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Misfit Genius makes home in Covington

Jason Matheny and Monty Collier chose an unlikely spot to launch their business, which is tucked in a storefront next to the Waffle House just across the river in Covington.

But when the two Thomas More College graduates found out about a vacancy in the spot, its very unlikeliness seemed a perfect tie-in for the brand they had worked together to create: Modern Misfit Classic Genius.

They opened TK's House of Misfits in June and haven't looked back.

Part hip graphic tee design company and part values-driven lifestyle brand, MMCG experiments with the notion that fashion can be about more than aesthetics. One shirt, for example, features the words "Byootefel Luhvle," or "Beautiful Lovely," in a script typeface.

The company's young founders understand that people who see things differently than others often see themselves as misfits. Only by embracing their authentic selves can they unleash their own geniuses.

"Modern Misfit Classic Genius is an inspirational brand that uses design as a main avenue to inspire people to embrace the misfit and become the genius," says Matheny, who graduated from Thomas More with a graphic design degree in 2012.

"We offer a line that really has meaning," says Collier, who graduated in 2011 with an accounting degree and minors in both art and business administration. "Our whole purpose is to change the way people behave."

Collier adds that the business is about more than selling t-shirts; through the designs, he wants people to be able to express both who they are and who they want to become.

The core values that inspire the brand—passion, loyalty, intelligence, confidence and humility—serve as the basis for the company's first fall collection, set to debut Oct. 20.

Collier says the new products, which will be for sale in the Covington shop, include more limited edition designs as well as crew-neck sweaters, hoodies and henleys.

By Elissa Yancey
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'Everything Under the Crust' cooks up sweet, savory fare on Fourth Street

Look out, cobbler lovers, there's a new pastry shop downtown. 

Or there will be soon, when Aunt Flora opens "Everything Under the Crust" on Fourth Street in October. Look for the peach cobbler Martha Stewart helped make famous as well as more lunch-friendly savory cobblers, like the chicken-filled variety. 

Aunt Flora and her husband, who she calls "Uncle Flora," started selling pies based on her grand-aunt Flora's recipe in Findlay Market in 2006. They closed their successful Market shop last year because of health issues, but have spent the last few months catering and supplying their devoted followers. 

They snagged the storefronts at 211 and 213 Fourth Street for a new venture that Aunt Flora hopes will embody a "European cafe" feel. "It's such a cool little spot," she says. 

While she has plans to expand into a skillet-based restaurant in the space's second storefront, she's most excited about getting back into the kitchen and opening her doors to serve cobbler, pies, cakes, casseroles and homestyle desserts like banana pudding, bread pudding and rice pudding.

"It's gonna be whatever I decide to cook that day," she says.

The time she has spent preparing the new space has both excited and frustrated her. "I really want to work in the kitchen," she says. "I'm going to be doing some cooking classes and cooking demonstrations."

For now, Aunt Flora could use some design help to put the finishing touches to the pastry shop, perhaps a cobbler-loving restaurant stylist to guide her in creating the perfect atmosphere so that she can focus her energy on the food. 

Now that the floors and walls are ready, she has just one question left: "What do we make this place look like?"

To offer support or artistic services, please email Flora.

By Elissa Yancey
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MPMF Box Truck Festival features fun, games, Third Man Records

The Midway of the circus that is the Midpoint Music Festival gears up this year with a fresh Box Truck Festival, produced for the second time in partnership with SpringBoardArtworks' creative entrepreneurship training program.

Open and free to all ages, the Midpoint Midway features 10 box trucks transformed into interactive installations that range from words of wisdom to art-in-the-making to improvisational theater. Oh, yeah, all that, food, beverages, music AND a visit from Jack White's Third Man Records' Rolling Record Store.

Sarah Corlett, SpringBoard director, says that the Box Truck Festival embodies the creative spirit of the artist/entrepreneurs her program attracts. 

