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The Center hosting two-night pop-up restaurant featuring local home chef


On April 7 and 8, The Center for Great Neighborhoods will host a pop-up restaurant featuring Covington resident and home chef, Chako. It will be a culinary dining experience in omotenashi, or the Japanese art of hospitality.

“When people eat my food, I want them to experience omotenashi, a concept intrinsically attached to the Japanese culture,” Chako says. “In English, it’s translated as hospitality, but to us Japanese, it involves so much more. Cooking and baking are my passion, therefore, I want my customers to be pleased and feel satisfied in all of their senses. I want them to feel welcomed, excited, unique and special.”

The two-day pop-up restaurant is the culmination of The Center’s pilot Chef Fellowship Program, which was funded by a FreshLo grant from The Kresge Foundation. Grants were given to organizations that were developing programs to help create healthy, vibrant communities strengthened by the deliberate integration of creative placemaking and food-oriented development.

The Chef Fellowship Program is a two-month kitchen and art workforce development internship that gives a home-based cook who is interested in starting a restaurant the chance to experience what it would be like to run one.

The Center also partnered with the Life Learning Center to provide interns with a real-world hospitality training program that includes learning hospitality skills, cooking techniques and arts-related skills. The interns will be the ones running the popup’s front of house, as well as helping Chako in the kitchen.

“It’s important to us to support local entrepreneurs and help them get the tools and resources to turn their ideas into a reality,” says Kate Greene, The Center’s program manager for community development.

For $45, guests will receive an authentic Japanese meal featuring salad, miso soup, housemade Japanese pickles, Japanese-style potato salad, chirashi zushi (scattered sushi) and two entrée choices — pork cooked in black tea topped with a fragrant sauce or agedashi tofu, which is deep fried and topped with tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, fried eggplant and a green onion sauce. The main course will be followed by wasanbon mousse, which is a Japanese dessert made in the traditional Shikoku method.

Guests 21 and over will be able to taste different types of Japanese beer or they can purchase a handcrafted sake glass for an additional $10, which comes with a sample of sake.

Chako uses fresh products and ingredients sourced locally or imported from around the world to achieve the taste and texture that she’s looking for.

“When I cook or bake, I try to anticipate what it will take to please my clients: first their sight, then taste and touch,” she says. “When they eat, I strive to make them feel as never before. I want my food to be a special gift for each person individually.”

Seatings are at 5:30 and 8 p.m. each night, and are limited to 25 people each seating. Tickets can be purchased here until April 1.
 


Landlocked Social House to bring coffee and craft beer community spot to Walnut Hills


Anne and Andrew Decker have always dreamed of opening a place that would allow them the freedom to independently explore their passions while also running a business together. Their ideal venture would allow them to share information about their passions with others who share the same interest. Landlocked Social House, the newest craft beer and coffee bar coming to Cincinnati, will do that and more.

Located on E. McMillan Street in Walnut Hills, the bar will offer something for everyone, as the Deckers understand that coffee and beer are not necessarily for everyone. They plan to incorporate other talented food and beverage businesses into the bar, which is set to open early this summer.

The couple plans to have pastries from a few bakers around town, as well as curated meat and cheese boards and pickled items. They plan to work with two bakers and a bagel maker to fill Landlocked's pastry cases, and bring in cocktail veterans to create a small in-house list of drinks.

“Aside from those options, we will be a bring-your-own-food establishment and have the occasional food truck in our beer garden," says Decker.

Fifteen craft beers and an assortment of sodas, cider, white and red wine and cold brew coffee will also be available on the custom tap system.

The idea of having a neighborhood coffee bar where you can run into friends and family on a regular basis was an important aspect in the selection of Walnut Hills for Landlocked's location.

“We chose Walnut Hills in large part because it is being thoughtfully developed by people who love this neighborhood and that is something we want to be a part of,” Decker says. “I will say that it would have in fact been easier on us to open in another building and another part of town, but we like it here.”

