Bruce Hennes first heard about Coventry Village in Cleveland Heights as a teenager living in Canton, Ohio. Soon after high school he moved to Coventry, planted his roots, and became heavily involved in the community. He shares his experiences with and perspectives on Coventry Neighbors Inc., Coventry Community Development Organization, Coventry Village Special Improvement District, and the Coventry Street Fair.
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:00] Hi, my name is Sarah Nemeth. I'm here today with Bruce Hennes. This is for the Cleveland Regional Oral History Project. And today, it's August 29, 2018. You please state your name to the record?
Bruce Hennes [00:00:11] Sure. My name is Bruce Hennes, H-E-N-N-E-S.
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:16] Thank you for being here.
Bruce Hennes [00:00:17] My pleasure.
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:18] And where and when were you born?
Bruce Hennes [00:00:20] I was born in 1954 in Newark, New Jersey.
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:25] And when did you move to these parts?
Bruce Hennes [00:00:28] Well, my parents forced me to move in 1959 to Akron, Ohio. I was four years old. I was not given a choice. So I spent my elementary school days in Akron. And then we were the fifth Jewish family move out to Bath, Ohio, in 1966. And then in 1968 we moved to Canton, Ohio, where I went to high school.
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:50] OK, and was there a large Jewish population in Canton?
Bruce Hennes [00:00:55] There were three synagogues, so at that time it was, there was certainly a large enough population to support three synagogues and three rabbis and the kind of infrastructure that goes with it. Not a huge... I couldn't give you the number... Wasn't a huge population, but it was a great place to grow up.
Sarah Nemeth [00:01:13] Did you have any other Jewish kids in your class?
Bruce Hennes [00:01:18] In my... I was only there for four years in high school and there were only a small handful of us at that particular high school that were Jewish. So, no, not a lot of Jewish kids.
Sarah Nemeth [00:01:29] What did you... So after high school, did your family move?
Bruce Hennes [00:01:34] After... Yeah, after high school, when I was in high school, probably in 1968, '69, I started hitchhiking up to Coventry Village to hang out with the hippies because there were better hippies up here than there were in Canton, Ohio. So I've been really up here for a very, very long time. And then eventually when right after I graduated from high school, I moved to Toronto with some friends for a couple of months. And then between my freshman and sophomore year in college, I got my first apartment in Coventry Village. That would have been 1973, summer of '73.
Sarah Nemeth [00:02:19] Did you literally hitchhike?
Bruce Hennes [00:02:20] Literally hitchhiked. I hitchhiked all over the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Sarah Nemeth [00:02:26] Could you maybe explain like how you hitchhiked?
Bruce Hennes [00:02:33] It was probably just as dangerous as it sounds but we didn't know it. We literally would whether we were going two miles away or whether I was hitchhiking from Canton, Ohio, to Cincinnati or to New York City, I literally would stand on the side of the road and stick my finger out. And you'd wait until somebody came along and they knew what the symbol was, just like I'm showing you right now, and somebody would stop and you'd run and get in the car. I actually ended up doing so much hitchhiking. I actually had a sign that said "Student to __" All right. And then I had inserts that I could put in. Akron, Cleveland, Erie, Pennsylvania, you know, wherever I was going. And I would pull the insert out and the sign would fold in thirds so I could get into the into the car. Now, of course, I can't even pick up hitchhikers, let alone hitchhike myself, because it is it is dangerous. But at that time, everybody was—not everybody—but a lot of us were hitchhiking and our parents either didn't know or didn't care. But it was a very much accepted mode of transportation. So.
Sarah Nemeth [00:03:36] Do you have any memorable experience that sticks out to you?
Bruce Hennes [00:03:42] Oh, my God, I can remember my first. Again, I'm a long-haired hippie-looking 16 year old, you know, wearing the army jacket with an American flag on the side and a peace symbol on the other on the lapel, the other lapel, and I can remember getting in somebody's car and that person being what I thought was an older businessman. He was probably, oh, 30 years old. But to me, he was like an older businessman. He's wearing a jacket and tie. And I get in the car and he looks over and says, hey, you want to you know, you want a joint, you know, as I die, I'm not going to tell you whether I said yes or no to that. But that was memorable. I can remember hitchhiking from Cincinnati up to Toronto and frankly, being picked up by a gay guy who asked if I wanted oral sex. You know, he wanted to do oral sex on me. And I—I'll never forget my answer—I said thank you. I'm very flattered, but that's not my thing. Yeah. And he was cool about it and I was cool about it. And I got out of the car and I thought, what the hell? You know, just so it's still not my thing, but...
Sarah Nemeth [00:05:00] It's still interesting. That's an interesting experience.
Bruce Hennes [00:05:03] Yeah. And the last real quick story I'll tell you was I was, I was driving—I had a car at the time—I was driving from Cincinnati to Toronto. I was bored out of my mind. I was looking for a hitchhiker to pick up. Figure I have somebody to talk to. Hour goes by. Two hours, three, four hours go by. Finally, about an hour outside of Toronto, I finally see a hitchhiker hitchhiking. I pull over the side, I jam the brakes on. I go skidding across the gravel. He gets into the car and I'm so happy to have someone to talk to. And he turned out to be deaf and mute. To this day, I have no idea how I found the only deaf mute hitchhiker. We did a little sign language. I took him to where he was going and that was one of my stories.
Sarah Nemeth [00:05:49] So that's really interesting. I've never actually talked to anyone who hitchhiked. Maybe my parents, I think they did.
Bruce Hennes [00:05:55] Yeah, they're probably my age. So, actually, they're probably younger than me,
Sarah Nemeth [00:05:59] Probably, maybe a little less. So why did you... You mentioned that Coventry had kind of the more real hippies. How did you hear about Coventry... [inaudible]?
Bruce Hennes [00:06:13] That's a great question, and I have absolutely no idea. I think there was a jungle drum that kind of went out. We must have heard it in some of the bars or some of the... There was... We had a coffeehouse. When I say coffeehouse, I don't mean one like Starbucks. By a coffeehouse, more like the kind they had in New [York] that would be more associated with Greenwich Village or other larger cities, in Canton, of all places called the Air Castle, where we would have folk singers come in and people playing some kind of alternative music, you know, and that's where the hippies in Canton hung out. So somebody must have said Coventry's the place to be. And we came up here and there were cool stores at the time, still cool stores there. But you know, there were leather shops and I'm sure some of the other people you've interviewed have talked about some of the stores that used to be on Coventry. And there was a good vibe here. I knew this was the place that I wanted to be. And sure enough, what, 50 years later, I'm still here. The hair's a lot shorter, you know, and where we used to rail against "The Man," and now I am "The Man." You know? So things have changed. But I still love the architecture. I still love the kind of people who live around here. I still love the values of the people who are in the area. And this is where I'll always be.
Sarah Nemeth [00:07:36] What was your... Do you remember the first day you got out of the car that you were taking in in Coventry? Were kind of those first moments, maybe not necessarily the first time. Who did you see? Who was here?
