Picture one of the many neglected and vacant spaces in Cleveland’s St. Clair Superior neighborhood. What do you see? For local architect turned creative entrepreneur Stephanie Sheldon, it’s pure potential. It’s a chance to support small local businesses, spark collaboration, and bring a sense of excitement to a blighted but historic Cleveland neighborhood.
This past February, Sheldon launched the Cleveland Flea, a series of monthly flea markets with an emphasis on local artists and artisans. In April, she expanded the operation by bringing chefs, designers, event planners, and other creative geniuses together to put on a one-of-a-kind dining experience called Design Dinners.
The Cleveland Flea Design Dinners are more than just pop-up dinners featuring special menus. These events promote real neighborhood revitalization while showcasing the camaraderie of our city’s great culinary leaders.
“My main objective in placing the Cleveland Flea in St. Clair was to draw attention to a beautiful Cleveland neighborhood that’s been forgotten or is unknown to many in our community,” said Sheldon. “Vacancy can mean opportunity, and we’re proving it by creating amazing experiences in vacant storefronts, banks, parking lots, courtyards, and alleyways.”
Stephanie isn’t alone in her passion for this neighborhood. With a $375,000 grant from ArtPlaceAmerica through the St. Clair Superior Community Development Corporation, Upcycle St. Clair is working to build a new neighborhood along St. Clair Avenue using upcycling (creative re-use of discarded material) as the artistic intervention.
“There is something special about this area and its longtime community anchors, historic buildings, and easy accessibility to the east and west,” explained project manager Nicole McGee, “It was once a thriving spine of the neighborhood, and we believe in reclaiming its potential.”
At the July Design Dinner in a vacant space on St. Clair, owned by St. Martin de Porres High School, guests excitedly chatted over a hyper-local dinner with hand-selected ingredients from chefs Michael Nowak (Black Pig) and Adam Lambert (Bar Cento). Bartender Mike Gully (Market Avenue Wine Bar) was on hand serving creatively crafted cocktails and special pairings. Beautiful flower arrangements and centerpieces were designed by Brandon Sitler (Urban Orchid) with furniture provided by Ann King (Borrow Vintage and Eclectic Rentals), and table and event design by Janelle Miller (With Love & Whimsy Event Design). A dessert course by Mason’s Creamery, a new ice cream start-up out of Midtown’s Culinary Launch & Kitchen, capped off the night on a sweet note.
The next Cleveland Flea Design Dinner is scheduled for this fall. To purchase tickets, connect with Cleveland Flea via Facebook and sign up for its newsletter at TheClevelandFlea.com.