Reinventing Browns Deli into The Star Market and Cafe - transformational neighborhood redevelopment, one convenience at a time

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 05/05/2008 - 01:35.

Welcome to The Star Market and Cafe! What would make you walk, ride and drive out of your way and stop here? When? Why? Now is the time for Star Neighborhood Development to reinvent a blighted urban convenient store into a community asset. But how? That depends on you. What will you support here?

For the past few years, I've been actively engaged in planning rebirth of a square mile neighborhood of Cleveland and East Cleveland, east of University Circle, centered by the former Hough/Star Bakeries Complex, on Lakeview Road, which I call the Star Neighborhood. It is planned to convert the former bakeries complex into a community center, with school and preschool, as the social anchor of the surrounding neighborhood, which has lost its livable assets. This plan converts a largely misused and blighted commercial/warehouse building and bar into an intergenerational resource center.

To make the surrounding neighborhood more desirable for this reuse, I have made arrangements with the owner of Brown's Deli, a convenient store across Lakeview from the entrance to the Star Complex, to convert that establishment into a more family-friendly and neighborhood-enhancing enterprise. We are partnering to bring to the Star Neighborhood The Star Market and Cafe, and we'd love your help making that a success.

The business is currently a cinder-block bunker of an independent, urban convenient store, core to disenfranchised urban neighborhoods like The Star. Newports for a few cents a piece... lots of lottery tickets and 40 OZs... saltines, ketchup, cat food, toilet paper... a wide selection of cheap, convenience food and household items... a mini-Marks, in a prime but blighted neighborhood... and Browns Deli in its current state contributes to the blight. The business does well, and may continue to do well, just as it is, but that is not the highest and best use when the neighborhood is no longer blighted. It is our intention to eliminate tobacco, alcohol and lottery sales, improve the quality of market selections, including fresh, local produce, and introduce healthy freshly prepared foods, largely for carry-out.

A small, efficient rectangular space, without frills or luxuries... we will certainly remodel and dress things up a bit, over time, but will KISS. I believe we'll have a few cafe tables inside, for people to catch a quick coffee and muffin, and there will be picnic tables outside where people will be welcome to eat and relax on nice days... it is a very cool setting! Great coffee and free WiFi too, of course... and local art.

There will be real NEO-fire, with Snag on 55 gallon grill.  We're talking about having a Caribbean cuisine angle, with Edwin adding jerk spice and vegi fare. What else? I've been talking to Niki Gillota about carrying Gypsy Beans amazing baked goods... I hope to connect this with City Fresh and Coit Road Farmers Market.

Being a few blocks from University Circle and the Clinic, with a Clinic Shuttle parking lot next door, we will attack that market to generate carry-outs on the way to and from work/school and to dorms. So, while the Star Market and Cafe will be designed to continue to serve the immediate, walkable neighborhood, it should be a destination for the 10,000s of outsiders who pass-by and live near-by.

The owner has operated Browns for 20 years, doing well, and seeks the flexibility to spend more time in his home country of Palestine, where his young children will be educated. He wants to leave from behind his bullet-proof counter, but he does not want to sever his ties with Cleveland - he will educate his children in Palestine and then have them go to Case, is his plan. He has succeeded well in two hard places - Palestine and Cleveland - so I have faith he will continue to be a valuable part of our community, now as a Star Neighborhood Development partner.

So, REALNEO friend, give us some thoughts on what you would be most likely to want from the Star Cafe, day to day. What would make you stop for carry out when in the Circle area? You know the location... you'll have easy parking and waiting areas for shopping and picking up food... the people will be friendly and the space clean and attractive... we'll take orders online and by email and have them waiting.

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