There is currently an article that has Akronites in a panic. The author of “Rubber and Heroin in a Dying City” references layoffs at Goodyear in the early 2000s, and the current opiate problem in the city. As you continue to read, you learn that the author never lived in Akron.
I am a lifelong resident of Akron. I have done a lot of traveling, but I have always come home to Ohio. The usual things bring me back: it’s inexpensive to live here, my family all still resides here. But there’s way more to it than just cheap rent and family.
I am sorry to inform the author that Akron was dead way before the early 2000s. I was born in the late seventies, after the factories had started to close. I was a teenager in the early nineties, when there was nothing to do downtown, other than hang out with punks and skaters inside of the abandoned BF Goodrich building. I spent a large part of my life hanging out at Rolling Acres Mall and Geauga Lake, when they were still operating, and not just something cool and abandoned to take photos of.
But even during this time, Akron was thriving. I was born around the time that DEVO was playing at places like The Crypt, a bar in downtown Akron that was once a hangout for rubber workers, but became the epicenter of the Akron punk movement. When I was a teenager, I went to shows at Annabells, and at DIY venues like The Mantis in Kent, Ohio. I saw The Black Keys play at the Lime Spider more times than I care to talk about.
I moved to the suburbs for a while, and eventually made my way back to Akron in 2012. Now, Akron has all those things that you see when a city is “on the rise”: vibrant murals, a good yoga scene, a place to get craft cocktails, and shirts with your favorite neighborhood’s name on it in some curly handwritten font or Helvetica. But it's not just about tshirts, folks. We have a vibrant maker community, and a lot of startups doing big things. We have lots of summer festivals, block parties, and flea markets. You can see shows in venues ranging from DIY spots like Hive Mind to the 2,500 seat Akron Civic Theatre. You can go to the Akron Art Museum and see the types of exhibits that I used to have to fly to New York City to see. There’s always something to do in Akron. If you claim to be bored, you’re just not trying hard enough (or it’s just too cold to go outside).
And all those punks and skaters from my teenage years? They’ve grown up, too. They’re involved in the city, some still in bands, some running their own companies, including EarthQuaker Devices.
The one thing that has kept Akron from being a “dying city” all these years? Akronites have a lot of heart. There’s a certain pride that Akronites have when talking about the city, and they will work together to make Akron better. Even Lebron James came back and finally won a ring with the Cavs. Akron held a celebration for him, because Akron loves to love their celebrities, especially ones who are constantly giving back to the community they grew up in, like James.
There is now a huge banner hanging in Lock 3 of James, left over from the championship celebration. The quote on it sums up everything about the heart of an Akronite from Lebron: “In Akron, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”
And we do. We work. We also get involved with rebuilding our community. When friends come to visit from out of town, every Akronite has a list of places that they will take you; some of them don’t even involve hamburgers. Akron just keeps thriving. You should come and visit us sometime, and see how “dead” this place is. But if you can’t visit, I hope to show you all of the things that we love about Akron. Maybe it will give you even more reason to come and see us on EarthQuaker Day this August.
Jessica Anshutz is the office manager at EarthQuaker Devices. When she is not at work, she is probably out of town, going to see bands all over the United States, or maybe hosting a living room show at her house. She writes about Akron, music, and popular culture at flannelkimono.com.