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No Storefront? No Problem for Fat Ben’s Bakery

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Ben Arington bakes for the people. Ever since he entered the culinary industry at 16, the best part of working in food, for him, has been all the people he’s met and formed relationships with. It’s the people that keep Fat Ben’s Bakery going, and it’s those relationships that Arington has missed the most since the pandemic began.

Arington launched Fat Ben’s Bakery in 2016, after years spent in various restaurants and bakeries in Ohio and New York City where he honed his skills. Fat Ben’s has a mostly digital model, with Arington accepting orders via email and posting his custom cakes and pastries on his social media pages. Without a website or a storefront, Arington says his Instagram remains the best menu of the goods he offers.

Arington accepts orders for all kinds of custom baked goods, but his favorite projects are the challenging ones that require him to get creative. When coming up with new ideas, Arington sources inspiration from chefs and bakers he knows in New York City and Los Angeles. His Instagram is full of colorful and crazy desserts: an Animal Crossing cake, a Cheeto sugar cookie, a Fruity Pebbles doughnut, and a panna cotta that resembles an ashtray littered with cigarette butts—and these are just a sampling of Arington’s crazy creations.

“I get more excited when someone asks me for something that is just so bizarre,” he says. “I had a request the other day for a dumpster fire birthday cake…[the customer] was like, I just think it’s the best way to describe my birthday in the year 2020, and I was like, I am so here for that.”

Although Fat Ben’s is already a largely virtual business, Arington still had to adapt quickly when the pandemic hit. The business he typically gets from wedding cake orders, for example, took a hard hit. To supplement that, Arington started a series of “quarantine boxes,” which are themed boxes featuring a variety of baked goods that people can order online and then pick up from Arington’s house without contact.

Arington’s quarantine boxes each follow a specific theme like the 90s, the TV show Friends, and famous celebrities and songs. Examples of his specialty sweet treats include a Flinstone’s push-pop made from orange cake with vanilla icing, a “The One Where Ross is Fine” margarita cake with tequila-infused buttercream, and a Britney Spears “Toxic” edible slime made from Toxic Waste sour candy.

“During this time right now, I think people need a little bit of hope because everything is so dark,” Arington says. “I feel like these boxes I’m creating are bringing a little bit of happiness and hope to each one of my clients.”

The boxes have attracted a lot of attention, almost always selling out within minutes of Arington posting them online. And while they’ve certainly helped his business thrive, Arington still wishes he had more opportunities to connect with clients. “I am just eternally grateful for everything that I get from people in Cincinnati,” he says. “I get very, very emotional…I have to thank Cincinnati for making me who I am today.”

Fat Ben’s cakes start at about $45 depending on customizations, with three-tier wedding cakes starting around $225. His pastry boxes typically range from $25–$45. You can place an order with Arington by emailing him at Ben@fatbensbakery.com.

Nostalgia Wine & Jazz Lounge Set to Open Next Week in OTR

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Tammie Scott is reviving a piece of Cincinnati history, with the opening of her Nostalgia Wine & Jazz Lounge, an intimate live jazz space and wine bar in Over-the-Rhine set to open August 21. She’s inspired by stories her grandmother used to tell about Cincinnati’s West End Cotton Club, the city’s only integrated night club, which hosted major jazz acts from the 1930s to 1950s. Scott is also inspired by her own experiences of enjoying live jazz music at bars during her time living in Washington D.C. When she moved back to Cincinnati, she noticed there weren’t many similar places, so she decided to open her own. “The name [Nostalgia] comes from me tying together those old stories and those good times I’ve had,” she says.

The space’s design reflects the same sentiment as the name. Scott and her team from Luminaut Architecture renovated the building at 1432 Vine St. to feature a vintage East Coast vibe that also feels “moody, dark, and intimate.” Dark green walls, metal accents reminiscent of musical instruments, and black and white marble tile floors all contribute to Scott’s vision. “It doesn’t look like anything anyone has seen here,” she says. “It really will give people an old-time feel with a bit of a modern twist.”

The wine menu will feature a rotating selection of 30 varieties, carefully curated to feature women and other underrepresented minority winemakers, which is a big focus for Scott. Charcuterie boards from Findlay Market’s The Rhined will be available as well to pair with pours.

