I visit the Discount Drug Mart in our West Park neighborhood at least five times a week for cat food, laundry detergent, beer, some missing ingredient for dinner or whatever one of my kids needs — at 9:30 p.m. — for school the next morning.
It's close enough to walk, but usually the trip is so driven by necessity that I just jump in the car — sometimes still wearing my slippers.
Like the best corner stores, our Drug Mart serves as the retail version of duct tape, able to hold our family intact through crises big and small.
Little things like the neighborhood coffee shop, playground and town festival don't often show up as data points when you're evaluating where to live. And since we began looking at Northeast Ohio's best places to live in 1993, they haven't been part of our Rating the Suburbs formula.
But as we profiled five suburbanites for this month's cover story, we discovered where they shop, play and gather — because those things are important when it comes to building a stronger community.
Consider Michael Carter, executive director of the Warrensville Heights YMCA, who often slips next door to the library where it's quiet to use the computers and recording booths. Or Floured Apron catering owner and Cincinnati transplant Shannon Keibler, who hopes her daughter, Carrie, finds a place onstage at her first Aurora Community Theatre summer camp. Or Bryan Holt, a Brecksville native who works in the city's horticultural department and visits the same family-owned lumberyard for do-it-yourself projects that his father did.
How a town functions is also a product of the ways in which residents use it and create bonds around its assets.
That's why this year's feature also examines what suburbs are doing to improve their towns, such as Rocky River's bike patrol initiative, Willoughby-Eastlake School District's new STEM school, Elyria's effort to remake three of its main commercial districts, Cuyahoga Falls' plan for a more accessible waterfront and the collaborative efforts between cities for more efficient emergency dispatch systems.
In my neighborhood, I've seen the impact those initiatives can make. Upgrades to Puritas Avenue last year included a bike lane and sharrows for easier access to Gunning Recreation Center, which has led to me seeing more bikes on the road and calming the pace of cars along that stretch.
It may even motivate me to throw a basket on my bike for trips to the drugstore.