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Gorilla Cinema is launching a new brand strategy that's sure to shake things up

Gorilla Cinema, the masterminds behind The Overlook Lodge, The Video Archive and Pop Art Con (its newest concept), have launched a possibly radical new marketing plan: abandoning the over-crowded newsfeeds of Facebook.

“It’s a process and evolution for how we use Facebook,” says Jacob Trevino, owner. “We’re moving away from regular posts toward more video marketing about the experiences we provide. We still want people to be actively engaged with the brand, we just don’t want to be the only ones shouting.”

Facebook users won’t see an abrupt departure but more of a gradual exit over the next year and a half. Meanwhile, Gorilla Cinema will ramp up its events and emphasize its uniqueness through other outlets.

“Life is hard, and we want to give people an escape from the every day — where the world can come to you,” Trevino says. “We want to create more experiences outside of our bars. Experiences that everyone wants to talk about because they surprise our audiences.”

For Trevino, it’s also about creating an expectation of excellence and an engaged staff. “We don’t hire ‘just’ bartenders. We look for creatives and forward thinkers who make people feel welcome and create amazing experiences, but who can also make picture-perfect drinks.”

Gorilla Cinema has several big announcements planned for the coming months, including more details on its largest cinema event to-date, which is scheduled for Aug. 2 at Washington Park, as well as more movie pop-ups and the 2018 Pop Art Con.

So if there will be fewer posts on Facebook, how will you know when there's an event?

“If people really want to be the first to know, they should visit the bars since we make announcements there first, plus the bartenders often let something slip early,” Trevino says. “We’re focusing our social media efforts on Instagram, but look for new videos on our website and Facebook too.”

For Trevino, movies are something that can bring people together to share common experiences. He's built his bars around cinematic concepts and creating a sense of community.

“We want to take people on a new adventure and get people into exploring new places,” he says. "But we also want our bars to be for the people who already live in the neighborhood. We try to be active in the community because it’s important that the neighbors and other businesses know and love us first.”

As Gorilla Cinema ramps up its new marketing efforts, Cincinnatians can expect to see more events and experiences outside of Pleasant Ridge and Walnut Hills (where The Overlook and The Video Archive are), as Trevino and his team bring their love of cinema magic to larger audiences.

Artist puts unique twist on house revitalization in Camp Washington

Tucked away in Camp Washington sits a small piece of paradise that a local artist spent about three years transforming.

Builder/artist and Cincinnati native Mark Dejong has been transforming the word “art” in Cincinnati for years. In 2012, he purchased a house in Camp Washington for a mere $5,000. It's now known as the Circle House for its overall theme of circles that run throughout the house's walls and décor.

Similarly, Dejong's renovation of the Square House in Northside turned it into a work of art, transforming the house into a thematic element.

His latest work of art, however, takes the cake. Dejong purchased a three-story house on Avon Place in Camp Washington a few years ago and began the process of transforming the house, this time removing all floors and walls.

You may be asking, “What kind of revitalization project is that?”

The house now contains a swing, something that captures not only the essence of its historic architecture but also takes you through “time and space." By removing all of the floors and walls, Dejong enabled the swing to float from the front of the house to the back in a fluid motion. Not only does the house provide a sculptural invention that hasn't been seen anywhere else in the country, but parts of it were repurposed as artwork and structures that highlight the history and material of the old three-flight staircase.

The inspiration for the design came from memories of Dejong’s childhood flat that overlooked Mill Creek but also sat below hillsides looking the other direction, giving a sense of vertigo. He wanted to convey this in the Swing House design.

As the focal point of the house and inspiration for the name, the 30-foot long swing is attached to ropes that are secured to an iron beam that runs across the ceiling. The floor boards are skewed at a 5-degree angle, giving the sense that the building is moving a bit while walking through it. Although it has only been open to the public for special occasions a few times, Dejong plans to further launch his innovative project via open houses this summer (to be announced via media and social media at a later date).

In lieu of the architectural masterpiece slowly but surely becoming the talk of innovative art in the area, the Swing House has also been selected as a feature in the Contemporary Arts Center's 2017-2018 season. This particular exhibit runs until May 20, 2018, and will showcase some of the unique structures formed from the salvaged materials during construction, as well as artist-led tours of the house.

The CAC claims that Dejong has “joined the lineage of artists like Gordon Matta-Clark, Georges Rousse and Theaster Gates in the illuminating re-visioning of built space into poetic and performative interventions,” something that few artists in the area have achieved.

While the Swing House isn’t regularly open to the public, special occasions and tours will be available later this summer. To keep up with the news and happenings regarding the Swing House, visit the CAC exhibition webpage or the pages specifically geared toward the Circle/5k House and Square house, and keep up with Dejong on social media.

All about the beer: Three more breweries coming online later this year


In the second half of our exploration into new breweries, we looked at those that are opening in late summer or early fall of this year.

