The Village of Chagrin Falls was no different than any other city, town, hamlet or burg in the world during 2020, the Year of COVID-19, in that nothing usual happened, and like people everywhere, Chagrinites had to get used to doing things differently.
Going to school or work on a home computer, meeting virtually, no hugging or kissing hello and wearing a mask when stepping outdoors were just a few of the things everyone learned to do.
In the village, the annual outdoor entertainment juggernaut Blossom Time was stopped dead in its tracks as was the July Fourth celebration, Chagrin Valley Chamber of Commerce Concerts in the Park, the Valley Art Center’s Art by the Falls and its in-person classes and gallery showings.
The nonprofits continue to struggle. With a live audience out of the question, the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre created video presentations of their best plays and musicals.
Chagrin Falls played host to three Black Lives Matter rallies and one moment when, in prelude to the first event, shopkeepers boarded up their storefronts preparing for that which did not happen.
Mayor Bill Tomko, in conjunction with the North Union Farmers Market, kept the Sunday farm market going by adding a little more real estate to its location along North Franklin Street by adding West Washington Street to the sales area thus distancing vendors and shoppers from one another.
What did happen in 2020 was the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, a different groundbreaking socially distanced in-car drive-in festival at the Chagrin Cinemas, which proved a hit with fans and which will be back in some form in 2021 even if a vaccine has made it safe for us to mingle again.
There are more empty stores in town than there were last year at this time. Chagrin Cards and Gifts announced its closing before the scourge hit.
Another large space was left downtown after the closing of the Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, a national chain facing bankruptcy.
Julie Truog closed her Find Me! women’s fashion boutique after 25 years – not because of COVID-19 or to ensuing economic pressures, but to a much-deserved retirement. We also said goodbye to the Chagrin Cake Co. and hello to Little Babet and the My Mindful Market.
Government grants are helping local restaurants hang on and most have done creative things to keep serving customers with curbside service, delivery and socially distanced dine-in tables.
This summer the village relaxed its zoning to allow more outdoor seating in places where outdoor seating was never allowed before so some restaurants could make up outside for what they lost to social distancing inside their establishments.
Umami had closed briefly when the pandemic hit hard, then reopened for curbside pick-up much to the celebration of fans of the fusion style restaurant.
Chagrin Falls also bid adieu to Jekyll’s Kitchen. Joe Saccone and his new partner Rick Doody soon replaced it with 17 River Grill, which opened in late summer.
Bull and Bird was short lived where Gamekeepers Tavern held forth for decades. The Saccone and Doody team is planning another steakhouse for the space. But it sits next to and is connected with the Inn of Chagrin Falls and the Architectural Review Board is being ultra-cautious about how the new eatery will match up with the much revered inn and much revered Cranes Canary Cottage, a piece of cultural history.
It’s a terrible time to open a restaurant, but it hasn’t stopped announcements from owners of Batuqui, a Brazilian-style restaurant which will open on East Orange Street next to Stepnorth.
A sit-down and take-out gourmet pizza restaurant is going into the long-vacant Mario’s Spa building on Bell Street and the one-time Raintree restaurant then Grove Hill eatery is schedule to become Pub Frato, a “gastro-pub.”
The year 2020 saw the complete restoration of the underground utilities along East Washington Street. Sewer and waterlines were hitting the century old mark in some cases.