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Maribelle's open kitchen in Oakley invites inquiry in comfy setting

Comfy. Transparent. Energetic.

That’s how Leigh Enderle, owner of Maribelle’s eat + drink, describes the new location in Oakley.

Maribelle’s, which used to be located on Riverside Drive, reopened late last June in the space that formerly housed Hugo restaurant on Madison Road. The restaurant’s newly remodeled space is based on the idea of transparency and comfort.

“Transparency is the concept we’re going for,” says Enderle. “We want people to know where their food comes from and how it’s made. We want them to understand the sourcing and we want them to understand how much work goes into the restaurant, too.”

The restaurant kitchen is completely exposed, so guests in the dining area can watch chefs prepare their food. And the staff at Maribelle’s invites diners to sample food or ask the staff questions pertaining to their meals and drinks.

“The open kitchen has brought awareness to our guests,” says Enderle. “They really get to see how a restaurant kitchen operates, it’s almost like watching a show.”

The menu items at Maribelles run from $8-15, and include both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Chefs use local vegetables when in season, and source all chicken and turkey products from Gerber Farms in central Ohio. Maribelle’s beer list includes domestic porters, lagers and IPAs.

Enderle, who is originally from North Carolina, says she wanted to create an atmosphere not unlike a kitchen at home. She says that at home, she’s never afraid to ask questions, and that’s how she wants guests to feel.

And although she admits that it’s tough to get fresh local ingredients in an urban area, she agrees that it’s worth the extra effort.

“I care about what I eat. Not all the time, but I do care,” says Enderle.

“I care about where things come from, and I care that the animals are treated well. At Maribelle’s, we want to make sure we know the story behind the ingredients that we’re getting, and we want to make sure it fits into our concept of transparency.”

By Jen Saltsman
Follow Jen on Twitter.

Refurbished chic abounds at mother-daughter Market in Northside

When Stephanie Heeston and Emily Heeston-Chopelas leased their space on Hamilton Avenue—a consignment/designer/vintage goods hybrid called Market Side Mercantile—the native Cincinnatians didn’t know what to expect.

“We knew [Northside] was eclectic,” says Heeston-Chopelas, noting that “the population fits” the pair’s funky sense of style and wide variety of handmade wares.

But the mother-daughter team says the immediate community support has been a pleasant surprise. Right away, neighborhood residents streamed into the one-room shop, praising their choice to bring business to Northside and double-checking, “You guys are going to stay, right?”

Already, the two have grown their business from five to 46 consigners, a diverse group that includes “a man in Indiana who strips old barns” as well as a custom jewelry designer who makes earrings in the shape of boomerangs, or “boomearrings.”

There’s no sign of stopping soon. Currently, they have a more items waiting in reserve than they know what to do with. (Seriously. The surplus is so great that they’ve had to waitlist prospective consigners for now.)??

The merchandise they sell is one of a kind. With help from Heeston-Chopelas’ husband, they do much of the furniture restoration themselves, reviving unique and slightly distressed pieces with fresh, fun layers of paint and swatches of vibrant, repurposed fabrics.

Craftily recycled stationery, designer shopping bags and an assortment of Mason-jar creations punctuate carefully repurposed larger pieces, making for an inviting, upscale-yet-affordable feel.

“Keep it out of the landfill,” is Heeston-Chopelas’ mantra. She adds, “We’re not antique, and we’re not a thrift store. We just like what we like.”

Their unique style is making an impression, with newfound “regulars” stopping in several times a week to check out the shop’s almost daily deliveries.

“The store is completely different every time I go in,” says Clifton resident and frequent shopper Susie Kent. “The store is welcoming and unpretentious. The owners…share ideas, inspiration, and even tips on how to go home and repurpose things you already have.”

Heeston has ideas for future events to help celebrate the neighborhood and cement the Market Side Mercantile as a fixture, but for now she says the best thing folks can do to support the shop is to like them on Facebook and—of course—visit.

Store hours are Weds-Fri 12-6 pm; Sat-Sun 11 am-4 pm. Call 513-967-2026 for more info.

By Hannah Purnell
Follow Hannah on Twitter.

