In this 2007 interview, Mary Jo Mazzarella, a resident of the Detroit Shoreway area of Cleveland and owner/manager of American Limousine Service, talks about her history with the Detroit Shoreway area of Cleveland. Mazzarella spent her early years in the 1960s living on West 112th Street, but remembers visiting her Italian grandparents who lived on West 69th and ran a delicatessen on the corner of 69th and Detroit. She also remembers many stories that her father told her about the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood in which he grew up. Mazzarella moved to Detroit Shoreway in the 1970s and became close to the Italian neighborhood located near Our Lady of Mount Carmel remembering both the sights and the smells of the area. Mazzarella left Cleveland for a decade to live in San Francisco, but returned to Detroit Shoreway in the 1990s and is raising her family in a condo on West 54th Street.
Mazzarella, Mary Jo (interviewee)
Bell, Erin (interviewer)
Transcription sponsored by Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization
Erin Bell [00:00:08] This is Erin Bell, I'm in Gordon Square Arcade. I'm Interviewing Mary Jo Mazzarella. Mary Jo, can you just start by telling me when and where you were born?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:00:19] I was born in Cleveland in 1962.
Erin Bell [00:00:25] So you've lived here your whole life. Have you lived in this neighborhood?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:00:29] No, I grew up on West 112th and Detroit, but my grandparents, my father's from this neighborhood, my grandparents had a little Italian delicatessen on the corner of West 69th and Detroit. My father was born in a home on West 69th, north of Herman. So this has always been a neighborhood to me.
Erin Bell [00:00:53] So describe your house growing up, you neighborhood friends. You know, anything that you want to tell me about the neighborhood.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:01:01] Well, growing up, I mean, West 112th isn't far from West 69th, and because of our family, Italian big family and relationship with our grandparents, we were part of this neighborhood in childhood. You... I just have memories of Sunday morning, Isabella Bakery, which were also my family, you'd go in there after church and there'd be the bakers all in their baker's whites and slapping bread and baking it and you'd get a hot bag of bread and it wouldn't even make it home and everyone would be eating it. Of course, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the procession down the streets. Growing up in this neighborhood, we had a lot of recreational, organized recreational groups through our playgrounds, Herman Playground and the different playgrounds around, and we also had National Junior Tennis League. There are tennis courts down where the Soapbox Derby is currently and we would do a, you know, city kids like us learned to play tennis and competed in a league. So that was really great and it was just great to hang out in my grandparent's store and watch the customers come in and listen to the stories and the community that existed around the store and the hours that they'd all wait for the meat to be cut and the stories that were told.
Erin Bell [00:02:32] You mentioned a feast. Tell us about it.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:02:35] Our Lady of Mount Carmel's festival [is] always around July 16th, I know that because it's always on my sister's birthday, it's just a week of festivities. As a young, maybe 13 year old girl, I loved working in the villa because I was my first experience serving people and making tips and being a part of the volunteering. Of course, we had to donate our tips to the church. It was just a, you know, the procession through the streets and the different age groups and generations and how they gathered to be a part of the festival. Then the rides and the games. It was just a great week here in our neighborhood. Still is.
Erin Bell [00:03:24] It's still going strong?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:03:24] Yes.
Erin Bell [00:03:24] Your involvements with Our Lady of...
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:03:27] Our Lady of Mount Carmel? More by... My parish is St. Pat's on Bridge, but my family's been there so long that the Mazzarella family were just really, all of us are involved. We always will be. It's just a part of our family tradition.
Erin Bell [00:03:48] How's it changed over the years?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:03:48] That stayed the same. [laughs] It's like a time capsule through time. And it's built around the community and how everyone looks out for each other. I did move down to our neighborhood when I was 13 and my mother died and the neighborhood really embraced me. I lived with my grandparents after that. And then I did move to 69th and Detroit and I really found so much love here. And I became involved with Our Lady of Mount Carmel CYO and it was a great... We would work throughout the year on fundraisers and then we would go on exotic vacations for city kids like us. We went to the Bahamas one year, Daytona Beach another year, a dude ranch, which was just incredible in Michigan because we were just a bunch of scrappy Cleveland city kids in a dude ranch in Michigan. And we turned the place upside down. We were kind of hooligans, but it was great memories and we all still stay in touch. The groups of people even. And I found that with my dad's generation and now even my children, I can see how there's a common thread that binds us and it doesn't separate even with age.
Erin Bell [00:05:05] Is it still a predominantly Italian parish?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:05:10] It is predominantly an Italian parish, but we have [La] Sagrata Familia just down the street, which is a Hispanic parish. Our parish, St. Pat's on Bridge, which we got involved through Urban Community School that my children went to is... It was traditionally built by the Irish, but it has just, the librarians now, the librarian refugees are a big part of the parish. It's a real open and welcome parish and so is Mount Carmel. It does have... It is predominantly still the Italian Mercederian order but it's still open to all peoples.
