by Dave Daly
My first experience in Kenmore happened not too long after I moved to Akron. Hailing from the East Coast (Go Celtics!), I’ve become a bit of a pizza snob, and reviews on the internet suggested there might be a place for me to get a decent pie down on the Boulevard. I was not disappointed.
Pierre’s Brooklyn Pizza and Deli has become one my favorite pizza spots in the city, region, maybe even country. Pierre is an artist. Crust is his canvas. The restaurant is low-key and a staple for neighborhood residents.
As luck would have it, a few months later I began working in Summit Lake, mere minutes away from Kenmore Boulevard and my pizza sanctuary. I became a frequent visitor to the area, which allowed me to meet some of the folks committed to the neighborhood’s resurgence.
These partners aren’t just trying to fill vacant storefronts with any businesses that will come. Instead, groups are using art, cultural events and community feedback to create spaces that welcome both local residents and folks from outside the neighborhood.
Take Kenmore Kreative, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing all forms of art to youth and families in the neighborhood. Kenmore Kreative got off to a great start in the spring of 2017 by creating the Youth Theatre project in partnership with the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance and Rialto Theatre. Since its inception, kids living nearby have performed in such acts as “Alice in Wonderland,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and, most recently, “Law and Order: Fairy Tale Unit.” I had the pleasure of seeing a few young thespians perform a couple scenes from “Fairy Tale Unit” and it did not disappoint.
In October, Kenmore Kreative partnered with New York City’s Public Theater to bring “Sweat,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Lynn Nottage, to the Kenmore Masonic Temple for a free live performance. This was huge! Garnering the interest and funds needed to bring professional theatrical performances to the neighborhood showcases how ideas can turn into action with dedicated partners and positive energy. Now youth performers taking part in the theater project have seen firsthand where their efforts may take them.
So what’s next for Kenmore? The Rialto Theatre and Live Music Now, a recently opened all-ages venue, continue to book local and out-of-town music, comedy and other acts. Kenmore Kreative is currently rehearsing its holiday play, Ebenezer’s “Christmas Carol,” and Pierre continues to make my pizza dreams come true.
Older, more established neighborhood businesses are thriving, including The Dragon’s Mantle, a one-stop shop for all your metaphysical, spiritual, pagan and wiccan needs. Kenmore Komics and Games has been peddling comics and board games since 1987. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Kenmore is on the up and up.
As amenities and entertainment offerings increase on the Boulevard, other important changes are happening too. Recently, Kenmore was repaved and a traffic-calming design was implemented. Car lanes were reduced from four to two and bicycle lanes were added.
While some Akronites have bemoaned the changes, many have welcomed them, including me. The towpath is less than a mile down the road and promoting walking and bicycling through the neighborhood core makes sense. It’s nice to have a safe, dedicated lane for riding, and crossing the street without cars zooming by at 50 mph is wonderful.
We live in a city of neighborhoods. Each is unique. Kenmore’s history and the Boulevard’s infrastructure make revitalization not only doable, but necessary. The resources are in place and residents, new and old, are taking advantage of them.
See you on the Boulevard.
Kenmore Kreative Presents: Ebenezer’s Christmas Carol
The Rialto Theatre, Dec. 1 at 1pm and Dec. 22 at 12:30pm
For tickets and more information on the Youth Theatre project and other creative happenings, visit kenmorekreative.org
Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance
Open Monday thru Friday, 11 am to 8:30 pm; Saturday, 12 pm to 8 pm; Closed Sunday
964 Kenmore Blvd, Akron 44314
The Rialto Theatre
1000 Kenmore Blvd, Akron 44303
For more info on shows and other happenings, visit therialtotheatre.com.
Live Music Now
952 Kenmore Blvd, Akron 44314
For more info on shows and other happenings, check them out on Facebook.
After growing up outside Boston, Massachusetts Dave Daly traipsed around the country for a number of years before settling in Akron with his family and joining The Devil Strip team.