The Best of Cleveland 2007 Around Town

New address, recycled art, civic blog, wood carving teacher, pet spa, ride, deal, antique updates, roofs, knife sharpener & hardware store.
An old Cleveland landmark is getting a new lease on life, quite literally. Park Lane Villa, a grand dame hotel in the 1920s, has been remade into luxury apartments with an eye to its former self. The lobby hosts a 24-hour concierge who’ll procure tickets, flowers, catering, groceries and reservations, even find a pet sitter, free of charge. The ballroom is in the midst of renovation, and the developers, The Finch Group, hope to see a return to the lavish parties held there during its heyday. But with completion of the final wing scheduled for this month, and 30 units already rented, we’ve got our eye on these apartments for yet another reason: The location, just west of University Circle, means that downtown commuters (like us) can hop on Chester and breeze into the city without wading through brutal UC rush-hour traffic.; 10510 Park Lane, Cleveland; (216) 421-0101

Operating out of a funky Ohio City studio adorned with a hand-painted sign, the Glass Bubble Project specializes in art made from recycled metal, blown glass and scavenged car and machine parts. You can get a lesson in imagination just by scanning the studio inventory. Pay less than $100 for a small bowl that looks like a Dale Chihuly/Salvador Dalí love child, to considerably more for gearbox chairs and large tentacle-trailing chandeliers that float across the ceiling like jellyfish. There’s a local belief that to make it in this town, the truly talented must first prove themselves somewhere else. The homegrown Glass Bubble Project smashes the myth into a million little pieces.; 2421 Bridge Ave., Cleveland; (216) 696-7043

Readers Poll: Best Sports Anchor
Jim Donovan

The WKYC sports anchor has covered Cleveland’s athletic triumphs and woes for more than 20 years, and like any good parent, he refuses to choose a favorite team. He’s got a million sports stories in that stat-riddled brain, but his best sports moment took a long time coming: the night the 1995 Indians clinched the American League Central Division vs. the Orioles. “It was the first time they had clinched a postseason spot in, like, 40 years. It was absolutely unbelievable — it was just electric in Jacobs Field,” Donovan remembers. “I was doing the locker room celebration. It was such a great moment that we actually cancelled showing ‘The Tonight Show,’ and we stayed on the air until, I think about 1:30 a.m. It was just crazy.”

A city-sponsored blog sounds about as enjoyable as a high school textbook. But the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission’s blog is more like a well-crafted cheat sheet (not that we’d ever do such a thing). The site is a clearinghouse of info on Greater Cleveland happenings, from planning-related civic issues to the environment, development and more. On any given day, you can read critiques and news about new CSU buildings, Innerbelt renovations and eminent domain proceedings. The best feature is a clickable list of Cuyahoga County cities that brings up each town’s story archives. Make your civics teacher proud.

Readers Poll: Best Sports Announcer
Tom Hamilton

As the official voice of the Indians, Tom Hamilton sends chills down Clevelanders’ spines every time he shouts, “Swung and belted, way back ... gone!” Now you can hear your favorite Hamilton calls courtesy of his talking bobblehead whenever you want. How about that? An avid golfer who started in high school, Hamilton has been known to hit some long drives of his own. “I’ll go to any golf course that’s free,” he jokes. “I haven’t been out much lately. I had surgery on my shoulder this past winter, but I love Westwood Country Club in Rocky River. It’s older and has a lot of trees — the overall layout is nice.”

Half-realized carousel horses and fantasy figures pack Joe Leonard’s Garretsville studio, Custom Woodcarving. They’re the projects of aspiring woodworkers, and many of them will take weeks, and even months, to finish. Leonard’s students make the trip out here for good reason: He’s a world-acclaimed carver with pieces on display around the United States and in Europe. Drew Carey even hired him to carve a gothic cabinetfront for his restored Cleveland home. Leonard instructs an annual woodcarving conference in New York and travels the country to teach workshops. Students who want quicker satisfaction can take his one-day classes at Woodcraft in Bedford, where he teaches small groups how to ply grooved, straight, beveled and gouge chisels. “It’s a great outlet,” he says. “People who are curious should give it a try. We’ve even got Band-Aids for splinters.”; (330) 527-2307

Beware: There’s a luxury resort out there with such swanky accommodations, your pet may refuse to return to suburbia. The Barkley Pet Hotel and Day Spa’s Executive Poolside Suite (think doggy penthouse) pampers lucky pups with glass-enclosed private beds, monogrammed towels, individual climate and lighting settings and an in-suite plasma TV that broadcasts only animal-friendly programs. Feline guests can kick back in Kitty City: The cat condominiums come complete with daily housekeeping, a tropical fish tank (for viewing purposes only) and catnip for all. Plus, they offer services including pawdicure bubble baths and aromatherapy relaxation massages. Forget the pets — when can we book a room?; 27349 Miles Road, Orange Village; (440) 248-2275

