An in-depth look at the stories and events that shape our community
There's no need to fight with shoppers at big box chains to find the perfect holiday gift for your friends, acquaintances and loved ones. In fact, there are a plethora of unique choices here in the Akron area, gifts provided by locally owned businesses, and many of these gifts so unique that they will have a lasting impact on the recipient, a piece of this city. From art, food and experience gifts that won't clutter your house, to unique items that are made from upcycled and recycled materials, we'd like to present the Akronist's Inaugural Locally Owned Holiday Gift Guide.
We've arranged entries by category. We also encourage you to frequent these amazing local businesses and organizations long after the holiday season.
The airwaves are filled with endless reporting on the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case. It is my conjecture that nothing has penetrated the nation’s psyche like this tragedy has, at least since the O. J. Simpson trial. Reactions have been strong and range from those who feel the acquittal was a gross act of injustice to others who feel “finally justice has prevailed.” It is my best guess that while most have their own opinions on this matter, their deeper grief is over the fact that a young man is dead, and it all could have been avoided. What if George Zimmerman would have stayed in his car and let the police handle it? What if these two young men had laid aside whatever was driving them at the moment and had a civil conversation?
I know these sound like “Pollyanna” questions rooted in naivety and ignorance, but, “What if?” I am deeply concerned that frustration with the legal system and a lack of trust in each other will cause the shouting to become louder and the chasm preventing civil community conversations in the public square will be widened.
I had an incident happen this past week that gave me a taste of how innocent things can escalate to violence.
In July 2005, while people were prepping their barbeques for Independence Day, Larry Soper, enslaved by drug and alcohol addiction, was planning his suicide.
"I Googled the least painful ways," he said. "There were chat rooms even. It was a very dark place."
For years, the life of the former standout student, author and sports columnist from North Canton had been "measured out by the crack rock or syringe," he said. Then, on July 7, Larry found his freedom at the IBH Addiction Recovery Center, a 154-acre treatment facility in Coventry Township.
Unlike other local burial grounds, the Glendale Cemetery (founded as the Akron Rural Cemetery) seems to stand apart from the rest, with its lush tree canopy, meandering serpentine roads and century-old mausoleums.
It’s almost as if, though some may find it odd, the grounds beckon one to linger.
And while the cemetery has provided a final resting place to some of Akron’s movers and shakers -- the Seiberlings, Spicers and Barbers, to name a few -- Glendale also has provided a verdant backdrop for joggers, walkers, ballets and summer concerts.
Steven Kaut wants folks to know that the 174-year-old cemetery still provides a viable and unique resting place.
It's good to be home after living here and there across America.
Once again, Akron's now home. And I discovered something while re-settling in: The regions I've inhabited truly have their own folkways and idiosyncrasies, which for good, bad or indifferent made me come to appreciate Akron's individuality — including the habitual front runners of sauerkraut balls, our "devil's strip" and the myriad of ways to pronounce Montrose.
I left Akron at 18 in the late '70s for L.A., where almost everyone has an agent but is serving you an omelette at Denny's. At a beach one afternoon, a surfer called, "Dude, you surf?"
"No, I'm from Akron," I replied.
Puzzled, he then said, "Oh yeah, tires, the Motor City ... cool!"
I then realized Rand McNally wouldn't be calling Gidget's counterpart for his cartography skills.
"Akron's the Rubber City," I corrected with a sniff.
A long dining table during lunch time in a Highland Square home is invitingly set with with a big bowl of mixed greens in the center. A heaping plate of freshly grilled chicken and other salad toppings in bowls of shredded cheeses, olives, vegetables and dressings surround it, along with hearty, grain breads and fruity preserves.
Evelyn “Evey” Williams says a blessing while five of her nine children and her husband Michael bow their heads. The table conversation is at first a low whirr, like an airliner idling on a tarmac. But then, after bread is broken, it takes off full throttle down the runway, with laughter, shrieks and gentle ribbing among siblings.