Design challenge yields implementable ideas

In April, MSA Architects launched The Five Design Challenge, and now, after sorting through more than 40 entries, from as far away as China and Portland, Oregon, the winners have been chosen. 
The challenge was to choose one of five unused spaces around Cincinnati and come up with an idea to transform the space into something useful. The spaces ranged from empty lots to a space underneath a highway.
The entires were judged by Tamara Harkavy of ArtWorks, Chad Munitz of 3CDC, Leah Spurrier of High Street, William Williams of DAAP and City Council member Wendell Young. Nick Dewald and Chris Rohs, employees at MSA, say all the judges picked ideas realistic and implementable. 
"We don't push the judges in any way," Rohs says. "All the judges seemed to be more interested in the ideas that could actually happen, instead of the pie-in-the-sky sort of stuff." 
The top prize was split among three entrants:

• SEED, Sustained Employment & Entrepreneurship Developmen,t was a proposal for a small business incubator with short-term lease spaces and start-up support services. It used several of the under-utilized spaces in Over-the-Rhine: vacant lots, empty buildings and alleyways. These stereotypically ‘bad’ spaces are reinterpreted to create a 24-hour mixed-use building that serves as a catalyst for the neighborhood, creating local jobs, promoting a start-up culture, and improving perceptions of safety. 
• Loop Cincy took all five sites and connected them with a bike path and to Cincinnati landmarks and attractions to create a more connected city. The five sites were designed into an outdoor gym, a small park and even a small concert space.
• 4Hostel created a hostel on one one of the spaces, which was an empty lot, providing low-cost accommodations for travelers.
MSA plans on hosting the competition each year, but changing the theme. 
"We want to keep the theme pretty broad," Dewald says. "Instead of focusing on one building, like many architectural challenges do, we want to focus on improving Cincinnati in a more general way." 
By Evan Wallis

Inside opening night at Django taco bar

From Coffee Emporium barista to SpringBoard diarist to budding entrepreneur, Megan McAuley loves sharing stories with Soapbox. This time, she tells the tale of a highly anticipated start-up—one that is not her own—and shows how entrepreneurship may at times get messy, but even then, it’s an inspiration.

Prior to and following the completion of my SpringBoard course, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the eight-month journey of a new local business from idea to fruition.

On Friday, June 15, the owners of La Poste, along with my significant other, Tom Stephen, opened Django Western Taco in Northside.

More than a year ago, when I first met Tom at Coffee Emporium, he was just another customer in the line. He was actually one of my least favorites as he would regularly show up before we were open, rush in as soon as we unlocked the doors, and grumpily rush out.

It wasn't until a few months later when he randomly showed up at the cafe in the middle of the day to read that I actually discovered his story.

After snarkily commenting about his late arrival, he told me that he had just quit his day job and was about to begin the process of opening a local restaurant with one of his best friends.

Up until that day, Tom had been working an office job by day and a bartending job by night. His unhappy demeanor was suddenly a little more excusable. We soon began chatting at the coffee shop on a regular basis.

Long story short, after rejecting me several times, we finally started dating and are still together almost a year later. (Sorry Tom, facts are facts.)

Tom’s new restaurant, Django (pronounced JANG-go) sits at the corner of Blue Rock and Hamilton in the space formerly known as Slim's. With the addition of the "Blue Rock" beach behind the back patio, it's quirky in the way most Northside businesses are, but exudes a down-and-dirty feel inspired by the old Spaghetti Western after which it was named.

The owners called in help from local artists and friends—Chris Hennig on art and Tess Hammons on soundtrack—to add a Cincinnati flair.

Before I knew either one of them, Tom and Bryant (owner of La Poste) started talking about the idea for Django. Bryant was running a fine dining restaurant, and Tom was selling high-end wine.

Tom explained that the goal for the restaurant was to "bring our level of service and product to a bar setting, where we would want to hang out."

Their idea revolved around "loud music, and a simple menu with few choices, because the things we have are the right things."

Though there are single tacos on the menu, the way to go is to order bowls of different proteins, sides, and the “pickled six,” building your own tacos however you want. Tom calls it "grazing and drinking in a very relaxed setting."

On opening night, the Al Pastor and Beef Tongue were both the most unique and tasty choices, in my opinion.??I will leave the restaurant review to Donna Covrett, but as both the girlfriend and a hopeful entrepreneur, the experience of watching this all progress from idea to business has been one of the most beneficial and educational opportunities I have had, aside from SpringBoard.

The amount of time, passion and energy put into this restaurant was more inspirational to me as a prospective entrepreneur than the hesitation I experienced while witnessing all the stressful moments and potential road bumps.

