Rock hall rolls, will business follow?

By Published on .

Crain News Service

When it comes to spurring new business in town, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum will be under pressure to show it'll be more than just a one-hit wonder after the fanfare fades from its chart-busting opening on Labor Day weekend.

Whether the rock hall will be as popular as the Beatles or display the durability of the Rolling Stones will do much to determine its ability to boost businesses downtown. For now, however, the rock hall is pretty much a solo act.

Hopes that national restaurant chains such as the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood and major new hotels would open here in conjunction with the $92 million temple to rock 'n' roll remain just that--hopes.

Likewise, the steady stream of tour buses that museum boosters expect to flow into Cleveland won't materialize just yet.

"It'll be next summer before we schedule anything regularly," said John Lensner, owner of Lensner Coach Lines, a tour company based in Sewicki, Pa.

Much is riding on the rock hall's debut.

"A lot of people are waiting to see what happens here that weekend before they jump in with both feet," said Nancy Feighan, tourism sales manager with the Greater Cleveland Convention & Visitors Bureau.

A Chicago-based tour operator said he's optimistic the rock hall will join the upper echelon of tourist destinations in the Midwest.

"We weren't sure the rock hall would sell, given our mature audience," said John Stachnik, president of Mayflower Tours. "But over the last two or three months, the interest our customers expressed made us put together a package." Tours should begin in early spring, he said.

If those and other tour packages are successful, then perhaps some of the hotel companies circling Cleveland will decide to land.

Thomas Yablonsky, director of downtown development for the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, said he's familiar with six proposals for midprice hotels downtown, but he wouldn't identify the chains or operators.

Mr. Yablonsky said most prospective businesses calling him are interested in ground-floor space for restaurants. He said he has had calls from three groups that want to open rock-related restaurants or stores, but none has proceeded because of troubles with start-up financing.

A few smaller businesses already are trying to play in the rock hall's band. For instance, Dan Gray, owner of Daffy Dan's T-shirt shops, opened Daffy Dan's Cleveland Souvenirs on Public Square in early August.

Mr. Gray said he waited years for this moment.

"The hall will be a huge catalyst of new business for us," he said. "We've worked for three years developing the merchandise mix in the new store. We're selling everything from rock 'n' roll stadium cushions to neck floats--just about every product the hall has licensed."

One place where the rock hall already is receiving good reviews is the Galleria shopping mall, which sits up on the East 9th Street hill from the museum.

A spokesman for Galleria owner Richard E. Jacobs Group said the rock hall has invigorated the mall's leasing effort and "gives us a potent selling tool."

He said the hall's presence played a part in the expansion plans of at least two tenants--Ann Taylor, which doubled the size of its store, and Franklin Quest, which moved into a space 25% larger.

Copyright September 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

Most Popular
In this article: