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S&J Bakery Cafe updates name, plans for Findlay Market

With a new business name, a liquor license and sole ownership of S&J Bakery Café in Findlay Market, Stefan Skirtz is about to get even more creative with his offerings. Which is saying something for a baker who already serves a blueberry pancake cupcake with maple buttercream icing and topped with a garnish of chocolate-dipped bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

As his storefront nears its third anniversary at the Over-the-Rhine landmark this May, Skirtz remains dedicated to keeping things local and making a stop at his flourishing shop just one part of a varied market experience. 

“The reason why I wanted to come to Findlay Market was to strengthen the Findlay Market experience,” says Skirtz, 44, who grew up in Clifton Heights. “I go out every Saturday and buy our produce for the week.”

Skirtz, who opened the shop with a partner, reports that they spent 96 percent of the capital costs for the business within the 45202 zipcode. After making it through the first year in business, sales doubled in year two. He’s hopeful about the prospects for year three, during which he opened a second location—the S&J Café in the Main Library downtown.

“The sales have been very strong,” Skirtz says. “It’s given us an opportunity to constantly adapt and adjust.”

Adapting and adjusting comes naturally to the entrepreneur who started his working life far from a kitchen. He worked summers at Kings Island, then stayed with the park as its owners shifted from Kings Productions to Paramount and Viacom, where he produced live shows and planned events. 

But the Cincinnati native, who once again lives in Clifton Heights, grew tired of constant travel. He decided to pursue his lifelong love of cooking at the Midwest Culinary Institute, where he could turn his hobby into a career.

Skirtz’s theme park background makes him particularly sensitive to his customers’ feedback, which he has already incorporated into his business plans. For example, the dining room section of the Findlay store was intended for storage, but customers enjoyed having a place to sit and enjoy breakfast and lunch so he made the cheerful space permanent.  

“People instantly started coming down and starting their Findlay Market experience with us,” Skirtz says. Regulars bring their own coffee mugs, cloth napkins and silverware. Some stop in for the same menu items every Saturday at 8 a.m. sharp; others make S&J a midway break during their trip; still others end their shopping with a leisurely lunch. 

“It’s really about listening to your guests,” says Skirtz, who works with a wide range of market and local vendors, from Coffee Emporium (which created a special blend for S&J) to Bender and Eckerlin Meats for sandwich fillings.

Feedback has also led Skirtz to sell his bread in demi-loaves—customers told him that whole loaves were too big for them to finish. He’s also expanding the shop’s weekday hours to 6 p.m. to accommodate a second baguette baking in the afternoon; baguette-lovers pushed for an option to stop by S&J on their way home from work to buy a warm loaf.

Skirtz was also granted a liquor license this month as part of the newly formed Findlay Market Entertainment District, and is deciding how to incorporate it into his plans for rebranding, which will include a new menu, brunch, special programs and live entertainment.

One thing is for certain: Skirtz will continue to see Findlay Market as a “destination attraction,” reminiscent of his theme park days. “My goal is that anybody who comes in my door and eats my food, I want them to go into the Market House and start shopping,” he says. 

By Elissa Yancey
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Louisville startup brings culture club to Cincinnati

The Original Makers Club is a fairly new startup from Louisville—it was founded in 2011 by photographer Josh Merideth— but it already has branches in Lexington, Cincinnati and Brooklyn. OMC is an aesthetically minded brand and publication that curates, highlights and looks to elevate the culture, society and local business scenes of cities.
 
“A few years ago, Louisville was going through a similar revitalization to Cincinnati’s current one, which makes it a prime time to celebrate local culture,” says Mike Brady, managing partner and events director of OMC.
 
Comprised of design-conscious, forward-thinking local businesses, Cincinnati’s branch of OMC has about 60 members, including A TavolaEnsemble TheatreSloan Boutique21c Museum Hotel3CDCSmart Fish Studio5 Dot DesignBakersfield OTRPaolo Modern JewelersJapps4EGMiCaTaste of BelgiumDIGS and Jaguar Land Rover.
 
