Cafe 55 opens in new Hub 55 complex in Cleveland; brewery to follow

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Goldhorn Brewery is navigating the inspection process and will be “hopefully brewing” in March, with the taproom to opening soon after, brewer Joel Warger said.

The brewery will open at the Hub 55 complex at 1361 E. 55th St., near St. Clair Avenue. Warger said the goal is to keep a minimum of eight beers on at all times in a 12-tap tower.

Warger said the state inspections are due soon and that no beer can be brewed before the process is complete.

“You can’t have anything in your fermenters before they see it,” he said at the annual Ohio Craft Brewers Association conference in Dayton.

While Northeast Ohio’s craft breweries have shown healthy and steady growth in recent years, Semersky’s location choice is a smart one: There’s a bit of a dearth on the city’s East Side for craft beer. The BottleHouse is in Cleveland Heights and Willoughby Brewing is 16 miles further east. The Cleveland Brewery, which opened last year, is open only three hours every Friday night.

First look: Goldhorn Brewery on East 55th in Cleveland aims for December opening (photos)
First look: Goldhorn Brewery on East 55th in Cleveland aims for December opening (photos)
The signs are up. The murals are painted. The bar is installed. The vats are polished and the fermentation tanks are ready to go. Hub 55 owner Rick Semersky is ready to get brewing at his nearly completed Goldhorn Brewery on East 55th Street.

“We’re going to start small and try to win the neighborhood,” Hub 55 owner owner Rick Semersky said.

Warger, who previously brewed at Great Lakes Brewing Co., added, “Having a good liquor attorney is very, very important.”

To that end, he was in a good place this week. The conference was presented by the Ohio Beer Counsel, Freund, Freeze & Arnold’s brewery and distillery practice group. The attorneys assist breweries through the maze of regulatory compliance, permits and other related challenges.

Cafe 55 opens in new Hub 55 complex in Cleveland; brewery to follow

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The doors swung open on the much-anticipated Hub 55 complex in Cleveland. Breakfast was served.

Cafe 55, the first phase in the ambitious plans to revive the Superior-St. Clair neighborhood around East 55th Street, rolled out its healthy-eats menu on Thursday as part of a soft opening.

“We’ll be open on Friday and then close for the weekend and go over what we did right and wrong and then open officially at 6 a.m. Monday,” said Jeff Jarrett, general manager of Café 55, 1361 East 55th Street, Cleveland, 216-600-5275;

The 2,000-square-foot spot brings an airy, modern café vibe to the area, with casual seating and large windows that overlook East 55th.

The menu also is a unique addition to the neighborhood: an eclectic mix of “egg scrambles” accessorized with avocado, goat cheese, almonds, honey, bacon or tofu. The lunch menu offers a wide-ranging list of “build-your-own lunch bowl” options made with a variety of ingredients and toppings, from flat breads to brown rice to tofu to a spicy slaw, pulled chicken and an array of toppings.

The Hub 55 complex is headed up by Rick Semersky, who also owns Sterle’s Country House, which is located next door.

“Café 55 is very different from Sterle’s in that we are focusing on healthy, lighter options for breakfast and lunch that you can eat here or grab to go,” said Jarrett, who also is the executive chef and GM of Sterle’s and the next spot to open in the Hub 55 complex: Goldhorn Brewery.

The 10,000-square-foot brewery is scheduled to open in about three months, according to Jarrett. It will feature a 100-seat tap room, as well as a beer garden and dining.

“We’ll be serving 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Café 55 and then resume at the brewery for dinner, starting around 4 p.m.,” says Jarrett. “That menu is going to be more about complementing the beer – things like beer-battered mussels or charcuterie.”

Goldhorn’s beer selection will run the gamut, but will focus on Eastern European traditions.

“Yes, we’ll have an IPA – you really have to these days,” says brewmaster Joel Warger, formerly of Great Lakes Brewing Co. “But we’re also going a pilsner, a hefeweizen, an English Pale Ale, a bock, a wheat bock – really a wide range of European-styled beers.”

The beers will complement Sterle’s, a magnet for Eastern European food fans that has held its ground in this part of the city for 55 years.

Much-anticipated Hub 55 project in Cleveland’s St. Clair-Superior area reveals plans for brewery

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Hub 55/Sterle’s Country House owner Rick Semersky looked nationwide for a brewer for his developing Goldhorn Brewery – but he found who he was looking for right here in Cleveland.

On Monday, Semersky announced that Joel Warger has been named Head Brewer for the 10,000-square-foot brewery with a 100-seat tap room slated to open in 2015 at Hub 55 on East 55th Street. Warger is currently the Pub Brewer at Great Lakes Brewing Co., where he has worked for 14 years.

“I couldn’t have found a better Head Brewer for Goldhorn then Joel,” says Semersky. Warger will also be a minority owner in Goldhorn, with a hand in every aspect of the brewery and restaurant as well as the beermaking.

“I was looking everywhere, I had talked to people outside the Cleveland market, but Joel is just a great find. He’s very excited about what we’re doing for the neighborhood. We’re on the same page for the brewery and the restaurant, and he’s very passionate about the area.”

“The styles of beer and the overall concept for the brewery, along with Goldhorn’s presence in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, made it an easy decision to sign on,” says Warger.

Goldhorn Brewery is slated to open next spring, with plans to brew 500-600 barrels in its first year.

The brewery will concentrate on traditional European-style beers, says Semersky — lagers, pilsners, ales and Hefeweizens.

“We’re going to focus on the types of beer you’d expect to have found in a place like Sterle’s in the 1930s and ’40s, when this area was filled with Slovenians and Croatians and other ethnic groups.

“We’ll probably start with a Hefeweizen, which some people might think is boring. But we want to begin with a good, simple beer that’s just really good to drink, something my dad might have drunk when I was a kid,” says Semersky.

Wager will start at Goldhorn toward the end of the year, says Semersky.

Semersky first announced plans for Hub 55 in May. In addition to brewery, the 42,000-square foot mixed-use building will contain: Cafe 55, a 2,000-square foot healthy-food cafe operated by Courtney Bonning of Bonbon Pastry & Cafe; The Market, a 12,000-square-foot market with locally sourced food purveyors and artisans, slated to open in spring 2015; 9,000 square feet of rentable flex space; and 7,000 square feet of redesigned office and retail space, slated to be complete by 2016.

The building currently houses Semersky’s 170-employee construction business, VIP, which is expanding into two nearby buildings in the St. Clair-Superior area.

The next step for Hub 55 will be the opening of Cafe 55, which has been delayed from a projected September opening to early January, says Semersky.

Sterle owner’s Slovenian-style comeback plans for E. 55th Street should inspire other developers: editorial

Rick Semersky grew up in South Euclid and Mentor before graduating high school in Toledo, but much of his focus these days is on the once-thriving Slovenian-Croatian enclave around East 55th Street and St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland.

That’s where his Croatian paternal grandmother grew up and where his father lived as a little boy, and it’s where Semersky moved his construction company from Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood in 2003.

Semersky upped his interest in the neighborhood in 2012 when he bought Sterle’s Country House, the landmark Slovenian restaurant at the corner of East 55th and Bonna Avenue that features schnitzel and sausage — and polka music Friday and Saturday nights.

He has even bolder plans for the area, including a cafe, market and Eastern European-style brewery that will bring back some of the Old World charm lost years ago to urban decay.

Semersky’s willingness to invest private dollars in a section of Cleveland hard-hit by the recession and foreclosure should inspire other developers to consider similar possibilities in light of the changing urban landscape.

Semersky said his plan may not have made economic sense five or ten years ago but that prospects have improved with the growing interest in urban living and an appreciation for Cleveland’s “rust-belt chic” lifestyle.

