Colonial cool (It takes a Village)Written by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
You and I are unlikely to agree on the definition of what makes something “cool,” but I lean on the definition offered by music critic Dave Marsh: “Cool is defined by that which expends the least amount of energy defining itself.” In other words, the harder you try to be cool, the less likely you are to achieve your goal.
During my time in other cities, I searched for and usually found a cool part of town, somewhere to park the car and spend a few hours hanging out and indulging my interests. In Pittsburgh, that place was Squirrel Hill, with its one-of-a-kind restaurants, bookstores, small movie theater and quirky retailers. During my brief West Coast stint, I fell in love with Sausalito, the town across the bay from San Francisco with its breathtaking views and eateries. In Washington, D.C., I would spend hours in Georgetown, which provided block after block of windows and opportunities for discovery. In south Florida, I would spend Saturdays in Las Olas, a long retail and entertainment strip that for me was like a greatest hits of the previous cities I explored.
These places provide a destination for solo exploration or group fun. They can be modest, and may not qualify as hip, but to me, they were endlessly cool. There is no single element that makes them cool; it is the sum of the individual parts that creates an atmosphere and flavor of interest.
In Toledo, the city that forged my baseline for such things, I used to enjoy trips to Westgate. Just steps from each other, Boogie Records and Thackeray’s Books provided the anchor for an afternoon of browsing and catching up with friends in the pre-Facebook era.
But we know what happened to that lineup.
Recently, I discovered another cool place to park the car and spend some time. I feel compelled to defend my praise of Colonial Village Plaza (4400 Heatherdowns Blvd. at Key Street) as a middle-age father-of-two’s choice. It’s not as restaurant and event driven as the Blarney-anchored area around Fifth Third Field or as gallery heavy as the Warehouse District or as music driven as Adams Street (or the Frankie’s domain on the East Side) and it is certainly not as hip as whatever place the kids know about that is so far beyond my awareness it might as well be on Mars. But the Colonial Village Plaza has filled itself with some of the types of places I dig. (“Dig,” kids, means “appreciate and like.”)
The main attraction at Colonial Village Plaza is Monarch Cards & Comics. I would browse the racks at Monarch back when it was on Airport Highway. Owner Steve Shufritz moved the store to Colonial Village Plaza in 1995.
Monarch offers a well-lit and organized array of comics, graphic novels, hardcover collections, back issues and collector odds and ends, plus fountain of knowledge Ed Katschke behind the counter.
“We carry cool things for kids of all ages,” Shufritz said.
He said he has seen the shopping center slowly fill in and become a nighttime destination.
“You can’t buy a parking space at this end at night,” Shufritz said. “Between Burger Bar 419, Shawn’s and American Martial Arts, there is always a crowd of people. We get a lot of what we call ‘tourists,’ people waiting for a seat at one of the restaurants who normally might not come into a comic book store. But they look around, see what we have and hopefully spread the word.”
Burger Bar 419 is an especially exciting addition to Colonial Village Plaza. A restaurant with the gourmet choices and carefully prepared sandwiches featured at Burger Bar 419 should be enough to make even the most ardent vegetarian’s mouth water. The restaurant even features three ketchup choices (try the spicy berry) to top such burgers as the Carolina BBQ (barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, sweet and tangy slaw, topped with fried onion strings); The Heater (romaine lettuce, tomato, onion, pepper jack cheese, green chilis, grilled jalapenos and serranos); the Musty Have (Bibb lettuce, grilled tomato, Taleggio cheese, portabella mushrooms and balsamic glazed red onion); and the Three Little Pigs (ground pork, smoked cheddar, barbecue pork shoulder, with sweet and tangy slaw). There are more than a dozen such creations; the owners could provide a public service by adding a “sampler platter” to the menu that would allow diners to try wedges of four or five specialty burgers.
Shawn’s Irish Tavern (previously Shawn’s Back Door) provides the after-burger drinks spot to watch the game.
If you feel the need to stretch your legs and walk off your burger, the Encore used bookstore offers a neat selection of books at reasonable prices. There is also a Dollar General that seems to have twice as much stuff on display as its square footage should allow.
Adding to the shopping convenience are a Wixey Bakery and a Meats and More store, which features an exceptional wine cave where you can get a bottle to take home and enjoy with your used books and new comics.
And if you run out of cash for all these options, there’s a Key Bank branch within easy walking distance.
If Colonial Village Plaza adds any kind of CD or record store to go with Monarch and Encore, it would have a pop culture triple crown to go with its other claims to fame.
Like Toledo itself, the shopping plaza is humble, diverse and a down-to-earth pleasure to spend time in. It may not have Sausalito’s view, Georgetown’s urbane atmosphere or the casual hip of Squirrel Hill, but for a quick park, shop and eat trip not based on clothes and fashion, Colonial Village Plaza is the recommended destination.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Boogie Records, Burger Bar 419, Colonial Village, Encore used bookstore, Georgetown, Key Bank, Las Olas, Lighting The Fuse, Meats and More, Michael S. Miller, Monarch Cards and Comics, Shawn's Irish Tavern, Squirrel Hill, Thackeray's, Westgate, Wixey's Bakery