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New bicycle lanes in the East End to open soon

For three years, residents of the East End met with the Department of Transportation and City Council to come up with a plan for a safer, more pleasant neighborhood. And by the end of the month, the orange barrels throughout the East End will be gone, and the longest, flattest bicycle route in the city will be open.
 
Construction has been done in stages, and everything from Delta Avenue to downtown has been redone as part of the plan. The length of bicycle lanes between Congress Avenue and St. Andrews was opened last year, and this year, the lanes between St. Andrews and downtown will be completed, says East End resident Jackie Weist.
 
The bicycle lanes are, in part, an effort to reduce the noise coming from US-50 and US-52. There are now engine brake signs along the highways, but that hasn’t eliminated the noise. Residents hope the bicycle lanes will force drivers to slow down and reduce the amount of traffic through the neighborhood.
 
The East End bicycle facility was part of the 2010 Bicycle Transportation Plan. The area is ideal because it’s flat, it connects to the Ohio River Trail where the East End ends, and it goes by Lunken Airport and along Riverside Drive.
 
“We hope the new bicycle lanes will bring more bicyclists to the area and bring awareness to what’s going on down here,” says Weist.
 
There’s a lot of history in the East End—a steamboat captain’s home has been remodeled, and rock walls and wrought iron are prevalent. It’s also home to Lunken Airport, the oldest commercial airport in the United States, and the oldest Yacht Club in Ohio.
 
Prior to the official ribbon cutting, the neighborhood is planning a clean up of the area, and may be followed by dinner at BrewRiver Gastropub. Queen City Bike is working with the East End Community Council to plan the event. For more information on the ribbon cutting, check out the Bike Program calendar.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Findlay After Four gets shoppers to the market on Thursdays

On the weekends, Findlay Market is packed with shoppers and vendors, but during the week, things quiet down, especially later in the day. The goal of Findlay After Four is to promote shopping at the market on Thursdays between 4 and 6 p.m.
 
“We hope that this will drive more shoppers to the market between 4 and 6 p.m., and begin to chip away at the confusion around market hours,” says Karen Kahle, resource development director for Findlay Market. “There’s a perception that the market isn’t always reliably open until 6 p.m., and we hope to convince those merchants who don’t remain open to stay open because there is more money to be made if they do.”
 
Every Thursday, Findlay Market has a variety of activities planned to encourage people to shop. This week, there will be a cooking demonstration by a guest chef, and recipe cards will be handed out so shoppers can take them and find ingredients for the dish. Christian Moerlein and MadTree beers will be available at the OTR Biergarten, and there will be a raffle and giveaways.  
 
The first Findlay After Four was July 11, and Kahle says she is pleased with the result.
 
“We want to learn more about what the hours of operation are that shoppers want and need in order to conveniently and consistently shop at Findlay Market,” she says. However, it will take more than a handful of people requesting extended hours of operation to make extended hours financially feasible.
 
Findlay After Four is spearheaded by Julie Gosdin of Wine Me, Dine Me; Bob Schwartz of 5chw4rz blog; Annette Wick of TheseWritingShoes blog; and Barb Cooper from Daisy Mae’s.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Hinge upcycles, recycles vintage pieces

Walnut Hills is now home to Hinge, a vintage home goods and upcycled furniture store, which opened at the end of June.
 
Hinge owners Amanda Wilson and David Piper also do custom projects—they’ll take clients'  furniture and make them fresh again. Piper also creates large-scale murals and custom wallpaper.
 
After high school, Wilson, a Monroe native, moved to Chicago for college. She started working in pharmaceutical research and then became a professional triathlete. She eventually returned to the research industry, working during the day and crafting at night.
 
While in Chicago, Wilson met Piper, a Dallas native and full-time artist. The two realized they could make amazing pieces and decided to start a business together.
 
“Our eye is what sets us apart,” Wilson says. “When we see an old piece of furniture or rusty item, we come up with amazing ideas of what it ‘can’ be.”
 
Hinge has some unique, one-of-a-kind pieces for sale, and Wilson and Piper have gone into people’s homes and offered their design services.
 
“Coming from Chicago, we hope to bring a bit of big city design to Walnut Hills,” Wilson says. “There, we were flooded with ideas and inspiration from our surroundings, museums and the overall city space, and we hope to serve up a bit of contemporary design with rustic edges here.”
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Find the perfect fit at Mizti

Mizti, the only women’s shoe store in Clifton, opened Oct. 30. The store offers women’s shoes and accessories, such as handbags, scarves, sarongs, jewelry, iPad holders and wallets.
 