Landlocked is just minutes away from Eden Park, Clifton, Pendleton and Over-the-Rhine, with easy access to I-71 as well. The diversity and history of the area led the Deckers to lay their foundation there. “There is a lot of heart and hard work in this part of town," Decker says. "We hope the neighborhood will feel the same about us as we do our best to be a positive addition.”

The Deckers started a Kickstarter campaign that ran from Feb. 1 to March 8 to provide financial stability — on top of private funding and bank loans — to get the Landlocked project up and running. The building, owned by Becki and Jeremiah Griswold (who also own White Whale Tattoo and are friends of the Deckers), was previously abandoned and needed a lot of work.

With the help of friends, the Deckers renovated the building, exposing the original brick interior, installing new flooring, the tap system, adding new landscaping and more. Remaining projects include a new storefront window, drain and sink installation, minor electric work and a few other small projects. According to the Kickstarter page, the projects should all be completed in time for the summer opening.

While the Kickstarter campaign has ended, Decker says that donations are still being accepted and will be put to good use as they wrap up the remaining projects before opening.
 


Bistro Grace owner opens second concept in Northside's CBD


The Hamilton, a new wine bar on Hamilton Avenue in Northside, opened in early February across the street from its sister restaurant, Bistro Grace. Owner Suzanne McGarry had purchased three buildings across from the Bistro several years ago, and along with the Bistro's chef, David Bever, she decided to utilize one of the storefronts for a new concept.

It's a comfy space designed for sipping wine, sharing small dishes and socializing at the bar or in an overstuffed leather chair.

But The Hamilton is more than just a bar. Patrons can stop by to purchase a bottle of wine or craft beer to take home, or stick around and order some food. There's a $10 corkage fee if you stay and open the bottle, but the wine is priced to encourage just that.

The bar also offers a unique assortment of "crafty cocktails." The Kirby, for example, consists of Sauza, fresh lime and simple syrup, topped with Malbec. Or try the Blackberry Kentucky Mule, made with Jim Beam, muddled blackberries, sage simple syrup, fresh lime and ginger beer.

"People can start their night at The Hamilton and have appetizers and sharable plates, and then head over to Bistro Grace for dinner," says Lauren Bradford, dining room manager at the Bistro. "Or they can go to the Bistro first and then find they're not ready to go home, so they head over to The Hamilton."

The space at 4029 Hamilton Ave. was previously occupied by Tacocracy, which was artsy and had an airport theme. McGarry changed the decor to a comfortable industrial/modern feel with exposed ductwork and unfinished walls that reveal the brick underneath.

"It makes you feel at home," Bradford says. The small space only holds about 45 people, adding to the intimate atmosphere.

Chef Bever says that The Hamilton's food is meant to be flavorful and light, and that it's meant to complement the Bistro's menu. The small menu includes calamari and potatoes, tofu salad, salmon two ways, a trio of eggplant and a modern fondue. Prices range from $9-15.

The wine selection will eventually have over 50 wines, along with a mix of craft beers.

The Hamilton is open 4-11 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
 

The Art of Food ignites nuclear-themed food and art


French chocolatier Shalini Latour, founder of Chocolats Latour and co-owner of Northside’s sweet shop The Chocolate Bee, faced a conundrum when she learned of the theme of The Carnegie’s upcoming event, The Art of Food.
 
“This year’s theme is the '50s, the atomic age,” Latour says. “Thinking about TV dinners, The Joy of Cooking — it was actually a hard theme for me because this is contrary to what I usually do.”
 
Latour has been in the chocolate business for seven years, and in that time, she’s been recognized for her commitment to locally sourced, fresh, natural ingredients. Her interpretation of 1950s cuisine was that everything was mechanized for ease and convenience, which is in complete contrast to her general culinary outlook and handmade chocolates. So, she partnered with Kate Cook, garden manager of Carriage House Farm, to accept the challenge posed by The Carnegie.
 
“The two of us sat down and brainstormed,” Latour says. “We’re going to be making Atomic Truffles, which will be real spicy, made with scorpion peppers Kate grew.” The truffles will be molded in the shape of atomic bombs. Latour is also planning to use unusual ingredients to make a chocolate that she might name "Radioactive Sludge."

