I love Highland Square

Brittany Moseley

Highland Square sits on the edge of the hustle and bustle of downtown Akron. It’s a place that hasn’t been touched by a Starbucks. The same movie theater from the ’30s is still open. Everyone knows everyone. Newcomers feel right at home as soon as they stop for some hot chocolate at Dodie’s Caf‚. It’s artsy, independent and original — and the natives can’t even explain why.

Square Records

Vinyl may be a dying breed, but it’s alive and thriving at Square Records.

Crates of alphabetized records are stacked on tables, with more hidden underneath. Square Records’ T-shirts are tacked to a wall in the front of the store. In the back, art covers old white walls.

Square Records specializes in vinyl, and it has something for everyone. Current bands like The White Stripes, The Shins and Interpol have records, and most cost the same as a CD. Records from classics like Led Zeppelin, Elton John and The Beach Boys are sold for less than $5.

Like other stores in the area, Square Records came to be because there wasn’t anything like it in the area.

“There wasn’t a place for independent music,” said co-owner Dave Ignizio. “Me, my wife and a friend of ours had the idea, and we thought it was something the area needed.”

Not only do they get a lot of new releases, but many people come in to buy and sell records, he said.

“We really focus on vinyl more than any other place in the area,” Ignizio said.

Ignizio said he grew up in the area and still finds it hard to explain Highland Square.

“It’s hard to sum it up,” he said. “Highland Square means a lot to the people who come here. People perceive it in a lot of different ways.”

Like others who have lived here, Ignizio hopes Highland Square remains the same.

“It’s one part that hasn’t been taken over by corporate companies,” Ignizio said. “It’s kind of the only cool place left in Akron.”


New York City and Los Angeles have always been the places to go for vintage clothing, but Revival is bringing vintage to the Midwest.

When Robin Yuratovac opened Revival with her brother Adam two-and-a-half years ago, their goal was to promote small, independent designers and bring something new to Akron.

“We try to carry clothes that you don’t find in the malls,” Yuratovac said. “We always wanted smaller designers that we liked in our store.”

Like other independent businesses, Revival started by word of mouth. Yuratovac put out word that the store was paying cash for clothes, and people started to appear in droves.

Like Ignizio, Yuratovac grew up in the area and said that, in a way, Square Records has influenced Revival.

“When I lived here, I shopped at the record store and this building was empty,” Yuratovac said. “Square Records led us to open the store.”

Racks of clothes from past decades fill the middle of the store. Independent rock music plays – the kind you would expect to find in a clothing store. Against the walls are bags, shoes, belts and more clothes, while the spring arrivals hang in the front.

T-shirts targeted towards Ohio are stacked in piles in the back. One says “Akron is lovely” and another says “I heart Kent,” complete with a black squirrel.

“We don’t like to call it a thrift store because we are very particular about what we sell,” Yuratovac said.

Yuratovac said even though many associate good vintage with big cities, being in a small town has its perks.

“A lot of the smaller stores get clothing donations from designers first-hand, and in the big cities it’s a lot more expensive,” Yuratovac said.

Besides being from the area, Yuratovac decided to open Revival in Akron because of the environment.

“A lot of people who have lived here forever are really great friends,” Yuratovac said. “Highland Square is the trendier part of Akron. It’s a really diverse place. It’s not like the suburbs.”

Although some worry about corporate America coming in, Yuratovac is open to new additions as long as it doesn’t take away the do-it-yourself feel.

“There’s a fine line between supporting independent businesses and appealing to more people,” Yuratovac said.

She hopes Highland Square will be able to find a happy medium between corporate and independent.

Dodie’s Highland Cafe

It’s like every small town diner you’ve seen in the movies.

The vinyl on the booths is ripped and worn from too many customers. Christmas decorations still hang on the wall and paper red hearts for Valentine’s Day do their best to cover them. Modern art adds a different feel to the diner that opened in 1936.

Two giant black chalkboards display a list of specials, side dishes, desserts and breads. “Sweet Home Alabama” plays in the background as an employee’s son sits on a stool doing his homework. A customer walks in and the waitress greets him with a “Hi, Bert.”

It all seems like a scene out of “Cheers.”

“Oh my god, it’s unbelievable,” waitress Tabitha Schaver said, laughing. “That’s exactly how it is. Everybody here does know your name.”

Schaver has only worked at Dodie’s for six months, but says it already feels like home.

“Small places have always felt like a family to me,” Schaver said. “Everyone from Highland Square comes here, and people who have never been here come once and keep coming back.”

The cafe has gone through a few owners since 1970, but it has still managed to keep the small town feel that attracts people. Another reason people return is because the food is good and cheap. With the construction that is going on in Highland Square, Schaver worries that small businesses may be in trouble.

“I don’t care if corporate companies come in as long as they don’t take over the small businesses,” Schaver said.

Although changes are being made, the feel of the place hasn’t changed.

“The kids who grew up here and now go to the University of Akron come back,” Schaver said. “It’s such a laid back feel.”

Contact ALL reporter Brittany Moseley at [email protected].