Things I’ll miss about the East side of Cleveland: #1 Shaker Square Farmer’s Market

Illustration by Julia Kuo

This summer, I will have lived on the east side of Cleveland for 6 years. I’ve lived in the same apartment, with the same roommate, for two presidential elections, five iPhone iterations (the first iphone came out when I moved to Cleveland), and six college graduation ceremonies. I’ve spent a major part of my 20s in Cleveland in my neighborhood of Shaker Heights! A lot has happened since I’ve lived here, and I’ve collected a ton of memories.  Since I’ll be leaving soon, I figured a good way to remember these past few years is to post (sporadically) about the things I’ll miss about living on the East Side.

#1: Shaker Square Farmer’s Market

I still remember my first few visits to Cleveland in 2007, looking for apartments with my (now) best friends, exploring the different residential areas on the East side of Cleveland, like Cedar Lee, Cedar Fairmount, and Cleveland Heights. We eventually settled on an apartment complex just one block away from Shaker Square, a very charming shopping area from the 1920s (interestingly, it was the first ever shopping center in America!) We quickly discovered the Saturday morning farmer’s market called the North Union Farmer’s Market, and almost immediately started a weekly tradition of Saturday brunches. Our first year, we would invite new people each week to cook and eat together, lasting anywhere from 1-4 hours. Our morning routine included walking to the farmer’s market together, discovering Midwestern delights like pierogies and handmade pastas, trying new vegetables like fresh tomatillos and swiss chard, and selecting cuts from locally raised beef, pork, and chicken. We’d sample the local goat cheese, pretzels and dip, very spicy salsa, and fresh pork sausages… and sometimes, it would even make us full before brunch even started!

The weekly trips to the farmer’s market and the hours of preparing food for brunch was how many of my closest friendships began. I feel very thankful to my friends/neighbors who took a risk and opened their apartment to new friends and acquaintances each week. Over the years, the weekly Saturday brunches became social anchors for me as I went through the waves of loving/disliking Cleveland and through busy schedules and heavy workloads. I think one of the reasons why Cleveland became so special to me was because I found that community in a new place was possible. It took lots of intentionality and a structured event to foster those types of relationships, and I am so glad that so many people were willing to take a risk and begin opening our lives to one another. One of the keys to how I started loving Cleveland is how I’ve seen community really be lived out here, and it continues to be dynamic.