Wednesday, November 21, 2018

new music performance stage, new tamales, new laptop vending - within a small stretch of Mahoning Avenue

It's exciting to see entrepreneurs hit their milestones.

This came to mind as owner Nate Offerdahl was sharing his vision during a tour of West Side Bowl, where this new Youngstown music venue will welcome guests for the first time to their expanded Main Stage, this Friday November 23. Headlining the night's activities will be the great act Spirit of the Bear.

The Main Stage is built out of wood repurposed from eight of the existing bowling lanes. What's really awesome, West Side Bowl has partnered with neighborhood artists who live on the surrounding streets to add to the character of the space.

So not only can you bowl here, and drink a Penguin Beer here, and order a pierogi pizza here, and admire the art by talented neighbors, but you can also rock out now both downstairs and upstairs throughout West Side Bowl at 2617 Mahoning Ave.

This place is really coming together ... with a mural in progress from Eric Alleman on the west wall, a mural from Craig Latchaw Jr on the east wall, and sculptures from Tony Armeni along the front of the structure.

The Downstairs Stage has been hosting a great variety of acts too. A neat feature of the space is the acoustic paneling, made from the t-shirts of touring bands and local organizations.

West Side Bowl offers a monthly calendar showing the variety of activities taking place, including comedy shows, karaoke, bar bingo, bowling leagues, and trivia nights.

And where one business pops up, others follow.

Just a few doors down La Huasteca opened three weeks ago at 2328 Mahoning Ave. This place has got some legit food.

We're talking tortas, sopes, aqua frescas, in addition to the standard fare you find at many mexican restaurants. For the proteins, you have a wide array of choices including marinated beef, pork with pineapple (pastor), beef tongue (lengua), chorizo, and chicken.

Adding to the mix on weekends are soups like Menudo and Pozole, and regional specialties as some of the employees are from El Salvador. 

Here's a pastor torta, with slices of avacado, bean spread under the toasted bun, with sides of limes, sauteed onions, radishes, cucumbers, and pickled jalapenos.

A simple chicken taco, with some of their homemade sauce on top.

Food orders can be take-out or sit-down. Damn good horchata.

Here is a beef tongue taco. It was magnificent.

And a corn papusa on the weekend, served with a marinated cabbage, the special Salvadorean sauce, and some hot peppers.

Check out the tamale, served in a banana leaf. Just excellent all around.

And to write this blog, all I had to do was walk down to the new Michael Kusalaba (West) Library at 2815 Mahoning Avenue.

They have this wonderful vending kiosk where you can use your library card, and check out a laptop to use around the library.

It's great getting to know the people who make all of these places possible, from Nate and Jami at West Side Bowl, to the families new to the United States running La Huasteca, to the friendly librarians at the Kusalaba branch.

All of these places started with a dream ... a dream now becoming reality.

Will be exiting to see what business opportunities pop up next along this slice of Mahoning. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

two minute tour on the corner of Federal and Phelps

The intersection of Federal and Phelps is becoming an interesting crossroads for the rapidly changing downtown.

Just a few short years ago we had at the intersection (NW) a 1899 Daniel Burnham Building with a basket store and a record shop, (NE) another Daniel Burnham building from 1910 previously owned by the city and 13 floors sitting empty, (SW) a women's hair salon in the 1930 Art Deco Peggy Ann building, and (SE) the venerable Silver's Suit/Mensware Shop.

Here are a few shots from a two minute tour in early 2014:

Today, you have Roberto's Italian Restaurant which has opened up a beautiful stone walled subterranean expansion (check out the fireplace and mantle in the photo above)

And after the great William Leonard's Extraordinary Gentlemen (still operating downtown) moved from the Peggy Ann Building, Friends Specialty Coffee with their locally-roasted beans moved in. Here's a shot of their immersion technique for a nice weekend coffee:

The Federal Building is now complete with a very well-managed restaurant on the ground floor, with gas-fed outside heating lamps and even valet parking on the weekends along with 100% full residential spaces on the remaining floors.

The Wick Building is undergoing massive renovations with historical tax credits by the State of Ohio for more downtown housing.

And the venerable Silver's is at the corner, dressing Youngstown's finest with suits, shirts, and dress shoes.

- - -

But what we need to do is move the intersection from GOOD to GREAT...  

What are some of your suggestions to improve this intersection?

Some might include:

- removing the boarded-up grey windows from the second floor of Silver's. While the ground level is appealing, moving one story up is a different visual experience.

- removing the newspaper box chained to the tree outside of V2 which obstructs the walking path.

