar," said Seth Vaill, co-owner of the Rialto Theater.

Vaill remembers how things here used to be.

“There was not much of anything," Vaill said. “The theater itself opened in 2015. It took us five years to actually get this anywhere near where it's at.”

The Rialto is home to a live music venue, eatery and recording studio, all playing a role in this neighborhood's next act.

"It is a very cool dynamic to know that you were a part of the story," Vaill said.

A revitalization story that begins with guitars.

"We've stayed because the neighborhood is changing for the better," said Ed Michalec, Guitar Department.

Michalec's Guitar Department joined longtime staple Lay's Guitar Shop in 2009. In addition to the pair of guitar shops, there are now six recording studios and two live music venues in Kenmore.

"All the changes in the neighborhood have been really positive," Michalec said.

Lee porter is the manager at the newly opened Srina Tea House and Café.

"I just love good music," Porter said.

It’s a stone's throw from the rialto and Buzzbin Art and Music Shop

"I heard some of the best acts and solo artists I’ve ever heard in my life," porter said.

The strengthening music scene is a catalyst for this café and other new businesses along the boulevard.

“While they're mixing or mastering an album or dropping their guitar off they want a restaurant, they want a coffee shop," Boyes said.

Among the 14 new businesses on Akron’s music row, four of them were started by people who live in Kenmore. More than half of them are female and minority-owned.

"That's important to us," Boyes said. "We have a diverse neighborhood, but the businesses didn't match up with what the neighborhood looks like and now they do and it's really exciting."

Michalec is thrilled to see the addition of so many amenities to a neighborhood that continues making a name for itself in the music industry.

"It was a bit of food desert for a while and now we have a lot of choices for people who visit, they always ask for somewhere to eat and we can refer them to somewhere local now instead of sending them out of the area," Michalec said.

As for where Kenmore might be a decade from now? Porter is dreaming big.

“Have you ever been to Nashville? I really think this will be one of the best music places in the country, not just Ohio," Porter said.

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