The 11th annual Art of Food event will feature a total of 20 local chefs creating dishes around the 1950s theme, and guests will enjoy art exhibitions and performances that will bring the '50s to life. This is the second year that The Art of Food will be stretched over two nights, with the first night reserved for an intimate-style dinner. (Space is limited and reservations are required.)
 
"One reason I really like this event is because every year there is a different theme and it pushes us to try new things maybe I wouldn’t think of otherwise," Latour says.  “People are there to enjoy themselves and eat good food, so people are laughing and joking and enjoying music. It’s just a big party.”
 
The Art of Food takes place 6-9 p.m. on Feb. 23 and 24. Tickets for Thursday night are $100 ($75 for members); Friday night tickets are $50 ($35 for members). Tickets are available through The Carnegie's box office, open noon-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, by phone at 859-957-1940 or online.
 

Nepalese cuisine now on Northside's menu


Connecting Bridges, a Nepalese restaurant operated by Ashak Chipalu and his mother Rose, is nearly set to open its doors in Northside. It will take over the location formerly occupied by Melt. (Melt is reopening in a new whitebox space in The Gantry, and is expected to open this spring.)
 
“We are very close to opening,” Ashak says, as he and his mother hand out samples at his family’s food stand at Findlay Market. “We have done all of the interiors already. Our last health permit and our building permits are left, but other than that, everything is ready in the space.”

Bridges started out at Findlay Market, and the family continues to operate a food stand there. The Chipalus are no strangers to Northside: last year, they occasionally set up a food stand inside Urban Artifact to sell food to hungry patrons.  
 
At a glance, Nepalese food is a balancing act between familiar Chinese takeout and Indian curries, but once sampled, the flavors of Nepal impart a spicy South Asian smokiness that levitates healthy, brilliantly simple ingredients.
 
“Our country is a mountainous country, so the different belts have different vegetation in the same way we have different tribes and different languages,” Rose says. “There are something like 100 spoken languages. Different belt, different tradition, different language, different culture.”
 
The Chipalus are of the Newari tribe, found in the valley of Kathmandu. The food offered at Bridges characterizes some of the unique aspects of their tribe’s culinary heritage.
 
“For side dishes, we have an authentic Newari tribe potato salad we call aloo walla,” Ashak says. “It’s very simple, very popular, we have spicy and mild. Very healthy for you.”
 
While retaining Newari tradtions, Bridges also offers items like a bacon, potato and cheese samosa —  a dish made to cater to old school Cincinnati diners. There will also be potato and cheese or a chicken tikka masala and rice samosa; there will also be vegan options like potato with peas and carrots.
 
“We always come to Findlay Market and Northside Farmers Market to shop, and these markets are very similar to the markets in Nepal, where people just walk in to buy their vegetables in an open bazaar,” Ashak explains. “The Melt space was open, I knew about that, and the landlord came into the market and he really liked what we were doing, so he offered the space. He has been really good to us. It’s been a good partnership and will be good for the years to come. We love Northside because our food really fits in with the neighborhood. The vibe is really chilled, the streets look just like some streets in Nepal and that really attracted us.”
 
Bridges, which will open in the next few weeks, will be BYOB until further notice. Keep tabs on Bridges' Facebook page for opening day details.
 

Longtime Oakley business moving down the street to continue investing in neighborhood


Sandra Gross and Dr. John Hutton, the owners of several Oakley businesses, are reinvesting in their neighborhood in a big way. Their daughter, Blythe Gross-Hutton, and her company BAM Realty Group are behind a new development at 3094 Madison Rd. — and her parents plan to move their flagship business, Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore, into it.

The $1.5 million, LEED Silver, mixed-use project, which includes the construction of a new 5,600-square-foot building and 20 parking spaces behind it, is slated to be finished in February.
 
The site used to be home to a 2,000-square-foot building that was demolished after it had been vacant for about two years. BAM Realty Group purchased the site in April 2014, and construction began on it last fall.
 
Blue Manatee will move from its current location at 3054 Madison to occupy a first-floor retail space in the new building. It will also house a salon, offices for Sleepy Bee Café (also owned by the couple), Blue Manatee’s publishing company and its online baby gift businesses, Blue Manatee Boxes.
 
