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Former marketing researcher takes an innovative approach to craft coffee trend


A former Neilson marketing researcher turned his love of coffee into a nitro brewing business. He’s now using his marketing and innovative skillset to operate his very first store in the heart of downtown.

Dan Thaler started handing out samples of his nitrogen infused coffee, Smooth Nitro Coffee, at festivals and markets in 2016.

He’s been selling his coffee at local breweries and restaurants throughout Cincinnati, including at DIRT: a Modern MarketFigLeaf Brewing, The Growler Stop in Newtown and Streetside Brewery.

It wasn’t until March that he opened up a store at 525 Vine St. between Macy’s and Huntington Bank in the Central Business District.

“It seemed like the perfect location; it’s the right size,” says Thaler. “I didn’t want anything bigger or extravagant, just a little bar that I could bring in kegs of coffee and sell from.”

The Xavier graduate came up with the idea of brewing nitrogen coffee because he wasn’t a fan of the morning coffee that his co-workers would brew at Nielsen. “So I was quickly inspired and decided on a whim, ‘I’m going to roast my own coffee, and I bet I can do a better job than this terrible office coffee.’”

Thaler bought unroasted coffee beans and a popcorn popper and started roasting his own coffee. The idea to bring nitrogen into the mix came from Thaler’s background in marketing trends — he realized that nitro coffee is very popular on the coasts and wanted to bring it to Cincinnati.

“Being a Cincinnati native, I am very aware that anything that’s popular on the coast, it takes like 5-10 years to actually make it to Cincinnati,” he says.

The nitrogen is what makes the coffee creamy and smooth, much like a beer that's served on nitro. The actual coffee beans are mostly from Mexico and are organic and fair-trade, and Smooth Nitro Coffee gets its coffee beans from nearby Urbana Café (located next to Nation Kitchen & Bar in Pendleton).

The process of brewing the coffee and adding the nitrogen takes at least 24 hours before it can be sold in stores.

Even with his own storefront, Thaler is continuing to sell coffee through his various retail partners to expand his business and continue to support those other local businesses.

“I would love to continue to grow with other coffees and help them have a nitrogen product,” Thaler says. “At the end of the day, there are a few big corporate competitors that can afford to lose a couple cups of coffee and not hurt them in any significant way.”

Smooth Nitro Coffee is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. As an added perk, there is free 10-minute parking in front of the building.
 


Four CFTA members specialize in dishes that are done 'just right'


Our third and final phase of new food trucks focuses on trucks that are devoted to their craft. Whether it's Chicago-style favorites, wings, patriotism and good food or pizza, these trucks know how to do it right.

These trucks are also members of the Cincinnati Food Truck Association, which has grown from just 11 members in 2013 to a whopping 53 members today. It's an allied group that strives to represent the best interest of food trucks and owners. Not every food truck in town belongs to the group, and they don't have to — it's just the best way for best practices and concerns to be heard, and the group even hosts a yearly food truck festival.

Check out part I here and part II here.

Adena's Beefstroll
Known for: Chicago-style food like the Italian beef sandwich, Chicago dogs and Adena's fourth generation recipe for Ma's Meatball Sub & Ma's Sauce; most popular item is the Italian Beef Sandwich and Strolls, which won first place at the Taste of Cincinnati
Owners: Adena and John Reedy
Launched: Feb. 2016

How did you come up with the name?
My first name is Adena, and it's not a very common name," says Adena Reedy. "I told myself if I was ever to own my own business, my name would be included. The word ‘beefstroll’ is a play on words, when spoken out loud it sounds kind of like ‘bistro.’ I wrote a list of words I wanted to be known for: Italian beef, street food and the rolls that the beef is served on.”

What are you known for?
“We get a lot of customers that are originally from Chicago, or love the taste of Chicago. At first, these customers give us a hard time: ‘Are you really from Chicago? Is this a real Chicago beef?’ We ask them to try it for themselves and let us know. We are yet to disappoint."

What sets you apart?

“We are the only food truck in the area that sells Chicago-style Italian Beef and the true Chicago-style hot dog, using Vienna beef hot dogs. It's our passion to share the food we grew up on with our new hometown.”

What makes your food truck special?
“Our food and fast, friendly service, but also our design of the truck. My design won the silver award in the state of Ohio for best overall design out of 300 trucks in the state.”