You might have to wait a bit longer to taste these brews, but rest assured that the experience, flavors and distinctive interiors will be worth it.


Rebel Mettle, 244 W. McMicken Ave., Over-the-Rhine

Opening: Spring/summer, 2018

“The people of Cincinnati are beer drinkers; we are a melting pot that just likes to drink,” says Mike Brown, CEO and president of Rebel Mettle Brewery.


The idea for the brewery started with Brown and his friends Ryan Renner, Greg Goeke and Duane Donohoo sitting around a kitchen table.

“We wanted someplace that had character,” Brown says. “I was adamant that we open up in OTR for the heritage. It has the largest number of pre-Prohibition era breweries in the nation.”


Rebel Mettle will offer a selection of ales, lagers and sours; there are plans for ciders as well. Brown says that they hired a secret weapon — a mysterious master brewer he wouldn’t name. He says that combining the master brewer’s education and experience with his team’s home-brewing skills will set Rebel Mettle's beer apart.


Also known as the former Clyffside and Sohn Brewery, the 40,000-square-foot space will host the brewery, a tap room and the Clyffside Event Center.



Humble Monk, 1641 Blue Rock St., Northside

Opening: Late summer, 2017

Mike Kemp and his son Paul are the head brew master and CEO, respectively, for Humble Monk Brewing Company. As the name suggests, Humble Monk will utilize a process similar to the famous Trappist Monk style of brewing.


“My dad prides himself on full-bodied, in-your-face style beers,” Paul says.


Trappist style means that each brew can yield three different types of beer, known as partigyle. The partigyle used in this method of brewing guarantees that there will be a variety of flavors and gravities, or alcohol levels, in each beer.


The brewery and taproom will be in a warehouse space a block and a half from Northside’s main thoroughfare. The Kemps describe the space as “barren but cozy” with an industrial feel.


Sonder, Duke Boulevard, Mason

Opening: Late fall, 2017

Justin Neff, president of Sonder, started out brewing beer at home but had dreams of his owning a brewery. When he met his business partners Daniel Schmerr and Jennifer Meissner, those dreams came true.


Neff fell in love with the meaning behind the word sonder, which is defined as the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

“It became so much more than just a word — it’s a culture we started our company on. We believe every beer has a story just like every person does.”


With the help of New Glarus Brewing's Chase Legler, Sonder will focus on high quality and true-to-style beer.


“We’ll ensure that a German hefeweizen tastes like the same hefeweizen that was brewed in Germany generations ago,” Neff says.


Sonder is building its own two-story facility in Deerfield Township. The 6.5-acre property will include bars and outdoor patios on both floors. Neff says that they hope to grow their own hops on-site and the green space will be a gathering place for community events.


Neff says Sonder will be a place “where Mom and Dad can bring their kids and have a date night as well.”

The ambitious campus will include sand volleyball, a wiffle ball field, fire pits and a walking path where visitors can sip a beer as they go for a stroll.

Two organizations are teaming up to help nonprofits overcome fundraising obstacles

Any director of development or team tasked with fundraising understands the difficulty and frustration that can accompany asking for money.

In a world where nonprofits are forced to compete as they rely on fundraising or grant writing to achieve the monetary capacity needed to fulfill their missions, there is hope.

The Leadership Council for Nonprofits and the Association of Fundraising Professionals are teaming up to tackle fundraising difficulties head-on by hosting “Partnering for Breakthrough Philanthropy” on May 17.

“The conference is designed to maximize the partnership of people to achieve fundraising success — particularly through the powerful combination of staff and volunteers,” says Lori Asmus, AFP volunteer. “It will be interactive and informative — each team will walk away with an action plan to increase donations this year at their nonprofit.”

Ben Golding, chief operating officer at Advancement Resources — a consulting firm that works with some of the nation’s leading nonprofits, healthcare organizations and educational institutions — will deliver the keynote address.

“We are excited to bring Ben because he is a well-known national consultant that helps organizations move to the next levels with their fundraising programs,” Asmus says. “Access to his caliber of expertise would not be possible without the partnership between AFP and LC.”

Golding’s expertise also includes his work as a managing partner at Mindseye Project Partners, which provides donor engagement services intended to inspire philanthropy by capturing and producing impact stories that reveal how critical nonprofits’ work is and what can be accomplished when they receive the funding to initiate change for the better.

It’s through methods like storytelling, in addition to lessons describing the importance of making donors feel valued that will enable participants to brainstorm, work together and begin re-thinking the process of fundraising.

“LC and AFP are joined in the mission of strengthening organizational capacity at nonprofits,” Asmus says. “Funding is the biggest struggle for most of these organizations, but our goal is to demonstrate ways that the volunteer leadership and organizational leadership can work more effectively together to tackle funding challenges.”

The event will take place from 8 to 11:30 a.m. on May 17 at the Red Cross, 2111 Dana Ave. Tickets are $55 for AFP and LC members; $75 for non-members; and $25 for students. You can register here.

