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Best of the City 2008

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Kilt Rental

Whatever clan tartan you want to sport for your special occasion, a rental from Celtic Corner will outfit you in proper Highlands style. Choose from Black Watch, Black Stewart, Campbell, Hunting MacGregor, and four other patterns, then rent the entire kit, from ghillie brogues (shoes) to kilt hose (socks) to sporran (um, man purse). If you’d rather wear a kilt of your own, Lenora Gilmour can make one to your measure from authentic tartans. What you wear under your kilt, well, that’s up to you. 502 Old State Route 74, Mt. Carmel, (513) 528-5578

Stereo Gear

In the ’80s we bought blank cassette tapes (Maxell XLII) and brought our turntables in for repair to Stereo Advantage, the house-cum-stereo service and sales shop in Mt. Lookout where owner Dave “I can fix anything with a plug” Bechmann and his dog greeted us at the door. In the ’90s we bought CD players from Bechmann, and maybe got a little trade for our old turntables. Now, we’re buying our turntables back and still getting the same great service and pricing (and greeting from the dog) at the old Victorian house on Linwood Avenue, the best stereo shop this town ever had. 3199 Linwood Ave., Mt. Lookout, (513) 321-0083

Green Toys

Stuff those holiday stockings with playthings that are safe for kids and the planet. Park + Vine’s Dan Korman has his own list and checks it twice. “I look for non-toxic, then sustainability, organic, and made in the U.S.A.,” he says. There’s My Engineer Set with a wooden train, whistle, and striped cap made in Vermont and a cardboard lemonade/advice stand. Five cents please! 1109 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 721-7275

Hat Shop

Someday, young man, you will want to own a real, honest-to-God, hand-it-to-the-coatcheck-girl hat. And when that day comes, you’ll go to Batsakes Hat Shop. For 101 years, presidents, pro athletes, rock stars, and ordinary gents have found their toppers here. Proprietor Gus Miller stocks brands such as Kangol and Borsalino and produces the shop’s custom-made fedoras. He and his small staff will offer you the kind of service that went out with the Eisenhower Era. 1 W. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 721-9345

Perennials

Some clumsy clerk mixes the astilbe with the asters, and the next thing you know you’re buying a shade plant for your sunny garden. That won’t happen at H.J. Benken’s Garden Center. It’s run by third generation owners who know their stuff. Each year they put out a catalogue for shoppers so you’ll know what needs shade, what loves dry ground, and which greenery will give you the lush look you want. No wonder the place is a—you guessed it—perennial favorite. 6000 Plainfield Rd., Silverton, (513) 891-1040

Rain Barrels

So often in our collective discussion of “eco-friendly” energy solutions, the most pragmatic considerations get buried in rhetoric. So when we recommend Marvin’s Organic Gardens as the place to go for rain barrels, we’ll look past the fact that rain barrels cut down on the amount of runoff entering the overloaded storm sewer system and get to this point: Rain barrels save you money (use the water for your lawn instead of the hose) and the ones at Marvin’s look really cool. In addition to classic round and rectangular plastic barrels, Marvin’s recently started retrofitting old 75-gallon oak wine barrels to catch your rainwater and feed the lawn. Now that’s classy. 2055 U.S. Route 42 South, Lebanon, (513) 932-3319

Plant Sale

Two words to prepare you for the Civic Garden Center’s annual Plant, Herb, and Hosta sale: Alarm clock. Insiders hit this popular sale (usually held on the first Saturday in May) early, hoping to score rare plant varieties and to get good advice from the sale’s volunteer green thumbs. The setting—with its wooded paths and plantings—is miles apart from any retail garden store, and the atmosphere is far more festive than your average shopping trip. Check out the gardening books, outdoor ornaments, and pots while you’re there. Your purchase helps to fund the garden center itself, one of the city’s hidden gems, so dig in. 2715 Reading Rd., Mt. Auburn, (513) 221-0981, www.civicgardencenter.org

Neighborhood Yard Sale

Perhaps your idea of a well-spent Saturday means scrounging through the carrion of pre-loved toys, tangled holiday swag, or someone’s collection of Iron Maiden CDs. Yard sales are as much an exhibition in forgotten excess and fleeting attention spans as they are the Holy Grail for compulsive junk traffickers. Now, imagine an organized map of 50—all within walking distance—and you have Northside’s annual neighborhood-wide yard sale (next year, it’s August 8). “Eclectic” would be an understatement. A complete set of 1970s Tiki-Bar glassware is just what you were looking for, right? Coordinated by CAIN (Churches Active in Northside), (513) 591-2246, www.cainministry.org

Dancewear Shop

Ballet? Hip-hop? Strictly ballroom? Diana’s Dance and Fitness Wear has gear for everyone—from sexy jazz outfits to “praise” attire for liturgical dancers. There are shelves crammed with tights, leotards, and leg warmers, too, but the mother lode is footwear. Diana’s carries Capezio, Bloch, Só Dança, Freed of London Ltd., and more; a blessing if you’ve ever spent a Saturday schlepping your future Fred Astaire all over town looking for tap oxfords. The staff claims to have at least 900 pairs of pointe shoes in stock, with a separate fitting room (by appointment) for budding ballerinas. Because prima donnas are made, not born. 8958 Blue Ash Rd., Blue Ash, (513) 792-0970

Store Makeover

There’s a reason beyond new hearth accessories to make your way to Bromwell’s. The Fourth Street institution sports a snazzy showroom. After restoring the building’s original pressed tin ceiling and adding the wares of local woodworkers and artists, owner Jeff McClorey’s spacious digs have the feel of a toasty ski lodge in the middle of winter. “We sell comfort and coziness with our products, so we wanted to replicate that in the showroom,” he says. It certainly makes the weather a little less frightful. 117 W. Fourth St., downtown, (513) 621-0620

Water Garden Supply

The outdoor showroom at Aquatic & Garden Decor has water gardens of every size and style, from a lily pad–filled pond to a small Asian oasis. You’ll also find thousands of planters, statuary, traditional and contemporary fountains, garden benches, and birdbaths. Don’t leave without visiting the gift shop to check out the indoor fountains, chimes, and holiday collectibles. Be sure to rub the noses of Spaught (Spot) and Phydeau (Fido), the two life-sized stone lions, for luck and inspiration. 9390 Cincinnati-Columbus Rd., West Chester, (513) 777-1744

Champagne Selection

If you can’t get enough of the bubbly stuff, then The Party Source has got you covered. Their inventory includes Champagne-from-Champagne-in-France, Italian prosecco, and sparkling wine made in the good ol’ U.S. of A.—whatever fits your celebration and your budget. The super-fancy stuff (think Moët White Star) is kept in the climate-controlled storage room, but there’s enough Piper-Heidsieck, Veuve Clicquot, and other labels on the shelves for you to find something worth popping your cork over. 95 Riviera Dr., Bellevue, (859) 291-4007

Cufflinks

The suits of the world have so few means of self-expression. Thank goodness, then, for J Peck Jewelers, which has more than 60 styles of cufflinks. Men who would rather be playing board games than be in a boardroom will surely appreciate the Scrabble tile cufflinks. Sports fans can own a pair crafted from pieces of Riverfront Stadium or Crosley Field seats. Others feature clock parts or computer circuit boards. J Peck can even make a pair using a supplied photo. We also like the working whistles, even if we’re not sure when one might need to use them. 1981 Madison Rd., O’Bryonville, (513) 321-4367

Girly Golf Gear

Ladies, put down that plain white golf glove. Beth Januzzi-Underhill’s Golf-Chic Boutique is here to boost your golf style. Januzzi-Underhill carries great links looks from Jamie Sadock, Claudia Romana, Birdy & Grace, and Sweet Lies Golf. Check out the cool golf dresses by Green Tee Clothing Co., as well as “Dottie” golf bags from Bennington Golf, bright head covers by Ame & Lulu and Glove It, and gloves in dozens of patterns including zebra and leopard. We especially loved the belt with a ball mark repair tool hidden in the buckle. (This month only, shop their temporary Kenwood Towne Centre location.) 5055 Wooster Rd., Linwood, (513) 321-5400

Boutique Printer

Known for producing exquisite silk screens, etchings, wood cuts, and lithography by hand, Mark Patsfall has solidified a national reputation with his Clay Street Press, Inc. Galleries and publishers (Carl Solway Gallery, CAC) commission CSP’s “suites” of prints, and Patsfall hand-picks work to document the city’s artistic community (“The Cincinnati Portfolio I, II and III”). Video artist Nam June Paik, Mark Fox, and Jay Bolotin have all made, shown, and sold art at CSP. And Yoko Ono used CSP to make a 3-D chess set. 1312 Clay St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 241-3232

Graphic T-Shirts

Somewhere among the quixotic Ts made by Oxford-based Wire & Twine there’s bound to be one that speaks to you. Or for you. The company’s engaging screen printed designs include a rope swing hanging from a tree labeled “PlayStation,” a collage of the great hairstyles of the 20th century, and the Cincinnati Transit Map (“for optimists”). Founders Tom and Wendy Duvall and Chris Glass work out of a studio on a farm. (That’s right: wire and twine are two ways to bale hay.) Mostly they sell online, but local fans can score their goods at Mica in O’Bryonville and Park + Vine in Over-the-Rhine. www.wireandtwine.com

Sale

At least twice a year, Morrison & Me entices you to help them make room for the next season’s soles with a Nickel Sale: Buy one regularly priced pair of shoes, get a second of equal or lesser value for a nickel. Meaning it is possible that you could buy Donald Pliner boots at $500 and snag a pair of Frye boots for five cents (!). We know it’s not technically as good a deal as BOGO free, but in this case we can definitely spare some change. 1979 Madison Rd., O’Bryonville, (513) 232-7463

Cosmetic Store

Looking for the latest fragrances from Vera Wang or Juicy Couture? How about your favorite lip-gloss color from Sugar or a tube of Big Fatty Lip Plumper by Urban Decay Cosmetics? Ulta has everything you need to tweeze, pluck, peel, and pamper your way to cosmetic nirvana. With two locations in Greater Cincinnati, this chain also offers something that neither Sephora nor MAC has—a salon. Get a new hairstyle, apply your makeup, and you’re ready for your close-up, darling. 5145 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, (513) 204-1929; 3347 Princeton Rd., Hamilton, (513) 863-6200, www.ulta.com

Holiday Stockings

We’re sure that there’s a cashmere holiday stocking hanging from someone’s fireplace this season, but we prefer the simpler things in life. Like the classic red velvet stockings at Kings Mills General Store and Christmas Shop. Open April through Christmas Eve, this creaky old store is a winter wonderland, full of hand-crafted ornaments, miniature Christmas trees, and 20 kinds of stockings that take you back to a time when December was more about the spirit of giving, not getting. 5687 Columbia Rd., Kings Mills, (513) 398-1677, www.kingschristmas.com

Women’s Denim

Just when you thought your skinny jeans would carry you through another season, some A-list trendsetter goes out wearing a wide-legged style. We’re not suggesting that you become a slave to a trend—or that skinny denim is out—but if you could use a change, get thee to Sara Benjamin’s. Owner Lori Tanzer stocks brands to flatter every figure and age (Paige, True Religion, Joe’s Jeans), including the of-the-moment J Brand Love Story wide leg. 6810 Wooster Pke., Mariemont, (513) 272-2280


Antique Mall Finds

Type Drawers: Covered Bridge Antiques

Generations of handling give these surprise finds at this quaint mall rich patinas. Hang them drawer-side out and the narrow, shallow compartments that once held Linotype letters—before e-mail ruled our world—form grids, turning the utilitarian into art. 7508 Hamilton Ave., Mt. Healthy, (513) 521-5739

Stained Glass: Riverside Centre Antique Mall

Lee Strunk’s multitudinous collection of stained glass windows is beautiful, reverential, and well chosen. Some are turn of the century; others offer impressive scale. Reasonable prices (starting around $275, depending on size, color, and condition) make them even more attractive. 3742 Kellogg Ave., Columbia-Tusculum, (513) 321-3181

Black Memorabilia: Duck Creek Antique Mall

This mall offers the best smattering of black memorabilia—all manner of collectable mammies, coons, and pickaninnies in print, cast iron, porcelain, and chalk ware—of any area multi-vendor dealer. Prices are steep because the stuff is desirable. A beautiful shame. 3715 Madison Rd., Oakley, (513) 321-0900

Folk art and primitives: Ohio Valley Antique Mall

A treasure trove of folk and primitive art (early and mid-19th-century oil-on-board paintings, many unsigned) and handmade Americana (tools and toys), spread among 350-plus vendors. It’s like having dibs on the remnants of America’s handmade past. 7285 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, (513) 874-7855

Originally published in the December 2008 issue.

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