Just announced today is the news that Cleveland entrepreneur Danielle DeBoe Harper is leaving full ownership of the super cute boutique Room Service in the hands of her business partner Jennie Doran, so Danielle can focus on wedding design.
Why do I care?
Because it was just about a year ago that I walked into Danielle’s shop on West 25th and decided it was time to move back to Cleveland. Danielle was there that day behind the counter, adorable and around my age, brimming over with enthusiasm for Cleveland (herself a transplant and not a native) as a place where 30s-somethings dreams are made. And the evidence was right there: an Etsy-like explosion of locally-made gift items and casual chic splendor, proof that you really can bring an idea to Cleveland and see it come to life.
Danielle wasn’t the only one. My parents took me down the street to Bon Bon, where we sat next to a table of guys who I couldn’t help ogling over bites of my mom’s plate of Bubble & Squeak. They looked to be in the midst of a business discussion, energized, impressive, and good looking — not a typical sight from the Cleveland of my early 20s. Eventually I knew this was restaurateur Sam McNulty and his crew, who have taken over Ohio City with a slew of hot bars and craft beers, and that they indeed gather for energized, good looking business discussions once a week at Bon Bon. At the time, they were just another signal to return to Cleveland.
Then there were the books Rust Belt Chic and New to Cleveland that I read from San Francisco as I packed and plotted my return. The first one fed me a familiar language of hope, reality, and rootedness that I was ready to remember; the second painted a picture Cleveland and its neighborhoods in vivid (water)color. I wanted to be in these pages; I wanted to know the people behind them and make Cleveland my story again.
When people ask me now why I came back to Cleveland, the short explanation is some version of being close to family and old friends. Of course that’s not untrue. But the real truth is that I was brought home by strangers, people who imprinted on me from a distance. Their stories were enough to spin my own homecoming tale.
Each of us has probably impacted somebody’s life in big ways that we don’t even know about. It’s a sweet, humbling, and humanizing idea.
Maybe it’s a little unique to Cleveland that here the people who are making shit happen become the people you know. Just shy of a year later, and the strangers who prompted my return aren’t strangers anymore. I’ve chatted with Danielle a bunch of times while in her store. Sam McNulty is a regular guy you see out and about on weekends. I not only got to meet the editors behind Rust Belt Chic but have even become part of their efforts. (In fact, if you haven’t yet donated to the Kickstarter campaign to launch Belt, the new Cleveland online magazine, now is the time!)
In Cleveland, not only can you be inspired by the people around you, but you can easily join them. Within an hour or so of Danielle’s big news coming out today, Anne Trubek of Rust Belt Chic posted a fabulous essay about the wave of people pitching in to try new things and be part of making life in Cleveland great. The timing’s no coincidence; that’s just how it is here.