THINK BIG: 10 franchises that could boost NW OhioWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rock critic Dave Marsh once defined “cool” as “that which expends the least amount of energy defining itself.”
But there has to be a balance between working too hard to be cool and not working hard enough. There are a wealth of wonderful homegrown restaurants and entertainment opportunities in Northwest Ohio. But even if you patronize the zoo, museum, opera, symphony, theaters and baseball stadium on a regular basis, there are plenty of open nights on the calendar.
While recognizing that our area needs some immediate help in the jobs and quality of education departments, there needs to be some sizzle to the steak. The following is a list of entertainment and restaurant franchises that could go a long way to improving our “cool quotient” and attracting and retaining young people. Toledo may never land a Hard Rock Café (until that casino opens at Portside), but Perrysburg has a Cheesecake Factory on the way, Rossford has Bass Pro Shops and Sonic is finally here, so why not dream a little?
Toledo supports a lot of movie screens, as long as they’re showcasing Hollywood’s mainstream. Coming off the biggest summer box office ever, the biggest hit was “The Dark Knight,” which made a lot of money from IMAX screens. IMAX is a large-format film process that dramatically increases cinema’s visual and audio canvass. Cedar Point used to have an IMAX screen, but Toledoans have to travel to Ypsilanti or Detroit to get the IMAX experience. It’s 48 miles to the nearest IMAX screen. Imagine the impact if our COSI, like Columbus’s COSI, was attached to an IMAX screen.
Stats: The IMAX theater network consists of more than 295 IMAX theaters in 40 countries. Online: www.imax.com
We love our burgers in Toledo, but unless you have been to Culver’s, you are missing one of the greats: The Culver’s butterburger. Not fast food so much as high-end diner food prepared quickly, Culver’s also offers frozen custard and desserts to envy. There’s a busy Culver’s in Adrian, Mich., 38 miles away. If Adrian can support a Culver’s, surely Toledo can.
Stats: Founder Craig Culver owns six Culver’s and oversees more than 370 franchised restaurants in 17 states. Online: www.culvers.com
3. Common Ground Festival
Each summer, Lansing, Mich., dedicates both sides of its modest riverfront to three days of country, rock, rap and pop music acts. Top names draw thousands of people to an event that could be on our Downtown river banks. A conversation about bringing such a festival started a few falls ago, but did not gain momentum. Bowling Green’s Black Swamp Blues Festival has the idea, but imagine that event transferred to the riverfront and you’ll have an inkling of the vision.
4. Buca di Beppo
This restaurant chain, named “Joe’s Basement,” specializes in “family style” Italian cuisine. That means when you order lasagna, you get a brick that can feed five people. The specialty is a “meatball the size of a baby’s head.” The nearest Buca is 60 miles away in Livonia, Mich.
Stats: There are 93 Buca di Beppo restaurants in 25 states and the District of Columbia.Online: www.bucadibeppi.com
5. Dave & Buster’s/GameWorks
With its casino atmosphere and ADD approach to entertainment, Dave & Busters is a video arcade game addict’s heaven, with the latest in interactive and virtual technology. There’s a Dave & Buster’s in Westlake near Cleveland, 97 miles away, and one in Utica, Mich., 81 miles away. GameWorks, a similar franchise, has locations in Columbus and Auburn Hills, Mich.
Stats: Dave & Buster’s owns and operates 46 locations in 21 states and Ontario, Canada.
6. Howl at the Moon
This is a dueling-piano bar that specializes in crowd sing-a-longs. It’s ultimate karaoke, one of the safest ways you can give your date a sore throat. The closest location in the Flats in Cleveland, at a place that looks a lot like our still-underdeveloped Steam Plant.
Stats: Howl at the Moon has 14 locations in 12 states. Online: www.howlatthemoon.com
7. Apple Retail Store
A retail store specializing in, what else, Apple electronics devices, this store offers the latest gadgets for computers, iPods and gizmos you haven’t heard of yet. The Apple Store in Aventure Fla., gets so busy, customers have to make appointments to get in. The closest Apple Store is at Briarwood mall in Ann Arbor.
Stats: Operates 199 stores in 41 states.
8. My Urban Toddler
Not yet a franchise, but a nod to young parents that could be the Starbucks of kids entertainment. At the Saline, Mich., location, 30 miles to the north, Urban Toddler features a giant room divided into play areas. There’s a fire station, an art studio, a theater stage, a grocery store, a library and a café surrounding a middle section racetrack and padded play areas for tumbling. The store is attached to a retail store that focuses on kids clothes and education toys.
Online: www.myurbantoddler.com .
People treat a day of IKEA shopping as a consumer theme park day. From utensils to furniture and decorations for every room in the house, IKEA is a wonderland of stuff. It’s a Swedish concept, but for consumers, it’s as American as credit cards and coveting. The closest IKEA is 56 miles north in Canton, Mich.
Stats: IKEA operates 260 stores in more than two dozen countries.
10. Who did we leave out?
What franchises would you like to see added to the Northwest Ohio consumer landscape? E-mail your thoughts on our list or your suggestions to email@example.com for use in next week’s issue.
Toledo Free Press Managing Editor Justin R. Kalmes contributed to this story.