“We are less about adding anything than we are about showcasing the culture and talent that exists here,” Brady says. “We want to insure that those visiting the city get a real taste of her. We also wish that those currently living in Cincinnati are experiencing it to the fullest.”
 
On Feb. 8, OMC is hosting its launch event for the Cincinnati branch. Members of OMC will be providing appetizers, drinks, music and neat things to look at—including A Tavola, 5 Dot Design, Marti’s Floral DesignsParlourChristian MoerleinMatthew Metzger and Jaguar Land Rover.
 
Besides the launch event, OMC is working on creating a mural with help from Artworks and hopes to co-host larger events like a Dinner Series, which would showcase member chefs and entertain a group of people in an exotic location in or near the city, Brady says.
 
There are only a handful of tickets available for the launch event for non-OMC members, so get them while you can.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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NKU students tackle real-world business challenge in 24 Hours of Mobile Innovation Contest

Northern Kentucky University students across disciplines will come together for 24 hours to tackle a real-world business challenge during the first 24 Hours of Mobile Innovation Contest.

Up to 70 students are expected to collaborate in this fast-paced tech challenge, starting the evening of Feb. 8 at NKU's Griffin Hall in the College of Informatics.

The event is being organized by the College of Informatics and the Haile/US BANK College of Business in partnership with businesses TechAllies and MindCrate.

Without spilling the secret of the exact challenge, NKU Business Informatics Professor Teuta Cata says students will work to solve an actual business challenge that could be put into use. Students will get some guidance as they begin to create, design and code the mobile app. Broad guidelines for the app are that it will improve daily activity and business processes or develop a new game idea.

"There will be teams of students who are earning a lot of different degrees here at NKU, because we need a variety of skills," Cata says.

There will be a mixture of graduate and undergraduate students who'll work on everything from the back end to the interface to marketing and communications. Each team member should have the following technology skills: Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint; and experience with the Internet and different mobile devices. Each team should have at least one team member with a basic understanding of project management, database and data communication, among others skills.

They'll have 24-hours to meet the challenge. The awards ceremony starts at 6 p.m. on Feb. 9.

Cata says she got the idea for the event after watching a Cincinnati Startup Weekend event, where local entrepreneurs work for 54 hours over three days to create a startup company.

"I thought this was a great idea for students to get involved with," she says.

Outstanding students will have the opportunity to interview with TechAllies for a chance at a paid internship with the consulting company.

Written by Feoshia H. Davis
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Barking Fish expands entertainment, content development divisions

When it was founded in 2005, Barking Fish Lounge focused mostly on corporate internal and external videos. There was more focus on post work, such as editing and graphics, but the company did offer some production services at the time.
 
Since then, Barking Fish has expanded its entertainment production and content development divisions. Some of the company's recent projects include the 2010 Pete Rose documentary 4192: The Crowning of the King and 7 Below, which is a psychological thriller starring Val Kilmer and Ving Rhames.
 
“We’ve become more recognized for this type of work, which is great, but we didn’t want to lose our core business and clients,” says Aymie Majerski, producer and one of the co-founders of Barking Fish. “That’s why we’re expanding and promoting this side of the company more than ever in 2013.”
 
In addition to continuing to grow the entertainment side of Barking Fish, Majerski and her team will be working with existing and potential clients to expand the commercial side of the business. This means offering more creative services than before, as well as more production services.
 
“We’ve hired an amazing production manager who will head the production side of the business,” Majerski says. “We’ve always been known for doing things ‘outside the tank,’ and we want to continue to push the boundaries and create experiences for our clients and partners.”
 
Founders Majerski, Terry Lukemire (senior editor) and Joe Busam (design director) have more than 30 years of combined experience in creative production and post-production services. Barking Fish was founded on their desire to work on a more intimate level with clients in order to create and produce quality content that animates, elevates and motivates.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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dunnhumby to occupy lot at Fifth and Race streets

The property at Fifth and Race streets has seen its fair share of change in the past 14 years. Plans for a Nordstrom, a skyscraper, even condos came and went. The parking lot stayed. But by December 2014, the new dunnhumby Centre will occupy the space.
 
