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Spring Grove Cemetery Offers an Alternative Outdoor Art Experience

As coronavirus concerns continue to prevent art aficionados from visiting indoor museums, Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum remains a top cultural destination in Cincinnati. People have flocked to the Cincinnati Horticultural Society–founded gem ever since its 1845 inception—and for many reasons other than visiting deceased loved ones. Boasting 733 acres, Spring Grove is it the second largest cemetery in the country. Its innovative lawn plan forever elevates expectations for cemeteries and makes it easy to socially distance, but that’s only one part of the grounds’ appeal.

“You might say it’s a cemetery with a capital ‘C,’ in the fact that it has it all,” says Douglas Keister, a photographer once called America’s chief tombstone tourist. “It’s got nature. It’s got magnificent mausoleums. It’s got landscaping. It’s got the winding roads in a very bucolic environment, and also sculpture.”

The Norman Chapel greets visitors who enter the main gate. The Romanesque revival dates to 1880 and was added to the national register of historic places 100 years later. (The cemetery was named a historic landmark in 2007.) Though interior viewings are by appointment only, a glance toward the ground-level barred windows left of the front doors reveals the chapel’s subterranean jail cell.

Then there’s the impressive collection of private mausoleums. The Dexter Mausoleum, for example, has been the centerpiece of Spring Grove for 150 years. The grand gothic structure, which is said to be modeled after Sainte-Chappelle royal chapel in Paris, houses four generations of Dexters inside the city’s only pair of flying buttresses.

Taken together, the cemetery’s oversized memorials offer a clinic in architectural history. Many date to a time when wealthy families employed personal architects for all their building needs, much in the way modern celebrities use the same fashion designers. And by design, all are left largely untouched.

“If you want to study architecture, go to a cemetery. You’ll find every type of modern architecture in a pretty pristine form. You’re not going to find a bungalow with aluminum siding,” Keister says. “Spring Grove has a wonderfully eclectic assortment of mausoleums. It’s got Gothic, Art Deco, and Classical Revival and is nicely sited because of the rolling hills,” Keister says.

The rolling hills, plus the 15 lakes, 44 miles of paved roads, and 1,200 plant species (1,000 of which are labeled for identification) are worth the visit alone and make the cemetery feel more like a park than a graveyard. Throughout your visit, you’ll likely encounter people jogging and enjoying a picnic, plus occasional wild geese, turkey, and deer sightings.

Like museums, Spring Grove is best appreciated with a plan of attack. “I would say get a guidebook and you want to make a kind of treasure hunt,” says Keister, who enjoys hunting for “zinkies,” which are headstones that appear to be solid granite but are hollow inside. Visitors can grab a map from the Customer Service Center or schedule a docent-led tour to learn about Spring Grove’s horticulture and notable burials, such as the 41 Civil War generals buried throughout the cemetery.

Check out more of what Spring Grove Cemetery has to offer in our gallery:

New Riff Kicks Off July Rooftop Pop-Up Events

New Riff Distilling welcomes back guests with a creative twist with its Riff Top pop-ups throughout the month of July. Utilizing its Tower Room and adjoining outdoor terrace (which normally houses weddings and private events), there is ample room to accommodate guests while implementing social distancing. 

The Riff Top events began on July 3 and will continue throughout the month on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m. Capacity is limited for social distancing on a first-come, first-serve basis. The distillery offers guests an array of craft cocktails and gorgeous views of the Cincinnati skyline from its rooftop.

Cucumber Castle cocktail

Photograph courtesy of New Riff Distilling

“Similar to our approach to making whiskey—cautious, with a careful inclusion of ingredients and our passion—we have created these pop-ups to ensure the safety and enjoyment of our guests,” says New Riff Director of Communications Amy Tobin.

Besides classic cocktails and seasonal options such as the refreshing Cucumber Castle or the beachy Royal Hawaiian, there are flights, neat pours, exclusive single barrel options, and various beers and wines available. Food options are nice and light, including snacks and appetizers. Live acoustic music will also be featured during many of the Riff Top nights.

“Our patrons want a calm and thoughtful—while still fun—environment that guarantees safety,” says owner Ken Lewis.

To keep customers and staff safe, masks are required unless seated; there are contactless menus accessed via QR codes; sanitizing stations have been placed throughout; and staff members are dedicated to hourly cleanings.

