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New fine art gallery adds to Oakley's diverse, growing scene


Located at 3078 Madison Rd. in the heart of Oakley Square, Caza Sikes offers art and fine craft featuring diverse media from regional artists. The gallery features monthly exhibitions, live music, a rentable event space and appraisals.

The gallery opened this fall after an 18-month renovation of the historic building that once housed a paint store.

Owner and licensed appraiser Evan Sikes says he wanted the space to change the concept of a gallery. It features both high-end and more affordable pieces from everything from paintings to jewelry.

Sikes describes his vision as an “approachable, affordable gallery with cool stuff.”

The gallery features a rotating group of artists that all use a diverse range of media. Along with a collection of different painters, Caza Sikes also features mixed media, jewelry, woodwork, ceramics, photography, fiber arts and glass.

During the month of November, the gallery is hosting a collection of paintings by Cole Carothers, which showcase a 40-year retrospective of his work while living in Cincinnati.

After its successful opening at the end of September, Caza Sikes plans to host more events and hopes to engage all members of the community, from younger visitors to those already very familiar with the gallery scene.

“We’re mixing it up a bit,” Sikes says. Along with displays, the gallery will host a series of events from jazz shows to bourbon tastings. These will start next month with a blues/jazz concert on Dec. 1.

What Sikes is really after is a representation of fine craft because there can be a lack of the diversity of media in traditional galleries. At Caza Sikes, a visitor can see and purchase jewelry, clothes made from recycled fabric, hand-made bowls, ceramic tiles and more.

“It’s been a long time coming, and a hard momentum coming up.”

Caza Sikes joins the art scene in Oakley, along with other venues like Brazee Street Studios, which offers a gallery, events and classes for all ages; Ombré Gallery, which specializes in contemporary art jewelry by art and metalsmiths all over the world; and Redtree Art Gallery & Coffee Shop, which showcases work from locat artsits and serves as a gathering space for the community.
 


Drivewell empowers drivers with basic car maintenance, repair classes


Karl Laube, founder of Drivewell, teaches a free, comprehensive course on car maintenance and basic repairs. “People were constantly asking me to work on their car or calling me because they’re at the shop and they don’t know what the mechanic is telling them.”

Laube has worked on cars since before he could legally drive. He's a firefighter for the City of Cincinnati, and after seeing a need, he applied for a project grant from People’s Liberty and founded Drivewell earlier this year.

“Most people feel like they don’t have any power and going to the mechanic is an anxiety-ridden task," Laube says. "They tell you this, this and this. But you don’t know what they did.”

After the course, drivers have a newfound confidence. Along with Shelby Dunn, a technician for Volvo, Laube aims to give drivers a better understanding to help eliminate confusion and frustration and avoid unnecessary bills.

The first class was for women only. Laube says that he would frequently get calls for advice and assistance from females. He feels when it comes to cars, women tend to get the short end of the stick.

Students get to use their own cars, and they must apply to take the classes. However, Drivewell is only for cars worth less than $10,000. The intention is to serve people who have an older car that they're trying to keep up. Laube himself drives a 1992 Mercedes station wagon.

Drivewell is all-encompassing and is a wholesome lesson on vehicle ownership: how does an engine work; tire changes, rotation and alignment; electrical systems and changing fuses; checking and changing fluids; brake maintenance and checking brake pads; detecting common scams; and how to buy and sell used cars.

“I want to use this as a tool to empower people,” Laube says.

Moreover, Laube’s ultimate goal is to combat consumerism and encourage a habit of fixing rather than disposing. “People don’t fix things anymore.”

People end up spending more money than they need to, and this class teaches drivers to fix their own vehicles. “It’s a source of pride when you own something and can work on it and take care of it," he says.


Laube is currently looking for a new location to continue the next round of classes, which he is hoping will take place in the spring. In the meantime, interested drivers can apply online or fill out an interest form for the next round of classes.

Along with the women’s only course, Drivewell plans to add two new classes to the roster: a workshop on driving a stick shift and a course for new drivers.
 