Erin Bell [00:05:50] There has recently been news about the Diocese of Cleveland maybe consolidating some churches. Do you anticipate that that will affect either St. Pat's or Our Lady of Mount Carmel?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:06:01] I do. I'm not following and his closely as some. I just, I, my feeling is that, you know, I'm concerned about where the... what's going to happen to these beautiful structures. Every one is so unique and beautiful. St. Stephen's Parish is just lovely. St. Michael's on Scranton. You know, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Pat's, the history behind these buildings. And, you know, I'm concerned that they'll still be used, and I think that they'll be used by other denominations, I foresee, because we have a large Hispanic community and a lot of them are running out of storefront type of buildings, I have hope that they would keep that those parishes alive and move in and have possibly have a Pentecostal community in these existing beautiful structures.
Erin Bell [00:06:55] I'm sorry. I lost my place here. What do you do for a living?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:07:08] I run my family limousine service. And an interesting story is Berry's Funeral Home on West 70th and Detroit was close to West 69th and Detroit, well actually it's the next block over, and my father as a young lad always hung out with the Berry brothers and he was given a scholar... He went to St. Ignatius High School and then was offered a scholarship for John Carroll as a linguist. But instead he bought a limousine and a hearse and he started his company over 68 years ago. He was just 18. I think he got it before even graduated from St. Ignatius and he started American Limousine Service. Now, we're almost 70 years old and I'm the manager of that company. It's still going strong.
Erin Bell [00:08:00] Do you have any good stories? You must.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:08:02] Oh, sure, my father drove the Beatles in 1964 and he has a great... just his stories of the people lining the streets of West Boulevard as he was coming, because it was before [I-]90 and he was coming down West Boulevard from the airport and just people on either side of West Boulevard all the way down to downtown lining the streets. I remember John F. Kennedy coming down Detroit Avenue. That had nothing to do with our limousine service. But I do have memories of it, even though I was really young. I just must have remembered the hoopla around the President coming down our street. And as far as the limousine service, sure, we drove last. See, we drive. People now are gearing up for the NBA finals this week. And so it's really I'm proud to be a part of our come our family business.
Erin Bell [00:08:50] That's really cool. So, I'm sorry, you do live in Detroit Shoreway now?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:08:59] Yes, I do. I live on West 54th, north of Herman. It's called King's Hill.
Erin Bell [00:09:04] And you've lived here since what year?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:09:04] I bought my home in '93... '93, no maybe '94. I'm basing it on how old my son was, he's 15 now, so I've had it for, I don't know, maybe the last 12 or 13 years.
Erin Bell [00:09:25] So what can you say about the neighborhood, say from your earliest memories, you know, buying bread and stuff like that to the time you moved into your house to the present?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:09:37] I wouldn't live anywhere else. I have a beautiful piece of property. I'm blessed with three lots. Lake view, lots of condos are going up and different people say, you know, you should sell this. And I mean, where would I move? There's nowhere that I really want to live. I walk up the street and take yoga at [There's No Place Like] Om studio at 54th and Detroit. We walk down to Edgewater Park. Every day I walk my dog down to Edgewater Park. We have the Ohio City community right next door and we have a community garden and Fairview Park, which has activities along with Herman Park. We just have a vibrant community, and let me think of how you posed the question, and I've seen it throughout the years. I really, you know, I'm a little bit of a... Some people think I'm against development. I'm not against development. I'm for development done right. The lake's not going anywhere. So I'm a bit of a community activist when it comes to development. I watch it. I speak out. I go to the design review board and community development board or whatever it's called, and I just, you know, I'm watching the progress and embracing it, but also wanting it done and properly and preserved for our children.
Erin Bell [00:11:08] Do you feel... I mean how do you feel about some of the newer development? Do you know what I'm talking about? Eco-Village or Battery Park?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:11:15] Well, actually, I'm on the Cuyahoga Community Land Trust, I'm the vice president of that board, which is a we're doing the new eco-cottages and, on 58th and Eco-Village, so I'm a little jealous when I know that you can get... The heating bill for those will be about 400 dollars for the whole entire year. It makes me when I step off the board to be a homeowner, but I'm really excited that Cleveland... There's... Cleveland has a lot of firsts and we really have been doing the green movement for quite a while. In fact, the green coalition and the building on Fulton and Lorain. I've toured that. And on the rooftop there's a rooftop garden. And I think that Cleveland does embrace this ecologically... especially our neighborhood, Ohio City, I mean, I've had people come to my parties. I throw big parties and fundraisers at my big property and the next day I'm like who's on the side of the house and there's someone like recycling the bottles, you know, the morning after. [laughs] So you have to appreciate that diligence.
Erin Bell [00:12:28] Do think that that is going to continue to spread in Cleveland? Because it's definitely, I think you're right, it's definitely picking up.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:12:38] I do. I think that a lot of people... I want Cleveland to have more bike-friendly town. I am also proudly the first bike courier in Cleveland, Ohio. I lived in San Francisco from 1979 to '89. When I came back to Cleveland, I came back to this neighborhood. This is where I settled because this is home, the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. And I noticed there weren't any bike couriers. And so I was instrumental in starting that whole movement. And so I'm really into a bike-friendly city and I'm looking forward to the Towpath connecting, the Canal Fulton Towpath is going to connect right down to Edgewater Park, right past my street. So, I think with the cost of gas and it's just, you know, it's funny that I run this limousine service with these big gas guzzling vehicles and I'm sitting talking about I think that with the cost of gas, more people are going to choose and being health-conscious, they're going to choose to use the bike path when it's, you know, actually created and vibrant.
