Cincy Unchained's independent businesses building better neighborhoods

The holiday shopping season is officially underway and this year Cincinnatians are being encouraged to buy locally.  Sean Fisher, founder of, has planned Cincinnati Unchained for Saturday, November 20th.  Fisher has coordinated with local independent businesses within the city in twelve Cincinnati neighborhoods to offer special discounts, door buster specials, or donate a portion of the day's sales to their favorite charity.

Lisa Kagen, storeowner of Melt and Picnic & Pantry in Northside, thinks consumers who seek out independent retailers are choosing to support their local economy first. And that's good for the neighborhoods where independent businesses are located.

"This is the only way we can be patient with our economy and rebuild it by reinvesting in our local economy instead of chain businesses," Kagen said. "It is not a trend, but a movement back to how a real economy used to work."

Kagen opened Picnic & Pantry in May of this year. She found the need to add a local grocery and market in Northside and loved the area because of its diverse atmosphere, affordability, and historic appeal. Always attracted to neighborhoods on the cusp of blossoming, Kagen finds that Northside, along with other areas in Cincinnati, provide a lot of opportunity for independent shops to thrive. Kagen explained that she has no trouble finding local resources and that other businesses are willing to communicate and support one another.

Another thriving neighborhood for entrepreneurs is Over-the-Rhine with forty-seven new businesses in the past two years. Brian Tiffany, President of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, supports the Cincinnati Unchained event, and views it as a great opportunity to demonstrate that buying local during the holidays offers shoppers a unique alternative. According to Tiffany, Over-the-Rhine businesses attract a variety of age groups ranging from the younger community to the "empty-nesters" looking for something new in the historic area.

"The younger community is a lot faster at embracing the change and opportunity, but as the word gets out a wide variety of people seem to visit the neighborhood," Tiffany said.

Tiffany explains that Over-the-Rhine is attractive to new businesses due to the changes taking place in the neighborhood, including Washington Park's overhaul and SCPA's new facility, and the Chamber's Business First grant program. So much affordable opportunity is available for small businesses as well as for home ownership.

"For once in a long time, I feel like the planets are aligning in Over-the-Rhine. I think the neighborhood has been challenged for so many years, and now it is moving into its own and starting to recognize its full potential," Tiffany said.

Writer: Lisa Ensminger
Photography by Scott Beseler.
Picnic & Pantry
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