Although Mizti is small, owner Tabatha Adkins says her level of service is among the highest around.
 
“Department stores and other places are more self-serve,” she says. “I offer an intimate setting and personal attention to my customers.”
 
Mizti is open Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. While the shop is closed Mondays, Adkins will open for appointments that day.
 
Adkins travels to trade shows in New York, Atlanta and Chicago to find the latest trends for her shop. Shoe prices average between $39 and $89—boots and booties range from $59 to $159. Adkins carries sizes 5 ½ to 11; this fall, she will stock more shoes in sizes 12 and 13, as well as wide calf boots.
 
In a twist on traditional retail space, Adkins reserves 5 to 9 p.m. Saturdays for parties. And before the end of summer, she will start hosting Diva Parties, where a group of friends can come in and try on shoes. Hostesses and party guests will receive discounts on their purchases.
 
“I want to be an outlet where women can come and buy shoes and accessories,” says Adkins.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Newport's Monmouth Row to offer small town, big city living

On June 26, Towne Properties and Carlisle Enterprises broke ground on Monmouth Row, Newport’s newest apartment complex. The 102-unit multi-family community is slated to be completed by summer 2014.
 
The development is located on Monmouth Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, one block from Newport on the Levee. It will occupy the whole city block, and will offer a fitness center and an outdoor terrace for residents to enjoy.
 
Monmouth Row’s apartments will be housed in three-story, brick, rowhouse-style buildings that blend in with the historic architecture of Newport. The apartments will start at $875 per month, and although the majority of the units will be one-bedroom, there are a handful of two-bedroom units.
 
There will be 12 different layouts for the apartments, with stacked washer/dryers, updated kitchens, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and breakfast bars. Some units will also have kitchen islands.
 
The $10 million project is being developed by Towne Properties on land owned by Wayne Carlisle, a Newport native who has been investing in local developments, property and businesses since the late 1990s.
 
“We think the project will really add to the growing vibrancy of the neighborhood, and we think our future residents will enjoy this perfect blend of small town and big city living,” says Janet Chiarella, vice president of marketing for Towne Properties.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Vintage art, clothing, furniture available at Covingtonís District 78

For the past 15 months, District 78 was an online-only business. But on June 1, the vintage clothing, art and furniture store opened a storefront in Covington.
 
Owner Erikka Gray has always loved vintage, so she started collecting art, clothing and furniture from estate sales and thrifting. After a while, she realized she had too much, and she decided to start a business selling it.
 
“I started selling at the City Flea last year, and a lot of my customers wanted me to open a storefront,” she says. “I came across a good opportunity and took that leap of faith.”
 
In December of last year, a fellow Covington shop owner reached out to Gray about doing a pop-up shop for District 78. Soon after, she found a storefront, which is next door to Shrewdness of Apes.
 
“I wanted to open a space where people can find unique pieces—not just clothing, but art, too,” Gray says. “I want to showcase art, design and furniture from local and up-and-coming artists and designers.”
 
On July 5, District 78 is hosting a listening release party for Jay-Z’s new album, ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail.’ The event is from 6 to 9 p.m., and there will be giveaways of the new album, plus unique Jay-Z related items.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Ghettopia offers dorm-style accommodations for travelers in OTR

While travelers are already leaving positive feedback and recommeding the space to their friends, Susan Angel’s Ghettopia will be fully open for business soon. Ghettopia OTR Bunk Haus is a 22-bed, dormitory-style hostel for travelers—there’s a kitchenette, three showers, a common room and steam room.
 
“I travel a lot—I’ve been to Europe, India, Hawaii—and I always stay at bunkhouses,” says Angel. “I wanted to bring some of that onto Main Street for the travelers that come through here.”
 
Angel started as a couch surfing host, and she met people from all over the world. After doing that for a while, she began to go through the process of opening a legal bunkhouse in Cincinnati.
 
And Ghettopia isn’t a ghetto. The name comes from the “ghettos” German immigrants lived in Germany and when they came to the United States. Since Over-the-Rhine (and much of Cincinnati) was founded by Germans, Angel thought the name was perfect.
 
Angel bought the building at 1424 Main Street in 2005. She applied for a “city beautification” grant, in which she paid 20 percent and the City paid 80 percent for updating the space. She’s done all of the renovations herself, using materials that would normally go to the landfill. For example, the floors are mosaics of mismatched tiles Angel collected from builders, contractors and Ohio Tile and Marble.
 
