Recent development in downtown and Over-the-Rhine has brought ever-increasing numbers of visitors to Cincinnati’s basin. Vine Street (high-end restaurants, bars and growing retail), Washington Park (family-friendly atmosphere and programmed activities) and Findlay Market (oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in the country) are the obvious destinations for suburbanites and tourists.
But locals know that there is more to be discovered. Main Street offers its own brand of local flavor and quirkiness, with a varied mix of nightlife, food, retail and services.
Julie Fay, long-time resident and proprietor of three Main Street establishments, sums it up by offering a comment from a recent out-of-town customer, comparing Main Street to Vine Street: “This is the real Over-the-Rhine, isn’t it?”
Meet seven of the creative entrepreneurs who chose to locate their businesses along Main Street, from downtown to OTR …
Lindsey Estes / Lucca Laser Workshop
By Annette Wick
Growing up, Lindsey Estes, owner of Lucca Laser Workshop (1342 Main), worked in her father’s machine shop.
“After my jobs, I could make anything I wanted,” she said. “As a child, I also loved history and old houses. I would draw abstract or geometric designs of buildings. A week before this store opened, I found my old journals, where I had written, ‘When I grow up my dream job is to be an artist and own a store.’ ”
Now, she has her own laser machine, moved from Walnut Hills to her new space on Main Street. In her shop, named for a town in Italy where alder wood is grown, Estes uses her one-of-a-kind designs to produce wood coasters, journal covers, cards and decor. This month, she celebrates her one-year anniversary.
Estes was given the proper tools by her father, who she calls “my mentor.” But after locating to the city, she was intrigued by architecture’s precise designs. “In laser design, I could relate to the mathematical precision required.”
Her most popular products are the wood coasters, but her favorite to create are the paper items. She points to one rhinoceros design “that took 25 hours to design, but I love that,” she said.
Much of Estes’ business is wholesale and selling at shows like City Flea and Bunbury. Her work has been featured on HGTV’s “Love It or List It” and on Etsy. Estes would like to build furniture and re-create furniture embellishments, but that requires a larger machine.
Despite her products’ popularity, she admits to challenges in working alone. “I have trouble finding inspiration through all the stress, so I have to let go of stuff,” she said. Estes credits her parents for helping. “My mother will watch the shop and water the plants if I’m at a show or working on a design.”
“But I love the people I meet through Main Street’s retail business,” she said. “A woman who works for Amazon asked me to make a ‘shoulder angle tool’ for their camera work, and now I sell that. As soon as I opened the curtains, people came in. Plus, I want to be where other artists are, and that trend continues on Main. After hours, with the later crowds, I can really showcase my stuff.”
Karen Williams / Sewendipity Lounge
By Annette Wick
“People walk by all day long and point.”
Sewendipity Lounge owner Karen M. Williams is referring to her windows at 722 Main. Since Christmas, her shop’s windows have displayed a variety of custom dresses in holiday, baseball and summer themes.
Sewendipity offers classes in sewing, support for garment construction, and memberships to schedule use of eight sewing machines and two sergers. The shop, decked out in pink and black, also provides a lounge for customers to eat, view catalogs or just mingle.
In her youth, Williams learned to sew by taking after-school classes at Sears. “I remember the original Banasch’s with their fine fabrics,” she said. Long after retiring as an Ohio State University extension home economist, her attraction to fabric held firm.
“I thought my concept would be a fabric shop that carried fine silks and wools,” she said. “I’m a purist. I wanted to be able to touch, feel and smell the fabrics.”
Working with SCORE, Williams honed the idea. “When I took the Myers-Briggs (personality) test, it was made so clear. I wanted to work with people. I wanted something different every day. I wanted to teach.”
Foremost, Williams wants customers to enjoy the act of sewing and the community created around a shared passion.
She also has accepted custom jobs and sold dresses from the display. She confides, “I’m a very good fitter,” but admits she doesn’t know how many custom jobs she will be able to handle.
Before the April opening, Williams visited the Philadelphia fabric market to stock the store and also popped in to similar local shops, though she doesn’t view them as competition. “We complement each other based on location and services,” she said.
“When I looked at spaces in Mason and downtown, the owner here offered me a deal. But it’s mostly the foot traffic, those who ride by on the bus and soon the streetcar, the accessibility and walkability of this area. Plus, this has been missing from downtown.”