You can connect with the Leadership Council for Nonprofits on Twitter @LeadershipCoun and the AFP on Facebook and @afpihq on Twitter.

Local musician opening coffee shop and jazz club in Walnut Hills


Walnut Hills is quickly redeveloping into one of the top places to find food, beverage and entertainment in Greater Cincinnati. With that, it has become the foundation for many new businesses, making it a destination neighborhood not only for residents but also tourists.

In a move to make Walnut Hills the center of jazz in Cincinnati, Brent Gallaher and his wife are opening Caffe Vivace, a combined coffeehouse and jazz lounge, on the first floor of the Trevarren Flats development on E. McMillan.

Slated to open this fall, Caffe Vivace will provide drinks, bites and a constant flow of music, highlighting the rich jazz heritage in the area. "Caffe" is Italian for coffee and "vivace" is a musical term that means lively, so the literal English translation is "lively coffee,” a phrase that resides in the core of what the Gallahers hope to bring to Walnut Hills.

Their concept was inspired by Brent's own jazz career — he broke into the jazz scene at the former Blue Wisp.

He plays three instruments (saxophone, flute and clarinet) while also being a leader in the local jazz community by teaching, composing and leading a local band. He currently holds positions with both the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra and the Blue Wisp Big Band, which now plays Wednesday nights at Urban Artifact in Northside.

As the focal point of the business, jazz music will be constant, as Gallaher plans for live performances Monday-Saturday with local school groups and talent performing early in the week and more seasoned jazz musicians slated to play on the weekends. Students and other local talents will have the opportunity to showcase their skills and passion for music, something that the area is no stranger to.

From the first recordings of Louis Armstrong to the lengthy shows of Bix Beiderbecke and Walnut Hills' graduate Frank Foster, who wrote the hit “Shiny Stockings,” Cincinnati has seen many jazz greats shape the genre.

Walnut Hills is also home to longtime jazz club The Greenwich, maintaining not only the presence of jazz music but also poetry readings and visual arts over the last several decades.

Aside from being a jazz club, Caffe Vivace will also serve as a bar and restaurant. It will offer coffee and espresso drinks from Carabello Coffee, as well as maintain a full liquor license to serve mixed drinks and craft beers. In terms of a menu, the club will offer breakfast sandwiches and bagels in the morning and salads and sandwiches for lunch. There will also be a separate, smaller menu for dinner. Gallaher plans to keep it simple and use local vendors and bakers for most of the menu items.

For more information regarding Caffe Vivace or to keep up with announcements on an opening date, visit its Facebook page.

All about the beer: These breweries will be pouring near you this summer


It starts with a beer and a dream. Homebrewers and entrepreneurs around the Tristate are reviving Cincinnati’s heritage as a world brewery capital. Breweries are bubbling up all over town with unique flavors, nods to nostalgia and taprooms to suit every sort of hangout.

In a two-part series, Soapbox is taking you on a "tour" of the breweries that are planning to open before the end of the year.

Bircus Brewery, 322 Elm St., Ludlow
Opening: Spring 2017

“Real clowns subvert authority,” says Paul Miller, chief “goof officer” of Bircus. Miller and his team plan to disrupt the craft beer market by pairing beer with the circus.

Circus Mojo already calls the old Ludlow Theatre home, but they’re in the process of renovating the building to accommodate the brewery operation. The site is home to an eclectic assortment of events, including high school reunions, monthly square dances, professional wrestling and of course, circus acts. Miller says he’s excited to pour Bircus' own beer for these events.

Bircus’ brews promise to celebrate Ludlow nostalgia and the circus with its innovative recipes — and names. The Belgian blonde owes its namesake to another blonde, Anne Lee Patterson, a Ludlow native who won the Miss USA competition in 1931. Bircus also partnered with Blue Oven Bakery to create “The Breaded Lady”, a bread-beer hybrid brewed with an Old World process to referment bread into beer.

The debut of its beers around various bars in Kentucky will feature fire-eaters, live acrobats, jugglers and hula-hoop artists.

13 Below Brewery, 7391 Forbes Rd., Sayler Park
Opening: Early summer 2017

Doug Menkedick noticed that the homebrews from his friends Dick Busche, Ray Busche and Bob Luebbering got better year after year. He said they should talk if they were ever serious about starting a brewery, and that's how 13 Below was born.

13 Below will have classics like a West Coast IPA, a Belgian white and a Scottish ale. The brewery is also inventing its own kinds of beer, including a “darker beer with some sweetness to it — somewhere between a porter and a brown ale," says Menkedick.

13 Below occupies the riverside space that was once the Mariner’s Inn in Sayler Park. Its one-story taproom is fully handicap accessible with an area of the bar where guests using wheelchairs can sit and enjoy their beer. Menkedick says his team imagines their brewery will be a family-friendly place with views of the river and nearby marina. With easy access off Route 50, he says it’s the perfect place to stop on the way to or from a ball game.

