The Ripcho family, of the Lorain Avenue photo studio, opened Needs Cleveland last October with the goal of helping Cleveland's neediest families. Their strategy: Make everything free. At Needs Cleveland, which is open just four hours per week, the only rule is that folks limit themselves to five items per family member. Otherwise there are no restrictions. It's just a way for the family to help out and address a glaring need they saw in a town where so many people live in poverty. Despite some cool new developments and shops around the region, Needs Cleveland is hands down the most innovative, and the best, new concept.
7710 Lorain Ave., needscleveland.org.
Don't let the seemingly abandoned lot surrounding the Cleveland Asia Market deter you from venturing inside and taking advantage of the aisles upon aisles of goods and foodstuffs at this Miles Road gem. Here, shoppers can load up their carts with imported snacks from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, and many, many other Asian countries. There's also a bakery, a fish and meat counter, and even a small café where folks can indulge in pre-or-post-shop dumplings.
21200 Miles Rd. 216-518-1600, huaxin.us.
So you wanna buy a new outfit, grab a couple of lamps for the apartment and a book to read, and maybe snag a new coffee table to put them on all for less than the cost of lunch at some hotshot downtown restaurant? Truly, Unique Thrift has some real bargains for cost-conscious consumers. The Lorain-Fulton location of this multi-state chain has been the go-to spot for thrift shop junkies on the city's westside for years. Promotions include Half-price Mondays and Early Bird Thursdays.
3333 Lorain Ave., 216-631-0205, uniquethriftstore.com.
Big Fun, in Cleveland Heights' Coventry neighborhood, is a veritable "toy time machine" where you can buy hard-to-find retro toys from the past, including Star Wars, Transformers, and G.I. Joe figurines. Looking to play a prank with a good, old-fashioned whoopee cushion? This place has got you covered. Playboy once even named it one of the "coolest stores" in all of America.
1814 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-371-4386, bigfuntoystore.com.
Phillip and Jackie Wachter launched Fount just under two years ago, but already this husband/wife duo has made a name for itself in Cleveland's leather-crafting industry. Each piece of inventory is hand-designed, cut, sewn, and ultimately transformed into stunning hair-on-hide bags ($429), yoga slings ($219), and penny-pouch necklaces ($44), the likes of which we have yet to find anywhere else. Browse their current selection online, and give them a good old fashioned Instagram follow (@fountleathergoods) to keep up with their current stock.
Some say women are hard to shop for, but it's really you men who are the tough ones (we know you didn't really "lose" that Monsters beanie we got you last year). Anyway, Cleveland craftsman Jordan Lee has developed a small but potent line of handmade goods your guy will love, including baseball-stitch card cases, custom-stained Opinel pocketknives, and leather-bound bi-folds, among other things. Browse Lee's selection online or catch him at an upcoming Cleveland Flea.
Conveniently located next to the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern, Music Saves is one of the few record stores in town that still regularly stocks lots of new stuff. Come Record Store Day, the annual limited edition vinyl release day, there will be a line wrapped around the block. This is the place where hipsters go to grab the tunes they need. It's also the place where everybody goes when they want to grab some new music and anchor themselves in Collinwood for the afternoon.
15801 Waterloo Rd. 216-481-1875 musicsaves.com.
Those of us in the inner-ring neighborhoods are blessed with any number of places to buy craft beer. The corner shop at the end of your street is probably boasting a selection that would make a beer snob circa 2005 drool with envy. That's great. But when it comes to hard liquor, the options aren't great. So we all end up at the booze oasis known as Tony's on Clark Ave. You can grab some produce (it's like a mini grocery store too) and your lottery tickets, of course, and you can also score some shoes. Yes, Tony's offers a host of Nike knock-offs in one of the center aisles, and while we've never purchased a pair, they look like solid deals.
3114 Clark Ave., 216-651-5700, tonymarkets.com.
It's tricky to find that perfect hair stylist: the one who understands your texture, color, and desire to do something different — but not too different. The fine folks at North Royalton's Enzo Salon & Spa understand those needs. With a team of award-winning stylists and a wide array of services that range from Bio-Ionic straightening to quick trims, Enzo has you covered follicle to follicle.
12791 State Rd., North Royalton, 440-582-8484, salonenzo.com.
Not as fancy schmancy as places like Earth Fare and Whole Foods, Nature's Bin offers plenty of healthy food options, including organic produce and natural frozen foods. The bakery offers up some tasty treats too, and the vegan carrot cake is really delicious. You can seemingly find every vitamin in the world here as well. The place is also a vocational rehabilitation training facility for people with disabilities.
18120 Sloane Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-4600, cornucopia-inc.org.