Best of the City 2019 Winners: Shopping & Services

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From a must-visit botanical jewelry shop to our favorite truck-based business, these are Cincinnati’s best shopping- and service-related items and entrepreneurs of 2019.

Photograph by Dustin Sparks

Botanical Jewelry Shop: Lane & Kate
Whether you want to design a custom engagement ring or refresh a family heirloom, Lane & Kate has you covered. In 2016, sisters Rachel Lane and Jessica Kate Pfeiffer relocated their Oxford jewelry shop to Vine Street, where Rachel and Manager Ellana Hagedorn now run the show. The duo teams with sustainable artists to create dainty, elegant pieces they call “barely there beauties.” As an added bonus, Hamilton-based Two Little Buds stocks the shop’s flower bar with fresh blooms each week.
1417 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 381-0650

Urban Hardware Store: Woods Hardware
This two-level downtown shop is chock full of hand tools, kitchen and bath gadgets, paint, garden supplies, and yes, key-making and locksmith services, just a block from where owner Steve Woods’s grandmother ran the original Acme Lock store. Now under the family’s Woods Hardware umbrella with fourth-generation leadership, the shop combines the friendly service of a family business with a chain operation’s low prices.
125 E. Ninth St., downtown, (513) 241-2614

Wedding Gown Alterations: Tony King Alterations
Brides and bridal shops know Tony King is the one to trust with wedding dress alterations. King, who works from a fourth-floor downtown studio, is highly recommended for his decades of sewing experience and meticulous attention to detail. Word is he’s outspoken, but still a delight to work with, whether you want to totally transform your grandmother’s gown or just need a few nips and tucks. You’ll have to call; King doesn’t have a website.
1403 Central Pkwy., Fourth Floor, downtown, (513) 481-4484

Place to Get a Christmas Tree: Caracole at Findlay Market
Caracole’s annual tree sale in Over-the-Rhine is a win-win-win during the holiday season, with all proceeds benefiting the local nonprofit that impacts lives in the fight against HIV/AIDS through prevention, housing, and care. Do a little grocery shopping at Findlay Market, grab a glass of wine or cup of hot chocolate, pick out your favorite blue spruce or Douglas fir, and help support a worthy cause. Cheers!

Illustration by Chris Danger

Way to Enjoy Museums: Discovery Pass, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Your library card can check out a whole lot of neon, Robert Duncanson murals, the great outdoors, and more—literally. With the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Discovery Pass, you can borrow a pass to The American Sign Museum, the Taft Museum of Art, the Betts House, Great Parks of Hamilton County, the Harriet Beecher Stowe house, and the Cincinnati Art Museum’s special exhibitions. Just use the online reservation system to print or pull up the pass on your mobile device.

Airport Vending Machine: SouveNEAR
Launched in Kansas City five years ago, these airport machines serve up small, locally made items instead of mass-market souvenirs. Whether it’s pins, patches, or stickers from Band of Weirdos; jewelry from Circle Circle, Lynne & Lucille, or Ellebrux; chocolates from Maverick Chocolate Co.; or coloring cards and buttons from Visionaries + Voices artists, these gifts go beyond disposable trinkets. Local makers win, travelers win, and our region wins whenever someone says, “Oh, this? It came from Cincinnati.”

Indie Bookstore: Roebling Point Books & Coffee
Currently housed in an 1840s building (formerly John Roebling’s office) Roebling Point has a lot to offer: children’s books, classics, best-sellers, new releases, poetry, and teen literature. Each section is marked in chalk; nearly every room is lined with full bookshelves. Whether you’re grabbing a cup of coffee (roasted by Seven Hills) or poking around the used books, any of the tables and chairs scattered throughout are the perfect spot to lose track of time. Keep your eyes peeled for a change, though. Owner Richard Hunt says the store is looking to move in 2020.
306 Greenup St., Covington, (859) 815-7204

Place to Get a Passport: Hamilton County Title Division, Forest Park
Making a trip to a government agency isn’t that bad, said no one ever. Long wait times and not-so-friendly service are always possible, but we have an office to recommend if you’re applying for a passport. Prepare all of the documentation before you go, like form DS-11, and bring proof of U.S. citizenship and a driver’s license (find details at usa.gov/passport) to the Auto Title office in Forest Park. You don’t need an appointment, it’s rarely jam-packed, and it’s a fairly quick and painless process.
1216 W. Kemper Rd., Forest Park, (513) 946-8161

Wild Wedding Venue: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Our city’s beloved zoo only books 10 weddings each year, so you know they’re over-the-top. Imagine your guests mingling with an alpaca, mini pig, flamingo, penguin, or even a cheetah (animal appearance options vary) on the Africa Deck, a partially covered area overlooking the African Savannah exhibit, or in the Peacock Pavilion, an indoor space with a beautiful courtyard. Be sure to snap some portraits with giraffes or elephants in the background.
3400 Vine St., Avondale, (513) 475-6142

Findlay Market Breakout Star: The Budding Florist
Just 17 months after Ellie Wilke opened her plant and floral boutique at Findlay Market in November 2017, she moved into her first independent space on Elm Street. Here she offers tropical houseplants, floral arrangements, and a flower bar. Her bouquets are the real stars, though. Each is crafted to have a wild, organic feel that’s “inspired by Mother Nature,” meaning they’re not cookie cutter. Pair that with a knowledgeable and friendly staff, and you just found your new favorite plant shop.
1817 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 562-7185

Female Entrepreneur to Watch: Anna Steffen
At 17, Anna Steffen launched an online women’s clothing and accessories boutique with a friend. At 20, she debuted her first solo online boutique, The Native One, which blossomed into a brick-and-mortar location on Vine Street within nine short months. Now 22, she oversees her wildly successful OTR shop, plus a second Covington storefront that opened in October. All in all, she’s a stylish force to be reckoned with.
1421 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 832-7133; 326-328 Scott St., Covington, (859) 360-6706

Photo Session: The Simple Portrait Project
Twelve years ago, photographer Jonathan Willis (also a Cincinnati Magazine contributor) had an idea: Create a family portrait session that was straightforward, fast, and affordable—and that captured the family’s real personality. The result: A yearly tradition and a devoted following of subjects who connect with Willis and his team of photographers each November. Join the mailing list at the website; signups start in September, and slots go fast.

