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Keely Koon Interview April 2010

I became acquainted with Keely Koon after first meeting her husband, Dr. Henry Koon. The Koons are “new” Clevelanders and have been living here since July 2007.

Keely grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and spent most of her first 29 years of life in that city. After Henry and Keely were married, they lived in Jackson, Mississippi for 6 years and then moved to Brookline, Massachusetts. Following that, they lived in Roxbury, and finally, Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Keely indicated that Wellesley was a very expensive city to live in, and her husband become less than content with what he was doing. She and their two children, on the other hand, were happy with their life in Massachusetts.

When Dr. Koon decided to relocate, he was seriously considering two positions, one in Houston, Texas, and one here in Cleveland. He liked both opportunities. One of the reasons he was interested in Cleveland was that his good friend and long-time colleague had relocated here and encouraged him to do likewise.

Prior to the family’s decision about where to relocate, Keely indicated that she had no strong preconceptions about Cleveland and had never visited here. She did, however, make fun of the city because she had watched the Drew Carey show and knew the “Cleveland jokes”. The two concepts she had about this city were “pollution” and “poor people”. However, she did know that she really did not want to live in the Deep South with all the hot weather that is associated with that part of the country.

When Henry came to Cleveland for his 3rd interview, Keely accompanied him. She worked with a company called Executive Arrangements. The company showed them the overall area, helped them narrow down areas of the city or surrounding area they might like to settle in, and helped them develop a positive impression of the city. Part of the Executive Arrangements experience is finding out the interests of the prospective Clevelander, with introductions to people with similar interests. Keely had luncheon and dinner appointments set up for her for this purpose, during the short time the Koons were in Cleveland.  The people she met during that brief visit have ultimately become good friends.

Before settling here, the Koons thought they’d like to live in Chagrin Falls because Henry wanted property that had “more land”. They had also looked at housing in Cleveland Heights because of its proximity to where Henry would be working, but decided against that area, initially.

Once back in Massachusetts, before any permanent move had been decided upon, Keely spoke to a friend who lives in California. When her friend heard about the Koons’ potential move to Cleveland and in particular, the communities they had looked at for their home location, she told Keely that coincidentally, she’d just finished reading a book about “Cleveland” and highly recommended Keely read it, too (even though her friend had never been here herself). So Keely immediately read House—A Memoir, by Michael Ruhlman.

The book caused the Koons to “rethink” the decision about moving to Chagrin Falls versus living in a Cleveland suburb; and their perception of Cleveland totally changed. They decided they wanted to live in Cleveland Heights—to be at the center of activity, and they bought a home in the historic Cedar-Fairmount area, not far from the trendy Coventry area.

The house they purchased closed on July 2nd. The previous owner called them that same day and told them with some trepidation, that the house they’d just purchased actually was THE location of the annual neighborhood block party and had served in that capacity for many years! Not wanting to interrupt a neighborhood “tradition”, the Koons jumped right in and hosted the July 4th party before they’d even moved into their new house! As a result they met many of their new neighbors. Now, Keely is a co-chair of the annual block party! What a great way to get adjusted to a new home, in a new community, and in a new city!

Not long after they were settled in their new home, some of Keely’s friends from Wellesley came to visit.  She described their response to their new home and surroundings as “floored”. Her friends couldn’t get over how much more “buying power” there was in this city compared to Wellesley, Massachusetts (where they live). They were also very impressed with the Koons’ Cleveland Heights home and neighborhood.

After less than 3 years in Cleveland, and after residing in other large cities, Keely believes this city is “beautiful”. The Koons love their Cleveland Heights home and enjoy the fact that all the homes in the area are so unique.

One of the things the Koons enjoy about Cleveland Heights is the fact that it is a community where one can walk, especially to many of the restaurants in the area, for example. A favorite greater Cleveland destination the Koon family enjoys is the West Side Market. Going to the historic market has become a frequent Saturday activity for the whole family. Keely talked about how she and her husband enjoy the ethnic areas and diversified culture in Cleveland. Henry mentioned that he feels native Clevelanders “seem to have an inferiority complex” about this city.

Keely is a person who likes to explore, and has ventured to all parts of the greater Cleveland area as well as the surrounding communities. She attributes this “exploring” as a crucial part of her learning so much about Cleveland, its people, and the Greater Cleveland area.

Since getting her family settled here, and as she began to learn her way around, Keely started going to house and estate sales. She indicated that she has “an eye” for good things and enjoys buying some of the “treasures” she finds at these sales. Through Craig’s List she found a great co-op location in Chesterland where twice a week she sells some of the items she has acquired. She would ultimately like to expand her business at some point in the future.

The Koons’ experience as New Clevelanders is another example of how the “gems” we have here sometimes require an “outsider’s” eye before they can be truly appreciated. Native Clevelanders should look at this city through the same lenses as those new to this unique city.

—–Roberta Levenson

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