Construction began on Jan. 31 on the nine-story, $122 million building that will house the branding giant’s headquarters. When completed, the project will include a three-level parking garage with 1,000 parking spaces; 30,000 square feet of retail space; and 280,000 square feet of dunnhumby office space.
 
Building plans boast lots of open space and glass windows, plus a wide staircase that will allow for more interaction between employees and less time at their desks.
 
In the future, dunnhumby can expand downward by taking over the parking garage, if needed.
 
dunnhumby currently has about 650 employees, and it plans to grow to more than 1,000 by 2018, which is one of the reasons for the new building. Also, the current dunnhumby headquarters is in the right-of-way for the proposed new Brent Spence Bridge, says Ann Keeling, public relations representative for dunnhumby.
 
Turner Construction Company is building dunnhumby Centre; it’s funded by new market tax credits, 3CDC-managed corporate loan money, and state and conventional loans.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Colette Paperie makes sending, receiving snail mail fun

Need a funny card to send to the special someone in your life? Look no further than Colette Paperie, a new-to-Cincinnati online stationery business.
 
Keli Catalano, 30, started Colette Paperie back in 2008 when she was a designer at Target in Minnesota. At the time, stationery was something she liked to do on the side, but when Catalano moved back to Cincinnati in 2010, she decided to make it her full-time job.
 
“I’ve always loved paper,” says Catalano. “Even though I don’t have a need for them, I still buy cards.”
 
Catalano designs and illustrates the cards herself. She usually draws the designs by hand and then touches them up on the computer.
 
The majority of Catalano’s business is through online sales, but she does visit craft shows and sells her products wholesale to boutiques across the country. They’re available on Colette Paperie’s website, or at Boutique 280 in Madeira and Wholly Craft in Columbus.
 
Colette Paperie offers cards for all occasions, plus journals, calendars, stationery sets, pencils and magnets. The products' messages say exactly what you want to say, but in unique ways.
 
The baby cards are some of Catalano’s craziest designs, and they tend to be the most popular among buyers. “Some of them are ridiculous, but they’re funny,” she says.
 
Catalano does take custom orders for wedding stationery, but she hasn’t concentrated on that side of her business yet. She also customizes messages on the insides of the cards for customers.  
 
Catalano’s goal is to create a new reason to send paper mail instead of email. “I love seeing people send cards for no particular reason,” she says.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Happy Chicks' at-home bakers offer vegan goods

The idea for Happy Chicks Bakery began in Jessica Bechtel’s kitchen. She and Jana Douglass, 31, have been friends and colleagues for about 10 years, and over those years, they’ve made many batches of cookies together. Since they love to bake and are both vegans, the pair figured they could make it into a business.
 
Douglass and Bechtel started Happy Chicks, a vegan bakery, in April of last year. Happy Chicks doesn’t have a storefront, but they sell their products wholesale to Park+Vine and the Family Enrichment Center in Northside. In the summer, Happy Chicks has a booth at the Northside and Madeira farmers markets. Bechtel and Douglass also do custom orders and cater special events.
 
“Our goal is to have a storefront in the next few years,” says Bechtel, 33. “We’re trying to do the business without taking out loans. When the time comes, we’ll probably look for a space downtown.” 

Happy Chicks is also in the process of looking for other wholesale opportunities to help expand their business.
 
Happy Chicks makes cakes, cupcakes, cookies, macaroons, pies, scones, muffins, a vegan croissant, breakfast roll and coffee cake; the breakfast items are popular at both Park+Vine and the Family Enrichment Center, Bechtel says.
 
The black raspberry chocolate chip cookie is a top-seller, as are the tiramisu and caramel chocolate stout cakes. They also offer seasonal-flavored treats, such as the Snowball, which is a coconut cupcake topped with coconut frosting and filled with a cranberry sauce.
 
