Mara J. Biggs

Remembering Halle’s, An Iconic Institution 

By Mara Biggs

It was around four in the afternoon when I walked up on 1228 Euclid Ave. in downtown Cleveland, the former home of the Halle Brothers Company and one of the city’s oldest landmark buildings.

 I’d never been inside the Halle Building before. Upon hearing so many enchantingly nostalgic stories of the vivacious department store it had once been, and with the wind blowing up off the curb to bite me in the face, I was lured in for a personal tour.

 When I entered the building, my nose was immediately filled with a strong, pleasant aroma – a sugary, bubblegum smell, like a thick square of original Double Bubble gum, or the red clovers I used to pick at the park as a child, which I had called bubblegum flowers because I thought they smelled that way.

 I sat down in one of the arm chairs in the lobby to take in the grandeur of the ground level. The walls and floor are made of terracotta marble, and great, cream-colored pillars rise to the intricately plastered, ivory ceilings. Every last door, railing, knob, handle, and button is trimmed in bronze.

 A woman in a business suit came clicking across the marble floor. As I looked over in her direction, I noticed two large, glass-enclosed offices on the level above me. One office had a bunch of Cleveland radio station decals on its door. I could see disc jockeys sitting around inside, uttering words into their microphones that I couldn’t make out from the lobby.

 The other office was filled with cubicles, and I could see people moving about within it, some carrying paperwork.

 The Halle Building now serves as office space for multiple tenants.

 Echoes of low voices and ringing telephones bounced back and forth through the enormous emptiness between the walls and the pillars. Other than the faint echoes and the hum of the vents above me, the building was quiet.

 I tried to imagine all the noise that had consumed the space around me many years ago. How high the sounds of clip-clopping feet, schmoozing sales associates, clanging coins, opening and closing metal registers, and excitedly scampering children must have climbed along the majestic, marble walls –and how brightly the bronze embellishments must have gleamed in all of Halle’s glory during the golden era of downtown shopping from the 1920s through the 1960s.

 Before shopping malls, downtown department stores were the place where shoppers came to find everything.  

Cleveland’s downtown was illuminated like The Land of Oz by the storefronts of Halle’s, Higbee’s, The May Company, and others, drawing masses of inspirited families and frenzied shoppers to the city streets.

Going downtown was an all-day event, described by many as magical and an adventure –It was the place to see and be seen.

 “When Halle’s and Higbee’s and May Company were open – they’re trying to do it a little bit at the Horseshoe – if you went past a Halle window, they were the most magnificent things you’ve ever seen,” explained Barbara Ragon, who served for over a decade as Halle’s executive vice president, and, in the store’s last two years of existence, its chief operating officer.

 “It was when downtowns were alive,” said Barbara.  “It’s almost amazing that Cleveland’s coming back, because there’s no retail downtown.”

 Suburbanization depleted much of downtown’s energy in the second half of the twentieth century.

 Recently, the City of Cleveland renewed its initiative to revitalize downtown, spending around $200 million on mixed-use development, adding a 750,000-square foot convention center, and making extensive plans for lakefront development, many of which are now underway.

 The City would like to see downtown’s residency increase to 20,000. The district’s population has already nearly doubled in the past two decades.

 Several other Cleveland neighborhoods have also seen rises in population and are undergoing new housing developments. Current trends show that young generations and the creative class are diverging from suburban living, a dream of their parents’, in favor of urban dwellings.

 Perhaps the most eye-catching of all the new developments in downtown Cleveland is the transformation of the PlayhouseSquare district – the area in which the Halle Building is located.

 The centerpiece of PlayhouseSquare’s new design is the world’s first outdoor chandelier, standing 20 feet high and suspended from a 44-foot steel structure. It contains over 4,200 crystals sure to draw and dazzle pedestrians on Euclid Avenue as the front window displays of Halle’s once did.

 Halle’s changed their window displays on Thursday nights. People would stand outside the store the next morning, eagerly awaiting the moment that the curtains would be pulled back from the window to unveil the latest masterpiece.

 Stores had full departments dedicated to designing and setting up window displays, as storefront decorating was a true art form, meant to garner attention and, of course, customers.

 Displays were elaborate and hand-crafted with animated dolls and puppets and hanging objects, some of which were even life-size.

 In addition to the grand chandelier, PlayhouseSquare has recently created other elaborate displays that bring visual and atmospheric allure back to Halle’s old neighborhood.

 One such display is a retro-looking, stick-built PlayhouseSquare sign that sits atop several buildings near East 13th Street and Euclid Avenue, paying tribute to the 1920s, the era in which PlayhouseSquare was born.

 All outdoor signage for the Playhouse has been replaced by new, energy-efficient LED signage, and district buildings will receive up-lighting treatments, giving the neighborhood an inspiring, ambient glow.

 A digital signage network is being implemented for more color, movement, and vibrancy as well.  

 The Playhouse has also amplified its Star Plaza with a new stage and sound system, a large fire pit, and a restaurant called “Dynomite” by Cowell & Hubbard’s Zack Bruell, featuring an outdoor dining experience with sandwiches, beer, and wine.

 PlayhouseSquare has planned a community celebration for May 2, 2014 to commemorate this return of elegance and awe to Euclid Avenue, which we can hope will in turn bring back the wide-eyed crowds too.

 Few places could cast such awe upon people as Halle’s did during the heyday of downtown.

 The Halle Bros. Co., a carriage trade store, is remembered as the most glamorous and sophisticated of all Cleveland’s department stores, providing products and service of the highest quality.

 Barbara’s eyes, shining like two timeless, chocolate diamonds, told the story of Halle’s unforgettable hallmark as much as her words did during our two-hour conversation over dinner at Olive Garden one Thursday evening.

 When the waiter –a young man, probably still a student –came to take our order, I decided on the eggplant parmigiana, and Barb ordered penne pasta with Olive Garden’s sundried tomato sauce and shrimp.

 The waiter gave his spiel about what the meals come with and then proceeded to go through the soup list.

 When he came to the chicken and gnocchi soup, Barb chuckled and said to him,”Nyaw. Nyaw-kee. You said it wrong.”

 The stunned waiter had said something that sounded more like “no key.”

 Barbara went with the chicken and gnocchi soup, and I had a salad.

 Barbara’s career at Halle’s began in 1963 when she was just in high school. She worked there through a school program, like an intern, for 30 hours each week.

 As one of five children to a widowed mother who scraped by for the family as a tomato packer, Barbara was initially quite intimidated by Halle’s. It represented a lifestyle that was out of her reach. She said at first she always felt she wasn’t dressed well enough to be there, but as a family store, Halle’s had a wonderful atmosphere and became comfortable to her quickly.

 Her first position was in the millinery department, which I hadn’t known until she told me was the name for a hat department.

 “Everybody wore hats then,” she said to me. “It was a big, big thing. Men wore hats, women wore hats—very, very fancy designer hats.”