Erin Bell [00:13:45] It's definitely a good thing. That's really interesting about the bike couriers here. I see those guys all the time. Some of them are pretty crazy.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:13:52] Yeah, I guess I was sort of that prior to children. But, you know, they're paid commission. So you move.
Erin Bell [00:14:00] Yeah.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:14:00] And we weren't really welcomed at first. We flyered downtown and made our presence there and got bike hats and were trying to get everybody to recognize us. Now it's really accepted and there's many services now that it has...
Erin Bell [00:14:17] It adds a lot to the city to have them.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:14:17] Mmhmm.
Erin Bell [00:14:17] But that's just me [inaudible]. So you wouldn't have any memories of streetcars. That was before your time?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:14:32] No, my father talked, always talked about the streetcars, taking the streetcar downtown and where he'd connect with it right down Detroit Avenue. And but I myself do not have... In San Francisco streetcars but not here in Cleveland, I don't have memory of those.
Erin Bell [00:14:48] What about Gordon Square Arcade?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:14:54] I do, you know, the Capitol Theater... I think my grandmother used to give my father and his siblings a quarter and they'd get into the theater and get popcorn and everything for a quarter, which is just incredible. And I'm really looking forward to Capitol Theater reopening and often when I walk the streets, I just know that I'm walking the same streets that my father walked and the same street that my grandmother walked. That's a great meditation. And those bells at Mount Carmel, they always play different songs and patriotic songs on the 4th. They... I've just been waking up to those bells for so many years and I just think about things like that, how I really love that tradition, the family tradition continuing. And my children really do... are interested in those stories. And they heard a lot from my dad. He passed away about, that'll be two years in August, but that he would just come over and tell us or drive around the neighborhood with us and tell us about all the different houses and the families that lived there and all the businesses that they ran out of their homes.
Erin Bell [00:16:03] Do you think that your children will stay in Cleveland?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:16:08] Well, I have a son who's 15 and a daughter who is nine, so it's hard to say right now. I am an Italian mother, [laughs] so I hope they do.
Erin Bell [00:16:16] So Capitol Theater's reopening. I didn't know that.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:16:25] Yes, it's going through a renovation [and] is planning to reopen, and I'm really, also really, really excited and active in the whole arts movement. The Detroit Shoreway arts movement and the streetscape that they're planning on doing and bringing utility wires and everything underneath the ground. I'm really active. I'm a participant in a volunteer of Near West Theatre and my children are both active at Near West Theatre. And we're really, really excited that they chose to be a part of this whole arts movement building our theater at 67th and Detroit. The restaurants that I know that are popping up... Through the limousine service, I offer a tour of neighborhoods to like hotel salespeople or people that are just moving to corporations that I deal with. And they have newcomers to Cleveland to try to get them familiar with their surroundings, especially the downtown neighborhoods. And it's always such... It's such a pleasure to present Detroit Shoreway. It just has so any restaurants popping up and housing and development and interesting melting pot of culture, and people really perk up in their seats and listen and really the responses I get is that they really do enjoy learning about Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.
Erin Bell [00:17:46] So if you were gonna do a driving tour and you could only hit a limited number of spots that you just really felt like outsiders should see, what would those spots be?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:17:56] In Detroit Shoreway?
Erin Bell [00:17:59] Throughout Cleveland but yeah I guess go.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:17:59] In our neighborhood? Well, Edgewater Park is just a go[lden?]... I mean, I just think it's beautiful. It's like a little ocean, Lake Erie. You know, it's just so peaceful and you walk the back path. It's just you're so lucky to have Edgewater Park just be a gateway to our neighborhood. I would show 'em the new Battery Park project because it's just so immense, the housing project that's going on. I love the bridge to Edgewater Park that's located off Father Caruso Drive. It's just the local artists did the mosaic and there are the buildings in the neighborhood and it's just such a neat, bright and open passageway into the park. I'd... I'd go up West 69th and down West 67th because it's like a little Italian preserved neighborhood with the houses that are so unique and well taken care of. Show 'em, of course, Stone Mad Irish pub, because that is just I just, I can't stop walking past or driving past and looking at that development at 65th and Herman. I really love the what Saigon Plaza's done. That was, that's at the corner of my street, 54th and Detroit, and they just renovated that whole building. Across the street's the yoga studio, which I think is so unique to have in our neighborhood. All of the arts district stuff that's happening in around Gordon Square and CPT. I love the labyrinth at 65th and Clinton and just the different churches.
Erin Bell [00:19:49] People have mentioned the labyrinth before, and I"m not sure what that is. Could you...
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:19:55] Sure. A local artist who lives at 69th and Herman, Melissa Daubert and some other artists. John Jackson, who is an artist that was unfortunately murdered. We had a brutal murder in our neighborhood last summer. Two artists were killed in their home, and that was a real tragedy, but the outpour from the neighborhood and the community coming together, and at that labyrinth we had a memorial service. Excuse me. [coughs] And it was just beautiful to... Those are times in the neighborhood, and my children with me, that I know that they'll never forget and that I'll never forget is the neighborhood coming out, three, four hundred people all gathering on a Thursday night for a memorial service to these artists. And John Jackson's piece is in the middle of the labyrinth. And then we all walked the labyrinth. The one artist was a Buddhist and some Buddhist priest walked us through the labyrinth and the whole community, we were passing each other, walking back out of the labyrinth, you're passing your neighbors, all different... It was just, just beautiful. The faces that you're passing, the different cultures, the different ages. It is just an incredible experience.
