Growing the Inner Circle to include you... what would you do with your own club?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Fri, 05/18/2007 - 00:43.


I was sitting on the deck at the former Hough Bakeries complex, on a beautiful spring afternoon, having a BBQ picnic meeting with the current owner of the complex (and Hot Sauce Williams BBQ), LeMaud Williams, and his son Greg, and we realized it is time to share this special place with others, by opening a restaurant and cybercafe here in the Inner Circle. You are invited to join us and help grow the circle, right now, at the planning stages.

Located at 1519 Lakeview Road, on the border of Cleveland and East Cleveland, 44112, the Williams operate the Inner Circle Restaurant on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, with a full bar, and they host events here, but the restaurant is not open during the day and most evenings, and has limited food services - largely catered BBQ and soul food buffets. In addition to the large bar and seating area shown above (before recent renovation), there are three large bar, reception and meeting areas, and outdoor deck areas - the place is huge, tucked inside the huge Hough Bakeries complex. As you shall soon see, this is too cool a space, facility and location not to open it to the public every day, and there is a need in this neighborhood for new commercial and social space, and a good place of go for coffee, light food, and free wifi or use of a computer and the Internet.

So, I've formed a partnership with the Williams and others to expand operation of the Inner Circle space to every day, from early morning into the evening, with a broader menu, customer base and business model, and I welcome anyone else in the community who is interested in helpng start and operate this space to get in touch or post here. We're still working on the menu and details - do you have some ideas you'd like to add to the mix? We have the commercial kitchen and restaurant to pursue your dreams.

The general concept we have in mind is casual urban cybercafe, featuring fresh, light food from organic, locally-sourced ingredients prepared and baked at the former Hough Bakeries - in their old catering kitchen.

There is also a commercial canning facility on site. Hot Sauce Williams uses the large commercial kitchen for baking and preparing dishes for their restaurants and for catering and serving at the Inner Circle, and they make their sauces and products for others on the canning line.All this is available for the Inner Circle, and food will be prepared by the Hot Sauce Williams kitchen staff.

The Inner Circle and Hough Bakeries complex are the center for redevelopment of the neighborhood surrounding this property, and the neighborhood needs this kind of place - great coffee and food, free wifi, art, coffeehouse-type events - serving all ages of people of Case and University Circle and Cleveland and East Cleveland and anyone else making this a destination.

The Inner Circle is freshly painted (since the pan photos above) and already open on weekends... it is time to get it open during the day as well. We have ordered the DSL for the wifi and plan to open the doors for business as a cybercafe in 15-21 days. In the mean time, we are planning what food to serve and how to prepare and present it. We are seeking out good local vendors, partnering with the Coit Farmers Market and their vendors, and exploring other partnerships that will add to the value of this facility to the community.

Post or contact me if you want to help out launching the expanded Inner Circle, or know anyone who should be connected with this development. Think creatively... do you have a muffin or drink recipe to share... need a place for meetings... want to be guest bartender some night... know a good barrista? Here's your chance to plan your own club.

We'll keep details posting here, and will invite all realneo friends to whatever opening events and other activities we plan for the Inner Circle.

Sounds exciting

We should stop rescheduling that meeting we've been trying to have.

coffee's critical; hours, too

My ideal hangout would offer Civilization/City Roast and/or Phoenix coffee (why not both?) and be accessible 24 hours a day, with food, healthy food without preservatives and foreign chemicals. You're already near the rail and bus lines, I believe. I'd also have meeting rooms for seminars, community gatherings, and so forth--kind of like La Centre in an adaptive-reuse format. I'd make sure people felt safe, comfortable, and welcome.

Phoenix and meeting space !!!

Here Here !!!  I love it !!!

Especially the meeting space part.  I run into that problem a lot!  Trinity Cathedral Commons is a model, but I think we could have something a lot more modest, even rugged.

Seeing that the Inner Circle space has so much potential room, can we get into space to rent, lease as straight studio space?  Some of the info. given about the graphics department on the upper floors has me salivating - and I'm thinking of something very specific for programing for select students, teenage artist.  And / or professional artist incubator space.

Me?  I vote for Phoenix !!!