 I told her I guess I never knew the word “millinery” since superfluous hat wearing went out of style before my time.

 “It went out of style when John Kennedy quit wearing a hat,” she said.

 Barbara was a National Honor Society student with a college scholarship, but never attended college. She married her high school boyfriend so he could avoid the Vietnam War draft and kept working to help support them.

 Two kids and two-and-a half years later, Barbara’s marriage took a turn for the worst. That was when she knew she needed a career for herself.

 Barbara worked her way up to executive vice president by the time she was 34, which was quite rare, especially for someone without a college degree.

 Doing so after growing up rather deprived and having “no favors from anyone” in a world that Barbara said “was truly a man’s world” was quite a feat for her.

 “I never became conceded about it,” she said. “That atmosphere I worked in that was so beautiful, to me was a privilege – it was something special. It was a part of who I was, but I didn’t become anybody different than I was because I experienced it.”

 As she was telling me this, I spotted our waiter heading back over with our entrees.

 He set the hot plates down in front of us and started to ask if there was anything else we needed, but before he could finish his sentence, Barbara interjected.

 “I thought I ordered sundried tomato sauce,” she said brashly. “Where are the sundried tomatoes?”

 “Uh, they’re in there,” the waiter answered slowly. “They’re just cut up small.”

 “Oh,” Barb sighed. “I guess I’d expected it to be different.”

 As she suspiciously inspected her food with her fork, I shot the waiter a sympathetic smile. He gave me a sheepish half-grin, then turned and swiftly walked away, saying nothing more.

 “I can remember when I was the assistant buyer and my boss got promoted, and I so wanted [his] job,” Barbara continued after the waiter’s departure, “and the vice president of personnel said, ‘Barbara, you will never get that job.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘Because, there are people ahead of you in the buyer training program.’ And I said, ‘I need this job. They don’t need this job.’ I’d get in the elevator, and they’d go, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know what I’m going to wear on my date this weekend,’ and I’d go, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know what I’m going to feed my kids.’”

 According to protocol, Barbara said there was no reason she really should have got the job –But one day, she was called into Halle’s President Bob Carlson’s office, where she was told, sure enough, that the job was hers.

  “Don’t let me down,” Carlson had said to her.

“Halle’s allowed me, as a woman, to prove myself and raise my children,” Barbara told me. “[They] believed in me.”

 From its inception, Halle’s always welcomed women to work, eventually employing thousands of them, and gave women opportunity to take on critical responsibilities within the store.

 Department stores were so busy in the early to mid-twentieth century that they’d have upwards of 3,500 employees working just in sales, not to mention those working in the countless other divisions of labor within the store.

 “It’s one of the great social changes in American history,” said Dr. John Grabowski, a historian at the Western Reserve Historical Society, “is as retailing grew, particularly department stores, women who had very limited opportunities to work in the late-nineteenth century suddenly found another avenue open to them.”

 Sam Halle, who would remark to his brother Sal how fortunate they were to employ so many delightful women, married a saleswoman from the suit department — an Irish-Catholic named Blanche Murphy.

 Sal Halle also married a woman he met in the store – a frequent customer named Carrie Moss, whose family was part of Cleveland’s Jewish elite. She later became one of the company’s directors.

 Salmon Portland Chase Halle and Samuel Horatio Halle, later known within The Halle Bro. Co. as S.P. and S.H., came from a long line of entrepreneurs. The German-Jewish Halle family is credited as one of the families who built the city of Cleveland, which one of Salmon and Samuel’s cousins, Aaron Halle, discovered on a trip along the Erie Canal.

 As James M. Wood says is his book, “Halle’s: Memoirs of a Family Department Store,” “From [the mid-nineteenth century], when the first Halles had settled in Cleveland, a sleepy town of 6,000, whose residents traded in lumber and farm products, Cleveland’s commerce was essentially a family affair, and hundreds of family decisions helped to shape the city’s future.” 

 Sal and Sam grew up privileged, attending social clubs to which wealthy and prominent Jewish families belonged. They were encouraged by their father, Moses Halle, who owned Halle’s Hall where such social clubs would meet, among his other ventures, to take advantage of Cleveland’s possibilities.

 The boys’ mother, Rebecca, died of tuberculosis when they were very young. Moses was later remarried to opera singer Rosa Lowentritt, who gave the boys a stepsister and a half-sister, Jessie and Minnie.

 The boys, frequent cross-country travelers in their youth, once took a trip to Chicago, where Sam Halle was very intrigued by Marshall Field’s department store. He wrote in his journal that he’d be proud if someday he owned a store half so grand.

 When Moses gave his sons a gift of $10,000 to either attend college or start their own businesses, the boys agreed to use the money as an investment in their lifelong dream of owning their own company.

 The brothers’ company grew slowly in the beginning. Their first real surge in business came after the highly-skilled, father-daughter cap-making and furrier team, Charles and Emma Ziska, who were Czechoslovakian immigrants, came to work for them.

 Charles began selling contracts to make streetcar conductor caps for companies in Cleveland, Detroit, and Denver. He soon sold more contracts to streetcar lines in Duluth, Fort Wayne, and Kansas City, Missouri.

 Electric streetcars commonly ran down main streets from the nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. One streetcar line ran from Cleveland’s suburbs down through bustling Euclid Avenue and was widely used by department store shoppers.

 The Halles hired Emma’s cousin, Julie Votava, to assist with cap making as business picked up. They then began making fur caps, yachting caps, which were popularly worn by people bicycling downtown or swimming in Lake Erie, and other custom-made fur garments. The family did alterations for customers as well.

 Soon Sal and Sam began obtaining cap contracts from major railroad companies around the country, and business was humming with the shears of dozens of newly-hired seamstresses.

 Despite all the activity, the brothers were still at a deficit by the end of their first year in business.

 They then decided to rent out more floor space in the Nottingham Building – one of the places that had housed the company before the Halle Building was built – to sell more merchandise, including ready-to-wear.

 By 1896, Halle’s had become a women’s specialty store, with women’s national retail sales rising above men’s, and the store began prospering more than the Halles had ever imagined it would. Later, the company would have a department for just about everything you could imagine – from men’s wear to fine wine. 

 Halle’s new merchandise wasn’t the only reason for the store’s sudden success, however. The city of Cleveland was in a time of great economic prosperity as well, adding to residents’ disposable income. Cleveland’s network of ship docks and railways were rapidly distributing Rockefeller’s oil and petroleum products, iron ore, steel, and other materials to a hugely industrializing nation. Cleveland became America’s largest shipbuilding port and the world’s greatest iron ore market.

 S.P.’s innovative inventory tracking and S.H.’s way with employees also contributed to company profit.

 S.H. took interest in the personal lives of every Halle employee, as did Blanche, who visited the store almost daily to ask of workers’ family engagements and well-being. S.H. was a father figure to many employees and received much affection and respect within the store.