Artists from nearby Brazee Street Studios (also owned by Gross and Hutton) are helping design the new space, which will include hands-on activities for kids and custom artwork on the walls.
 
Terrex Development & Construction are doing the build-out on the building, and the drawing dept is the project’s architect.

Father and son team up to bring their brand of distilled spirits to Over-the-Rhine


In German, “stadt” means “city.” But for Mike and John Funcheon, that word means the start of a new business venture. The father-son team plans to open Stadt Distillery in Over-the-Rhine this summer.
 
“We want to bring something that’s not quite ‘here’ yet,” John says. “Craft distilling is a new trend, and we want to see more craft distilleries coming to OTR. It’s the scene for distillers, and will add another facet to the neighborhood.”
 
As a former tour guide for American Legacy Tours, John is familiar with OTR's history, and says that he pursues his own personal education in things that interest him.
 
Craft distilling is no different.
 
Seventeen years ago, Mike and John brewed their first batch of beer together, when John was just 11 years old. About 10 years ago, they had their first taste of moonshine, which sparked an interest in craft distilling and has lead them to open their own craft distillery.
 
Until September, the Funcheons were only planning to open a production facility, but a new Ohio law was passed that now allows distilleries to function like breweries and wineries. Plans have changed, but that’s not a bad thing, John says.
 
“Starting this business has been one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done, and I can’t imagine doing it with anyone but my father,” he says. “We’ve both realized we couldn’t do it without each other.”
 
John will be Stadt’s master distiller, and Mike will focus on the business side of things. They want to keep each side of the business separate in order to do the best they can in every facet of the distillery.
 
Since John has worked most of his adult life in the tourism industry, he wants to incorporate tourism into Stadt in some way. He plans to give tours of the distillery and tell customers about his family’s history and the distilling process.
 
“Distilling can be kind of intimidating, but since my background is in storytelling, I want to make distilled spirits as approachable as possible and get people involved,” John says.
 
Although Stadt’s exact location and design plans are still undecided, the Funcheons have a huge lead time because they already have their stills, which were purchased from Kothe Distilling in Urlinger, Germany.
 
The space will have a contempor-rustic feel, and will be open and inviting. Customers will be able to see the production facility while enjoying a drink at the bar. By law, there has to be food in some way, and the Funcheons are planning something unique that speaks to craft distilling.
 
Stadt will have a full bar featuring its own distilled spirits — bourbon, gin, absinthe, vodka, bitters and moonshine — and bottles will be available for purchase. The Funcheons are also going to distribute their products, starting in Ohio, then Kentucky and Indiana, and growing from there.
 
If you’re interested in learning more about Stadt, email mikef@stadtdistillery.com.
 

Another restaurant concept coming to Pendleton neighborhood this summer


This summer, a new restaurant concept is joining the 1200 block of West Broadway in Pendleton. Boomtown Biscuit Bar, which is slated to open in June, will specialize in traditional American fare that was favored by pioneer settlers.

Boomtown’s menu was designed by head chef Christian Gill, formerly of the Terrace Cafe at Cincinnati Art Museum.

“The story we’re trying to tell through food and beverage is the life of prospectors,” says owner PJ Neumann. “From waking up at a campground at the base of the mountain, making a breakfast in cast iron, and going up the mountain and coming back to pass the whiskey around.”

Neumann says Boomtown will be a biscuit bar by day and whiskey bar by night, with an extensive whiskey selection and specialty cocktail list. The menu is still being tweaked, but is so far slated to include Pick & Shovel (fork and knife) biscuit sandwiches, Prospector plates (entrées) and Sweet Fixins (pastries and desserts), as well as a selection of Sundries (sides).

The menu will also provide alternative options for people with dietary restrictions, including a gluten-free griddle cake that can be subbed for a biscuit, and a mushroom and truffle gravy for vegetarians.

“No one will categorize us as health food,” Neumann jokes of the comfort food menu, “but we are hyper-focused on food quality.” He says that the restaurant will develop purveyor partnerships with distributorships to source local ingredients such as micro-greens, lards for biscuits and other key ingredients.