If not 24 hours, at least 18 (6:30am to midnight)


Come tour the building and see what works for you

The things that make sense for the complex and that we are planning right now are

  • The Inner Circle cybercafe - that is already open in another form and so is being redefined to include daily service, probably from 7 AM 9 PM or later depending on the concepts developed. Food will start out pretty limited - baked goods, salads, soups, and some collaborative dishes with Hot Sauce Williams - all as natural, local and organic as possible - all prepared and served as cooperatively with the community, with as much entrepreneurship as possible. There will be free wifi access and some free computers for use in the back. There will be art gallery space with art for sale, changing frequently. I'm communicating with Steve Cagan about being one of the first artists to show - a great photographer who has shot a lot in Forest Hills Park. We will hire staff and focus services in the immediate neighborhood - we are seeking collaborators. There are three large rooms that can be made available for meetings - very cool spaces.
  • An intergenerational preschool - we have a good space for that on the first floor of the smaller building and it is needed. This is being developed by the founders of The Intergenerational School and is certain to be one of the most innovative and exceptional preschools in the country. A preschool based on this model just opened in Japan. We want to have the East Cleveland preschool (ages 2 and up) open this Summer. We are actively seeking collaborators on this, including a director - we will hire staff and work with senior volunteers from the community, and expect a large portion of the student and parent community to come from the immediate neighborhood. All parents must volunteer at the school and be active in their children's educations..We would like to have daycare for younger children, as well, but that may not fit this facility - TBD.
  • We will keep the commercial kitchen and canning line on site and use them for food prep for the complex and for a culinary arts incubator. The kitchen may be moved and consolidated more with the Inner Circle and canning line. The canning equipment is for making sauces, preserves, etc., and can be made available to others in the community, encouraging entrepreneurship and locally grown and prepared foods.
  • We hope to see The Intergenerational School relocate or expand to the newer part of the main Hough Bakeries building, facing Auberndale. That would provide world-class education from K-8th grade, providing a unique, exceptional anchor for redevelopment of the entire neighborhood - this will be a great place to live and raise your children.
  • The future of the Historic front portion of the Hough Bakeries building is still to be determined. It is in good condition - needs very basic renovation. One posibility is a high school. Other concepts include a community technology center and media arts center, with collaborative studios, and an incubator for related businesses - there are lots of offices of all sizes on the second floor. These could also be used for art studios, and be available nearly immediately. We'll determine all these details as we drill down into the project, from the Inner Circle.

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Put the word out

I'll put the word out to my rather limited inner circle.   I love the name!  I envision an ever-widening inner circle.  Kudos to you and the Williams family for being part of the solution...positive complaints!  Moving forward.  I agree with Evelyn--the key is to attract the hundreds of residents within walking distance. 

I see East Cleveland as

I see East Cleveland as needing major changes; I actually think that it will never escape its reputation that keeps it in isolation. 


I see the development going on Ashbury and Wade Park and the surround residential streets are in relatively good shape.  But Lakeview is painfully blighted and the street and homes around that area have a high degree of poverty and blight. 


Is there any initiative to develop Euclid Ave on the other side of those tracks and all those run down bridges that connect all those side streets to Euclid?  I believe that developing that triangle on Euclid west of Lakeview and north of Euclid should happen soon and in alignment with the corridor project.


There is no need to over analysis East Cleveland it needs market rate housing, that section on Euclid needs housing for Case and the University Circle area.  East Cleveland should also get tough on Coventry and on Lee Road for code enforcement also Forest Hills and Terrace Road.  East Cleveland’s blight is spreading up the hill into Cleveland Heights that needs to stop!    


Low standards are easy aren’t they, they are the default easier not to maintain than to maintain.  I see so many businesses operating out of building that are abandoned and boarded up!  I think that bulldozers are needed, for much of that city.  They also need to accept that they need to infuse some wealth or they will continue on the same path.  They need to connect to Cleveland Heights and also to University Circle, that is tough maybe even impossible it like asking the problem to create cure.  Asking people to invest is like asking them to invest stock in corporation that is filing bankruptcy! 