“I wanted to create an organic, Earth-friendly atmosphere,” says Angel.
 
Plus, Angel is an artist—she had a gallery at 1409 Main Street and taught classes at Rothenberg. The walls of her dorms are covered in art, and there’s a mural on one of the outer walls of the building that was done by local artist Douglas Smith.  
 
Not only is Angel opening a bunkhouse in OTR, but part of her business plan includes a bunkhouse route across the U.S. She’s currently looking for a second bunkhouse location in Louisville.
 
“We’re looking for certain things when we’re looking to open a bunkhouse,” she says. “We want them to be on or near Main Street; we want to support the local arts; we want to renovate the building with materials that normally go to the landfill; and we want to be a green or environmentally conscious place to stay.”
 
Cincinnati’s Ghettopia is still undergoing renovations, but is already operating at about 30 percent capacity. Angel is currently working on the steam room, and hopes to have the bunkhouse fully operational by the end of the year.
 
If you’re interested in bunking at Ghettopia, check out the availability at airbnb.com. Beds are $25 per night, $120 per week or $420 per month, with a maximum stay of three months.

You can also check out Ghettopia on OTR's Final Friday. There will be live music and movies projected on the walls of the building.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Downtown's 580 Building gets new life

Cincinnati’s 580 Building, located at 580 Walnut Street, was sold at a sheriff’s sale in 2012. Anderson Birkla Investment Partners, LLC acquired the building in 2013, and they have big plans in store.
 
Prior to the sheriff's sale, the 17-story building had a high vacancy rate. Anderson Birkla is investing $40 million to redevelop it. When construction is complete in 2014, AT580—the building's new name—will house apartments, offices and entertainment.

"There aren't many buildings like this in Cincinnati," says Anthony Birkla, principal at Anderson Birkla. "We're trying to take advantage of the good things that are going on in the Central Business District. AT580 will be somewhere you can live, work and play."

Last week, Anderson Birkla received a letter of intent for AT580's first restaurant, a steakhouse that will be on street level at the corner of Sixth and Walnut; they've had interest in the other restaurant location, which is at the corner of Sixth and Main, but nothing is set in stone yet.

At the plaza level, AT580 will have retail and 26 suites. On top of that, the first six floors of will house 180,000 square feet of office space. The top seven floors of the building will have 140 residential apartments, while the top floor will house 13 penthouses with their own elevator—in all, AT580 will have 179 units, plus one guest suite for residents and their guests.
 
Renovation will begin this summer, with units available by late 2013.
 
The City of Cincinnati provided a 12-year tax abatement for the project and partnered with the Cincinnati Development Fund on a Build Cincinnati Development Fund contribution.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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The Squirrel brings back Cincinnatiís chili roots

Twenty-five years ago, The Red Squirrel opened at the corner of Fourth and Walnut downtown Cincinnati. In May 2010, Renee Fields purchased the restaurant and changed the name to The Squirrel

Although Fields changed the name, she didn’t change much about the menu. But she did add a few items, including an award-winning hickory smoked BBQ that spends hours in prep on a rotisserie smoker. The Squirrel also brought back the original Cincinnati chili, Empress Chili, and is the only restaurant that serves it. 

The menu is also chock full of double decker sandwiches, salads and soups that Fields makes fresh daily. She sees food as not just food, but an art.  

Fields’ interest in cooking stemmed from her parents, who are seasoned cooks—they’ve done fundraising events for the Shriners Hospitals for Children and cooked at Taste of CincinnatiSummerfair, the Appalachian Festival and the Mason lodge that her dad belongs to. 

“We hope to offer a fun environment and good food at a good price, while staying true to our roots and keeping the Cincinnati tradition alive and kicking after all of these years,” Fields says. 

By Caitlin Koenig
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Local wine enthusiasts launch blog, classes to educate others

Kathy Merchant and Amy Neyer, local wine enthusiasts, recently launched their wine education blog, Vino Ventures. The pair designed the blog to provide a creative environment to share their passion for wine, as well as provide educational content and information about events happening in the area.
 
“We want to tell stories in a verbal and visual manner,” says Neyer, who has written about wine for the Cincinnati Enquirer and CityBeat.
 
Merchant, the president and CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, became interested in wine a business trip to California in the summer of 1994.
 
“I visited Napa Valley, and it felt like coming home,” she says. After that, she pursued her wine education informally, and then decided to become more serious about it about 10 years ago. She holds a diploma level accreditation from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, and is a Society of Wine Educators Certified Specialist.
 
Neyer’s love for wine began in 1990, when a friend, who was a great cook, exposed her to different types of wine and food pairings.
 
“Over time, I visited San Francisco and became more interested in wine, and I met people who were like-minded,” she says. “I learned as much as I could, and decided to take it to the professional level a few years ago.”
 
Neyer holds an Advanced Certified designation from WSET and like Merchant, is a SWE Certified Specialist in Wine. The pair actually took the exam for that certification together last fall.
 
“Wine can be intimidating if someone doesn’t take the time to simplify it and make it fun,” says Merchant. “We want to offer that to people through education and our blog.”
 
Along with their blog, Merchant and Neyer are also launching a new independent credentialed wine education program in the area. Starting in July, they’ll be offering a Level One certification course on behalf of the Cleveland-based American Wine School.
 
“We see this as an opportunity to provide something that no one else is doing,” says Neyer. “If people want to learn about wine, there are wine tastings of different forms, which can be fun. But some people want to learn more and immerse themselves more deeply than an hour at a wine store or smaller event. We’re hoping to provide that—an independent perspective that was born out of getting smart about wine. And we’re passionate about getting people to enjoy it and learn more about it.”
 
The classes will be held at the Metropolitan Club in Covington, and founders describe them as perfect for wine novices and enthusiasts who are looking for a formal education or a credential in wine. Register for the class here.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Main Bite serves up seasonal plates in Covington's Mainstrasse

Mainstrasse Village in Covington has seen a handful of new businesses open in the past few months, including Main Bite, which opened May 28. Main Bite’s menu features seasonally-inspired small plates made from the freshest ingredients owner Margie Potts can get her hands on.
 
Potts, a cooking instructor and media personality, sources her ingredients from the restaurant’s on-site garden and a plot she has in a community garden. Her vendors are all local, even her bank and payroll.
 
“When you establish yourself in a community, you do as much as you can for the community, and they’ll support you too,” says Potts.
 
Potts owned a restaurant a few years ago—MJ’s on Main—but it was more of a bar and was hard to change, she says. It wasn’t exactly what she wanted, so she sold it, and started looking for another space in Covington to open her new restaurant.
 
She chose was a white building that needed a lot of TLC. It’s now painted different colors and boasts an outdoor courtyard with window boxes and flowers everywhere. Potts plans to string lights in the courtyard for a glowing effect at night.

“My goal with Main Bite is to present healthy food options in a way that makes them beautiful and delicious, and creates a fun dining experience,” she says.
  
Main Bite is now open for lunch during the week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m; dinner is served Tuesday-Friday from 4 to 11:30 p.m.; expanded weekend hours are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Mediterranean sandwich shop opens at Newport on the Levee

Petra Cuisine, a Mediterranean sandwich shop, opened June 1 at Newport on the Levee. Petra is housed in the space formerly occupied by Smoothie King, near Saxbys Coffee on the Riverwalk level.
 
“Petra” is a lost city in Jordan that is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Owner Al Alsheyyab thought it would be a unique, authentic name for his restaurant that also ties into the food he serves.
 
Alsheyyab, a Cincinnati native, has a background in restaurants—he worked for Skyline Chili for six years, then at a few other eateries before deciding it was time to open one of his own.
 
Petra Cuisine’s specialty is the gyro, but his falafel has also been popular, he says.
 
“The Levee has a great atmosphere,” he says. “Lots of people come to see the river or go to the aquarium or the movies. I’m hoping Petra will be able to provide something quick to eat before people go on to the next thing.”
 
Petra is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Covington couple follows dream, opens coffeehouse

Russ and Jackie Slone’s dream of owning a coffee shop has been 30 years in the making. They approached officials in the City of Covington and decided to start to build equity before opening their own business. It wasn't a quick process; they purchased a fixer-upper and raised their two daughters.
 
Eight years ago, the Slones purchased the building at 701 Greenup Street and began making it their home and their dream. Left Bank Coffeehouse opened its doors May 28, and the Slone’s two daughters, Katie Bialczak and Maggie Soard—both former Starbucks baristas—help them run the place.
 
“We wanted to open a coffeehouse because we saw that at the time, there weren’t that many around Cincinnati, but we knew they were popular,” Russ says.
 
“Left Bank” refers to the proximity of the coffee shop to the Ohio and Licking rivers, but that's not all. The Slones are self-described Francophiles, so the name also refers to La Rive Gauce, the southern bank of the Seine River in Paris. Left Bank is decorated with French-inspired décor reminiscent of a Parisian street café.
 