Williams’ goal is to increase memberships, while rounding out her supply of fabrics. A big room behind the “sewing lab” holds possibility for expansion.
Her biggest surprise? The variety of requests. “My landlord insisted I offer alterations. But we also have classes for a couture jacket, a Kids’ Kamp, and how to upcycle. Just last week, a bicycle courier came into the store. She wanted to sew a new bag. So I sold her some thread.”
Given the demands placed on her time and budget, Williams said, “I may have to live upstairs. But I did what I wanted and don’t regret any of my ideas.”
Jake Gerth / Frameshop
By Annette Wick
“We want to take over your walls,” jokes Jake Gerth, owner of Frameshop (1317 Main). But listening to his plans, it’s clear he is serious.
Frameshop, which offers custom frames, opened four years ago. But, while waiting for Main Street’s continued retail growth, Frameshop has expanded to other areas.
“We started out in retail,” he said. “And when we saw the opportunity for partnerships, we began to explore. We’ve provided custom framing for high-end boutique hotels, such as The Restoration in Charleston and others in Florida.”
Gerth, who has a background in graphic design, bought out a former partner and now employs seven full-time designers from DAAP and the Art Academy of Cincinnati. He is working to provide structured roles as their list of projects increases.
“We really are becoming a creative agency,” he said. “We want to be at hospitality shows, in high-end home decor retail. We might need an app.” The list, like Jake Gerth’s energy, is endless.
His only challenge of late is getting back to hands-on work. “I haven’t worked on frames for two months.” Gerth and his wife, Duru Armagan, who owns Sloane Boutique a few blocks away on Vine, have a 2-month-old child. They co-own Goods, another store on Main that sells vintage and new “curated” items based on rotating themes.
“And I’ve been running Frameshop’s business,” Gerth said, “and working the new partnership with Rookwood Pottery.” When Rookwood releases a new tile, Frameshop will provide the custom framing. “But I can see that partnership growing as Rookwood moves into more interior design. I can say, ‘We can go to this show for you, with our frames and your tiles.’ We can help each other out.” Frameshop is in discussions with another local shop, Noble Denim, and Lucca Laser Workshop of Main Street is currently working on laser-cut frames.
“I’ve lived in Over-the-Rhine for seven years. I’ve been loyal, seen the mission. While there is less foot traffic on Main Street than is ideal, this is still about our authenticity.
We could grow (the retail side) through relocating to the suburbs, but do those locations really represent who we are? Our retail customers want that uniqueness. We want people to walk in and offer them the option to say, ‘Do what’s best. But keep it at a budget.’ ”
Frameshop strives to employ the same precision and inventiveness to the framing as the artist strives in the artwork: Essentially, letting the art take over the walls.
Rachael Moore / Cincinnati Art Underground
Rachael Moore founded Cincinnati Art Underground (1415 Main) this past year to promote local artists and also bring emerging artists to Cincinnati.
Trained as a lawyer, she moved to Cincinnati with her husband due to his job at GE Aviation. Working with the Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts in 2012, she worked closely with visual artists to create multimedia complements to the festival’s chamber music concerts.
“I’ve always loved art,” she says, and having lived in both London and New York City, she is a big fan of museums.
“I identify with potential buyers,” Moore said, “so I’m working more now as an art broker and manager, advising artists.”
Moore sees “a lot of cool stuff happening here. I wanted to come down here and be part of the arts scene, and see what’s happening firsthand.”
She characterizes the stretch from 12th to Liberty as “a relaxed stroll where you can find some interesting things if you take the time to do it.”
Sara Bornick / Street Pops
Sara Bornick is the motive force behind the gourmet creations at Street Pops (1437 Main).
She attended Wittenberg University, where she studied graphic design. She first freelanced for local agencies, but answered an inner calling and took classes at the Midwest Culinary Institute, where she was inspired to develop ice cream recipes.
While on a trip to North Carolina, Bornick encountered a gourmet pop vendor and decided to transform her ice cream recipes into frozen pops.
Bornick started selling pops out of a cooler at the first City Flea market in 2011. She established her storefront in 2012, and added a second location in Oakley in 2015.
She chose Main Street because it “has more of a neighborhood feel. It’s kinda gritty. Everything’s not all brand new, and we like that. It’s also a more affordable place to try things out. The business community is really supportive.”