He’s also hoping for some spillover from the steady growth in downtown Cleveland and University Circle, each a short distance from the East 55th Street corridor where Semersky also plans to build office and retail space.

What makes Semersky’s efforts all the more appealing is the blending of new growth with the preservation of neighborhood heritage, which plays to one of Cleveland’s great strengths. Semersky’s planned Goldhorn Brewery, which will ply Sterle’s with craft beer and include a taproom for the general public, is named for a mythical wild goat from Slovenian folklore.

Semersky’s not alone in his passion for the neighborhood. St. Vitus Church, serving Slovenians of the Roman Catholic faith for more than 80 years, is still going strong.

And the St. Clair Superior Economic Development Corp. initiated a Slovenian festival called Kurentovanje in 2013 that is held in March and features a parade, cultural performances and fuzzy creatures called Kurents.

The mission of the Kurents is to chase away winter and welcome spring, which, economically and metaphorically speaking, is exactly what we need more of in Cleveland. Perhaps Semersky can help show the way.

Sterle’s owner reveals plans for East 55th Street revival, including brewery, restaurants, food market and retail space

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Updating Sterle’s Country House has been a labor of love for Rick Semersky since he bought the beloved 60-year-old ethnic restaurant on East 55th Street in 2012. Two generations of his family grew up in the neighborhood, and he wanted to do what he could to help Sterle’s — and breathe new life into the area. In the process, he’s introduced the Slovenian mainstay to a new generation of Clevelanders.

Now Semersky is about to embark on his most ambitious update yet – and it goes far beyond Sterle’s bucolic murals and ski chalet decor. He has plans for the whole East 55th Street neighborhood.

Big plans.

On Wednesday, Semersky unveiled designs to convert the 42,000-square foot building next to Sterle’s at 1361 East 55th St. into a Hub 55, a mixed-use building that will contain:

– Goldhorn Brewery: A 10,000-square-foot brewery with a 100-seat tap room, slated to open in spring 2015.

– Cafe 55: A 2,000-square foot healthy-food cafe operated by Courtney Bonning of Bonbon Pastry & Cafe, slated to open by August.

– The Market: A 12,000-square-foot market with locally sourced food purveyors and artisans, slated to open in spring 2015.

– 9,000 square feet of rentable flex space.

– And 7,000 square feet of redesigned office and retail space, slated to be complete by 2016.

The building currently houses Semersky’s 170-employee construction business, VIP, which is expanding into two nearby buildings in the St. Clair-Superior area.

And that’s not all. Just last week, Semersky signed purchase papers to buy the former St. Clair Cleveland Public Library branch (a Carnegie library dating to 1905) and the Lakeshore Banking and Trust building directly across the street from Hub 55, from the Goodrich Gannet Neighborhood Center.

He plans to renovate both of these historic buildings and convert them into office and retail space by 2016. His plans include a full-service restaurant in the stunning former bank space.

A third development phase will involve renovating the East 55th Street City Fire Station, which Semersky also owns. There is no time frame for this project.

“It’s about creating critical mass in the neighborhood,” said Semersky on Wednesday, walking through the massive space that will soon house his marketplace. “Places like this will help Sterle’s survive, but more importantly help the neighborhood. We want to create a place that will be a destination, but also where people who have lived here their whole lives can come in and do their shopping.”

Semersky submitted his permit drawings to the building department last week and says the city of Cleveland’s Economic Development and Planning Department has given its support, based on the conceptual plans. Semersky and the City Architecture firm will take in a more detailed plan next week. The building will require no zoning changes, and Semersky and his architects don’t foresee any issues with their designs. Nor does Michael Fleming, executive director of the St. Clair-Superior Development Corporation.

“Everyone in the city in economic development is very excited about this,” says Fleming.

The prospective design, as seen in renderings by City Architecture, calls for airy open spaces united by a “Main Street” passageway. Large windows and floor-to-ceiling glass doors will open the bunker-like building out into the area on all sides.