 S.P., on the other hand, was more aloof and planned to retire by age 50 to devote his time to recreational things outside of business. Due to the challenges World War I threw at the company, he was unable to retire until he was 52.

 S.H. thought that the Halle Bro. Co. held a lifetime of opportunity and wanted to continue growing the store to nourish the city and the lives of people looking for work.

 For S.H., Halle’s did hold a lifetime of opportunity. Five interurban branches and the first suburban branches were opened before his passing in 1954. Halle’s number of branches eventually totaled 15 across Ohio and Pennsylvania, and its selling region also included western New York and Indiana.

 The “Halle family,” as the company employees were called, embodied the hospitality and warm-heartedness that S.H. and Blanche made Halle’s tradition until the company too was laid to rest in 1982.

  “I would say what I enjoyed the most is what the Halle family established,” said Barbara. “The warmth, the family atmosphere, the caring about each other – just being able to do something beautiful.”

 “My designer buyer, she called me on the phone,” Barbara explained, “and she said, ‘Honey, I want to be your friend. Someday you’re gonna need friends here, and it’s important that you make them, because we’ll be here when you need help.’ And I mean the minute that I went through my divorce, she was there to say, ‘OK, we’ll help you get through this.’’’

 Halle’s workers had always associated very closely with one another. The company’s Employees Association would sponsor over 100 clubs through the course of Halle’s history, starting with a drama club. Every Halle’s employee who served in World War I or World War II was thrown a party upon their return home, and every worker who’d been there for 25 years was given a reception and $1,000.

 Barbara told me she used to throw a Christmas party in her home for the Halle family every year.

 “There were so many people in the house, you couldn’t move,” she said. “Everyone just had a good time.”

 The Halle family took care of their customers as scrupulously as they took care of their own. Then, customer service was taken to levels rarely seen today and was key to department stores’ success.

 “People who waited on you in stores generally were very accommodating,” Dr. George Knepper, a historian at the University of Akron, once noted. “Most of them were pleasant. Many of them were very patient.”

 “An example would be, if a customer asked you for directions to another department, you were not allowed to point or to tell them,” said Dixie Lee Davis, former Halle’s fashion director. “It was your duty to escort them to that area and to introduce them to someone in that particular department.”

 “The more I worked there, I came to understand it was something that I could never experience again,” Barbara said. “It was a rare, wonderful environment. If I run into somebody from Halle’s, it’s just like, we go, ‘Oh my god, could you just go back to that?’”

 Many shoppers and former Halle’s employees have described the department store as a one-of-a-kind place.

 Florence Kraft Heaston, who cashiered at Halle’s as a young woman in the 1920s after moving from Rochester, once said, “I didn’t know a place like Halle’s existed. When I walked in and saw the marble staircase leading to the balcony overlooking the first floor, I was spellbound.”

 As was I that afternoon when I stepped inside the Halle Building for the first time.

 I admired the way each staircase in the building spirals, like the staircases of a palace, or a stately Victorian mansion, I thought.

 I had to take the staircases to explore the second floor occupied by the radio stations and cubicle-filled offices and the basement level, which holds the food court. All the escalators were shut down and roped off like broken theme park rides.

 I tried to take one of the elevators to the other floors, but when a security guard asked me who my appointment was with and I didn’t have an answer for him, he forbid me from wandering to any higher levels.

 Halle’s bronze H insignia emblazons every entranceway – including the one on the front of the building – and every window, elevator, and fountain in sight.

 The proud insignia of the Halle Bros. Co. and the lustrous building that was once its home are tangible reminders, like artifacts, of Halle’s tradition of quality and prestige – a tradition that can still be experienced when you see it yourself.

 There is one other Halle’s tradition that lasted beyond the company’s closing – a Christmastime character by the name of Mr. Jingeling.

 Mr. Jingeling was created in 1956 for what was supposed to be a one-time promotion. His maker was a man named Frank Jacobi, an advertising agent from Chicago and an associate of Walter Halle.

 Walter Murphy Halle, son of Sam and Blanche Halle, took over the company in 1951.

 Mr. Jingeling was so loved that he became an annual Halle’s Christmas promotion.

 As the story went, Mr. Jingeling saved Christmas one season when Santa lost the keys to his Treasure House of Toys where he kept all the presents to be delivered to the good girls and boys on Christmas Eve. Mr. Jingeling, a locksmith elf, fashioned Santa a new set of keys so that he could access the Treasure House. As a reward for saving Christmas, Santa made Mr. Jingeling “keeper of the keys.”

 Mr. Jingeling, who always carried a large ring of keys with him, made appearances on the seventh floor of Halle’s during the Christmas season. Children could sit on his lap and received their own cardboard cutout key to Santa’s Treasure House of Toys.

 Mr. Jingeling also made appearances on Channel 5’s “Captain Penny Show.” Max Ellis, an actor from Playhouse Theater, played Mr. Jingeling originally for the television show, while Cleveland police officer Tom Moviel played Mr. Jingeling for in-store appearances. Ellis filled the TV role until his sudden death in 1964, when Karl Mackey took his place.

 Mackey had a background in performance and was the managing director of Lakewood Little Theatre. However, he found the role to be too time consuming when combined with his duties at the theater, and after just one holiday season as Mr. Jingeling, he relinquished the role.

 After Mackey resigned, the television role was filled by Earl Keyes, who is the best-known Mr. Jingeling. Keyes had been a long-time producer, director, and actor at WEWS Channel 5. Keyes played the character from 1966 until 2000 when he passed away. When Halle’s closed in 1982, Keyes brought Mr. Jingeling to Higbee’s tenth floor. When Higbee’s too closed, Mr. Jingeling moved to Tower City.

 The Christmas season was such a special time for downtown department stores. Every store had a Christmas tradition that was unique to itself. For instance, Higbee’s had the Twigbee Shop, a store within the children’s department where kids could purchase affordable gifts for their parents and families. Sterling-Lindner was known for its giant, decorated tree, which topped out at 73 feet tall one year.

 In addition to its Christmas tradition of the jolly Mr. Jingeling, Halle’s was known for having the best Christmas window displays in town.

 As one shopper by the name of Steve Presser recalled, “My favorite window displays were Halle’s. They were fantasy. I think probably the greatest lost art of the holidays is the art of window dressing.”

 “I remember going downtown to see the wonderful windows. Halle’s department store always had the best of them,” said Bill Hixson, another shopper.

 Halle’s began working on its Christmas window displays in March. The window theme would be established at a meeting between all the members of the fashion and display departments. Once a theme was decided on, the display department would begin planning out the animation. They would then actually take their animation blue prints with them to a convention held in New York City every June, where the animated pieces were designed.

 The extravagant Christmas spectacles were a reflection of how much downtown department stores cared about presentation and the customer experience.

 People dressed to match the regal appearances and service of department stores when they went downtown to shop.

 “Your hair was combed, you were washed up. Cleanliness was next to godliness,” said Bob Render from special projects outreach at the Western Reserve Historical Society. “You were all duded up to go downtown. It was almost like going to church.”