All of the bakery’s goodies are dairy and egg-free, and most of the recipes are also soy-free. Many can be made gluten and nut-free, too.
 
Need to satisfy your sweet tooth before Valentine’s Day? Visit Happy Chicks at Sweet Victory, a wedding dessert tasting and cake-decorating contest, Feb. 6 at Cooper Creek Event Center. Or get tickets to Cupcakes & Cocktails, a ladies-only event that benefits the Eve Center, Feb. 8.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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OMYA Studio incorporates music into yoga classes for kids, adults

Yoga is usually accompanied by soothing background music, but at OMYA Studio in Northside, that background music is an important aspect of every class.
 
Co-owners Hollie Nesbitt and Mark Messerly both have musical backgrounds. Nesbitt is a former music teacher, and Messerly is a music teacher at the Cincinnati Gifted Academy and plays in several bands, including Wussy and Messerly and Ewing.
 
About four years ago, Nesbitt started Little Yoga Sunshine, a yoga program for children. She has taught yoga to Girl Scout troops and church groups; she also used to teach yoga to students at Cincinnati Public School’s after-school program. Over the years, Nesbitt has taught yoga at Wyoming Youth Services, The Women’s Connection, Lighthouse Youth Services, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Museum Center.
 
OMYA, which stands for Outreach, Music, Yoga and Arts, offers yoga classes for children, adults, families and those with special needs. “Yoga gets the body moving and helps with concentration and calming down,” says Nesbitt.
 
Yoga can teach children with autism the skill of stopping with the four “Bs” (brakes, brain, body, breath). It can also help non-ambulatory people with muscle tone and physicality, and those with Down syndrome with strengthening their joints and muscles.

“We offer lots of kid, family and special needs classes, which is something that many yoga studios don’t have,” says Nesbitt.
 
Messerly doesn’t teach yoga classes, but he’s planning to offer several music classes at OMYA. In the future, he plans to offer an early childhood music class for children with autism and ADHD. He also wants to start a guitar club for beginning and intermediate guitar players and a songwriting class for older children and adults. He’s also in the process of developing a six-week course for kids with autism, a program that doesn’t exist elsewhere.
 
“It’s always struck me that kids love music, but adults say they can’t carry a tune,” Messerly says. “I want to give music back to people. Not everyone will be a musician, but they should have music in their lives.”
 
Not only will Messerly teach a few music classes at OMYA, but he has incorporated yoga breathing and movements into the music classes that he teaches at Cincinnati Gifted.
 
OMYA also has a working relationship with WordPlay, which is housed in the same building as the studio. “We want to do some cross-curriculum work with WordPlay, where kids will write poems or song lyrics and then I’ll teach them how to add music,” Messerly says.
 
OMYA is right across the street from Yoga-Ah, the yoga studio where Nesbitt learned to teach yoga. She says they do lots of cross-promoting for the studio. “While your child is taking a class at OMYA, you can take one for adults across the street.”
 
Currently, OMYA offers one or two classes per day, with no classes held on Tuesday. Nesbitt is one of two yoga teachers, and Robyn Holleran, a professional belly dancer, teaches belly dancing classes for girls ages 12 and up; April Eight also teaches Songs of Peace classes. Classes are $10 for adults, $8 for kids and $15 for families.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Babushka Pierogies brings Eastern European staple to Cincinnati

Sarah Dworak and Iwona Przybysz started Babushka Pierogies in July 2012 with a vegan pierogi tasting at Park+Vine. At the same time, they gave a sample of their traditional potato and cheese pierogi to  Findlay Market favorites Bryan and Carolyn Madison, who liked them and agreed to sell them at their store.
 
Both Dworak, who is of Ukrainian, Croatian and Polish descent, and Przybysz, who is from Poland, learned to make pierogies from their babushkas—their grandmothers. Their pierogi recipe is a combination of their family recipes, Dworak says.
 
