I drive through this one neighborhood on my morning commute—to nowhere and back to nowhere. It’s what’s in the middle, along Copley Road, that brings me here, to this page and to this particular place. In the squinty eyes of dawn when people are just waking up—people like you and me, Akronites working the long hours, pounding the pavement and greasing the skids—nothing stands-out, but at that time of day, nothing really blends in either.
1374 Copley Rd
Akron, OH 44320
This early, the pizza place I always pass is, of course, closed because the only pizza people eat in the morning is the pizza they bought the night before. But this little shop, Gino’s Pizza, catches my eye as people wait for the bus or to merge on to I-77. The nine-to-fives, the forty-hours-a-week, the promise of overtime, the prayer of the weekend. The building’s red brick contrasts with the other storefronts, all along a certain sort of street. A street like Copley Road is waiting to rise from the ashes, but it’s not completely burned down either. As a passerby, I get the sense that there’s some revival brewing not too far in the future, but I also get the sense that the traumas of the past aren’t too distant in the rearview mirror.
I’m not gonna lie to you. The main drag has a busted-up lip. There were good times somewhere in the past and there are good times in the future, but the dust hasn’t settled yet, the place hasn’t quite got its bearing back, it’s still a little worn for the wear.
But haven’t we all been? You know, worn down a little?
And we all need that little kick, too. A wake-me-up. And maybe that can come from an understated pizza shop or the smell of smoked meat (there’s an actual smoker in the parking lot, belonging to Pammie’s next door) or the little chicken wing shop, Wing’s 18, with its signature Akron sauce.
Gino’s though, by no means, is new. It’s been around—a lodestone of sorts, a place the area can grow from. The little strip it’s nestled in—strip after strip, actually—has the makings of a microscopic renaissance: it has the food, which means people care; it has the proximity (if you build it, they will come); and it has Akron, which is going through a renaissance of its own.
Look, I’m the sort of guy who enjoys a good pizza and tells his friends about it. The sort of guy, just like you, who drives the same way to work, at the same hours, past the same pizza shop. The kind of fella who puts his pants on one leg at a time and stops by that little pizza shop on a whim.
But I’m also the sort of guy who can recognize when something good is brewing. And it may not look especially glamorous, not at first anyway. And maybe I’m nuts. And maybe it hasn’t been noticed for a reason. However, this unassuming pizza shop, in a worn down strip mall, in the bad-mouthed part of town could be an omen of better things to come? A rebirth of a neighborhood?
Or maybe it’s just a pizza shop. And that’s okay too.