CLEVELAND — Full disclosure for the sake of journalistic integrity, I've known Nick Kostis, owner of Pickwick & Frolic, for many years now.
But that's not especially unique. Everyone in town knows Nick.
There's a reason they call him the "Mayor of East 4th Street." It's basic math. When you've been a fixture in downtown Cleveland for nearly 40 years, eventually you're going to meet pretty much everybody. But to know Nick, is to know that it's more than just math, it's the man. Nick's just a people person.
It's not entirely accurate to say that the East 4th Street that we know today wouldn't exist without Nick, but it's not much of a reach either.
Twenty years ago, Nick turned his love of entertaining and his meticulous attention to detail to this building. And it's now considered to be one of the best clubs in the nation by both audiences and comedians alike.
Over that time, they've welcomed the likes of big stars like Bill Burr, Nikki Glaser, Michael Che and too many more to count, but for Nick, regardless of who's performing that night, his focus remains on his guests and the experience they're having.
"I respect the art form. I want to elevate my audience and I wanna elevate the performer. And I want the surroundings to feel, to make them feel like they're not only welcome and cared for, but that they're important," Nick said. "We have this, feeling, this fervor, this drive to make people have a sense of being welcomed. That's hospitality."
Before deciding to open on what was, at the time, a desolate East 4th Street, Nick was offered the chance to set up shop in the suburbs. But he believed his club belonged downtown.
"I love Cleveland. I'm not a Clevelander, but I love this town," Nick told me. "[At the time we opened on East 4th, Clevelanders] were losing faith in ourselves and who we were. And I loved it because of who we were. I loved it because of its grittiness."
It's probably worth pointing out that across the street from the club is a store that sells tons of t-shirts that say how much people love Cleveland now. Now, I'm not giving Nick sole credit for the t-shirt industry here in Cleveland, but I'm saying that vibe has turned around.
For the last 20 years, Pickwick & Frolic has endured through recessions, a pandemic, and constant Cleveland street construction. It has not only survived, but thrived and helped to light the way for the East 4th renaissance.
To Nick it’s a testament to the power of humor.
"It warms us. It connects us," he added. "They say we have, you know, the five senses. Well, there's also a sense of humor, which you feel it's visceral, and it comes from inside, and it tickles. And man, we need it now."
So congratulations to the "Mayor of East 4th Street" on this, his 20th year in office, and may he serve many more terms.
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