You can drink your coffee with an owl as you sit next to a giant tree all while staring at a beautiful mural of the sun setting to the moon at A Walk in the Park Café in Firestone Park. Or, you can bite into a tasty grilled chicken tomato basil sandwich while being cocooned in the café’s many swinging hammocks.
At a Walk in the Park Café, it’s all about comfort.
“I want people to feel comfortable when they come in here and sit in the bouncy chairs that we have,” says Jacobe Austin, co-owner of the café.
A Walk in the Park Café has only been open for about three months, but its park themed interior has been attracting customers from all over Akron. Owners Jacobe Austin and Jonas Birch wanted to stay true to Firestone park by bringing its natural elements into the café.
“My first idea was picnics in the park, that’s what started it,” says Jacobe. “Then I decided to just bring the park into here.”
They believe in the area’s potential to grow and they hope more entrepreneurs will invest in Firestone Park.
“This area has a lot to offer,” says Jonas. “Within the next 10 years, we hope there are more small businesses that open up.”
Jacobe and Jonas felt inspired to open a coffee shop while walking through Firestone Park one day. Because the two of them are longtime Akronites who currently live in Firestone Park, they felt a strong connection to the area.
“We saw this space and we saw that this area needed a coffee place that could bring people together,” says Jonas.
But renovating A Walk in the Park Café presented some challenges. The current location was previously a thrift store, and major remodeling had to be done in order to create what is currently the café.
“It was all bad,” says David McConville, the manager. “There was a big wall separating half the room, there was carpet everywhere, there was a tiny square for the kitchen, a tiny bathroom and the floor was going in.”
While chipped paint was falling from the ceiling, David, Jonas and Jacobe began the renovation process, which required tearing down the giant wall and bathrooms, repainting the ceiling and creating a kitchen.
“It’s been a lot of seeing it grow from the bottom up and a lot of frustration,” says David.
Meanwhile, Jacobe was hard at work coming up with ideas for the cafe. He asked his best friend Joseph White to paint a giant mural on the outside of the shop.
It’s always been Jacobe’s dream to own his own business, and Joseph has always supported him by providing the sketches to Jacobe’s big ideas.
“The core of our friendship has always been creativity,” says Joseph. “Jacobe is always thinking of the next greatest idea. He has businesses ideas on top of business ideas.”
Since high school, the two have been best friends, promising to help each other fulfill their dreams. Just in the last few years, the two friends have come up with business plans that have included a nacho shop, a gaming place, a bar and a clothing stores.
Joseph’s mural outside of the café pays tribute to their friendship, as well as Joseph’s love of the café. Joseph created personality owls for each of the owners, as well as everyone who took part in making the café happen.
“Jacobe loves owls and the mural is a kind of homage to the business owners,” says Joseph. “They’re my good friends and each owl is based on a personality of one of somebody who played an integral role in getting this open.”
Jacobe’s owl includes an Ipad because he’s frequently on Pinterest and researching ideas, Jonas’s owl includes a calculator because “can’t nobody crunch the number like him,” and David’s owl has a sword because he’s helped with much of the hard labor that went into the café. The three of them make up the brain, muscle and vision that has went into making A Walk in the Park Cafe a reality.
Aside from the owners and manager, another owl that’s included is Tanya Gonzalez’s owl, which includes a paintbrush. Tanya is a Cleveland based muralist and paper mache artist. She created the tree in the middle of the café out of paper mache.
“Each piece that you see on the tree is individually hand dripped and I added one piece at a time, little by little,” says Tanya. “I made all the paper mache paste on my stove, it was a true labor of love to get it done.”
If they were to open the café all over again, owners Jacobe and Jonas would give themselves one piece of advice: Ask a lot of questions.
“Even if you think it’s a silly question, you need to ask it,” says Jonas. “We had a lot of unforeseen things that could have been avoided if we asked questions.
As part of our Akro-preneurs series, check out our video about A Walk in the Park Cafe at http://bit.ly/2kH0Ghn
Visit A Walk in the Park Café at 1491 Aster Ave, Akron, OH 44301.