Two local winemakers, Michael and Sharece Curry, had gotten tired of the traditional dive bar environment and experience all too common in their neighborhood. Seeking to provide a different kind of nightlife to an urban locale, they founded Communion Social Lounge, an upscale Garfield Heights-area lounge, offering house-made sweet and fruit-infused wines, hand-crafted cocktails, small plates and weekly events.
Michael and Sharece are also a part of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within Cleveland’s core neighborhoods.
Excited to share their entrepreneurial experience, Michael and Sharece recently sat down with us to discuss how Communion Social Lounge was brought to life, what separates their establishment from others in the area and their plans for expanding the business in the coming years.
What inspired you to create Communion Social Lounge, where did the idea come from?
In the community where we opened Communion Social Lounge, we realized that a lot of the existing bars were just dive bars. Instead of having to go downtown or to Tremont or one of the other up and coming areas to visit more upscale bars, why couldn’t we have the same thing in our backyard?
We wanted to open a place that would allow Garfield Heights residents to have something like that in their own neighborhood, a bar that’s trendy and more upscale, but that also offers affordable options.
What separates Communion Social Lounge from your competition?
Our total atmosphere and the experience that people get is much different than what is offered by other bars in the area. A lot of the bars/lounges that are in our neighborhood are dive bars.
We get compliments all the time about how clean our bathrooms are, how clean the establishment is, and just the all-around experience, because we offer different events that other places don’t.
All the other bars around us have pool tables and juke boxes, but we don’t. We bring in different elements like karaoke, open mic night, trivia nights—things that allow people to be more creative—and we get a lot of good feedback on that.
What have been some of your biggest takeaways from the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program?
The Core City program has helped us a great deal! It’s been an amazing experience and we would suggest this program to anybody. Our biggest takeaway has been learning how to shift our focus from working in the business to working on the business.
We’ve had the opportunity to meet with advisors every week, and even communicate with them outside of the meetings, which has been extremely helpful and priceless because of the information and guidance they are able to provide.
Have there been any surprises?
To be honest with you, yes. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how great this program really is. In the past, we’ve contacted other small business programs, and those interactions didn’t offer what we were looking for. However, the Core City: Cleveland program has given us much more than what we thought we’d receive from an assistance program.
What are your future plans for your business?
In one year, we already have goals set to either expand our physical location or expand into a different neighborhood that’s similar to the Garfield Heights area that we are already in. Once we get to that point and see where we are, we’ll decide which route will be better for us. Beyond that, continuous expansion is our five to 10-year goal.