Childhood friends created a business that caters to visitors who want to feel like locals
CLEVELAND -- When the construction dust settles, downtown Cleveland will boast roughly 4,600 hotel rooms at the ready for visitors.
The vast majority of them will likely book a room with a view of the cityscape, but some travelers may opt for a different experience.
If that's the case, Cleveland Comfort is ready.
"They are really excited to stay in something other than a hotel. There is usually a whole community out there who do nothing but stay in these types of places," Billy Fronimo said from the cozy living room of one of his six Cleveland Comfort properties.
Fronimo and Nick Semertsidis are childhood pals who grew up together in Canton.
Now adults, they have become business partners in Cleveland Comfort.
Both had experience in owning rental properties, but they realized there exists another set of clientele needing short-term housing for whom hotels don't fill the bill.
Cleveland Comfort caters to visitors who want to live like locals.
"You get the whole property. You get the whole backyard, front yard just like you would at your house," Fronimo said as he and Semertsidis gave us a tour of "Saratoga" a four-bedroom brick colonial with office space and large eat-in kitchen.
Short term housing rentals are far from a new concept if you think of all the bungalow rentals and big city vacation destinations.
But now that Cleveland is seeing an influx of new visitors at a time when the city's eclectic neighborhoods are getting positive national exposure, there is a demand to live like locals.
"You are just more relaxed and comfortable because it's more like home," says Christine Benner.
A Toledo native, Benner is staying in one of Cleveland Comfort's Lakewood properties.
She came to Cleveland for work and is planning to relocate here permanently.
Benner says she would not have been able to experience the charms of communities like Lakewood and Rocky River had she opted for an extended-stay type hotel.
During her stay she found all the benefits the West Side Market has to offer and loves the array of casual eateries to upscale dining all within walking distance of her Cleveland Comfort home.
"I love the water. I love the beach, so now I know I want to be more toward that north end of Lakewood. I wouldn't have known that if I didn't have the resources of staying in the spot right near Lakewood," Benner says.
Past clients of Cleveland Comfort include cast members from Wicked and Jersey Boys, who preferred unwinding in homes rather than hotels between performances.
Visitors to the Cleveland Clinic, convention center and some of the region's tech companies have also opted for the comforts of home rather than hotels.
The concept is already a hit with future visitors traveling to Cleveland for this summer's Gay Games. Cleveland Comfort properties have been booked already for months.
The idea didn't materialize overnight for Semertsidis and Fronimo.
The men admittedly kicked around the idea of alternative lodging a few years ago, but the timing didn't seem right.
Last year that changed.
"In just the last year-and-a-half the buzz in Cleveland has changed. You just see it. The people are even more positive, and they want to keep it going," says Semertsidis.
The cost of staying in a Cleveland Comfort home is comparable to most traditional extended-stay hotels.
But Fronimo and Semertsidis work hard to customize each guest's experience by offering amenities such as fresh fruit and snacks when guests arrive.
A questionnaire when they book helps the men make sure guests have all they need -- directions, transportation information and suggestions on places to visit.
Cleveland Comfort isn't likely to put a dent in the traditional hotel industry. Rather it fulfills a new dimension in today's real estate market -- the appeal of living like a Clevelander.