Speaking of Cocktails...
After living in Lorain for thirty years, Kurt and Page Hernon decided to open their lively bar, Speak of the Devil, in December 2017. Located at 201 West Fifth Street in Lorain now sit the quaint neighborly hangouts, Speak of the Devil (SOTD) and AWOL.
Kurt and Page were originally from Warren and Arcadia, Ohio, respectively, but decided to move to Lorain and pursue a more coastal lifestyle. After working as an air traffic controller, Kurt decided to pursue his passion for crafting historical cocktails, and Speak of the Devil was born.
We knew we wanted to do a cocktail bar. We would visit other places near Cleveland that were similar to our vibe, and we would always see people from Lorain there.
Instead of driving to Cleveland thirsty for a craft cocktail, Kurt and Page began their journey making an array of historical drinks, which have since become a major hit here in Lorain.
We love this city and couldn't imagine opening a bar anywhere else, so we went for it.
When walking into the establishment, you are immediately met with friendly faces, as many locals and other guests enjoy drinking with the team throughout the week.
"Speak of the Devil is an extension of us in our living space," Kurt said. "Since we live upstairs, this really is our living room, and we wanted to create the same vibe for our guests."
When you step into the bar, the sweet smell of liquor and faint sounds of jazz immerse you. Local performers sometimes join in on the fun on busy nights, making the atmosphere even a bit more special. The intimate setting seats around thirty guests and makes for an exclusive and memorable night out.
SOTD is truly a getaway in downtown Lorain for those who want to transport back into the early 1900s with cocktails inspired by the prohibition period. These historical drinks form the bar's ambiance, which resembles a 1950's Vegas vibe with glasses clinking and people chatting throughout the evening.
We didn't want to necessarily be a speakeasy; we wanted this to be a place you can picture your grandfather grabbing a drink at.
They initially hired an architect to design the space with them until they found the wooden bar top and cabinet that comfortably greets guests as they walk in. The dark wood mixes well with their dim lighting, making it seem like it was made for their space. They found the set on Craigslist and everything else organically came together after that.
AWOL is the extension of SOTD with an industrial take on its original aesthetic.
When Jenso Soto, owner of SMASH Food Truck, worked as their chef, AWOL was a separate entity from SOTD. During COVID-19, they remodeled the patio area to be a part of the main bar linking the two spaces together.
When Jenso worked with us, it was so busy we had to wrap our heads around how we would serve cocktails inside and outside. During that time, they had to be made into two separate concepts.
They have now made the separate spaces into one full-service area, and their original capacity has reduced from sixty seats to thirty.
We reduced our capacity because we liked the more intimate setting which has also made it easier to serve and accommodate guests outside on the patio, as well."
This summer, they plan to continue their partnerships with places like Maggie's Farm Distillery in Pittsburgh for "Tiki Week" held in July. In addition, they are planning events all summer long with local collaborations and live music.
SOTD recently launched a new tiki-inspired summer menu with delicious summer cocktails served with tequila, rum, pineapple juice, and coconut cream. They offer a specialty drink every week alongside their current menu, which includes delectable snacks as well. These snacks include house-made marinated olives, mini pecan cheese balls, maple bourbon roasted nuts, and smokies from Fligner's Market. Each menu item has been well-received among customers who especially enjoy the freshness of the hand-picked vegetables they use in various drinks as a garnish or in hors-d'oeuvres.
Since its release two years ago, the Pain Killer cocktail has been their most popular menu item. The drink consists of pineapple juice, house-made coconut cream, orange juice, and Pusser's Royal Navy Rum.
During the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, SOTD shut down longer than other businesses in Lorain. Fortunately, they were still able to pay their employees during the closure.
Since the bar has a more intimate setting, Kurt and Page both felt it was unsafe to host guests. So instead, they created weekly drivethroughs with their beloved cocktails and mouth-watering pizza from SMASH.
The bar reopened on August 21, 2020, and later shut back down in December of 2020 with the rise in COVID-19 cases that month. During that closure, Jenso Soto pursued a business opportunity of his own.
Honestly, we didn't know what was going to happen, so we encouraged him to venture out and pursue that opportunity. And as it turns out, it was probably better for the both of us.
After most of the pandemic restrictions were lifted, the couple reopened the bar in March of 2021. Since then, the news has quickly spread through wordof-mouth and social media about their reopening. When asked about their advertising practices, they claimed they never needed to invest in outside sources.
Word-of-mouth is our best friend. Just do things to the best of your ability and deliver quality products, and people will talk about it.
Page chimed in:
"Guests have really taken ownership of this place because it is something they are proud of. There is a fierce loyalty when you deliver quality products and quite a few places are down here doing the same."
It all comes down to their caliber and experience. SOTD offers high-quality products to their customers who come from all over Lorain and nearby areas. Since the location is halfway between Cleveland and Sandusky, most of their customers come from neighboring cities to visit Kurt and Page.
"It's nice to have a place where everyone can meet in the middle," Page exclaimed.
People have been coming from all over to see Lorain's recent makeover, and Kurt and Page said they love the recent revitalization in downtown Lorain.
It's been a long time coming, and we're proud to see these businesses that have survived during the pandemic.
The couple has devoted their time to volunteering and helping organizations and businesses since their move to Lorain. Before opening their bar, Page volunteered at a local elementary school and sat on The Palace Theater board with Kurt, who volunteered as an operations management board member. They were also members of the LoCo 'Yaks board, and they helped local fashion designer Jevon Terance launch his first pop-up shop.
They continue to support the Black River clean-up efforts and collaborate with the Lorain Historical Society and the new Ariel Broadway Hotel whenever they can.
Kurt and Page have also been involved with Main Street Lorain since its inception, and now that Max Schaefer is a part of the team, they are excited to see what's to come.
It's great seeing all of the work being done every month with the clean-ups, block parties, and other events the board sponsors.
"During the pandemic, the board members have been able to work on some of the un-sexy stuff like the articles and bylaws that have been fixed up," Page said, "and now we're ready to shoot it out of a canon!"
"It's nice to be able to walk downtown to get a haircut, shop, eat lunch, walk on the pier, and grab dinner and a cocktail all in one amazing spot," said Page. "It's nice to see our son, Hiatt, grow up here, and now he has a reason to stay—it's nice to see all these young people look at Lorain as an option now."
When asked about advice for a small business owner looking to move into downtown Lorain, Kurt and Page both encouraged:
They'd like to see more diverse businesses in the area, and they said,
Just don't be afraid to jump in. There are a lot of business owners like ourselves that are willing to help, and it's a good time to have a business in downtown Lorain right now.
During the summer months, their hours are Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 12 p.m.
Their patio will now be open on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. for Bloody Marys and Mimosas.
In the fall, they will continue to host Sunday football watch parties on their patio for any Browns fan looking to enjoy handcrafted cocktails during the games.
If you are in need of great cocktails and an inviting atmosphere, visit Kurt and Page at Speak of the Devil. They'd be happy to have you!