co-owner Michele Hobbs has a secret.
Well, two of them. First of all, she knows the origin of the ubiquitous "OTR$" stamp that has been appearing on paper money throughout the downtown Cincinnati area. Second, during a time when real estate in Over-the-Rhine is expensive and hard to come by, she and her wife (and PetWants co-owner) Amanda Broughton managed to purchase an old warehouse that will do much more than serve as a receiving area for the 25,000 pounds of food PetWants sells each month.
"People like me don't get these buildings," Hobbs says.
Hobbs discovered the structure after poring over public bankruptcy records. She stumbled across an owner who hadn't paid taxes since 2007 and jumped at the opportunity to make the building hers. For $225,000, Hobbs found herself with 17,000 square feet of space, including a warehouse and an attached garage. Two blocks from the streetcar, she has space for 250 cars and the kind of business potential people only dream of.
Though currently in the business plan stage, the groundwork has been laid to house OTR's first distillery in decades in the Central Parkway location. According to Hobbs, there used to be 80 distilleries in OTR. Though the city is chock full of craft breweries, liquor production has taken a back seat.
Born Again Distillery, a name Hobbs has already trademarked, will produce gin, whiskey and bourbon while also providing a large event space for rent. Hobbs hopes to collaborate with other OTR residents to make the place a neighborhood-driven destination.
Though she is excited about the project, Hobbs' main focus is still PetWants—that, and encouraging folks to buy local. Though money stamped with "OTR$" has been rumored to be linked to a neighborhood drug ring, its true origin is nowhere else but PetWants' own cash register. They created the stamp and stamps like it to make people aware of their company's commitment to spending money locally.
Hobbs' local commitment will become even more apparent with the emergence of her OTR distillery. The warehouse transformation should begin sometime next year.
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