Bruce Hennes [00:07:52] A lot of hippie freaks. Yes, I can remember getting out of the car and I can remember seeing the long hair and the clothing. It wasn't just five or ten people like we had in Canton, Ohio. It was... The whole neighborhood looked like that. And I thought, this is great, this is, this is where I want to be. And like I said, we used to come up here a lot to hang out at, in the restaurants. I was never much of a drinker, so I wasn't coming up here to hang out at the bars. But I had friends in Cleveland and we were just like any group. We were in high school. We were high school kids. A lot of high school kids like to do. They hang out and they talk to one another. So instead of hanging out in the mall, we hung out on Coventry.
Sarah Nemeth [00:08:37] Did you also hang out in parks or on the street, or in, not necessarily in a place?
Bruce Hennes [00:08:45] It was probably mostly on the street, you know, or wandering in and out of the shops. Or there was an old Jewish deli, Irv's Delicatessen, that you may have heard a little bit about. You know, we hung out there
Sarah Nemeth [00:08:59] Were the people younger or were they older?
Bruce Hennes [00:09:02] There were a mix, high school kids and college kids and people who were older, older. You know, you also have to remember at that time now here in Cleveland, we have a number of what I would call urban areas. You've got a cool scene downtown. You've got a cool scene in Hingetown. You've got Tremont. You've got West 25th. None of that stuff existed. I mean, they were all there physically, but they were not places that that you really hung out. They were for the most part, they were lower income. They were not necessarily safe places back in the '60s and early '70s. But so Coventry was really the name was the only place in all of northeastern Ohio where you had a strip of stores that that weren't cookie-cutter chains, that had the kind of of Greenwich Village vibe that we were looking for. You know, don't forget to we were also a lot of us were going to say, influenced by what was going on in Haight-Ashbury. Sixty-seven was the summer of love and Woodstock was 1969. So there was a vibe in the land that, you know, that it was time to be free and time to dress the way you wanted to, even though. Is we all thought we were individuals. Of course, we are all dressing like one another. But we weren't dressing like our parents, so it was rebellion. And some of it was centered around opposition to the war in Vietnam at the time. So some of it had, I would say, a deeper, deeper basis, and some of it was superficial as hell. We just wanted to hang around with people who look like us. Um.
Sarah Nemeth [00:10:58] So could you maybe describe a typical dress like what you would normally attire of a...
Bruce Hennes [00:11:06] At the time, it was... Well it was blue jeans, it was bellbottoms, it was moccasins on the feet, it was a little bit of fringe either on the jacket or... When I say fringe, I'm talking about like more Western-style fringe, long kind of fringe. I remember a lot of that. Some of the guys wore bandanas, a lot of hats, like Jimi Hendrix kind of hat, with a big black brim. What else? A lot of military surplus gear which was worn, you know, I'd have to say to be more ironic, rather than supportive of our troops, I mean, I think there are a number of us and I hope a lot of us now who are in our sixties, who actually feel guilty about the way that we are, the way we disrespected our troops back then, we did not welcome them. And I know a number of them now who are still mad about the way they were treated and they have every right to be mad about that. But just just what you think we look like is what we looked like, the beards, the long hair.
Sarah Nemeth [00:12:20] Right, it just seems like talking about this time, it just seems so like not real because it just was so different. So I always have to ask, you know, how did they act and how did you dress and what did people look like and act like?
Bruce Hennes [00:12:36] Well, unfortunately, the people who are on your... who are listening because it's a podcast, that's me on the right, they can't see this picture. That's me on the right and then here's the same picture 50 years later. That's us. First number two. But the picture that you'll probably now leave, I'll let you describe this photo to your listeners. Hold on. I'll find it in one second. Oh, here it is. OK, and this is what I looked like in 1974. No, '72, I'm sorry, this is 1972, would you like to describe that for your listeners?
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:23] Yeah, well you look like Charles Manson.
Bruce Hennes [00:13:26] Yeah!
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:27] And. Just kind of, um.
Bruce Hennes [00:13:32] Like, how in the hell did my parents let me stay at home, right? Pretty much so, yeah. I don't know. They were saints, so.
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:42] Was there a big police presence in Coventry when you started?
Bruce Hennes [00:13:47] Yes, yes. And there yes. Did anybody tell you about "Ticket Man Ernie?"
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:52] No.
Bruce Hennes [00:13:52] Oh, "Ticket Man Ernie" was a big, tall African American police officer and he had a reputation for busting people for jaywalking. I mean, they, like the Cleveland Heights cops would hassle the hippies. They didn't want 'em there. There was a real culture clash there. Of course, there was a lot of paranoia about the narcs, whether or not groups were being checked out by undercover police. I never really... I don't know if ever that was true, but, you know, and there was a little bit of petty drug dealing certainly going on. I didn't... I never saw any hard drugs in the area. I saw a lot of pot being sold. But no, the police at that time did not get along particularly well. On the other hand, fast forward to 1975, '76, when a group of us became homeowners in the area and got married, because my cohort got married pretty early and put roots down, the cops very quickly went from being our enemy to being our best friends, you know, when we had some real stake in the community.
Sarah Nemeth [00:14:59] Was there any... Were you around the motorcycles were...
Bruce Hennes [00:15:02] I came here right at the tail end. So I don't have any good stories except to say I stayed out of their way.
Sarah Nemeth [00:15:10] It seems like just that area was so young. I don't know if you ever picked up on an older generation. Of course they were there, you mentioned, but kind of being standoffish towards...
Bruce Hennes [00:15:23] You know, I think I was a typical kid at that time. I wasn't paying any attention to what anybody over the age of twenty-five or thirty was doing. So, no, I really don't have any memories...
Sarah Nemeth [00:15:35] What about playing people playing music and poetry and...
Bruce Hennes [00:15:39] Yeah, there were a lot of you know, we call them buskers now, but there were a lot of people, you know, with the open guitar case on the street. You know, it's still funny when I when I see that happen here, nowadays, I think it's kind of a rite of passage that people still come down to Coventry to do that type of thing.
Sarah Nemeth [00:16:00] Keeps the identity going.
Bruce Hennes [00:16:00] Yeah, absolutely.
Sarah Nemeth [00:16:02] So when did you join... Or why did you join Coventry Neighbors?
Bruce Hennes [00:16:08] I was in my second apartment. I was married. I got married very young. I got married right out of college when I was 20 years old. For some reason, my cohort, we just got married young. It was kind of like, OK, we're graduating. What do you want to do next? Oh, let's get married. Oh, that's cool. And I mean, nowadays, if you told your your folks or if you had a friend who was twenty or twenty-one or twenty-two said they want to get married, the parents would kill them. Say you are not getting married, over our dead body are you getting married. And it was shortly after my cohort got married that early that the age span kind of jumped up to late twenties and even early thirties. But our cohort got married very young and so I think I was twenty-one years old, maybe twenty-two. And I was living in my second apartment on Lower Hampshire with my wife, and this scraggly looking guy—I was sitting on the front porch—literally came up and introduced himself and said, Hi, my name is Alan Rapoport. I'm president of Coventry Neighbors. This would have been 1976? Yeah, 1976. I'm President of Coventry Neighbors, and you know, gee, I wonder if I could get you to come to a meeting and work on our street fair. And I said, what's Coventry Neighbors, what's the street fair? And Alan has been one of my best friends for all those years. And I eventually succeeded him as president of Coventry Neighbors and ran the street fair.