New Riff Distilling, 24 Distillery Way, Newport, (859) 261-7433

Bobby Diddle’s Longfurbs Gives a Crafty Update to a ’90s Icon

You’ve either loved a Furby, loathed a Furby, or just now learned the word Furby. For local artist Bobby Diddle, the infamous late-’90s animatronic owl has been a lifelong love. “When I was a kid I was obsessed with them,” Diddle says. “I had a baby blue one, I had a cheetah one, a graduation one, an angel one. I had all of them.”

She wasn’t alone: Tens of millions of Furbies sold in just their first years on the market, largely because the creatures were programmed with their own kind of artificial intelligence—a then-novel technology, especially in toys. Out of the box, they would twitch their ears and beaks and speak their own cheeky “Furbish” language, and then, in an uncanny twist, would “learn” the language spoken around them. Pairs would “talk” to each other. People with Furbies viewed them with simultaneous awe and alarm, and toys were never the same. “It’s kind of a cult object,” Diddle says. “It’s like having a piece of history.”

Nineties nostalgia is indeed a whole scene on the internet, attracting collectors and enthusiasts alike. Diddle, took her interest and made it her art with Longfurbs, her collection of Furbies, which she converts to have long necks and bodies, and then shares their images on Instagram. “It’s a very niche group with a very deep connection to them,” she says. That niche group, at least on Instagram, is up to 27,700 followers (and counting!), part of a loyal web audience that breathlessly awaits the next Longfurbs release; they currently go for hundreds of dollars each on eBay.

Diddle’s process to create Longfurbs is more complicated than it looks: The School of Creative and Performing Arts grad starts with a theme, and looks for a personality that fits the Furby. “I completely scrap it, remove the skin, take the faceplate off, and then hand-sew everything. It takes around three days,” she says. “I connect the body, which is just a sock with stuffing.” Diddle dresses them, usually in Build-a-Bear clothes (“They fit perfectly”). Finally, part of the fun of mak­ing—and presumably owning—Longfurbs is posing them in lifelike environments, drinking a cocktail or eating fried chicken. Since September 2018, Diddle has sold some two dozen Longfurbs, and isn’t stopping any time soon, as it perfectly blends her vocation and avocation. “I’ve always been a huge fan of birds and creepiness and the ’90s,” she says. “It’s an amalgamation of all those things.”

Click through our gallery to view more photos of Diddle’s Longfurbs:

Gold Star Partners with MORTAR for a Weekend Fund-Raiser

This Saturday and Sunday, July 11–12, Gold Star Chili will partner with Over-the-Rhine–based minority-owned business incubator MORTAR to raise funds for local small businesses, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations impacted by COVID-19. All the chili chain’s 75-plus tristate locations will donate 20 percent of proceeds from sales of Coney Crates to MORTAR’s relief efforts.

The partnership with MORTAR marks the conclusion of Gold Star’s participation in #GivingTuesdayNow, which began in early May. Since joining the global initiative at the local level, the company has partnered with and raised nearly $32,500 for eight Greater Cincinnati organizations, including Sew Masks 4 Cincy, Freestore Foodbank, Athens County Food Pantry, Bethany House Services, Urban League of Greater Southwest Ohio, and the OTR Chamber.

MORTAR founders (from left) Allen Woods, William Thomas, and Derrick Braziel

Photograph courtesy of MORTAR

MORTAR fosters entrepreneurial skills for marginalized groups through a 15-week course that teaches the nuances of business management and ultimately creates jobs and positively impacts the local economy. Within its offerings, MORTAR provides access to on-site legal support and opportunities to pitch to potential investors, community leaders, and customers. Once mentees have completed the program, they are able to connect with the group’s alumni and mentorship network of business leaders.

“MORTAR is an inspiring organization that works hard to provide a great variety of resources to historically marginalized entrepreneurs,” says Gold Star CEO Roger David. “My father and uncles, immigrants from Jordan in the early 1960s, were entrepreneurs in their own right. When they came to Cincinnati, they were looking for an opportunity to provide for their families. They built a great business that has sustained our family and allowed us to add many small business owners and entrepreneurs to our Gold Star family over the years, so I understand well the drive it takes to have a dream and get it off the ground. Gold Star is proud to support MORTAR and their goal of building booming businesses locally in the neighborhoods their program participants live in.”

Coney Crates sell for $19.99 and include 10 of Gold Star’s signature cheese coneys, with hot dogs smothered in Gold Star chili and topped with mustard, onions, and shredded cheddar cheese.

These Restaurant Aid Efforts Deserve All the Tips

The pandemic has been especially hard on restaurants and the people who run them. Luckily, many folks within and outside the industry stepped up to help themselves and others.

Dunlap Café

Closing altogether during the pandemic was not an option for Rachel Appenfelder, who purchased Over-the-Rhine’s Dunlap Café in January. She kept the party going with buzzworthy Adult Happy Meals (in the familiar-shaped kiddie box), complete with a burger, fries, and your choice of adult beverage (or a “pop, ’cause you’re on the clock,” as the menu said).

Cincy Card Connection

3CDC doubled the impact of gift card purchases from local businesses with its Cincy Card Connection initiative. Each gift card purchased, up to $500 per person, was matched with a gift card to a minority- or woman-owned business. Raising more than $250,000 in the first round, they continued with a second round and raised $650,000 total.

LaRosa’s Team Member Relief Fund

LaRosa’s knew the impact partial closure would have on its 4,000 employees, many of whom would encounter reduced hours and financial hardships. In April and May, the pizzeria parlayed its fundraising Buddy Card into the LaRosa’s Team Member Relief Fund. Through card purchases, cash donations, and dollar-for-dollar matching by the LaRosa family, the program raised more than $450,000, for its workers.

Feed the Frontlines Cincinnati

Ashley Heidt (event specialist) and Brent Oberholzer (bar director) of forthcoming Hyde Park eatery Dear Restaurant & Butchery were inspired by colleagues in other cities who were feeding frontline workers while putting restaurants to work. They wanted to do the same. Launching Feed the Frontlines Cincinnati in April, they raised $16,850 (as of May 22) to feed more than 1,000 healthcare workers at The Christ Hospital.

Finally, FC Cincinnati Is Back

When FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew face off late Saturday night at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, four months will have passed between the Orange and Blue’s second game of the 2020 season (a 2-1 loss to Atlanta on March 7) and its third.


Like every other major collegiate and professional sporting league in this country—and, for the most part, around the globe—the COVID-19 pandemic put Major League Soccer on hold. When Orlando City and Inter Miami play tonight, MLS will become the first major men’s pro sports impacted by COVID-19 to resume play. The National Women’s Soccer League returned in late June.

Instead of normal regular season games, MLS is putting on the “MLS Is Back Tournament” in Orlando and encasing players, coaches, et al. inside a “bubble” that happens to be home to one of America’s most serious COVID-19 surges. Following the tournament’s championship—scheduled for August 11—the league hopes to resume regular season play in an undetermined format. For FC Cincinnati and its latest new head coach, the MLS Is Back stakes are high.

So how does this tournament work?

Think of MLS Is Back as a World Cup-style competition. Twenty-four of the league’s 26 teams are split into six groups of four, after FC Dallas and Nashville SC dropped out (more on that below). Each group stage match will count toward the 2020 regular season standings, lending heightened importance to group stage fixtures beyond simply accumulating points to advance to the 16-team knockout stage.

After facing Columbus on Saturday, FC Cincinnati is slated to play Atlanta on July 16 and New York Red Bulls on July 22 to complete Group E play. Yes, oddly enough, FCC will be playing two of its three scheduled matches against the only two teams it faced (and lost to) prior to the shutdown.

How can FC Cincinnati advance to the knockout stage?

The top two teams from each group will automatically advance, joined by the next four highest-ranked third-place teams based on points total. There are tiebreakers in place, too. (Here’s hoping that advancement doesn’t come to the fewest disciplinary points for any squad.)

You said something about FC Cincinnati hiring another head coach?

The club officially hired Jaap Stam on May 21, already the franchise’s fourth full-time head coach since joining MLS last season. Stam took over for Yoann Damet—who was named the club’s interim coach in May 2019 after Alan Koch was fired—and was then thrust into the interim role once more when Ron Jans “resigned” on the eve of the 2020 season for allegedly using a racial slur.

Stam, 47, was one of the top central defenders of his generation, logging 79 appearances for Manchester United, 112 games between Serie A stalwarts Lazio and A.C. Milan, and 67 appearances for the Netherlands national team. He was part of United’s treble-winning 1998-99 team and played for his country at the 1998 World Cup, as well as three European championships, reaching the semifinals in three of those four competitions.

But, while Stam’s playing credentials are impressive, his managing career has been a mixed bag. He’s been an assistant coach and a head coach in the Dutch Eredivisie; he held the latter position at PEC Zwolle and Feyenoord without much success. (PEC Zwolle is the same club where Jans and FC Cincinnati General Manager Gerard Nijkamp worked.) Stam did find some prosperity in England with EFL Championship side (second division) Reading, narrowly missing promotion to the Premier League in his first season. Because of travel restrictions, his first training session with the team was June 16, though the club had just held its first full practice a day earlier.

So can FC Cincinnati actually make some noise in this tournament?

Yes, because there’s no precedent for MLS conducting an in-season, World Cup-esque tournament—a thrilling experiment on paper—or conducting an in-season, World Cup-esque tournament in the midst of a global pandemic in one of the regions of the U.S. being hit hardest by said pandemic. Literally (and I loathe that word) anything could happen. FC Cincinnati will have had what amounts to half a normal preseason to train by the time Saturday night rolls around.

Personnel-wise, there have been zero reported positive COVID-19 tests from FCC before or after the team landed in Orlando on June 29. The ability to make five in-game substitutions instead of the normal three will allow Stam the freedom to drastically alter strategy and/or formations, too. Siem de Jong, who signed with the club in late February but was unable to debut prior the shutdown, will provide FCC with a true No. 10 creative playmaker, albeit one with plenty of miles on his 31-year-old legs.

FC Cincinnati did achieve a clear victory during the hiatus: extending striker Jurgen Locadia’s loan deal to June 2021. (The loan deal was originally due to expire this past Sunday.) Even though Locadia has just one start and one sub appearance under his belt in MLS, his talent level compared to some of his defensive competition was evident. The 6-foot-4 forward could have a few tricks up his sleeve with de Jong, as the two played together for a season at Dutch club PSV. Unfortunately, Locadia is dealing with a thigh injury and his status for Saturday—and the entire tournament—is in jeopardy.

With Locadia, I thought FC Cincinnati would score enough to earn results in their matches. Now, for the first game at the very least, Stam will have to reconstruct his lineup, perhaps with Brandon Vazquez (who started the season opener and notched an assist) installed in the starting XI in a like-for-like forward swap. Yuya Kubo, a winger for FCC so far, could also be used as a more of a false No. 9 that could combine with de Jong high up the midfield to release FCC’s wide players on the flanks. Unlike last season, FC Cincinnati have legitimate options if Locadia can’t go.

Defensively, I don’t think FC Cincinnati will be able to keep opposing offenses from scoring. The club allowed the most goals in MLS history last season, and in the opening two games vs. Red Bulls and Atlanta, the level of cohesion between the back four and the midfield was quite uninspiring at times, particularly in the opener. Again, the team was integrating all sorts of new parts, the head coach had just been sacked, etc. This time around, there’s a new coach, but at least he has a defensive pedigree and will have had nearly a month to implement his tactics.

Still, the training time span was brief and took place under the cloud of a healthcare crisis. Furthermore, FC Cincinnati simply do not possess the athleticism and recovery speed in the back half of their defense to consistently register clean sheets. Thus, a much-improved offense will be tasked with carrying the load.

What’s the incentive for winning MLS Is Back?

A spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League and a $1.1 million prize pool for players. The CONCACAF Champions League is similar to the European Champions League, but with teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Under normal circumstances, there are four ways a team can earn a CONCACAF Champions League berth: win MLS Cup; claim the Supporters’ Shield (own the best regular season record); win the U.S. Open Cup; or be the other regular season conference winner. For FC Cincinnati, the odds of the club succeeding in any of those four avenues is low in 2020, so MLS Is Back provides it with an eminently more reachable path to the franchise’s first trophy.

Can this tournament survive the pandemic?

Before making the trip to Orlando, all “essential members” of a team’s traveling party were required to be tested twice, 24 hours apart. Upon arriving in Orlando, another test was administered and players were cleared to train if they tested negative. For the first two weeks there, each individual must be tested every other day. Then players, coaches, and “pro staff” are tested regularly, including the day prior to a match. Sounds thorough, right?

And yet, because of COVID-19’s unpredictability, a scenario exists where MLS Is Back is scrubbed—and that scenario is inching toward reality. FC Dallas pulled out of the tournament on Monday after 10 players tested positive since arriving in Orlando on June 27, followed by the withdrawal of Nashville SC on Thursday after nine of its players tested positive. Colorado, Toronto FC, and Vancouver had to delay their arrivals to Orlando due to various positive tests. Columbus had a player test positive days after entering the bubble, but the team returned to training less than five days later when those who were in contact with the player tested negative. According to The Athletic, the quick turnaround falls within MLS policy, even if that policy’s moral compass may be lacking.

MLS remains confident that the origins of those positive tests came from outside the bubble. What would it take for MLS Is Back to be cancelled? A positive test or two in a few teams but no community spread among that team likely wouldn’t do it. However, a rash of positive tests among multiple teams—something similar to what Nashville or Dallas have experienced—and MLS Commissioner Don Garber will have no choice but to pull the plug on an experiment that’s treading dangerously toward immoral territory.

The tournament is happening only because of monetary reasons. And while it isn’t the league’s fault that Florida, and in particular the Orlando area, were doing better with COVID-19 infection rates when this tournament was announced on June 10 as it is at present, the league has been steadfast in its commitment to MLS Is Back due to no reported contractions of COVID-19 within the bubble. Only time will tell if that bubble pops.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the associate editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

Metropole Reopens, Sets Date for 21c’s Cocktail Terrace

Adding to a growing list of downtown restaurants reopening after closing due to COVID-19, Metropole has reemerged with a new selection of summer menu items. Serving as a source of inspiration and entertainment for its returning guests, the restaurant’s owning hotel has also announced a timely new 21c Museum exhibition and opening dates for its rooftop cocktail terrace and brunch service.

Chorizo-stuffed squid with toasted fideo pasta, roasted baby bell peppers, and mojo rojo

Photograph by Mike Wajda

Metropole Executive Sous Chef Marcus Pitts has rolled out a new summer menu just in time for reopening, highlighting fresh, seasonal ingredients. Charred summer beans with za’atar ranch, crispy garlic, and sesame and hearth-roasted summer squash with tomato verde, jalapeño, and crispy rice, among others, will be available for dine-in and carryout orders.

“I’m very excited to be back in the kitchen and to get the Hearth back up and running, especially with the new summer dishes rolling out,” Pitts says. “The Verlasso salmon with summer squash, miso butter, and crispy kale is full of summer flavors.”

The restaurant is open 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily; the 21c cocktail terrace will reopen July 15, Wednesday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; and Metropole’s brunch service will reopen Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning July 25.

Hearth-roasted summer squash with tomato verde, jalapeno, and crispy rice

Photograph by Mike Wajda

Verlasso salmon with miso butter, summer squash, and crispy kale

Photograph by Mike Wajda

Reserved self-guided tours of the hotel’s museum are open to hotel and restaurant guests only, with the location’s first show since reopening, Dress Up Speak Up: Regalia and Resistance, exploring “the complexity of contemporary identity.” A virtual tour of the exhibit is also available online, with an introduction presented by 21c Museum Hotel Chief Curator and Museum Director Gray Stites.

“[21c is] a space where contemporary art can be transformative,” Stites says. “As our country copes with a pandemic and reckons with racial injustice, we hope to foster conversations about inclusivity, equity, and the role that art and artists play in shaping a progressive future for everyone.”

To keep diners safe during their visit to the restaurant, physical distancing markers and hand sanitizing stations have been placed in public spaces. Guests will be subject to a mandatory temperature screening and will be greeted at the entrance by a host who will offer hand sanitizer and a mask. Seats in the dining room have been spaced out to encourage social distancing protocols and online and/or disposable menus will be available. Bar and lounge seating will be directed by a host who will encourage safe distancing. Restaurant, bar, and kitchen staff are required to wear masks, and both the front- and back-of-house will be thoroughly sanitized at an increased frequency with EPA-registered cleaning products.