"The intention for both our entrepreneurs and the other artists involved is that this event provides another platform for experimenting with ideas, creating unique experiences to engage audiences and maybe even serving as a launching point for a new entrepreneurial adventure," she says.

Two of the trucks feature SpringBoard entrepreneurs: 

• Magnetic Force, created by Loose Parts Projects, is a moveable, interactive magnetic sculpture made from materials that can be moved, built upon and combined.

• The Hyperbolic Healing House, created by Lucius Limited, offers a serene psychedelic oasis in the form of a biomorphic micro-temple.

Other trucks encourage dancing, remote-control car-racing, striking a documentary-friendly pose and poster shopping, Corlett says. "As we had hoped, this project, in the vein of SpringBoard, is truly  sparking creative enterprise."

By Elissa Yancey
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LIVE MAKE launch in Brewery District highlights ARCHinati Festival

Bradley Cooper knew about Maker Works in Ann Arbor and the TechShop franchise, as well as other independent spaces around the country that encourage DIYers and design professionals by providing tools, space and a supportive community.

So when he and fellow architect Paul Karalambo took on the job of creating a design competition to create such a space in Cincinnati's Brewery District, he understood its inherent importance. Creating a large space for shared tools and a budding entrepreneur community could not only assist current businesses and residents, but also entice new graduates to find ways to build their businesses in Cincinnati.

The result of that thinking is the LIVE•MAKE competition, an initiative of the local branch of the American Institute of Architects, which grew out of the updated zoning for the Brewery District's updated zoning: urban mix. 

"It's important to have an entity like this in the city for people to take advantage of," says Cooper, a Cincinnati native who graduated from UC's architecture program and received his Master's degree from University of Michigan. 

For now, the competition remains theoretical, Cooper says. Its official launch on Oct. 6. serves as the culmination of the week-long ARCHinati Festival, which includes a full slate of building-friendly events that start Sept. 28. 

The LIVE•MAKE kick-off at the Christian Moerlein Brewhouse on Moore Street features not only brewery district tours, but a sampling of local artistic and design-focused entrepreneurs whose work provides a glimpse into what LIVE•MAKE could become. Guests include members of the Losantiville Design CollectiveHIVE13 and Brazee Street Studios.

Reservations won't be accepted; the first 160 guests to arrive will get free tours and beverages courtesy of Christian Moerlein. "We want people to show up and be there for what's happening," Cooper says.

LIVE•MAKE designs have already been submitted from as far away as Texas and California, all before the competition's official launch, and months before the competition's Dec. 20 deadline, Cooper says.

"It's generating interest as a way of spurring development," he says. 

After winners are announced at the end of January, the local AIA chapter hopes to hold a celebration in the late spring. Gaining interest, and funding, could spur real-life development next year.

By Elissa Yancey
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Tacocracy opens for lunch, builds on Northside connections

Part taco shop, part neighborhood reunion, Tacocracy opened in Northside in August and has already created its own popular niche in the community's lively local food scene.

Located in the new Northside International Airport and the former Jacob's nightclub space, Tacocracy sits in the center of the action, serving up airport-themed items, like a range of "taco flights" that include as few as two and as many as seven of the spot's primary menu items.

Duck tacos, Korean beef tacos, "schmashed tater" tacos and chips baked with sea salt and lime juice round out the simple, tasty menu developed by owner Kevin "Pogo" Curtis. The Middletown native has called Northside home for the past six years, and has worked at nearly every restaurant in the neighborhood: Melt and The Comet as well as former venues The Hideaway, Northslice and Portofino. 

"I'm always looking for how to make it better," he says of his dishes. 

Curtis says that with his first foray as a restaurant owner, attention to detail is everything. He's proud of the duck taco—"It's so rich, it's like meat candy"—and looks forward to adding his soups to the menu. 

But his investment doesn't stop there. He and friends worked for a year to transform the space into Tacocracy, a name he landed upon as he considered creating independent taco shop with no intention of being authentically Mexican. 

They turned a hallway into a dish room and decorated creatively for a very DIY, Northside feel, he says. For example, the strings of LPs hanging in the patio were part of a "tacos for vinyl" exchange, explains Northside International Airport "queen mother," Aileen McGrath.

Curtis, whose artwork hangs throughout NIA, has been overwhelmed by the positive response so far, and a friendly partnership with nearby Listing Loon has made life without a liquor license a lot easier.

Tacocracy opens for lunch starting this week, and Curtis hopes to add late night hours during the weekends in the future. 

"I love the hood," he says, "and I want to see if it can be even more awesome."

By Elissa Yancey
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Northside International Airport boarding this week

For shoppers on the Prowl in Northside, shopkeeper and neighborhood entrepreneur Aileen McGrath has good news: Northside International Airport shops open this week, starting Sept. 19.

It has taken about a year of work, and lots of times at lots of different jobs, but McGrath has never faltered on her mission to bring new life to the space two doors from her indie-craft haven Fabricate.

NIA includes the restaurant Tacocracy and an assortment of independent boutique businesses. It has the looks of a carefully curated indoor flea market that you'd love to stumble across on a trip out of town, without the hassle of having to go out of town.

There's vintage clothing at On the Prowl Vintage, assorted band equipment at (False) Minotaur, a counter for Blink Makeup and Design Studiowax aesthetic and Wrong Brothers bicycles.

But the shops themselves, which start limited hours five days a week Wednesday, Sept. 19, are just part of the attraction. There's the bathroom gallery in the back, which is home to a photo gallery and features a Simon Leis Memorial Urinal (bulls-eye target included). It is also, quite possibly, the only bathroom with its own Facebook page.

By Elissa Yancey
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Funky Artsy jewelry makes a bold statement

According to Kirstin Eismin, jewelry artist and owner of Funky Artsy, there is no such thing as a piece of jewelry that is too big.

Eismin travels three to four weekends a month to attend art shows in the Midwest or along the East coast, creating most of her pieces in her rare free time; she works full-time as a social worker, in addition to spending nearly 40 hours per week on Funky Artsy in her Pendleton studio.

Originally from Lafayette, Ind., Eismin attended Purdue Universty, majoring in sociology and minoring in art and design. These days, she sees jewelry making as a way to help women explore their self-identity and have fun.

“I try really hard to create pieces that showcase women and their independence and their beauty," she says. "For me, it’s about finding something that will highlight some sort of color or inspiration that may come from the earth or that individual person.”

She frequently alters her pieces on the spot for shoppers and meets with women to sketch commissioned items in front of them after gathering information.

Her colors and materials' palette includes metals with natural accents, such as gemstones, shells, rocks, and, occasionally, found objects, such as antique broaches. As far as size, she says, “My big funky pieces are the large ones you can see from 100 feet away, and then I’ll do small simple, elegant petite pieces that still have some funk to them, that speak to a woman’s personality.”

The fun of owning Funky Artsy, Eismin says, is watching women take a risk on bold, oversized necklace and discover that their new look works.

“It’s really important for women to try new things, go outside their comfort zone and see that there are things that can brighten up an outfit or themselves. … They don’t have to wear just the classic pearls.”  

Earrings, necklaces and other jewelry items and accents are available at Oakley’s Trend Boutique and via the Funky Artsy website and Etsy shop.

By Robin Donovan

CODE aims to crack city's creative manifesto

For four days in October, local creatives will launch a rebranding of Cincinnati as an international hub for design. CODE, which stands for Cincinnati Open Design Event, debuts Oct. 18-21.

The event is a four-day creative conference showcasing local designers and tastemakers.

The brainchild of AGAR (formerly Ionic Collective), CODE brings together international firms like LPK and Landor, as well as a bevy of freelancers and other professionals who call Cincinnati home. Over the course of four days, CODE participants will carve out Cincinnati’s creative manifesto, intent on solidifying the city’s international reputation, and build on that reputation.

CODE partners include Mitchell’s Salon and Day Spa and Navarro Photography, along with sponsors like LPK and 4EG. It is part professional education and part creative collaboration with plenty of opportunities for networking and socializing.

Andrew Salzbrun, AGAR managing partner, says, “CODE creates a unified place where local designers can really stake their flag in ground.”

CODE’s educational component will be held at the LPK Brand Innovation Center on Garfield Park and will feature a series of talks and sessions. Professionals from large firms to small will present, as will representatives from the University of Cincinnati and Miami University.

The daytime sessions are organized into tracks, including style, consumer marketing and entertainment, with topics ranging from fashion to branding to film and back again. Speakers will highlight how to leverage local design and keep working on the creative edge. The goal is brash and bold: create Cincinnati’s design manifesto.

While sessions form the framework for daytime activities, the evenings bring a whole new level of networking with peers.

Spearheaded by AGAR, event and experiential marketers that are responsible for some of the coolest events around, the CODE evening lineup includes custom designed cocktails during the Creative Directors Happy Hour, and Rocktober on Fountain Square in partnership with 4EG. The event concludes with a City Flea-inspired Freelance Market and evening fashion show.

“The creative talent in this city is as good or better than you’ll find anywhere,” says Salzbrun. “CODE gives our city a chance to showcase that talent.”

Tickets cost $125 for all three days, and can be purchased online.

By Deidra Wiley Necco

Requiem Project takes root, grows community

Just one year ago, the Emery Theatre, one of the nation's top acoustic concert halls, sat empty in Over the Rhine. For decades, its once-sumptuous spaces were neglected. They eroded. They crumbled. They gathered more than their share of dust.

Since last November, more than 6,000 guests have seen art shows, watched dancers perform, heard beautiful music and witnessed a dream unfold in the spaces Mary Emery had built to serve the people of Cincinnati.

That dream, known as the Requiem Project, continues to build this fall with a five-event series called "Art Moves Here," which debuts Sept. 30 with a FotoFocus-affiliated exhibit called "Handsome" by Chris Hoeting.

Hoeting built "Handsome" specific to the Emery's nooks and crannies, knowing that his show would run in tandem with Midpoint Music Festival performances at the site as well as a showing of Mike Disfarmer's beautiful and sometimes unsettling portraits, set to be on display starting .

Like so many other endeavors over the past year, "Handsome" reflects the power and the potential of the Emery to occupy an emerging space in the local arts scene—to bring together art forms, artists and neighbors and together, to build a stronger, vibrant and diverse community.

"All of these things live together," says Requiem Project co-founder Tara Lindsey Gordon. She and partner Tina Manchise lead the all-volunteer effort to restore the Emery, which publicly kicked off on 11.11.11.

Since then, the two have built a non-profit business dedicated to the idea that Cincinnati needs the Emery. The idea that the space gives something powerful to the community, from guests at performances and fundraisers to the four neighborhood kids who "work" at the Emery after school.

Their fall season is filled with partnerships that bring something new to the city, from multimedia shows in conjunction with FotoFocus and independent artists, to a show with the Contemporary Arts Center that features Andy Warhol screen tests that will be projected on stage during a music performance.

"This is a huge endeavor," says Manchise. She could be talking about the complex programming line-up that involves Requiem's five major events this fall or the massive renovation work the Emery needs. The building sat empty for years, she notes, because keeping its doors open requires near-constant work.

She and Lindsey Gordon, who average between 40 and 80 hours a week doing Requiem Project work, take no salaries. They admit the task before them can feel daunting. But unlike last year, when some looked at the Emery as "the Tina and Tara show," now they know there are far more people involved, and invested in the theater's success.

First, there's the core of more than a dozen dedicated volunteers who help with everything from volunteer coordination to site logistics. Then, there are the neighbors, from fellow business owners to the fire marshall (who checks in weekly) to neighbors who find support and respite at the Emery.

Manchise and Lindsey Gordon take the "open door" policy seriously, partnering with groups large and small to offer spaces, time and support to independent artists, groups like the YPCC, Exhale Dance Tribe and even the Starfire Council, who look to the Emery as a safe place for practice and experimentation.

"We're not only a venue," says Manchise, who notes that one of the "Art Moves Here" events takes place outside of the historic theater.

"Contained," a collection of 11 shipping containers filled with different artists' works, will be set in the Grammer's parking lot on Walnut Street. The Oct. 20 event illustrates the Requiem Project's goal to connect with the community both inside and outside of the Emery.

Manchise and Lindsey Gordon know the stakes are high. It will take $25 million to revive the Emery. For now, the partners are in a sense performing perpetual CPR on the site, keeping it alive, making improvements as they can and building a community of supporters who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, literally.

They work with partners who accept the extra challenges inherent in a space with a temporary certificate of occupancy. (Manchise and Lindsey Gordon will apply for another next year.) They work with weekend volunteers who clean under every seat in the auditorium because maintenance doesn't come cheap. They head home with green hands and way too much information about Port-o-lets and water supplies.

They stress over taking on too many projects. They squabble over printer jams and QuickBooks. They joke that they spend so much time together that it's like they are sharing tight quarters on a ship.

And still, they couldn't be more proud of the space where they have invested their money, their time and their lives.

"The theater is doing exactly what it is meant to do," Manchise says. "A buiding like this can do so much good."

Find out more about the Requiem Project's fall season as well as the fall line-up of events at the Emery on the newly re-launced website, built by Mower + Associates.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.

Boswell's makes a comeback in Northside

Northsiders, and really anyone who ever visited Boswell’s before 2004, remember the Bousin Burger, a thick, juicy staple on the neighborhood restaurant/bar’s menu. 

Beginning early September, the burger, along with an array of new vegetarian-friendly items, return to a fully renovated space once again owned and operated by Mike and Jan Beck, with business partners Walt and Debbie Schultz. 

“It was just always such a fun and exciting place to run,” says Mike Beck, who also owns a rental property in the neighborhood. “We always had a tremendous business there. We enjoyed the community and the people.”

Beck, who lives north of Ross, Ohio, first bought the space on the corner of Blue Rock and Boswell in 1983. In 2004, even though business was strong, he and his wife needed to take a break to help care for her ailing mother. 

But Beck never forgot Northside, and Northside never forgot Beck. When the building was taken over by Northside Bank & Trust, the bank president hired Beck to renovate the restaurant space as well as four apartments upstairs. 

Then the building went up for auction, and Beck and his friend Walt Schultz decided to go watch the sale. As they stood and talked, Beck couldn’t stop thinking about the building. He turned to his friend and said, “Northside is up and coming. I think we should do this.”

After they informed their wives that they were once again building owners, they considered different business ideas. Should they open a wine and cheese shop? Maybe a small deli? Or pizza? But none of those ideas stuck.

“The more we thought about reopening Boswell’s,” he says, “the more excited we got.”

While Beck and his team have completely renovated the restaurant’s kitchen and patio, they were able to hire some of the former employees. He plans for music on the patio through the fall, just like the old days.

“I think Northside has expanded,” Beck says. “We’re pretty impressed with the community again.”

Depending on furniture delivery and other potential delays, Beck plans to have Boswell’s (now just Boswell’s, not Boswell’s Alley) open for Northside’s Second Saturday this Sept. 8. 

By Elissa Yancey (who was always a big fan of the Boursin Burger)
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Hello Honey offers made-from-scratch ice-cream treats downtown

Move over Graeter’s, there’s a new ice cream shop in town that’s a must-try for anyone who loves ice cream. 

Although Hello Honey has only been open a little more than a month (its official opening day was July 16), it’s already a clear hit with ice-cream savvy Cincinnatians. 

That popularity is in part because owners Brian and Pook Nicely make their ice cream from scratch. Everything, even the marshmallow toppers, is made from scratch. 

The Nicelys started their ice cream venture a few years ago by making products for their friends and family. At home, they used fresh ingredients, and they figured they could open an ice cream shop using that same concept. 

So Pook used her experience working in restaurants and now oversees the daily operations of Hello Honey. Brian still has a full-time job, but he’s at the shop in the evenings and on the weekends. 

Hello Honey’s Vine Street location reaches a wide variety of customers: downtown workers and residents, college students and families. For now, the Nicelys want to focus on one location. They enjoy being part of the energy behind independent businesses downtown.  

Hello Honey’s menu rotates constantly to adapt to the availability of seasonal ingredients, especially fruit, and to make room for new dessert ideas. Brian says Pook has a great imagination for whipping up flavor combinations, so when inspiration strikes, the new flavor goes on the menu. Unique combinations go hand-in-hand with more traditional options. 

“We want folks to be able to come in and get something they really enjoy, and perhaps get a taste of something they never knew they would like,” Brian says. 

Not only will you get a great treat at Hello Honey, but if you come at the right time, you might be able to see the ice cream being made from start to finish. 

By Caitlin Koenig
Caitlin Koenig is new to Cincinnati, but she’s getting to know her way around. When she’s not writing, she enjoys exploring the city with her husband and playing with her dog, Casper. 

X-Lab offers startups opportunities, expertise, community

In 2010, Xavier University’s Williams College of Business launched its X-LAB program (short for Xavier Launch a Business) in an effort to recognize on-campus opportunities for community engagement. The program is returning for its third year, and is accepting applicants until Sept. 7.

The X-Lab program is designed for people (including students) in the Cincinnati area who are excited about their ideas, but may not necessarily have the skills to execute them in the business world.

“A lot of people understand their ideas and are passionate about them,” says Joe Carter, director of the X-lab competition and a professor at Xavier University, “but they have no idea how to take the next step or how to run a business.”

The program will accept 25 applicants from Cincinnati who are interested in starting their own businesses, social enterprises and nonprofits. The businesses and nonprofits are chosen based on the applicants’ ideas and the potential for local and national growth.

After the X-Lab committee chooses the program’s 25 finalists, they are invited to attend free workshops conducted by local executives and Xavier students and staff. The free workshops teach applicants how to turn their ideas into actual businesses and nonprofits.

“We teach them the components of the business model,” says Carter. “Like how to protect their intellectual property, identifying target audiences and marketing skills.”

Then, the X-Lab committee will choose five finalists in the program and introduce them to potential investors and collaborators. 

Carter says small businesses and nonprofits are important to the community because they help attract and retain jobs and talent in the region. He also says the X-lab members become a community of entrepreneurs, who work together to make their ideas successful.

“We teach them how to run a business, and that builds confidence,” says Carter. “They also want to help one another and network, so it’s a positive experience for everyone.”

By Jen Saltsman
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Plans for Northside Skatepark in motion

In 2000, after considering options for the empty space, Northside Community Council (NCC) members proposed turning the space between Colerain and Kirby into a skatepark as a way to welcome visitors to the neighborhood and reflect the interests of its residents. Backed by the City of Cincinnati and with grant funding, that never-forgotten project is now in motion.

“The idea was that we had to come up with something that we wanted people to see when they come into the neighborhood,” says Tim Jeckering, former president of the NCC. “Whatever we decided on needed to set the tone for what we want this neighborhood to be.”

The Council enlisted the help of the international consulting firm Action Sports Design, which has designed parks in Denver, Santa Fe and St. Cloud, MN. The company recently completed the initial designing phase of the Northside project. Next, members of the NCC plan to raise funds for park construction.

The proposed skatepark will cover 2,300 square feet and will include a skating area, a community garden, a space for small children and a walking trail. 

Action Sports Design constructed the layout of the new park with multiple uses in mind: the skate platforms can also double as stages for performances; hiking trails and a garden provide other outlets for visitors in and from the community.