Currently, Dworak and Przybysz make pierogies in a kitchen in Glendale, then deliver them to Findlay Market and Park+Vine. When the weather permits, Babushka Pierogies also hold pierogi tastings outside of Madison’s at Findlay Market on Saturdays.
 
They only spend two days per week in the kitchen, making about 500 pierogies in that time. Dworak and Przybysz are the only official employees, but Dworak’s boyfriend, Josh Mrvelj, helps out whenever he can. He designed their logo and fries up the pierogies at Findlay Market during tastings.
 
Babushka Pierogies is looking for a storefront near Findlay Market, Dworak says. They also want to expand the number of stores that sell their products.  
 
“The store will allow us to offer more varieties of pierogies, in addition to other Eastern European foods we love, such as borchst; halushki, a cabbage and noodle dish; and stuffed cabbage,” she says.
 
Babushka Pierogies sells a potato, cheese and onion pierogi; a potato and sauerkraut pierogi and a vegan potato, cheese and onion pierogi. The potato and cheese and potato and sauerkraut pierogies are $5 per half dozen, and the vegan pierogies are $5.75 per half dozen.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Old Hamilton Journal-News building gets new life

The former home of the Hamilton-Journal News will soon become Butler Tech’s School of the ArtsHamilton City School’s Adult Basic and Literacy Education program and the Miami Valley Ballet Theatre.
 
The building, located at 228 Court Street in Hamilton’s downtown, was built in 1886; additions were added in 1914, 1956 and 1959. The Journal-News vacated the building in 2011, and Akron Legacy Real Estate Development LLC, a group of five Ohio developers that work together on different projects, including historic restoration projects, purchased it.
 
Akron Legacy also did a $10 million restoration of the historic Hamilton Mercantile Lofts. The project included 29 market-rate residential units and three spaces of street-level retail.
 
“We want to see Hamilton’s older, beautiful buildings repurposed into mixed-use buildings, rather than sitting dark,” says Joshua Smith, Hamilton’s city manager.
 
The Journal-News restoration project received $804,122 in Ohio Preservation Historic Tax Credits. The money from the tax credits will support phases two and three of the project, which will be completed in mid-February. Initial construction on the project began in the late summer of 2012.
 
All three arts programs were in need of new spaces. Butler Tech’s School of the Arts is temporarily housed in downtown Hamilton at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts. High demand for Butler Tech’s program led to its need for a new home, says Smith. The move will allow the program to double or triple in size.
 
“It’s refreshing to see young, creative folks walking around downtown, and adding to the vibrancy of the town,” says Brandon Saurber, assistant to the city manager.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Rocket Science moves downtown to join Cincinnati's growing branding culture

The branding firm Rocket Science now occupies a third-floor space in downtown Cincinnati’s Eighth Street Design District. The branding and design firm relocated from Mason at the beginning of December to be closer to major companies like P&G, Kroger and Macy’s, as well as other design firms.
 
“We really felt that being in the suburbs precluded us from being part of the local advertising and branding community,” says Chuck Tabri, director of business development and client strategy for Rocket Science, and one of the company’s three partners.
 
Greg Fehrenbach and Joel Warneke founded Rocket Science in 1999 under a different name. The company merged with one in Dayton, then de-merged, and in 2005, became Rocket Science in its current form. At the time of the merge, the firm was based in Mason; it then moved to a space in Deerfield Towne Center.
 
Rocket Science employs about 15 people, and it recently added in-house digital capabilities to its traditional print offerings to assist its clients' shift from print to digital. It made more sense for the company to develop its own digital branch rather than farm it out to another company, Tabri says.
 
Rocket Science had begun to outgrow its space in Mason, and after talks with 3CDC in the fall, the right space opened up. 

And from a talent standpoint, moving downtown gives Rocket Science greater access to young, fresh designers.
 
“Young designers want to be in a more urban environment,” says Tabri. “They get more inspiration from the creativity in a downtown environment than from a strip center in the suburbs.”
 