You will have hell of time convincing people to go down the hill or under the bridge, it gives us all a sick feeling, an over whelming sense of disparity and hopelessness. 

What can we do for East Cleveland…I suggest a war on poverty!  With lots of battles fought against ignorance and low standards.                 

Low Standards or not sufficient Enforcemnt of Standards

As our Mayor Eric Brewer has said on many occasion, we only have 2 housing / building inspectors for the entire community of East Cleveland.  You know of a fund raiser to hire more inspecters? 

My understanding is the City of East Cleveland got suckered into some BAD deals / relationships with the railroads - the blatantly and oh so "so-what-its-just-a-bunch-of- ...." attitude OWNERS of those railroad bridges gone to hell - due to the greed of the now long gone Onuwar.  (Good riddens to bad rubbish).  We are now Stuck - it would appear - with that contractual mess.  It is not of the current administrations creation, just it's inheritance.  Are there means of legally fighting to get this contract agreement to neglect these bridges reversed?  Possibly - but we all know how long that takes.  In the meantime, the 3 or 5 city maintance workers that East Cleveland does have, do they have the equipment, expertise, time, LEGAL obligation and AUTHORITY to fix those horrible bridges?  I don't think so. 

Sorry Cleveland Heights is having problems.  I hope they can work out their problems too.  While I don't wish blight on any community, once it crosses over into another community, LEGALLY it is THAT communities problem to deal with it. 

We the residents of East Cleveland do not want blight either. 

I welcome any realistic SOLUTIONS.  Discussing OUR community as though it is an inconvience to others fails to have a spirit of openess to the idea that the RESIDENTS of this city just might be people who are willing and able to work for change if they see a way of how to do it.  If you have suggestions for real world, do-able SOLUTIONS and vistories, large and small, please pass that on. 

RESIDENT of East Cleveland

Seems that RTA runs across

Seems that RTA runs across those bridges?   I am attempting to decipher what it means to have a contract that enforces no maintenance? 


All the money went into the stations and none to the bridges. Did that have economic impact?


All the bridges from all the way through need major work, I would bet that there is no person working on that.  Sad because addressing those bridges and the adjacent land is what needs to happen, and is why just building stations does nothing, they need to develop adjacent land.


I never met Brewer, but I think he would have been wise to consider annexation that type of action could have brought about change and access to funds.  It would address issues of contracts, are they legal after that?  Would they have to be renegotiated would they (Norfolk and Southern) I believe that is the railroad as well as RTA, then be obliged to the contracts they have with Cleveland?   Cleveland has already forced at least some sort of repair on all the bridges owned by the railroads, the White administration did that. That is precedence.  


I again know nothing of Brewer, he could have had a seat on city council and if the annexation brought about positive change he could have has a chance at mayor of the city of Cleveland. 


I wonder?   I have heard he was talking to developers, geographically that area south of the tracks has potential and should be a residential node of the transit line.  I think its funny annexation would put Cleveland over 500k it would seem like we are growing.  The city has so much blight land banking would be so cheap.  I actually laugh when I think about it, its like we can’t do that the area may improve. 


You know eclectic enclaves are feel good things, but lets be real it will not really change anything. 


Building off the sucsess of University Circle and the bridges are an issue, and also developing Superior through to MLK.   Everything south of Superior, somebody needs to figure out how to rebuild all those bridges with something decorative they are all pass throughs, I would suggest poured concrete arches with sandstone facing, if you need an design concept then keep driving up and down MLK until you figure it out.   One over Mayfield, Euclid, then all the little bridges through to Superior, that requires resources the department of transportation, HUD, RTA and the cities.   You get the plan and then develop costs, then you look to develop adjacent land, then you use the whole plan to attract developers. 

I am realistic; it requires eminent domain and bulldozers.  I could see that entire area with average homes values over 150K, tree lined street with decorative lampposts and all the bridges sandstone arches.  What is unrealistic is to think that East Cleveland could attain that on its own, Brewer is going in the wrong direction, he wants to save the city and he is not taking the best approach it is not the city that needs saving it is the area, it would benefit from being part of Cleveland.   


