The Swagalicious Life of Mall Guy: Behind the LED Belt and Colorful Shirts of One of Cleveland's Most Visible Characters 

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Everyone knows Jim and everyone thinks Jim is everywhere simply because he's a memorable addition. Yes, he's around every Saturday at SouthPark, but also seemingly each and every one of the 81 home Tribe games and any country concert at Blossom. ("I like country the best," he says. "It has a good melody.")

"I'm a smart shopper," he says. "You don't have to buy front row tickets to things. You can buy a $8 or $10 ticket to an Indians game – I go to about 25 a year – and go to 10 concerts for maybe $200. I don't drink there; I bring my own water."

It's becoming apparent Jim makes his own clothes not only because they can't be found elsewhere but also because he's a thrifty sonofabitch. Sales, bargain racks, if anything.

"You can't spend $200 on jeans," he says. "In my life, I've never spent $200 on jeans. I can buy $5 jeans and fix them up and make them look like $200 jeans."

He's scouted jackets he liked for nearly a year, waiting on the price to fall to a reasonable point before pulling the trigger. He, of course, has the shopper's benefit of checking in once a week, but he "saw it for $50 and waited for it to go down to $10." His bag that he's always carrying? That's not anything he's purchased that day. It's a briefcase of sorts, stuffed with the essentials: his brush, his cell phone, his MP3 player (a Nokia web tablet he bought years ago), a bottle of water, and his belt, which he's not currently wearing. It's there just in case the mood strikes later on.

"15 more minutes still," he says, chugging along with purpose.

"You know, I play tennis too," he says out of the blue. The mere thought of Mall Guy not dressed as Mall Guy playing tennis itself is worth a chuckle, but especially at the thought of him playing his college-aged nephew. He can't describe his tennis style, only that he taught himself after he moved to America and is just "okay." It's likely he could rally his opponent to death with this kind of stamina.

"I usually play tennis three, four times a week when I have a chance," he says. "You need to stay in shape. It's about the exercise."

To walk with Mall Guy is also to experience, if only slightly, the public's reaction to his presence -- the sideways glances, the warm smiles, the occasional high fives. And to walk with Mall Guy is also to fall behind every so often as he hits the hole between the watch kiosk and that ambling grandma over there like Adrian Peterson. And when you do, you'll catch the murmurs once people know he's out of earshot, already five or 20 paces in the other direction.

"I knew I'd see him today!"

"He's even weirder in person."

And everything in between.

For the most part, however, they're genuinely nice, and throughout the afternoon a handful of people walk up directly to him and say, "Hi, Jim," though they know little more than that little fact about him.

Is your real name even Jim?

"No, it's Joe."

Will you tell us your last name?

"No, there are some weird people out there."


Mall Guy/Jim/Joe, despite not having social media accounts of his own, is fully aware of all the theories about him.

"My cousin, they have kids, they always are on Facebook and they read it about me," he says. "I don't read it, I don't care, but they always tell me what they write about me. I don't know where people come up with this stuff. I'm just a regular guy with a regular job."

That is both true and not, and in most ways, as Jim himself points out, everything wears out. By sheer force of repetition, he has made himself normal despite all outward appearances. Even in a lily-white suburb like Strongsville, he is no longer strange. His routine has made him less alien. The pictures are still requested – "It was really strange at first to take pictures, and it's still strange now," he says – but he's a predictable part of the landscape, and even more predictable once you know his schedule.

But people can still be harsh, childish and capable of lashing out at the foreign. And it still happens to Jim, though less than before.

"Some guys say stuff sometimes, some comments," he says. "But you know, they're just jealous. Their girls are the ones asking to take pictures with me."

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