 “It was an elegant time,” Barbara said. “It was a time when women went out at night and got dressed up and men wore suits when they went out. Now it’s a totally different world.”

 Barb told me about an evening during this elegant time when she and her second husband, Victor Ragon, went to see Frank Sinatra perform at the Coliseum.

 “He had his tux on, I had an evening dress on – we go to the Coliseum, and most people were dressed that way, but we saw people walking in in blue jeans, and we were like…,” she paused to re-enact their dropped jaws, then continued, “You know, you thought they were the workers – they weren’t, they were the guests. They just changed, just overnight.”

 The scope of downtown Cleveland changed just as quickly as the way of dress. The ‘60s marked the torrent of suburbanization and the beginning of the age of convenience when people not only opted to dress themselves in a less-hassle fashion, but to shop in a way that was less hassle too. As more and more families transplanted themselves in the suburbs, department store chains increased their number of suburban branches. People preferred the short drive and free parking of stores’ suburban locations to the trek downtown, despite how scaled-back suburban department stores were from their mother stores on Euclid Avenue.

 Soon shopping malls arrived and became the project choice for department stores. As the rule in retail goes, when the buyer speaks, the seller listens, so stores were forced to embrace the suburbs to survive.

 However, the move to suburban shopping malls would not save Cleveland’s largest department stores for long.

 Sterling-Lindner and Bonwit Teller, two department stores located across the street from Halle’s, closed first during a time when PlayhouseSquare theaters were also in decline. The reduced traffic in the struggling neighborhood was a blow to Halle’s flagship store, which was still trying to regain its footing from the hit of suburbanization.

 Downtown’s center of gravity shifted back to Public Square, where Higbees’s and The May Company were still operating with easy access to the Rapid Transit. As an attempt to counter this disadvantage, Halle’s began leasing shuttle buses to take people from Public Square to PlayhouseSquare. Unfortunately, these efforts were offset by the rate at which downtown Cleveland itself was deteriorating.

 Marshall Field’s bought the company in 1970 and attempted to modernize it, retiring Halle’s Old English Script logo and giving it one that was closer to Marshall Field’s logo.

 “Marshall Field’s was the same type of high-end, carriage trade store, so the transition was pretty seamless,” said Barbara.

 Under the leadership of then-President Chrisholm Halle – Walter Halle’s son and Sam Halle’s grandson – the company also tried to draw less-wealthy patrons by carrying mid-priced goods as a way to possibly increase sales. However, it only angered loyal carriage trade shoppers, and Chrisholm was forced to resign in 1974.

 In 1981, Field’s sold Halle’s to Associated Investors Corporation, headed by Jerome Schottenstein, whose primary holdings were in Value City.

 According to Barb, Schottenstein was known to be a liquidator. When the Halle family found out that he had bought the company, Barbara said, “We were all told we should pack up our offices and leave.”

Halle’s employees believed their stores were closing immediately.

 “It was very emotional,” said Barb, “because many people there had worked there for 40 years, 50 years.”

 Then, in the midst of the heart-wrenching news, Barb was called to the boardroom. There in the boardroom, she was asked if she supposed she’d want to run Halle’s if Schottenstein kept the stores open.

 “I don’t suppose I’d do anything unless I talk to this man,” she replied.

 A flight was promptly booked to New York City for Barbara, where she met Jerry Schottenstein.

 He told her that he wanted to keep Halle’s open, but only in Columbus, his hometown.

 “I said to him, you don’t understand – Halle’s is an institution in Cleveland. Columbus is just a new acquisition,” Barbara told me.

 “He said, ‘OK, well if I agree to leave some of the stores in Cleveland open, would you run it?’ And I said, ‘I need to go back and talk to my people because they have reputations – they’re known all over the United States and Europe, and if they can’t stay with me, than I can’t do this company,”’ Barb explained. “So that’s where we left it. I got on the plane, I got off the plane in Cleveland – the entire media of Cleveland was there with cameras, half the Halle employees were there. He announced when I was in the air that I was going to run Halle’s, so I became the chief operating officer of Halle’s.”

 “For two years,” she continued, “we reopened the stores, we restocked the stores, we returned Halle’s to what it was – and two years to the day, he shut it again. What I didn’t know is that he simply opened it because it was a real estate transaction.” 

 Schottenstein himself had actually placed full-page newspaper ads promising to restore and continue Halle’s tradition of quality products and service.

 “He ran these ads that said ‘yesterday, today, and tomorrow,’ and then he still closed it,” said Barbara.

 For weeks after the announcement of Halle’s closing, camera crews and reporters came to Barb’s home for more details and coverage.

 She said every day Victor would call from work and ask, “Can I come home yet? Is there a TV camera there?”

 In 1982, all the Halle’s stores were closed or sold.

 Barbara had to go through litigation to make sure all the employees received their pensions and insurance.

 During the two-year period when Barb worked as the chief operating officer, she and the other Halle’s workers tried to rebuild the company’s image and reputation, running their own ads and commercials and designing new shopping bags that donned the geranium, Halle’s official flower.

 “It was like a dream come true,” said Barb. “We were like in this utopia for two years. Everything was magical, and it was all back again. And then it went away.”

 She said that she also met with some of the most powerful and influential people in Cleveland to see if they could help find some way to salvage the store, even if it were on a smaller scale, since Halle’s was such an iconic part of Cleveland culture.

 “It wasn’t a store, it was an institution,” Barbara told me very matter-of-factly. “That’s what it was.”

 She paused for what seemed like a somber moment, then broke into a laugh, saying, “Anyhow, I’m very passionate about Halle’s.”

 I asked her, “Was there anything you didn’t like about Halle’s?”

 “No,” she answered. “Ask me about any other place I worked.”

 We both laughed then as the waiter reappeared to ask if we were still doing all right and if he could get us anything.

 “I guess I should probably get the check now,” Barb said. “And I guess I should start paying you rent.”

 The waiter cracked a wide, toothy grin this time and went off to print our check. It did look as though it was getting pretty late and we might wear out our welcome if we stayed much longer. Most of the booths and tables around us were empty, and another young man was sweeping the floor behind us. I could see through the windows that the sky was nearly black.

  I had felt inspired watching the ardent memories Barbara had of Halle’s and of Cleveland’s illustrious past glow in her eyes like rekindled flames. It made me sad to see them extinguished as we paid for our meals and gathered our coats and bags to head back out into the modern world. The world too made me sad afterward, and seemed fuzzy and surreal for the rest of the night.

 I ended my exploration of the Halle Building when the lobby began growing louder with the echoes of the end of the work day. After pushing through one of the bronze-trimmed, revolving doors on the front of the building, I turned around to take one more look at the place. In doing so, I felt like the treasured memories Barbara shared with me that night at Olive Garden were glittering somewhere in my eyes too.