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:39] What was the... like, could you maybe explain what the Coventry Neighbors people, like what were the people like?
Bruce Hennes [00:17:47] At that time in Cleveland Heights, every elementary school district had a neighborhood organization. So there was Coventry Neighbors. There was Oxford Neighbors. I think there was a Cedar Lee group, but there were five or six neighborhood groups. They were... What they all had in common, I'm sure, were the fact that they were diverse, that the people who came to those meetings were diverse in age, diversity in income, black and white, Jewish, non-Jewish. And they were people who really cared about the neighborhood. I think what the difference was between Coventry Neighbors and some of the other neighborhood groups was that, frankly, we had Alan Rapoport and we had who had political ambitions. We had a guy named Larry Beam. I don't know if you've talked to Larry.
Sarah Nemeth [00:18:43] Someone did.
Bruce Hennes [00:18:43] Someone did. Yeah. Larry worked for the city at the time but lived in the neighborhood. We had a guy named David Burloser, F. David Gill, Dennis Nierman, and these were people who not only cared about the neighborhood itself, but they cared about the city itself. And, you know, they I came in a little bit later than they all did, but they kind of taught me what was going on at City Hall. And I got to meet all the other city council people. And we also published a newspaper at that time. I can remember going to the Heights Community Congress and we would run the news. We create the newspaper, which in and of itself was a community activity because you have to get volunteers to do it. We would type things out on I forget what the form was called. It was, and we run it off on a Stettner, which was an old machine that would go and would run them off a page at a time. It's kind of an old technology that nobody uses anymore. But so when Alan ran for so we had two big organizing events. We had the street fair every year, which was incredibly labor intensive. It took six months of hard work to do. And then we had... Alan ran for political office and that also engaged a lot of the same people. But it gave us reasons to be together and gave us reasons to go door to door and gave us reasons to to work with City Hall to say we like this. We don't like that. We were actually going to city hall meetings and watching what they were doing and monitoring them and then reporting and then putting the information about that because The Plain Dealer wasn't covering that kind of stuff. They didn't cover real local stuff like that. We were putting stuff in our monthly newspaper that nobody else had and we would find it quoted in The Plain Dealer, you know, so there was the illusion of power on that. So those were just great times. And then we would argue with one another like any other group.
Sarah Nemeth [00:20:41] But you guys were mostly young.
Bruce Hennes [00:20:44] Yes.
Sarah Nemeth [00:20:46] That just seems so unreal to me, how young you were and still active. Now it's not really... [crosstalk]
Bruce Hennes [00:20:52] Well, but also it was at a time where you had three television channels and you didn't have, you certainly didn't have an Internet, you didn't have cell phones. And there weren't quite as many women working at that time. That was on the rise, but it wasn't universal the way it is now. We're talking about spouses where, where you had to have two incomes, as you do pretty much nowadays. I'm trying to think, I mean, just the whole culture in the United States was different at that time, there weren't as many distractions, so I think... Whereas our fathers and mothers would do volunteer activities that were... You know, I know my father... my mother was active in Pioneer Women, which was a Jewish group that supported the state of Israel. She was active with Brandeis, which was a group that helped send money to Brandeis University. My father was involved in the men's club at the, at the Jewish Center in Canton, Ohio. I'm sure Alan Rapoport's father and mother weren't... They were all involved in organizations that were probably religious based. My father in law was a Mason. All right? I mean, people did stuff... They went bowling and they, and they did things in fraternal groups. I think we were the next incarnation where I didn't want to have anything to do with Masonry. It just didn't appeal to me. And I really wasn't motivated to do a whole lot, you know, in, in groups that... I was somewhat active in Jewish groups, not as active as my parents were. But a neighborhood group appealed to me, so I don't think it was really any different. It was just the activism of the '60s led to those kind of sort of groups, as opposed to fraternal groups,
Sarah Nemeth [00:22:50] So would you classify Coventry Neighbors as a civic organization?
Bruce Hennes [00:22:53] Absolutely.
Sarah Nemeth [00:22:55] Or was it an activist organization?
Sarah Nemeth [00:22:55] No, I'd call it a civic organization.
Sarah Nemeth [00:22:58] And why?
Sarah Nemeth [00:22:59] It wasn't looking for... It wasn't... Well, it depends on how you define activist organization. We weren't trying to to do societal change, alright? We weren't trying to raise the visibility of women or, you know, or strike a note that children should get better educations. We were focused solely on the quality of living in our neighborhood, in the city that we cared so much about.
Sarah Nemeth [00:23:26] So, in doing so you represented the interests of the residents?
Bruce Hennes [00:23:31] Yes.
Sarah Nemeth [00:23:32] Or, also... [crosstalk].
Bruce Hennes [00:23:32] Well, I think a combination of ourselves and. Well, it's a good question. Certainly the residents and it wasn't until, oh, my gosh, I'd have to say '75, maybe the early 19... Now we'd always had merchants who were active in Coventry Neighbors, and we tried to help the merchants. I mean, the street fair was helpful to the merchants in terms of giving them an economic jolt in the middle of the summer. We Always had events with the merchants. We would do something at Halloween time. We promoted them. We publicized them because they didn't have an infrastructure of their own. They had a merchant association that was concerned with garbage and snowplows, but they didn't really have an association that was good at promotion or, or some of the things that they needed. We provided that for them somewhere along the line. I want to say, the early 1980s, Chuck Owen, who was also past president of Coventry Neighbors. Chuck was... and had a background in urban planning and, and community organizing. I forget who he worked for at the time, but he brought to us the idea of a, of a commercial improvement district. No, not a special improvement district. I can't remember the name. I'm just blanking. It was a..
Sarah Nemeth [00:25:01] Oh...
Bruce Hennes [00:25:02] It was the...
Sarah Nemeth [00:25:03] Was it the development corporation?