Neumann, a 17-year food-and-beverage industry veteran, says that he’s been wanting to open a biscuit restaurant for years and has been on the hunt for the perfect property. He formerly worked at the nearby Nation Kitchen + Bar, which opened in Pendleton in 2015. That location is what inspired him to look at properties in the neighborhood.

“I’m really excited to be a part of the neighborhood," he says. "There are so many talented people there."

The restaurant is part of the Broadway Square project being developed by Model Group at the corner of East 12th and Broadway streets. The restaurant will occupy a 1,400-square-foot space, with seating capacity for about 70 patrons. It will open at 7 a.m., offering breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week.

For updates on the project and its official launch date, keep an eye on its website, or follow @boomtownbiscuitbar on Instagram and Twitter.
 

Mecca creates artistic haven in the heart of OTR


In November, Mecca OTR held a quiet opening, which isn’t normal for a bar in the heart of Over-the-Rhine. However, owners Joe and Robin Creighton and Jon Mouch, who also co-own Cheapside Café, wanted to let people discover something new on their own.
 
The building, which is located at 1429 Walnut St., used to be the home of local developer Urban Sites, but when they moved to a new office on Sycamore Street, they asked Creighton if he wanted to open something in the space.
 
Mecca gets its name from the Walnut Street saloon where Boss Cox kept his office. It’s also used in the religious sense of the Holy City, which is a place that draws people together, regardless of their culture or background. And that’s what the Creightons and Mouch wanted Mecca to be for OTR.
 
In the 1800s, Cincinnati was called the "Paris of America" and was filled with artists. Now, many of those artists go to New York or Los Angeles. To strengthen Cincinnati’s current artistic community, Mecca’s owners worked with artists all over the city to cover every inch of the bar’s walls in murals, drawings, sculptures and art installations.
 
Each bathroom was designed by a different artist, and the tables have Sharpie drawings on them by Alex Frank. A giant metal bee perches on the building's façade, and lights are strung across the outdoor courtyard. Ferns hang from the ceiling in the indoor bar area, which is black-lit to create a 3D effect on the murals.
 
An outdoor bar area is in the works, and will include a deconstructed car tunnel entrance and a tree that will be done by Adam Sands of Elite Customz (who also designed the bee).
 
Mecca alo houses a vintage Americana apparel and memorabilia shop on the Walnut side of the building. Owner Matt Joy curates his collection from estate sales across the country, and has everything from vintage denim to license plates, boots and decorations. The shop is open from 4 to 8 p.m. on days that Mecca is open.
 
The cocktail program is simple, and shots of absinthe are available for $6. The signature drink is called the Chichunker, a can of flavored San Pellegrino served with a lime wedge and a tiny bottle of liquor in the mouth of the can. The food menu is small and basic: popcorn and corn dogs.
 
Mecca is open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
 

Fab Ferments expands operations to include a taproom in Lockland


Since 2008, Jordan Aversman and Jennifer De Marco have been serving up traditionally prepared fermented foods with their company Fab Ferments. Over the past eight years, the duo has been hard at work building their “revolution for real food,” as De Marco refers to their company’s vision.

While they started with sauerkraut, they have since expanded their business to offer a full range of raw cultured veggies, hot sauce, a tonic drink called beet kvas and fermented tea, or kombucha.

In December, Fab Ferments opened a kombucha taproom at their Lockland production facility, which is in the same complex as Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House and La Terza Artisan Coffee Roasterie.

“We knew we always wanted to have a taproom,” De Marco explained. “We’ve been waiting for more and more people to find out what kombucha is. We’ve been doing basic education — what does it taste like, why is it good for you?”

For the uninitiated, kombucha is a beverage made of black or green tea brewed with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, also known as a SCOBY. It’s tangy, slightly sweet, carbonated and often features additional flavorings. Because it is naturally fermented using traditional techniques, some alcohol is present in the finished drink, but it is typically no more than 1 percent alcohol by volume. Proponents regard it as an overall health tonic.  