Follow Beefstroll on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram (@beefstroll)

Bones Brothers Wings
Known for: grilled wings, Chicken Bomb Nachos and the Bones Burrito
Owners: Jim and Lauren Dowrey and Bryan Reeves
Launched: Nov. 2015

How did you come up with the name?
“We brainstormed and researched names, and narrowed it down to a few and chose Bones Brothers Wings because it reflects how our special method gets flavor throughout the meat down to the bone,” says Jim Dowrey.

What sets you apart?
“The signature flavor you can only get from us. We have a little something for everyone.”

Bones is known for its unique, original hancrafted signature wing sauces that are featured just about everywhere on the menu.

What makes your truck special?
“Our menu contains offerings that not many trucks have. Overall, we're a unique truck in a few different ways and that makes us special, but that's what food trucks tend to do nowadays — specialize.”

Follow Bones Brothers on Facebook, Twitter (@Bones_BroWings) and Instagram (@bonesbrotherswings)

Patriot Grill
Known for: Philly cheesesteak and the Patriot Burger
Owners: Chris and Angie Damen
Launched: March 2016

How did you come up with the name?
“I am a Marine Corps veteran, so my wife and I thought it would be fitting if we kept an American patriotic theme,” says Chris Damen. Patriot Grill is known for supporting the troops — active military members eat for free.

Patriot Grill is family owned and operated — Damen's wife and their four kids help out whenever they can. He says he couldn't do this without them, and appreciates all of their time and effort.

Follow Patriot Grill on Facebook and Twitter (@PConcessions)

Pizza Tower
Known for: fresh, fast slices of pizza
Owner: Robert Speckert
Launched: 2014

The Pizza Tower food truck is an extension of the local business, which has locations in Loveland and Middletown.

What makes your food truck special?
“Our service on our trucks is extremely fast,” says Speckert. “This benefit has allowed us to serve very large private parties, such as weddings and very large corporate lunches, without hiccups.”

Follow Pizza Tower on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram (@PizzaTower)
 


BBQ food truck expands its repertoire with physical location in Mt. Washington


Mt. Washington has a new spot to satisfy cravings for all things delicious, as Sweets & Meats BBQ made its mark with a ribbon cutting for a new brick and mortar location on July 12. The physical locaiton is in addition to its food truck, which has been operating since 2014.

Sweets & Meats is female-owned and specializes in smoked meats, homemade sides and desserts.

“My significant other has always had a passion for good food and BBQ in particular,” says Kristen Bailey, co-owner. “I, on the other hand, am a social butterfly and love to entertain. We started out hosting cookouts in our backyard, and what started out as a hobby developed into a business.”

The cookouts were followed by a setup on the weekends in the neighborhood Creamy Whip parking lot, then a food truck and a rented commercial shared kitchen. The new space will help Sweets & Meats expand to catering and carry out.

“We bootstrapped and kept reinvesting,” Bailey says. “Our partners have been tremendous resources for us, but all of this has required blood, sweat and tears — literally.”

Without traditional financing to get the ball rolling, Bailey says things have been in that “bootstrap mode” since the very beginning.

The store’s opening was even delayed as a result, but on the day of Sweets & Meats’ ribbon cutting, they served more than 200 customers in just two hours.

“It was an incredible day filled with love, anticipation and excitement,” Bailey says.

Pop-up restaurant dates will be posted to Sweets & Meats’ Facebook page, and the official grand opening is set for Aug. 6. Until then, the business will finish out the season catering and servicing guests via its food truck.

For Bailey, a sense of accomplishment has set in, and she says a huge weight has been lifted.

“We felt like vampires after working in the building with brown paper on the windows for nearly seven months as we figured everything out and built up the space,” she says. “Now the sun is shining, and our future is bright.”

Follow Sweets & Meats' Facebook page to keep up-to-date on the restaurant opening.
 


New establishments are filling in holes in the Pleasant Ridge business district


While seasoned staples like Gas Light Café, Everybody’s Records, Pleasant Ridge Chili, the Loving Hut and Queen City Comics have kept the Pleasant Ridge business district afloat, the strip of Montgomery at Ridge Road with its vacant buildings has remained somewhat sleepy.

In the past few years though, new establishments including Nine Giant Brewing, Share: Cheesebar, Casa Figueroa, Molly Malone's, The Overlook Lodge and Red Balloon Café + Play have joined the community. Over-the-Rhine restaurant Revolution Rotisserie recently announced it will be opening in PR.

Emily Frank of Share: Cheesebar, which is set to open in August, has lived in Pleasant Ridge for the past four years. After moving back to Cincinnati to be with her family, she started a food truck (C'est Cheese), and her love for all things cheese lead her to open the Cheesebar in her neighborhood.

These plans were put on hold after a horrific accident that led to a trying recovery. Yet, she was encouraged by her Pleasant Ridge neighbors. She says the “community was insanely supportive” throughout her long recovery. 

Frank is a self-proclaimed “Ridger” through and through and couldn’t be happier about the developments.

Brandon Hughes, co-owner of Nine Giant, landed in Pleasant Ridge in what he calls a “Goldilocks” situation. The space and the neighborhood were just what he and his brother-in-law were looking for. Huges felt that at the time, the business district was underserved.

"We wanted to be part of a community and liked the idea of a revitalization,” he says. Nine Giant recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

While newer businesses are filling in the gaps, the senior establishments have been standing strong for decades.

Matt Parmenper who’s been with Queen City Comic almost since it opened in 1987, is encouraging yet skeptical of all of the booming new businesses. “It’s great. It does seem trendy. Hopefully they do well.”

Longtime resident Dave Smith grew up in Pleasant Ridge, and he still lives there with his wife Debbie. “I’m excited about the city in general. It’s fun to see it coming back to life; fun to see people and businesses moving back here.”

Smith has watched the business district thin out. Although it’s never been totally empty, he describes the Pleasant Ridge he grew up in as a vibrant business district that declined with the opening of Kenwood Mall.

"Gaslight Café is a favorite watering spot of the locals, and Everybody’s Records has been there a long time too." 

There are still open spaces and local businesses are showing more interest. While parking is tough, there are plans for more strategic public parking in the making.

The neighborhood is hosting its Pleasant Ridge Day/Night from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Check out the event's Facebook page for more info.


Entrepreneurs dream up tasty food trucks featuring best-of dishes


Cincinnati's foodie scene continues to expand, with long-time Vine Street staple Senate opening a second location in Blue Ash, and Thunderdome Restaurant Group branching out and opening local favorites in Indianapolis and Columbus. 

But not every food entrepreneur opens a restaurant — some go the food truck route. Our food truck culinary adventure started in 2014 at the beginning of the food truck frenzy, with a roundup of 30 trucks, carts and trailers. In just three years, that number has doubled, and we know we're only brushing the surface of the new businesses that have burst on the scene.

These mobile chefs are preapring top-notch best dishes out of some of the city's smallest kitchens. Here's our second installment of newer food trucks, featuring Venezuelan street food, unique comfort food and world-class BBQ. (Click here to read the first mini-roundup of food trucks.)

Empanadas Aqui
Known for: Bad Girl Empanada, The Hairy Arepa and tostones (fried plantains), all of which have received awards
Owners: Pat Fettig and Brett and Dadni Johnson
Launched: June 2014

How did you come up with the name?
“It means ‘empanadas here,’” says Fettig. “We sell empanadas, arepas and tostones — Venezuelan street food.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“The uniqueness of our food sets us apart from other food trucks. We also have fun, friendly, respectful owners and staff.”

Follow Empanadas Aqui on Facebook and @EmpanadasAqui on Twitter

Street Chef Brigade
Known for: Street Chef Burger and Fried Crushed Potatoes; more creative dishes like Porketta' bout it and the Insane Pastrami are close seconds
Owner: Shane Coffey
Launched: June 2015

What's next for Street Chef Brigade?
“The plan is to get the Street Chef Brigade brand out there and associate it with quality, creativity and edgy comfort food. I'm currently building my second truck, which will assume a new name as a part of The Street Chef Brigade along with my current truck.”

What sets you apart?
“A highly trained executive chef that headed very popular restaurants in New York City, Aspen and the Turks and Caicos."

Street Chef Brigade specializes in edgy comfort food that is showcased in its creative, diverse and veggie-friendly menu.

Follow Street Chef Brigade on Facebook, Twitter (@StreetChef513) and Instagram (@StreetChefBrigade) Facebook: Street Chef Brigade

Sweets & Meats BBQ
Known for: Sliced brisket and mac 'n' cheese
Owners: Kristen Bailey and Anton Gaffney
Launched: March 2016

How did you come up with the name?
“We were having drinks in our backyard at a cookout among friends in the summer of 2014 and were talking about our dream of opening a BBQ restaurant,” says Bailey. “We were talking about what it would look like and I remember saying how it would be perfect if our restaurant had really good desserts too. Everyone gets a sweet tooth and no other BBQ restaurant was really making it a focus. Hence, Sweets & Meats was born.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“We try to deliver the full BBQ culinary experience. Not only do we have the best in smoked meats, but we also focus on made-from-scratch sides and desserts. Quality is always important and customer service is second to none.”

Sweets & Meats menu features ribs and brisket, plus rotating dishes like smoked meatloaf, the BBQ 4-Way, the Triple Bypass Sandwich, smoked pork belly, rib tips and bacon wrapped pork loin. Homemade sides include mac 'n' cheese and sweet potato casserole, and you can't forget the desserts.

Follow Sweets & Meats on Facebook, Twitter (@SweetsandMeats) and Instagram (@SweetsandMeatsBBQ)

Stay tuned for our third and final portion of new-to-you food trucks next week!
 


Price Hill coffee staple relocating but staying in loyal neighborhood


The locally beloved BLOC Coffee Company in Price Hill is moving, but it won’t be going far. When the coffee house first announced the move in early 2017, residents worried about the potential loss of their award-winning coffee shop.

As proud Price Hill business owners for over a decade, BLOC has no plans to leave the community. It will move just a few blocks away from its long-time location at 1801 Price Ave., to 801 Mt. Hope, at the corner of W. Eighth St.

Since Roger Rose took over as general manager and executive chef of BLOC in Feb. 2016, sales have doubled.

He brought in new style, décor and a menu featuring famous breakfast sandwiches, overnight oats, house-made sauces and seasonal dishes.

Owners hope the new location will better fit the needs of both BLOC employees and patrons.

With a full kitchen, the new BLOC Coffee House will feature all-day breakfast, diverse styles of eggs, Sunday brunch and more. BLOC has also secured a liquor license to accommodate wines and bourbons, barrel-aged cocktails and local beers. The new location will also feature expanded hours.

But this won’t be a party scene. Rose aims to maintain the current comforting community feel of the coffee house with low lighting and small personal places.

The 2,000-square-foot historic red brick building boasts hardwood floors, tall ceilings and large windows for plenty of natural light.

Rose says relocating has been a journey. There have been lots of hoops to jump through — and some still to go — but BLOC hopes to open this fall in its new home.

The top floors of the building will hold residential lofts. Future project phases will include a small deck or patio.

The longer forecast includes a rooftop deck view that will add to Price Hill’s famous views overlooking downtown, Clifton, West End, Ohio River and Northern Kentucky.

The current location will remain open until the move is complete.
 


Food truck scene expands to include variety of frozen treat mobiles


It's been a few years since we feature 30 of Cincinnati's must-try food trucks, but that doesn't mean the mobile food trend is going out of style. Some of the city's most sought-after trucks often frequent the City Flea, local breweries and the Troy Strauss Market on Fountain Square. Plus, you can find a plethora of food trucks at festivals like Bunbury, the CFTA Food Festival, the Summit Park Food Truck Festival and Taste of Cincinnati.

We know all about cult favorites like C'est Cheese, Catch-a-Fire Pizza, Marty's Waffles and Red Sesame, but what about the trucks that are newer to the street scene?

The miniLDW
Known for: creamy soft serve ice cream
Owners: Rick and Teresa Morgan
Launched: April 2016
Most popular item: Chocolate lovers like the Chocolate Mountain; caramel lovers like the Turtle Parfait; and the Hot Fudge Brownie is also a winner

How did you come up with the name?
“It's a play on words, as our concession trailer is a mini Loveland Dairy Whip, which is our soft-serve ice cream shop in Loveland,” says Rick. “The miniLDW is not only a mini but it also offers the same desserts as the Loveland Dairy Whip, just a smaller menu.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
"The mini LDW has an extensive menu, including ice cream cones, banana boats, six parfaits and kids' favorites like the Gummy Monster and the Clown Sundae."

Follow the miniLDW on Facebook and Twitter @the_ldw

Power Blendz Smoothie Truck
Known for: The Perfect Fruit Smoothie
Launched: May 2016
Owner: Power Blendz Nutrition
Most popular item: Strawberry and Banana Perfect Fruit Smoothie

How did you come up with the name?
“The Power Blendz Smoothie Truck got its name as an extension of the brand Power Blendz The Fitness Fuel,” says Sadie Boyle, account manager for Power Blendz. “Developed for the military as a great tasting, top quality, nutritional and performance supplement, The Fitness Fuel was the result of countless hours in the kitchen and in the labs, formulating a product that even our commander-in-chief would love.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“We developed and perfected our Pure Protein powder used in all Perfect Fruit Smoothies. The recipes were created and tested by us with the goal of great taste and your health in mind."

Follow Power Blendz Smoothie Truck on Facebook

Rhino's Frozen Yogurt & Soft Serve
Launched: July 2016
Owners: The Miller Family
Most popular item: vanilla ice cream

How did you come up with the name?
“We are a family owned business, and the truck is named after my brother Ryan,” says Rick Miller, manager for Rhino’s. “His nickname growing up was Rhino.”

What are you known for?
“We spent many months driving around to different ice cream shows to find the best quality and delicious product we could find. Our product is smooth, creamy and delicious.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“The customer has the ability to create their own treat just the way they want it. We offer six different flavors of soft serve and 25 toppings on the truck. We are sure to satisfy every taste bud.”

Follow Rhino’s Frozen Yogurt on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram @RhinosFroYo

Stay tuned for Part II next week!
 


Local coffee staple Deeper Roots moving to the West End


Deeper Roots Coffee, which currently operates a roasterie in Mt. Healthy and a coffee bar in Oakley, will soon occupy 2108 Colerain in the West End.

“We first looked at the building in June of last year; it’s been a long time coming, but it’s totally worth the wait,” says Adam Shaw, Deeper Roots' lead roaster.

While the Mt. Healthy roasterie served Deeper Roots well, it became too small for the budding business.

Shaw explains that the main issue of the Mt. Healthy roasterie was storage. There are machines and green coffee everywhere, and there is little space for meetings.

The new roasterie will take up a quarter of the 40,000-square-foot building, which is almost double that of the Mt. Healthy roasterie. 

On top of roasting coffee, Shaw also plays the role of green coffee buyer, buying from trusted importers and farmers from almost everywhere coffee is grown, including Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia and Sumatra.

These resources are known for their artisan blends, and Deeper Roots knows that it's responsibly sourcing its coffee.

For now, the new location will center on roasting coffee and providing a meeting space for the team. Eventually, there could be more. Shaw explains that the opening of a coffee spot will happen “when the dust is settled and we think the neighborhood is ready.”

Until that time, West Enders will be able to purchase fresh beans during designated community hours at the roasterie. Deeper Roots is also looking to open another coffee bar on Race Street in Over-the-Rhine. It has a projected opening date of mid-fall, and will bring the distinct and diverse flavors of Deeper Roots' coffee to another neighborhood.

You can contact Deeper Roots for a tour of the new facility and stay tuned to its Facebook page for information on the new OTR location.
 


New residential and commercial projects are making Madisonville a destination neighborhood


As part of a major overhaul that is drawing attention in the area, more than $355 million is being put toward the redevelopment of Madisonville, making the neighborhood a hotspot for new residents and visitors alike.

According to the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, the transformation of Madisonville will be headlined with a $200 million project at the corner of Madison and Red Bank roads. The mixed-use space, all built on the 27-acre campus of the research company Medpace, will feature housing units and office and retail space.

“It’s really a gateway for a lot of people from Madisonville with tens of thousands of cars going through there every day,” says Matt Strauss with MCURC. “Maybe some of them that didn’t stop before will stop there now.”

Along with other city leaders, Strauss says that Madisonville isn’t trying to compete with other localities; they want to be recognized for being Madisonville, not Oakley, Hyde Park, etc.

The center of the new development will be the Dolce Hotel — renamed the Summit Hotel — a first for Cincinnati. The $80 million hotel is a high-end brand that will specialize in local conferences. It will feature 239 rooms with over 34,000 square feet of meeting space that will include 11,000 square feet of terrace and gardens. It is currently under construction on top of the former Medpace parking garage and the old NuTone factory.