Erin Bell [00:21:24] So what do you think is the place of arts, of the arts in this neighborhood? Do you think it's an essential part of improving the neighborhood or even an essential part of keeping it the same? Where do the arts fit in?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:21:42] I just think it's going to be a, I don't know, like a Greenwich Village of Cleveland [laughs], I foresee that it could really take off with... I like what Detroit Shoreway is picking. There's planned development on Detroit Avenue centered around the arts, and I think that that's just a... It's just a, I don't know. I think that it will preserve the neighborhood and it'll be a real inviting place to live. In our neighborhood it's like when you're walking north of Detroit on 67th and 69th and all down to the beach, it's like a beach cottage community, just the feeling of the breeze off the lake and I just think that the... couple that with the arts, the theater district, it'll just be a place where people want to come to.
Erin Bell [00:22:47] Tell me about the Near West Theatre.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:22:49] Incredible, just beautiful place where people of all ages have grown and that's a beautiful family and a beautiful community. It's over 30 years old this year, I believe, yeah, their youth theatre's celebrating its 30th year. It's musical theater. They don't go right into the practicing the play, they spend two weeks getting to know each other through trust and bonding and it's just a beautiful place where young, shy kids could come out of their selves and then make relationships. It's all just volunteers from the concession stands to the backstage to building. My son's doing crew for Annie Junior, which is the kids' play. And then he stays there and goes right on to his practice for the team play. They're doing Cats this season and he just, it's just a home away from home for my kids and myself. And Stephanie Hrbek and our energy. Bob Davis and his creativity. He's the director. It's just a magical place. And it's on the third floor of St. Pat's Hall and it's really unique, but we would like, we're looking forward to building a theater that's accessible to all people because it's not handicap accessible now. It's not air-conditioned. So you can imagine the kids in these summer plays all dressed as cats and makeup and it's sweltering. So.
Erin Bell [00:24:32] What other kind of things, you mentioned Cats, what other kind of programs have you guys done?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:24:39] Oh, we've done Zorba the Greek, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. The kids after 9/11, the kids created a play that should have went nationwide, if I had anything to do with it, and played, it was called America through the Looking Glass. And what they did in their first two or three weeks of practice is actually write the play. Their experiences, how they felt in the classroom when the other kids are being called out, and the images they are seeing on the television surrounding 9/11. And it was just an incredible piece created by the kids right after 9/11. I've never seen anything like that surrounding 9/11. So broken open and just a beautiful expression and unfortunately, there was only a weekend-long show. That was one of my favorites. But the Near West Theatre takes musical theater to a whole 'nother level. They have quality band and they just. It's like I have no interest in Cats. Never have. I've always kind of made fun of it. I'm not even really a theater person, but it's just like, yuck. But I'm looking so forward because I know that Near West will put on a whole different version of Cats than anyone will ever experience. They just finished Urinetown and the original producers of Urinetown were in, they knew someone on the board, and they were just blown away at the quality of this community theater that they came back with a bunch of people from, you know, had a roundtable with the cast to find out how they created this piece. So it's a really real magical place.
Erin Bell [00:26:23] How did... Who started the theater? You said it's about thirty years old.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:26:27] George Hrbek and Reverend Scanlon – I want to say his name is, I'm the worst with names – of St. Pat's. Back in the '70s, there was a lot of glue-sniffing kids and a lot of kids were doing a lot of drugs around the Ohio City neighborhood, and they created this theater community to have a safe space and a creative outlet to get the kids off the streets to doing a positive... That's a positive place. And Stephanie Hrbek was the – and I don't know my history really well with exactly that. I know that Stephanie Hrbek has been the executive director for this entire time and Bob Davis has been artistic director.
Erin Bell [00:27:16] So it's a pretty... There's continuity there. It's been pretty much a small group of people?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:27:28] Oh, it's touched thousands and thousands of people. We have kids now coming from the far west suburbs and way out in Brunswick to do plays here because they hear of this incredible theater. The productions they put on. And even though it is still centers around the mission of the neighborhood kids, it just has, it's touched so many people's lives in such a broad radius of Cleveland.
Erin Bell [00:27:54] Let's go back to the Capitol Theater for a minute. Can you tell me some memories you might have of the Capitol Theater?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:28:02] The Capitol Theater has never... I was never able to go to movies. It's always been close. The only thing I know that I did see some Buddhist nuns perform there when CPTA had a show, I'm pretty sure it was in the Capitol. That was in the '80s. But really, I just, I have my besides my father's memories, Capitol Theater has been closed all this time.
Erin Bell [00:28:28] I didn't realize. Parades?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:28:35] Well.
Erin Bell [00:28:35] Do they still meet at St. [inaudible]?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:28:36] We have the procession at Our Lady of Mount Carmel centered around the feast, which is like being in Italy. You know, the ladies say the rosary. The priests march. They march with the statues and everybody's pinning dollars to get a prayer card. And that's just like just incredible scene from like [laughs] The Godfather or something. It's great to bring people to watch the procession. Parade, I mean, in Cleveland right now as we speak, Parade the Circle's going on and that's where my kids are and the St. Patrick's Day parade, of course, and the run. And what happens before that at our church, St. Patrick's is incredible. They have a 9:30 mass and breakfast and then off to the parade. And that's been going on forever. I can, I know there's a... We often have like demonstrations, war protests. The neighborhood comes together, but those are mostly held downtown.
