Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



Yiddishe Cup got its first paying gig in 1988, at the old Jewish Community Center on Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights. After that, we started playing Booksellers at the Pavilion Mall in Beachwood. We did well at Booksellers. So well, in fact, the store manager kicked us out. He said, “We sometimes don’t ask back popular groups. The books are the main attraction, not the music.”

I didn’t grasp that; we were drawing a crowd of book-buying Jews. But the manager booted us. He said book browsers were dancing in the aisles, knocking down books. I suggested he put the band in the mall’s atrium. He did that once. Then he re-booted us.

Yiddishe Cup got in a book, not just a bookstore — Merging Traditions, Jewish Life in Cleveland, a coffee table book (2002). The book has a photo of the band leading a Torah procession up Taylor Road to a new shul. In the book’s index, “Yiddishe Cup” is next to “Yiddishe Stimme” (a newspaper) and Young Israel (a synagogue).

I hope Booksellers — the long-defunct bookstore — gets in a history book, because Booksellers was one of the first mall bookstores to have a café and live music. This was in the mid-1980s. It was unusual back then to walk into a mall bookstore and get a muffin and music. I remember the store was written up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in the quirky column.

Alan Douglass (L) and Bert Stratton. 2022. (Photo by Lloyd Wolf)

There are two original members, still, in Yiddishe Cup: Alan Douglass (keys, vocals) and me. We’ve seen it all. Wait, here’s something we hadn’t seen until last month. Alan and I — and the rest of the band — played a Yekkie Orthodox Jewish wedding in Beachwood. Yekkie is Yiddish for  “German Jew.” The groom’s family was originally from Frankfurt. The Yekkies held two back-to-back wedding ceremonies. The first was a German ceremony, called chuppa main. Then an hour later, we did the standard-issue OJ (Orthodox Jewish) ceremony. Even the OJ caterer said he had never seen a Yekkie doubleheader before. Also, there were no shouts of “mazel tov” after the smashing of the glass. The cantor sang Psalm 128 after the glass-smash, at which point the Yekkies shouted “mazel tov,” and we escorted the bride and groom out.

Booksellers, again . . . The Kleveland Klezmorim played Booksellers before Yiddishe Cup did. The Kleveland Klezmorim pioneered klez-jazz fusion.  The Kleveland Klezmorim were in founded in 1983 by marimba player Greg Selker. The Kleveland Klezmorim wouldn’t play “Hava Nagilah.” We would, so we got a lot of their gigs. The Kleveland Klezmorim disbanded in 1990. (Footnote: Alan Douglass was a founding member of the Kleveland Klezmorim.)

Yiddishe Cup’s next free, public gig is Purim at Park Synagogue, Pepper Pipes, Ohio, this Sat. (March 23). 7:45 pm. Still kickin’ out the jams.

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1 comment

1 Ken Goldberg { 03.20.24 at 11:35 am }

We always did all the bookstores – downtown, malls, storefronts, etc. I don’t know any now that do the live musicians around here, though some recently have added small cafes, which really seem to bring people. I always thought the musicians added, unless they’re in the way of the books and periodicals, at which time they were a big nuisance…. Another nuisance is when there’s a book club speaking and laughing loudly in the middle of everything, like at Loganberry recently when they could have easily gone into the literature room where they typically have the book talks and poetry readings. This happened once, anyway, on a Thurs. evening when the room was available. Canned music adds, too, if it’s the type Loganberry features. Even the vintage rugs add, there.

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