Pride Spotlight: Tours of Cleveland founder fell in love with city and is spreading the word
“Cleveland is a very underrated city,” says Scott O’Con.
Although he has only lived in Cleveland five years, Scott O’Con is one of the city’s most visible promoters. As the founder of Tours of Cleveland, LLC, O’Con has made it his profession, and mission, to spread the word about his adopted hometown.
“Cleveland is a very underrated city,” says O’Con, who moved to the area from Fairfax, Va., when his husband accepted a position as the pastor of West Park United Church of Christ.
“There is so much to do here, and it is easy to do it. In DC, for example, if you want to go see a show at Kennedy Center you have to leave work early, worry about traffic, where you’re going to park. Life is much more laid back here, much easier.”
A former HR professional, O’Con took a job with a downtown corporation when he first moved to Cleveland, and began to spend his lunch hours exploring his adopted city.
“One day, I stumbled into the Arcade and said ‘what is this?’”
Eventually, O’Con decided to that his HR job wasn’t for him. He wanted to do something different.
“With the low cost of living here, we were in the position to take that chance. I love history, and I love walking tours. I started looking around and it seemed there was room for something like that in Cleveland.”
O’Con began doing “volumes of research” and the usual business set-up: “we did the legal aspect, incorporated, got an accountant, built a website, developed the tour.
He also began doing a lot of networking. As part of that he joined Plexus, the Chamber of Commerce for the LGBT community and allies in the area, and became a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
And while he proudly shares this info, O’Con is most proud of “producing a quality product. Ultimately, that is what matters.”
The start-up owner soon embarked on a social media campaign, and not just for his tours.
“With social I promote my business, but I also try to promote Cleveland and other local businesses, and things going on, and people and art.”
His tour company began to grow, eventually to seven walking tours a week, highlighting such destinations as the Old Stone Church, Terminal Tower, Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the most popular destination, the Cleveland Trust. Then came COVID.
After a mandatory shutdown, tours resumed in the summer of 2020.
“It was slow to ramp up, but all things considered not a bad year. We were outside and people felt a lot more comfortable there.”
O’Con’s business has continued to expand since reopening, and he has added seasonal winter and Halloween tours — his most popular yet.
“Last year was our best to date,” he says. He is currently doing seven tours a week, plus special private corporate tours. Two-hour tours are $24 for adults.
O’Con counts both natives and tourists among fans.
“I so often hear locals say ‘I have lived here my whole life and didn’t know half of this.
“Visitors tell me, ‘you have totally changed my impression of Cleveland.’”