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  • Akron Beacon Journal

    Where the heck was Hell's Half Acre? Pearl Coffee salutes former Akron neighborhood

    By Mark J. Price, Akron Beacon Journal,


    Hell’s Half Acre was one of Akron’s toughest neighborhoods during the late 19th century.

    Its scrappy residents, many of whom emigrated from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, often fought among themselves.

    Brawls erupted with great frequency as whiskey flowed at dozens of saloons. Today, the beverage of choice is coffee.

    The Pearl Coffee Co. at 675 S. Broadway is honoring the neighborhood’s rugged past with Hell’s Half Acre Blend, a tribute to “the rough-and-tumble people who settled our area of Akron.”

    “We are part of Akron’s great entrepreneurial, immigrant and industrial history, so we decided to celebrate our location and its determined immigrants with this fantastic new blend,” explained Johnna M. Economou, owner and president of the company.

    The gritty title honors the tough immigrants who settled in the neighborhood just south of downtown Akron and labored in an iron foundry.

    Pearl Coffee will donate a portion of the proceeds from the new blend’s sales to the Summit County Historical Society in honor of its centennial year, Economou said. Pearl employee Elizabeth C. Campbell was board chair and a director of the historical society.

    Where was Hell’s Half Acre?

    Located a quarter-mile south of East Exchange Street, Hell’s Half Acre encompassed sections of South Main Street, West Thornton Street, Washington Street and McCoy Street. Back then, South Broadway ended at the edge of downtown and East Bartges Street was called Iron Street.

    The neighborhood owed its hellish nickname to the Akron Iron Co., also known as Akron Rolling Mills, which operated 24 hours, belched acrid smoke and glowed red at night. The complex, near the present-day site of the Selle Building and GOJO Industries, burned down in 1897.

    Pearl Coffee has been in business for 105 years and is Akron’s oldest coffee roaster. Greek immigrant brothers Nicholas, James, Constantine and Chris Economou started the company on West Bowery Street in 1919. It’s been at its present location since 1952, and all of its coffees are roasted and crafted on site.

    The company continues its tradition “of selecting and roasting only the finest arabica beans,” said Johnna Economou, granddaughter of Nicholas.

    “Old World practices are still in place and the scents are amazing,” she said.

    The new blend commemorates the perseverance of the immigrants who moved here with little to no resources in the 1800s and 1900s and contributed significantly to Akron’s growth, she said.

    Customers can buy Hell’s Half Acre Blend in beans or ground for $18 per pound at Pearl Coffee’s headquarters on South Broadway or in the Summit County Historical Society gift shop at the Perkins Stone Mansion at 465 S. Portage Path.

    Economou calls it “a true bargain for a gourmet freshly roasted coffee that also supports the Summit County Historical Society.”

    So raise your cups to those sturdy people from long ago. Here’s to Hell’s Half Acre.

    Mark J. Price can be reached at

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