Beachland’s Cindy Barber on Waterloo’s victory

Beachland Ballroom and Tavern co-owner Cindy Barber loves North Collinwood area

Sunday, April 12, 2009 from the Plain Dealer and

Cindy Barber bought into North Collinwood in a big way. In 2000, she and Mark Leddy turned the former 1950-ish Croatian Liberty Home on Waterloo Road into the rockin’ Beachland Ballroom and Tavern.

As the current board president of Northeast Shores Development Corp., she’s very involved in helping to bring back the neighborhood – formerly known as Beachland because of its proximity to the old Euclid Beach amusement park.

“It’s still sort of an uphill battle to convince some people that Waterloo is a valid choice,” said Barber, 58, whose Sunday brunch at the Beachland has really taken off. “But after nine years it was great to hear us mentioned in the mayor’s State of the City Address along with Gordon Square as one of the bright spots.”

Describe the renaissance taking place in North Collinwood.

Thankfully, the Waterloo Arts and Entertainment district surrounding the Beachland has lots of help. There’s Arts Collinwood, a growing nonprofit; Music Saves, our indie record store; Shoparooni, the eccentric novelty store; Waterloo 7, a fab art galley; and Blue Arrow Records, a used-vinyl store just opened. Blitz BBQ, owned by Billy Blitz, brother of the Dead Boys’ drummer Johnny, is set to open across from the Beachland this summer. We’re also working on the East 185th LaSalle Theatre renovation and redefining our lakefront area, because we really are the neighborhood where “the city meets the lake.” We hope to restore some of the Euclid Beach atmosphere with a new fishing pier and more.

Why did you choose to live and work in North Collinwood?

I moved here in 1986 after a friend of mine showed me the house he was rehabbing on a cliff facing Lake Erie. There were already lots of musicians, artists and bohemian-thinking professionals infiltrating the ethnic conclave, so I found a house and settled in. But as more and more of the older ethnics moved on, businesses and buildings became abandoned. The Croatian Liberty Home was for sale, and I felt I needed to figure out something to do with it to create a destination location to start reinventing the neighborhood. Thus the Beachland.

Tell us what happens during your average day.

First, there is no average day. Mostly I solve problems. Things break, the ceiling leaks, staff people have emergencies and you have to find someone to do that job, or lend them money. Buses full of rockers invade the parking lot at noon, and you have to answer their questions or get them a cab to go to the Rock Hall. I’m generally there by 11 a.m. and often I’m watching the bus leave the parking lot at 3 a.m. But more and more, we have good managers, and I’m trying to step back from the day-to-day.

Tell us a fun story.

Well, there are many stories! But maybe my favorite involves Glenn Tilbrook, lead singer for the British band Squeeze, who’s gone on to have his own career. He used to travel the U.S. with his recreational vehicle, so the first time through, we had him park the RV behind our house on the lake and he fell in love with us and the Beachland. But the next time, he had an old bus, and it broke down about 50 miles outside of Cleveland on his way to our show. So we didn’t know if he was going to make the show.

So then what happened?

The doors open. The audience is coming in. Everyone is waiting and it’s past showtime at this point. Then a big tow truck hauling the broken-down bus pulls up across the street and drops the bus pretty far from the load-in door. So Glenn runs in and gets everyone in the audience to come out to the bus and help the band haul the equipment inside. Someone has an amp, another one has a snare drum. They were up and running in 20 minutes and put on a great show. Glenn wrote a song called “Beachland Ballroom” that tells that story and more of his love affair with the Beachland.

What’s your favorite ethnic restaurant?

In my neighborhood, I rotate between Scotti’s Italian Eatery on East 185th (pasta with grilled chicken and broccoli in pesto cream sauce), It’s a Family Affair soul food on East 185th (roast chicken with mac and cheese and greens) and Marta’s Czech restaurant on East 222nd for the sauerbraten with homemade dumplings.

What pleases you about Cleveland?

The talent and spirit that rise from here. There are so many creative people doing wonderful projects. Often we are leading the way in innovation, and young artists and musicians are making some of the finest work in the land.

What would you fix?

Oftentimes, no one knows what great things are going on here, and too often young artists have to leave town to make a name for themselves because there isn’t the infrastructure like entertainment lawyers, agents, media attention to help launch them beyond our region.

Were you into music at Olmsted Falls High School?

Yes, choir and glee club. I grew up listening and appreciating music. My father was a drummer who turned me on to Spike Jones, my mother a professionally trained alto who was broadcast over the radio as a soloist in a church choir every Sunday.

What’s your favorite scenic view?

The view of Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline from my front yard where I can see a sunset every night if I have time.

Give us a treasured childhood memory.

Watching Ghoulardi on late night TV and having the opportunity to see live music at the age of 16 and 17, such as Love at La Cave, Bob Seger and the Last Herd at the Rolling Stone Teen Club, MC5 at the North Ridgeville Hullabaloo, I got to experience the great live music history of Cleveland as a teenager. I hope someday some kid remembers what they saw at the Beachland.

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