Sean Blake is a fourth-generation Kenmore resident who works as a Civil Engineer I with the City of Akron Water Distribution Division. Sean is very involved with the Kenmore community – he is Captain of the Kenmore Clean Team (and he’s always looking for extra volunteers to keep Kenmore clean!), and has served on the KNA’s Design Committee and Wayfinding Subcommittee.
1. You’re a fourth-generation Kenmore resident – what has kept you and your family here?
We’ve always been a close-knit, hard-working family, so Kenmore has always felt like home to us. It’s funny because actually my great-grandfather lived in the house next door. My grandpa lives in it now with my uncle and we all take care of and watch out for each other. We like the location of our house too. People don’t realize it, but Kenmore is really close to a lot of places, so we enjoy being centrally located. Personally, I am still here because I want to make a difference in my community. The neighborhood has lost a lot of talent, young and old, so it feels as if the torch has been passed on to me. Now it’s my turn to be a leader in my community. In addition to making my community better, one of my goals is to get more young people to move here.
2. What is your favorite spot in Kenmore? What do you love about it?
My favorite spot in Kenmore is easily The Rialto Theatre. You can travel around all you like, but you will never find another music venue as great as it! We are extremely fortunate to have a business of that caliber in our neighborhood. My second best spot is Summit Lake. Again, we are so fortunate to have a lake and park of that size so close to us! There are currently major improvements coming to Summit Lake Park, and when all of them are done, it is going to be a world-class experience. Also, shout out to the bike lanes on the Blvd that make both of these destinations less than a 10 minute bike ride from my house.
3. Your great-grandfather built one of the buildings on Kenmore Boulevard, which one did he build and is there any interesting history related to the building you can share?
My great-grandfather, Harry Stiffler, built 940 Florida Avenue. That address actually makes it sound like it isn’t on the Blvd, but it is – it’s on the corner next to the bank. I believe the building currently houses Dreams Academy. My great-grandfather was a jeweler so when it originally opened it was a jewelry store. I believe he also sold pianos too.
4. What made you want to take charge of Kenmore’s Clean Team and why is keeping the neighborhood clean so important to you?
What our neighborhood looks like reflects a lot about who we are. You never know who could be passing through the neighborhood at any minute – and you want them to think positive thoughts about it. I’ve also learned that people are more likely to litter and destroy things that already looked blighted. So trying to keep them from even ending up looking that way is a goal. I seem to be very good at people management – what I mean by that is - coming up with tasks for volunteers to do, keeping them busy, and communicating clearly to them what needs to be done. Also the Civil Engineer in me has a passion for taking care of urban infrastructure. So all these things make it feel like a natural fit.
5. Why do you think people should want to volunteer for the Kenmore Clean Team?
This is OUR neighborhood, and we should be proud of it! It is really a rewarding feeling to give back to your neighbors. Plus, the more volunteers we have, the faster we can get the work done and get out of there. No matter what your physical ability is – as long as you show up and want to work, we can use you. Also, it is a great way to meet your neighbors and local business owners.
6. You’re a Civil Engineer with the City of Akron Water Distribution Division – what drew you to that field of work?
To be honest – growing up I never thought I would be working at the water department. I actually started as a co-op in college and just never left. I am very fortunate to have two amazing bosses and a bunch of wonderful co-workers.
I enjoy the challenge of thinking on my feet every day. When you have to maintain 100+ year old pipes you never know what is going to happen next, so you have to be ready for anything. I also enjoy meeting all of the wonderful people that live in Akron and seeing the different parts of the city. It is an absolute honor for me to serve the people of Akron by making sure they have clean and safe drinking water.
7. What is your favorite Kenmore memory or story to share with people?
My favorite memories are definitely of the Kenmore Carnival. Here in Kenmore we used to do it big with a five-day carnival, Memorial Day parade, and fireworks. I grew up going to the carnival, and then ended up working it, all the way up to being the head of the grounds crew in its final years.
8. You can only pick one Kenmore Pizza – Pierre’s, Rocco’s, Regina’s, or Talamo’s – which one is it going to be and why?
Definitely Pierre’s all the way. Unfortunately, in 2018 I got diagnosed with Celiac Disease so my pizza eating days are over. I will still get Pierre’s if I have guests over or have a crew working in the neighborhood. Also, I hear Reeves Cake Shop has gluten-free pumpkin roll, so I might have to give them a try this fall.
9. What concert or event would you love to see at The Rialto Theatre?
Currently right now my favorite band is CHVRCHES. I realize that they are a bigger band so they would have no interest playing at a small venue like the Rialto, but I can still dream. Lauren Mayberry, if you are reading this, the next time you are on tour please make a stop at the Rialto! Coming back down to Earth now, every time Zach & The Bright Lights play at the Rialto it is an amazing show. I realize he just played there like a month or so ago, but if you’re reading this Zach please come back soon! Looking at their upcoming events, the Halloween Concert on October 16th looks like it’s going to be a great show, so I would advise people to get their tickets (and their costumes together) now.
10. What do you want the world to know about Kenmore?
The people that actually live here and have lived here for years are amazing. They are the kind of people that you want as a neighbor. It seems like on the news and in the press we are always the butt of jokes, but when you are actually here working with the residents you can see how great of a community this is. We have a lot of Kenmore Cardinal pride here!
Visit the Kenmore Boulevard Cleanup Facebook event page for more information and RSVP if you are able to help Sean and the rest of the Kenmore Clean Team!