Actually  ... there are two heavy rail and one light rail, the light rail being RTA (and a better neighbor).  CTX's lack of maintence, the schduling of what time of day they run trains, etc. has been the focus of discussion at several of the townhall meetings held here in East Cleveland. 

Contracts with CTX were being negotiated by several differnt NeO cities, with the goal to address some of these issues once the cities granted / renewed CTX's contract for right of passage through our communities.  Then mayor of East Cleveland Onuwar broke ranks with the combined efforts of these several municipalities to be a united front negotiating with CTX.  These municipliites included Cleveland.  (It may be that his role in that process was part of his legal problems.  I don't claim to know the details on that one.)  Onuwar's defection had nothing what so ever to do with the best interests of East Cleveland, and greatly weakened Cleveland and the other muncipalities position.  CTX was to have negotiated hours of train travel, tarriffs and "taxes" of various types and maintence responsiblities.  Onuwar got rich quick.  East Cleveland got sold down the river.  Mike White, from what I've heard, wanted to take Onuwar's head off for breaking ranks.

This is personal for my family as we live between all 3 rail lines.  Good thing we come from a family with old ties and history with the railroads, because it is not at all uncommon for CTX to come through at 2:am, 3:am, 4:am in the morning.  You have to learn to live with the noise.  Sometimes it both sounds and feels like one of those trains has just jumped track.  We all know that one day it will collapse and fall.   There were supposed dollars for sound abatement to homes closest to the actual tracks.  The radius or margin encompassing which houses got it and which didn't was very tiny indeed, and from what I understand, not very effective.  Try selling a house right next to a major rail line - that has trains coming through at 3:am.

By not having specific language addressing in specfic detail the stages and steps, boundries and limitation of maintence.  Then compound that vague language with little to mostly no enforcement, you then have in effect contractual neglect (my term - I'm no lawyer).

East Cleveland catches it going and coming.  One day there is somebody saying we need to spend time and money to restore as many buildings as possible, save the old, rendering drawings of the old restored to new and chic.  Then the next day, we hear the only way to solve our problems is to just blow the place up or bulldoze everything under.  All to often, these kinds of comments come from OUTSIDE of our community.  Others can theorize, decide, pass judgement.  Every one else can have their say and we should just listen and go along with the program.  But in such a process, the WAY of the process, seems to me to act as though we the actual residents of East Cleveland have never given one thought to our own destiny.  (The most recent - not yours - comment about the only thing to do with EC is to blow it up, was most chilling when I wondered if the assumption was that there were no people here, just empty, buidlings and vacant space.  Or was it worse yet, that there are people here, but are we to be included in the explosion.) 

I'm not married to either resotoration of everything, or bulldozing everything.  Depending on a vast array of factors, it seems to me to be almost a case by case, block by block choice to do either or both.  What I'm touchy about is folks talking like I and my neighbors either don't exist or we don't have the brains to have thought about this stuff and to be struggling with it. 

Just so you can know.  A real eyesore of an old building on Eddy Road was in fact bulldozed just yesterday.  I am ever so happy to see it go.  Indeed, as I drive down various streets in East Cleveland, I've seen more and more blighted buildings coming down in the last year  then I have in the past.  Might this be a start in the right direction?

And do consider the many articles even the PD and other media have had about the horrible laws the STATE of Ohio and the COUNTY has that makes it almost impossible for ANY muncipality to get rid of blighted buildings.  Not all of this can be left 101% at East Clevelands door step.

Brewer is a resident of, and the current elected Mayor of East Cleveland.  Under those circumstances, I don't think he can run for city council or mayor of Cleveland proper. 

And if you know nothing of Brewer, how can you know he is talking to developers? 

Here's a thought - - even 2.
1)  Cleveland has SSSOOO much headache of its own that IT'S trying to work out, it is NOT about to take on even more headache by annexing East Cleveland - 500,000 population or not. 
2)  Do you think the people of East Cleveland have the right to debate and deceide / vote for themselves if WE WANT to be part of Cleveland?  Again - it could be at the end of the day, the people of EAST CLEVELAND just might come to the same conclusion as you, but don't we have the right to debate that issue, work it out on our own terms, etc.?  Rather then hearing "What Brewer ought to do ..."  Not even Brewer can do that.  The people of BOTH East Cleveland AND Cleveland will have to vote to have that annexation.  Even with rigged elections and a disengaged electorate, that kind of decision HAS TO go to vote.  But in the meantime, allow us the courtesy of using our own intelligence to make our own decisions.  As "unrealistic" as it might be, allow us due process to at least make the attempt to do it on our own.