Supercade bringing spot for the whole family to Westwood this spring


As Soapbox reported in August, Westwood is on an upswing. The planning efforts of the Westwood Coalition, a group of community members and civic organizations, have begun to pay off with increased city investment and an influx of new businesses like Lillywood Home Décor, Muse Café and West Side Brewing.

Leslie Rich, a long-time Westwood resident and board chair for community building nonprofit Westwood Works, has been instrumental in stewarding this positive change. Now she and her husband Bill are striking out with their own new venture, Supercade, to bring some added fun to the neighborhood.


“I spent the last nine years promoting the neighborhood, so it made sense for us to invest in it,” says Rich. "We saw a lack of spaces for people of all ages and backgrounds to gather in a fun way.”

To fill this gap, the couple will be opening a retro arcade with upright cabinet games, pinball machines and air hockey. Though Supercade will serve alcohol, “it’s not going to be a place where you have to drink to play,” Rich says.

The arcade will also offer local snacks, popcorn and cane sugar sodas, and is hoping to work with West Side Brewing to develop a signature root beer.

Supercade, which is slated to open by March, will charge $7 for one hour of free play or $12 for two hours of free play access, and will also be available to host parties and team-building sessions for local companies.

The Riches began collecting game consoles back in 2016, and turned their living room into a mini-arcade before securing the former Keidel Plumbing building at 3143 Harrison Ave. for their new venture.

“We’ve been driving all over the Midwest to build our collection,” Rich says. That collection includes a Donkey Kong cabinet signed by world record holder Billy Mitchell, whose high score is still on the machine.

The couple is excited about how the arcade will be more than just a business, but also a way of building community. “We think there is a physical community that can be built on top of the virtual community,” Rich says.

In an increasingly tech-driven world, Rich believes that people are looking for those places where they can have relationships, physical interactions and conversation.

Supercade has a Kickstarter campaign running through Dec. 11, with a goal of raising $20,000 in additional capital. “Up until this point we’ve bootstrapped and done it ourselves, but this will help us get up and running even faster,” Rich says.

Visit Supercade's Facebook and Instagram for more information and to stay up-to-date on the storefront's progress.
 


Tether Cincinnati connects local creatives to job opportunities, other creatives


One local woman is using her $100,000 Haile Fellowship grant from People’s Liberty to start Tether Cincinnati, a way to connect local image makers (photographers, wardrobe stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists, models, creative directors and fashion designers) in the Cincinnati area.

Tether’s mission is to make it easier for local image makers to connect to each other, and to opportunities for work so they can thrive — and stay — in Cincinnati.

The idea ignited when fashion blogger and former Cincinnati Magazine stylist Tamia Stinson traveled to London. She did a co-op at a British magazine and was inspired by the international image maker directory book, Le Book.

“It was extremely valuable because that was how you found people to execute those types of jobs,” she says.

When she started working, Stinson received many requests from clients, especially from out of town, about the image making industry in Cincinnati.

“I was getting all these inquiries from people and they wanted to know who do I follow, who I get in touch with, what's the best resource for doing this or that,” says Stinson. “And I thought it would be really cool to have a one-stop shop for that information.”

Her passion for design mixed with the resources at People’s Liberty, which helped jumpstart her entrepreneurial career.

“I think it's important to be a part of that creative community and to make sure that I'm supporting people financially in much the same way that I'm trying to get people to do for this community,” Stinson says.

Since its launch in May, Tether has a growing community of about 91 members — and that's just online. Anyone can connect through the Tether Cincinnati website, the print sourcebook and through networking events.

“I think people really get a lot out of that face-to-face interaction, which is why we do events,” says Stinson. “Probably about once a month there's an opportunity for people to actually gather together.”

As much as face-to-face communication is important to her brand, social media is also a key ingredient. “This is a very visual community. So Instagram is where people would tend to hang out the most, but also Facebook and Twitter.”

