by Leslie Shirley Nielsen
847 Johnston St.
Nestled on a hilly bend of Johnston Street in Akron’s south side sits a potential goldmine. This is a quaint little area of our town that I like to call ‘Little West Virginia.’ I’ve referenced this charismatic landmark of a bar many times over the years. Any time I had the pleasure of delivering food here or picking up a fare in my cab back in the ‘90s, I would say to myself, “I just won the workday lottery!.” I can’t remember any customers treating me better in my working career than they did in this place.
This walk-in closet consisted of a bar, pool table and about six bar stools. I always marveled at the fact that, despite it’s size, it could still run at 25 percent capacity. For years, Big Al’s was a model in minimalist hospitality. They set the standard.
Why did it close? I can only assume that the five people that used to hang out there are sadly no longer with us. Also gone is what used to be my favorite storefront sign in Akron. It was a crudely painted blue and white image of King Kong on top of the Empire State Building. By crudely, I mean you had to squint to figure out what you were looking at. What a visual joy to behold.
All this baby needs is a little elbow grease and the same kind of pioneering vision that amazed all that entered. Couple that with five regular customers and a sign that was painted during a bumpy car ride and you’ll be able to retire early. You can thank me later.
The Bar Crawler is on vacation. See you next month!
Leslie Shirley Nielsen