by Liz Tyran
When my boyfriend Jason was hired to be the daytime sous chef at VegiTerranean a few years back, I had no idea I would get to meet its famous owner, Chrissie Hynde—let alone pal around with her. And while I honestly don’t remember the first time we were introduced, I do remember the first time I saw her.
It was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of her new restaurant. A crowd of onlookers gathered in the parking lot connected to Furnace St. to hear her and executive chef Scott Jones speak about the chic new vegan spot-to-be. She wanted to put her “proverbial money where her mouth was” and bring her passion for animal rights and the vegan lifestyle to one of her other passions, Akron—the town where she was born and raised, had sung about and to which, she had now returned.
Jason came to know her a little through work and the next thing I know we’re riding around with her in her little black hatchback. She wanted to show us some older houses that she was angry about being potentially torn down and where the red brick roads used to be visible but no longer were. She would put her fist in the air and curse whoever was modernizing things, the same way she did when she’d put her fist in the air and say, “Death to meat-eaters.”
I remember her being a little rough on the clutch as she backed out of some of the spots where she’d chosen to turn around. From there, she took us to her apartment in Highland Square. I remember three things about that apartment: it was humble, there were dates on the table (she told me to eat some because they had potassium in them) and there was an acoustic guitar propped against the wall beside a pencil and sheets of paper with lyrics on written on them laid-out on the carpet.
We left the apartment to have lunch at Aladdin’s and sat on the patio out front. When the server came over Chrissie spoke for all of us proclaiming, “Everyone at this table is vegetarian!” (We are not but like I always say, you don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy good vegetarian food.) She ordered two big plates of hummus and rice with vermicelli and vegetables to share. Our eating and chatting came to a halt when Chrissie accidentally bit into an olive pit that she said nearly cracked her tooth. Shortly after, she picked up the check and returned us to our home. I think she appreciated the fact that we lived downtown. She believes in urban living and in public transportation. She wanted to know why more people didn’t take the bus around town and sometimes she would ride it herself instead of taking her car.
Chrissie’s life in London, where she also resided and where her two grown daughters lived, called her back there for parts of the year. I believe the next time I saw her here was for the Devo, Chrissie Hynde and Black Keys concert at the Civic Theater.
She came to be friends with a neighbor of ours—how I don’t recall, perhaps through the business he owned, the Rubber City Clothing store. In any case he was also a friend of ours and so when she had given several tickets to him we all went to that show featuring Akron’s best-known musicians all performing in one evening, first separately and then all together at the end.
In the days to follow we ended up spending some time at our neighbor’s with her. She was a big fan of foreign films and I remember all of us watching a Japanese movie about samurais. I have just two other memories of my interactions with her. One was when we went to her new apartment that was being built out in the Northside Lofts, the building where her restaurant was. She had misplaced her keys to get in and so, naturally, to look for them she sat on the pavement and dumped the entire contents of her purse out on the sidewalk. The other is of her rolling a cigarette on my kitchen floor.
Unfortunately, the VegiTerranean closed in 2011. I can still remember the dozen or so portraits of famous PETA members hanging on the walls in the dining room—people like Michael Stipe, Morrissey, Pamela Anderson and of course, the fearless Chrissie Hynde.
I have no pictures with her; I have no autographs, never asked for either. I just wanted us all to be comfortable and not worry about that. Who knows, maybe that’s why she didn’t mind palling around a little bit with two Akron kids like us.