CLEVELAND — Fashion is the future in Ohio City, says Zach Cooper, a U.S. Marine Veteran and small business owner who is working to transform a vacant funeral home into a suit shop and speakeasy.
He’s looking to breathe new life into the space, all while giving back to his fellow service members.
He fell in love with men’s fashion and suits while studying abroad in Northern Ireland and England after serving in the military.
He’s hoping to bring the refined, stylish energy to Northeast Ohio and fill a large gap in the Cleveland market.
“It was too good to pass up," Cooper said.
The Avon Lake native has had his eyes set on 3929 Lorain Avenue in Ohio City for as long as he can remember.
He saw promise there.
From the outside brick to the walls inside, he found himself captivated by the possibilities.
“I wanted to do justice to how cool of a neighborhood this is, but at the same time, I do wanna honor what existed here," Cooper said.
Etched in letters on a faded sign out front — the space was the old Bodnar Family Funeral home.
It sat vacant for years.
“Former funeral home! Former funeral home — key words. Nothing spooky here. We’ll get the sage out!” Cooper laughed.
He is pouring his savings and energy into transforming the 8,000 square-foot space into a men’s suit shop, speakeasy and hangout.
Once completed —it will take on the name “Sartorial,” an ode to a custom garment.
"Sartorial" is an expression used to say “you look sharp."
“I wanted to go buy these types of products, but there weren’t a lot of places in this area. You can come here, get fitted and look sharp," Cooper said.
Between the bright stained glass windows, grand staircases and paintings on the wall where the former chapel once stood—the space offers character.
"There’s some really unique chandeliers and light fixtures all throughout," Cooper said.
Cooper admits a lot of work still needs to be done, and he plans to put his own personal touch on it.
He hopes to create a shopping experience you’ll never forget.
“If you were getting married and you had six buddies with you, you could come, get fitted one-by-one. You're in the room hanging out together, but you’re having a cocktail, you’re watching the game," Cooper said.
Cooper says the business won’t necessarily be contained to just the upstairs floor, because once you head down the steps there’s a bit of a surprise. He’s going to transform the basement space into a speakeasy and lounge.
“This is gonna be an extension of the retail space. Immediately, once you come down the stairs, we’ll have a restroom and some fitting spaces,” Cooper said.
An old bar currently sits there with various benches, but Cooper plans to overhaul it in the months ahead as well.
Once all is said and done—Cooper hopes to create lasting memories at Sartorial and also offer employment and support to his fellow members of the armed forces.
“Hopefully we can do some resume reviews, do some mock resumes, we can do some haircuts," Cooper said.
Sartorial is set for a soft opening in June or July.
Cooper also has a custom suit business online.