Visit on Thursdays and Sundays for traditional live jazz performances, or stop in on Fridays and Saturdays for live music that’s “a synergy of jazz and soul.” Plus, Wednesdays will feature jazz-inspired DJs. All of Nostalgia’s performances are arranged by Marcus Cash, the bar’s programming manager and Scott’s younger brother, who holds a master’s in Jazz Studies from UC’s College-Conservatory of Music and has tight ties within the local jazz community.

For Scott, the opening of Nostalgia Wine & Jazz Lounge has been a long time coming—after three years of developing and working on the project, the lounge’s original planned opening was delayed by the pandemic. Now, as Nostalgia prepares to finally open, Scott looks forward to joining OTR’s bar scene and bringing something a little different that will complement the area’s current offerings and its history. “It felt important to me to maintain musical historic and jazz culture in this part of the city specifically,” Scott says. “I can’t see myself doing this anywhere else.”

Nostalgia Wine & Jazz Lounge, 1432 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine
Wednesday–Friday 4 p.m.–midnight, Saturday–Sunday noon–midnight

For Team Hughes, Basketball Is So Much More Than a Game

Not every high school referee would donate her paycheck to help a struggling basketball team. But that’s exactly what Hall of Fame official Kelly Whelan did in 2010 after the Hughes High School athletic director told her about Bryan Wyant, a former college basketball player who was coaching the Hughes boys’ teams and moving mountains to keep them all in play.

Turns out, Hughes’ gym was being renovated that year, so Wyant and his team had been trudging on foot to the UC rec center for practices. Not only that, but there was no team van, so during the summer when busing wasn’t provided, he was making back-to-back trips in his own car, shuttling players to games at other school gyms across the city. The kids on Wyant’s teams already played ball in their street shoes and carried their uniforms to school in grocery bags. Most had failing grades, highly unstable home lives, and few concrete plans for the future. Add in the fact that Hughes, a Cincinnati public high school with a 95 percent minority student population, had a dismal state report card, and the basketball team’s prospects were looking grim.

But Whelan also learned that day how determined Wyant and his wife Alicia were to change their players’ lives. How they bought the boys shoes and even contact lens­es. How Wyant ran study tables, oversaw weightlifting, showed game films, and ran practices, too, keeping the team busy with school and basketball up to 13 hours a day five or six days a week so they’d stay out of trouble and into the game. But he was only one person. He could only do so much.

Immediately, Whelan found herself thinking of her own sons’ experiences at St. Xavier, a school with two gyms, team buses, and hearty team meals donated by parents. We have it kind of easy, she thought. So she donated her check that day to Hughes. But she didn’t stop there.

For four years straight, as she officiated games across the city, Whelan kept giving money to the Hughes athletic department, hoping to help the team. She watched her youngest child graduate from high school. And she prayed hard from the pews at Ken­wood’s All Saints Catholic Church for a sign of what she was supposed to do next.

In 2014, Whelan dropped off a big enough check to help send the Hughes basketball team to Ohio State’s summer team camp. The athletic director and Wyant invited Whelan and her husband to lunch. While there, Whelan asked Wyant for his wish list. He was hesitant to give it, and she was overwhelmed when she saw it. But, sitting in a Clifton diner that day, Whelan finally got the sign she’d been looking for. “You were literally sitting right there,” she says, pointing to Wyant across a picnic table today. “I just didn’t open up my mind and heart.”


The number one need on Wyant’s wish list was food—specifically dinners and after-school snacks, six days a week for all three of his teams (freshman, JV, and varsity). Turns out, the long days Wyant had engineered to keep his players focused and out of trouble were also making them hungry—and Hughes didn’t have the resources to help.

Here’s the thing about Kelly Whelan. “I don’t like to fail at anything,” she says. “If I’m gonna do it, it’s gonna be 150,000 percent.” But she also knew that feeding roughly 40 teenage boys six days a week was something she couldn’t do alone. As soon as she got home, she drafted an e-mail to some friends, asking for help. But something stopped her from hitting Send. “In the back of my mind,” she says, she thought, Can I do this?

Again, she found her way back to the pews at church. Sitting there, praying and reflecting, a phrase in an article she’d brought along caught her eye: There’s no such thing as failure; it’s God changing your direction. That was all the reassurance she needed. “I literally came home, hit the Send button, and within an hour I had five [vol­unteers]. Within a week I probably had 20.” That’s how Team Hughes began.

“This is way bigger than basketball,” says Alicia Wyant. It’s about working hard, sharing love, building bridges, setting kids up for success, and inspiring others to do the same.