Aside from social media and events, Stinson also helped organize a sourcebook — a combination fashion magazine and phonebook that features Cincinnati image makers. It will launch in December to agencies and brands nationwide. At the launch, Stinson is planning to "make the sourcebook come to life".

“The plan is to have guests walk in and get the experience of walking into a photoshoot; there will be some kind of interactive part on set to create some of the imagery for the book itself,” Stinson says.

Stinson has been working on this since the beginning of the summer and as of now, the date for the sourcebook launch is Dec. 13. The plan is to have the book come out annually.

The next Tether event is scheduled for Nov. 15 at Alias Imaging, where people from different communities will meet.

Keep tabs on all things Tether by signing up for its newsletter.
 


Northside-based station Radio Artifact is set to make a name for itself in independent music


The idea for a radio station in Northside that plays independent artists and brings prominent local people on air came about two years ago, long before WNKU went off the air.


The radio station, Radio Artifact, will be a 24/7 station based out of the Rectory, which is next door to Urban Artifact. It will broadcast all kinds of music — from independent artists on the local and national level to interviews with artists and prominent figures in the Cincinnati area. The brewery will also use this platform to market its beer.

 

Scott Hand, one of the founders of Urban Artifact, had an idea to start a small radio station that pays homage to the arts back in 2015 when the brewery opened.

 

“I think he just wanted a cool little pirate station to be able to feature all the good music that we have around town,” says Urban Artifact's booking coordinator, Jeremy Moore.


Urban Artifact is also a music venue. Moore has booked local acts like The Skulx and the Blue Wisp Big Band. Touring musicians include Emily Davis and John Nolan from Taking Back Sunday.

 

With many touring acts coming to Cincinnati, Moore wants to be able to get them on the radio “to better promote themselves,” he says.

 

Radio Artifact will not just play music, but will feature all sorts of content. “The main goal is to get as much music-like programming out there, but we also want to focus on all parts of the arts community and just the Cincinnati community in general,” Moore says.

 

The station will air in a 2.5-mile radius. For those who do not live within that radius, online streaming will be provided on its website.

 

Radio Artifact won't necessarily fill WKNU’s space, considering it will only broadcast throughout Northside, parts of Clifton, Westwood, Camp Washington, Mt. Airy and Norwood. WNKU had a much wider reach.

 

But Moore says, “We’re just really trying to do something very independently.”

 

Radio Artifact will eventually broaden its antennas to reach a wider audience, but it's heavily relying on reaching listeners through online streaming.

 

“That's kind of how people listen to stuff at work nowadays, anyway — it's usually on the computer,” Moore says.

 

The radio station has received many original music submissions, but it's been experiencing trouble with its servers. You can still submit original music, and the station plans to officially launch during the first week of October.

 


Design firm relocates to the heart of downtown Newport


Notice any changes on Monmouth Street near Ebert’s Meats? Following a historic building remodel in what used to be a pet grooming business, another firm has set its foundation in Northern Kentucky.

Eighty Twenty Design Group, owned by Fort Thomas resident Michael Smith, is now headquartered in Newport. The building was purchased last October, and renovations led up to a grand opening held earlier this month.

Eighty Twenty is a residential and commercial interior design company specializing in residential room makeovers, remodel planning and design and commercial design consulting. The firm was founded by Smith in 2013 and has grown with the area, becoming one of the most innovative and balanced design companies around. While the company isn’t necessarily new, the presence it will have in Northern Kentucky continues to highlight the area's business boom.

The design firm's core offerings include startup and commercial interior design, residential interior design, paint and accessories, furniture placement and installation, antique furniture restoration and custom-made furniture. A unique feature of Eighty Twenty is that it doesn’t rely on a single supplier, which allows for an infinite selection of styles and retailers. Smith prefers customers to be involved in the process so that they can learn simple techniques to upkeep the design over time.

Using design software, Eighty Twenty can implement the desired design techniques and know exactly how a room or home is going to look before the item is purchased and renovations even begin. High-definition, 3D and virtual reality renderings take customers on a virtual tour through their redesigned home or office space.

Eighty Twenty's portfolio is extensive, from exterior residential painting and hardwood floor restoration to house flips and custom made built-in furniture and storage. You can view some of its past interior design projects here.

The Newport location will house the firm’s office and design studio, along with a retail home store and event space, "Headquarters” will sell home décor, accessories and furniture, as well as host DIY workshops and other events. Products from the home store are available both online and in-store.

If you missed the grand opening on Sept. 2, be sure to catch a glimpse of the projects and products available when Eighty Twenty is featured on the Newport Beyond The Curb Urban Living Tour on Oct. 1. Tickets are available for the self-guided walking tour here.
 


Two engineers embark on entrepreneurial dream with poke restaurant


Two engineers are about to step into the foodie world with a Chipotle-style, Hawaiian poke restaurant in the heart of Over-the-Rhine.

Sally Lin, who works at P&G, and her fiancé and GE employee Baret Kilbacak, chose OTR as the location for Poke Hut because of the diversity in the neighborhood and a lack of fast-paced restaurant options for busy young professionals.

“We're trying to break the mold; we're trying to offer something that fits people's lifestyle,” Kilbacak says.

Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish that consists of raw, cubed pieces of fish. It is usually served in a bowl with rice and veggies.

Poke Hut will serve poke with sushi rice and a variety of toppings and sauces. The menu will also feature cooked meat dishes. The restaurant will have a beach-theme mixed with a little bit of Cincinnati. There will be bubble tea, a bar (with alcoholic bubble tea), poke burritos and steamed buns for those seeking a healthy late-night snack.

The couple are first-generation immigrants — Lin’s family is from China and Kilbacak’s Armenian family is from Turkey.

“We grew up seeing our families in small businesses, which is typical of immigrants, and I think we kind of miss that,” Lin says.

The idea for a poke spot started when Kilbacak went on an impromptu trip to Hawaii with his brother and a close friend. After a long day of surfing, the group stumbled upon a poke shop in search of a quick bite.

“We went to a shop, and within just a few minutes we had a bowl in our hands and we went to the beach,” he says. “The lifeguards were off duty and there was a lifeguard shack. We went right up there, threw our feet over the edge and watched the tide roll in and ate our food.”

After a year of planning, Poke Hut anticipates a soft opening in October or early November.

Although owning and operating a small business is something the couple has wanted to do for a long time, they don't plan to quit their day jobs. Instead, a third partner will oversee the restaurant's day-to-day operations.

Poke Hut will be located across from Taft's Ale House in the Allison Building at 1509 Race St.
 


Grocery stores adapt to the recent changes in Cincinnati's food landscape

 

Various Cincinnati neighborhoods are in transition, experiencing a shifting landscape with grocery stores either entering or exiting: Kroger closing in Walnut Hills, the proposed downtown Kroger development, the new Corryville Kroger, Clifton Market, Apple Street Market in Northside and the The Epicurean Mercantile Co. in Over-the-Rhine — among others.

In May, the owners of Findlay Market staple Fresh Table opened EMC on Race Street just across from the Market, as they saw a need for a full-service grocery store in the area.

“There was a real need [for a grocery store] in OTR, but also the Central Business District,” says Meredith Trombly, owner of EMC. “We always knew we were going to form a new business, whether that was a food truck, herb garden or what have you.”

The 5,000-square-foot store is also home to The Counter, a 1,000-square-foot restaurant that serves food for dine-in or carryout.

Trombly believes that being along the streetcar line offers a convenience to downtown residents and the surrounding neighborhood, and that including a restaurant sets them apart from others. She also sees a need for other grocery stores to offer something different in the current economic landscape.

“We wanted something unique for the neighborhood — something different but also functional. People are looking for that kind of convenience, that kind of spark.”

Similarly, Clifton Market, which opened in January, has since filled The Gaslight District’s grocery store vacancy following the closure of Keller’s IGA in 2010. The market’s model is also different than other grocery stores in Cincinnati, with its many shareholders making its opening possible.

The market’s board first met in Aug. 2013 to discuss opening the grocery store, which incorporated in Jan. 2014 and opened in Jan. 2017.

“We went to a co-op startup conference in 2014 and we told them we just got incorporated, and then we told them we wanted to open up in 2-3 years,” says Marilyn Hyland, founding board member of Clifton Market. “They told us, ‘No, you can’t do that. It takes 5-9 years to open up a food co-op.’”

Clifton Market began selling shares to the community in March 2014, and by Dec. 2015, it had raised nearly $1.65 million in owner shares and owner loans. It currently has more than 1,700 shareholders.

“A lot of why we felt it would be feasible to raise the money for the grocery store was in the Clifton tradition of rolling up your sleeves and planning and making happen the picture of the community that people have," Hyland says.

The market is beginning its third phase of fundraising, aiming to raise $100,000 this month and $500,000 within the next six months. This new round of fundraising will focus around a variety of events and share drives to provide a better startup cushion for the store.

Clifton Market is also preparing to offer online delivery at a cost of $2 to collect groceries in-store and $10 for delivery within a five-mile radius. There are future plans to extend the delivery service to anywhere within the I-275 loop. Hyland sees this as an opportunity to bring people from outside of the neighborhood into the area.

“The grocery store is a social space, as well as the heart of a community,” Hyland says. “But you don’t have to live in Clifton to love it. You can go there, shed your car and be a part of everything.”


PassivHaus brings unique approach to Cincy sustainability


A 2016 Xavier University grad is shaking up the region’s building industry by dramatically reducing building energy expenses and consumption. And in a day and age where Cincinnati is gearing toward a future of sustainability and environmental savviness, this couldn’t have come at a better time.


Ronald Vieira, founder of PassivHaus, has been conducting research to figure out how to decrease the extra expenses people have to pay for in order to build a "passive house." While there are several passive houses currently being constructed in Cincinnati, they have yet to be certified.

What is so important about incorporating environmental consciousness into area homes? According to Vieira, PassivHaus is doing things a little bit differently.

“There’s a lot of people trying to figure this out, but what we are doing differently is approaching this issue with a cost-effective mindset without compromising ideal energy performance,” he says. “All of our efforts are in place to take away the champion title that buildings have for being the most polluting in the whole country; more than transportation and industry. To reach minimal (and zero) status, we are reducing emissions with innovative and efficient design and then generating electricity on-site as much as possible.”

So what is a passive house?

Vieira says that it's a series of building standards that, if followed properly, will reduce up to 90 percent of the heating load of your house, building or facility. Overall, it reduces up to 75 percent of a building's overall energy consumption.

The main principle behind a passive house is the use of super insulation — or continuous insulation — because the idea is to isolate the inside temperature of the house from the outside environment. Whether the outside is hot or cold, mild or humid, the goal is to preserve the indoor environment to the best of the indoor’s ability. In turn, this requires a high-powered, high-quality air filter to maintain the stabilized inside climate without the air getting stale.

Vieira says that one PassivHaus is already in the works, but many of the details are underwraps. It's the first in Cincinnati, and is a single-family building that will be at least 75 percent more efficient than a built-to-code home. “This project will depict how we believe that sustainability must come at no compromise.”

Implementing passive houses on a broad scale is more complex than it may seem. The houses require more material, as well as high-driven (and certified) talent to design the buildings. Most architects and builders don’t yet understand the new materials and ideas associated with a passive house.


Growing up in Venezuela and having experience with extreme poverty, Vieira felt he was more qualified to tackle a non-social challenge following his college career at Xavier. In researching energy efficiency, he wanted to know more about how to get people to generate energy in an environmentally-friendly way. 

The property tax abatement for 15 years on certified passive houses in Cincinnati is huge. Plus systems are bought in bulk thanks to the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, and Cincinnati is one of the best cities for startups.

“We are designing customs homes in Cincinnati along with running research on construction techniques and materials to make green building affordable across the housing stock in the Cincinnati area,” Vieira says. “For the future, our objective is to make Cincinnati and the world cleaner places to live. We are tackling pollutants by their dimensions; in this case, buildings being the largest one. Getting a large organization like 3CDC in charge of redeveloping a lot of buildings is the goal.”

If you are looking for a new home and are curious about energy efficiency and how it helps you save money, check out PassivHaus or email the Vieira at ron@passivhauscincy.com.
 


New Herzog Music in the CBD much more than record store

 

As soon as you walk into Herzog Music, it’s obvious that this place is more than a record store.

Andrew Aragon describes himself as the “day-to-day guy” at Herzog Music, which officially opened July 22. Aragon says Herzog was the brainchild of Elias Leisring, the owner of Eli’s BBQ.

“Even though he’s known for the barbecue, music is a huge part of his life — it’s a huge part of everyone’s life,” Aragon says.

Herzog Music resides in the former Herzog Studio, the last standing space where Hank Williams Sr. ever recorded. Leisring is a member of the Cincinnati Music Heritage Foundation, an organization that managed the studio space before Herzog opened.

“We’re here so we can bring awareness to that space, the history and its importance to the city,” says Aragon. “The ultimate end goal is to make sure that space is not only preserved, but transformed back into a working studio so we can keep the music heritage of Cincinnati flowing.”

The store prefers an “adopt, don’t shop” policy, stocking vintage records and antique musical instruments that range from rare guitars to well-loved saxophones and an Omnicord. Aragon says Herzog will acquire new things, but they are fortunate to have a diverse inventory. Their records span genres that represent a little of everything: Christmas albums, comedy, indie, R&B, classic rock and more.

“Overall, we want to facilitate not only people that play music; we want to be able to help out people that just love listening to it. We want to grow that community in the central part of downtown,” Aragon says.

In addition to its eclectic merchandise, Herzog endeavors to be more than a store.

It's also home to the Queen City Music Academy, where student musicians of all ages can take lessons. In the future, the space will host other educational opportunities for the community.

“We’re going to have everything from a kids’ folk puppet show to a clinic on how to spot vintage guitars and how to use microphones properly,” Aragon says.

Herzog hopes to draw residents and tourists to experience Cincinnati culture in a different part of downtown.

“It’s just like any culture, you experience the most of it through the food and the music,” Aragon explains. “We’re trying to put the best foot forward of our culture here through the things that we know the best.”
 

 


Pho Lang Thang owners team up with Eli's BBQ for East End roadhouse


The Lang Thang Group, which owns Pho Lang Thang and Quan Hapa in Over-the-Rhine, have teamed up with Elias Leisring of Eli’s BBQ to create a new roadhouse for East Enders called The Hi-Mark.

Located alongside Riverside Drive, the restaurant will reportedly be a laid-back affair, serving all kinds of beer — including local craft varieties — and highball cocktails, as well as bar food, with some food inspiration from Eli’s, Quan Hapa and Pho Lang Thang.

The current plan for The Hi-Mark menu is to develop items over the coming months, but some things we're working on are housemade dips to complement Hen of the Woods' chips, wings, fries and sandwiches,” says Mike Dew, a partner in the Lang Thang Group.


The Hi-Mark has about a 150-person capacity, and space includes a bar area, a second-floor mezzanine, an outdoor deck and a game room in the basement, which could open this fall.

Located at 3229 Riverside, it's right down the street from Eli’s, and was named The Hi-Mark due to its location and history.

After the 1997 flood, the whole East End was considered a disaster area. Therefore, the group had to raise the building out of the danger zone and remodel the entire space.

For us, this meant getting creative with the construction of the building and essentially gutting the entire inside, raising the floor out of the floodplain and designing an entirely new floor plan,” says Dew. “Our neighborhood's history with the flooding, coupled with the new building design, made the name a natural fit.”

Even through the group is focusing on its newest restaurant, Pho Lang Thang and Quan Hapa will remain open.

The slow roll out opening for The Hi-Mark started on July 27, with the hours of 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 14, and the hours will then shift to 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends.
 


Second location will allow Taft's Brewing Co. to ramp up production, introduce New Haven-style pizza


As part of a multimillion dollar expansion, Taft's Brewing Co. is opening a second location to function as a taproom, beer garden, brewhouse and distribution facility to keep up with demand.

The 50,000-square-foot space on Spring Grove Avenue, formerly occupied by a P&G testing lab, was purchased for $1.7 million in July 2016. Because it was previously occupied by a large company, the facility was almost move-in ready — this was necessary because the brewing setup at Taft's Ale House couldn’t handle the production increase.

The “Brewporium” will focus more on special releases and New Haven-style pizza, which is a crispier version of Neopolitan-style pizza that gets a little charred over coals before serving. Taft's plans on importing flour from Italy, making the dough the main focus.

According to managing partners of the brewery, a number of seasonal pizzas will be available daily with beer-infused crust. The menu will include six specialty pizzas, sandwiches and more. They also plan to offer special beers not available at Taft’s Ale House.

The plan for the kitchen and taproom is quick but with top-notch customer service, with orders placed at a counter and a picnic-like area for dining. Hanging string lights and glass garage doors will highlight the facility and allow for open air when the weather is nice.

The space will also feature a gaming area with custom-made tabletop shuffleboards and darts. Customers will be able to enjoy live music on occasion as well. Plans for an outdoor patio have begun, with hopes to open that portion of the space by spring 2018.

Current capacity is 15,000 barrels, but the brewery could expand to accommodate as many as 100,000 barrels. With the expansion to this location, Taft’s Ale House will be primarily used for experimental and test brews, with the new production facility handling the bulk of the traditional beer production.

While the brewery has been up and running since April, the 5,000-square-foot taproom and kitchen will open to the public later this summer. The taproom/kitchen will be open Wednesday-Sunday with a focus on dinner service, but lunch will be offered on certain days. Hours are still being determined at this time.

For more information on the new brewhouse and when regular hours will go into effect, visit Taft’s Facebook page.
 


Drink Local event to support businesses and engage the community


On July 29, Give Back Cincinnati will showcase an assortment of 25 locally made beverages at the Mockbee during its Drink Local event, which will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. The free event aims to introduce and promote local businesses, much like What's Feeding Cincinnati, which was held in 2015.

“We want to show the benefits of drinking local, and we’re trying to get people aware of how they can support local businesses,” says Brian McLaughlin of Give Back Cincinnati.

While Cincinnati's brewery scene is already a strong point of interest, drinking local doesn't just mean beer. It will bring together drinkeries from all over the city that specialize in a wide genre of beverages, including wine, coffee, tea, juice, kombucha, bubble tea and beer. More than 10 of these options will be non-alcoholic.

Attendees will be able to try wine from Skeleton Root, Skinny Piggy kombucha, Boba Cha bubble tea, Essencha teas, Smooth Nitro coffee and Rooted Juicery.

In terms of beer, the event will focus on smaller, lesser known breweries and some of their summer features. Woodburn Brewery will bring its Hans Solo, a coffee-infused blonde ale. Urban Artifact will have its Key Lime gose, and East Side breweries Streetside and Nine Giant will also be in attendance.

Give Back Cincinnati hopes to relay the benefits of drinking local and inform residents on how to do it. By drinking — and buying — local, residents and vistors alike are putting money back into the community and helping startups get a foot in the door.

Give Back Cincinnati is a volunteer nonprofit that strives to increase civic engagement between volunteers, local businesses and Cincinnatians. Its Civic Engagement Committee plans events that draw attention to timely issues in order to provide residents with a place to discuss and engage.

McLaughlin hopes that the Drink Local event will provide opportunities to forge new connections and fortify existing ones. A number of speakers will be on hand discussing their small business journeys and the importance of supporting local businesses.

You can register for the event and view a full list of participating local businesses here.
 


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)
 

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