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VFA fellow launches crowdfunding for new downtown sandwich shop, The Port OTR

If one relatively new Cincinnatian has his way, a new taste could be rolling in to Cincinnati by next summer—on a fleet of bicycles.

Plans for The Port OTR, a sandwich restaurant, are currently in the works, with Venture for America fellow Dan Bloom, and his friend, Seth Maney, at the helm.

The idea came to Bloom and Maney while walking around and realizing that, aside from sit-down restaurants, quick lunch options downtown are limited. That was enough to get their entrepreneurial ideas percolating.

Their next thought? “Can we make this happen?” 

Bloom knew that Venture for America was hosting a crowdfunding competition that would culminate with funding for a project, so he decided to enter his idea for his newly adopted home, OTR, a reality. 

The duo plans to host a competition this summer at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State to find a third partner for their team—a chef and manager.

“We want to find someone that has big aspirations but wants to start small-scale,” Bloom says. “We want to prove that this is something that can be successful, and then from there see how big we can make it.”

Bloom, who grew up in Boston, also plans to infuse a bit of New England culture into The Port.

“The sandwich that I’m starting with—Thanksgiving Day Sandwich— turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, on a baked sandwich,” Bloom says. “That’s not something you can get down here.”

While The Port’s location is yet to be determined, Bloom estimates the restaurant will be about 500-600 square feet and include a counter with a few stools and a few tables for those who prefer non-delivery, sit-down experiences.

If you want a first taste—or perhaps even have a sandwich named in your honor—The Port OTR’s crowdfunding site is already online. 

By Kyle Stone

Jobs available: Chill Shaved Ice expands

Alia Ali’s business venture, Chill Shaved Ice Bar, began in June 2011 at Findlay Market. Her shaved ice stands out among the rest because the syrups are all natural.
“I’ve always been in business,” says Ali. “I flipped cars in undergrad and imported jewelry after I graduated. I’m interested in health and wellness, and decided to marry business and healthy with Chill.”
In order to expand her business, Ali looked at local organizations that offer business support to entrepreneurs. She was one of 10 finalists in Bad Girl Ventures last fall. And in November, she participated in business classes at Xavier, and then applied to Xavier X-Lab, which pairs businesses with MBA students. That session just wrapped up, but Ali plans to participate in the summer session as well.
“I hope Chill continues to show people that natural and delicious can be in the same sentence,” says Ali.
As of May 23, Chill added to its location options with a Smart car, more like a food car than a food truck, that currently sits outside Kenwood Towne Center's food court entrance, near Forever 21. This makes Ali's second year with a cart outside the Butterfly Show at Krohn Conservatory.
The expansion means that Chill is currently hiring. If you’re interested, contact Ali via Facebook or Twitter (@ChillShavedIceBar), or email her at chillshavedice@gmail.com or give her a call at 513-602-1697.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Tonic Tours showcases Cincinnati beer scene in new ways

Cincinnati is home to a number of breweries, but this summer, beer lovers will be able to experience these breweries in a new way. Starting in July, Tonic Tours, a new alcohol-based tour company, will start offering public tours of microbreweries every second and fourth Saturday of the month.
“I want to show off Cincinnati’s beer scene to both locals and tourists,” says Rachel Dean, aka Ginny Tonic, the mastermind behind Tonic Tours. She originally thought about hosting a local alcohol convention, but figured tours would be more fun.
Tonic Tours is about more than just the brewing process, Dean says. She plans to introduce her clients to the beer-tasting process, including what flavors to look for and how to identify flavors in different beers.
“I plan to infuse art and science into the tours,” she says. “I don’t want people to get bogged down on the brewing process, but I want them to see the art in it. Flavor is a very underappreciated sense, but it’s just as engaging as visuals.”
Each tour is $90, and includes transportation to a handful of breweries, plus drinks, water, a snack and a commemorative glass. For the first few tours, the itinerary will remain much the same, but Dean wants to mix things up a bit so people see different breweries and get to try different beers. Tonic Tours will also be available for private tours and tastings.
Dean will also be teaching a class at the Bird Haus on June 20 on how to make four local summer cocktails.
“A lot of people don’t realize how many great beers are based in Cincinnati,” Dean says. “When you go to a tap room, you might see beers but not know they’re from here—there might not be anything that says ‘Cincinnati proud.’ I want people in Cincinnati to appreciate the great beer makers who are revitalizing Cincinnati’s beer history.”
By Caitlin Koenig
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Holtman's Donuts to open location in Over-the-Rhine

Starting this summer, those with sweet tooths will be able to get Holtman’s Donuts in Over-the-Rhine. Holtman’s announced last week that they’ll be opening a location on Vine Street on the ground floor of the Trinity Flats building.
Charles Holtman started his donut business in 1960—he opened a location in Loveland in 1964, and his daughter and son-in-law, Toni and Chuck Plazarin, opened another in Williamsburg in Oct. 2009. The Plazarin’s son, Danny, and his fiancé, Katie Willing, will operate the OTR location.
“Danny and I started coming to OTR on dates and saw the energy and excitement of the neighborhood,” says Willing. “We searched for the right space for about two years, and we knew OTR was the right place for us.”
Holtman’s has always been a family-run, mom-and-pop shop that bakes from scratch. The OTR location will continue that trend, and will make donuts on-site daily.
“We want to continue the uniqueness of OTR,” says Willing. “We’re really excited to be part of such a great community that is constantly growing and thriving, and we hope to be the neighborhood’s bakery.”
Holtman’s wants to be the place in OTR where families can create their own memories over donuts, she says.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Dress for Success Cincinnati moves to Textile Building

The Textile Building is now home to Dress for Success Cincinnati and 4th Street Boutique. The two businesses moved just 100 feet from their old downtown home of 10 years.
DFS opened its new doors yesterday, only 13 days after taking possession of its new space. The layout of the old space wasn’t ideal, says Julie Smith-Morrow, CEO of DFS Cincinnati. But in the new building, 4th Street Boutique is on the ground floor, and the DFS programs are all on the ninth floor.
“We hope that our clients will feel inspired by the new space when they come in,” says Smith-Morrow. “As always, we’ll be very welcoming, and will meet them where they are.”
DFS Cincinnati is one of 127 affiliates in 15 countries that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help them thrive in work and life. It was founded in the Queen City in 1999, and has served more than 11,000 women in the area. 4th Street Boutique sells women’s new and gently-used clothing, and its net proceeds support DFS.
“We’re really excited about the move—it’s something we’ve wanted to do for years,” says Smith-Morrow. “We’ve had lots of help from the community, which has helped us succeed. We hope to be able to help women get to work, keep their jobs, develop careers and be successful in life.”
By Caitlin Koenig
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Mohr Animal Acres adds food truck to organic meat offerings

Beef, lamb, turkey, chicken and duck are all graze happily at the Mohr family livestock farm in Urbana, Ohio—Mohr Animal Acres. Now, not only does the farm provide retail cuts of meat to farmers' markets in Cincinnati, owner Trudy Mohr recently launched a food truck business.
This past winter, Mohr decided her family needed to start a food truck—Bistro de Mohr—to better serve their customers.
“I saw food trucks on TV, and it made sense with what we were doing,” Mohr says. “We’ve been selling cuts for a while, and we do a lot of specialty sausages, and we cook those sausages, so it seemed like a natural progression for us.”
So far, Bistro de Mohr has only set up one time, but Mohr recently joined the Cincinnati Food Truck Association and will be at an event in Washington Park on May 17.
Along with her two sons and daughter, Mohr serves up grass-fed beef, pastured lamb, turkey, chicken and duck on the food truck. Their meats contain no MSG, and their homemade sausages are all hand-mixed.
“We try to be as environmentally friendly as we can,” says Mohr. “We want to educate people and cook new and different things.”
By Caitlin Koenig
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Montgomery knitting store moves to OTR

On April 3, former Montgomery knitting store Fibergé moved to 1407 Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine. It will be hosting its grand opening event May 17.
In September of 2010, the year Fibergé owner Norma Lawrence Knecht moved to Cincinnati, she left her corporate job and opened the Montgomery location. She decided to move her store to OTR because she wants to contribute to the revitalization efforts in the neighborhood, says Margaux Ayers of MCA Marketing.
“Norma wants to contribute to the arts community in OTR,” Ayers says. “She likes OTR because of the established arts community. People already have an appreciation for the arts here.”
Lawrence Knecht started to knit a few years ago and found she was good at it. The artsy craft also helped her better control her anxiety and quit smoking, Ayers says.
Ayers says Lawrence Knecht is excited to bring beginning knitters into Fibergé and help people understand the art of knitting. Beginning knitting kits start at $20.
Fibergé sells Spud & Chloe, Blue Sky Alpacas and Rowan yarns, and offers hundreds of patters for one-of-a-kind garments and accessories. Lawrence Knecht also offers knitting classes, private lessons and daily project assistance—no appointment needed.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Food trucks to vend in OTR sites, including Washington Park

The Mobile Food Vending Program began as a pilot program in 2010, with food truck zones at Fifth and Race streets, Court Street and Sawyer Point. Since its inception, MFVP has expanded to Fountain Square, the University area, and most recently, Washington Park and Over-the-Rhine.
Last Wednesday, City Council passed MFVP into law. In 30 days, there will be new breakfast and lunchtime food truck zones at Washington Park for three trucks, a nighttime zone in OTR at 12th and Clay streets for two trucks, plus a streamlined application and easier payment options for vendors.
“This is great news for food trucks,” says Emily Frank, president of the Cincinnati Mobile Food Truck Association and owner/operator of C’est Cheese food truck. “It shows that City Council supports food trucks and wants to see them around for many years to come.”
Frank says CMFTA targeted OTR for two reasons. The organization has a great working relationship with 3CDC, and they want to help promote Washington Park as a lunch spot. Bistro tables and chairs will be set out so customers don’t have to sit on the ground.
Food trucks have wanted to vend in OTR at night for several years, but haven’t been able to. The Night Owl Market sets up in a parking lot some weekends, but food trucks were looking for other places to park to reach a wider customer base.
“There’s a great late-night scene in OTR, and we’re thrilled to now be able to provide more fast, casual food options for everyone,” Frank says.
Changes were also made to the application and payment options for food trucks. First, the $25 application fee was removed. Second, the $1,000 permit fee that once had to be paid in full, can now either be paid in full or be split into two payments of $600. The new option does end cost more, but it allows for flexibility for truck owners, who can now purchase only six months for $600.
CMFTA is excited about their new vending opportunities, and later this year, they plan to tackle other areas of downtown, such as the Contemporary Arts Center, the Taft Theatre and the Duke Energy Convention Center, Frank says.
On May 17, there will be a press event at lunchtime in Washington Park to kick off the new food truck zones.
By Caitlin Koenig
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New beer, food trucks highlight 35th year of Taste of Cincinnati

Many locals are familiar with Taste of Cincinnati, but for the 35th year, there are a few changes to the event. New features include the Taste of Cincinnati Experience; Tastings, Tappings and Tours by Christian Moerlein; and Food Truck Alley.
“For one weekend, Taste of Cincinnati is the biggest nightclub in town,” says Patrick Sheeran, VP at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “With food, drink, music, rides and games, there’s truly something for everyone.”
Taste of Cincinnati will be held May 25-27 along Fifth Street from Vine to Broadway, and will feature food and drink from 45 area restaurants as well as 70 live entertainment acts. There will also be various rides and games; admission to the event is free.
Taste will feature 10 of Cincinnati’s signature restaurants, including 20 BrixRuth’s Chris Steak HouseDaveed’sOrchid’sThe PalaceTano and Graeter’s, which will feature intimate dining and live music. Chefs from participating restaurants will be on-site for three-hour increments each day, and representatives will also be in the area with samplings and cooking demonstrations. Taste will be located in P&G Gardents at Fifth and Sycamore streets.
Christian Moerlein is now the official beer of Taste of Cincinnati. The brewery will be serving up a handful of its signature beers at the Moerlein Beer Garden on Fountain Square, plus specialty kegs of dry hopped cask-conditioned ales—“Pins and Firkins”—that will be tapped every two hours. Taste of Cincinnati visitors will be offered free one-hour tours of the Christian Moerlein Production Craft Brewery at 1621 Moore Street in Over-the-Rhine.
“Christian Moerlein has deep roots in the city, and has become a resurgent brand,” Sheeran says. “It fits with the event, plus the city is in the midst of a resurgence itself.”
Taste of Cincinnati is also adding food trucks to the event—local food trucks will be taking over North Broadway just off of Fifth Street. Food Truck Alley will feature food from Café de WheelsC’est CheeseEAT Mobile DiningGold Star Chili MobileMellow Mushroom and Sugarsnap!
Apart from adding new events, Taste of Cincinnati will be making a $10,000 donation to the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State to refurbish its teaching kitchens. The money for the donation will come from the fee local restaurants pay to be part of Taste of Cincinnati, and the event will then match that amount.
“Here in Cincinnati, many of the city’s best restaurants employ graduates of Cincinnati State,” Sheeran says. “We want to help the school, so we can continue to have the great food we have here in town.”
By Caitlin Koenig
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Tom+Chee hopes to expand brand on 'Shark Tank'

On National Grilled Cheese Day, April 12, Tom+Chee founders Corey Ward and Trew Quackenbush announced to the public that they will be appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank. The show features entrepreneurs who pitch their ideas to famous and successful business leaders for investment opportunities.
Ward and Quackenbush started Tom+Chee with their wives, Jenny and Jenn, in 2009 when they served grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup to ice skaters at Fountain Square. A year later, they opened their first restaurant on Court Street; they opened a Tom+Chee at Newport on the Levee in 2011, and one on Walnut Street in 2012. They’ve also recently opened two locations in Louisville—a third is under construction—but they want to expand their brand beyond the Tri-State area.
On the show, Ward and Quackenbush will pitch Tom+Chee to Mark Cuban, media and sports, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks; Barbara Corcoran, real estate; Daymond John, fashion; Kevin O’Leary, educational software; and Robert Herjavec, technology. Their goal is to secure investment and take Tom+Chee global.
Tom+Chee has already been featured in an episode of Travel Channel’s Man v. Food Nation and two episodes of Amazing Eats, and its grilled cheese donut was named one of the Best Sandwiches in America by the TODAY show. It was also featured on CBS’s The Chew.
Look for Ward and Quackenbush on Shark Tank May 17 at 9 p.m.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Bakersfield OTR team to open new restaurant across from The Brandery

Joe Lanni and his business partners have had great success with their Over-the-Rhine restaurant, Bakersfield OTR. They recently expanded their brand to Indianapolis, opening a second Bakersfield on March 11.
And by the end of the dog days of summer, they plan to open another new restaurant on Vine Street: The Eagle Food and Beer Hall.
The name directly relates to the new business' physical space. It will occupy a former Post Office. Since the eagle is the symbol for the United States Postal Service, Lanni thought it would be cool to resurrect the symbol.
The Eagle will serve American fare, with a specialty in fried chicken, Lanni says. There are also plans for a burger and three or four other sandwiches, plus soups and salads. And as the rest of its name suggests, The Eagle will also serve up great beer.
“When we opened Bakersfield, there wasn’t much open on Vine Street,” Lanni says. “We wanted to open there because we liked the plans for the neighborhood, and in time, it did take off. We’ve enjoyed being part of that growth, and want to continue to be part of OTR with our new restaurant.”
By Caitlin Koenig
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Emery lights back up April 12-14

Dance, art and music fill the Emery Theatre in Over the Rhine this weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Contemporary Dance Theatre as well as the return of MusicNOW.

The theatre, which was donated to the city in 1908 thanks to the charitable trust of Mary Emery, is currently owned by the University of Cincinnati and leased to the Emery Center Corporation, which manages the Emery Center Apartments. The theater, a replica of Carnegie Hall, is one of only three remaining halls in the nation designed with perfect acoustics. The Requiem Project: The Emery, a site-specific 501c3 founded in 2009, is working to re-establish the historic space as an event venue and interdisciplinary arts and education center. 

After going dark for the winter months as negotiations continue over the building's future, the theater hosts two major public events this weekend.

MusicNOW's first-ever art show runs in the Emery's gallery spaces through the weekend. It features pieces by Cincinnati natives Jessie Henson and Nathalie Provosty, both of whom currently work out of New York. Sunday, MusicNOW founder and The National member Bryce Dessner makes a special appearance at the Emery for a performance during a gallery party from 4-6 pm.

In addition to the MusicNOW events, the Emery also welcomes the April 13 anniversary gala for the Contemporary Dance Theatre, which was founded in 1972 by current artistic director and local dance icon Jefferson James. David Lyman plays host during the celebration, which features video, photography, costumes and more. 

While the future of the Emery and efforts to revive it remain unclear, at least for this weekend, there's a chance to enjoy an amazing local space being used for all the right reasons--to celebrate the local arts community and its connection to the broader artistic and cultural landscape of our time.

The MusicNOW exhibit and Bryce Dessner performance are free and open to the public.

Tickets for the CDC gala available here.

By Elissa Yancey
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Quan Hapa refines menu, atmosphere on Vine Street

David Le and his business partners, brothers Duy and Bao Nguyen, are known for the traditional Vietnamese fare at Findlay Market’s Pho Lang Thang. But the trio wanted to bring Asian street food to Vine Street.
Quan Hapa, an Asian gastropub, opened the week before Christmas. “Hapa” is the word for someone who is part-Asian, which is perfect because the restaurant’s fare is a mixture of the best dishes and drinks from Korea, Vietnam, Japan and Hawaii.
The restaurant is small, but comfortable and relaxed, with its menu displayed on a chalkboard.
In the few months it’s been open, Quan Hapa has already adapted based on early feedback. “We felt that things were a bit confusing when we first opened,” Le says. “For the first few months, there was a bit of a lack of identity in our food and the atmosphere.”
Le and his partners no longer serve “street food” on $16 plates. Instead, the food is served in baskets and condiments can be found on the tables. They also revamped the price points of many of their dishes to try and find the balance between the perception of value and the amount of food, Le says.
Le and the Nguyen brothers aren’t chefs, so they’re working with Billy Grise, a trained chef, to fine tune every dish. And you won’t find Pho Lang Thang’s bahn mi at Quan Hapa.
Some of Quan Hapa’s popular dishes include a Vietnamese-style Ramen, a Japanese-style pancake and Bun Bo Hue, which is a traditional soup from the Imperial city of Hue. As far as drinks go, diners like shochu, which has a Korean or Vietnamese vodka, fresh squeezed juice and soda water in it, Le says.
“As the first Asian restaurant on Vine, we wanted to introduce people to traditional Asian fare,” Le says. A few months after Quan Hapa opened, Kaze joined them in Over-the-Rhine.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Just three units left in award-winning Schickel Design Company's Bakery Lofts in OTR

Schickel Design Company recently won a Star Award from the Over-the-Rhine Chamber in recognition of its architecture projects in OTR. The firm’s most recent project is Bakery Lofts, which is located at 1421 Race Street.
“It’s wonderful to be recognized for our overall work in Cincinnati and OTR,” says Martha Dorff, Bakery Lofts’ project architect.
Bakery Lofts was built in the mid-1800s, and housed a bakery for about 100 years. It was originally a mixed-use building with first-floor commercial space and residential units above, but Schickel Design, 3CDC and Graybach Construction have redesigned the building and turned it into nine condos.
The one- to three-bedroom condos range in price from $155,000 to $350,000; and although most of the units are under contract, there are still three available.
William Schickel started the firm in Loveland in 1948; it moved to its current location in OTR in 2005. Schickel Design is known for renovations and new construction projects, architecture, space planning, development, interior design, stained glass, environmental graphics and art consultation.
Other projects completed by Schickel Design include the City Home Cincinnati project, City Home Race, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Chapel of the Holy Child and Peace Place at the hospital’s Liberty Township campus, Good Samaritan Hospital’s Dixmyth Lobby and Main Street.
“As a company, we see a bright future for Cincinnati, and great growth for it and cities like it,” Dorff says. “It’s geographically beautiful and a great place to live and work. It’s a city that people want to move back to and raise a family.”
The city is hosting a ribbon cutting for Bakery Lofts on Thursday at 10 a.m.
By Caitlin Koenig
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CORE Resources wins Star Award for job creation

Every year, the Over-the-Rhine Chamber awards a handful of businesses for their strides in categories like Property Development, Nonprofit of the Year, New Business of the Year and Business of the Year. This year, CORE Resources won in a new category, Job Creation of the Year.
CORE—a builder and developer of retail, office, restaurant and healthcare facilities—was founded in 1990. In 2010, it employed nine people; today, CORE has 34 employees and plans to hire 10 more in 2013.
“We’re thrilled to be having a growth spurt and hiring people again,” says President Paul Kitzmiller. “We hope that with further recognition in the community, CORE’s services can help grow the surrounding community and further participate in revitalization.”
For the past few years, CORE has been involved in revitalization and renovation projects in OTR. Some of its OTR projects include the Color Building (home of CORE’s office), KAZE, Quan Hapa and Washington Park. CORE is getting ready to start the renovation of Eli’s BBQ on Vine Street and the apartments above.
At Sixth and Walnut, CORE has worked on the Righteous Room, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse and Nada. They’re getting ready to open Sotto, and in the next 30 days, they’ll be opening Boca. CORE is also the general contractor for the anchor restaurant at U Square at the LoopKeystone Bar and Grill.
“In the future, we want to be involved with more projects and help create a wonderful neighborhood,” says Kitzmiller.
By Caitlin Koenig
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