Metropole and 21c Museum Hotel, 609 Walnut St., downtown, (513) 578-6660

The 2001 Riots, Followed by a Recession, Led to Reforms

When Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach shot and killed unarmed teenager Timothy Thomas in the early hours of April 7, 2001, long-simmering frustrations boiled over after years of African American men dying at police hands. Riots wracked Over-the-Rhine, Walnut Hills, Avondale, and other city neighborhoods over the following days, gutting small businesses and leaving communities shocked and broken. The ensuing boycott of the city and downtown businesses protesting police brutality brought cancellations by prominent touring performers, costing millions of dollars in lost revenue and tarnishing our national image. Then 9/11 happened, and Cincinnati shared in the economic slump the terrorist attacks visited on the travel and entertainment industries.

“It was just a rough year,” says Joe Tucker, owner of Tucker’s Restaurant, the beloved Over-the-Rhine cornerstone his family has run since 1946. Their front windows were smashed during the riots, and the ensuing loss of business almost did him and his wife Carla in. That same year, cancer took his brother. “We lost our house, our cars,” he says. “We lost everything.” Tucker’s return to normal took years, only to endure a shooting in the restaurant, then a fire. Yet even under COVID-19, as his and Carla’s temporarily carryout-only business gets a fraction of the traffic they used to, he’s a portrait in resilience. “I’m not a crybaby,” says Tucker. “There’s a lot of people in worse shape than I am.”

The 2001 riots and ensuing recession were a rock bottom from which the city, Over-the-Rhine in particular, clawed its way back. The road to OTR’s recent renaissance hasn’t been smooth by any means, but the riots brought to bear a collective will needed to finally start making change. It united resolve across stakeholders who didn’t trust one another— corporate, political, activist, and community—and helped identify the disparities that create conflict and the need for targeted investment that counteracts long neglect.

+Cincinnati Magazine looks back to see how Cincinnatians of the past made it through their dark days and to the leaders of today’s efforts to move forward. Read all the stories here.

A commission of business and community leaders was set up to address racial disparities with new educational and investment opportunities in overlooked communities. These included a chamber-backed Minority Business Accelerator, a $30 million investment by Procter & Gamble, and a private nonprofit Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), which was first led by then–P&G CEO A.G. Lafley. Since then, 3CDC has been the engine of transformation that’s rejuvenated Washington Park, restored Music Hall and Memorial Hall, and rehabbed individual properties to allow entertainment and dining to bloom again along Race, Vine, Walnut, and Main streets. Interest surged in living near such attractions, and suddenly you couldn’t afford a new condo in a neighborhood long spurned by most Cincinnatians.

While economic development is essential, it’s empty unless residents feel safe and citizens heard. That was the M.O. behind the other major development birthed in turmoil, the Cincinnati Collaborative Agreement. Federally mandated, it was written with input from some 3,500 community members and signed just over a year after Thomas’s death. At its core, the agreement worked to correct systemic racial profiling, put community members in police cruisers to ride along on patrol, and established a citizen complaint authority.

The Collaborative Agreement hasn’t always been popular, particularly with the police department, which tried unsuccessfully to renege. After it was voluntarily renewed in 2007 beyond its initial court-ordered term, by 2015 Cincinnati showed a 69 percent reduction in use-of-force incidents. Relationships between police and communities of color still have miles to go, as George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the unrest that followed prove yet again, but the Collaborative Agreement has made progress here. A recent “refreshment” of the agreement continues to promote dialogue, training, and community problem-oriented policing—showing that comebacks can happen when you try, fail, and try and try again.

Both the Collaborative Agreement and OTR’s renaissance have had their share of critics, particularly long-time neighborhood residents who feel excluded from the redevelopment gold rush. Joe Tucker has seen adversity bring change that cuts both ways. He says he’s not comfortable offering al fresco dining this summer, as other OTR restaurants are. “Up here [north of Liberty Street], it seems like 3CDC just leaves everything dormant.” Try, fail, and try again.

Organizations That Made the Effort to Connect During COVID-19

In a time when staying apart is the safest thing to do, strengthening our bonds and supporting each other takes a little more effort. These 12 individuals and organizations made that effort.

