Praise pours in from Valentine Theatre’s neighbors

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A9

George Kamilaris, co-owner of Georgio’s restaurant, was busy last night.

His restaurant, next to the Valentine Theatre, was more packed than usual and his valet service was undermanned. So he spent most of the night outside, in his spotless white chef’s jacket, frantically running the valet service.

“We try to take care of our regulars,” he said. “We’ve been downtown for a long time, and we want to take care of the people who aren’t just here for the Valentine.”

Hopes that downtown Toledo would be turned into the bustling, packed place of yore by the Valentine Theatre’s opening last night were quickly doused by the sloppy weather. While things were bustling inside the theater, most of the activity outside was concentrated near Georgio’s.

As soon as she stepped out of her vehicle, Lucas County Commissioner Sandy Isenberg saw Mr. Kamilaris. He and his brother Chris announced on Monday they will paint their restaurant’s chipped, faded exterior wall next week to improve the theater’s surroundings. That decision was reached after several months of spirited discussion with theater officials.

“Hey, George, nice wall!” Ms. Isenberg yelled with a grin.

“Gimme a break,” he yelled back. “I start Tuesday.”

Outside the theater, several residents of the Renaissance Senior Apartments stood and watched the seemingly endless parade of Jeep Grand Cherokees, Mercedes ML320s, and Lexus RX300s. The apartments are in the same building as the Valentine, and residents expressed relief that the constant hammering and drilling in their building would stop.

“I think it turned out fantastic,” said Millie Beckman, 80, who has lived at the Renaissance almost three years. “It is positively beautiful.”

“I’m just thankful they saved it,” said resident Lucy Dye. “There are a lot of places downtown they didn’t save.”

Judy Preleski, another resident, was watching the flow of tux-clad men and little-black-dress-wearing women into the theater.

“Everybody’s wearing black!” she exclaimed. “Where are they all supposed to be going – a mortuary?”

She saw one woman wearing a black sleeveless dress: “Oh, she’s gonna freeze!”

Ms. Dye: “Oh, she looked pretty hot to me.”

Ms. Preleski: “Oh, she’s no hottie.”

Taking care of all those Grand Cherokees were the theater valets, 16 young men and women earning six dollars plus tips for their work.

One valet thought that the theater could be the start of something great in Toledo.

“I know there’s a problem with brain drain in Toledo,” said Shaun Farrell, “and I think this could be a step toward fixing it. It’ll give people something else to do.”

Nearly all the guests at last night’s gala steered their own cars or vans to reach the Valentine, but that doesn’t mean that some didn’t try to arrive by fancier means.

“I got a lot of calls about people wanting limousines for the Valentine opening,” said Nancy Reinhard, owner of White Knight Limousines.

Alas, Ms. Reinhard was unable to help. All of her limousines were taken for Saturday night.

The reason? A more common Toledo fall activity: homecoming dances for area high schools.