Because of Rocket Science's size, it can offer new thinking and capabilities that larger firms might not have, says Tabri. He adds that the move will help Rocket Science expand its consumer, business-to-business and healthcare verticals.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Vintage shop NVISION expands in Northside

NVISION, an independent retail shop in Northside, recently expanded to make room for its ever-growing inventory.
 
NVISION specializes in vintage, secondhand and handmade goods, including clothing and fashion accessories, original art, vintage décor, collectibles and furniture from the ‘50s to the present. Some of the clothing, jewelry, purses, greeting cards, ceramics and glassware sold at NVISION are handcrafted, redesigned or repurposed by local artists and designers. The shop also offers clothing alterations and repair services, and each piece of clothing comes with a custom fitting, if needed.
 
There’s also has an online store on NVISION’s website that has made merchandise available to customers all over the world. “I’ve sold merchandise from my shop to Sweden, Japan, Canada, Qatar, Turkey and plenty of cities in the United States,” says NVISION’s owner and sole employee Emily Buddendeck.
 
Buddendeck opened NVISION on Leap Day in 2008, but she saw that the store was outgrowing its original space. The tenant next door moved out at the end of November, and a week and many coats of paint later, NVISION unveiled its new space to the public at Northside Second Saturdays.
 
Buddendeck didn’t consider relocating because NVISION’s location, on Hamilton Avenue next to The Comet bar and Thunder-Sky Inc., gallery, allow the three businesses compliment each other, she says. Plus, she enjoys serving her Northside neighbors.
 
The original side of the store is now primarily dedicated to clothing and fashion accessories. The new space houses furniture and housewares, plus NVISION’s rotating art gallery with pieces by local and regional artists; the two spaces are connected by a door.
 
The expansion also allowed Buddendeck to expand NVISION’s menswear and children’s sections. Shoppers can now browse the store more easily and not bump into furniture.
 
“In the next few months, I’ll be fine-tuning the use of the new space as it relates to the whole store, and the ‘grand re-opening’ will be held Feb. 28-March 1 during our fifth anniversary sale,” says Buddendeck.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Local artists display talents at Essex Studios' Art Walk

If you still need a gift for that special someone, Essex Studios’ Art Walk might have just what you’re looking for.
 
Four times a year, Essex Studios in Walnut Hills hosts Art Walk, which opens the studios to the public and gives the community an opportunity to see and buy local art. This quarter’s Art Walk features work from impressionistic to contemporary abstract paintings, art glass and contemporary ceramics. There will also be a photographic installation by guest artist Tim Freeman that financially supports Village Life Outreach Project.
 
Along with the 120 artists that will contribute to Art Walk, Art Circle will have their work on display and for sale this weekend. Thirteen artists from Art Circle collaborated to produce a unique project: DELICIOUS!—The Art of Food.
 
DELICIOUS! is a set of 4”x5” cards of watercolors and colored pencil drawings of images related to food. There’s even a recipe on the back of each card that incorporates a depicted ingredient. The recipes are among some of the artists’ favorites, says Connie Springer, publicist and Art Circle member.
 
“We usually collaborate on calendars, but this year, we decided to create something that wasn’t tied to a specific date so people could enjoy the artwork and recipes for many years to come,” says Springer.  
 
Even though DELICIOUS! is a collaboration, each image is a representation of the different styles and talents of each artist. Some pieces are super-realistic, and others are more impressionistic, says Springer.
 
Art Circle is a group of 16 watercolor and colored pencil artists who meet weekly at Essex Studios to share painting time and camaraderie. Art Circle began in 2004 in Wyoming, Ohio, as a gathering of some of Pat Painer’s former students from the Wyoming Fine Arts Center. In 2009, the group moved to join more than 120 other artists at Essex Studios.
 
The 13 Art Circle members who contributed to DELICIOUS! are Clair Breetz, Amy Bryce, Margie Carleton, Sherry Goodson, Jan Glaser, Autumn Huron, Gay Isaacs, Mary Jo Sage, Nandita Baxi Sheth, Deb Shelton, Betty Smith, Connie Springer and Vivian Talley.
 