Zoo Blooms

Following virtual tours of the zoo’s spring tradition, staff delivered blooms to nursing home residents and hospital workers.

Xavier University

Faculty and staff personally called all 4,500-plus undergraduate students to answer their questions.

Comet Connector Bus

Mason City Schools sent a decorated bus (wearing a mask) to students’ homes to celebrate birthdays.

Truck Bed Sing-Along Tour

Music teacher Bryan McCartney took his show on the road across Northern Kentucky so neighbors could sing and dance at a safe distance.

The Dad Initiative Instagram Program

Tyran Stallings’s DAD Initiative helps kids learn life skills, and to support the class of 2020, he enlisted his son Tariq (DJ Riq) and put on a virtual prom.

Visual Storytimes

Local bookstores and libraries including Blue Manatee, Joseph-Beth, and PLCHC took to YouTube, Facebook Watch, and Instagram to read to our littles.

Virtual Book Clubs

The Mercantile Library’s lively book discussions moved online to serve readers.

Camp Delivery

Wave Pool Gallery supported their neighbors—and our creative community—by distributing weekly food boxes that also contained an original piece of art.

Porch Pours

Creative agency Agar set up a virtual happy hour movement that went national, with a playlist, cocktail recipes, and a hashtag.

Cincinnati Cares

The online volunteer connection helped businesses launched through MORTAR reach out to experts for virtual coaching.

The Children’s Theatre Cincinnati

Streaming past performances and offering week-long virtual camps, TCT continued to engage young audiences.

Ding Dong Ditching Senior Baskets

Florence mom Shauntae Godsey collected donations, packed up baskets of goodies, and dropped them off for nearly 1,000 Northern Kentucky high school graduates.

Traditions Continue At Sugar n’ Spice’s New OTR Location


When Adam Mayerson asked his grandmother what her earliest memory of the Sugar n’ Spice diner was, she said it was a double date in the 1940s with Mayerson’s grandfather and in-laws. Almost 80 years later, Mayerson is not only the fourth generation of his family to frequent Sugar n’ Spice, but he also owns the place after purchasing it from the previous owner last year.

Sugar n’ Spice started as a drive-in restaurant in the 1940s and, with the exception of two other locations in the ’50s and ’60s, it has remained in the same Paddock Hills building. The Cincinnati classic now has a second home with the opening July 11 of the diner’s new location in Over-the-Rhine, within the renovated former Joe’s Diner on Sycamore Street.

“It will have the same fun, family-friendly vibe that you get at the Reading Road location,” operating partner CT Todd says. “The old diner car is what makes it bright and fun.”

For Mayerson, preserving what people love about Sugar n’ Spice was of paramount importance at the OTR location. “You’re going to experience what people have loved for 80 years. What you’re experiencing downtown is what you’re experiencing at [the original location],” Mayerson says.

Part of preserving that experience is continuing beloved traditions from the Reading Road restaurant, including each diner picking out their own rubber duck. “It brings a level of joyous peace to kids,” says Todd. “And now, everyone likes to pick a little rubber ducky. We have close to 900 rubber ducks here at Reading Road. We will be bringing that tradition downtown.”

The new Sugar n’ Spice location has a nearly identical classic menu to that of the first location. The only change will be the addition of salads for the downtown lunch menu.

“We listened to what people were saying. A common thread was Don’t change anything,” Todd says. “We kept that as our true north.” The new location provides the opportunity to make memories and bring new families to Sugar n’ Spice, he says.

“Sugar n’ Spice is a happy place,” says Todd. “It’s a melting pot of people. All walks of life come here to dine. I really look at it as a beacon in what we offer in food and the atmosphere. Being able to open up a second location and reach more of Cincinnati is really great.”

While Sugar n’ Spice’s OTR diner opened quietly in the past week, it will officially host its grand opening on July 11. Its operating hours will be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Mayerson says that while it’s not ideal to open a restaurant during a pandemic, Sugar n’ Spice has taken precautions to keep its patrons safe. “The downtown location is a lot larger than Reading Road,” says Mayerson. “It provides us with a good capability of being able to space things out and achieve social distancing. We have Plexiglas between the booths and hand sanitizer at every table. We have two patios with outdoor dining that we’ll be using as well.”

Sugar n’ Spice, 1203 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 762-0390