Between November and June, the restaurant was projected to open six different times. In addition to working with a very small team, there were difficulties involving everything from city permits to structural problems, the kind common in old buildings. At times it seemed like nothing was ever going to go right, and I often wondered if each new obstacle would be the breaking point.

For the last couple of months, the amount of time I had to spend with Tom was minimal, but the amount of respect and admiration I have for what he has put into this restaurant assures me that it will be worth it.

On a personal level, I want Django to succeed because I care about Tom, but on a business level, I want it to succeed because I've seen how hard everyone has worked, and hope that someday I can say the same thing about myself and my climbing gym.

By Megan McAuley

DIY urbanism contest yields funky, fun, feasible ideas

Flying pig wayfinders and pop-up restaurant patios. Communal dining and a Mt. Adams vineyard. Design professionals, students and creative thinkers joined the fun for the first annual DIY Urbanism competition, a collaborative project of the Niehoff Urban Studio at the University of Cincinnati and the Architecture Foundation of Cincinnati.

The challenge, to solve a local urban problem using simple tools and methods, inspired plenty of creativity, with entrants transforming forgotten overlooks with home-made telescopes and using helium balloons to reinvigorate Old St. George Church in Clifton.

The top student project, submitted by Gael Perichon, envisioned storefront murals to beautify the now-blank spaces of the Tower Place Parking Garage. Her inventive and practical design drew praise from ArtWorks founder and judge Tamara Harkavy.

Top honors in the professional category went to High Light OTR: An Interactive Wayfinding Beacon, a proposed set of light boxes placed throughout the neighborhood to draw attention to specific streets or spaces with events. Eric Lindsay of Connective Conscious submitted a mesmerizing illustration of how the resulting beams of light could appear not only at the ground level, but from space.

Judges also praised Luke Field’s “When Pigs Fly” entry, a porcine twist on the idea of giant spotlights in the sky as “Most Whimsical” entry; Leila Loezer’s “Bike Co-op Day,” which garnered the “Most Eco-Groovy” title; “The Big Dinner,” a communal event created by Catherine Richards, Ahn Tran and Brook Brandewie that was dubbed “Most Likely to Happen” and “Most Artistic;” and “DIY Vineyards” by Luke Robinson, which earned the title, “Most Poetic.” “Goetz Alley Update,” a colorful and easy-to-assemble concept submitted by Jenny Kessler, Sarah Sololoski and Justin Hoffman, was awarded “Most Architectural.”

Finally, the exhibit’s People’s Choice Award went to “Tucker’s Restaurant Parklet,” submitted by Michelle Anderson, Mike Uhlenhake and Becky Schneider. The concept expanded the restaurant’s dining area into adjacent parking spaces that were transformed, temporarily, into deck-like seating spaces ideal for eating the popular neighborhood fare al fresco.

There’s still a chance to see the winners, plus all other entrants, on display through June 14 at the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati, 811 Race Street.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.

Branding 'Vikings' land in OTR

The Vikings are coming to OTR, and you'd better get ready. 
Jason Snell and Mike Gibboney, two veterans of the branding and marketing world, are opening up a storefront office for their "creative house", We Have Become Vikings, on 1417 Vine Street. Until now, Gibboney and Snell have been working remotely on both national and local products, but decided it was time to build more of a presence in Cincinnati.
Snell, a former employee at Lightborne and Possible Worldwide, decided he wanted to stick around Cincinnati and build his own company. In 2007, when his focus on clients in New York, Austin, Los Angeles and Portland, almost led Snell to skip town and set up shop elsewhere. But friends and family anchored him in Cincinnati. Gibboney left his job as a higher-education administrator last year to pursue a career in advertising; he freelanced for Empower MediaMarketing and started conversations with Snell about working together. 
The first large project the two worked on was a campaign from Cincinnati to Austin for South By Southwest. They called it "Down." WHBV worked with Landor to create a day party full of Cincinnati bands, and even drove a flatbed truck into downtown Austin from which they gave away 100 guitars.. 
"We just wanted to make a big splash," Snell says. "After that went well, we decided it was time to open up a storefront." 
But what about that name? We Have Become Vikings doesn't exactly roll off the tongue easily. Snell says it was inspired by small ad firms in New York with eye-catching names--and the ubiquitous nature of advertising.
"As a society, branding and advertising has kind of taken over the world, just like Vikings," Snell says. "It's come into everyone's life, whether you like it or not. [The name] also makes for some badass graphics." 
Just take a look at the faceless Viking decal on both the storefront windows. 
The duo's website lists six areas of expertise, ranging from animation to branding, but Snell says he wants to be known as a full-service branding agency. 
"With branding, you can really make someone and their company realize their full potential," Snell says. "We can help people portray exactly what they want to be."

Night market to provide late night NOMs

Over the Rhine is about to get some new late night food options, in the form of a night market, Night Owl Market (NOM), set up in the parking lot at the corner of Central Parkway and Main Street.
Nadia Laabs and Sally Yoon, two Procter & Gamble employees, turned their late-night frustration into a new business opportunity. When they were out late one night and could find nowhere to eat, they saw a hunger to fill a gaping hole in the downtown food market. So, they decided to try to fill it themselves. 
The two first looked at the alley on Walnut Street adjacent to Nicholson's Pub, but the space was being used for the construction of the new 21c Museum Hotel. So they finally settled on the OTR location. 
"At first, Sally suggested parking lots, and I hadn't really thought about it," Laabs says. "But they turned out to be the best option because they are private property, and there are a lot less regulations and permits." 
After securing the parking lot for Final Friday in July, Yoon and Laabs began talking to organizers of events like the City Flea, Second Sundays on Main and the Asian Food Fest to get an idea of how to plan for the NOM. Next, they sent out surveys to test interest in the idea. After good feedback and requests for specific types of food, Laabs and Yoon began contacting vendors. 
NOM is currently ranked in the top 10 for the Cincinnati Innovates contest based on public voting. If they win, Yoon and Laabs would use the money for NOM start-up costs. 
NOM will be open from 10 pm - 3 am and feature up to 11 vendors, including food trucks and booths from local restaurants, complete with tables and chairs, live music and even security. 
"If it's successful, we'd like to do it every weekend," Laabs says. "We definitely think there is a need and interest."
NOM is tentatively planned for every Final Friday from July until November, based on vendor interest and overall business. Check the website for the latest news.

Rise of the cool kids in Cincinnati

Nathan Hurst founded Cincinnati Fashion Week in 2010, and as it rolls into its third year, more and more people are getting involved. 
One Cincinnati resident, who has worked with Fashion Week before, pitched an idea to Hurst about highlighting the young, adventurous and energetic street fashion scene growing in Cincinnati. That person, who wants to keep his name a secret for now, is creating a team to help him develop the event, "Rise of the Cool Kids."
"I don't want people to associate a person with this, but rather a movement or a kind of person," says the Cincinnatus Kidd, a moniker that has been created to promote the event. 
Street fashion at the event shows that all fashion doesn't have to be expensive and unattainable; it should be more of a personal expression.
"When people use the word fashion, they use it in reference to the highest forms of fashion, but fashion is an everyday thing," Kidd says. "There is a pretty good understanding now that art used to be a painting in a frame, but now it can be anything, including street art. I don't think that same idea has come across to fashion."
The event will be held Oct. 6, tentatively on the roof of a parking garage, and will highlight local boutiques in a runway fashion show. The parking garage will be transformed into a streetscape, complete with street signs, scale models of OTR buildings and even shoes hanging over wires highlighting some of the brands being showcased.

There will be local DJs, hip-hop artists, visual artists, dancers and skateboarders on site. Rise of the Cool Kids will also team with Original Thought Required, Corporate and Flow, all local clothing shops, to create preview events at each store. 
"Street fashion is getting noticed more around here, and it's time to recognize it," Kidd says. "This has been a very mall-driven city, but now people are expressing themselves differently."
By Evan Wallis

Synthesis Architecture builds new projects on old foundations

Step into the 450-square-foot office of Synthesis Architects and you will immediately see some Cincinnati history, in the form dozens of rolled up blueprints. 
The blueprints are those of Carl Strauss, a Cincinnati-based architect who become known for his modern residential designs. Alexander Christoforidis, who worked under Strauss for five years, formed Synthesis after Strauss retired in 2001. 
"I committed to staying in Cincinnati, and I had a great opportunity to create my own firm," Christoforidis says.
Christoforidis and his partner, Nodas Papadimas, along with two employees, renovated their office, the same Mt. Adams office Strauss occupied, and are in the process of launching a new website. Synthesis works mostly on residential design, as well as Byzantine-style churches. 
Christoforidis had a specialty in Byzantine church design and began to search for work from local churches. After finding new clients and doubling business each of the first two years, Synthesis was off the ground and has continued to design churches, as well as  more than 100 private residences. 
In 2005, Christoforidis was hired by the University of Cincinnati and helped develop the Master of Architecture and Urban Planning program, which was the first Masters course at UC with a mandatory co-op. Two students who took the course, and then co-opped for Christoforidis are now full-time employees at Synthesis. Steve Stidham and Trang Vo have had big roles in the formation of the company, Christoforidis says. 
Christoforidis and Papadimas are both Greek and named the business Synthesis because of the Greek roots of the word and its meaning. 
"We try to blend  the environment around a project with out experience and the needs of the client," Christoforidis says. "The word [Synthesis] really describes how we work and the work we produce. We try to take everything we can into account." 
Papadimas says he begins every project with sketches, but by the end of the design process, there are complete 3D renderings of the project so both clients and builders can envision the end product.  
"Just like our office blends the old work of Strauss and our new renovations," Papadimas says. "Our work does the same. We always blend the old with the new."
By Evan Wallis

Local chef fuses food and art

Frances Kroner knows food. She's been working in restaurants since she was 14. While running Picnic and Pantry and revamping the Northside Farmers' Market, Kroner has also been building her in-house dinner party business, Feast
The idea is simple. Come into someone's home, use their kitchen and create an unforgettable themed meal. Through ideas like "Adventures in Food Cartography" and "Eat My Song," Kroner comes up with ideas that allow her to orchestrate a dining experience from start to finish. 
"It's any chefs dream to hear someone say, 'I hated beets until tonight." Kroner says. "Feast was born out the idea that if you tailor not only the food, but the environment, too, you have a lot more to work with and create a memorable experience."
Before starting at Picnic and Pantry two years ago, Kroner had created nearly 50 Feasts in people's homes. They became less frequent after working at Picnic and Pantry. People began to ask her when she was going to begin doing more Feasts, so she began to rethink her strategy. After being recommended by a previous SpringBoard graduate, Kroner looked to ArtWork's entrepreneurial classes for a new business plan. 
"I went to culinary not business school," says Kroner. "It just became apparent that this was the perfect time to relaunch Feast." 
Now, Kroner will be trying to do one of her own Feasts each month in a business or a friend's home as well as going into clients homes' for private dinner parties. Since graduating from the most recent SpringBoard course, Kroner, also a new mother, has created one Feast each week. 
Kroner tries to include some sort of performance art in each Feast. A recent meal included a juggler, and "Edible Music Theory" allowed local musician Peter Adams to work with Kroner to create a menu that helped further define 12 elements of music theory -- guests were given a description of the element, then played examples as they tasted each course. 
"I want to keep looking for new ways to fuse food and art," Kroner says. 

By Evan Wallis

CEOs report: Cincinnati highly engaged, not-so-weird

During its spring conference hosted here in Cincinnati last week, CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban, civic leaders, released its second ever “City Vitals” report, a kind of scorecard that measures and ranks key development and quality-of-life indicators for cities around the country.

Using the acronym of CITY (Connections, Innovation, Talent and Your Distinctiveness), report authors analyzed mostly Census data to explore what makes cities vibrant, appealing and successful.

Here’s a roundup of where Cincinnati rates among CEOs’ 51 identified cities and regions.

First, some good news. Cincinnati ranked in the top 20 in the following catgories:

•  Voting. Nearly 65 percent of Cincinnati’s population voted in the 2008 Presidential election, putting us in 13th place. (Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked first with more than 76 percent of the population casting ballots.)

Community involvement. We squeaked in the top 20 at number 19, with close to 29 percent of the metro population reporting a volunteer effort in the past year. (In Salt Lake City, more than 42 percent of the population reported volunteering.)

Economic integration. Cincinnati ranked 11th in the percentage of the population living in middle-income neighborhoods, with 76.1 percent. (Minneapolis-St. Paul topped the economic integration list with more than 84 percent of the population in middle-income homes.)

Patents. Cincinnati ranked 19th in number of patents issued per 10,000 employees with 5.9. (San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara dominated this category with 83.5 patents per 10,000 employees. The next closest city, Austin-Round Rock, issued 31.9 per 10,000 employees)

Creative professionals, or folks employed as mathematicians, scientists, artists, engineers, architects and designers. Four percent of Cincinnati’s workers come from this creative group, making the city 18th on the list. (The number one slot went to San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, where 7.6 percent of the population fits into this category.)