DELICIOUS! items are available for purchase in two formats: a spiral-bound mini-book that can be shelved with other cookbooks, or a set of loose cards that can be slipped into family recipe books. 

Besides the physical art, Art Walk will have refreshments, including some of the appetizer-type recipes from DELICIOUS! But if you can’t make it to Art Walk, you can find DELICIOUS! at the holiday gift shops at the Kennedy Heights Art Center and the Baker-Hunt Art and Cultural Center in Covington.
 
Art Walk is this Friday and Saturday from 6 to 11 pm, but the Art Circle studio (Studio 122), closes at 10 pm.

By Caitlin Koenig
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Spun Bicycles gearing up for 2013 opening

Judi and Dominic LoPresti met in a bike shop. Their first date was a bike ride. They even got married at an international bike show in Las Vegas.

Next year, the Cincinnati natives will fulfill a lifelong dream to open their own bike shop when they welcome customers to Spun Bicycles in Northside, at 4122 Hamilton Avenue in the storefront space of historic Hoffner Lodge. They've leased the storefront space and are already busy planning for the space, which will have a 60-inch TV screen pumping BMX videos and music and a bench constructed out of skateboards.

"Cincinnati hasn't seen anything like this," says Judi LoPresti, who worked as a bicycle messenger in San Francisco and raced for three years before deciding that the traditional riding scene was not for her. "We just want to have a bike shop that's going to be really cool."

With her background in bikes of all sorts and her husband's history as a sponsored BMX rider, the couple spent countless hours volunteering for MoBo, the city's only bicycle co-op. She spent most of her time volunteering with youth programs, including summer initiatives that provided bikes for neighborhood kids.

What she noticed, over and over again, were people who didn't want to work on their own bikes, which MoBo supports, but just wanted their own bikes fixed.

"The neighborhood needs a bike shop," she says.

While it won't be a focal point of Spun, the couple does plan on selling locally crafted skateboards by Fickle Boards. But the shop's main focus will be restoring and repairing bikes, selling bikes and supporting the local biking community.

Judi LoPresti says that he shop's location next to The Listing Loon will make it easy for customers to drop of their bikes for repair, stop next door for beer or wine, then come back to pick up their fixed wheels.

She sees a symbiotic relationship with MoBo and the newly opened Wrong Brothers bike shop in nearby Northside International Airport.

"I'm really excited," says Judi, who currently spends days tending the coffee bar at Sidewinder. "There are ton of people looking forward to it."

The LoPresti's get occupancy next month and hope to have their logo on the windows soon. Inside, though, they have lots of renovation and design work to do. Still, Judi LoPresti hopes to have the doors open by late March 2013. Currently, We Have Become Vikings is designing Spun's logo, which should be unveiled this month, and the shop's website, which will launch next year.

By Elissa Yancey
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Tactical Urbanism deploys in Covington

A group of eight University of Cincinnati students have designed seven projects that will bring creative elements to existing, underutilized spaces in Covington. The projects this semester focus mainly on the area around Pike Street and Madison Avenue, but in the future, the class hopes to have a continued impact and involve community members in Covington and other areas in the region.
 
The students are members of Matt Anthony’s Tactical Urbanism class at the UC Niehoff Urban Studio. It’s the first year for the class, but many elements of it have been seen in other classes where students have engaged and built projects that focus on changes in urban areas. Soapbox sat down with Anthony to discuss the impact of the class.
 
Q: Why are the projects based in Covington when there are opportunities in Cincinnati to revitalize the city’s urban core?
A: “Recently, the CDC has been engaged with a few projects in Covington, including some involvement in the studies or development of their Center City Action Plan. Covington itself offered a unique set of issues to address and also a territory that was largely unfamiliar to students, even though we are so close to this very central and urban area.