16 Lots, 753 Reading Rd., Mason
Opening: Summer 2017

Mike Burton was the chief marketing officer at Sunny Delight until he decided to switch his focus to the hard stuff — or beer. His partner, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been home brewing for about 20 years.

“The consumer knows what they’re going to get when they buy our product,” Burton says.

16 Lots will emphasize a “focus on style,” and will feature six beers that will rotate seasonally. Although the brewery hasn't officially opened, it has already released its Warhorse IPA and will follow that soon with its Muddy Creek Oatmeal Stout.

The brewery will occupy the former Mason Pub in the heart of downtown Mason. Burton describes the taproom's interior as an industrial farmhouse with intimate bar seating, gaming areas and a full view of the brewery.

Burton believes that the community has to come first. In fact, the name of the brewery references the 16 lots of land purchased by revolutionary war hero Major William Mason that eventually became downtown Mason.

“If you satisfy the neighborhood, you can build a nice thriving business,” Burton says.

Stay tuned for next week's issue of Soapbox, where we'll continue our list of up-and-coming independent breweries.

Four Cincinnati icons chosen as CPC Impact Buildings of the Year

The Cincinnati Preservation Collective wants to save the historical architecture that makes the Queen City special.

Justin Leach, president of the CPC's board, moved to Cincinnati eight years ago from Columbus. “I immediately fell in love with the historic infrastructure of Cincinnati,” he says. “It defines Cincinnati from other Midwestern cities.”

Each year, the CPC chooses four buildings as part of its annual Impact Buildings Program. The program directs its advocacy efforts to the chosen buildings through promotion, fundraising and helping the community imagine the future with these historic sites.

“We’ve got a very diverse community with a lot of different talents,” Leach says.

In March, members of the collective were invited to a caucus at The Mockbee where representatives for each building could pitch their reasons why their site should be chosen. CPC members then voted on which four buildings they would focus on for the upcoming year.

Though the program in only a year in length, the CPC considers themselves “stewards” of the buildings and will often stay involved after the year has concluded.

Plans are still in the early stages for the four buildings chosen for 2017:

First German Reformed Church, 1815 Freeman St.
The CPC will focus on raising awareness and support for the church. Leach says the West End is a passionate and active community that grows every year.

The CPC is open to working with anyone who wants to develop the property, as long as they have a positive vision for the community.

Lafayette Bloom Middle School, 1941 Baymiller St.
Built in 1920, the Lafayette Bloom Middle School could also be a place for new businesses or organization to grow in the West End.

Cincinnati Federation of Colored Women’s Clubhouse (also known as the C.H. Burroughs House), 1010 Chapel St.
Built in 1888, the Cincinnati Federation of Colored Women purchased the house in 1925 after working for 10 years to secure a down payment. After another 20 years, the group paid off the mortgage. Leach says it was significant that the CFCC owned the building since housing policies and practices at the time often excluded African Americans. The next step is to coordinate with the CFCC to understand what their vision is for the building.

“The most ideal situation is reaching out to the owners and developing a partnership, hearing what their needs are and how our organization can help,” Leach says.

City of Cincinnati Island Lamps or The Turtle Lamps
Though not technically a building, the City of Cincinnati Island Lamps are known as Turtle Lamps, thanks to their dome-like shape. Leach says the unique light fixtures were recently added to Atlas Obscura, a website that aggregates local oddities and places of interest.

“Our plan is to get more information about the lamps from the city and to see what protections can be put in place for existing lamps,” he says.

The CPC is always looking for volunteers; contact friends@preservethenati.org for more information.

Fourteen Cincinnati projects chase after Ohio historic tax credits

With just one month remaining in the application review period, 14 Cincinnati projects are after over $26 million from the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program.

The program is highly competitive program and contributes to economic development all over the state. It provides a tax credit to development projects in order to influence the private redevelopment of the state’s many historic buildings.

In the previous 15 funding rounds of the program, tax credits have been approved for 284 projects to rehabilitate 398 historic buildings in 52 different communities. The program is geared toward owners of historically designated buildings who wish to undertake a rehabilitation project.

But what makes a building eligible?

A building is eligible if it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; contributes to a National Register Historic District, National Park Service Certified Historic District or Certified Local Government historic district; or is listed as a local landmark by a Certified Local Government.

The 48 applications received in the current round range from historic theater renovations to the restoration of a single storefront.