Erin Bell [00:29:44] But some are held out here occasionally?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:29:47] No, I haven't really... You know, maybe we'll meet people, ride bikes down to Peace Day. We have a Peace Day celebration at the Free Stamp. A lot of the neighborhood plans it, and sometimes people meet and ride bikes down there, but no parades really through here.
Erin Bell [00:30:07] How has the neighborhood changed in terms of the people that live here, from your earliest memories to the present?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:30:16] Well, there was white flight in the '70s, you know, everybody moved to Parma and the south suburbs and then it started to become more culturally mixed in our neighborhood. And we have a big Vietnamese community here in our neighborhood, which I, especially from living in San Francisco ten years, just welcome and embrace and just love that about our community is the differences. That, that's definitely, though, a change from the early childhood when it was predominantly Italian-American.
Erin Bell [00:30:54] Someone earlier alluded to gay and lesbian presence in the neighborhood.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:31:00] Right. And I love the Living Room, I think it's in Gordon Square. It's a really open neighborhood for the gay and lesbian community. There's some businesses that are on... Snickers Restaurant, which is still staying alive now on Detroit. We're glad that it didn't completely close down. The nightclubs along Detroit and the different homeowners that are moving in in the gay and lesbian community. It's just, I mean, and just like all the different cultures that, I just really love the vibrant differences in our neighborhood and our community.
Erin Bell [00:31:47] Yeah, I agree, I mean, I think that that's great, and I think it always adds to a community. Is there ever any tension over these things? Whether it's a gay and lesbian nightclub or, you know, a Vietnamese or Hispanic people or...
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:31:59] Well, our neighborhood...
Erin Bell [00:32:08] Does everyone get along?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:32:08] We don't just sit back and let things happen, I know that there was this... Where Saigon Plaza is we once had a community meeting and there was just a strange nightclub planning on moving in and it wasn't that it was gay and lesbian or anything, it was just that it didn't seem like they had their ducks in order. It just seemed like they wanted to do too many things under one roof. They wanted to have a nightclub and a spa and this and that. And it was interesting to watch the neighbors just question it. And what? And you know. [laughs] And they're not just sit back, and then there was a lot of people that show up for these community meetings, which is great. You know, where we don't just, I notice, though, it does not appeal to me about suburb living is the neighbors don't really know each other. And just the other night at Fairview Park, we had a little ice cream social with a Dixieland band. But the number of people that showed up for that, we've been doing a harvest moon celebration for the last 25, 30 years. This is more Ohio City. But it's a big potluck that we do on the harvest moon. And just two, three hundred people that show up for for that. And you don't really find that in suburban living. You just like really get to know your neighbors down here. How 'bout I borrowed my neighbor's lawn mower when my broke last week? Just now, I picked up tamales from a lady who makes tamales on Franklin and 65th. And I'm the only gringo that I think I've ever seen there. [laughs] And, y' know, you get these hot tamales for every Saturday afternoon. And I brought some here to share with you guys, as you know and I was on my way home and I saw someone from a yoga class and I dropped two tamales right then, grabbed her on the street, gave her two. Got home, my neighbor's gardening. She came over and got four tamales. You know, just this sharing of... that we have. I'm well-known for my parties in our backyard. We have a fire pit and we've had bands. We've done theater fundraisers for Near West Theatre. And it's just... I love to watch the kids play. Like, I think that's a lost art, the way... You know, with video games now and kids aren't playing like they used to. And when they're at my house at the parties, kids play hide and go seek for hours. They're just running around our property around King's Hill and it's just such a great thing to witness that it's still happening. The creative play in this. They'll put on plays. They'll plan little plays and come and grab the parents and make us all watch. And it's... And that's community, which I think that living in the city, it still cultivates that type of community. And that's why I would not live anywhere else or raise children anywhere else. And also raising children with differences with homeless. I ran for Ohio City board and I was questioned by someone, how could you bring up your kids and, you know, how do you raise kids in this neighborhood? And it's dangerous and the homeless. And I said, you could learn a few things from my kids because, hey, they know how to avoid a dangerous situation, but they also know how to treat a homeless person with respect. And I think some of the adults who, the gentrification that's happened in some of our neighborhoods, Ohio City being one of them, they could learn a few things from the kids.
Erin Bell [00:35:29] Yeah, I've heard that Detroit Shoreway has been very careful to avoid the kind of gentrification that–
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:35:37] They have.
Erin Bell [00:35:37] –has happened in other places.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:35:37] They have, and through their different programs that they offer so people can keep their houses up so they're not in housing court and forced to sell. Not really happy with all the foreclosures in our neighborhood and community and, as I said, I'm active on Cuyahoga Community Land Trust, which creates and preserves affordable housing in our neighborhood. We're like on our sixth home now and now we're building these screen cottages. But to empower people by home owning, medium-income families, by home owning. And other one, you know, in Ohio City and what other communities have found out is that they when there is time to buy a home, they can't even afford them. So this land trust model I'm very attracted to, and that's why I have given so much of my time to it.
