mulberry annie bag Akron Family eatery where city’s movers and shakers meet

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“The list goes on and on,” said Nick Corpas, who runs the restaurant and is working to take over the spot that his father, Dean, opened in 1986. Most days, you’ll find Nick or his mother, Mary, running the place. Most recently, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray kicked off his campaign at the restaurant, which was largely reported with nonchalance, as though the eatery would be the most natural place in the world to start such a major undertaking.

That’s probably because journalists know it as a meeting place for movers and shakers. It’s difficult to cover the city for long without being taken there or asked to meet an executive or government official there for an interview. Often, you’ll meet more than the person you’re with, too, since guests frequently visit from table to table on their way out.

“Akron Family is the spot to interact with a perfect cross section of politics, business, nonprofit and education. I think it’s because of its unassuming nature, perhaps like the Diamond Grille, that it doesn’t get overwhelmed, and that’s what makes it perfect,” said Ian Schwarber, chief strategy officer for Akron based DriveIT, a software training company, and former resource director of the University of Akron’s EXL Center.

It’s not just Democrats who hang out there. You might, for example, see Don Taylor, president of Fairlawn based Welty Building Co. and the husband of Republican Lt. Gov. and gubernatorial candidate Mary Taylor.

Corpas who said he’s seen the parade of power go through the restaurant since he began helping his parents there when he was just a kid can rattle off a long list of well known regulars.

Akron mayor Dan Horrigan comes in often, as does former mayor Don Plusquellic.

Longtime Akron politician and former city service director Ray Kapper is also a regular; he’s got his own table toward the back of the house. The hosts know not to seat anyone else there, Corpas said.

What if someone sits there on their own?

“I’ll politely ask you to move,” Corpas said, with the same broad smile he uses to gently move guests to another table.

Before the current crop of politicians, there was the late Summit County executive Russ Pry, who was a regular, Corpas said. Current county executive Ilene Shapiro also has been known to frequent the place.

From the world of music, rocker Chrissie Hynde has been in a few times. A vegetarian, she is fond of salads or maybe a grilled cheese sandwich, Corpas said.

And from the sports universe, Akron Family has served perhaps the brightest star of all.

“LeBron (James) came in quite a bit when he played at St. V,” said Corpas, himself a graduate of St. Vincent St. Mary High School, which is an easy walk away.

So how does he do it?

Corpas said he doesn’t really know exactly why the rich, famous and powerful choose his bacon and eggs over everyone else’s, though, he pointed out, “The food is really good!”

He said he hasn’t done anything to entice powerful folks to visit and isn’t aware that his father, who was not a politician or corporate executive, did either.

The food is a draw, he said, and most everyone who eats there raves about the bacon, eggs Benedict and other house specialties. But Corpas thinks there’s another factor driving business.

“They come to see the staff,” he said, adding that he prides himself on low turnover when it comes to servers and high turnover when it comes to fresh cups of coffee. Most of the servers have worked there more than 10 years, and many of the cooks are 20 year veterans.

The staff knows most customers by name, what they want for breakfast and how they take their coffee, Corpas said proudly.

Whatever the reason for Akron Family’s magnetism, it’s known as the place to be if you want to network in the Rubber City.

Schwarber said he’s long told students and emerging entrepreneurs that it’s the place to go.

“I used to tell my students at EXL it costs $25 with tip to take someone to breakfast there. I would advise them to put aside $200 and set up two breakfast meetings for four weeks. At the end of that month, you will have if you network had the chance to meet the leaders of business, banking, philanthropy, education, health care and politics.

“Where else is that remotely possible, for that minimal cost? Nowhere,” Schwarber said.

On the site of a former auto dealership, Akron Family has a large parking lot, and inside it’s got seating for 300 people.

That includes private rooms that were added in recent years to accommodate meetings, along with a new kitchen last year.

For his part, Corpas said he’s more than grateful that so many important people come in just as he’s grateful for all of his regular customers, who on any given morning make up about three quarters of his guests.
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