“We want it to be a positive place for youth for physical activities, exercise and recreation,” says Jeckering. “The idea is to make it a destination skating place; it’s something Cincinnati lacks.”

Jimmy Love, who has been skating Cincinnati for 10 years, says he’s excited to see the project move forward.

“I can't wait to have a spot with new ramps and rails to shred,” says Love. “As a local skater, I realize we damage a lot of the architecture in the city. Now that we’ll have a legitimate place to skate, it's a win-win situation."

By Jen Saltsman
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Cincinnati Innovates' winners collect $100K in awards

One is a soccer dad tired of suffering on the sidelines. Another is a savvy entrepreneur with a plan to help professionals who have said “yes” to one too many find a safe and convenient way home. Still another is a mom inspired by healthy living.

This year’s Cincinnati Innovates winners encompass an impressive range of ideas and strategies to improve quality of life and health.

Rick Pescovitz of Under-the-weather.com won one of the top awards, the $25,000 CPG Strategies Award, for his all-purpose tent built to fit soccer chairs and protect fans from extreme weather. The other $25,000 winner, Brooke Griffin of Skinny Mom, has built a network of more than 70 mom-bloggers around the world. She won investment help from CincyTech.

Another winner, Jon Amster of 321RIDE.com, received a $5,000 Taft Legal/Patent Award for his innovative approach to his membership-based designated driver service already used by the Cincinnati Reds and Dunhumby USA.

In its third year, the Cincinnati Innovates competition awarded $100,000 in funding and in-kind services to entrepreneurs representing 12 business ideas. Since its inception, the competition has sparked millions of dollars of investments in companies with local connections.

More than 200 entries vied for support this year, with awards given in a variety of categories. Commercialization award winners were selected by their sponsors (CincyTech, LPK) with help from a team of judges; in-kind services awards were chosen by sponsors with help from judges; community choice award winners were chosen by the public.

Browse this year’s innovative entries here

By Elissa Yancey
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Brew River Gastropub brings craft beer, gourmet pub food to East End

Brew River Gastropub. The name alone prompts stirrings in the hearts and bellies of Cincinnati foodies.

Joby Bowman, Christian Babani and chef Michael Shields, along with a silent partner, have been developing their casual-meets-gourmet concept for more than two years, while their combined experience spans decades, numerous cuisine styles and geographical locations, from NYC to NOLA.

Brew River soft-opened in July and plans a series of grand opening events later this month. So far, the response from the community has been enthusiastic, a testament to the collaborators’ passion.

“We’re all extremely particular and detail-oriented,” says Bowman. “It shows in everything from the décor, which we’ve done entirely ourselves, to the atmosphere and recipes. People have told us it’s clear there’s a lot of love in every detail.”

When it come to the menus, it’s like Brew River’s answering machine claims: “Local is our focus; libations are our passion.”

Chief among the local ingredients used in their cooking are their house brews—the products of an exclusive partnership with Great Crescent Brewery in Aurora, IN.

“We had all been [home brewing] for quite a while,” says Bowman.

That’s why early in their quest for the perfect location, the group toured—or, as she puts it, “spelunked”—many of the storied former breweries on McMicken Ave.

Soon after, they learned that Maribelle’s would not be renewing their East End lease, and, says Bowman, “Everything just sort of came together from there.”

Well, almost everything.

The Riverside Drive location allows the partners—who Bowman describes as “sort of obsessed with water”—to weave in Cincinnati’s rivertown history. One upside to the building’s non-conforming use zoning? You won’t see copycat bars and restaurants cropping up nearby.  

The lease, however, does not allow for on-site brewing—a minor setback that Bowman and crew hope to eventually remedy by housing that part of the operation in a vacant church just across the street.

In the meantime, the pub’s entrepreneurs are more than happy with their Great Crescent partnership. Patrons seem content, too, imbibing specialty blends like Island Queen Blonde Ale and Ubiquitous Coconut Porter by the pint.

By Hannah Purnell
Follow Hannah on Twitter.
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