CLEVELAND — The city of Cleveland is home to many neighborhoods each featuring an array of cultures and unique businesses. Old Brooklyn is one of them. It's home to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, a MetroHealth campus and numerous businesses.
But did you know, at 6.5 square miles, it's Cleveland's largest and most populated neighborhood?
"There's a number of really great restaurants that have opened up and so I think we've seen a lot of development from that perspective, but certainly there's other retail businesses that have opened up as well," said Lucas Reeve.
Reeve is the director of neighborhood development for the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation. It's an organization dedicated to developing and revitalizing the neighborhood. Reeve said in the last five years about 25-30 new businesses have opened their doors in Old Brooklyn.
“We’re kind of in that sweet spot which is really fueling more growth within our downtown,” Reeve said. "Old Brooklyn has always done pizza, burgers and beer. We do that really well and we'll always do that well. But now you're seeing a Guatemalan restaurant, you're seeing a Jamaican restaurant, a Puerto Rican restaurant. There's all of these flavors that are very representative of what's going on here in Brooklyn from a diversity perspective as well."
787 Market and Cafe is one of those businesses.
"It just felt right," said owner Harry Quinones. “Throughout the whole store, you’ll find ethnic products and ethnic foods,"
Quinones opened his store on Memphis Avenue towards the end of 2020. He called his business a bodega concept. He said when first opening the store, he didn't anticipate becoming an ethnic grocery store, but when his customers kept requesting Puerto Rican products he knew it was time to pivot.
“This concept is very popular in larger markets like Chicago, Miami or New York," he said. “It’s basically by Puerto Ricans for Puerto Ricans.”
Quinones also lives in the neighborhood and said he finds comfort in the diverse population.
"I just love the neighborhood feel," he said. "I think that's part of the reason this business has been well accepted."
Reeve said despite the rough year 2020 brought, Old Brooklyn was fortunate and didn't have any small business owners close up shop. Instead, they had more entrepreneurs requesting information about opening a storefront in the neighborhood.
“Pandemic does not kill entrepreneurial spirit. If anything, it heightens it. People are excited to see their dreams come true, come to fruition," he said.
Reeve said the Old Brooklyn CDC even added a staff member to help keep new and old businesses on track amid the pandemic.
“We wanted to make sure that we had enough capacity to help those that wanted to open businesses as well, that we weren't just focused on what we could do to help people save their businesses, but continue to be focused on folks that want to open new businesses and making sure that they don't get left at the door without some time from us to help facilitate that," he said.
For Quinones, he's thrilled to have his business in Old Brooklyn and is looking for a bright future ahead.
“I think Old Brooklyn in five years is going to be something special," he said.
In addition to the business community, Reeve said Old Brooklyn has some other exciting projects in the works.
"New construction is coming on the horizon for residential as well. We haven't had new construction residential in Old Brooklyn for some time. We have a fairly strong housing market with some really great neighborhoods but, for the first time now we're starting to see some new construction."
Reeve said the corporation is working hand-in-hand with some developers to build some new homes in Old Brooklyn within the next year.
"Really excited that people are looking to us from that perspective too. And that will continue to drive our population out and continue to help the market as well," he said.
In addition to residential development, they're also gearing up for a new 26-acre park. The Brighton Park is slated to open this spring. Reeve said it's all possible thanks to a collaboration between the Western Land Conservatory, Cleveland Metroparks, Old Brooklyn and the city of Cleveland.
"We are ecstatic about the new park. It is a wonderful long time coming," Reeve said.
It will be comprised of a paved path as well as a nature path, 1,000 trees and several other amenities. Reeve said the Cleveland Metroparks has agreed to maintain it.