At first, the group sent Wyant cereal bars, then lunchmeat, milk, and hot dogs. Within a year, Whelan’s Team Hughes volunteer list grew to 100, including people she knew from St. X and her job reffing games, Alicia’s mom’s friends, and even people Whelan met at the grocery store and hair salon. Some dropped off food on Whelan’s front porch or came with her to serve the team hot meals. One bought Christmas presents—pajama pants, socks, and gift cards—for the whole team.

Whelan and her husband held a party for Team Hughes volunteers and asked the Wyants to speak; when people saw how dedicated they were to the Hughes kids, they “fell in love with their family,” says Whelan, and Wyant walked away with several thousand dollars in donations for the team. Soon after, another volunteer donated 10 new basketballs emblazoned with the Hughes logo.

Over the next six years, donations “snowballed,” says Whelan, as she and Wyant sent the volunteer boosters regular e-mail updates about the team. The food kept coming, but so did a fridge, three microwaves, multiple slow cookers (which the boys learned to use), a state-of-the-art camera to film games, top-of-the-line Nike uniforms, and even two used cars to transport the team.

Maybe the biggest gift of all came from a Team Hughes volunteer who committed to pay for a dedicated team academic advisor. Before long, the boys’ grades shot up, eventually allowing Wyant to institute a 3.0 GPA as the team standard. That, paired with team trips to summer camps and tournaments (which the boys partially fund themselves by working at jobs like concessions and clean-up crews for Bengals games), suddenly made college a whole lot more accessible and gave kids options. “If you were great at [basketball], you were gonna get a scholarship,” says Wyant. “If you weren’t, you were gonna have the academics to back it up.”

Since 2016, says Wyant, 26 out of 32 seniors on his basketball team have received either a full ride or full tuition-based scholarship to college. Since 2018, the numbers have gotten even better: 19 of 22, and most of his players, he adds, are first-generation college students.

His graduates have attended schools like Ohio State and Stony Brook, with one playing for the latter. One team alum went on to play NFL football; the rest include a financial advisor, a schoolteacher with a master’s degree, and multiple basketball coaches. All that success translates on the court, too. Over the last four years, the Hughes varsity team has finished first in its division three times and racked up the second-most wins in Cincinnati boys’ basketball, just behind Archbishop Moeller High School.

But for the Wyants and Whelans, “this is way bigger than basketball,” says Alicia. It’s about working hard, sharing love, building bridges, setting kids up for success, and hopefully, says Whelan, inspiring others to do the same. Put simply, says Wyant, “these communities”—Team Hughes and the Hughes High School basketball players—“have collided and produced this super successful force.”

Wyant credits Whelan with equalizing the playing field so his team could flourish. Whelan credits Wyant with setting an outstanding example and being the most committed coach she’s ever seen. “I’ve been officiating 44 years,” says Whelan. “I don’t care if it’s Cincinnati public, Catholic schools, the Greater Miami Conference—probably even the state of Ohio. There is nobody—nobody—who does what he does.”

She wasn’t the only one to notice. This fall, Wyant starts a new job as Princeton High School head coach. He hadn’t planned on leaving Hughes, but he prayed about it and decided it was the right move. His replacement will be Derrell Black, longtime Hughes assistant coach. Whelan hopes he’ll embrace Team Hughes as much as Wyant did. And she already has plans to form a Princeton version of Team Hughes, too. (That school district, says Wyant, has a surprising number of at-risk kids.)

Looking back at all the two have accomplished so far, one story sticks out. It’s about one of Wyant’s best players, who wore the same pair of gym shoes to school every day. And not just to school, but to practices, too. Other kids made fun of him. His feet grew two sizes, so he had to cram them in. The heel came off. Then, one day, a Team Hughes volunteer came along and bought the whole basketball team 67 pairs of brand-new, top-of-the-line basketball shoes—no small expense.

“I told the guy who donated the shoes, Look, you may not think it’s a big deal,” says Wyant, who keeps a photo of the boy’s old shoes in his phone. “But I guarantee you, it’s gonna make a difference.

Sure enough, the minute the team put the shoes on, “We played like we were the best,” says Wyant. “Obviously they put the work in, [but] they believed it. They looked the part. They felt the part. And I was like, Yeah, this is real.