Bruce Hennes [00:25:03] Yes, yes. Community... CDC, community development corporation, that could be formed and get funding from the city because cities could use some of their government dollars, whereas a city couldn't easily give Coventry Neighbors any money, nor did we really want any of their money. A CDC could be a recipient of those dollars. So Chuck and I got together and we put together the first CDC in the city of Cleveland Heights. That was really... When you go back and look at it, that was... Years later, we realized that was the beginning of the end of Coventry Neighbors, because we, we ended up splitting the commercial interests away from the residential interests. We didn't know it at that time. And it may have fallen apart eventually for whatever reason. But all of a sudden now we had two organizations, not that were competing against each other, but we didn't go to their meetings, they didn't come to our meetings. So there was a bit of a split there. And that eventually led to the creation of a special improvement tax district. That must have been in 1990, maybe, 1991. At that, at that point I had my own company, Hennes Communications, and given this my background in neighborhood organizing – I've been president of Coventry Neighbors – at that time there was only one special improvement district, which was a creation of the state legislature in the state of Ohio, and that was down in Dayton. City of Cleveland.... I actually had a contract from the city of Cleveland Heights to form the special... the second special improvement district in Ohio, and that became ultimately the Coventry Village Special Improvement District, the Coventry Village SID, which is a creature... Whereas an improvement district is made up of members who were just store owners, a special improvement district by law, by, I guess it would be by statute, actually, by statute. The only people who can become members of a special improvement district are property owners. So as someone already explained to you, exactly what a citizen, if I can get it down to 60 seconds. A SID is... So we went we went to all the property owners in Coventry. There were thirt[een]... in the commercial district there, at that time – I don't know what it is now, probably about the same – there were 13 separate property owners. I went to each of them and I said, basically, I want you to voluntarily raise your taxes. Your property taxes. Now the raison d'être for a special improvement district, as opposed to a development corporation, is once a city is established, it becomes man... once you get a majority of property owned by the linear foot – because some property owners own one building, some more than one building – once you get a majority of property owners by the linear foot to say yes to the creation of a SID in the agreement that they will raise their own property taxes by a certain amount, it becomes mandatory for all the property owners in the given special improvement district. What that gets you is, with a development corporation, if you have 13 property owners and five of them say, I'm not paying any money for snowplow services, you still have to plow their sidewalk in the winter. You can't plow around them. That doesn't do your patrons any good. So, same thing with advertising, same thing with promotion, same thing with putting on special events. It creates a budget that you can then rely on for as, I'm sorry, it creates an income stream to the SID that you can then rely on for a period of five years before it needs to be renewed again. So we got a majority of the property owners to say yes to this and created the SID. Now, I wanted to make the SID quite large. I wanted to go into the, into the apartment district and include the apartment owners in the city, because that would have given us a very large budget and because it would have been so... encompass so many property owners, it actually probably would have worked out to less money per square foot or per however, whatever our formula was at the time. But the merch[ants]... the apartment owners at that time basically told me to go jump in a lake because they said, what do we need you for? We're ninety-nine percent occupied. You know, we have no trouble renting our apartments. Now at that time, this is probably twenty years ago, twenty-five years ago, I didn't have a crystal ball. Alright? I said to them, look, you're not going to be a hundred percent occupied forever. You need to band together and make the whole neighborhood together in mass or en mass, if you will. I didn't foresee a Hingetown or a West 25th or a Downtown. I'm not clairvoyant, but that's exactly what happened, and now, I'm not saying Coventry's hurting, but you go through Coventry and there are for rent signs in Coventry, the likes of which I have never seen because people have choices now that they didn't have before. So that's the long story of why we have a SID. And that also, again, was another reason that led to the dem[ise]... That, plus the fact that people with... We had two-income families now. There were more distractions, and people just aren't as club-oriented or civic-oriented as they used to be, ultimately led to the demise of Coventry Neighbors. Coventry Neighbors went moribund for, I think about five or six or seven years. I think Larry Beam was the last president. Then he just couldn't get anybody to come to meetings. And then we revitalized it probably about five years ago for about ten minutes because we still had money in the bank account. So I was actually the last president of Coventry Neighbors. I convened a meeting of all the past presidents and we made the decision to give, give the money... I think we gave it all to the Heights Heritage Center? The Heights Historical Center, and we gave our archives to them as well. And that was the end of Coventry Neighbors.
Sarah Nemeth [00:31:44] Which is great, because that's what I'm basing everything off of.
Bruce Hennes [00:31:46] Yes. So you can thank me for all that as well.
Sarah Nemeth [00:31:49] Yes, thank you very much!
Bruce Hennes [00:31:49] My pleasure.
Sarah Nemeth [00:31:50] Going back to your experience in Coventry Neighbors from the beginning. When did you become president?
Bruce Hennes [00:32:02] Oh, gosh, that must have been in the mid 1980s, somewhere along the line, I couldn't give you the exact... You would know better than I because you've got... You probably, you've looked at the Coventry Village Newses. I don't remember.
Sarah Nemeth [00:32:16] So you started with the group in the mid '70s?
Bruce Hennes [00:32:22] Yeah, I think my first meeting was probably in 1976 or '77, right in there. They had already had three or four street fairs.
Sarah Nemeth [00:32:31] Could you maybe describe a street fair, your first one that you went to?
Bruce Hennes [00:32:37] The Coventry Village Street Fair. Now you can see the big smile on my face. It was, for 10 years, probably the most fun thing that I did, it was, as I said earlier, it was six months to plan. And we would start off meeting once a month the first couple of months, and then we would go to once a week. And then as we got closer, it was pretty much seemed like it was every day. The street fair probably... My recollection is that the street Fair took probably about a hundred and maybe one hundred and fifty volunteers to, to actually pull off. For 15 years or so, the only person who got paid was the electrician whose name was Barry Bennett. I might mention. Barry, if you're listening, we haven't forgotten you. Ultimately... I'll get to where someone got paid in a moment. But for 10, 15 years, nobody got paid. And it was a labor of love. It was three days. We blocked off the streets on both ends, you know. And, you know, I can't tell you how many times I was quoted in The Plain Dealer as saying, you know, there were eighty thousand people at the fair. I don't know. I didn't count them all. But I think eighty thousand was a pretty good number over a three-day period. We had three stages. We had our booths. This was the, the Cain Park Art Festival, I think was going on at the time. But it wasn't anywhere... It didn't... It wasn't anywhere near the size or the prestige that it has today. The Coventry fair was actually, I think, a bigger fair, art fair at the time. It was the place to be and be seen. It was, it was just fabulous. And... Until it wasn't. Probably about ten years into it, maybe 12, 13 years into it, we began hearing after the fair from residents who would say to us, you know, when the fair comes, we go out of town. It's just too much noise, too much hassle. Too many people from outside the neighborhood and even some of the merchants were saying, you know, the fair is nice, but it's not the end all and the be all, and we actually had a meeting where Coventry Neighbors asked the question, if we're not doing it for them, why are we doing this? At that time... I've got to think of her name... Oh... Katherine Young had... I ran the fair for just one... I did PR for the fair for I don't know how many years, but I only ran the fair for one year. After I ran the fair, Katherine Young became... And it was kind of organic as to who would run the fair. Katherine ran the fare for a year or two. I can't remember if she got, if she demanded to be paid in her first year or it was her second year, but at some point she needed to be paid. Well, that puts... Not only did that put additional pressure on the budget, which means we needed bigger boosts to pay her salary, which also meant somewhat of a, more of a commercialization of the fair. But then she and some of her friends, and I don't say this in a, meaning to be disparaging, but they had a reason to perpetuate the fair that was not necessarily in alignment with a group of us who are saying this isn't about preserving jobs. This is about what... Are we doing the right thing for the neighborhood? And that culminated in a series of meetings that were covered very heavily by the Sun Press and the, in The Plain Dealer, because we really split into two major factions in the neighborhood: those who wanted to kill the fair – or at least set it aside for a number of years to mothball it, not kill it, but mothball it, and then eventually to bring it back in a different format –and those that wanted to perpetuate it. And it finally came down to a really contentious vote. And the decision was made to, to mothball the fair. I want to say the fair was probably gone for five or six or seven years. And then Larry Beam was instrumental in bringing it back. But it was very small at that point. Instead of blocking off both ends of the streets, it was just one day, one night, and it was basically in one of the parking lots. And then it grew a little bit from there until a number of years later when we had the kids. Did you hear about that, where they... The flash mob, right, that killed that, so...
Sarah Nemeth [00:37:31] So, where I want to go... Could you maybe describe what the area was like in the '80s other... So you kind of moved from the hippies, like, were the hippies gone?
Bruce Hennes [00:37:47] The hippies were gone. They were gone nationally, they were gone... I mean, by the time we got to the late '70s and certainly into the early '80s, you know, kids weren't involved in politics anymore. We were all still involved in local politics, but national politics. You know, Alan and a few other people were doing some work for Jimmy Carter at the time, but that wasn't... We were, you know, we had kids, you know? I had kids. I had my first kid, my, my son in 1979 and the next one in 1982, so I was a young father. I was working two jobs, you know, and I was still going to Coventry Neighbors meetings, but it was less and less important, and I think that was true for, for my friends as well.
Sarah Nemeth [00:38:43] It definitely seems like Coventry was a place for youth to be a civic-minded or express themselves in some sort of, like it gives a safe place for, maybe not necessarily safe, but it gives you a space to express yourself, and then, but you have to rediscover it again.
Bruce Hennes [00:39:02] Yeah, I think, I think it's true. Yeah. I can't remember who the columnist was, I want to say, out of Boston, I can't remember her name, famous national columnist. And she wrote a column once saying, you know, in the '20s they had the zoot suiters, in the '30s, or '40s they had the bobbysoxers, in the '50s were the beatniks, in the '60s were the hippies. The '70s were the hip hoppers. And the '80s, the hip hoppers and the kids with the pants, you know, when the kids really used to wear their pants hanging off the ass cheeks, you know, she says, I get it. She says every generation, you know, has to put their thumb in the eye of the generation before. She said, I really get it, she says, but this generation has gone too far. And then she talked about what her daughter's doing to her. Every generation does that. Every generation does it. You know, Coventry gives them, I mean, gives those kids, I think, a place to congregate, you know, and to hang outside. You know, has the neighborhood itself changed outside the commercial district? I think it's like any other neighborhood. You know, Cleveland Heights has always had, in certain neighborhoods, certain types of people who lived in those neighborhoods. You know, if we're talking immediately around Coventry Village, we're talking about professors and social workers and, you know, people who maybe own some small businesses and, and whatnot, and, you know, whether they bought their houses when they were in their 20s or 30s and 40s. Now they're in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Is that any different than University Heights or South Euclid or Beachwood where you've got a blue-collar cohort or you have an entrepreneurial cohort? Or you know, Beachwood is a good example of places where I know probably except for the other than the Orthodox community, probably half the people live in Beachwood, live there now, bought houses there because that's where they grew up. And their grandparents, their parents, their kids' grandparents still live there, you know, second, third and fourth generation still live there. So I don't think while Coventry may have changed a little bit, Coventry, the commercial district, not so sure the neighborhoods, you know, you go down the streets and people still take pride in those houses and they're still spending lots of money to keep them up. You know, we're all, we're all living in near century homes now, and they cost a lot of money to keep up. They cost a lot of money to heat, you know, unlike the homes that are built better and tighter in the newer communities and the taxes are out of the out of this world, you know. But we knew that when we moved here, we knew the taxes were high, but we did it because we wanted to live around... I think people like living... This is the tribalism that we hear so much about now in politics. I think people like living around people who are like them. They do, or even, even Cleveland Heights, which has a lot of diversity. OK, I'm not African American, I'm not Chinese, I'm not an academic, but I like living around people who are like that. It's funny when I go to Legacy Village. Just looking around, you see high fashion and you see jeans that are ripped, you know, and you see lots of makeup, and I'm not knocking that, but boy, I don't see any of that in Coventry and Cedar Lee and Cedar Fairmount. But that's who lives out there.
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:38] So the people don't characterize the place or the space?
Bruce Hennes [00:42:43] Yes. People, I think, yes, it's... What is a place? It's either architecture or it's people.
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:51] You mentioned before that you came to still love the architecture of Coventry. Could you maybe describe why?
Bruce Hennes [00:43:00] We have front porches. Take that Beachwood! Even take that South Euclid and Lyndhurst! We have front porches and people sit on their front porches and they know their neighbors. I'm not so good at that. I don't know as many of my neighbors as I ought to, but my wife knows all of them. It's... I like older things. I mean, that's why we're sitting at Nighttown right now, you Know, that's fifty-two years old in a building was built, I think in 1920. There's just something comforting about things that are older, things that last. I'm certainly not the first person to say that, and I'm not the last person to say it, whether you're talking to somebody in Cleveland or somebody in New York or Chicago or L.A.
Sarah Nemeth [00:43:53] Do you remember any of the fires that happened on Coventry in the '80s?
Bruce Hennes [00:43:56] Oh my God, I forgot about those fires! Yes, I do remember. I remember. I, oh, I can remember the smell. I can remember the black smoke. I can remember the stores that were, that were there that got that got burned out. Three fires, that was a lot of fires in a small area.
Sarah Nemeth [00:44:18] In a short amount of time.
Bruce Hennes [00:44:19] In a short amount of time, but everything got rebuilt.
Sarah Nemeth [00:44:24] Could you maybe describe what that smell was, looking at the smoke, like what you thought?
Bruce Hennes [00:44:32] I, if, I'm happy to do it, but I'd be describing any generic fire. I mean, you know, you're watching. Trying to think one of the stores... You're watching Brunadi's restaurant go up in flames. You're watching, what was the name, the Light of Yoga Society, which is, which was on the lower level of CoventrYard, go up in flames. Those were sad days. We knew the owners, we knew, we patronized those, those places. You know, I can remember that they took a long time to rebuild, probably longer than they should have. But I don't know, it could have been a legal thing, could have been an insurance thing, but everything got rebuilt. I have to share with you, I'm least happy with what got built. Sorry, my good friend Louis Zipkin, I love you to death. But, you know, the more modern building that got built, what's in there now? You've got Bodega. You've got the Cleveland Shop, I think it's called. You had a bookstore for a while upstairs. It's the more modern building that, that juts up against the old Heights Art Theater. Yeah, that juts up against CoventrYard. Yeah. That was probably, his son actually was in charge of that project. Lou's son, who's no longer living in Cleveland. And that was, in hindsight, that was... I don't think was very helpful to the community in terms of architecture, because it just doesn't fit and it's, you either have to go down or go up, and retailers don't like that. Retailers want to be on the ground floor.
