There's something to be said for leaving home in order to appreciate it fully. Just ask Native Cleveland owners Mike Kubinski and Jeff Rees.
Rees parted with Cleveland for several years but moved back in 2007 and embarked on a project to celebrate the Forest City. He and high school friend Kubinski created C.L.E. Clothing Co., a T-shirt company that sports Cleveland-centric slogans and designs.
When their T-shirts garnered statewide attention, they decided to take their loyalty one step further by opening a store dedicated to local Cleveland artists.
"We wanted to make a cool store that really focused on local entrepreneurs, artisans and crafters," Kubinski says. "We wanted to make sure that they have a place where they could show and sell their gifts."
Native Cleveland, located in the Waterloo Arts District in Collinwood, sells Ohio-made clothing, jewelry, accessories, art and home furnishings. Although C.L.E. Clothing Co. is its main vendor, Native Cleveland features more than 15 other brands, and the list is growing.
"I look for quality goods made in Cleveland," says Megan Coffman, store manager and artisan selector. "I pick all of them for a reason."
So far, she's chosen well. Jewelry lovers should check out the Lake Erie Beach Glass Bracelet ($35), an oxidized copper band made ornate with shells and beach glass from Lake Erie's shores, and Toony Jewelry's feather earrings ($30), which show off Cleveland's flair for the Bohemian with feathers in assorted color combinations, such as brown and white, secured by twisted gold wire.
Art is also a major component. Coffman wants to turn the store into a boutique-gallery hybrid. Grey Cardigan, a local printmaker, has made Cleveland-related prints exclusively for the store ($45 unframed, $80 framed), and Small Screen Designs' silk-screen prints can be found on T-shirts ($26), bags, pillows and notecards.
Rees and Kubinski returned home not only to resettle, but also to enrich the city by supporting Cleveland culture. "Once you move away from Cleveland," Rees says, "You find that, hey, there's actually a unique little thing going on here."
Jeff and Mike have created great T shirts with good designs. But best of all is the positive view of their hometown reflected in their T shirts. I'm excited they have expanded to support the local arts community!