OTR tour operator gets a permanent home in Gateway Quarter

The popular Queen City Underground and Newport Gangster tours will get a permanent home in the Gateway Quarter of Over-the-Rhine, opening a new office and shop this spring. Jerry Gels, tour owner and founder, looks forward to adding to the growing neighborhood where several of its popular tours take place.

"Last year was a lot of borrowing from places to hold things for us. Having a permanent location and a tie to the neighborhood will make things better," Gels said.

Gels said the Gangster and Civil War tours attracted 5,600 people to Newport and OTR alone. This year, he hopes to have 10,000 to 15,000 people attending the tours.

At the beginning of each tour, a tour guides asks each person when was the last time he or she visited OTR. Gels reports that more than 80 percent have not been in OTR for ten years. The tours serve as a great introduction to the neighborhood, showing people the beauty and history of the neighborhood.

"What we do for the neighborhood is different because we physically walk them through it," Gels said. "People are slightly intimidated to walk through, but by the end of the tour, visitors understand how the neighborhood is important."

At the height of touring season, Newport and OTR tours utilize sixteen employees. Currently Gels is undecided about adding more employees to his staff or keeping a smaller staff, which allows them to have longer and consistent work during the tour season.

The new space at 1220 Vine Street (the former Lucky Step shop) will serve as an office, but also a gift shop for customers who have requested souvenir items and small convenience items. The shop will offer products associated with Cincinnati, including pieces from Rookwood Pottery.

"We want to be the new Savannah or Charleston," Gels explained. "As the neighborhood improves and tours continue to grow, the next big deal will be international publicity."

Writer: Lisa Ensminger

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