As we all know, the world is small! I literally met Allen through his sister who lives in D.C. while visiting my sister who previously lived in D.C. (read it again if you need to lol). Lo and behold they had all gone to college together in Alabama, but were all raised in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. Allen and I became friends by working together downtown and he has probably one of the DOPEST perspectives of Cleveland. Check out the first #CourtneyCoversCleveland interview…
Briefly tell me about yourself:
I’m a Cleveland Heights dude to my core but I spent most of my years in high school at a co-ed boarding school (Pine Forge Academy) outside of Philly with kids from all over the world. Through this experience, I was blessed to travel all over the country and outside the country to experience different cultures and ways of life. Then, I continued to expand my cultural experience by attending Oakwood University, an HBCU in Huntsville, Alabama, where I spent most of my free time up and down the east coast planning to ultimately settle in DC. Next, my pursuit to be a lawyer led me to law school at The Ohio State University where I honed my legal skills and had the pleasure of clerking with two great firms, Baker Hostetler and Hahn Loeser.
What brought you BACK to Cleveland?
We really were in a great situation in Columbus that could have led to a very good life, but something back home in Cleveland kept calling my name when we returned to see family. The city’s downtown was exploding with development, the restaurant scene was receiving national attention and my beloved Cleveland Heights was looking more enticing than ever. Cedar-Lee was popping, Coventry was still hip and Cedar-Fairmount was gaining steam with dope restaurants like the Fairmount, Veno, Lava and now Barrio. Although the demographics of the Heights school system had shifted rather drastically, the neighborhood maintained its unique markings as one of the most diverse suburbs in the country with a ton of culture. I also conquered my innate “east side bias” and crossed the beautiful, historic bridges that served as the dividing line to explore the west side. I was pleasantly surprised to see the transformation of Ohio City, Tremont, Gordon Square and Edgewater Park, and the palpable energy in those areas.
To be frank, the abundance of culture that Cleveland drips simply doesn’t exist in Columbus. Yes, Columbus is newer, up and coming and infused with youth annually through the university, but it lacks the strong historical and diverse roots that make Cleveland one of a kind. As a result, I started seriously considering a move. My firm at the time – Hahn Loeser – was headquartered in Cleveland so I had an opportunity to make the transition internally through that avenue but, before I could lay the groundwork, I was recruited to return to Cleveland by Littler Mendelson, the largest Labor & Employment firm in the world. After interviewing, I received an offer and my family and I took a huge leap of faith and moved to Cleveland. My wife is not a Cleveland native and she spent most of her youth moving around the southwest in warm weather cities with her military parents so convincing her to move to a place that can have bad winters was truly a tough sale.
What do you LOVE about Cleveland?
Cleveland has always been a special city to me. The cultural diversity and mix of scenic and city is unmatched by most cities. Indeed, the emerald necklace (metro parks), the arts, the sports, the food, the festivals, the nightlife, the family values, the cost of living and the diverse inner ring suburbs all make Cleveland a truly unique city with unlimited potential for continued and sustainable growth. While many Cleveland natives struggle to acknowledge and embrace this inner greatness, my vibrant and enthusiastic mentality towards all things Cleveland has been amplified by being away for many years.
What EXCITES you about living in CLEVELAND?
The city has really come ALIVE. I have built on my foundational relationships in Columbus to reestablish strong business and political connections here, I have a thriving legal and consulting practice and my wife and kids have found their way in the city to the point where it feels like home. I am VERY bullish on Cleveland and extremely confident that there will be even more exponential growth in the next five years that will make Cleveland a destination city for people all over the globe. The priceless and organic culture the city breeds is truly amazing and the rest of the world is finally taking notice with Cleveland being featured for major events, such as the RNC, and consistently showing up in national publications as a city to include in your travel schedule. Our friends and family who visit are always stunned by the beauty of the city, the cost of living and all of the wonderful things to do! And now it’s time for ALL of us to realize the tremendous leaps this city has made and promote it to the next generation of leaders who will continue to make the city great!
Last year alone, we were blessed to “witness” the Cavs win the title and break the curse, I started working with DJ Walk and Brent Roach (also B-Love) to build and promote Gumbo (only the dopest party in the city) and my kids have become ballers on the sports scene in our community! And not to go unmentioned, the last two winters have been GREAT!
What do you want CLEVELANDERS to know?
Moving back home has been the best move I could have made for my family. It took us approximately 10 months to find the perfect house we loved in the Heights but once we got settled into our new home in the Coventry area and began exploring all the great amenities the city has to offer, Cleveland opened up like pandora’s box and now my family is in love with the city! I calculated the risk and reward before moving but I would be remised if I didn’t acknowledge that the city has exceeded all of my expectations! In the last few years, I have noticed a lot of my friends, who left to do great things, return to build on their legacy right here in Cleveland, and it is this resurgence that will be the lifeblood for the long-term health of the city. With this understanding, I do all that I can to recruit and retain young talent by helping cultivate an environment that establishes the building blocks for an even GREATER CLEVELAND!