By Sue Botos
Their vintage rides may be tucked away for the winter, but that doesn’t stop “cruisers” from congregating at Bearden’s on Monday nights.
At a recent “carless cruise-in,” about 20 auto buffs gathered, this time inside, as the landmark Rocky River eatery was honored with a pair of awards from Cruisin’ Times magazine.
“This was a fast climb to the top. Usually no one gets this in the first year,” noted Cruisin’ Times editor John Shapiro, referring to the fact that 2012 was Bearden’s inaugural year hosting cruise-ins, events where old-time-car lovers gather to admire each other’s rides and talk about their passion. Bearden’s was recognized in the Top Ten for cruise-ins of 75 cars or fewer, and was also presented with the “Editor’s Choice” award, “my own personal choice,” Shapiro explained.
The Top Ten award, continued Shapiro, is decided upon by readers, with nominations being accepted months in advance. “Thousands vote and my secretary is not happy,” Shapiro quipped about the mail-in ballots that pour into the office. He added that online voting is “done on the curve, like teachers do in school” and divided by two to compensate for multiple web entries.
Cruisin’ Times was started by Shapiro, a self-confessed car nut, 15 years ago after a career in radio found the New York native in the Cleveland area. He describes his publication as “covering the entire collector car hobby ball of wax” from feature stories, event coverage, show listings and classifieds, “all of which is put together by a small staff of dedicated car-crazy people in Rocky River,” he added. Shapiro travels to events and talks to car folks in Ohio, western Pennsylvania and parts of West Virginia.
“I had no idea there were any awards for cruise-ins,” commented Bearden’s events coordinator Sherri Reilly, who along with business partner Holly Fowler was preparing to start a trivia game with the cruisers. Shapiro likened the recognitions to the individual awards usually bestowed upon cruise-in participants. “They get pins and patches for everything,” he noted.
Even without their prized autos, the cruisers found plenty to talk about over their Bearden Burgers and onion rings. “Corvette guys” Mike Gates, Ed Smith and Jim Calcamp pored over the latest magazines and got caught up. “This gives you a chance to meet and talk with people during the winter,” Calcamp remarked.
The first Bearden’s 2013 cruise-in, complete with cars, is scheduled for April 29, and according to Mike Redinger of UBS Financial, the publicity from the awards may cause parking to be at a premium. “This is ‘the Bible,’” Redinger said of Cruisin’ Times. The owner of a “tricked-out Mustang,” Redinger sponsored Bearden’s monthly Saturday morning breakfast cruise-ins last year. He added that this was the only location to offer an event for early risers, who can then take their ride to events later in the day.
Reilly added that hopefully, the restaurant can eventually go back to its roots and offer drive-in service complete with carhops. “We’re taking baby steps toward the drive-in,” she commented, stating curbside carryout is now available for call-ahead orders.
But there will be one big difference from the days when the cruisers’ cars were new: Diners will be able to text their orders to the carhops.