Erin Bell [00:36:28] How does that benefit... How does that model work? Nelson [Beckford] mentioned it to me.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:36:34] I'm like the worst to explain, and I've even been to big conferences. And I've even gone to a Community Shares workshop and I'm supposed to be able to explain it in 90 seconds. Let's give it a try. The Land Trust owns the land that the house sits on. The homeowner owns the home, that leases the home or owns the home. And if they move into traditional homeowning and leave that home, the land trust still, because they own the land, can keep the cost at an affordable level for the next homeowner. Now, most people are... You're able to stay ninety-nine years and pass it on to your kids as homeowners. But if you do choose to go into the traditional homeowning market, you'll get your equity out of it. And but, because we own the land, we're able to keep it affordable for the next homeowner. That makes.... It's a really hard one to explain. I'm not the best at doing it, but we have, we often also offer assistance to homeowners. The homeowners have like a little organization they meet for like dinners and they just... We try to like maybe do a fence raising to help if they need a new fence. The community comes through for that. It's really a confusing model to explain, [laughs] and I'm not the best to do it.
Erin Bell [00:38:00] So this... The level of community involvement and the level of neighborliness in this area, do you think that that's a unique thing in general, but particularly in Cleveland?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:38:19] I just think it's in the surrounding neighborhoods of the city, I think. I think you find that. I know that I found a lot of this type of involvement in neighborhoods I lived within in San Francisco. I think that as further away from the metropolitan downtown area that you get, you get... you lose that. You start losing that community involvement. I think that we're somewhat unique. I'm also a graduate of Neighborhood Leadership Cleveland, and I learned a lot about other neighborhoods, the Fairfax, Hough, Kinsman, and they too have, you know, the fellowship and the community involvement. So I don't know, maybe the word unique... I don't think we're necessarily so unique to that we are the only neighborhood that has this going on. Detroit Shoreway is a great community development corporation and really successful. I think that CDCs help to bring the neighborhood together. I think I got away from the question. The level of community involvement isn't unique to this neighborhood.
Erin Bell [00:39:32] It sounds impressive to me that, you know, a lot of people when they drive down Detroit, if they're not from Cleveland, especially people from further out suburbs. They don't, I think that, honestly, they might be scared. You know, I know that my thoughts about Cleveland when I first moved here, and it's been a while, I stuck to Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Tremont, places that I knew. And so I thought it was interesting that, you know, you have these stories that you're walking down the street, you know people and you're involved in all these things, and I don't think that people in suburbs always appreciate that. They don't realize it. They think because there's not rows of houses that all look the same, that that's what's going on. A lot of people say, I moved to the suburbs because I want to raise my kids in this environment, but you're saying–
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:40:38] I'm not saying it's always so peachy either. I have neighbors just south of me that, you know, what is it, June 9? On June 5th or 4th, I don't know, it was like Thursday night, they started blowing fireworks off at midnight on Tuesday night or something and putting the kids, and they... There's all kinds of, I think there's drug activity. I don't think, I know, you know, just the things going on. But, you know, you're gonna get that living in the city. And, you know, there's dangerous situations, like my 15-year-old is currently doing Cats at Near West Theatre, and I'd like him to just ride his bike to and from practice but I'm still not comfortable with him riding his bike home at 10:00 at night because I just don't want him to just meet up with a group of kids. And there's pockets of like gangs or groups of kids, I hate using that word, but that would just mess with them to either mess with them or to get his bike or just to... So there's still, you know, reservation and real, you know, realizing that I do live in the city and then the level of protection that I have to, you know, provide for my kids and frustration over, you know, city living. It's not... It's still there, but I think that, I mean, I still wouldn't live anywhere else because I like the differences and I, and I, I don't know, but I don't want it to be painted like this, that we still don't have our problems because we do. And, but...
Erin Bell [00:42:23] Of course, I mean, that's true, it does. [inaudible] I want to pause for just a minute.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:42:36] Sure. Okay.
Erin Bell [00:42:43] Okay, so are you familiar with the Euclid Corridor Project?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:42:46] Yes.
Erin Bell [00:42:46] Okay. First of all, what do you think about–
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:42:49] I'm frustrated right now with Euclid. [laughs] It's just... in my industry, especially, you know. I think it's going to be great. I think that our hope of turning Cleveland around lays in the University Circle area and our medical industry. I think our convention center should be centered around the medical industry. I'm real active with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. I'm trying to really push for that medical industry being the center of that new convention center. I just... Looking forward to a more public transportation. I think that that's one thing that we really, it's really going to take a change for Cleveland is if we can have quality, frequent public transportation. The Euclid Corridor Project... I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be done in the next year and a half, do you know?
Erin Bell [00:43:56] Something like that. I know some of the deadlines got pushed back a little bit, but...
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:44:01] But there is such great history down Euclid Avenue and I, you know, offering this tour that we do for the limousine service, learning about all the firsts and Millionaire's Row and different things. The Dunham Tavern and Museum. It's just an incredible place. And I just think that University Circle tying that in, and that's why I'm offering this tour to just the surrounding neighborhoods being a bigger part of downtown.
Erin Bell [00:44:30] Do you see room for, or a need for a similar project on Detroit, say, connecting the west side bars?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:44:39] Well, that's what we're kind of hoping for with the citysc[ape]. I'm not as... I've just heard some Detroit Shoreway employees speak to it about the city, uh, the streetscape that they're planning to do, where they're going to bring the utilities underneath the ground. And have... I'm not sure if they're doing the streetcars this way, but I believe so. But yeah, I think that that's... That'll be a great part, you know, to have it stretch to the west side also.
Erin Bell [00:45:14] You're the first person that's mentioned that to me. Not that my colleagues don't know about it, but what else can you tell me about that?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:45:21] The streetscape?
Erin Bell [00:45:21] Mmhmm.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:45:22] I don't know much about it, only that I when I was offered the tour last time, I asked a representative from Detroit Shoreway to step on the bus so that they could present because like I said, the first tour we gave so many people were interested in Detroit Shoreway. I wanted to give a little more... shed a little more light on it. So I asked a representative and they had mentioned that. That they're planning this streetscape, I think he called it. But they're gonna bring the utilities underneath and with the arts district, they're going to have maybe more trees maybe in the center. I'm not, I'm not quite sure. I just know a little bit about it.
Erin Bell [00:46:00] So there are definitely some similarities there.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:46:03] Mmhmm. It sounds like it.
Erin Bell [00:46:10] The lake. Edgewater.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:46:11] It's not going anywhere. That's what I always say when I stand in front of anybody who's developing, so let's do it right. It's just incredible to live next to that body of water. My son, who's 15, we gave him the best room in the house because he has this huge picture window that just looks out in the lake. I think of a fish in a fish tank. If you want them to grow, you put them in a big fish tank. And I just love that he looks out and sees the downtown skyline and the lake. And it's just so peaceful to look out at the lake. And then the boating activity that goes on there, the marina, the preserving Whiskey Island and through Wendy Park and all that movement. I just love the celebrations that are down there the Krusty's, which is a benefit for Malachi House that's been going on for years. That's at Whiskey Island, and the Great Lakes Brewery has a Burning River Festival type of thing down there that benefits. There's just so many capabilities, I think that we need access definitely. I'm excited about the boulevard idea and accessing the lake. You know, living in San Francisco and then visiting towns like Baltimore and Chicago and how there's so much access to the lake. I'm really looking forward to that... Opening up the lake to its people. It's just odd that there's like the sewer plant right there and then there's fencing and then there's just... It was odd that... the way our city planners put things on the lake that didn't belong and really closed it off to the citizens.
Erin Bell [00:48:00] Another woman I talked to earlier today said a couple things that I thought were interesting. One, that growing up in this neighborhood, she always felt that Edgewater was for the neighborhood kids and she's very almost possessive about it in a way that she just felt it's connected to the neighborhood. Do you feel that way? Because I know a lot of people... I always just assumed people came from all over the place.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:48:27] On the Fourth of July they did, [laughs] until they moved the fireworks. That was always a fun thing to just sit and watch people head down to Edgewater for the fireworks. You know, even living on 112th, Edgewater was just my hangout. There's like Slave's Cave with the Underground Railroad and they built, they had, you know, we always searched for Slave's Cave because there was a cave leading to a home and we'd look for it. And all those stories behind that was always fun as a kid and, you know, Edgewater is really open to the gay community. And I really welcome that and like it. And I know that's been nice since I was, you know, the '70s, you know. Which is when it really wasn't spoke about [laughs], you know, and it's in more negative ways and now it's more open. It's just really interesting to walk the beach with the kids. We were in the Outer Banks a few, about six, five, six years ago and we got home when we walked over to Edgewater. And you definitely you're not on the ocean. It's not beaches like the Outer Banks but we wouldn't trade it. You know, we wouldn't trade it, and the people that we saw there. You know, it's a much, much more diverse and mixed crowd here than on the Outer Banks. And that's what we loved about it. When we came back, we realized we were on a different type of beach, but we realized what we like. It was nice to take that vacation, but it was great to be home.
Erin Bell [00:50:04] The other thing want to ask about is she mentioned taking boats downtown, as like a normal kind of regular thing to do. Take a boat from the west side to, I think around...
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:50:18] She might have taken them to the Flats. Maybe she had access to like Edgewater Marina or somebody had like a powerboat or something and they'd take the boat to... I don't think it was like a public transportation boat. Did she make it sound like that?
Erin Bell [00:50:30] It sounded almost like a taxi.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:50:32] Well, there were those taxis that went across the river back in the '80s when the Flats were really vibrant. You'd take it from one side to the other, these water taxis. That might have been something that she was thinking about. Was she much older than me?
Erin Bell [00:50:50] Yes.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:50:50] So maybe that was before my time.