Julie Fay / Iris Bookcafe, Urban Eden, Another Part of the Forest
Fay has been a fixture on Main Street for many years, having now established three ongoing concerns. She is active in the business community, leading efforts to bring more economic stability to Main Street.
Iris Bookcafe (1331 Main) offers used books, all-natural foods, coffee and tea, and hosts rotating art exhibits. Urban Eden (1313 Main) features contemporary craft and fine art by local artists. Another Part of the Forest (1333 Main) is an independent used record store.
While there continue to be challenges to growth, Fay sees much reason for optimism and treasures the “more grassroots” character of Main Street.
“A lot of the merchants are excited about the arrival of the streetcar on Sept. 9. We’re eager to draw riders up the street to see what we have.”
Fay looks forward to the renovated Ziegler Park and welcomes the Alumni Lofts – 140-plus apartments scheduled to open this fall in the former School for Creative & Performing Arts building just a block east. “We’ll be a good ‘front yard’ for them.”
Jymi Bolden / Art Beyond Boundaries
Bolden is a graduate of the Art Academy of Cincinnati and was photo editor of CityBeat from 1994 to 2004.
Art Beyond Boundaries (1410 Main) started in 2005 as a one-shot exhibit sponsored by the Center for Independent Living Options. One show followed another, said Bolden, until in late 2006 he was assisted by Melody Sawyer Richardson in setting up a gallery on Main Street.
The mission of the gallery is “to promote awareness and understanding of artists with disabilities,” and “to demonstrate to both the artists and the community that art transcends the limits of disabilities.”
Bolden is “proud of the fact that there is quality on the wall. We sell ability, not disability.” ABB is now a destination, attracting art lovers from across the city.
He is encouraged by increasing development on Main Street. “The new energy here is most positive, most welcome. I love the curiosity, the interest, the diversity of all of these things that are happening.”
More on Main . . .
Lala’s Blissful Bites, 619 Main – Southern recipe-inspired goods, baked from scratch by owner Terri Henry-Hayden.
Japp’s, 1134 Main – Handcrafted cocktails designed by one of Cincinnati’s favorite mixologists, Molly Wellmann.
Cheapside Corner, 1200 Main – Coming late summer. Owners say ice cream, malts and shakes, plus music, will be part of the fare.
Macaron Bar, 1206 Main – Cincinnati’s only bakery dedicated exclusively to French macarons, plus coffee, tea.
Shadeau Bread, 1336 Main – Breads and pastries baked daily on site. Locals get there early for the best selection.
Boba Cha, 1606 Main – Homemade bubble teas (tea and fruit concoctions with large tapioca pearls), herbal teas and smoothies. 421-9111
Ohio Book Store, 726 Main – Open since 1940, five floors of used and collectors’ books and magazines, plus restoration services for old books and custom binding.
Algin Furniture, 800 Main – Mid-century Modern reproduction furnishings and local art, plus custom-designed furniture from reclaimed wood and repurposed industrial items.
Goods, 1300 Main – A rotating theme of goods and services that entertains the power of storytelling.
Indigo Hippo, 1301 Main – Nonprofit thrift store for art supplies that focuses on creative reuse.
1305 Gallery, 1305 Main – Art gallery with rotating exhibitions.
Mannequin Boutique, 1311 Main – Upscale and vintage women’s and men’s clothing and accessories, with all proceeds going to charity.
Promoting local culture
Park + Vine, 1202 Main – Owner Danny Korman curates a wide variety of local and environmentally friendly goods plus vegan foods, lunch and brunch, at “Cincinnati’s green general store.”
MOTR Pub, 1345 Main – Live rock ‘n’ roll most nights, writer’s night on Tuesdays, and a featured visual artist each month. Casual lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
Liberty’s Bar and Bottle, 1427 Main – Wide variety of craft beer and wine pours, dog-friendly weekend afternoon gathering spot for locals.
Just off Main
Collective Espresso, 207 Woodward – Coffee in its purest form. Don’t ask for syrup. Don’t ask for skim.
The Famous Neons Unplugged, 208 E. 12th – A local favorite, especially on Sunday afternoons. More of Molly Wellmann’s craft cocktails, large, pet-friendly patio with grill and giant Jenga.
All “Makers on Main” photos by Tina Gutierrez; except Jake Gerth and Second Sunday, photos by Elizabeth Mariner