(For the record - I voted AGAINST Brewer.)


East Cleveland has an

East Cleveland has an average household income of 21K with roughly 27K residents.

If 3000 households were added to its population with incomes of 65K or better then the city would have $3,900,000 in additional income taxes each year. That would also raise the average household income per household to above the national average. 


If 100 units were constructed then that would be $130,000 in income taxes per year that could be used to fund home improvement loans to existing housing.  Windows, garages fences, painting, siding, roofs etc, but people need to seek out those that qualify for the loans and not base loans on the lower you make the more you qualify for.  The loans would be to seek out and reward those that are fiscally responsible.


It all about a master plan where can you fit in higher income housing and setting up loan program to repair adjacent parcels. So land banking is wise and clearing spaces to find as many locations as possible to fill in with higher income housing.  Care should be taken not to displace any one that is a homeowner.  Even displaced renter could be addressed offer relocation assistance.


It is possible to build a structure like that of Stone Bridge in the flats close to the University and marketing to those that make 65K or better.  The concern would or should be in how to get a developer to take on such a project.  Tax abatement is how and getting lending intuition to discount as well.  It is happening all over Cleveland; East Cleveland has an advantage as it population is smaller and the impact of adding unit will affect it demographic more substantially.  But the market is becoming more competitive and the city is not competing as of yet.              


East Cleveland is competing

I agree with your perspectives and analyses. East Cleveland is competing, and many people - smart developers - are realizing this is the most opportune place in the region. Lots of reasons why... we'll drill down. Come visit what we are making happen here first hand - I'd love to tour you around the city, arrange meetings with government representatives...  Or, just join us next week for our next open house at the Star. I think you have great perspectives and I would love your insight on what we are doing in East Cleveland.

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Advanced plans to develop Star Neighborhood

The old Hough Bakeries complex is the center of a neighborhood redevelopment plan I'm working on with Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, and both Cleveland and East Cleveland, and the County, and local foundations, and The Intergenerational School, to create an Intergenerational Living and Learning Center, in the Hough Complex, as anchor for redevelopment of the 1/2 mile radius neighborhood around it, which extends west to the back of the Case campus and north and east to Superior and south to Lakeview Cemetery - the neighborhood (and Hough complex) are about half in Cleveland and half in East Cleveland. In this anchor, we call the Star Complex (as that is what it was before Hough bought it), will be a world-class Intergenerational preschool, and K-8, and community center, and computing center, and media arts center, which will attract people from all over the region, but be focused on serving the immediate neighborhood. So anyone living near this will benefit - if you have kids, this will be the best place in NEO to live... there's more info about this project linked all through this book (which includes this posting).

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Collective Kudos

Kudos Norm - you never cease to impress me.  I'll look forward to incorporating intellectual property into the property - namely innovations detailed in the follow up commentary to another excellent writeup announcing the initial initiation initially.

diversity + local appeal

To succeed as a cybercafe, coffee house, and just a great place where people want to be we need to draw in the locals and those from farther away. We need to make everyone feel welcome. Ideally The Inner Circle should serve East Cleveland, Cleveland, U.C.I, Case and everywhere else on a daily basis. On a weekday morning I would like to see some seniors chatting over coffee, maybe playing chess or having a class or a meeting. After school or on Saturday I would like to see some children and their parents stop in for ice cream or bakery and coffee drinks. We could have a sand box on the patio and some childrens toys, coloring books or a chalkboard. I be there are few places in East Cleveland where parents can go meet friends and bring their young children. I liked how Arabica at University Circle had a library. What about including used books and magazines to be read there or borrowed or bartered? Art openings would be a way to draw in another group. In addition to the wine and cheese evening type opening what about a brunch/lunch with the artist - the artist planning the menu? Art exhbition should be equally diverse; students and teachers from Shaw, CIA faculy and students, NEO and International artists. A community bulletin board placed somewhere in the club might also draw in regular visitor. Besides the email mailing list it would be a place to advertise up coming art exhibits, menu selections of the day, meetings, etc. A meeting area should be available free of charge  for anyone who would like to have a community meeting or hold a class. One the first opportunies to promote The Inner Circle is at Parade the Circle. If they can find their way to Parade the Circle they can make it to The Inner Circle!  Hot Suace Williams is already there, we need to be there with a cool flier and samples of our healthy treats. I agree with Oengus that East Cleveland has some very serious problems -- mainly with poverty, neglectful landlords and lead poisoning. A traditional business plan and promotional strategies for this Cafe won't work, but unlike many restaurants we have 100s customers within walking distance and no virtually no competiton. This is a huge advantage that we must utilize.