Notable projects that have requested tax credits in the Cincinnati area this round include:
  • The Traction Company building, a 60,230-square-foot building that Parkes Companies, Inc., plans to convert into a mixed-use property
  • Union Terminal, which is asking for the maximum $5 million in tax credits to assist with the $212 million renovation
  • First National Bank (under the ownership of NewcretImage, LLC.), which is also asking for the maximum $5 million to assist with converting the building into a contemporary lifestyle hotel
  • Smaller projects, like the conversion of 620 and 622 Vine St. into a large commercial space with upper apartments (Sieber Vine Holding LLC), are also in the mix

Other developments in major cities like Cleveland and Columbus have requested millions in tax credits in hopes of redeveloping and/or restoring buildings like Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, The Palace Theatre in Columbus, the Louis Sullivan Building in Newark and more.

Statewide, the total request of historic tax credits for the March round is over $75 million. Round 18 applications were due March 31, and approved applications will be announced on or before June 30. Applications will be received for the September round later this summer.

"Alternative" art fair at center of immersive art experience in Camp Washington

Although their neighborhood doesn't got a lot of local coverage, the Camp Washington Community Board has been working around the clock to build up and expand the Camp Washington community and what it has to offer.

On April 30, the Board is partnering with Wave Pool Gallery to bring an alternative art fair, studio sale, temporary mural unveiling and the grand opening of a refugee-run retail shop will put the neighborhood front and center in Cincinnati's arts-and-culture scene. This event, according to Wave Pool Gallery, won’t be your run-of-the-mill art fair.

Titled 9x18: The Parking Lot Art Experiment, the art fair will take place at 2927 Colerain Ave. and feature performance art, art actions, experimental engagements, ephemeral works and more.

Inspired by the growth of the Camp Washington community, Wave Pool curated the event in conjunction with Girl Noticed, the Camp Washington Community Board and the Welcome Project Café/Boutique.

The public will be able to enjoy an array of art from local artists who want to convey that art can be about immersion and not just about purchasing it. Artists will include Ingred Alexandra, Marc Governanti, Annie Brown, Elise Barrington, Nina Devine, Hugh Patton, Caravan, Erin Drew, POPP=D Art, Camp Washington Art and Mobile Produce and many more.

The range of work showcased by these artists will offer something for everyone. Alexandra and Governanti focus on visual arts with multimedia and video vignette performances, and CAMP provides a cart-and-bike produce and art immersion experience with fresh produce from the Camp Washington farm alongside coloring books with vegetables, recipes, etc. POPP=D Art runs under a mobile trend like CAMP, traveling in a repurposed rainbow caravan and bringing to the forefront that “it doesn’t have to be in a gallery to be considered art,” which is what the 9x18 event is all about.

9x18 aims to change the way that local (and national) art is perceived. Not all artists sell commodities to the general public; in fact, many artists run their careers on immersive experiences. They still want to showcase their work to a large audience, but until the idea of 9x18 came about, there has not been an art fair of this nature in the area.

In addition to the parking lot art fair, visitors can also view the studio sale in Wave Pool’s upstairs space (featuring gently used art supplies, home furnishings, etc.), the debut of a new temporary mural completed by Lori Practico from Girl Noticed (bringing awareness to the important role and the value of females in society) and the grand opening of the Welcome Project Café/Boutique, a storefront on Colerain for refugees and immigrants to sell their crafts and handmade goods. The new business was started by Wave Pool in collaboration with Heartfelt Tidbits.

The project was funded by a grant from The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. The event will run from 1 to 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.wavepoolgallery.org or call (513) 600-6117.

Beyond the Curb returns to showcase Covington's diverse and iconic spaces

For the second consecutive year, Beyond the Curb Urban Living Tour returns to Covington, and as Northern Kentucky’s largest city, the recent rehabilitation and redevelopment projects occurring in the area will be a major highlight of the event.

For one day only, self-guided tours will feature a variety of Covington’s finest urban living aspects, from completed and in-progress historic homes to luxury condos and apartment complexes that have created endless possibilities for living in the heart of Northern Kentucky.

“This is not your typical home tour,” says Jill Morenz of The Catalytic Fund, which sponsors the Beyond the Curb events. “In addition to beautifully finished homes, we included projects that are in progress to encourage visitors to imagine the possibilities in the gorgeous old buildings of Covington. We’re also highlighting the amenities that Covington has to offer, including world-class public art, quirky shops and charming gardens and trails.”

The recent redevelopments in Covington will likely make this one of the top Beyond the Curb tours to date. Madison Flats, the new 13 one-bedroom apartments that are set to open this summer also holds first-floor retail/business space for potential startups in the area. And since its grand opening in September 2016, Hotel Covington has seen a major influx of locals and tourists alike.

The self-guided urban living tour will focus on 16 unique homes and businesses in a wide variety of neighborhoods within the city. The mix of property types will offer viewers not only a different neighborhood vibe, architecture and amenities, but also a range of prices that makes Covington approachable for people from all walks of life.