Pepp & Dolores Serves Good Pasta in Hard Times

My visits to Pepp & Dolores came at a particular moment in late May, the context too much a part of the experience to exclude from this review. The weather was suddenly beautiful, and after months of being shut down because of the novel coronavirus, parts of the city felt like they were releasing a breath that had been held for months as restrictions on indoor and outdoor restaurant service were loosened. Restaurants and bars were full of people—staying apart, but not all that far apart—and the only indication that anything was out of the ordinary was masks on the servers.

Pepp & Dolores’s signature Sunday Sauce, with bigoli pasta, Nonna’s Red Sauce, veal and pork meatballs, braised port shoulder, and Parmigiano-Reggiano

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

The city blocked off side streets to traffic to help restaurants accommodate more guests while adhering to capacity limits as they reopened, including 15th Street, where Pepp & Dolores built a dining tent. All the nearby windows were open and the breeze was blowing inside the tent; people were chatting like they hadn’t seen each other in years; and I was drinking a cold blood orange cocktail—lovely and longed for on a warm day. Meanwhile, my son was hypnotized by the Pepp & Dolores pasta machine, seen through a window from the street, as it extruded perfectly studded lumache. With the sun shining, it was one of those days so beautiful it felt almost unreal.

This day was, it turned out, a kind of mirage. A few days later, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, and protests started around the country, including here in Over-the-Rhine. I spoke to Joe Lanni, cofounder of Thunderdome Restaurant Group, which owns Pepp & Dolores among several other restaurants in the city, when the demonstrations were still gathering steam. That afternoon, he had just learned of the city’s 8 p.m. curfew. The staff, which had just returned after weeks of shutdown, was about to be sent home.

The restaurant industry, already hurting badly during the pandemic, was now facing another upheaval. Pepp & Dolores had done its best to pivot during the shutdown, introducing family meal kits with antipasti, sauce, and fresh boil-at-home pasta, and simpler online ordering. They were trying, with carryout, to generate the sense of family and community that is at the heart of their latest restaurant.

Pepp & Dolores is named after Joe’s and his brother and fellow cofounder John’s Italian immigrant grandparents, Giuseppe and Addolorata. As with all of Thunderdome’s restaurants, you get a sense that they want to deliver a meal that satisfies many different kinds of people. (There is a reason they’re always packed.) The prices are reasonable, and the pasta entrées at the heart of the menu are about $15. The dishes are familiar in their flavors, but everything feels balanced and modulated and gradually perfected, an indication of the way their culinary team works together to get things right.

Limone pasta with creamy Meyer lemon sauce

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Within the borders of this crowd-pleasing fare, there is lovely variety: the limone pasta is zippy with lemon and chili flakes, and just the right mixture of tart and creamy; the deep meaty flavors on the mushroom toast are balanced with a nice acidity; and the heat in dishes like the eggplant involtini is just enough to wake up the sauce without overwhelming the flavor. The menu has a wealth of excellent vegetarian and pasta-alternative options. Even classics like the wedge salad, which could have been spoiled by too heavy a hand on the gorgonzola, are in perfect balance, and enlivened with touches like blistered tomatoes.

One of the pleasures at Pepp & Dolores is the extraordinary variety of pasta shapes and colors on display, including a squid ink fusilli that sort of reminded me of a black pasta caterpillar. They join other unfamiliar shapes like campanelle and casarecce, all of which are lovely, firm, and toothsome. Nothing is more ordinary than pasta, or more satisfying at its best.

It is one of Thunderdome’s special talents to find the surprises within the familiar and the comforting, from the long-simmered pork added to the signature Sunday Sauce to the airy amaretti biscuits that are served at the end of the meal in place of dessert.

Chef Justin Uchtman

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

When I asked Lanni what he had learned from this period that might prove useful going forward, he mentioned a few pragmatic things, like introducing carryout, for example, and more streamlined online ordering. But then, speaking more generally, he mentioned that this whole period has been a kind of stress test for their organization. They were seeing which parts broke under the strain and which managed to come through intact.

Eggplant involtini with seasoned ricotta and housemade tomato sauce

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

You can learn a lot from these crises. Not only about which people and institutions you can count on, but also about what you care enough to save. Particularly if those things are, it turns out, fragile. As Lanni points out, as a community we have built something special in Cincinnati. We have a dining scene that far outstrips, in breadth and quality, what you would expect for a city this size. Pepp & Dolores is another fine addition to this mosaic, one that depends on the survival of many other quality establishments to keep itself going. Right now, it is undeniably facing a life-threatening challenge. If we care enough about it, we need to work to sustain it.