what can I do?

Congrats to you and the Williamses on moving forward with this project. I really think it's time someone put money where their mouth is, and you're doing it.

I like Evelyn's comment about having a reading library, maybe include a multi-media center where gently used items could be donated, poetry slams, art/cooking workshops, collaborations with City Sprouts, civic leadership 'training', etc.

I think I mentioned to you before that I think The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, or ACEnet, is a good model for this sort of thing. It's a non-profit economic development and business support organization located in rural southeastern Ohio doing impressive things.

We took a drive around East Cleveland recently, particularly down Superior, and were sickened by the lack of apparent disinvestment. This is what the other side of sprawl looks like, folks. We're all responsible in our own little way.

I'm interested in doing more than just talking about this, Norm, so please keep me informed of when you're meeting to organize. And of course, we'd like to help spread the word at

Let's have some Inner Circle Star meetings next week

I'd love to take a group through the complex, brainstorm on the plans, and try out some muffin recipes and coffees on a group of friends. I'd say Wed., Thurs., or Fri. morning next week... anyone interested? When works for you?

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Wed. morning works for me

    I have a meeting in East Cleveland in the afternoon on Wed. so that morning would be perfect. What's the address?

Also, I'm selling baked goods at the Coventry Street Fair in July and August. I don't know if we can organize this effort in time, but we could have a market to sell goods right up the road.

Inner Circle is at 1519 Lakeview Avenue - see you Wednesday

Okay, we'll have an Inner Circle open house Wednesday, May 23, from 10 AM to noon. I'll post an invitation and ask people to rsvp - we'll try out some recipes, blind taste some coffee, and brainstorm.

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Ah - here it is - could I be so gentle as to ask that it be placed up closer to the top of the post? I know this sounds lame, since I've lived in NEO for 18 years, but, well, I don't know as many parts of the area as maybe I could or should.  Thanks.  (But I'm trying!)

Welcome Jill - good point... see you Wed.?

Hi Jill - nice to see you posting here - I always enjoy your excellent blog Writes Like She Talks, which is included in our RSS aggregator of interesting NEO blog content featured in a block on the bottom right of our homepage and found here).

I added the address to the original posting to make it a bit easier to find. Let me know if you are planning to join us Wednesday - I'd love your input.

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Well - 10-12noon eh? I will seriously think about it! Thanks for asking.  And the NICE things you say about the blog.  Very nice indeed since I got SLAMMED on someone else's blog. For every door that closes...

The Inner Circle Evolves

This is all so great to see.  I was thrilled to learn I'd received an ownership stake in this club and project as a whole.  I intend to provide, in addition to good guidance, beautiful bartending and intriguing innovation an alternatively powered, quality-control monitored living machine that will allow us to cultivate (better-than) organic quality Tilapia, water-loving (vitrious) veggies, fresh fruits, and fruitful functional fertilizer (compost and castings).  The high level outline and resulting revenue streams salient are now being implemented with in-kind contributions and personal prowess.  Any assistance would be welcomed warmly.  Energized and engaged entertainers (able apt artisans) have also proudly pledged their time - in numbers sufficient to sustain multiple themed nights - poetry, reggae, rock - sung, strung or spun.  We'll party like its 1999 (plus 8).

I'll be joining my 7gen family soon in East Cleveland - let me know when the next meeting matriculates.