Thinking biggerWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
In September 2008, Toledo Free Press published a cover story, “Think Big,” that asked readers which major-market attractions would boost Northwest Ohio’s entertainment and retail quality of life. One of those wish list items, a casino, is now a glorious reality. We don’t have an official IMAX screen, but Rave Motion Pictures has introduced its “Rave Xtreme Big Screen Experience” to Fallen Timbers. Another popular request, IKEA, is being mentioned for the former Southwyck Mall site. What is the progress on the rest of that 4-year-old list?
Culver’s: We love our burgers in Toledo, but unless you have been to Culver’s, you are missing one of the greats: 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.
Progress update: Toledo does have a Five Guys at Westgate, but still no Culver’s.
Common Ground Festival: Each summer, Lansing, Mich., dedicates both sides of its modest riverfront to three days of country, rock, rap and pop music. 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 years ago, but did not gain momentum. Bowling Green’s Black Swamp Arts Festival has the idea, but imagine that event transferred to the riverfront and you’ll have an inkling of the vision.
Progress update: None. And it looks like the only major summer concert weekend Downtown, the rib fest Smoke on the Water, has been retired.
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.
Progress update: None. But a new Italian restaurant reportedly being built on Monroe Street near the Blarney/Table Forty4/PizzaPapalis triumvirate, looks promising.
Dave & Buster’s/GameWorks: With its casino atmosphere and ADD approach to entertainment, Dave & Buster’s is a video arcade 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.
Progress update: None. Hollywood Casino Toledo is the adult version, but families with kids are still waiting.
Howl at the Moon: This is a dueling-piano bar that specializes in crowd singalongs. It’s ultimate karaoke, one of the safest ways you can give your date a sore throat.
Progress update: Cleveland seems to have lost its Howl at the Moon location, so the nearest ones are in Chicago and Indianapolis.
Apple Store: This store offers the latest gadgets for computers, iPods and gizmos you haven’t heard of yet. The Apple Store in Aventura, Fla., gets so busy, customers have to make appointments to get in. The closest Apple Store is at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor.
Progress update: None. There are Apple Stores in Ann Arbor, Akron, Lyndhurst, Westlake and two in Columbus,.
Trader Joe’s: This was by far the most popular reader request, with more than 150 mentions. It’s a specialty grocery store that features imported cheeses, organic produce and hand-tossed pizza from Italy.
Progress update: Though the closest Trader Joe’s is in Ann Arbor, the franchise does have several locations in Ohio. A group of Downtown businesspeople is reportedly lobbying the franchise to consider a local location.
Crate & Barrel: Crate & Barrel is a retail store that specializes in furniture, housewares and home accessories.
Progress update: The closest location is in Troy, Mich.
Cheesecake Factory: The Cheesecake Factory specializes in just about everything, be it pizza, pasta, seafood, steaks, salads, sandwiches or cheesecake.
Progress update: Again, Columbus has two, but the closest Cheesecake Factory is in Westlake. There were reports a few years ago that a Cheesecake Factory was headed to Levis Commons, but that rumor died quickly.
Urban Outfitters: Urban Outfitters could be described as a retail store that sells clothing with a hipster or vintage look. Its closest location is in Ann Arbor.
Progress update: None, but those hipster artists Downtown are getting the gear from somewhere.
One-shots: There were dozens of one-request franchises: O’Charley’s; Cinema Grill; Pinkberry; California Pizza Kitchen; Shooters; Bahama Breeze; Sweet Tomatoes; The Container Store; Nordstrom; Saks Fifth Avenue; and Marshalls. What else are we missing? Send your shoot-for-the-moon wish list to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at email@example.com.
Tags: Apple Store, Bahama Breeze, Buca di Beppo, California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, Cinema Grill, Common Ground Festival, Crate & Barrel, Culvers, Dave & Buster's, GameWorks, Hollywood Casino Toledo, Howl at the Moon, IKEA, IMAX, Lighting The Fuse, Marshalls, Michael S. Miller, Nordstrom, O’Charley’s, Pinkberry, Rave Motion Pictures, Saks Fifth Avenue, Shooters, Sweet Tomatoes, The Container Store, Trader Joe's, Urban Outfitters