 PlayhouseSquare’s chandelier had not been erected yet over Euclid Avenue the day I visited the Halle Building –It was still being constructed on the asphalt in front of the theaters when I walked back through the district to my car.

 Every passerby’s pair of eyes stuck astonishedly on the half-assembled chandelier, and I smiled, not thinking this time of what the district and downtown had once been, but of what they could be.

                                                       Source List

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     2011. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. 

Faircloth, Christopher. Images of America –Cleveland’s Department Stores. Charleston: 
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Ghetia Bellamy, Gail. Cleveland Christmas Memories – Looking Back at Holidays Past.        Cleveland: Gray & Company Publishers, 2012. Print. 

Wood, James M. Halle’s - Memoirs of a Family Department Store. Cleveland: 
     Geranium, 1987. Print. 



May 1, 2014

CSU to close daycare center

By Mara Biggs

Cleveland State University is closing its Child Development Center after seven years of operation.

The university came to the decision based on careful analysis of the risks and rewards of providing this service, said John Soeder, senior writer of University Marketing.

The Child Development Center opened in 2007 with three main goals: to provide excellent child care, to contribute to the academic success of Cleveland State students who are also parents and to operate in a self-supporting manner financially.

CSU Day Care

"With regard to contributing to the academic success of CSU students who are also parents, the center is underutilized," said Soeder.

Only 23 of the 61 families served by the development center have Cleveland State student-parents.

The center has also had a deficit all seven years of operation. 

The Child Development Center was, however, accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) — a sign of successful completion of the center’s first goal, according to Soeder.

In consideration of the closure’s impact on Cleveland State student-parents who currently use the Child Development Center, the university will provide them with a tuition scholarship of $500 for the fall 2014 semester.

The university is also working with the Child Development Center staff, who are employed by the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, to help affected families find alternative child care options.

Operations at the Child Development Center will cease after August 15, 2014. 

April 17, 2014

Leverage Erie lakefront, experts say

By Mara Biggs

Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs held a forum titled “What’s Happening? Cleveland’s Waterfronts” on April 10. The event was the first in a series of public programs that have been discussing changes to Cleveland’s lakefront in the areas of the East Ninth Street Pier, the Metroparks, the Detroit Shoreway and the Flats East Bank.

The five panelists’ discourse was focused on the need to take advantage of one of Cleveland’s greatest and underutilized assets in order to strengthen the local economy and remold the city’s character in a post-industrial age, but most importantly, to do so in ways that will allow greater Cleveland residents optimal access and enjoyment of this asset.

The city of Cleveland needs to recognize and build on what makes Cleveland different from other northern cities, said Donna Studniarz, director of strategic initiatives for Cleveland Metroparks and one of the five panelists. 

The lack of small-scale attractions along the lakefront makes the city lack vibrancy, said Bob Brown, director of the City of Cleveland’s City Planning Commission. 

For example, Brown said, there are nice parks and open land near the lake, but nothing to eat or drink there. Bringing food trucks to the lakefront parks would be a good start.

One food truck can already be found near the East Ninth Street Pier. 

"We have to make these parks a destination," said Studniarz.

The Cleveland Metroparks found in a study that greater Cleveland residents do not want the lakefront parks to become overdeveloped, but rather be open, green and have aquatic recreation facilities, with paddle boarding, kayaking and multi-sports venues gaining much popularity within Cuyahoga County. The county also has the second-highest number of boat owners in the state.

"I would personally like to see an increase in shops and storefronts along the lakefront," said Olivia Smosarski, a senior majoring in nonprofit administration and sociology at Cleveland State. "I think the placement of small businesses would make the area more attractive and draw in a variety of visitors. I also think the lakefront is a great place to show off Cleveland’s diversity and individuality by offering a variety of shops, markets and businesses."

Brown talked about the issue of having limited pedestrian access to the downtown lakefront due to the freeway ramps and railroad tracks that cut through near East Ninth Street. A pedestrian bridge connecting to the East Ninth Street Pier is underway, and next year, construction will begin on a pedestrian bridge connecting the East Ninth Pier to Northcoast Harbor, a 9.7-acre district that comprises of the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

A marina including a paddle board concession is set to open shortly on Northcoast Harbor. 

The Detroit Shoreway will soon have its original name, Edgewater Parkway, restored. 

Edgewater Parkway will be less of a freeway and more of a boulevard, with beautiful landscapes and lanes for walkers and cyclists, said Jeff Ramsey, executive director of the Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Corporation. 

Additionally, the Detroit-Shoreway CDC would like to see the neighborhood restore some of its former glory as a walking community, Ramsey explained. Before the neighborhood’s large factories closed, it had one of the largest walking communities in the state, with factory employees walking to work every day. 

According to Ramsey, the Detroit-Shoreway CDC also wants to build more upper-income housing in the neighborhood, which is currently in demand. Development has already commenced for Breakwater Bluffs, an upper-income residential complex with picturesque views of Lake Erie and downtown. 

Rivergate, a small park located on the east bank of the flats, is presently being reconstructed to hold a waterfront promenade, a restaurant and a kayak rental facility. The Cleveland Metroparks acquired Rivergate Park in 2012, along with 511 additional acres on Lake Erie. 

There are also plans for a water taxi building on the east bank of the flats, Studniarz said.

In the past, the Flats on the banks of the Cuyahoga River was a lively entertainment district. However, it saw a decline in recent years. 

Phase one construction of the Flats East Bank has already been completed, which included a 23-story building housing Ernst & Young and Tucker Ellis and West LLP, a hotel, several restaurants and a health club. Phase two of construction is currently underway and will produce a residential complex with 243 apartments, more restaurants, night clubs, a 12-foot riverfront boardwalk and a park. 

Full plans for the Flats East Bank phase two construction can be viewed at 

The Cleveland Metroparks will spend $17.6 million in capital improvements on bathrooms, concessions, infrastructure, shoreline protection, roadways, fishing and aquatic areas, and amenities. 

The first phase of the new Lake Link Trail is in progress, said Pam Carson, executive director of the Trust for Public Land, Ohio. The Lake Link Trail will connect the lakefront parks and amenities of the west side to those of the east side. 

The Metroparks would also like to plan large-scale and monthly events such as festivals, Studniarz said. 

During the Q-and-A session, the audience raised concern about being able to make use of the lakefront parks during the winter.

"The test of a good lakefront plan is what happens in February, not what happens in June," said Brown. 

April 3, 2014

CSU Trustees pass new policy on discrimination and harassment

ASC 101 to include new interactive training modules to raise awareness about non-consensual sexual contact 

By Mara Biggs

Cleveland State University’s Board of Trustees approved a new policy on discrimination and harassment March 25, which defines and denounces forms of sexual violence, including relationship violence and non-consensual sexual contact, among other things. Sexual assault occurs epidemically, with one in four American women and one in six American men being victims in their lifetimes. 