Pepp & Dolores, 1501 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 419-1820

A 1980s Hyde Park Home Takes Its Cues From MCM

2471 Grandin Rd., Hyde Park

“Reverse living” isn’t revolutionary, but it’s a thoughtful departure from the typical pre-war home layout. The idea is that common space is located on the upper floors—second or even third—and personal and sleeping space is downstairs. It’s a calling card of many Mid-Century Modern interiors, designed to reserve those rooms with the best outdoor views for daily living and indeed to reverse expectations about how a home should accommodate our lifestyle (not the other way around). In this three-story Hans Nuetzel home, built in 1981, reverse living is done right.

The four-bedroom house is cut into its Grandin Road hillside, so that all of the rooms, even those downstairs, are “above grade”—that is, above ground—and filled with natural light. The open-plan first floor wraps around a tidy brick fireplace and built-in bookshelf, a peninsula that both separates and integrates adjoining rooms, all of which feature wall-sized windows overlooking the hillside. An extra large back deck lets you lounge among the treetops. The home also has a striking geometric cutout chimney, a recognizable feature of a Nuetzel home.

The German-born architect was a colleague of local architecture bigwigs Carl Strauss and Ray Roush. He spent his multidecade career filling Cincinnati streets with his high-concept homes and working closely with homeowners to create a shared vision. “It took a sophisticated kind of client to have one of these houses designed,” says Sibcy Cline Executive Sales Vice President Maureen Pippin, who is selling the home for Marty Cooper and Kim Taylor. Cooper bought it from the original owner, Jim Brennan, who worked very closely with Nuetzel to design it. “This was his dream home. When Marty bought it, he expanded it. And he got Hans Nuetzel to come back and work on the project,” Taylor says. That collaborative spirit characterizes this home: Its construction became part of the hillside rather than flattening it; its expanded master bedroom still aligns with Nuetzel’s original design principles; and it is an agreeably modern standout on the otherwise historic Grandin Road.

Click through our gallery to view more photos of this home:

Brad Bernstein Reopens Postmark and Buys Former Dutch’s Space

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Postmark has reopened a year after shutting its doors and will now fulfill new needs to fit the current COVID-19 era. “Originally, the concept was to have an event space and do dinner parties, but I don’t know if that truly works right now in this COVID-19 climate,” says Brad Bernstein, co-owner of Postmark and Red Feather Kitchen. “So we’re doing small plates, but eventually I do want to get back to doing the dinner parties.”

Brad Bernstein

Photograph courtesy of Red Feather Kitchen

The Clifton eatery, which was once centered on formal dining, will now operate as a bistro serving light bites. The small room adjacent to the main dining area has also been turned into a retail space for Postmark’s impressive 400-bottle wine selection. To complete the ambiance, Bernstein is looking to bring back live music on Wednesday nights.

“I think it’s gonna be great for the community,” Bernstein says. “We’re selling the wine retail, and then all you have to pay is a small corkage fee. You can also order your bottle, pick it up, and enjoy it outside.”

Bernstein also recently purchased the historic Dutch’s space, which closed in Hyde Park earlier this year, and plans to reopen the space this September under a new name, Red Feather Larder at Dutch’s.

“The concept will be very similar to what people have expected from Dutch’s for a long time,” Bernstein says. “It’s got the history—it’s the original pony keg in Cincinnati. I love that connection to the past, while building upon that legacy.”

The larder will now operate as a “grocerant”—half grocery store, half-restaurant—where customers can find local, “chef-quality” ingredients, meat, charcuterie boards, and more. “A grocerant, to me, is a space where you can shop like the chefs,” Bernstein says. “It’s the stuff that we use for our high-end delicacies and farm-tier products. So, it’s gonna have a big connection to local food and local farmers.”

Keeping in mind the need for delivery and home-cooking options amid the pandemic, Brad is also planning to offer subscription-based meal prep kits, butcher boxes, and local produce boxes. “The whole idea is to be a small connection point for farmers and people,” he says. The bar, on the other hand, will be focused on old-world French wines and champagne. Customers can expect an announcement about the space’s opening soon.

Cincinnati’s Strange Fascination With Japanese Weddings

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Before 1910, the Asian population of Cincinnati was extremely small, almost entirely male, and almost exclusively Chinese. It’s curious, then, that Cincinnati engaged in a 30-year obsession with Japanese wedding ceremonies.