Sarah Nemeth [00:46:12] You remember how community reacting to Louis Zipkin?
Bruce Hennes [00:46:17] At the time? Well, there were a lot of rumors. You know, when somebody has three fires that, you know, rumors start. But I will put my faith and trust in the city fire examiner. And they were... Look, they were old buildings. I mean, they just were old, old buildings. I think one, if I... Oh, we're going way, way back. I think one was traceable to a worker who was doing work with a welding torch of some sort. And the other one I think was electrical and can't remember what the third one was. But it happens.
Sarah Nemeth [00:46:51] And they were old buildings.
Bruce Hennes [00:46:52] They were old buildings and they were tinderboxes.
Sarah Nemeth [00:46:55] It just seems that the community kind of rallied, especially when Tommy's, Tommy [inaudible]...
Bruce Hennes [00:47:03] Oh, my gosh. And once again, I had forgotten about that. You really.... Yeah. Tommy and, and Lou were really feuding at the time. And Tommy's parents were feuding. Tommy's parents were tough. His mom was tough, a blessed memory, but they long ago patched things up. They are best friends today. And actually, when we put the Coventry Village Special Improvement District together, that was the beginning of their coming together for the good of the community. So that feud is long, long gone.
Sarah Nemeth [00:47:33] We did an interview with Tommy. He was like my mom would probably kick my butt that I'm sitting here, I'm voting alongside Lou Zipkin right now.
Bruce Hennes [00:47:41] Oh, my God, I can't wait to hear his interview. Oh, that's great.
Sarah Nemeth [00:47:46] Very interesting. But still to this day, there's still that sentiment with some of the people that lived in Coventry, just like I don't know why they speak ill of him or they blame a lot of stuff on... Whatever. It is what it is, and people... [crosstalk].
Bruce Hennes [00:48:02] Lou owned a lot of buildings, you know, and whenever you have someone who has a lot of money and does it, you're going to get rumors and you're going to get jealousy. He owned a lot. But you know what? At the end of the day, he sunk a lot of money into his apartments, and Coventry is the better for that.
Sarah Nemeth [00:48:21] Could you maybe speak to... Who patronized the Coventry stores? Was it always a destination for outsiders or was local [inaudible]?
Bruce Hennes [00:48:35] Yeah, no, I think Coventry was... I can remember back in the '70s and '80s before the Legacy Villages of the world, before there was any reason to go downtown. There was no reason to go to the West Side. Again, you know, you could go to Beachwood Place mall, which had just opened up shortly in that, in that '70s time period. You go to Beachwood Place mall. Severance Mall was, you know, it was already on the, on the slight decline, but there were stores there you wanted to patronize. But again, you once go restaurants and shops. Yes. It was a destination to come down.
Sarah Nemeth [00:49:15] Do you think it still is a destination today?
Bruce Hennes [00:49:16] Not nearly as much as it used to, again, for the same reason I've said before, it's got too much competition. You know, and one thing I noticed, I saw, I just happened to notice, and I don't want to be negative about Coventry, but just maybe a couple of weeks ago, a Verizon store opened up on Coventry. OK, I mean, there, I'm not saying that's going to be the demise of the neighborhood, but I get it when a landlord makes... When a landlord.... Let me back up for a second. It takes a lot of courage to keep a, and smarts, to keep a neighborhood properly merchandised like Coventry. What do I mean by that? That means that you're always gonna have... When you've got 40, 50 stores on a street, you're always going to have turnover. I mean, somebody is going to go out of business. Somebody's going to not make their rent. Somebody's going to retire like High Tide Rock Bottom did. Big Fun had decided at some point it was time to leave. That's natural. Whether you have five stores in a strip or 50 stores in a strip, you're going to have a natural turnover. And it's up to the landlord to say, what kind of tenant do I want to put in that space? Do I want to rent to the first person who comes along with a month's rent, no matter who it is? Do I want to keep the space empty for a month, for three months, for six months, for a year, and forgo all that rent in the hope that I not only get more rent when someone does come in, which means for five years I'll make up what I lost over a five or ten year period or that I'll just get the right tenant, which will be... add to the mix that helps everybody else out on the street. It takes a lot of courage to do that. And it takes a landlord that has real intent to say this is what I want for my building, for my fellow tenants and for the street itself. You know, I don't know who owns that building anymore, but clearly that landlord made the decision to take the easy buck. I mean, that's what it is. It's the easy buck to take a national and national franchise or I don't know who owns the Verizon store – I don't know if it's a Verizon-owned store, it probably isn't, it's probably a Verizon franchise store – but to take a known name and slap 'em in there. But that's what you got to do. You know, I saw what happened in South Beach, Miami Beach – are you familiar with South Beach? OK, so Lincoln Road basically is a giant was a giant Coventry Village. It was the place to shop in the '40s and '50s. In their case, they blocked the street off. There must have been, I don't know, two hundred shops, a hundred and fifty shops along the Lincoln Road from one side to the other, and became crack houses and dollar stores and really crappy in the '60s, '70s and '80s. And then in the, in the 2000s, it was discovered by the New Yorkers and they offered a lot of money to those landlords to sell. And there was a lot of those properties changed hands for absurd amounts of money in the '70s and '80s. Well, to pay... So the landlords could pay the banks back for all the money they overpaid for those, they had to bring in a better tenant. OK, nothing wrong with it. They brought us a lot of hip shops. They got rid of the dollar stores and the hip shops moved in. From 1985 to probably 2000-something, fifteen years, it was cool dress shops and gift shops and I mean it was a shopping mecca. The restaurants were interesting, the outdoor dining got really big. Alright? And then bigger money came in and paid the most absurd dollars per square foot. I don't remember, like eight hundred dollars a square foot, absurd numbers. They spent millions to buy just a block on Lincoln Road. Well, who could afford those rents? Williams-Sonoma, Gap, Starbucks. And now you go down to South Beach, down to Lincoln Road on South Beach in Miami Beach. And it looks like Beachwood Place. You know, and all those hip shops have now moved to Alton Road and over to Washington, and eventually they'll move out, too. Same thing has happened now with all of Manhattan. I mean, all of Manhattan. I am on a website called, what's it called? Missing New York or Long Time Gone New York. And it chronicles all the independent art galleries and glasses shops and bedding stores and little luncheonettes and dinettes that are all gone. They're all now Duane Reeds and CVSs and they're chain stores, because that's, those were only people that can afford the rents. And that's unfortunately what could happen in Coventry, I hope not. Sorry for the long answer?
