OTR’s Winter Market grows as businesses rally for downtown turnout

Once again this year, the Al Neyer Winter Market at Washington Park returns to Over-the-Rhine, making small business holiday shopping a cinch, not to mention fun.

The festive outdoor atmosphere that won favor with patrons during the 2020 holiday season is quickly becoming a tradition. A rotating weekend schedule of 50 plus local vendors will return to cozy, heated huts offering clothing, handmade crafts, unique art, delectable sweets and more.

Patrons can enjoy hot or cold beverages, including libations, from The Porch within the expansive confines of Washington Park during their holiday strolls. Perusing the goods with the whole family in tow (including Fido) makes for a great afternoon, and Santa will once again be on hand for photos.

Senior Event Marketing Manager for 3CDC, Emily Stowe, explains that the Winter Market grew out of a similar event previously held on Fountain Square. When the pandemic hit, the landlocked area didn’t provide adequate social distancing, and thus the market was temporarily relocated to Washington Park in OTR.

“So we moved up to Washington Park and did the same kind of deals – the same types of vendors, artisans, crafters – and it was a huge success,” reports Stowe, who was thinking mainly in terms of pandemic safety needs at the time.

“In 2021, we were evaluating things,” continues Stowe. “We could have had vendors closer together again (at Fountain Square). But we felt like it really had room to grow at Washington Park.”

Stowe says she saw it as an opportunity to support more local vendors.

“We also are able to add pop up tents and even more vendors at Washington Park in as many weekends. So we decided to make that change permanently.”

Other expansions include more cooperative efforts between the Winter Market and other holiday bazaars throughout the downtown area. Encouraging visitors to OTR and downtown to hop the streetcar and travel a circuit around the city and make a day of holiday shopping is an idea quickly gaining momentum within the business district with the encouragement of 3CDC. By combining their appeal, pop up markets and food trucks are joining longstanding brick and mortar retailers and restaurants to present shoppers with a very attractive “holiday package deal.”

In true holiday spirit, many downtown businesses are putting competitive streaks aside and showing off their best assets in conjunction with one another for an overall, end of year push geared towards benefitting all. This unified effort is necessary due to the heightened challenges posed by supply shortages and inflation felt across the board.

“We hear from businesses that the holidays really makes or breaks them. So this is just an incredibly important time to make sure that all the small businesses that we love will continue to do what they do. None of these markets or businesses are competing. Everybody has something different to offer, and we want people to experience as much as they can,” says Stowe.

She and others at 3CDC have worked hard to promote and organize the Winter Market, along with community partners the OTR Chamber, MORTAR and The City Flea. 3CDC is also sounding a rallying cry to businesses to jointly promote themselves with collective event listings.

“We've opened up submissions for every business in downtown and OTR to submit their specials and events. We're going to house all of that on our website,” says Stowe.

She mentions Christian Moerlein’s traditional Christkindlmarkt at The Banks as another must-see holiday shopping highlight, which compliments rather than contends with OTR’s offering.

“It’s going be a completely different set of vendors focused on traditional Christmas decor and European gifts – clocks and beer steins and all of that,” says Stowe. “They charge a $5 admission. However, they're doing something really cool. If you buy admission to the ice rink, or if you shop at any downtown business and turn in your receipt, you can get into their market at no charge.”

She also encourages downtown and OTR shoppers to hit Music Hall’s Crafty Supermarket on Small Business Saturday, November 26. The show features over one hundred makers from all around Ohio.

The Winter Market in OTR kicks off with a preview from 3:00pm - 8:00 pm on Friday, November 25.

Read more articles by Eliza Bobonick.

Eliza Bobonick is a Cincinnati-based writer and a mother of three. Her work has been featured in such local and regional publications as Cincinnati CityBeat and Kentucky Homes and Gardens Magazine. She is a former musician whose interests include photography and interior design.