Featured Covington neighborhoods will include:

  • Pike Street Corridor: 114 W. Pike St.; 10 W. Pike St.; 110 W. Pike St.; 902 Banklick St.; 317 Orchard St.; 115 W. Robbins St.; 605 Madison Ave.; 1023 Russell St.; 1 Innovation Alley; Hotel Covington, 638 Madison Ave.; 502 Madison Ave.
  • Historic Licking Riverside/Roebling Point: Boone Block, 420 Scott St.; 124 Garrard St.; Amos Shinkle Carriage House, 215 Garrard St.; The Ascent at Roebling Bridge, 1 Roebling Way; 124 Garrard St.
  • MainStrasse Village: 114 11th St.

Highlights of these buildings include a 10,000-square-foot Greek revival home built in 1847, Covington’s first skyscraper (1910), a 130-year-old row house and a former sewing machine factory.

Beyond the Curb will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30. Early bird tickets are $15 and are available online at www.beyondthecurb.org until April 29. Tickets will also be available for purchase at Hotel Covington the day of the event for $20. All ticket holders must register at Hotel Covington the day of to receive a map of the route.

Tom McKenna creating own niche in OTR community with Allez Bakery

Allez Bakery, located at 1208 Main St., is the newest addition to Over-the-Rhine’s already impressive line-up of locally-owned restaurants, breweries and cafes.

Owner, baker and Cincinnati native Tom McKenna hopes to play a positive role in the community. His business approach is steeped in social conscientiousness and affection for the city he calls home.

“I genuinely want to be a positive force in the neighborhood by being a staple of people's diets and routines," he says. "Interactions, as small as they may be, can change someone's day, and if I can do that while making a living, I'm way ahead of a lot of people."

While Allez is new to the OTR scene, McKenna got his start years ago. He learned the ropes at the New England Culinary Institute and then did a stint at Blue Oven Bakery before branching out on his own to provide fresh bread to the community.

“I opened the bakery because there wasn't the job I saw for myself already in existence in the city," McKenna says. "I wanted more control over what I did for a living and I had a skill that wasn't very widespread at the time. A lot of people are very good bakers but they either have other successful jobs or just don't want to do it as a career. I needed a career and had loads of support from friends and family and was able to turn that into a bakery."

The menu includes variations of the classic sourdough, such as urban sourdough, seeded sourdough and rye sourdough, along with items like ciabatta, French baguettes and sandwiches.

Morning offerings will soon include scones, biscuits and toast. The afternoon menu will feature sandwiches and beer, in addition to fresh bread. The craft bakery’s signature items are its sourdough and whole grain breads .

Items are available at both retail and wholesale prices to local restaurants. Fresh bread and sandwich delivery are offered via bicycle courier service.

Allez is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Collective Espresso goes mobile to reach more Cincy coffee drinkers

Dave Hart is co-owner of Collective Espresso, a business that is synonymous with quality coffee in Cincinnati. It currently operates out of brick-and-mortar coffee shops in Northside and Over-the-Rhine, and just recently, a mobile coffee truck was added to the blend.

This development, called Collective Field Services, began around the same time Hart and his business partner Dustin Miller lost their lease at the Contemporary Arts Center. That was their third coffee shop; it was replaced with a second Bottle & Basket, a deli owned by the ever-expanding Wellmann’s Brands.

The coffee truck, a 1982 Chevy G30, made its first venture into the city at the first spring City Flea, and later that day, at the Pollination Festival in Northside. Hart spoke with Soapbox about what led to the acquisition of the truck and what it means for Collective Espresso’s presence in Cincinnati.

So what's the story behind the truck?
The truck also comes from Berlin, Ohio. It’s kind of an interesting story, how this all came about. It started in a very organic way. We had a meeting with the guys from Such and Such to fabricate a bike for us, and we’re building this bike — it’s a pedicab that’s going to haul kegs of cold brew — and it’ll just do weekend events. It’s not like a staple of the business or anything like that, it’ll just be for special events.

When we first started talking about this, we thought this could be the launch for a whole mobile food and coffee operation. At the time, this truck had been in the fold. Dustin’s brother had two delis up in the Berlin area and he does a hot dog cart during special events. He bought the truck to sell hot dogs, but he’s got a million things going on. Right around the time of our talks with Such and Such, we found an espresso machine, a Synesso, for a really reasonable price outside Philadelphia. It’s similar to what we have at Collective Espresso Northside but  smaller — it’s a two-group Synesso. We found a heck of a deal on it and we kind of just bought it with no real intentions. We knew at some point we would need it. It could have been a backup.

At this point, we have no CAC location and we have an espresso machine. We needed to do something. It was a week later when Dustin’s brother, Ryan, called and said he was selling the truck and asked if we wanted it. It all happened in the span of two or three weeks and it made perfect sense to us as a logical progression. We have a killer staff from CAC and we figured we could absorb them into something new that we do, so all signs pointed toward it as a no-brainer.

The truck is named after a bus that hauls Amish people from where Dustin and I are from, and it’s called Pioneer Trails. It takes Amish people from Berlin to Florida. A lot of Amish people go to Sarasota in the winter. We want to get “Pioneer Trails” painted on the front of the truck.