Construction on the building’s East 55th Street facade is expected to begin very soon, in anticipation of Cafe 55’s planned August debut. It calls for a more welcoming wall with windows and landscaping out front, and a side patio with outside seating.

The cafe will be open for breakfast and lunch, initially. The emphasis will be on food that is fast but healthy, says Bonning.

“We will be featuring healthful convenience foods,” says the enthusiastic restaurateur. “There really are no healthful options between downtown and University Circle. We’ll have lighter fare, with 90 percent of our options gluten-free, bagels, pastries, scramblers, lots of vegetarian options.”

The cafe will also be serving ready-made meals from Sterle’s, Bonbon and Sushi 86.

“It makes perfect sense to come to this neighborhood,” says Bonning. “I really feel like this is the next neighborhood. I feel like we’re on the cusp, which is the way I felt when I moved into Ohio City years ago.”

Bonning is also partnering with Semerksy as a consultant for The Market.

“Basically, we are in a food desert here,” says Semersky of his motivation for selling produce and other locally sourced foods. “When my grandmother lived here, you didn’t have to go more than 20 feet to get what you need — you had butchers and dry goods and grocers and dry cleaning and stores. ”

The St. Clair-Superior Development Corporation is exploring a Health and Human Services Grant that could be used to help fund The Market. The remainder of Hub 55 will be privately funded by Semersky, who may apply for historic tax credits for the redevelopment of the library and bank buildings.

Goldhorn Brewery, which will be owned and managed by Semersky, is slated to open the same time as The Market next spring. Semersky says he plans to brew 400-600 barrels in his first year. He will be his own first customer, beginning with a special Sprecher for Sterle’s. Semersky, who is currently in the process of looking for a brewmaster, says the brewery plans to concentrate on traditional European-style beers, lagers, pilsners, Hefeweizens, “the beers you would expect to find at Sterle’s.”

The office and retail space at Hub 55 is expected for an early 2016 completion, but one tenant has already moved in as VIP offices begin to move out.

“We are so excited to be here, in this neighborhood, near Sterle’s,” says Ann King, owner of the funky furniture-rental company Borrow, who moved from the East 30th Street area. She’s counting on the critical mass of the tenants and a street-level location to help raise her business profile.

The key word in that equation is “street.” Semersky notes that East 55th Street is Cleveland’s third-busiest thoroughfare, and the only street that runs completely north to south, from I-90 to I-490. It’s an area waiting to be tapped, if Semerksy and company can get some of that traffic to stop and look – along with the locals they are courting.

Fleming is optimistic that they can.

“I have the utmost confidence that this will be an amazing project,” he says. “Rick is in restoration, that’s his business — those guys know what they are doing. And as you can see, he’s in restaurants already with Sterle’s, and he knows what he’s doing there.”

Since taking over Sterle’s in 2012, this includes adding more amenities to the storied restaurant – including a beer garden, new concert series, events and menu updates – while staying true to the iconic space’s ethnic roots and traditions.

“I see all of this as exciting, but the bank space is something really special,” adds Fleming. “Anybody coming in will have that feeling.”

Fleming says the shopping and nightlife offerings Semersky is planning are just what this neighborhood – recently bolstered by events such as the Cleveland Flea and the Kurentovanje festival — needs.

“There’s something really important about clustering, just as you see on West 25th Street — you don’t see one place in isolation.

“There’s not a strong night-life [scene] in this area, and that’s what he’s trying to achieve. But it will also have all of those aspects that appeal to a regular neighborhood. He’s tying all of these things together, and he’s anchoring a big part of the neighborhood.”

But not just any neighborhood. A neighborhood that holds a special place in Rick Semersky’s heart, and for his family.

“Honestly,” he says, surveying the sprawling office building he is about to make over, “I don’t think I’d be doing this in any other neighborhood but here.”

1361 East 55th Street ~ Cleveland
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