Akronites who had a breakout year in 2019

by Rosalie Murphy at The Devil Strip Staff

The Devil Strip isn’t yet old enough for an end-of-the-decade list. But our staff took some time this winter to look back on all the good work Akronites did during 2019. These are our highlights: 

Canal Place. The buildings on South Main Street that once housed B.F. Goodrich might just be on their way to another boom. Missing Falls Brewing heralded the coming renaissance when it opened in late 2018. In the spring, Bounce Innovation Hub opened The Generator, a coworking space that also includes Canal Place’s first public coffee shop and lunch counter. Summit Sports and Social built sand volleyball courts, bringing dozens of people to the edge of the Erie Canal four nights a week from May until October. And R. Shea opened a cavernous space with a great food menu in the fall. 

There’s still a long way to go on this block, but Canal Place definitely has momentum. You’re likely to find all of us down there in 2020. (My team, Volley-lujah, finished second-to-last in the rec league last year, so we’ve got something to prove next year.)

Detention. Akron’s teenage rock band put on a blast of a show at PorchRokr. Later in 2019, they played Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles and Musica in downtown Akron, two stages of roughly equivalent note. We can’t wait to see what’s next for these young musicians. 

Square Scullery. Our beloved food truck, the Square Scullery, evolved twice this year: First by opening a “ghost restaurant,” which served hungry Akronites via UberEATS and other food delivery apps, and then by building a small dining room next to their kitchen at the American Legion post on West Market Street.

One pivot in a year is enough to earn our kudos, but two? That’s really impressive. Order yourself some poutine this weekend. 

Kofi Boyake. The self-styled “Other Kid From Akron” competed at the Apollo Theatre this year before starting his education at Berklee College of Music, one of the most prestigious programs in the country. (Catch Vanessa Michelle’s interview with Kofi if you missed it in August.) If you haven’t yet had a chance to see this jazz pianist perform, Kofi will play at a fundraiser at the Spotted Owl on Jan. 11 before he returns to school. 

The women who ran The Exchange House. Katie Beck has been at the helm of The Exchange House, North Hill’s community center-slash-Airbnb, for three years now. In 2019, she was flanked by Josy Jones and Amber Cullen. Together, this trio created one of the best-organized, most effective community meetings in Akron, the North Hill Monthly Gathering. (They’re taking a hiatus at the start of 2020).

But what’s just as impressive is the work these women did alone. Katie Beck created and produced Denied Admission, a play based on real transcripts of interviews with asylum seekers. Josy Jones helped women create site-specific theatre with the Reimagining the Village project, re-adapted “The Taming of the Shrew” as “Tame” for Rubber City Theatre, and served as dramaturg for QuTheatr’s original “Through His I.” Amber Cullen continued her organizing work with VIBE Collective and taught art workshops all over town. 

Josy and Amber are leaving The Exchange House in 2020, but we can’t wait to see what they do next. We’re sure there are big developments in store for the house, too.

Eddie Gancos. The CityCop frontman put out an EP with the band in April. He followed it up with a solo album as Alomar over the summer, which Kyle Cochrun heralded as “a stripped-back acoustic affair, delivering angst-filled lyrics in sunny folk ditties.” And he ends the year as the lead vocalist in I Hate It Too, a band whose music hearkens back to the emo heyday of the early aughts. Eddie has established himself as a versatile musician excited to collaborate with others in the scene — and produce some really fun music along the way. 

The Devil Strip’s co-owners. Some 250 of you became co-owners of a media company this year! In early 2020, we’ll officially become a co-op, owned and governed by the people of Akron. There’s still time to get your share (starting at just $1 per month) if you haven’t yet! 

Rosalie Murphy is Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip.