Collective Upcycle

collective upThe St Clair/Superior neighborhood is one that I have not spent a lot of time in.  Other than those occasional pilgrimages to the Empress Tatu Ethiopean restaurant for that exotic, eat with your hands ethnic food experience, i can probably count on both hands the number of times i have visited that neighborhood in my lifetime.  Oddly food has always been the draw to that location – Sterle’s Slovenian food, and at one time the Haufbrau Haus (now torn down, and long gone) won me over with the schnitzel and chicken and spatzle soup….

The St Clair/Superior neighborhood was once the stronghold of the Slovenian enclave in the city – bakeries, restaurants, butchers, and small businesses that catered to the working class ethnics.  As the Slovenians are dying off, or moving to the suburbs the neighborhood has declined.  Storefronts are vacant, crime has grown.

But that does not have to be.  Other neighborhoods were on the brink of destruction to become glowing centers of art, entertainment and commerce…. and a group of people are trying to bring that vitality back to St Clair Superior.

Entrepreneur Nicole McGee was one of the first in Northeastern Ohio to bring the idea of pop up shops, with the launch of Collective Upcycle, a consortium of 35-40 artists who upcycle – create new and functional things from what would otherwise be tossed into a landfill.  The Collective Upcycle has been a traveling pop up shop – first one was downtown, across from Cleveland State in the Trinity Commons space.  Then Nicole brought the shop back to her neighborhood of Detroit Shoreway.  The following year CU popped up in Shaker Square in a space that once was an old wine shop… such charm and unique qualities of this shop – big storefront windows, light and airy space….this shop space has since been occupied by another retailer.  And this year she has concentrated her efforts to St Clair/ Superior and the Copper-top building.  In conjunction with the St Clair/Superior Community Development Corp Nicole applied for a prestigious art grant and won.  These efforts have attracted a prestigious $375,000 grant from ArtPlace, a private-sector spinoff of the National Endowment for the Arts. Other grants came from Charter One Bank and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, the county’s public arts fund.

We knew Nicole when she was still working for Merrick House, but came to be involved in Collective Upcycle through my ReBlooming Bags, the upcycled plastic shopping bags turned into purses and totes.  In the first pop ups i bet we sold a few dozen bags.  Wildly popular, especially among the upcycle enthusiasts, this was a great seller.

We stopped to drop off our inventory on Sunday .. there was the buzz in the place with worker bees painting, and hanging wall covering, panels made from cabinets, and on and on.  The cavernous storefront space is all but gutted, ceiling has nothing but the studs and lathe, walls are still in process of receiving paint after recent drywall added.  But the building wants to be a wonderful and lovely gracious retail space that it once was.

A midst the buzz of readying the space, and collecting the artists goods, Collective Upcycle is preparing for the retail grand opening on Thursday, November 22 from 5-9pm.  There is a soft opening this friday.

While we were there several other artists brought in their goodies… including plaques made from old license plates, another soap maker, vintage furniture finds, and upcycled glass.  It should be a great pop up shop, and this time they remain open through mid spring.  We are thrilled to be a part of the energy and excitement of the neighborhood.  We love being included in the efforts of Nicole McGee and entrepreuer Lauren Kruger, who will be overseeing Collective Upcycle.

Recently a great article ran in the plain dealer about this endeavor.  Click on the photo below for the article.