The university is even going a step further to address the issues surrounding the culture of violence by implementing sexual violence training modules into new students’ curriculums starting this fall. The training modules are intended to raise awareness of sexual violence and prevent it. 

"It’s a very interactive training," said Yulanda McCarty-Harris, director of the Office of Institutional Equity. 

Training modules will be incorporated in ASC 101, a required course for all freshmen. The Office of Institutional Equity will work independently with transfer students and incoming law school and graduate students to ensure that anyone beginning a program at Cleveland State receives the training. 

To get students to understand the issues surrounding the culture of violence, the training needs to be “closer to an experience,” and must be gone about sensitively, perhaps individually, said Brian Orlando, an electrical engineering major who is close to people who have been victims of dating violence. 

Mike Conroy, also a senior studying electrical engineering, agreed with Orlando, saying that he doesn’t think sexual violence training is something that should be presented in a student orientation-type setting, as McCarty-Harris said it likely would be for law school students. Conroy said he feels that students won’t pay attention or be involved in the training if it’s taught before a large group. 

"I don’t know if you can get [the training] in a classroom," he added. "Unfortunately it’s an issue that you can’t dance around."

McCarty-Harris said she hopes that putting the training out there will compel people to actually file reports of sexual assault. Only 12 percent of these crimes ever get reported, as victims of assault often fear biases and unfair judgment from the judicial system.

"I think if [the training] is something they’re going to include, it should be very interactive and something students can relate to," said Melissa Bresnahan, who is working on a Masters of Social Work at Cleveland State. "I think it should be something where students understand why it’s important."

The Office of Institutional Equity is currently getting quotes from outside companies that have been contracted with other Ohio universities to provide sexual violence training. McCarty-Harris said that the company Campus Clarity is a top prospect. 

Campus Clarity provides comprehensive online training containing student focus group-tested storytelling and interactions to maximize user engagement and retention, as stated on the company website, 

The company claims to take a nonjudgmental approach to helping students navigate difficult and risky situations and to empowering students to make informed decisions. 

Campus Clarity’s training program has two courses for students, called “Think About It: Part I” and “Think About It: Part II.”

"Think About It: Part I" covers sexual violence, healthy relationships, sex in college and partying smart. "Think About It: Part II" is a sexual assault and substance abuse prevention program that immerses students in scenarios relevant to their college experience so that they can take the knowledge they gain from the course and apply it to real life. 

McCarty-Harris also said her office has been talking to Athletic Director John Parry about possibly doing a sexual violence training session for athletes.

"We certainly could and will add a session about sexual violence," which would be part of the athletic department’s "Welcome Back" program that kicks off at the beginning of every new school year, said Parry. 

According to McCarty-Harris, not many comments were made on the new discrimination/harassment policy while it was in the comment period, but some contained positive feedback for the inclusion of gender identity and/or expression as a basis on which discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated. 

Other comments raised concerns that the policy is too broad and may be an infringement on First Amendment rights, McCarty-Harris reported. 

The Office of Institutional Equity is looking to put together pamphlets with information on sexual violence and assault as well.

March 20, 2014

CSU eliminates geology major

Geology program ranked third-most cost-effective arts and sciences degree at CSU

By Mara Biggs

Cleveland State University has done away with the geology major due to declining enrollment and a lack of faculty with the expertise to teach geology coursework.

However, the environmental science major at Cleveland State is essentially the same as the traditional geology major, according to geology professor Dr. Pete Clapham. 

Clapham, who is one of three remaining geology professors at the university, said, “There were some important faculty retirements, and they were not replaced. I think if they had replaced the faculty who were retiring, [the geology program] would not have been declining.”

One of the three geology professors remaining plans to retire at the end of this school year.

Clapham said that students will get the same information and skills as environmental science majors that they would as geology majors — the only difference is the name of the major.

He added, “If you look at jobs in geology in this area, they’re in environmental sciences. If [students] want jobs in the earth sciences, they’re going to be on the environmental side of this.”

Geology courses will still be taught for the geology minor, the Bachelor of Science and the Master of Science in environmental science, and for the PhD in regulatory biology, according to professor and department chair Dr. Crystal Weyman. 

Geology courses will also continue to fulfill general education requirements for the College of Education and Human Services. 

Clapham said that he conducted a study years ago on the cost-effectiveness of the arts and science programs at Cleveland State, and found that the geology program was the third-most cost-effective. Cleveland State’s religion program, which was also in the top-three most cost-effective programs, was eliminated as well.

Clapham said he thinks the university made judgments about the effectiveness of programs and departments based on their size. 

The decision to eliminate the major was supported by the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences and by the College of Sciences and Health Professions, said Weyman. 

A forum was held in the fall of 2013 with the support of the dean Meredith Bond’s office to ensure degree completion for current geology majors. 

"I think where we’re going in the future is a goal of a well-developed environmental science program," said Clapham. "I’m optimistic."

March 20, 2014

Local rockers debut single

By Mara Biggs

Cleveland-based rock group Kiss Me Deadly packed the house at Happy Dog for their single-release show on March 15.

The band is fronted by singer/songwriter and guitarist Jen Poland, a teaching assistant in Cleveland State University’s School of Communication. Dr. Evan Lieberman, a professor of Film and the director of the Media Arts and Technology division of the School of Communication at the university, is the bassist and occasionally the second guitarist of the group. 


Kiss Me Deadly is currently putting the finishing touches on a full-length studio album, which will be titled “What You Do In The Dark.” The group plans to try to get radio play once everything is mixed and mastered. 

Lieberman said the band also plans to begin shooting a “futuristic film noir” to accompany the album in late spring or early summer. 

Poland and Lieberman have been playing together in a band for nearly four years. A list of former bandmates grew before Poland and Lieberman found the group’s most recent keyboard player, Daniel Baxter, and drummer Madelyn Hayes.

Baxter has been with the group for about two years and Hayes for about a year and a half.

"When Madelyn joined the band is when everything changed," said Lieberman. "It’s when we became serious." 

The Happy Dog show was the last Baxter will ever play as a member of Kiss Me Deadly, however, as he will be moving out of state for a new job. 

The single-release show was the first show Kiss Me Deadly has played at Happy Dog. The band seemed to enjoy the atmosphere and experience, in spite of having to ask the sound guy to turn up the vocals several times. 

"The cool thing about Happy Dog is that they actually have people who come here and pay a cover to hear bands. That’s very unique," said Poland.

The band also seemed appreciative of the Happy Dog crowd’s character, which Baxter described as musically-educated, mentioning that one audience member was able to detect the Talking Heads influence in his keyboard parts.

"It’s a really sharp audience — a tough crowd," Lieberman added. 

The group said they really like playing gigs at Becky’s and Mahall’s as well, but that the Beachland is their favorite Cleveland music venue. 

"I love the Beachland as a venue," said Lieberman. "It’s like the Cleveland Museum of Art. They’re dedicated to continuing an art form in a very sophisticated way."