Truck-Based Business: The Book Bus
After 25 years teaching at inner city schools in St. Louis, L.A., and Cincinnati, Melanie Moore fulfilled her lifelong dream of opening a bookstore—it just happens to be on wheels. Housed in an adorable mint green 1962 Volkswagen truck, The Book Bus sells mint-condition adult fiction books at flea markets, pop-ups, and private events across the city. It also has a charitable mission: Moore uses her proceeds to buy books for children in need.

Photograph courtesy of Urban Blooms

Living Walls: Urban Blooms Cincy
Public art, technology, nature, and architecture converge in the hydroponic living wall installations created by Urban Blooms Cincy, like the one at the zoo’s welcome center. The nonprofit, founded in 2014 by Tyler Wolf, partners with educational, civic, and municipal organizations—as well as corporate sponsors—to build sustainable, beautiful living walls throughout the Midwest that provide the benefits of improved air quality, lower stress, and reduced energy usage.
3895 Reading Rd., North Avondale, (513) 917-1111

Night Market: City Flea Holiday Market
What could be more charming than Washington Park on a crisp December evening, aglow with string lights, packed with vendors and festive shoppers? Darn near nothing. It’s enough to get the Grinch in a giving frame of mind. There will probably be carolers, possibly some gift wrapping, and certainly warm drinks to keep your insides toasty. All you need are some flurries to imagine yourself in the center of your own personal holiday snow globe.
December 14, Washington Park, Over-the-Rhine

Board Game Shop: Woodburn Games
Board game stores are deep geek territory, where trading cards and collectibles make up most of the conversation. Non-geeks need not fear. The pros at Woodburn Games can take your preference for Monopoly and Cards Against Humanity and show you three other games you’d probably like. Maybe one of their suggestions will strike your fancy and you’ll end up taking home a new treasure to try out on your next family game night.
2803 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, (513) 206-8776

Museum Gift Shop: The Shop at the Contemporary Arts Center
Packed with affordable jewelry, children’s toys, dishware, books, prints, and more, this is not your typical museum gift shop. The items, some of which are handmade by local independent artists and CAC staffers, are not only relevant to the museum’s exhibitions but also the community and changing world climate. The inventory rotates frequently, too, so you can expect to see new one-of-a-kind items often. And unlike the museum, the gift shop is open on Tuesdays.
44 E. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 345-8400

Push Present: Postwell
New moms rarely talk about the essentials they needed after giving birth, because let’s be real—postpartum recovery is not pretty. Oakley resident Jess Kerr created Postwell, a practical collection of must-have products you can order online and ship straight to a deserving new mama. The box, which has appeared in USA Today, is a perfect gift and total lifesaver—anything to prevent a postpartum trip to Target for sitz bath and cold packs.

Vehicle Wraps: Vivid Wraps
Have you seen a matte black Lamborghini coast through Cincinnati recently? There’s a good chance Vivid Wraps is responsible for your jaw dropping. The graphics shop can add a temporary new layer or design over a variety of products, from boats, motorcycles, and delivery trucks to an Xbox gaming console. Whether it’s a high-end vehicle wrap or a local business slapping its logo on a van, Vivid stays busy—most orders take a month and a half to get to.
12130 Royal Point Dr., Symmes Township, (513) 515-8386

Ski and Snowboard Maker: Mortal Ski Company
Over-the-Rhine isn’t exactly ground zero for outdoor winter fun, but it’s home to Mortal Ski, manufacturer of custom skis and snowboards. Since 2015, Ron Gerdes and Mark Branham have occupied an old OTR warehouse to hand-make skis specifically designed for Midwestern snow conditions and sell them via word of mouth and online orders. They begin producing snowboards this winter. It’s all downhill from here!

Advocate for Bees: Osmia Bee Company
Of the 4,000 bee species native to North America (FYI: Honeybees are European), more than 700 face extinction due to habitat loss from increased pesticides. Hyde Park resident Justina Block is helping grow Cincinnati’s native bee population by selling sustainable bee houses through her two-year-old business, Osmia Bee Company. Crafted from cedar, each house comes complete with nesting materials, live mason and leafcutter bee cocoons, and instructions. These super gentle, low-maintenance pollinators will make your garden flourish.


Where to Sell Your…
Astute Furnishings

Photograph by Brittany Dexter

High-End Furniture: Astute Furnishings
A go-to source for The Good Stuff, whether it’s a Danish modern stereo cabinet, Herendon console table, or Globe Wernicke barrister bookcase. Your mid-century pieces would be in good company here.

Clothes: Snooty Fox
There’s a reason this local consignment chain is king: dedicated shoppers, generous allowances, and multiple locations. Plus stores accept women’s, men’s, and kids’ duds. Win, win, win.

Household Items: This N That Consignments
The back room, filled with housewares, caught our attention. Games, decor items, serving ware, tools, holiday decorations—consignment shops rarely take these items, so this is a boon for sellers.

Kids’ Stuff: Reruns for Wee Ones
Busy moms have no time to consign, so Reruns pays for your kids’ clothes, toys, and gear on the spot. Both the Fairfield and West Chester locations stock new goods as well.

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