When did you buy the truck?
We bought the truck in November. It sat at my parents’ house for a while and we’d go up on weekends to work on it. We gutted the whole thing. It used to be a book mobile — growing up in the country, if your town doesn’t have a library, the book mobile will come to your school and once every two weeks, you’d get a break from class to go look at what’s in the book mobile. The truck had been decommissioned years ago and then it was owned by a television station.

What can customers buy from the truck?
It’s a basic coffee shop menu. We’re looking to do something with a keg for cold brew, but it’ll be just like any of our coffee shops. We’ll have light baked goods. Lots of food trucks have miniature espresso machines, but we have a full-sized espresso machine, so we’ll be able to work at the exact same pace as we do in any of our shops.

Are there any long-term plans where the truck can be found?
We’re going to start doing things to see what ultimately ends up being successful. The idea is twofold: to service the food truck areas — we have a customer base downtown from our CAC location, so it makes sense to stick near Fountain Square’s food truck space. Weekdays we’ll be there and also at Washington Park on nice days.

Weekends, it’s not just a mobile vending thing, it’s an opportunity for us to get in front of people we’re not normally in front of. If there’s a neighborhood that might warrant opening a Collective Espresso in it, this is a great way to go there, meet people and test market the business. We’d like to be in various different neighborhoods on the weekends: Walnut Hills, College Hill, maybe somewhere on the West Side. New people. Special events are also a given. We’ll see as it goes along.

Going mobile, what’s the truck’s maximum radius going to be?
If there was a big event, we could take it far out of town, but it’s an ’82 — an older piece of equipment. I don’t think it’s going to be taking trips to Louisville every weekend. We kind of exist in these little bubbles where everybody knows what Collective Espresso is, but then I go to some big event in town and realize there are all of these people out there who still have no idea. There are even people in OTR who ask when we opened and it’s weird to tell them almost five years ago. I think that the truck gets rid of that limiting factor of having to be in these little, obscure up-and-coming neighborhood situations. There’s nothing wrong with a bunch of people knowing what we do.

To keep up with the coffee truck, follow @collective_field_services on Instagram.

Increased focus on development creates stronger neighborhood vibe in College Hill

Over the past 15 years, many of the businesses in College Hill's central business district have closed or relocated, leaving vacancies and a struggling business district. But fresh ideas and new businesses have started to spring up in the neighborhood, bringing new life to College Hill.

In the midst of the current community transition, Jacob Samad, College Hill native and VP of the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, believes one of the constants has been a group of engaged residents that never gave up on revitalizing College Hill. Through organizations like CHCURC, the College Hill Forum, the College Hill Business Association, the College Hill Ministerium and College Hill Gardeners, invested members of the community have stayed involved, continued to work with the city and ultimately developed a plan to address the unique needs of the neighborhood's business district.

"Much of the redevelopment work has been aimed at creating opportunities for people to call College Hill home for the majority of their lives," Samad says. "By increasing walkability and working on creating spaces for people to interact, there is much greater opportunity for neighbors to live life together in their neighborhood. While it is not new that residents of College Hill have cared about their neighborhood, there is a sense that that caring is beginning to pay off.”

By focusing on the mid-district area and acquiring blighted properties, CHCURC and other community partners were able to begin redevelopment by helping to encourage the new Episcopal Retirement Services development, Marlowe Court. CHCURC has also been redeveloping aging buildings along Hamilton Avenue with the goal of drawing in new business.

The most recent success was the opening of Brink Brewing. One of Cincinnati’s newest breweries, Brink has become a community gathering spot; it's been open a little over a month, and its Fashionably Late IPA recently won Tour de Cincinnati's #CincyCraftMadness.

Ultimately, Samad hopes the concentrated effort to improve the mid-business district will attract a large-scale development to the corner of North Bend and Hamilton. The idea is to fill the vacancy with mixed-use development College Hill Station, which will break ground in fall. Plans include first-floor retail with three stories of market-rate residential units above.

Local leaders hope the proposed development will increase population density while providing new rental options in the neighborhood.

“There is a palpable sense of excitement and expectation as new businesses continue to open and be announced that did not exist 10-15 years ago," Samad says. "The new development is the culmination of years of hard work and countless hours of planning and executing. It has galvanized the community and forced various parts of the community to come together to accomplish this together."

Museum Center curates CurioCity events to reach a different crowd

While Union Terminal undergoes renovations, museum staff has had to get creative to make our community’s shared history available. The Duke Energy Children's Museum is open during construction, but the Cincinnati Museum Center wanted to tap into the 21 and up crowd too, so they designed the monthly CurioCity series, which aims to teach young professionals about history in a fun, informal way.

“A lot of young professionals want to learn about Cincinnati history,” says Emily Logue, manager of community festivals and events at the Museum Center. “Whether it’s beer history, little-known facts, the arts or pop culture.”