With Mother’s Day approaching, the Williams household recently spent time sharing what’s it’s like to be a part of a large family whose mom wears enough hats to make a milliner blush.
Expressive Therapy Center promotes holistic healing through the arts, hosts open house May 22
The little girl slowly walks up to the table wearing a hospital gown and a princess tiara, her IV bag and pole close behind her. At the table, children are making colorful shapes with modeling clay and cookie cutters, and nearby, dollops of paint on paper plates stand vigil around tiny easels. The children are smiling, as if they’ve forgotten that they’re in the middle of a hospital, or at least pushed this fact to the back of their minds for now as they work with an art therapist.
The Emily Cooper Welty Expressive Therapy Center at Akron Children’s Hospital is a place of healing, where visual art and music converge as therapy for these young patients. The two-year-old center -- adorned with vibrant calming colors, mosaics depicting characters from nursery rhymes and skylights that fill the room with natural light -- is a relatively new concept in the patient experience but one that hospital staff, administration and patients can hang their hat on as an effective method of treatment.
“The connection between arts and biology is there,” says Dr. Sarah Friebert, director of pediatric palliative care at Akron Children’s Hospital, and the driving force behind establishment of the Expressive Therapy Center. “There are a number of studies out there that show there is actual connection with the immune system and how well we fight infection when we’re relaxed, when we’re engaged in something that’s tapping into our creativity. We see it in terms of reduced anxiety, reduced pain, increased ability to cope and increased feelings of self-efficacy for children and families. And that’s particularly important for children who have a chronic disease and who are very ill, who are out of control of what’s happening to them most of the time.”
April 9 presentation offers tips for owning your own flock
Owning backyard chickens has picked up in popularity, for health benefits and keeping food supplies local, among other advantages. Akron area residents interested in owning their own small flock are encouraged to attend Countryside Conservancy’s “Backyard Chickens – Getting Started,” April 9 at Stone Cottage Farm and Garden, 2580 Northampton Road, in Cuyahoga Falls. The program is $25 per person and begins at 6 p.m.
“The class is really geared toward the backyard flock, with five or six chickens,” said Katie Griffith, program manager for Countryside Conservancy, which supports local farmers and advocates community-based agriculture. “Participants will learn how to raise chickens from a day-old peep to an egg-laying hen. We’ll talk about nutritional needs, housing needs and exercise needs, along with how to identify some common diseases or illnesses in poultry and how to keep them safe from those diseases and predators.”
Organic, free-range eggs are much healthier than store bought eggs, according to a number of online resources like www.backyardchickens.com. These eggs also taste better and are lower in cholesterol and saturated fat and higher in Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins A and E, the forum adds.
Progress typically implies a positive, that something is advancing, improving, such as in retail. And whether good or bad, the big-box stores are certainly witness to that.
There's more selection, more space to shop, weekly sales. But the flip side is that mom-and-pop stores catering to the same customers were undone by such progress.
But whether you like them or not, can you walk into any big-box hardware store and play an old upright piano, be greeted by two cats, a three-legged boy named Stumpy or his sister, Stella, or have a treasured old lamp rewired? Probably not.
You can, however, tickle the ivories, stroke the kitties and have that precious lamp salvaged at West Hill Hardware, Akron's oldest hardware institution established in 1930.
At Highland Square's java haunt, Angel Falls Coffee Company, you've probably seen him. Chances are, you likely know him. And if you don't know him you will at some point.
Say "hello" to Jerry Raker. Unless he says "hey" first. And that's more than likely.
"I'm just naturally social, not afraid of crowds or talking to people," says Raker, a 31-year Akron resident who grew up in Wadsworth.
Raker says the cafe "is my home away from home." It's also where he has cultivated a generous array of friendships and acquaintances. He's been referred to as the "unofficial mayor of Highland Square."
I met Raker in December 2011, when I was jockeying with my laptop for the day's password at Angel Falls' counter. He approached me with the password and said, "I just wanted to talk with you."