Fab Ferments' taproom offers a line of 12 kombucha flavors on tap, including rotating seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie and wild-harvested persimmon vanilla. Many of Fab Ferments' kombuchas, which are also available in bottles, incorporate fresh juices like the Perky Pink Grapefruit or the Go Go Ginger.

“We don’t use natural flavorings — if you’re going to buy something from us, it is fresh juice and ingredients, so you can enjoy all the benefits that come from those flavorings as well,” De Marco said.

She expressed excitement about bringing “high-quality, nutrient-dense foods” to the larger community through the opening of the new taproom.

To start, the Fab Ferments taproom will be open from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, with future weekend hours planned. Prices run $4 for a pint, $7 for a 32 oz. growler fill and $13 for a 64 oz. fill. Flights are also available. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own growler or purchase one at the taproom.

De Marco encourages patrons to stop by to try an authentic glass of kombucha or to purchase a gift certificate to give for the holidays or any occasion. To stay up-to-date on all things Fab Ferments, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.
 

First alcoholic ice cream shop opens March in Over-the-Rhine


Buzzed Bull Creamery, Cincinnati’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream shop, plans to open at 1408 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine in March. According to the owners, it will also be the world’s first alcoholic ice cream shop.
 
Owners Colten and Kaitlyn Mounce, Keith and Amber Ayers and Shane, Katherine and Cathy Mounce grew up in Mason and went to school together. The Mounces have been looking for a place to open their ice cream shop for about a year, after moving back home from out-of-state.
 
The group plans for the OTR location to be the first of several Buzzed Bulls in the area.
 
Buzzed Bull will be a traditional ice cream shop with a few twists. The first is that the ice cream is frozen with liquid nitrogen, and the second is that those 21 and older can add shots of alcohol to their creamy concoctions.
 
Freezing the ice cream with liquid nitrogen allows for each order to be fully customizable. It also presents a smoother, creamier texture than other ice creams.
 
Customers will choose a base ice cream or yogurt flavor like vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream, strawberry or peanut butter. There will also be flavors designed to taste like cocktails, such as margarita, rum and Coke or whiskey sour.
 
From there, adults can add one to two shots of alcohol, either well or premium brands. The end result will be about 5 percent alcohol by volume. Everyone will be able to choose from the wide selection of add-ins: brownie pieces, chocolate chips, cookie dough, cookie pieces, graham crackers, Lemon Heads, Snickers pieces, etc.
 
Buzzed Bull’s menu will include a number of specialty concoctions, including the

 
The mixture is then frozen instantly with liquid nitrogen, which is liquid at -320 degrees. It makes a cloud of vapor when it freezes, and will freeze in a matter of seconds. The resulting ice crystals are much smaller than in typical ice cream, which is what makes the ice cream smoother.
 
Buzzed Bull will be open from noon to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

Keep tabs on Buzzed Bull's Facebook page for details about its grand opening.
 

Craft beer enthusiasts opening West Side Brewing in spring 2017


Next spring, a team of four craft beer enthusiasts will bring West Side Brewing to 3044 Harrison Ave. in Westwood, which is the old KS Designs building across from the neighborhood's town hall.

Owners Joe Mumper, Jim and Kurtis Remmel and Brian Willet want to get away from the more experimental and over-hopped styles that are currently dominating the beer market and make beer for everyone.
 
Mumper became interested in craft beer about 15 years ago when his brother gave him a homebrew kit for Christmas. He started talking about opening a brewery, and even looked at the space that is now Rhinegeist. The Remmels and Willet have been working on opening a brewery for about the past two years, and when they met Mumper a year ago, they started to design West Side Brewery.
 
When it opens, West Side will have 12 styles of beer on tap — six of those are already nailed down, with the last six still up in the air and room to expand as more styles are developed. The beers will range in style and will be very drinkable with moderate alcohol contents and hoppiness.
 
The taproom will have a bar at its center that will connect two separate taprooms. One taproom will be close to the street to engage pedestrians and the neighborhood, and the second taproom will be near the brewing equipment, which will give patrons a look at the beer-making process.
 