Left Bank brews up traditional espresso drinks and blended beverages. There’s also a small food menu, featuring oatmeal, yogurt, two croissants and scones, plus pastries from Savor and soups from Myra’s in Clifton.
 
The Slone’s are excited to make people happy, and hope that Left Bank will be a destination stop for people who live and work in Covington.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Covington growing with new businesses

Cincinnati isn’t the only city in the Tri-State area experiencing rejuvenation. Just across the Ohio River, Covington has seen a plethora of new businesses open in the last year, and the trend shows no sign of stopping.
 
Naashom Marx, business development manager for the City of Covington, works to attract new businesses and retain Covington’s current businesses.
 
“Covington is a great place to live, work and play,” she says. “It’s a unique dynamic of people and places, and it attracts people.”
 
Right in the heart of Covington’s urban center—at Roebling and Fifth Street, eight buildings in a four-block area will soon become Gateway Tech’s new location. The college is also opening a bookstore at Sixth and Madison, which will be open to the public. The addition of Gateway Tech’s student body to the urban center will help that area grow, and keep businesses busy, Marx says.
 
The city’s current focus area is the Renaissance district, the spaces around Madison, Short Pike and Scott streets. The goal is to continue to grow new businesses while encouraging the momentum to continue in other areas, too.
 
Since its founding 35 years ago, Mainstrasse Village has seen exponential growth. It’s a walkable and bike-friendly area close to both the riverfront and the City's hotel district.
 
“Mainstrasse Village wouldn’t have lasted long without the community,” says Kim Blank, executive director of Mainstrasse. 
 
Main BiteSugar Cube RecordsOld Kentucky Bourbon Bar and Goodfellas recently opened in Mainstrasse, and Covington Yoga moved from Scott to the village to make room for Gateway Tech. Thai Sushi is slated to open later this summer, and Commonwealth Bistro is currently renovating two buildings in Mainstrasse.
 
“Covington continues to grow, and it’s a really nice area with lots of new businesses,” Blank says. “It’s an exciting time for us.”
 
Pike Street has also seen lots of new businesses open recently. Buonavita Pizzeria opened last Monday; 3TC DesignsShrewdness of Apes, Latonia Treasures, Old Home Style and Green Line Salon are all new to the area as well. Grateful Grahams and Sushi Cincinnati both moved to larger facilities on Pike Street, and Tickets Sports Café is reinventing itself into an all-Covington, all-green, family-friendly restaurant.
 
In about nine months, City Hall will become Hotel Covington, a boutique hotel near the Madison Event Center. (City Hall moved to a smaller office to accommodate the project.)
 
Covington has also seen lots of larger businesses, like Westpack and Blair Technology Group, move in because of the perks the city has to offer—parks, restaurants, shops, quality of life and a sense of community.
 
“Developers are seeing great growth and rehabilitation efforts here, which attracts more developers to Covington,” Marx says. “And property owners see higher property values, which encourages them to stay and raise their families here.”

Stay tuned to Soapbox for stories about Covington's new businesses and its continued growth. 
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Vintage poster gallery moves to OTR

Jack Wood Gallery, a vintage poster gallery, recently moved to Over-the-Rhine from O’Bryonville. The gallery features vintage posters and graphic art from the late 19th century and early to mid-20th century.
 
Jack Wood opened his gallery at 2039 Madison Road in O’Bryonville in Oct. 1998; in Feb. 2003, the gallery moved to the space next door. And exactly 10 years later, Wood found himself looking for a new location because his landlord decided to move her business into the gallery’s space.
 
“When I first opened the gallery, I thought O’Bryonville was a good place for it,” Wood says. “But when I came to OTR, I knew it was the perfect place for it now.”
 
From the middle of the late 1800s, Cincinnati was home to some of the most highly regarded printing companies in the world. The Strobridge plant used to be on Central Parkway, four blocks from Jack Wood Gallery’s new OTR home, which made it a perfect location for Wood's one-man operation. 

“The latter half of the 19th century was a significant time for the Cincinnati poster industry,” Wood says. “The neighborhood was alive, and 50,000 people lived in a 15-block area in OTR. Now, we’re getting the same kind of energy and activity here. It’s a real renaissance.”
 
The new space, at 1413 Vine Street, has a similar layout to the old space, with two large windows that face the street and plenty of wall space inside to display posters. Jack Wood Gallery also offers archiving, photography, framing and matting and appraisal services.

The gallery features a variety of prints for sale, including Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus images, the most significant collection of Strobridge posters in the United States, and World War posters from around the world.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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