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Ryan Dalton Standup Comic
The first time Ryan Dalton took the stage, at the urging of his buddy comedian Steve Byrne, he completely bombed in front of a room full of strangers in New York City. “Every comedian has had that same experience,” says Dalton, who likens it to getting beat up as part of a gang initiation.
In the spring of 1998, Dalton attended a workshop at the Cleveland Improv, where after three classes students get to do a show at the club. The show was a success, and from there he was hooked. “From that point, I kept getting on stage whenever people would let me,” says Dalton, a Kent State alum who started his own room performing standup at the Robin Hood in Kent. “Every week I had to come up with new material because the same people would be there week after week. Local guys or comics passing through town would stop by to try out new bits, new jokes.”
He quickly learned how to appropriately deal with hecklers. “When you first start out, you want prepared responses, stock lines. As you get better, you kind of want to use improvisation and use your own wit against them. You kind of toy with them,” Dalton explains. “The end-all be-all goal is to get them to shut up and get the audience to turn on them, to make the situation as uncomfortable as possible.”
Over the years, Dalton has honed his skills and earned quite a bit of recognition. In addition to performing at comedy clubs throughout the country, he has also been featured on Comedy Central’s standup showcase “Live at Gotham,” has been a guest on local and national radio shows, and last year released his first CD, “You Were Funny Too.”
Although he wants to make money from his comedy career, Dalton isn’t seeking widespread fame. He believes there is a critical moment when celebrities start to believe all the hype and the compliments that they start to lose their mind. “That’s one of the reasons I still choose to live in Cleveland, to surround myself with real people,” he says.
Dalton has come a long way from his days as a used car salesman who dreamed of telling jokes professionally, and he can’t think of a better way to make a living. “Get up at noon, write a few jokes, dillydally, get on stage and spend 30 minutes telling jokes,” he says, describing a typical day’s work. “You get to perform and entertain a bunch of people, and that’s a good time.”—KL
Icemaker Dave Haller
If you’ve thrown a summer party and stopped for ice at Acme, Save-A-Lot or Circle K, chances are it came from Serv-Ice here in east Akron.
Dave Haller is vice president of Serv-Ice, or salesman or icemaker, depending on the time of year. He works with his father, continuing the company his grandparents started in 1967. Before Serv-Ice moved to their current location on East Market Street, the building was used to store block ice. “Many moons ago people used to cut ice blocks out of lakes, store it in the building and deliver it by horse and buggy,” Haller explains. But ice making has come a long way since then.
Today the company produces 80 tons of ice every 24 hours, shipping to hundreds of stores. But Haller says individuals are also welcome to stop by. “If you need dry ice to keep your
food cold on a road trip, we can help you out,” he says. The company also subs orders out to local ice artists, just incase you’re looking for a beautiful frozen centerpiece for a special occasion,
What exactly does it take to be a good icemaker? “You have to know the dynamics of the market place and be prepared as far as the season,” Haller explains. He says they’re busiest around the Fourth of July and slowest the first quarter of the year.
But no matter what time if year it is, Haller is working in some icy weather. He points out the company keeps the temperature inside the building about 26 degrees to “keep it comfortable.” Warm blood must run in the family
Pet Sitter Lesley McBurney
After years working in the IT field, Lesley McBurney came to a crossroads in her career. “I decided to go ahead and turn my passion for my dogs into something fun to do that was going to help pay the bills,” explains McBurney, who opened Fairlawn Pet Resort in December 2006. At the time, she had two dogs; now she has five.
McBurney takes caring for people’s pets seriously. She even had the building equipped with separate ventilation systems and soundproof suites for dogs and cats, so neither animal can smell or hear the other.
Canine guests are taken on “potty walks” every three hours and enjoy two 30-minute play sessions a day, either alone or with other dogs of similar size and temperament. “A couple times a day, we’ll go from suite to suite and cuddle with all the dogs,” McBurney says. “If someone looks like they need some attention, I give them a tummy rub and an ear scratch.”
For McBurney, who has taken doggy first aid classes and other pet-related courses, read books and been certified as a doggy first aid technician, caring for people’s pets isn’t just a day job. “We are a 24/7 operation,” she says, explaining that dogs are taken for their last potty break around 10 or 10:30 p.m., and then she tucks everyone in and does a final check before heading to the front of the building.
While McBurney is prepared to care for more than just dogs and cats—birds, rats, gerbils, even a hedgehog have all stayed at the facility—you won’t find any reptiles or large spiders. “That’s pretty much where I draw the line,” she says.
Pawn Shop Owner Al Martin
Saddles and fur coats are just some of the odder things that Martin has seen come through his pawn shop. For the most part, Al’s of Ohio has the general merchandise, stereo equipment and musical instruments its “very local” market is looking for.
Martin says he’s seen an increase in business because of the financial crisis. “People are much more aware of pawnbrokers. They know they can save money and still get the quality they’re looking for,” he says.