West Side’s beer will be accompanied with small bites and bar food, but the owners also plan to partner with local food trucks to bring a wider array of dishes to the table.
 
The $1.3 million brewery will have the capacity to brew about 4,000 barrels annually with the ability to add tanks and expand to about 16,000 barrels annually. At launch, West Side will distribute kegs to local bars and restaurant, and the team plans to bottle or can in phase two.
 
Other plans for phase two include a large rooftop deck, which will be added in late 2017 or early 2018.   

Keep tabs on West Side's building renovations and beer brewing on Facebook
 

Holiday popup shops coming to downtown Cincinnati and Covington


This holiday season, shoppers on both sides of the river will have the chance to purchase goods from a number of new retailers. Downtown Cincinnati Inc. is bringing nine retailers to Carew Tower, and Renaissance Covington is helping five small business owners and one artist collaborative open popup shops in Covington.
 
Downtown Cincinnati:
As part of Cincinnati’s Downtown Retail Action Plan, DCI launched the Cincy Pop Shop Program for this holiday season. Small business owners submitted applications for a chance for a retail space downtown, and nine businesses were chosen.
 
The vendors are:
Barcode Glam
Chapeau Couture Hats
Davis Cookie Collection
Flying Pig Marathon
Jenco Brothers’ Candy
Maya Traders
The Sarah Center
Ten Thousand Villages
Tronk Design
 
Each business will receive free rent until Dec. 31 in selected retail spaces on the arcade level of the Carew Tower.
 
The Cincy Pop Shop Program seeks to catalyze retail offerings that are appealing to the diverse Cincinnati market, as well as provide small and unique businesses opportunities to grow and thrive.
 
Covington:
In Covington, five local makers will open popup shops as part of Renaissance Covington’s Make Covington Pop! program. The shops will be located at 33 W. Pike St., and will run from Nov. 26-Dec. 18.
 
A Squared Décor, LDV Vintage, Keep Your Shirt on Covington, Maverick Chocolate and Zip Zoo Apparel will set up their goods in one space, and a number of local artists from The Independent Northern Kentucky Artists and Artisans Education Program will showcase their pieces at the Pike Street Maker’s Mart next door at 31 W. Pike.
 
In previous years, the popup shop program has occupied a vacant storefront in Covington that were later filled with a business that participated in the popup. The goal is to still activate storefronts and support and mentor small businesses, but in a space that is already occupied.
 
Follow Make Covington Pop! on Facebook for hours, programming and special offers. Details about the Pike Street Maker’s Mart Art Gallery can also be found on Facebook.
 

People's Liberty, Brick Gardens


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a "food desert" is an area where substantial numbers of residents live in poverty and lack access to affordable, nutritious food. Under this federal definition, Cincinnati has several neighborhoods that qualify as food deserts, including Avondale, Bond Hill, Evanston, Northside and South Fairmount.

Domonique Peebles, a 2016 People's Liberty grantee, wanted to do something about it.
 
Peebles first had the idea to activate vacant spaces throughout the city by turning them into urban gardens, and then share the resulting produce with those in need of fresh food. As he began to research his concept, he realized there are already dozens of urban gardens throughout the city, and he didn't want to replicate existing efforts.

Not only that, but traditional gardening has its limitations: the growing season is limited, the weather is unpredictable and garden spaces are not universally accessible. That's when Peebles decided to address food access issues in Cincinnati in a cutting-edge way: vertical farming.
 
Peebles, a resident of Over-the-Rhine, envisioned vacant buildings in his neighborhood as possible locations for vertical farming set-ups.

"There are all kinds of benefits," Peebles said. "Activating empty space in the city, getting rid of blight, getting rid of run-down structures, physically growing food that can be distributed and teaching people how to grow food."
 
Peebles traveled to Detroit to learn from an urban gardener who was using an innovative vertical farming set-up to grow produce year-round. Peebles spent over a year researching methods of how to build vertical farm "stacks," as he refers to them, and he received a $10,000 People's Liberty grant for his project, Brick Gardens.
 