- fixing the brickwork along Phelps after construction, that has only been filled in haste with filler material.

- fixing the facade of the Peggy Ann Building along Phelps as one walks towards the great Touch the Moon Candy Saloon. A big chunk is removed from the side of the building.

- businesses working together to clean the sidewalk of cigarette butts and other pieces of trash that are unfortunately left by pedestrians and patrons. (side note: wonder what the cost/benefit ratio would be of stationing a police officer to issue tickets for littering between 20 Federal Place and the Downtown Circle)

- replicating the historical cornice on the top of the Wick Building, as it was originally designed.

These are just a few options for this space. 

While this intersection has come a long way from a few years ago, what else do you think can be improve there?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

extraordinary YSU students begin installation of Metamorphosis Project in downtown youngstown

As a chilled air hit Youngstown on Friday evening, YSU graphic design students pulled up their shirtsleeves to get to work.

Installed tonight was the first phase of the Metamorphosis Project, a series of images designed by YSU students to improve the shared cityscape between the YBI's three main buildings and the public.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"A camera captures a Youngstown, Ohio city council member as she starts dancing in a council meeting"

per the description of this video, on YouTube

I think if City Council meetings were like this, more people might attend.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

home-rule & economic fairness arguments may propel May 7 anti-fracking vote

The recently-formed opposition to the "Community Bill of Rights" charter amendment contends the proposed ballot language is not well-crafted, and in practice, unenforceable. (Link to story in the local press)

However, that same argument of not being enforceable is not a bone of contention, but is interestingly shared by some of the supporters of the "Community Bill of Rights" that Youngstown voters will consider in the May 7 primary.

So while enforcement may not be the critical differentiation between the two sides, the resulting message that the Mahoning Valley's largest political entity by population could send through its vote has resulted in the creation of  "Coalition for Job Growth and Investment" this week to oppose the amendment.

But is the main reason for people voting in support of this amendment a reflection of their attitudes on hydraulic fracturing activities, or something much larger?

As the Frack Free Mahoning Valley group was successful in collecting the thousands of signatures to create the ballot initiative, the organization has hit the pavement and attended numerous neighborhood meetings and community events in recent months sharing their beliefs to the voters.

One may think their presentations focus only on environmental issues (and with earthquakes and waste dumpings in recent times, there is plenty to discuss there), but they are not.

By watching the crowds' discussions, the topics are much more complex.

Take home rule for example.

It's a hot topic on many issues, from the ability of a state to regulate same sex marriage, or having residency requirements for employees on the public payroll.

In this case, some supporters of the Bill of Rights have shared that the state should not have this responsibility over local control in managing natural resources, which does not go over well with the audience. So while voters may be actually ambivalent to the environmental issues, they may view kindly on an issue that drives the sentiment of more local control.

Now take economic fairness for another example.

On this topic, some supporters of the Bill of Rights have shared that if the local manufacturing base is growing, then it needs to hire individuals from diverse racial backgrounds or hire citizens living in their neighborhoods. People are asked to recall if they know people who have benefited from the shale industry, and often they do not have any connections to people in their social circles who have experienced a growth in wealth.

They ask: is there is mismatch or alignment between voters in a Youngstown and if they are workers in Youngstown?

Again, even as voters may be ambivalent to either of the issues as the environment or home rule, they may feel a connection to perceived issues of fairness.

The co-mingling of these various issues, connected or not connected, fair or unfair, is wrapped around that single vote on the charter amendment.

- - -

As shown this week by the excellent blog Warren Expressed, sometimes it takes very few people to drive a local election outcome.

A very small minority of voters may wind up dictating the message.

And for this upcoming primary, perhaps tactics to engage people on topics such as the environment and the charter's enforcement are a little simplistic.

Those who take advantage of these additional issues, either to promote them or to counter them may have the upper hand - especially when it comes time to count the votes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

new ownership at Dooney's implements massive menu upgrade

About a month ago, former Youngstown Club Executive Chef Anthony Palumbo joined the ownership team at the "Dooney's Downtown" establishment - and introduced a menu upgrade that has many downtown lunch patrons taking notice.

"It's pub food done right," says Palumbo. "Nothing is frozen. All of our sauces are made in the kitchen, and everything is made to order."

When asked what the specialty sandwich of the house is, the marinated prime rib sandwich was identified as a top contender.

But what makes the sandwich unique compared other other places serving sandwiches downtown?

First off, the buns come from a Syrian bakery in New Castle, Pennsylvania, purchased every other day. 