Martin has also noticed how his customer base has grown more diverse in the past several years. “The suits as well as the guys wearing coveralls are coming in,” he explains. “They’re both interested in saving money.”
Having been in the business since 1981, Martin is a people person. “You have to enjoy people or you’re in the wrong business,” he says. But sometimes he finds dealing with customers difficult. “Most people have a problem or they’re looking for something on the sales end. You have to know when to yield and when to be tough—like a parent.”
One problem for pawnbrokers is when people try to sell stolen merchandise. “We try hard not to take anything in that’s stolen,” Martin says. “But we see a lot of sad situations, even family members stealing from other family members. Who else can you trust if you can’t trust your family?”
Although Martin has met a lot of interesting characters though his work, he’s ready to move on. “I expected to be retired now and go fishing,” he says. Hopefully after almost 30 years at the shop, he won’t have to wait much longer.
Better known around town as “Rickshaw Willie,” Tim Wilhelm is the guy you’ve probably seen toting passengers in his rickshaw, or pedicab. On a busy Saturday night, he may have about 40 or 50 passengers (though only two to three can ride at a time).
Wilhelm got the idea for his business in December 2008 when his daughter, a University of Akron student, complained about parking. His original plan was to give rides to UA students, but that didn’t pan out. Instead, he began working Saturday nights and during special events like parades and bike rodeos for kids. For obvious reasons, Wilhelm mostly works during the warmer months, but even during winter you’ll see him out occasionally.
“Right now I’m just a guy on a bicycle,” Wilhelm says, explaining that if he charged passengers a fee for riding he’d need to obtain a taxi license. However, tips are always appreciated.
“My daughter gave me a hint,” he says. “Look for the girls in the real high heels.” Maybe not at the beginning of the night, but by midnight they’ll probably appreciate the ride, he adds.
“I’ll drive anywhere between Market Street to Spaghetti Warehouse, and as far down as Thornton,” he explains. “Yell for Rickshaw Willie and I’ll pull over and pick you up.”
You can also call Wilhelm at 330-289-0419 to schedule a ride.
“I like riding around and meeting people,” he says. “I sort of feel like in my own way I’m an ambassador for the city.”
Toy Designer John Sinchock
AAs vice president of research and development for Step 2 in Streetsboro, John Sinchock spends his days surrounded by toys. “Not only do we have our own products, but competitors’ too,” Sinchock explains. “Because we’re a toy company, we’re also interested in anything else that’s creative.”
When Sinchock began at the company 17 years ago, he was one of three toy designers. Now that he has worked his way through the ranks, he spends less time sketching and more time helping other designers develop their ideas. “At any one time, we have between five and 10 products under development,” he says. These projects are brought to life first as sketches, then as computer drawings, followed by 3D models, and eventually a finished product.
“Everybody thinks they’re a designer around here,” Sinchock says, explaining how everyone from sales people to vendors such as Toys “R” Us offers their input. Still, most of Step 2’s ideas come internally, many of them from designers who have children themselves. A father of six, with children ranging in age from 9 to 25, Sinchock has plenty of experience bringing toys home for his children to test.
For Sinchock, the laid-back environment of Step 2 comes with the territory. “When you get creative people, they tend to not be so rigid as maybe in a more corporate environment,” he says, adding that employees enjoy listening to loud music, playing games and taking part in impromptu brainstorming sessions at work. “That’s all part of the creative process.”
So what’s the best part of working for a toy company? “You get to go to the store and see the stuff you worked on,” Sinchock says. “That’s the neatest part.”—KL
Food Writer Lisa Abraham
An Ohio University journalism school graduate, Lisa Abraham began her career as a political writer. It seems like an unlikely beginning for the Akron Beacon Journal food writer and columnist, but “I covered politics and crime for like 20 years,” she says. “After years of withholding my opinions, I’m now allowed to give them.”
Abraham has always been a cook at heart, and that’s why she applied for the food writer position. “My main hobby outside of work was cooking,” she says. “No matter where I worked, I was always known as the newsroom cook.” Now she gets to write three columns and one food-related story a week, as well as additional “hard news” stories that fall under the food beat.
Perks of Abraham’s job include an endless supply of cookbooks, opportunities to meet celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Colette Peters and judging local food competitions.
While it might seem like every foodie’s dream to judge a cooking competition, it’s not all fun and games. For one, “there’s a lot of bad food out there.” Other times, it’s a case of too much of a good thing. “One day I judged a chocolate contest and a cake competition in the same day,” Abraham recalls. “I truly thought I was in sugar shock. It sounds great on paper, but when you actually have to do it, it’s almost physically impossible to feed your body that much sugar in one day.”
One of Abraham’s favorite stories, though, was a 2008 column that brought her back into the kitchen with her father to make olives, a Lebanese tradition they often did together during her childhood. “It was a true labor of love for me,” she says. Abraham even won a national award for the column.—KL