Published November 25, 2022
By Ed Balint, The Repository
Chris Bentley said he's found a great new spot to continue the legacy of Buzzbin in Akron's Kenmore neighborhood.
After a roughly 12-year run under two different owners, Buzzbin closed in late June in downtown Canton. Chris Bentley and his wife Julia had owned and operated the club since 2019.
"It's going to be the same thing," Chris Bentley said of the venue at 952 Kenmore Blvd. "I'm going to make it as cool as (Buzzbin in Canton) was."
Life after Buzzbin in downtown Canton: Club leaves void in music scene, others rock on
Buzzbin in Kenmore will continue to focus on music, art and concertgoers, the couple said.
"When you're at a show, it's like a symbiotic relationship," Julia Bentley said. "It's more fun the more people that are in the crowd watching the band because everyone feeds off of each other … the crowd and the band that's playing.
"... It can be inspiring to make somebody else want to try music ... or art."
The couple cited multiple factors for the end of Buzzbin Art & Music Shop in Canton: Repairs needed for the building they rented at 331 Cleveland Ave. NW. The cost of rent. And business never returned to pre-COVID levels despite many loyal, passionate fans and customers.
After failing to find another location in Canton or elsewhere in Stark County, Chris Bentley said a musician in the Kenmore scene reached out, and they were soon welcomed enthusiastically into the community, including by The Rialto Theatre, where Buzzbin held rock shows until their nearby space was ready.
"They understood what we're trying to do together and work together," said Julia Bentley, noting that Buzzbin leans more toward punk and metal shows while The Rialto, 1000 Kenmore Blvd., is more indie rock oriented.
The Rialto Theatre will be holding the Kenmore Winter Break Music Festival! at 6 p.m. on Dec. 2 and 3, featuring 12 bands and solo performers.
The Bentleys also praised the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance for its support and help with establishing the new Buzzbin.
Buzzbin owners say downtown Canton groups didn't support club enough
The Bentleys said another factor in their decision to close Buzzbin in Canton was a lack of support from some downtown entities like ArtsinStark, Visit Canton and those in charge of booking music acts at Centennial Plaza. Julia Bentley said she would have liked more partnering from those entities, as well as social media mentions and promotional help.
She said there was "no reciprocal interest or support." An exception was a Buzzbin show featuring musicians from the Canton Symphony Orchestra, which she said was "amazing."
The couple said sometimes they felt like outcasts with those organizations.
David Whitehill, president and CEO of ArtsinStark, said the agency's focus is two-fold: operating the Cultural Center for the Arts and supporting nonprofit arts organizations throughout Stark County.
Over the years, he said, as funds have been available, ArtsinStark "has offered and committed to supporting some for-profit arts and creative businesses that are pivotal to the economic vibrancy of a municipality."
Whitehill said that Buzzbin "certainly fell into this category for downtown Canton," and ArtsinStark provided financial support to Buzzbin in a number of ways before the pandemic.
However, funding for the arts has dropped sharply since 2020, and "we find that the Stark County nonprofits are more in need of our support than any time in recent history," Whitehill said.
Visit Canton serves as the Stark County Convention & Visitors' Bureau.
Allyson Bussey, president and CEO, said the organization's "primary focus is attracting people from outside of Stark County to the region to generate economic impact through visitor spending."
She added that while "certainly live music across the region can be part of that attraction ... with abundant entertainment and special events throughout our communities, it is imperative that artists and business owners are active and strategic in marketing their events to be successful."
Bussey said Visit Canton also offers a vast array of free marketing tools for any tourism event or venue that is "looking to promote themselves to visitors and local residents alike."
Soul Asylum concert was proposed for Centennial Plaza
Chris Bentley said he also wanted to book Soul Asylum and other rock bands at Centennial Plaza.
He said he was approached by a representative for Soul Asylum, an alternative rock band that achieved mainstream chart success in the 1990s.
Buzzbin, however, would have been too small a venue. So Chris Bentley said he approached Patrick Wyatt about Soul Asylum performing at Centennial Plaza in downtown Canton. Wyatt handles event booking for the outdoor venue as the operations manager and an employee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which has partnered on the space with the city of Canton.
Chris Bentley said talks didn't progress despite his interest.
"I thought it had the potential to have some really cool shows," he said of Centennial Plaza.
Wyatt said he met with the Bentleys to discuss the process of renting the plaza for events and their ideas regarding booking bands.
"Some of the challenges discussed were the limitations (with) the open plaza being a ticketed event and Jerzee's contract for food and alcohol sales on the plaza," Wyatt said.
The new Buzzbin is rocking in Kenmore
Chris and Julia Bentley, however, said they are now leaving those issues behind while embracing the fresh start in Akron.
"There's no competition from anybody up there," Chris Bentley said of Kenmore. "And everybody was just like extremely accommodating and welcoming."
Buzzbin is located in Kenmore's Boulevard District, home to musicians, artisans and recording studios, as well as The Rialto Theatre, Lay's Guitar Shop, The Guitar Department and Kenmore Komics & Games.
Buzzbin is not fully open yet and has been holding concerts periodically while awaiting approval for a liquor permit. The club holds about 100 people and is slightly smaller than the former Canton location, Bentley said.
"The goal is in the future to build a stage outside like we had (in Canton) … and then we'll be able to have shows outside," he said. Bentley said he hopes the outdoor space will be open in the summer.
More shows are planned for the remainder of the year. The club's motto continues to be: "Where Loud Lives."
Upcoming shows include a Dec. 2 lineup starting at 6 p.m. and featuring Chum Lord, Missile Toe and Rubber City Ukes. Part of the "Light the BLVD" event in Kenmore, "Frost Fest" is described as a "Christmas Punk Rawk Extravaganza." A Dec. 3 show starts at 8 p.m. and includes Night Goat, Bwak Dwagon and The Liquid W's. Admission to the all ages show is $5.
'You get a sense of belonging and acceptance'
The Bentleys said they want to remain connected with Canton. The couple continues to operate Frankenstein Records and Heart Shaped Box Whiskey Bar in the 300 block of Cleveland Avenue NW next to the former Buzzbin.
Buzzbin plans to offer shuttle-style rides in a wheel chair-accessible van to take Canton residents to the Kenmore club. The couple has started the rides informally with hopes of making the service more formal and frequent in the future.
Art will also be part of the experience at the new Buzzbin, Julia Bentley said. Art nights and events will be scheduled.
"I feel art and music are very therapeutic," she said.
"You get a sense of belonging and acceptance in the music and art scene that we kind of offer here."
Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter @ebalintREP