Now, some challenges, or, as we like to call them, room-to-grow areas:

Greenhouse gas emissions. Cincinnati earned its highest ranking, second, in this not-so-positive category of per capita carbon emissions. While we emitted 3.28 tons per person, per year, Los Angeles emitted just 1.41 tons per person per year. Yes. Los Angeles.

Entrepreneurship and small businesses. In these increasingly essential categories for cities, Cincinnati ranked 46th and 43rd, respectively. (See Cincinnati growing Cincinnati for some examples of how to increase those numbers significantly.)

Weirdness index. Cincinnati nearly bottomed out this category with a ranking of 48th out of 51. What this means, basically, is that we tend to buy what everyone else in America buys. Weirdest cities on record: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara and San Francisco, not surprisingly, rank first and second. But number three? Salt Lake City, Utah. That’s just weird.

The CEOs for Cities report can be accessed in its entirety online. Overall, it provides a fresh lens for city dwellers, city lovers and city officials through which to view the present and plan for the future.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter

Alias 360 Photos launches to support more dimensions of local businesses

When Chris Breeden at Arnold’s wanted his historic business to be the first in the city to offer an interior tour via Google maps, he turned to his neighbors at Alias Imaging for help. He’d seen how Google maps offered 360-degree tours of businesses on the East and West coasts as a way to offer viewers the chance to get a sense of a place’s architecture and ambiance long before, and after, they’d paid a visit.

With help from Alias Imaging, led by co-owners and founders John Carrico and Adam Henry, Arnold’s became the first Cincinnati business featured by Google in a virtual tour.

In the process, Carrico and Henry launched a new business, Alias 360 Photos, and became “Google Trusted Photographers” in order to add panoramic tours to Google Maps’ pages. Henry explains the certification wasn’t an easy process. “It’s not like we just shoot and upload,” Henry says. “It seems simple and natural, but it’s quite painstaking.”

While the duo of polished commercial photographers have worked for a wide range of commercial clients, from Procter & Gamble to local ad agencies to independent businesses like Arnold’s, the certification process required new training on an exacting process that requires them to take dozens of pictures from nearly every vantage point, then use specialized software to conform to Google specifications. On top of all of that, each tour must be aligned with Google satellite images.

“The weirdest thing to me is that it requires so many pictures,” says Henry, who, along with Carrico, also provides the photography and video for The Queen City Project, a partnership with Bluestone Creative that has often been featured on Soapbox.

Because of the tight guidelines, businesses can be assured of high-quality tours that literally add three dimensions to their web presence. Henry sees that as a cost-effective opportunity, especially for smaller businesses. “For hundreds of dollars, you can get thousands of dollars of material which is priceless exposure on the internet,” he says.

Once businesses contract with Alias 360 Photos to create their virtual tours, the photographers get to work, estimating they need no more than a couple of hours of time on-site to get the photos they need. After that point, the Google content is managed for the businesses. “They basically get a whole new website built for them that is hosted on Google places,” Henry says.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter

Brandery renovates to welcome, support startups

Managing Editor’s Note:

If you’ve noticed dust settling around The Brandery building in Over the Rhine, that’s because new General Manager Mike Bott is overseeing a massive remodeling project. The building's first-floor space is being renovated for a new class of startups (applications being accepted now) while graduates Choremonster, Road Trippers and Venue Agent will maintain workspaces on the third floor.

Soapbox Media, also a web-focused startup, can be found in the space as well.

In addition to dedicated space at The Brandery on Vine Street, we will also maintain office space in Northside as part of a collaborative office suite we will share with startup local nonprofits.

While the Brandery caters to and nurtures high-tech startups, the collaborative space in Northside serves as a new home for disparate, community-focused nonprofits.

In Northside, at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Blue Rock, the space currently occupied by Shop Therapy will soon serve as the home for The Urban Legend Institute, the retail store element of the literacy and creative-writing focused nonprofit WordPlay. With creative and marketing support from Possible Worldwide, WordPlay plans to offer preview tours by July.

The second floor of the building houses the offices of the educational nonprofit as well as two other nonprofits: parProjects, which is focused on building a community arts center and providing arts programming in Northside, and 350.org, the local arm of the national environmental nonprofit. (Full disclosure: Soapbox's managing editor sits on the Board of the nonprofit WordPlay.)

