Discovering new heart in the city

My friend Julia teases me that I have a collection of interesting and unexpected surprises in Cincinnati that I hide from her. She moved here five years ago to teach at the University of Cincinnati, where I teach Journalism.

When I took the native New Yorker to Ted Berry International Friendship Park along the riverfront, her reaction was swift. "Why have you been hiding this from me?" was to become a common refrain. When I took her to Song Long restaurant in Roselawn, she wondered why I'd kept this local treat from her, too. We visited High Street in Over-the-Rhine, another spot I'd been hiding, to shop during the holidays, and she found the perfect gift for a design-minded friend on the East Coast.

It seems that as a Cincinnati native – Norwood, to be precise – I take a lot of these things for granted. I grew up visiting Findlay Market with my parents every Saturday. My mom and I explored Eden Park while my siblings took weekend art classes at the Cincinnati Art Musuem.

I think taking the city for granted is a common condition, one born of familiarity and wanderlust, of visits to bigger cities to attend exciting festivals while opting to stay home during our own.

Which brings me to Soapbox, which has never taken any of the good stuff, or the messy stuff, for granted. My first close encounter with this online magazine was when a student in my feature writing class, Spencer Dennis, discovered that the guy who makes the Easter Bunny costumes for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll does so right here in Cincinnati.

It was a perfect story for Soapbox and I encouraged him to submit it. That was when I realized how great it was to have a Soapbox – a place where even natives can discover something new about their town; a place to find new ways of thinking about issues, ideas and even ourselves.

After that, I read Soapbox to see what I was missing. For the last five months, I've had the distinct pleasure of writing about the work of non-profits in our community in Soapbox's For Good stories. Stepping back into the world of weekly reporting, and learning so much about so many under and untold stories whetted my appetite for more. So, when the talented and gracious Sean Rhiney found the job of his dreams at Xavier University and had to step down as Soapbox managing editor, I was delighted to be asked to build on his successes.

Luckily, I had a head start. My prior life as an editor at Cincinnati magazine connected me to many creative and talented people, some native, some not, who choose to make their homes here. That includes Summer Genetti, the pastry chef at The Palace who pitched our lead feature about local beekeepers. She worked with me on the research and writing, and even came up the headline, Bees in the Hood. Let me tell you there is nothing quite like watching a pastry chef taste honey fresh from a comb.

Putting together my first issue as Soapbox managing editor has been an adventure. Appropriately enough, we're launching a new section about start-ups, edited by local entrepreneurial expert Elizabeth Edwards, with this very issue. She'll be on the lookout for new businesses and the ambitious souls behind them.

As for me, I've geared up with beekeepers, tasted fresh honey and tracked down bicycle commuters, one of whom, despite multiple accidents, wouldn't consider traveling to work any other way. Their passion, energy and creativity help define Cincinnati; this is their Soapbox.

And it's your Soapbox, too. Send me your thoughts and ideas, post on our Facebook page, and join the conversation.

Email me at [email protected]

Follow me on Twitter @elissayancey

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