Erin Bell [00:50:59] So I really don't have a lot more questions, but I get the feeling that you have a lot more stories.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:51:06] [Laughs] That's... we could go on forever with me! You know, it's interesting when the... There's a development going on across the street from me at King's Hill and the city owned property. It was city property with a natural spring running through it. And then it was sold. It was, I don't know if I have the right term, turned to surplus and sold to a private person for development. But it was interesting when we got all the neighbors together to try to preserve it as maybe a public place, public-use green space. And you got to know the neighbors and all the different types of neighbors you had and how we came together for meetings and how the Community Development Corporation was open to our meetings also. I mean, they were more pro to get this development pushed, but they still were, you know, provided a space for us and and opened it up. And then that developer, the architect, came and met with us and showed us their plan. So I like those... I like the open meetings and I like the open forums. Even if they don't always go in your way. And with my situation, our situation, I should say, our community, you know, we didn't win our fight. But it was, we got together and, you know, had open forum and had a chance to push what we wanted it and through it, you know, like the neighbors on Herman are gonna be able to hopefully buy the land that abuts their property. It wasn't all for naught, you know. I think there was some good that came out of it. But I really like the open dialogue that goes on in our neighborhood and how it's accepted and nurtured and, you know, pushed by the community development corporations when they're strong to keep the dialogue open and neighbors active through this Ward 17 Forum really activating the neighbors and getting them connected to their neighborhood. Preserving it for generations in the future, so I'm... I'm really happy about that. Mmm, I don't know. Some other stories? Our Lady of Mount Carmel used to have roller skating [laughs] in their hall, which was really dangerous, when we were kids. You'd rent roller skates so we'd roller skate around the hall and play music. And it's just funny how we're just... We, we, how we did with what we had. You know, we just had this little church hall and we turned it into this roller skating party was completely so dangerous and just ridiculous. [laughs] And you know, I look back at that now and just get a kick out of that. But it's just a real welcoming place to live and I'm... I can tell I'm getting older because I'm accepting change. Like the development happening across from me and knowing that neighborhoods will change. But they're still preserving the culture, and the history is really important. I don't know. I'm not really... My stories aren't flowing out of me like usual. [laughs]
Erin Bell [00:54:36] What role did the factories or what role do the factories play that are adjacent to this neighborhood, and how has that changed over time?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:54:45] So many have closed down. It's hard to be a small business from owning a small business in Ohio, it's really got its challenges with workman's compensation has made a lot of small businesses close. And with our steel mills closing down, a lot of the factories, there's a ripple effect, factories supply things to the steel mills, so they've closed down. You know, the industry has really diminished in the neighborhoods, and that's... The few that are left, I mean, I... You know, right in my neighborhood, there used to be General Electric, or the Westinghouse, and, you know, that's just an empty building, an empty shell, and it just... I hope Cleveland can recreate itself and find its niche maybe in wire net or the medical to bring these, to renovate these buildings. I know a lot of 'em have been renovated into housing, which is I used to think, how are all the people going to, you know, in all this downtown renovation and renovating all these warehouses, but they're filled. I went on a tour a couple months ago of downtown living maybe a month and a half ago, and their occupancy rate is... it's almost filled. So they're... People are moving back into the city.
Erin Bell [00:56:12] The construction of I-90? Do you have any recollections about that?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:56:19] I just know I won't mention any names that there was a mistake not having an entrance on 65th. That really killed West 65th area, that's the worst Stockyards area. There should have been an exit on West 65th and there there wasn't one put there and it really killed that neighborhood. I mean it really affected the neighborhood. It didn't kill it. You know, it was a... That was a big mistake in constructing I-90. I. I just remember the houses on West Boulevard, my aunt and uncle lived on West Boulevard, and the changes that happened when I-90 came through, certain families having to relocate. That kind of scares you about living so close to the boulevard right now. I'm always worried about eminent domain and my property being taken away. It is the fear because I'm not that close. Luckily, I think that that being on the hill, it won't affect it. But, you know, it's always been in the back of my head. I'm watching it and listening and go into the public meetings about it, because I'm just, you know, you worry from the experiences of I-90 being put in.
Erin Bell [00:57:29] Right. And I thought it was interesting that... the opinion on there not being a ramp, that being a bad. Oftentimes we hear people say, you know, putting this ramp here, this overpass or whatever, just really cut the neighborhood in half or it really changed the traffic pattern in a way that we didn't like. Do you think that it... do you think that there's... Do you think the lack of a ramp actually maybe protected the neighborhood in the long run?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:58:05] On 65th?
Erin Bell [00:58:07] Or you do think it was definitely detrimental to this–.
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:58:11] No, it was detrimental, I think, to the business and access and I think it was detrimental for that in... On West 65th there should... I believe there should have been a ramp and then the businesses would have thrived, and there would have been more businesses that grew around that ramp.
Erin Bell [00:58:41] I think I'm pretty much cashed out. Do you have anything you'd like to add?
Mary Jo Mazzarella [00:58:45] No, I just miss the the, you know, after Isabella Bakery, I went down the street to Fioka Bakery that was on 69th and Herman, I really miss the little bakeries. Now we have Gypsy Coffee Beans, which is nice, you know, so new ones will come up. But I miss those old ethnic places. I'm always dreaming, you know, even I run the family limousine service, I'm a real foodie and I'm always dreaming of what sort of restaurant, could I have an Italian delicatessen? Could I do this again? I know that it's... There, you know, with the theater coming in at 67th in Detroit, will I do a restaurant or a sandwich shop there. I'm always thinking of something I could, a project I can do and try to recreate that ethnic unique business. And you know, that's why I like the Vietnamese markets and the Vietnamese community, because they are recreate... They're creating what I remember as a kid with the little Italian stores. That's it. That's all I've got. Yeah.
Erin Bell [00:59:51] We'll stop.
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"Mary Jo Mazzarella interview, 09 June 2007" (2007). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 955024_999037.