Poland said the band usually plays open-mic nights once a week to generate support, network and “touch base with the music community.” She tries to organize shows for the band once a month. 

February 27, 2014 

Brite Winter highlights new face of Cleveland

By Jordan Gonzalez and Mara Biggs

If any foreigners visited Brite Winter festival on Feb. 15, they would have seen a thriving community in Ohio City, full of food, drinks, art, music and thousands of chipper Clevelanders. 

Despite temperatures that flirted with the negatives, the atmosphere wasn’t dampened, and even after the outdoor activities ended, the local bars and restaurants stayed packed until late into the night. 

For a city that rebuilds their sports teams almost every year and has gained national attention for multiple serial killers, diabolical abductors and a ravaging heroin problem, the Cleveland of Brite Winter festival was not what the stereotypes portray. 


Local entrepreneurs and residents see a different Cleveland — one that doesn’t accept that the only positive part of Cleveland is a museum dedicated to old musicians. 

"People that love Cleveland the most are very often folks who were born elsewhere and came here," said Sam McNulty, Cleveland State University graduate and owner of multiple bars, including Bier Markt, Bar Cento and Market Garden Brewery. "We haven’t done a great job at telling the world what we’re about, we tend to be humble and self-deprecating."

The new face of Cleveland is one of cheap housing, craft beer, high-spirited night life and thriving festivals, according to the ones that have played a part in its creation. 

Recently Cleveland has gained some positive national attention for its craft beer and its nightlife, even getting a nod from Fortune Magazine, who said it has a “63 percent chance of being a new Brooklyn” due to Ohio City, Tremont and Gordon Square. 

McNulty, who started off with a cafe in the basement of Cleveland State’s old student center, has played a major role in making Ohio City’s West 25th Street what it is today, with his string of bars that line the street.

While he said he takes the article as a compliment, he doesn’t think Cleveland will be a new Brooklyn, nor should it be a goal. 

"We all know people to try to be like others instead of just being themselves," McNulty said. "I think Cleveland is great at being a really good Cleveland. Can we be a better Cleveland? Absolutely." 

Thomas Fox, a Cleveland native and Program and Marketing Director for Brite Winter festival, shares McNulty’s hesitation for the idea of Cleveland being a new Brooklyn. 

"I like Brooklyn but that headline [in Fortune Magazine] is a little empty to me," Fox said. "There are good things and bad things about both Cleveland and Brooklyn."

Fox said both cities share excellent qualities, including creativity, original thought, thriving art communities, hard workers and “a culture built on an ethnic melting pot.”

Then there are some differences. While Brooklyn has more people and a better public transportation system, Cleveland has more space and is much more affordable. 

One of the keys to Cleveland’s continued success will be how it spreads its new developments said McNulty. Instead of “spreading development out like peanut butter,” Cleveland needs to focus its development from its core. 

"From there we start connecting these nodes and once we hit saturation levels in those areas, it’s going to kind of spill out and grow organically," said McNulty. 

But not all are on board with the modern apartments and craft beer. 

An older man clad in a superhero costume strode around the festival from the first act through the last act with a red acoustic guitar, occasionally stopping to strum a few chords for curious festival-goers. 

The self-proclaimed “Guitar Man” and Ohio City legend, who was later identified by local shop owner Alex Nosse as Eli Fletcher, said,”I’m not part of the organized entertainment. I’m an outlaw.”

Fletcher, who has lived in Ohio City since 1960 and claims to have “toured with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to the Rolling Stones,” said he believes his neighborhood has changed for the worse. 

"This place used to be fine," said Fletcher. "[Now] it’s a class issue. Now it’s a bunch of alcohol and rich people." 

Many don’t share Fletcher’s thoughts, however. 

Alex Nosse, whose Joy Machines Bike Shop hosted one of the ten music stages, acknowledged the class shift in the community, but had a slightly different take on the repercussions of it.

Nosse spent the day amiably greeting festival attendees from behind the counter of his store. Born and raised in Ohio City, he said it’s hard to find an empty storefront in the neighborhood nowadays, unlike when he was growing up. He said Ohio City has become more high-end, and its commodities higher quality. 

Although the area is attracting younger, single people, Nosse said Ohio City has always been, and still is, welcoming to families. 

Fox pointed out that a lot of the entertainment, especially in a festival like Brite Winter, is family friendly. 

"We’ve put together diverse entertainment at Brite Winter. People come with their families, play games and watch the fire twirlers," Fox said. "We sold out of hot chocolate, we also sold out of beer."

Nosse, who is involved with several neighborhood civic groups, said it’s a back and forth balance for the community to keep offering high-end products and services without becoming too expensive for long-time residents to afford. 

McNulty said he understands where Fletcher is coming from, even though he supports the new face of Cleveland.

A healthy city is ethnically, racially, economically and culturally diverse, he said, with the ultimate goal being a high amount of choice in the smallest amount of area, said McNulty. He doesn’t think Cleveland is there yet, but he believes Cleveland is on the right track. 

"Some people think of gentrification as a bad word, and it can be if it gets out of control," McNulty said, who recently purchased land in Ohio City to build seven townhouses. "But I would say Cleveland has years to go before we start losing this tremendous asset that is our affordability."

Looking forward, McNulty and Fox both agree there is still much to be done. Although he didn’t single out any politicians, McNulty bemoaned those that seek for tax dollars to be spent on the Cleveland sports teams instead of schools and potholes. Fox criticized former politicians who missed opportunity after opportunity in the past decades. 

But for now, they plan on working with the assets that Cleveland already has. 

"[Cleveland’s] authenticity speaks for itself," McNulty said. "We’re not Brooklyn, we’re not trying to be Brooklyn, we’re going to be a really good Cleveland." 

February 27, 2014

Fifth year of festival extremely successful, thousands once again celebrate in Ohio City with music, art and food

By Jordan Gonzalez and Mara Biggs


What began in 2010 as a graduate student project from Case Western Reserve University that attracted around 800 people and three local bands has expanded into a rocking festival that attracts thousands (an estimated 20,000 last year and similar numbers this year) of attendees and over 70 bands from all over the U.S. 

The 2014 Brite Winter Festival took place on Feb. 15 in Ohio City. The festival attracted a diverse crowd of all ages and ethnicities. For each group of beer-toting students rocking skinny jeans and hipster sweaters there was an older couple or a family. 

Every bar and restaurant on West 25th Street was packed. Without a seat left in a single establishment, bodies stood wedged together, and even spilled into the street outside of Great Lakes Brewing Company and Bier Markt. 

Thousands of attendees participated in the outdoor activities, playing games, watching the concerts and waiting in line for $5 beers courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing Company and Willoughby Brewing Company. 

The crowds in Market Square Park and the main stage area in the parking lot of West 26th and Market Avenue grew larger as the night rolled on. People danced and huddled around a number of roaring fire pits to keep from freezing in the continually dropping temperature of the evening, which peaked at 9 degrees (with around -7 degree wind chill). 