Sarah Nemeth [00:54:51] Oh, no, it's great. Good stuff, honestly. So could you maybe describe what you know of... Well, actually, first, any characters of Coventry that you remember? You know, just some of those random people [crosstalk]...
Bruce Hennes [00:55:09] Did anyone tell you about George Fitzpatrick?
Sarah Nemeth [00:55:11] I interviewed him.
Bruce Hennes [00:55:12] You interviewed George?! Is he still... Where did you interview him? At his house?
Sarah Nemeth [00:55:15] At his house.
Bruce Hennes [00:55:17] Oh, I haven't seen George in years.
Sarah Nemeth [00:55:19] He was great.
Bruce Hennes [00:55:20] Oh.
Sarah Nemeth [00:55:21] That was a good interview too.
Bruce Hennes [00:55:22] Oh, I'll bet it was. Oh, I'm gonna have to listen to all of your raw interviews. George, now you got to stop me if you've heard this story because there's no sense repeating it. Alright? George managed the Heights Art Theater, which... Did he tell you that was the site of a famous Supreme Court decision?
Sarah Nemeth [00:55:44] Yes.
Bruce Hennes [00:55:45] OK, so you know about the Jacobellis versus Ohio Supreme Court. George was the manager. He had his office on the second floor mezzanine, where he did his artwork. George employed pretty much everybody I knew. I never worked for George, but everybody else I knew at one time or another worked for George at the concession stand and taking tickets during the time when the Heights Art Theater was showing pornography. Alright, and it was real hardcore... At that time in the late '60s, early '70s, it was really hardcore pornography. It wasn't soft X, it was it was hard X. So just imagine the scene where a bunch of us are hanging out in the lobby. I've got my young children who are rug rats. They were very small, like six months old, a year old, two years old in the stroller. And we're hanging out in the lobby. And the... Not only the stereotypical dirty old men are coming in to get their tickets and kind of looking around and going right through into the theater. But it actually was interesting. And all the middle-class couples and women who would come in, they're really not exactly the the type of people who would go see porn at the time that you might think, although if you give it some thought, it's like kind of like, yeah, why not? I mean, lots of people like that kind of... If you knew George, you were allowed to go into the balcony. Did he tell you? He didn't tell you to story? if you knew George, you were allowed to go into the balcony, alright, and smoke dope. Alright? But the balcony had been closed probably in the early 1950s. Do you have any idea how much dust accumulates on those chairs in a 20-year period? More than you might imagine. Alright? So I'll never forget going up there one day with a friend, alright? To... Let's just call it blow off a doob, if you will. And by the way, I have not, just for the record, I have not smoked marijuana in twenty-five years, so we're talking way past that. But I go up with a friend, a smoke doob, and we sat down, we did our thing and when I came downstairs I literally looked like the Michelin Man, you know, with the tires, or the Pillsbury Doughboy. I sat in the wrong seat. I was wearing one of those puffy jackets and the, what do you call it, the static electricity? I literally had dust balls on me that were about six inches deep. Walking around like this, I... It was hilarious, it was hilarious. Thank you, George, for letting us do that. George was a great guy. George was... George also was probably the single most popular guy, George and his wife, during Halloween, because George would give out movie theater candy to the trick or treaters. Not the little tiny things. He gave out the big, the big four-dollar boxes, you know. I'm sure he reimbursed his employers, alright, for all those boxes of Halloween candy.
Sarah Nemeth [00:59:05] Oh that's a great story. I never heard that one before.
Bruce Hennes [00:59:06] Peter Goldsmith. Anybody mention Peter Goldsmith? Peter was... I don't know a lot about Peter. Peter... When I got to Coventry, he was one of the first guys I met. He was... He was what you'd call a hippie. He looked like a hippie. He actually kind of looked like Tommy Chong from Cheech and Chong. He had pretty much the same kind of hairstyle. He was the heavy lidded stoner, you know. Hey, man, how you doing? That's cool. You know, he was really good. I mean, he was as stereotypical as could be. He was, as I recall, he was an orderly at Montefiore Home, which was for, for senior citizens. That was up the street on Mayfield Road at the time. And the rumor was – actually it was more than a rumor – that his parents were... He was a red... what was called a red-diaper baby. His parents were communists in the '30s and '40s in New York, and they raised him with, you know, with socialist ideals. I have a vague recollection he went to, as did so many of those red-diaper babies back in the '30s and '40s, or '40s and '50s. They went to summer camps with the children of other socialists at the time. And somehow he ended up, I think, we always used to joke that he got stoned one day in New York and just ended up in Coventry. But he remembers... He was a member of Coventry Neighbors. And I don't know that he added a lot to the discussion, but he was one of the the neighborhood people. There was... What's his name? I can't remember his name. I actually... He used to walk his cat on a leash. Ben Berkey, Ben Berkey, B-E-R-K-E-Y. Ben was probably 90 years old when I met him, and I knew him for another ten years. And Ben was a gentle, very small, but very gentle guy. He was a bit of an artist. He was a graphic artist at the time. You know, a lot of us gravitated to hang out with him, just to sit with them and kind of shoot the ball in the parks. There was Fran and Al Lustig, L-U-S-T-I-G. I can't believe I'm remembering all these things. I never thought of them in years. Old Jewish couple. He was, he was a nice guy. And I mean, she wore the pants of the family, ordered him around. I'll never forget. He was probably 10 years ago when she... Ran into her on the street and she said, you... She said, I've been looking for you. She said, I came to say goodbye. She goes, I've gotten too old to live on my own, and I think I'm... She was moving to Connecticut to be with her daughter. She wanted to say goodbye to Coventry and to some of us. Some years ago, the special improvement district, as a fundraiser, sold metal leaves that were inserted into the flower beds. So Tommy has one. It says Tommy's restaurant on it. And I bought one for my company and, you know, a bunch of the other stores bought them. And they were fifty or a hundred dollars. And I bought one and I put... I'm actually going to tear up when I tell you this. I try to remember all our old friends from Coventry who died, and I put all their names on the leaf because I thought somebody ought to remember them. That leaf is still down there. My kids know where it is. My wife knows where it is. I don't know that anybody else notices it, but I notice it. I miss them all. Miss 'em all. They were wonderful people. I can't believe I'm crying over this. [recording pauses and resumes] OK!
Sarah Nemeth [01:03:19] We're back.
Bruce Hennes [01:03:22] We're back. We're back. They were good souls.
Sarah Nemeth [01:03:29] It just seemed like an interesting, really cool place.
Bruce Hennes [01:03:32] Once again. I don't know that it was any different than... If you were talk... If you were doing an oral history of Beachwood, I don't know that you'd be having any different conversation.
Sarah Nemeth [01:03:44] Well, I did one in, like for example, like Detroit Shoreway. That's what my other podcast is. And I did this before in that neighborhood, and it just didn't have the same vibe, that same vibe.