Rather than attending a lecture, CurioCity prioritizes interaction, experience and socializing. Six of the eight events from the inaugural season of CurioCity were held at local bars and breweries and featured an eclectic mixture of history and fun.

“The best quote I’ve ever heard is, ‘This is the most I’ve ever used my brain at a bar,’” Logue says.

The series started last September and really hit its stride in November when Arnold’s Bar and Grill hosted Wizard Meets Flapper to mark the release of the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Logue says the history of Arnold's, and the fact that it's the oldest bar in Cincinnati, makes it an ideal location to hold CurioCity events.

“Ninety-eight percent of guests were dressed as a wizard, a flapper or both,” Logue says. Attendees listened to jazz music and danced at the “speakeasy” style event.

Beer-centric events have proven popular with the young professional crowd, especially if centered around a local brew. CurioCity went hyper-local by partnering with Urban Artifact for Crafting Culture, where guests learn how beer is made. The event featured a specially brewed beer, the Union Terminal Bach — a beer brewed from yeast collected at Union Terminal.

In March, the Viking “Mead-up” at Arnold’s gave guests the opportunity to tap into their inner Viking with mead brewed at a local meadery.

The grand finale of the first season of CurioCity Throwback Thursday at 6:30 p.m on April 13. Attendees will relive their 1990s childhoods as they take over the Duke Energy Children’s Museum for the night. Guests will be able to make their own ice cream with liquid nitrogen, make friendship bracelets and enjoy '90s-themed coloring pages. The Children’s Museum’s famous wooden jungle gym and ball machine will be open as well.

Light bites will include childhood favorites like tater tots and bagel bites. Jenco Brothers Candy will have samples and local shop Full Frontal Nerdity will be on hand to sell buttons featuring '90s legends like Bill Nye the Science Guy. Logue says scrunchies and apparel with sunflowers are encouraged but not required.

The second season of CurioCity returns this summer. See the full schedule here.

NKU Six @ Six lecture series showcasing Appalachian arts, culture and talent

With success in its previous Six @ Six interactive lecture series, which began in 2010, Northern Kentucky University’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement is in the midst of its next series, held in conjunction with the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Titled Appalachia: An American Story, this series focuses on workshops, readings and discussions showcasing Appalachia’s traditions and ongoing contributions to the world of literature and art. According to the Center for Civic Engagement, the region has been an especially powerful artistic lens for novelists, poets, essayists, painters, photographers, musicians and others to interpret the American character and spirit.

The staple event of the six-part series will be a symposium at the CAM on April 28, when five artists who have depicted Appalachia in unique ways will take the stage. According to Mark Neikirk, the executive director at the Center for Civic Engagement, this is the fourth year that NKU has connected with the CAM for such an event.

“We began with a discussion of Machiavelli on the 500th anniversary of The Prince, the next year our topic was Moby-Dick and last year it was the environment as a muse to writers and other artists,” Neikirk says. “The topic changes each year. The constant is our collaboration with the Art Museum to host our discussion. The Art Museum symposium is a way for us to export the University’s intellectual capacity to community audiences — and to give the Greater Cincinnati community a taste of the rich life of the mind at NKU.”

Neikirk says the planning committee believes that the discussion of Appalachia, the mountains, mountain people and understanding mountain art should be of importance to people outside of the mountains themselves. The title of the series shows this as it reflects themes that are held by many Americans: love of kin, love of land, love of place, love of individual independence and love of neighbors.

Why Cincinnati and not the actual mountain area?

Neikirk says they hope to present a broader picture of Appalachia with more depth and a variety of voices. “No, I would not consider Cincinnati Appalachia, but yes, there are strong Appalachia ties here," he says. "Many of us, myself included, are descended from mountain families. People came here for jobs and opportunity, and we brought that heritage with us. There is a very active Appalachian community in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, including around the arts.”

While the CAM symposium is the main event of the series, there are other events scheduled that will feature poets, literature figures, artists and more. Some of these events are open to the public, while others are only offered to NKU students. The lectures and events are free of charge (with the exception of the photography workshop) as a method of getting people involved and interested in what the history of Appalachia entails.

Be sure to check out NKU’s Six @ Six lecture series in the events listed below:

• April 22, 1 p.m.: Readings by poets and writers and a discussion at Kenton County Public Library, Covington branch

• April 25-27: Malcolm J. Wilson photography workshop at Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center, Covington

• April 28: Robert Gipe, writing workshop, NKU (students only)

• April 28, 6:45 p.m.: Symposium, CAM (tickets are available here)

• May 2, 6:30 p.m.: Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, reading and discussion, Grant County Public Library, Williamstown

• May 18, 7 p.m.: Poets' reading and discussion, Center for Great Neighborhoods, Covington

• June 17, noon: Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, memoir writing workshop, Roebling Point Books & Coffee, Covington

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