One thing that has not changed is the best way to reach Soapbox with your story ideas, questions and comments. Connect with us via email. But if you want to send us a letter, old-school postal-style, you can find us:

Soapbox Media via The Brandery
1411 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Soapbox Media via WordPlay
4041 Hamilton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45223

Core Clay shapes business in Walnut Hills

Laura Davis may run the only business in town that can claim it sells dust.
Core Clay opened on Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills in June 2005 to provide a live-work space for Davis and her boyfriend, Justin Poole. Since then, it has continued to grow into a successful business.

The original idea was to sell pottery supplies and products and have a space to teach classes. Since she worked in such a large space, friends started asking Davis if they could rent studio space, which eventually led into the transformation of the basement into a collective studio. Today, it normally houses 25 artists who rent space on a month-to-month basis.

In addition, Core Clay has employed an artist-in-residence since 2009 and offers both beginner and advanced level classes. Core Clay also creates clay on-site.
In a further effort to expand, Davis enrolled in ArtWork's SpringBoard class. While the business has been growing, Davis says she enrolled to get more business know-how. Current plans are to improve signage, expand marketing and build a bigger in-store product line. 
"You can sit and ask a lawyer questions for two hours," Davis says. "That alone is worth the cost of the class." 
Davis and Poole settled on Walnut Hills after searching in Florence, Camp Washington and beyond, and have since seen the neighborhood change around them. 
"Our building was a source of crime in the neighborhood," Davis says. "We have made changes and taken the grates off the windows. We want the neighborhood to know we are friendly in here." 
After cleaning up the Core Clay building, Davis found that another vacant building next door had become a source of trouble in the neighborhood and decided to purchase the building out of foreclosure. In 2010, the building was opened as a intentional community of live-work spaces for artists. Some parts of the building are still being renovated, but once finished, it will house nine units. 
By Evan Wallis (Follow him on Twitter)

Owners of Neons and Japp's open bourbon bar in Covington

Ninety five percent of all bourbons are made in Kentucky, so opening a bar that has an extensive collection Kentucky's famous spirit makes perfect sense, especially for a team that runs two successful bars.
The same team that runs Japp’s and Neons, John Back and Jeff Brandt, teamed with Molly Wellman again and opened Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar on Saturday May 5. Located in the 600 block of Mainstrasse in Covington, OKBB has a heavy focus on American bourbon. OKBB is keeping Wellman busy  while she curates between 50 and 70 types of whiskey. After the bar is up and running for a few months, Wellman hopes to build the list to 150 different bourbons and whiskeys. To compliment the many American bourbons and whiskeys, OKBB will also feature Irish and Canadian whiskeys, along with a small selection of cask-conditioned ales.

“Bourbon has such a amazing history,” Wellman says. “It takes a long time to make and it should be enjoyed. (OKBB) is a place for sitting down and understanding and enjoying this perfect drink.”

During the soft-opening and 'Friends and Family' event, representatives from both Makers Mark and Jim Beam distilleries were present. On Saturday, Yvette Simpson, Cincinnati City Council Member was present, along with members of Covinton's City Council. 

"It was great to see support from both Cincinnati and Covington," Back says.
Brandt has owned the building for a while and always intended on opening a bar, but he, Back and Wellman wanted to open Japp’s first and really develop a concept before expanding to Covington.

"We really want to cross-promote and bring people from both sides of the river to the other," Back says. "The Covington neighborhood has been very supportive and talked us up."
OKBB's 800-square-foot space has an intimate 30-40 person capacity and bartenders that know the story and process of each label they serve. The interior, which reflects the rustic beauty of the bourbon trail, was designed by Back, who is also an architect. Described as a “polished bluegrass” feel, OKBB will highlight the agrarian beauty of bourbon country in a modern way.
OKBB is the trio’s first foray outside of OTR but they are working to ensure a cohesive feel between bars by using staff from their two current bars and want to make OKBB a destination bar for both bourbon connoisseurs and novices. OKBB will host bourbon tastings and meet-and-greets with distillers in an effort to immerse patrons of OKBB in a bourbon-centric experience.
“It’s about making a place where people can have an experience they remember,” Wellman says. “Those places work to make the city more exciting.”
By Evan Wallis
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