Multiple drawings of a Japanese wedding

Image digitized by the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County and extracted from PDF by Greg Hand

Between 1880 and 1910, the women associated with several Cincinnati churches staged multiple Japanese weddings, attended by large crowds and often repeated to accommodate demand. Perhaps the first was presented in June 1884 at the Third Presbyterian Church, located on Seventh Street in the West End between Linn and Baymiller. The young people of the church organized the event and served berries, ice cream, and cake to the audience.

Interestingly, one of the last examples of this event, performed by the Be and Do Society of Hyde Park’s Knox Presbyterian Church in January 1908, was described as a “novel entertainment,” as if dozens of such ceremonies hadn’t already taken place in the city. In previous years, Japanese weddings entertained crowds at Pilgrim Chapel in Mount Adams, at the Phoenix Club, at the Baptist Church in Hamilton, at Norwood’s Town Hall, at Madisonville’s Masonic Lodge, and even at Music Hall.

It’s no coincidence that Gilbert & Sullivan’s fabulously successful Japanese-themed opera, The Mikado, had premiered in London in 1885 and debuted in New York a year later. Nor that Maria Longworth’s Rookwood Pottery was exploring Asian themes and hired the Japanese master ceramics painter Kataro Shirayamadani in 1887. Cultural appropriation was in the air.

Perhaps the most elaborate and certainly the most famous of Cincinnati’s Japanese weddings took place in February 1887 at the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church on Ninth Street. The ceremony involved 30 performers (musicians, torch bearers, messengers, and tea servers) in addition to the wedding party. Every participant—including the groom, the bride’s father, and the groom’s father—was portrayed by a woman of the Trinity congregation.

That ceremony was featured in the March 12, 1887 issue of the nationally distributed Illustrated Graphic News, which emphasized the traditional family values embodied in the Japanese culture:

“A lady friend of ours, who has made Japanese courtship and marriage a study, informs us that these affairs are arranged by the friends of both parties and that much worldly wisdom prevails in the transaction. It seems also that the path of true love does not always run smooth in these courtships, and that many suicides follow in the train of the arbitrary proceedings of cruel parents, who often part a daughter from her favorite lover.”

Surrounding the stage on which the ceremony would be performed, a number of booths selling refreshments and souvenirs were set up and staffed by young ladies in kimonos. The audience overflowed the basement Sunday School rooms and filled the adjacent hallway.

“At eight o’clock the sound of gongs and ear-piercing flutes announced the arrival of the bridal party. First came four ushers, then four torch-bearers, then the bridegroom on the arm of his father-elect, next the musicians, then the bride and her future mamma-in-law, followed by a bevy of young girl friends.”

The bulk of the ceremony involved drinking a lot of sake—nine cups for each of the participants. Most reports of these faux ceremonies repeated the claim that Japanese weddings were strictly legal mergers and did not involve religious blessings. In 1887, this was mostly true. The native Japanese Shinto religion did not create a wedding ceremony until 1900.

“This little drinking bout continued until the principal participants had taken each nine cups, and the high contracting parties are then so securely wedded that only the axe of Koko can divide them. Rice was scattered over the happy pair, and all the household gods, which are many and inclined to be irritable in Japan, being placated, the happy pair departed in peace.”

The Illustrated Graphic News described the costumes of the participants in some detail and provided a complete list of participants, who appear to be representative of Cincinnati’s petit bourgeoisie. The bride was a dressmaker, the bride’s father the wife of a bookkeeper, the groom was an artist. In charge of the souvenir booth was the wife of a commission merchant.

“After the wedding, cakes and ices were served, and there was a rousing business done in Japanese curios and homemade candies; the teacups used in the ceremony were sold and brought high prices. The affair proved a delightful social enjoyment, and will long be remembered by those who had the good fortune to be witnesses thereof.”

In the middle of all of these fake Japanese weddings, Cincinnati witnessed an authentic Japanese wedding on June 2, 1898, when Matsunosuke Sugimoto, seller of Japanese goods on East Fourth Street, married Etsu Najaki in a small ceremony at the home of Obed J. and Amanda Wilson in Clifton. Unlike the fake Japanese weddings popular in the city, the bride and groom wore Western clothing for their Clifton wedding. Officiating was the Rev. Christian Schenk, pastor of the First German Evangelical Protestant Church in Northside. The Sugimotos were Christian and, to the surprise of local newspapers, spoke English fluently.