Though vertical farming may sound complex and expensive, the whole process from building the stack to harvesting the produce can be learned in less than an hour. A stack includes trays for the plants, a growing medium, a water reservoir and standard fluorescent lighting. Stacks can be assembled from commercially available components for under $200. Ongoing maintenance of the system is minimal, and it also recycles water, so it is inexpensive to maintain the growing plants.

"It's really hands-off once you get the initial planting done," Peebles said. "It's really just a daily maintenance check. It seems like it's very technical, but once you do it once, you can do it the rest of your life."

Peebles said that a single stack, of a size that could be maintained within one's own home, is able to produce about 56 heads of lettuce in 21 days.

"A person might grow that amount of lettuce on an acre of land, with two harvests per year," Peebles said. With vertical farming, a person could get about seven harvests every three months.
 
Peebles has a working model of a small stack that's suited for home production in his shop Featured, which is on Main Street in OTR. People interested in learning how to create a stack are welcome to reach out and arrange a time to view the model and ask questions.

Peebles has also partnered with the agriculture department at Cincinnati State and has two stacks growing there. With these stacks, Peebles is experimenting with growing different types of crops that are less commonly grown indoors on vertical farms, such as tomatoes. He also maintains six stacks at New Prospect Church in Roselawn.
 
Vertical farming is so much faster and more efficient than traditional methods that Peebles had his first Brick Gardens harvest less than a month after starting seeds.

"I had no idea I would be so successful," he said. "But my very first time was a 100 percent success rate on sprouting."

The stacks continue to flourish: "Once a week we've been going to all the sites and harvesting one to three pounds per site." Brick Gardens donates the harvested produce to community members in Roselawn, to students who help to grow the produce at Cincinnati State and to Gabriel's Place, a nonprofit in Avondale.
 
Peebles has high hopes for turning Brick Gardens into an ongoing enterprise.

"It's something that could be done in multiple neighborhoods," he said. "These could be put anywhere — elementary schools, hospitals, nursing homes."

There are pre-made vertical farming systems currently on the market, but Peebles wants to encourage people to consider going the DIY route. He says that the system he designed is about half the cost of pre-built systems.
 
Peebles ultimately hopes to continue partnering with schools, universities, local neighborhoods and even restaurants in need of access to fresh, local produce year-round.

"The thing with growing food is there's not really competition," he said. "There's always going to be a need for food production. People are always going to need to eat."
 
Those interested in learning more about Brick Gardens are encouraged to visit its website.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship.

 

New bar concept coming to renovated Mutual Building in downtown Covington


The team that brought us Over-the-Rhine’s Rhinehaus and Pendleton’s Nation Kitchen and Bar is at it again, but this time, they’re opening a place in Covington. The Hannaford at Pike & Madison, which is located at 619 Madison Ave., will open at 4 p.m. on Nov. 23.
 
“The idea for the name came from our initial exploration of the neighborhood,” said Andrew Salzbrun, who along with Aaron Kohlhepp and Jack Weston, are the Hickory Wald Group. “At the time, the intersection of Pike and Madison was one of the busiest intersections in Kentucky, and we wanted to identify that in our brand.”
 
They’re also paying homage to the life of famed architect Samuel Hannaford, who designed the Mutual Building. The 100-year-old, three-story building is currently undergoing renovations, and will soon be home to upscale apartments, commercial space and The Hannaford.
 
“We saw a lot of opportunity to pay homage to Hannaford and to share some of his original expressions in the space,” Salzbrun said.
 
Hickory Wald is preserving different aspects of the space, including the original mosaic tile flooring and the foundation’s concrete walls. They’re also reusing scrap lumber from the old Coppin’s building — now Hotel Covington — in the bar’s interior.
 
The Hannaford’s drink menu will be seasonal, and will be based on generous, well-composed, traditional cocktails.
 
“Our mission with our venues is to plant flags in neighborhoods by building ‘clubhouses’ for adults,” Salzbrun said. “Just as with our past ventures, we intentionally seek out neighborhoods that are gaining steam in their development, but have an opportunity for a place that fosters conversation and relationship growth.”
 
Keep tabs on The Hannaford’s Facebook page for details regarding its opening.
 
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