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Best of the City 2011

Foreign Auto Body Repair: Center City Collision

Some foreign dealerships have their own shop, but to find the best overall, we called those who don’t and asked where they send customers. The near-unanimous location—whether it’s a Honda or a VW or a Mercedes Benz? Center City Collision. The Norwood shop does free estimates and can turn most repairs around within the week. Best of all? Their work comes with a lifetime guarantee. Norwood, (513) 631-2406

Eclectic Instrument Lessons: Riley School of Irish Music

Ever found yourself envying someone’s fiddle skills or wondered where one goes to learn the harp? The Riley School of Irish Music offers lessons for the banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, harp, flute, whistle, and concertina. Some of the instruments can be rented and they welcome students from age 5 to 70. Sign up now and you might be able to learn “Danny Boy” in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Columbia-Tusculum, rileyirishmusic.com

Men’s Grooming: The Better Man Salon and Spa

Surprisingly, men face problems in this life (e.g., raging cuticles) that a barber cannot fix. Equally astonishing, visiting a place that can resolve these issues does not require renouncing your manhood. The Better Man Salon and Spa exclusively serves the less-fair sex and offers manicures, facials, coloring, waxing, and more. The stress-relieving haircuts include a shampoo, a scalp massage, and hot towels. You may not walk out a better man, but you’ll definitely be better-looking. Sycamore Twp., (513) 489-8400

Neon Sign Repair: Neonworks

You don’t have to have a 10-foot McDonald’s sign to be a client at Neonworks. Housed in the future home of the American Sign Museum, Neonworks repairs neon signs for business, residential, and wholesale customers. Half of Tom Wartman and Gred Pond’s business comes from private collectors and small businesses. So dig that broken Hudy sign out of your man-cave and bring it in. Your wife will thank you. Probably. Camp Washington, (513) 771-8559

Custom Furniture Upholstery: Helen Smith

It’s not so much the furniture as what Helen Smith’s visionary upholstery wizardry can make of the furniture: A pair of squat, barrel-backed mid-century chairs that would have been right at home on I Love Lucy were once covered in badly soiled, dingy, done-in fabric. They were transformed in blood orange vinyl, their backs expertly tufted and buttoned down by Smith. The best part: she now has her own digs, sure to be furnished with before-and-after magic. Northside, helensmithupholstery.com

Language Instruction: School AMICI

Why sit alone listening to dreary tapes when you can grapple with the futuro tense in the company of friends? At the 23-year-old School AMICI the teachers are native Italians, the atmosphere is relaxed, and if you’re an Italophile, you’ll discover yourself surrounded by people who share your passion for all things green, white, and red. Missed sign-up in the fall? Non importa. Classes resume in January. schoolAMICI.com

Non-Church Wedding Setting: Krippendorf Lodge at Cincinnati Nature Center at Rowe Woods

With the sky as your ceiling and the trees and daffodils your witnesses, the patio behind Krippendorf Lodge at Cincinnati Nature Center at Rowe Woods is the perfect setting for a wedding ceremony. Once the home of Carl and Mary Krippendorf, the original owners of the land that has since become Rowe Woods and the Cincinnati Nature Center, the lodge got an environmentally responsible upgrade in 2001, and the staff can help make your event green as well—the kitchen is set up to handle recycling. We’ll say I do to that. Milford, (513) 831-1711

Old-School Garage: Joe’s Garage

When we say old-school we mean Wally’s Filling Station in Mayberry old school. Fellas stop by Joe’s Garage in Walnut Hills just to shoot the breeze. The husband-and-wife co-owners are honest, and don’t begin repairs without first discussing your hooptie’s options. “Mr. Joe” sometimes suggests less costly fixes without jeopardizing the road worthiness of the car. Plus he drives his own tow rig and is known to come in a hurry to jimmy the lock of a keyless driver. Walnut Hills, (513) 281-8300

Horse Whisperer: Emmett Wayne

For five decades, Emmett Wayne’s name has been quietly passed around by vets, stable hands, and equestrian families. He knows what to do with a horse that bites—or one that needs to remain calm in the midst of chaos. The 87-year-old’s gentle, graceful techniques have been used by the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol to prepare horses to face fire, sirens, menace, and mayhem. And he’s the go-to guy when a family mount is, say, terrified of trailers or prone to nipping youngsters. “I train the horse and I train the owner, and then I work with them together,” Wayne says simply. “That’s the only way to do it.” (513) 574-6207

Over-the-Top Limos: Jimmy’s Limousine

Used to be you just sat in your limousine. But Jimmy’s Limousine Service knows it’s all about the journey, so they installed a dance floor in both their Party Bus and stretch Cadillac Escalade. Other super-sized vehicles in the fleet include a stretch Hummer for up to 20 passengers (you thought a regular Hummer was big?), and a stretch Lincoln Town Car blinged out with neon lights, a stargazing mirror, and flat-screen TVs. Now that’s over-the-top. West Chester, jimmyslimo.com

Self-Serve Dog Wash: Wag O Mat

Finally your bathtub can be fur free! The Wag O Mat (next to WagsPark dog park) has three self-service washing bays that come equipped with stainless tubs and shower hoses that dispense water, shampoo, conditioner, flea and tick treatment, and deodorizer through a single nozzle—which makes it easy to give your pooch a thorough scrub down. Finish up with the vacuum and blower attachment and Fido is ready for his close up. Tokens are $5 for 6 minutes and can be purchased at WagsPark or the neighboring Shell station. Newtown, WagOmat.com


 

Build-a-Best: Pary Supplies

Florist: Zinncinnati

Zinncinnati’s designs come from graphic and industrial designers, making for arrangements beyond the norm. (513) 275-2331

Caterer: Vonderhaar’s

Vonderhaar’s offers custom or pre-set menus that range from five-course dinners with pecan crusted chicken breast to pig roasts or boxed lunches. vonderhaars.com

Invitations: Margot Madison Creative

Margot Madison Creative does classic, elegant, bold, or modern invitations your guests will save for years. margotmadisoncreative.com

Rental House: All Occasions

All Occasions has done parties big and small for more than 30 years. Best of all, they have a huge showroom so you can see what you’re getting. aorents.com

Entertainer: Cincinnati Circus

Cincinnati Circus books more than 100 types of entertainers: jugglers, stilt-walkers, trapeze artists, fire shows, even something called “Christian magic.” This is way better than your neighbor’s cover band. cincinnaticircus.com

Please note that the information listed in this section was accurate at the time the issue went to print in 2011 and that addresses, menu items, company status, etc., may have changed. Please contact the companies to confirm details.