‘Good taste’ takes on a new meaning in Tremont this July

Behind any successful product, service or event, there was likely a germ of an idea — something that if nurtured, might develop into that very thing.

So when a group of Tremont businesses got together 12 years ago, they decided that the tried and true idea of a summer street festival would shine a spotlight on the unique food and boutique  neighborhood — and be fun at the same time.

It didn’t turn out to be a “one and done” event. The initial Taste of Tremont was a success to the point that the organizers turned it into an annual event.

“It has become such an event that we hire an outside events coordinator, who is also a Tremont resident, to coordinate the event for us,” says Cory Riordan, executive director of the Tremont West Development Corp., the group that organizes the event and works to develop the Tremont neighborhood.

Taste of Tremont, however, differentiates itself from the usual street festival. The exclusivity of the vendors keeps the focus on the neighborhood.

Being entrepreneurs, the organizers used some time-tested business principles to present the festival, much like launching a new product. There were such steps as brainstorming, marketing, launch, review and revision.

Many vendors are used to a familiar spot each year, he says.

“Since we are in our 12th year, the vendors like the spots they are at and request the same location. It also helps with the repeat visitors year-to-year to find their favorite spots. We make tweaks here and there from our learned experience,” Riordan says.

If there is a neighborhood that has seen its share of tweaking, it’s Tremont. A bit of history here about the area. Tremont was the site of Cleveland University, the first higher-learning institution in the city. It only existed from 1851 to 1853, but the plans were to build a campus in the area, which was to be named University Heights. Streets were given such academic names as College, Literary, Professor and Jefferson. Some 275 acres were set aside for the proposed campus. Some of that land was for endowment purposes.

Incidentally, Starkweather Avenue, one of the main streets in Tremont, is named after Samuel Starkweather, a trustee of the short-lived Cleveland University.

A three-story building was constructed for the university. Apparently some internal dissension doomed the university, and it closed. The building later housed the Humiston Institute, a college preparatory school from 1859 to 1868. In 1868, it was taken over by the Western Homeopathic College.

When Tremont School opened in 1910, it was the first recorded use of the name “Tremont” for the neighborhood.

By one count, some 30 nationalities had lived in or were living in Tremont. Some of these include Irish, Germans, Poles, Greeks, Syrians, Ukrainians and Puerto Ricans.

And now you can surely trace the diverse range of Tremont restaurants to the germ of an idea those nationalities planted.

Be sure to see our Uniquely Cleveland feature on Taste of Tremont in this month’s issue