Bruce Hennes [01:03:57] No? Well, it had a different vibe.
Sarah Nemeth [01:03:59] It's a different vibe... [crosstalk]
Bruce Hennes [01:03:59] I mean, Detroit Shoreway was a blue-collar area. They had factories there and now it's yuppified, and...
Sarah Nemeth [01:04:05] Right, and that was my...
Bruce Hennes [01:04:08] That was your...
Sarah Nemeth [01:04:08] Theme...
Bruce Hennes [01:04:09] Right.
Sarah Nemeth [01:04:10] Was that gentrification of...
Bruce Hennes [01:04:14] Right. This place never really gentrified.
Sarah Nemeth [01:04:16] No. And that's what's interesting. It was always a place for the youth and for that civic-minded, for the activists. And I think that that's special. Switching gears from the characters of Coventry, what about the 1990s, could you, is there anything that you could say about Coventry in the '90s, other than that's when the SID formed?
Bruce Hennes [01:04:43] The SID happened in the '90s. Uh. No, I mean. No, I mean, by the time the '90s... Let's see. I was still living right in the heart of Coventry Village in the early '90s. I got divorced in, I think '90 or '91 and moved from my house on upper Hampshire. I moved back into the apartment district on lower Hampshire. I was there for three, four or five years. But I found myself spending less time on Coventry. Even Alan had moved out of the neighborhood at that point, or maybe shortly thereafter. Coventry didn't have quite the draw. You know, I began getting more involved in things out[side], in civic activities, some Jewish activities outside of Coventry Village that just took me out of here. You know, I had places to go in... at Cedar and Lee. My kids were grown, so I was able to do more movies, more plays, that type of thing, and start doing more travel. So Coventry became in the '90s, for me, less and less a focus of my interest. I still lived here. I still cared about it. I got remarried in, must have been '95, '96, I think '96, I got remarried and my wife, the woman that I married, was, at that time was a... She had been a columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal. She started writing for The Plain Dealer. And we decided to get a house together. And I was coming from the apartment. She had a house in Kent and we decided to stay in Coventry and we moved to Berkshire, which is still in Coventry Village. But, you know, it's you know, we walk down here periodically, but there wasn't as much of a draw. The restaurants weren't as appealing to us. Frankly, I started spending more time in the 2000s at Nighttown. I developed a greater appreciation for jazz, so that brought me down here a lot more often in two... In 19, mid 1990s, I opened an office for my company at Cedar Fairmount, so again, it took me over there as much. So I don't remember much about the '90s. And I just... And then... By the time I hit the mid 2000s, at that point, I started to build a regional crisis management practice, and that took me even further afield from Cleveland Heights.
Sarah Nemeth [01:08:01] You mentioned that where you lived or live is still being covered. What are the parameters of Coventry Village, like in your mind?
Bruce Hennes [01:08:10] Well, in my mind, I would define Coventry Village as... Looking at a map, at the south [north] would be the Cleveland Heights East Cleveland line, although I don't think I've set foot south [north] of Mayfield in 20 years. That was always a transitional neighborhood even going back 30, 40 years. It was a neighborhood that was economically challenged. It had a high crime rate back then, but it's literally been 20 years since I've set foot north of Mayfield. That's in the Coventry area. Now, I certainly have gone north of Mayfield in Forest Hills. I have friends in Forest Hills. So, like, I never set foot north of Mayfield, but in that area bounded by Superior and Coventry and in Mayfield Cemetery, there is no reason for me to go down there. So I don't know. But I'd still include that in Coventry Village. So then looking south, it certainly goes to Cedar... I would take it right up to St. Ann's to Cedar Road. On the West probably goes over to the Overlook area, probably a little bit... Overlook, St. Alban's Church. I don't think it really extends much... if I'm over on Surrey and by the church with the red door, I think I'm at Cedar Fairmount at that point. And on the east side, I would go as far as probably Cottage, is that Cottage Grove? Cottage Grove, you know. Is Zagara's on Lee Road in Coventry Village? No. They're, I would say Zagara's is in the Cain Park neighborhood or it's part of the Coventry, I'm sorry, Cedar Lee SID, so certainly it's in Cedar Lee, it's not, it's not Coventry. Well, let's always remember, Coventry Village is not just the geographic place, it's a state of mind. Right. You know, can you live in Beachwood and still be in Coventry Village? Maybe a few people have.
Sarah Nemeth [01:10:37] Well, I will end with just... What do you think the future holds for Coventry?
Bruce Hennes [01:10:50] Well, I think coventry Village in toto, I think it's either going to stay the way it is or it's going to get better. I don't think it's gonna slide down. And I'll tell you why. I think I think the apartments are going to continue... The apartment district is gonna continue to be challenged just because there's more new product on the market. I mean, they're building so [fast]... They can't build apartments fast enough in downtown Cleveland. I think it's gonna be, and again, as I mentioned before, Hingetown and West 25th are going to continue to get more and more interesting, and they're going to continue to build things there that will hold competitive attraction for the kind of people who normally would have automatically gravitated to Coventry Village. Another area that's going to challenge people, and this is my crystal bal,l is going to be... What's it called? It's the Collision Bend down in the Flats. That's, excuse me, that's the area directly behind Tower City, that's about 40, 50 acres of what's basically vacant land that was until very recently owned by Forest City and now, I can't remember, is it K&D or MRN or somebody buying it. K&D's buying it? Are you sure?
Sarah Nemeth [01:12:22] I don't know.
Bruce Hennes [01:12:23] Yeah, somebody buying it.
Sarah Nemeth [01:12:24] Oh, one of those big ones...
Bruce Hennes [01:12:26] Well, 40 acres right off of downtown Cleveland? They are going to build from scratch a new city. That will be, because I saw the Forest City plans. I don't know what they're going... I don't know if they're going to use the Forest City plans or what they're going to do. But I know what I would do it with. Forty-five acres. It would be mixed-use. It would be restaurants. It would be apartments. It would be condominiums. And that's going to give the apartment district a real run for their money. But I think there's always gonna be... As long as there's a Case Western Reserve University, as long as there are people who like things that are old, but well taken care of, I think there will always be a market for the houses in Coventry Village. I think there will always be people who want their want to live in a diverse community, who want their children, even if they send their kids to private schools. And they opt out of the public schools and we have a lot of that in Cleveland Heights. I think there are always going to be people who want the Cleveland Heights experience, and that will bode well for the community.
Sarah Nemeth [01:13:49] Well, thank you so much.
Bruce Hennes [01:13:51] Thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart for your interest and for your very perceptive question[s].
Initial interviews in this series were conducted between 2011 and 2013 at the Coventry Village Reunion in support of Historic Heights App Tours, a Cuyahoga Arts & Culture-funded grant project sponsored by FutureHeights, Cleveland Heights Historical Society, and Cleveland Heights Landmark Commission. Additional interviews were collected in 2018 in coordination with the Cleveland Voices podcast.