Wyndham Hotel Management Group, which owns the Dolce Hotel brand, is already fielding calls from groups interested in using the hotel. The Summit is expected to be completed and will open in spring 2018.

Another large project in the transformation of Madisonville includes the redevelopment near Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue. The old Fifth Third Bank building, vacant for many years, is now home to restaurant space along with two second-story apartments. Lala’s Blissful Bites, a bakery and dessert shop, opened on the shared first-floor space in 2016.

For years, many of the properties along Madison and Whetsel were underused or vacant, acting as more of an eyesore to the area than a focal point. Since that time, Ackermann Group has worked on the redevelopment of three blocks within the area. This part of the project will include 185 residential units with 32 private residential garages, plus space for retail, amenities and leasable office space.

City Manager Harry Black and the City of Cincinnati city council outlined additions, including more public plaza areas, streetscape improvements and other public infrastructure improvements, in 2016.

Other areas of Madisonville are also seeing their own improvements, such as the addition of 20 homes within a subdivision off of Duck Creek Road, and the new Tap and Screw Brewery. It recenlty closed the doors on its Westwood location, but opened a microbrewery location on Red Bank Road last week.

Aside from major redevelopment projects that will provide jobs and a new spark to the neighborhood, Madisonville is also home to the Cincinnati Jazz and BBQ festival and the Madisonville 5K, both of which will be held at the intersection of Madison and Whetsel on Sept. 9.

Keep an eye out for more updates on construction and redevelopment in Madisonville, as well as local events and happenings, here.
 


Speakeasy-style cafe to join DeSales Corner business boom

 

An art deco style building located at 1535 Madison Rd. on the southwest edge of DeSales Corner will soon be restored to its former charm, welcoming a restaurant and speakeasy-style bar.

“A relaxed alternative to the OTR scene.” That’s how Michael Berry, part-owner of the new bar and restaurant, describes the emerging neighborhood of Walnut Hills. Berry is keeping the name of his new venture under wraps for now.

The owners of Northside bars The Littlefield and Second Place, operating under South Block Properties and LADS Entertainment, purchased the building as a response to the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and the East Walnut Hills Assembly's solicitation for proposals.

The building, which has sat vacant for the past 50 years, was once the site of a bank. Its new owners will be tasked with installing updated mechanics, electricity and plumbing, and restoring the water-damaged coffered plaster ceilings. The team hopes to bring back some of the old bank building’s original style.

The finished product will be a comfortable restaurant serving food from Shoshannah Hafner, the brains behind The Littlefield’s selective menu. Berry says Hafner is excited at the chance to expand upon her culinary skills.

“She was given a tiny kitchen (at The Littlefield) and has created a menu that we believe represents the very best food you can get in a bar anywhere," says Berry. "The new place will be a full restaurant where Shoshannah will be given a proper kitchen to really expand our offerings.”

The food will favor The Littlefield’s approach to American cuisine accented with combinations of Mediterranean, Asian and Spanish flavors.

Below the restaurant will be an intimate, underground bar.

“Think speakeasy vibe with low light and a comfortable lived-in environment,” Berry says.

The bar will feature a robust wine list; a variety of draft beer; house-made cocktails and an extensive spirit selection with attention to vodka, gin and classic cocktails developed by John Ford, another of the bar's co-owners. Ford's creations at The Littlefield and Second Place have been praised for their one-of-a-kind flavors.

After they opened Second Place — appropriately named, as it was the their second endeavor — LADS and South Block felt drawn to Walnut Hills’ similar vibe to Northside.

“We’re mostly Northsiders," Berry says. "While we have a lot of affection for our neighborhood, we very much like the atmosphere of Walnut Hills. It has a lot of the same characteristics we like about Northside, like the strong art scene. The opportunity to create something in that bank building was too good to pass up. It is certainly a challenge, but when we are finished with the space, it will be one of the truly unique dining experiences in the region.”

The new addition to DeSales Corner is set to open next spring or summer, and organizers hope the new addition will complement the neighborhood and aid in ongoing efforts to breathe life back into the Walnut Hills community.


Old KY Makers Market returns to Bellevue for summer series starting June 17


A popular series of outdoor events will return to Bellevue this summer, celebrating community with locally made food, music, drinks, handmade goods for sale and more.

The Old Kentucky Makers Market was created by Kevin Wright and Joe Nickol, a pair of Bellevue residents who last year authored The Neighborhood Playbook, a field guide for activating spaces and spurring neighborhood growth. Nickol serves as senior associate for MKSK design firm and Wright is executive director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.

"Development shouldn’t happen to a place, but with a place, and with the residents, and we're using The Neighborhood Playbook to make that happen in the town we love," says OKMM organizer Karla Baker. "What better way to showcase everything great going on in Bellevue than with a series of summer parties?"

Last year’s Makers Market events featured food from local favorites Eli’s BBQ, craft brews from Braxton Brewing Company, unique crafts and jewelry from local artisans and a chance for residents to gather and get acquainted in one of Greater Cincinnati’s most charming community settings.

"The goal is to create an event that brings together our Bellevue neighbors and friends, and also brings folks from all over the region to check out the awesomeness that Bellevue has to offer," says OKMM organizer Anna Hogan. “We've got great shops, restaurants, Darkness Brewing and new businesses opening all the time. We want people to know that all this exists, just five minutes from downtown."

This year’s series kicks off at 5 p.m. on June 17 and will feature the Comet Bluegrass All Stars and Kentucky-brewed beer from West 6th Brewing Company. The event will take place in Johnson Alley, behind the old Transitions Building in the 700 block of Fairfield Avenue.

Additional food and artisan vendors will be announced in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to the Old KY Makers Market Facebook page for details.

Interested vendors should apply here for OKMM events in June, August and October.
 


Upcoming Westwood Second Saturdays to showcase local flavor


Westwood is ready to party in the streets, thanks to the upcoming Second Saturdays festival series. Brought to Cincinnati’s largest neighborhood by the event organizers at Westwood Works, Second Saturdays aims to showcase local flavors and talent to the community and beyond.

The series, as the name implies, will be held on the second Saturday of every month on Harrison Avenue in front of Westwood Town Hall. Each month will feature a different theme, with this month’s theme of “Taste” promising to highlight a bevy of delicious treats and creations from local Westwood businesses.

Food will be provided by Avocados Mexican Restaurant and Bar, Diane's Cake Candy & Cookie Supplies, Dojo Gelato, Emma's All In One Occasions (Real Soul Food), Fireside Pizza Walnut Hills and U-Lucky DAWG food truck; beer will be provided by Blank Slate Brewing Company.

This year's events will feature a fun installment —  a 200-foot long table designed to encourage festival goers to forge new friendships. Guests who choose to participate have the option of assigned seating at the table, so as to sit next to new faces — all part of the community enrichment behind Westwood Works' mission.

Musical entertainment is courtesy of Young Heirlooms, Aprina Johnson and Skirt and Boots with Music MAN DJ Flyin' Brian Hellmann.

Second Saturdays comes at a time of revitalization for Westwood, with the neighborhood's central business district seeing a spate of new and exciting shops. Westwood Works, in conjunction with community stakeholders and donors, helps to connect locals with pertinent business strategies with an overall goal of further improving Westwood.

This party isn’t just for Westwood residents; admission is free to all. Second Saturdays aims to be a family-friendly event while serving the neighborhood and beyond.

This month's event is from 5 to 10 p.m. on June 10. The next Second Saturdays are July 8 ("Play"), Aug. 12 ("Splash") and Sept. 9 ("Create").

For more information on the Second Saturday series and future Westwood events, follow the group's Facebook page.
 


Hungry Bros. food truck to make Taste of Cincy debut


The 39th annual Taste of Cincinnati food festival will take place this Memorial Day weekend, featuring new additions and a goal of breaking last year’s record-tying attendance of 550,000.

More than 25 percent of Taste's offerings this year are brand new to the festival, with nine new restaurants and five new food trucks, according to festival director Cynthia Oxley.

Hungry Bros. food truck is one of those newcomers, and the popular mobile restaurant is coming strong out of the gate with three "Best of Taste" awards already secured.

With first-place finishes in the festival's food truck "Best Dessert" and "Best Go Vibrant!" categories, as well as a third-place finishin the "Best Appetizer" food truck category, Hungry Bros.' culinary director Matthew Neumann says he is “elated” and slightly intimidated by the honor.

This is the first year we have been invited to participate in the Taste, and we are beyond stoked to be a part of it,” says Neumann.