One dollar isn’t much. Especially on Indians game days. But there is one place where a dollar will take you farther — over the bridge and right up to the gate, as a matter of fact. For nine years now, Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Fatty Wagon has offered one heck of a ride. On game nights, park for free at the West Side Market’s spacious lot and amble over to Great Lakes for a microbrew and a $1 round-trip on the Fatty Wagon shuttle. Slug down two Dortmunders and you’re still gonna hit the game with 10 extra dollars in your pocket. And there’s one more reason to feel good about it: The environmentally friendly vehicle burns recycled cooking oil for fuel. Very cool.; 2516 Market Ave., Cleveland; (216) 771-4404

The Giant Eagle Fuelperks fanaticism is at an all-time high, and we’re marooned in the middle of it. We trade suggestions with our neighbor over the fence, our boss over the water cooler, our friends over cocktails. We contemplate the benefits of buying $50 Max & Erma’s gift cards, even though we don’t like Max & Erma’s all that much, just to subtract 10 measly pennies from each gallon of our next trip to the pump. We scheme against our own family members — after all, why should the kids get all the cheap gas? Someday we’ll rack up enough $50 charges to bring that savings total up to $3, so we can experience one golden tank of absolutely “free” gasoline.; various Northeast Ohio locations

Usually, if you have plants growing on your roof, you’ve got issues. But for Slavic Village’s Garland Co., those issues involve improving the environment. Garland replaces standard roofs with a carpet of live plants that absorb sewer-busting storm runoff, scrub away nasty airborne particulates and chill the “heat island” produced when sunlight reflects off a conventional covering. So Garland’s green roofing was an easy choice for the Cleveland Environmental Center when it moved to new Lorain Avenue digs in 2003. Garland averages 10 to 15 green roof sales each year, mostly to the eco-conscious Pacific Northwest and Chicago. They’ve even topped a Giant Eagle store in Pittsburgh. And look for CMHA’s Lakeview Terrace community to join the movement later this year.; 3800 E. 91st St., Cleveland; (216) 641-7500

When the folks at the Rock Hall got their hands on rockabilly legend Eddie Cochran’s hollow-body Gretsch guitar, the job of prepping this priceless piece for display fell to the Intermuseum Conservation Association (ICA), the nation’s oldest nonprofit art conservation center. The ICA provides members — such as museums, galleries and libraries — and regular antique hounds with matchless conservation and preservation services. Staff members hold advanced degrees in areas such as art history, art conservation and fine arts, so they had a pretty good idea how to handle other priceless Rock Hall artifacts, including Bono’s metallic Mirrorball Man suit from U2’s ZooTV tour, Mick Jagger’s afghan coat and John Lennon’s leather bomber jacket. “We do not restore pieces to their original condition,” explains executive director Albert Albano. “We conserve them and respect the historic and cultural integrity of the object.”; 2915 Detroit Ave., Cleveland; (216) 658-8700

When cooks such as Michael Herschman of Vivo or Rocco Whalen over at Fahrenheit need a brand new edge on their pricey knives, they send them to just one place: Service Wet Grinding. The 102-year-old shop sharpens the knives of almost every local restaurant, flying through 4,000 to 5,000 blades per week. You’d never know it by looking at the shop, which has operated out of an unassuming store on Prospect for almost 50 years. Chefs send out their knives once a week, but for home cooks, owner Eunice Ambrose recommends every six to 10 months, depending on use and care. Service is speedy (usually same-day or next-day), and prices run a paltry $2 per blade, rising to $5 for some specialty knives. They’ll also sharpen serrated knives, poultry shears and food processor blades. 1867 Prospect Ave., Cleveland; (216) 771-4874

Unless you’re Bob Vila’s kid, the time will come when a home improvement project threatens to dislodge your sanity. Head for Seitz-Agin Hardware, where owner Joel Borwick plays the role of surrogate Vila. He’s spent 34 years fine-tuning his skills in Cleveland Heights, where most of the bungalows, colonials and mansions are beautiful … and aging. It’s given Borwick a sixth sense for problem solving. Got mice? “Put some peanut butter on this,” says Borwick, pointing to a 75-cent mousetrap, “but don’t use your fingers; they can smell it a mile away.” Looking for stain to match those 85-year-old maple floors? Aisle 1. Seitz-Agin may not double as your garden center, appliance store or home-furnishings outlet, but why should it? It’s your hardware store. 2271 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights; (216) 321-4630
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