The prime rib is roasted in-house. 

The coleslaw for the topping is made after the order is placed, incorporating large pieces of cabbage.

The cheese is fresh mozzarella and melts over the beef. 

The fries are fresh-cut, and seasoned as requested.

- - -

Another point of pride for Chef Anthony is that all their chicken is brined for a day before cooking. The tenders are hand-breaded. The wings are baked before a quick fry, and all get dressed with their homemade sauces. 

For example, the BBQ sauce is made with honey and pineapple juice. 
The Buffalo sauce is made with balsamic vinegar. 
The Sriracha Orange sauce is made with fresh-squeezed oranges.

All the burgers are made with Catullo's meats. Here is the stackhouse burger, topped high with two onion rings and a sampling of their pulled pork.

Chef Anthony contends new entries will be coming to their changing menu in the coming weeks.

With the new attention to the food, it will be interesting to see if Dooney's can elevate their game in the long run.

Perhaps in the coming months the establishment known for the "worst business logo" downtown may also be home to the "best pub food" downtown.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Metamorphosis: the 300ft long, 70+ window Kickstarter project

YSU Design Students & YBI Collaborate to Launch Kickstarter for Downtown Mural

Do you live in the Youngstown metro area, or do you live outside of Youngstown and have a fondness for our town?

Have you ever thought...

what is a small way that I can personally improve this unique place?

well, here is a unique project that was just launched tonight on Kickstarter.

The goal: construct a mural along Federal Street downtown that will consist of 70 plus vinyl segments spanning over 300 feet in length, all created by graphic design students at YSU.

The theme: METAMORPHOSIS, and the urban development growing up all throughout the city of Youngstown.

Here's how Kickstarter works...people propose a project, any individual from around the world can donate, and when the goal is reached, only then will all donors be charged. If the goal is not reached, no previous donor is charged. (it was pretty easy too, paid with the ol' Amazon account as opposed to typing in another credit card number)

Also, there are some unique gifts for the various funding levels.

$25 or more - A 3"x5" oval "Metamorphosis Butterfly" sticker to show your support for local street art in Youngstown, OH!

$100 or more - A 3"x5" oval "Metamorphosis Butterfly" sticker, plus a collectable poster showcasing the designs used in the mural.

$250 or more - A 3"x5" oval "Metamorphosis Butterfly" sticker, plus a collectable poster showcasing the designs used in the mural, plus a tour of the Youngstown Business Incubator with Chief Evangelist, Jim Cossler

$1,000 or more
- A 3"x5" oval "Metamorphosis Butterfly" sticker, plus a collectable poster showcasing the designs used in the mural, plus a tour of the Youngstown Business Incubator, plus lunch with Chief Evangelist of the YBI, Jim Cossler

What do you think, Diaspora?
Can you support it?


Friday, May 04, 2012

Youngstown's first ever "Jane's Walk" in a neighborhood to take place on Saturday May 5

Moving to the Mahoning Valley from Rhode Island, YSU graduate student Kasey Johnson is working with one local neighborhood group, The Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association, to organize a walk this Saturday afternoon which will highlight the culture, history, and future investments of this distinct section of the west side of the city of Youngstown.

“Jane's Walk” is in honor of the late urban activist Jane Jacobs and her writings on how people influence a place and place influences people.
The walk through a portion of Rocky Ridge will join similarly structured events taking place that weekend in hundreds of cities across the world.

The two hour walking tour will include the following stops:
  • The Shrine of Our Lady (start point and parking) will highlight the religious and ethnic contributions to Rocky Ridge
  • Chaney High School, its academic and sports history
  • The amazing backyard landscaping of 2011's “Volney Rodgers Emerald Pierogi Award” for home beautification
  • Aspects of Mill Creek Park, including the Robinson Sugar Maple Grove, Morley Pavilion and the actual geologic formation which comprises the actual “Rock Ridge”
  • Industrial and settlement history in the neighborhood by Bill Lawson, Executive Director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society
  • Showing of plans for the upcoming extensive renovations to the Children's play area at the Wick Recreation Area in Mill Creek MetroParks
All interested residents of the region are welcome and encouraged to attend this free event, with ample parking at the start point.

waking path of the Rocky Ridge Jane's Walk
WHAT: Local neighborhood group collaborates with YSU graduate student to host the first local “Jane's Walk”, making Youngstown one of hundreds of participating cities across the world.

WHEN: 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5, 2012

WHERE: Shrine of Our Lady, Comforter of the Afflicted, 517 S. Belle Vista Avenue, Youngstown