Festival goers who choose to sample Hungry Bros.’ winning fried cheesecake dish should also be pretty stoked, as Neumann himself is not hesitant to admit how good it is. It's a dish he and his partners wanted to put on the menu for quite some time, but it wasn’t until this year, when the team's third Taste entry was accepted, that they were forced to make it happen.

“It wasn't until two hours before (applying) that we actually dropped a piece of cheesecake in the graham cracker tempura batter and deep fried it," says Neumann. "We hoped, at the very least, it was going to be good enough that we weren't going to embarrass ourselves, but after tasting it, we knew we had just made something beautiful. It's real tragic for a chef to proclaim how good their food is — but this thing is stupid-good.”

Dishes from Hungry Bros. make up a fraction of the more than 250 menu items that will be available at this year's Taste.

Ohio’s oldest surviving municipal market, Findlay Market, will also make its first-ever Taste appearance, with vendors and “foodpreneurs” from Findlay Kitchen serving fresh, new flavors.

There will also be new beers, new signature cocktails and new, local sponsors.

For Neumann, it’s a chance for individuals to come out to see and sample everything that makes Cincinnati great.

“We want our food to show how much we love this business and how much we love the city,” he says. “Cincinnati is a constant theme in all of our lives, so how could we not be enamored with it and want to be a part of every cool thing and every event that's going on in this town?”

 


Historic Mohawk area the next up-and-coming section of OTR?


With the ongoing rehabilitation and redevelopment of Cincinnati, specifically Over-the-Rhine, the consideration of businesses, residents and growth opportunities are a must.

This was just one of the many aspects that became the forefront of the discussion for the Mohawk Area Plan, which is geared toward not only enhancing the Mohawk Area of OTR, but also to engage those involved.

Also known as the Mohawk District, the neighborhood runs the full length of Central Parkway as its western boundary with eastern boundaries running along Clifton Avenue, Zier Place and Klotter Avenue. The northern boundary is at Brighton Bridge Approach, and the southern boundary extends well into OTR along Findlay Street.

To coincide with a strategy already in place for properties, businesses and residences, the City of Cincinnati formed a committee to take on the task of forming maps, a collection of assets and opportunities and sections that need attention. The Steering Committee held three meetings between Nov. 2016 and March 2017 to draft strategies with the assistance of Brewery District leadership, city planning leaders and business executives.

The public was able to weigh in through a series of meetings — public forums were held between July 2016 and May 2017 to get input on both the progress of the neighborhood and the challenges it could face in the future.

According to the city, two "open house" working group meetings were held in July and Sept. 2016, where residents and stakeholders came together for an interactive mapping exercise. Using a variety of multimedia annotations, attendees identified where they lived, worked or owned property, as well as areas they felt were assets, opportunities or in need of help.

According to residents and committee members, one of the biggest challenges faced in OTR both past and present has been a concern of safety. The Mohawk Area Plan hones in on developing a safe and walkable entertainment district, making the area more pedestrian-friendly.

Construction will undoubtedly play a role in this part of the plan, as the Brighton Approach connector is set for demolition, and another connector route will need to be put in place. This also opened the table for discussion on how public transit could help to enhance the neighborhood. According to the Plan, ideas like Cincy Red Bike, bus stops and streetcar stops could be beneficial for visitors and residents. Additional surface parking lots are also being considered.

In terms of economic development, the goal is to show people why the neighborhood is the place to be. By highlighting neighborhood assets like parks (Hanna Park, Bellevue Park, Cincinnati Open Space and Fairview Park), breweries (Rhinegeist, Cliffside and Jackson), entertainment venues (the Imperial Theatre, which is readily undergoing renovations; Mockbee Arts Building; and Dunlap Café) and businesses (the APEX building, Rookwood Pottery and Robin Imaging), investors and startups could be more drawn to the area with the proper economic investment and amenities/space to grow readily available to them.

The residential goal is to make use of abandoned space along Renner and Hastings while maintaining the historic structural components of the neighborhood and establishing a network of open communication for residents

In alignment with the 2002 OTR Comprehensive Plan, and similar to the Brewery District Plan, the future of the Mohawk area is starting to take shape. The general timeline for approval by the city won't take place until later this summer, but residents and community leaders are ready to reshape the future of the neighborhood.
 


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.
 

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