"Dance with us to get warm," bassist and back-up singer Casey Sullivan from Boston-based indie-pop band Air Traffic Controller said to the crowd. 

"Cleveland is more used to cold weather, so they get enough people to come because we’re used to it," said Rachel Murar, a Cleveland State student. "We’re used to freezing our ass off all the time. We go to Browns games and sit through it and they lose all the time. This has at least more incentive."


It was a little more challenging for some musicians to stay warm. Almost all musicians at Brite reported numb fingers, but none let the cold affect their energy and performance. 

"I thought it would be a lot worse, and for the first three songs I couldn’t really feel my fingers," said Michael LoPresti, lead singer from Cleveland-based indie-folk band The Lighthouse and the Whaler. "I kept having to blow on them and try and keep them warm. I thought it would affect my voice a lot more, but it didn’t really."

Dave Munro, lead singer-songwriter from Boston-based indie-pop band Air Traffic Controller, said it was the coldest outdoor performance they’ve ever played. 

"You actually have to look and make sure [your fingers are] doing what you normally just think they’re doing," Munro said. "You actually have to make sure that’s happening. All that muscle memory just goes away." 

Despite the challenging cold, he praised the fans for their energy. 
"I don’t know if it’s the weather or what, but people were just going crazy out here tonight," Munro said. "I think having this festival seems crazy but I think there is something brilliant about it, because it gives some people something to look forward to in the wintertime. It’s kind of unheard of."

Case Western Reserve student Andrew Gerst enjoyed the festival for its unique treatment of winter. 

"It is fantastic," Gerst said. "I really like the idea of a festival that says you know what, the winter sucks, but we’re going to have fun anyway. [It is] kind of like a screw you to winter, you can’t stop us."

Gerst, who is from California, also praised the refreshments at Brite, which included many local gourmet food trucks and of course, lots of beer. 

"Cleveland spoils me in beer," Gerst said. "I go back home and it’s all IPAs. Great Lakes is one of the few breweries I’ve encountered where nearly ever beer they do is fantastic."

The Lighthouse and the Whaler’s performance, which was second to last at the Brite Winter Stage, drew the biggest crowd, filling most of the parking lot outside of Great Lakes Brewing Company. 

Their fans were very responsive, dancing, singing and waving their hands throughout the entire concert, something which LoPresti said is a huge benefit of performing at festivals (especially when they are at home). 

"I think that festivals like this just help to build your confidence because you’re in front of a hometown crowd, so it’s like a little less pressure," LoPresti said. "You can just do more, experiment more, play new songs."


Air Traffic Controller, who was the last band to play on the Brite Winter Stage, drew a large crowd that also featured constant dancing and singing. Their fans braved the cold until the last song, incidentally a song about playing one last song called “Bad Axe, Mia” and then scattered back to their cars or to the toasty but overcrowded bars on West 25th. 

Several bars held music stages well past 1 a.m., but the crowds left the outdoors immediately after the last outdoor concerts, and food trucks and games were closed down. 

February 27, 2014

New harassment policy open for comment

By Mara Biggs

Cleveland State University’s discrimination/harassment draft policy is currently in the comment period. During the comment period, the university community may provide feedback on draft policies via email to 

The proposed policy would advance the prohibition of sexual harassment by delineating it in terms of sexual violence and exploitation. Sexual violence and exploitation are defined by non-consensual sexual activity and instances of incapacitation during sexual activity within the draft. 

"I am totally supportive of allowing the university community to comment on important policies as [they relate] to the university," said Yulanda McCarty-Harris, director of the Office of Institutional Equity. "The more inclusive, the better implementation and also adherence." 

Comments will be accepted for the discrimination/harassment draft policy until March 15. 

The discrimination/harassment draft policy, along with other policies up for comment, can be viewed at 

The ordinances concerning sexual violence and exploitation would comply with recent White House initiatives to better police sexual assault on university campuses, and to raise awareness and prevention of sexual assault and sexual violence among the college-age population.

McCarty-Harris said the proposed discrimination/harassment policy is “a step in the right direction regarding educational awareness and prevention.”

McCarty-Harris reported that the Office of Institutional Equity is also pushing to make sexual violence education part of the curriculum for the Introduction to University Life course (ASC 101), which is required for freshmen. 

The discrimination/harassment draft policy also prohibits discrimination and harassment toward individuals of the university community on the basis of race, sex (including pregnancy), religion, gender identity and expression, color, age, national origin, veteran or military status, genetic information or disability, marital status and parental status. 

February 13, 2014

Federal authorities, universities focus on sexual assault

By Mara Biggs

In January, President Obama created a task force of senior administration officials to work with colleges and universities on better policing and preventing rape and sexual assault.

One in five college students have been sexually assaulted, but only 12 percent of them file reports.

One in four American women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. 
Few offenders are prosecuted because victims fear biases and judgment of the judicial system. 

Obama has given the task force 90 days to recommend the best practices for preventing and responding to assaults on campuses and to check that universities are complying with legal obligations. 

The task force was also asked to propose raising awareness of colleges’ records on assaults and officials’ responses, and to see that federal authorities get involved when colleges do not properly confront and deal with assaults. 

In 2013, only one forcible sex offense was reported on Cleveland State University’s campus.

Although there are few reported sexual assaults on campus, studies prove that sexual assault occurs epidemically off campus in the personal lives of students and staff. 

Vice President Joe Biden, who won the passage of the Violence Against Women Act 20 years ago and was seated next to the president as he signed a memorandum creating the task force, had this to say: 

"Our daughters, our sisters, our wives, our mothers, our grandmothers have every single right to expect to be free from violence and sexual abuse. No matter what she’s wearing, no matter whether she’s in a bar, in a dormitory, in the back seat of a car, on a street, drunk or sober, no man has a right to go beyond the word ‘no’. And if she can’t consent, it also means no."

The president said a priority is to encourage more men to intervene when they see an attack and to report assaults.

"Men have to take more responsibility, men have to intervene," Vice President Biden added. "The measure of manhood is willingness to speak up and speak out, and begin to change the culture."

Men are also victims of sexual assault. One in six men report being sexually assaulted. 

Yulanda McCarty-Harris, director of the Office of Institutional Equity at Cleveland State, said “I believe the best prevention [for sexual assault] is training.”

McCarty-Harris reported that the Office of Institutional Equity is pushing to make sexual violence education part of the curriculum for the Introduction to University Life course (ASC 101), which is required for freshman. 

McCarty-Harris said her department’s goals for the sexual violence education module of ASC 101, should it be implemented, are to teach students what consent truly is and what rape and sexual assault are by legal definitions. 

She said that sexual assault “is not something to be mediated” — that as a criminal offense, students must prevent a situation from reaching that point by understanding the culture of sexual violence and how to rise above it. 

McCarty-Harris also said that she hopes the sexual violence education module will empower students to talk about these issues, which continue to silently plague America.