When we first started talking about doing this project, Frank Russell, director of the CDC, was the first to suggest Covington as a prime location. We’ve been fortunate to have a great relationship with some city officials, such as Natalie Bowers, who is the arts district director in Covington. She has been a great internal champion of arts projects and knows the right channels to get more official approval for some of our projects that require it. Katie Meyers from Renaissance Covington has also helped organize some business and commercial-oriented work.

There are more communities in our region on both sides of the river that we’d like to work with. Our hope is that there is some excitement with these projects and we can take what we learned in Covington and apply it elsewhere. There was interest in some temporary installation projects around the Pendleton neighborhood recently, so that is a possibility.”
 
Q: Has anything like this ever been done at UC before?
A: “I don’t think there have been many projects of this specific type at UC. There have been many design/build activities over the years for both architecture and art projects, especially in urban areas, but I think this is one of the few that have allowed the students to identify the opportunity area themselves through personal research and viewing existing urban studies and then planning a temporary installation.

The studio is called “Tactical Urbanism” after a more recent movement to try to empower people to create temporary projects that have a potential to create long-term change. The idea itself isn’t new, but there is a renewed interest and a growing movement around it right now—I recently heard someone call it ‘urban prototyping.’”
 
Q: What about in Covington?
A: “In Covington, I know there have been various arts engagement projects around the city, including a class from NKU that created an installation under one of the train overpasses, so I don’t think we’re claiming a lot of firsts. The Awesome Collective has also been talking a lot about doing more subversive positive messaging and advertising to make people aware of Covington. But again, I think the student’s control of the projects and the kind of blitz we’re putting on with eight projects is more unique.”
 
Q: Does the Tactical Urbanism class partner with any organizations for projects and/or events?
A: “We’ve done a lot of work with the people from Renaissance Covington and the City of Covington, CSX for train overpass inquiries and various small businesses have been generous with their support of projects in effort and materials. One of our students is collaborating with holiday storefront installations that Covington merchants are planning, and another is working with the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center to transform student drawings into life-size renditions that will enliven a train underpass. So the students have been a whirlwind through Covington and various organizations there.”
 
Q: There are lots of rejuvenation efforts going on throughout the Tri-State area. Why do you think it’s important for students to get involved in rejuvenating a city?
A: “I’ve seen more and more students looking for a way to make a difference in the world by utilizing the skills they are learning in school. I wanted to find a way to connect students with real problems that they could identify and physically make something that could make a difference that they can and should detect, even if it’s limited in scope.

I think it’s important from a civic engagement perspective both from the city’s and the student’s sides. Design and creative problem solving will continue to grow in importance as our cities grow, and empowering students now with experiences in affecting their environment is an important step.”
 
Q: What do you hope to see come out of the tactical urbanism class?
A: “I’d like to see students execute successful projects that are well attended that positively influence the City of Covington. But of equal importance is that the students understand the impact it had and the implications or suggestions they could make to the city regarding the issue they hoped to affect.

A number of students have projects aimed at changing perceptions of areas or creating some awareness around spaces and problems, so I think seeing people gather or talk about those things would be good as well. A number of students have ideas that they are documenting that could successfully be executed again, or have a version that with a few more local champions and perhaps a small cash infusion could scale up to be nice civic projects. So we’re looking for partners whose interest may have been peaked by some of the events to keep the ball rolling.”
 
The projects for this semester kicked off on Nov. 16 with Chalk Walk in the Arcade, and Covington’s first urban golf tournament was held on Nov. 17 on top of City Center Garage. The other projects will be popping up in Covington throughout the month of November.
  • Through Nov. 31, images of what Covington looked like in the past will be juxtaposed with what the vacant commercial properties look like today.
  • Weekends in November: Empty planters along Madison will see new plant life and help beautify the area.
  • Until Nov. 23, signs were on display along sidewalks to encourage people to visit local attractions.
  • Friday, Nov. 23: The Covington Urban Spaces Installation Project put up holiday storefront installations in windows near the corner of Pike and Madison, which will be on display until New Year’s.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 28: A pop-up park and café will appear under the overpass on Pike to bring together residents and visitors.
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter
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