Best of the City: Services

Mobile vet! Driving school! Data retrieval!!! ”Services” might not be the most fun category, but it sure is important.

artistic Wedding Cakes
Sugar Realm Fine Bakery & Cake Design
If pearl dust, chocolate pressed lace, and handcrafted sugar blossoms made with (edible!) gold sound like cake trappings you’d only find in a fairy tale, think again: Master cake-architect Ileana Saldivia crafts magical confections unlike anyone else in the city, from elaborately elegant (an Art Deco creation inspired by the Hall of Mirrors) to whimsical (an intricate  quintuple-decker with edible LEGOs)—and she does it all from scratch. Fairy godmother, indeed.

Sugar Realm Fine Bakery & Cake Design
Sugar Realm Fine Bakery & Cake Design

Photograph by Ryan Kurtz

Custom Framing
“Framing is the silent poetry of the art world.” What more could you want your custom framer to say on its website? This Over-the-Rhine business (with a workshop in Carthage, above) will frame anything from your TV to an oil painting—even a chunk of AstroTurf. They’ll use traditional frames, but they also work extensively with reclaimed wood. In other words, they’re telling the truth when they say “we aren’t your grandmother’s custom picture framer.” 1317 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 275-9916,


Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Off-the-Radar Vacuum Repair
J&S Soap and Supply Co.
If it sucks, they’ll take it. And they’ll make sure it keeps sucking—in the good, vacuum sort of way. To be sure: “Nondescript building” doesn’t begin to cover it. But behind a facade you’d zoom right past, J&S—which primarily sells janitorial and industrial supplies and has been in business for 50 years—rights all manner of wrongs for the gamut of vacuum brands. Fast, friendly service and fair prices? That doesn’t suck. 2043 Harrison Ave., Fairmount, (513) 661-5087,

Bike Repair
Reser Bicycle Outfitters
Reser’s bike mechanics share more than 50 years of combined experience, but this shop is anything but elitist. While they’re fully certified to work on 2016 carbon fiber prototypes and state-of-the-art hydraulics, they’re just as happy giving your kid’s Huffy some TLC, rebuilding the hub on granddad’s pre-war Elgin, or overhauling your beautiful Campagnolo. (Tune-ups start at $69, overhauls at $129.) Plus, you can caffeinate at Trailhead Café, located inside the shop. 648 Monmouth St., Newport, (859) 261-6187,

Decorator’s Secret Weapon
Mill End Draperies
They’ve had a store downtown since 1939, and their abbreviated hours (11 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday–Friday) belie their willingness to guide you through a wide variety of upholstery fabric. Recently, this under-the-radar staple has become a go-to source for movie-set decorators (for films like Carol and Miles Ahead) looking for period fabric from the ’60s. Says store manager Greg Sumner: “People think vintage fabric means geometric, but it cuts across a wide spectrum. A lot of the fabric has a high linen content, which people go gaga over.” 26 W. Seventh St., downtown, (513) 421-1225,

Wine Cellar equipment
Wine Cellar Innovations
A wine collection is an investment to protect as well as show off. Whether you’re in the market for a climate-controlled glass room with etched doors, mahogany racks, and tasting area or just a modest wine rack, Wine Cellar Innovations can make your cup (or stemware) runneth over. Owner Jim Deckebach began making wine racks in his garage in the ’80s. Today, he designs, builds, and ships cellars to clients as far off as Hawaii and Ukraine and offers everything from affordable kits to custom builds for the obsessed oenophile. 4575 Eastern Ave., East End, (513) 321-3733,

West side car repair
Westside Auto Service
Tony Strassell and his team at Westside Auto Service may be unicorns: They’re honest car mechanics. They work fast, which is nice, but it’s Tony’s no-nonsense approach that ensures you know exactly what needs fixing, and more important, what doesn’t. For less than $50, you can drop off your ride for an oil change, tune-up, thorough once over, and best of all, a trustworthy verdict. 5568 Glenway Ave., Westwood, (513) 922-0534

Cincinnati State: Brew 100
Cincinnati State: Brew 100

Illustration by Danny Hellman

Beer Class
Cincinnati State: BREW 100
So you wanna be a brewer? Homebrewing experience alone won’t cut it at most local breweries. In BREW 100 at Cincinnati State, enrolled students 21 and older learn history, styles, serving, and storing through lectures, tastings, and the brewing of a class beer at a local facility (this year, Rhinegeist brewed it). It’s the brain-child of the school’s communication and theater chair, Carla Gessell-Streeter, who also co-owns the long-running local beer blog Hoperatives. And you thought you’d never get to drink in class.

College Test Prep Classes
Martha Geller Education for Testing
High school seniors know: When it comes to college admissions, test scores matter. For 40-plus years, Martha Geller has been teaching ACT, SAT, and PSAT test prep classes to Cincinnati-area kids. She’s taken the tests 300 times herself, her website is overflowing with invaluable information, and she offers a variety of class formats. Just be sure to sign up early; her classes fill up faster than you can say “perfect score.” 9 Woodcreek Dr., Blue Ash, (513) 984-9057,

Stained Glass Studio
Architectural Art Glass Studio
Since 1980, locals who lust after stained glass have been calling on these craftsmen for contemporary custom windows, prism-like entry doors, and sparkling cabinet fronts. You’ll find their repair work in historic settings, too, and they’re deft at matching 21st-century handiwork with Victoriana. Check out the three new saints at St. Theresa of Avila in Price Hill. They fit right in with the rest of the celestial line-up. 5 Water St., Milford, (513) 731-7336,

Mobile Vet
Karen Kowalski, DVM
Have you had it with puppies nervous-peeing in the Camry? Too many cats to wrangle in the Kia? Kowalski visits Rex and Puff on their home turf for routine checkups as well as sick pet care. The former registered nurse (who also knows her way around horses and cattle) offers animal acupuncture, too. And she understands the needs of aging pets—and their owners—who prefer to hang close to home. (513) 598-8584,

One-Stop Dude Makeover
Flow and Cutman Barbershop
This Covington boutique-barber hybrid sits in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it storefront but packs all you’ll need for an updated look. Owner Jerod Theobald moved his operation to the spot in June and added Cutman Barbershop—a stylish two-chair setup—in the back of the store, which features clothes with a relaxed, surfer vibe. He also works with different outlets to create custom products like red hats that commemorate the city’s forgotten baseball team, the Covington Stars. 5 W. Pike St., Covington, (859) 291-3569,

Driving School
Jeff’s Driving
Afraid to get in the car with your teen driver? Quick, call Jeff Tussey. He’s been teaching kids to drive for 16 years now and—more important—he’s still alive! His winning formula is easy: For a flat fee of $475, he provides 24 hours of classroom instruction, eight hours of in-car driving, and a very user-friendly (and flexible) scheduling method. Plus he’s centrally located in Blue Ash. Buckle up! That kid is not slowing down. 10921 Reed Hartman Hwy. #206, Blue Ash, (513) 793-0090,

Jeff's Driving
Jeff’s Driving

Illustration by Danny Hellman

Shoe Repair
one man show > Clarence Howell Shoe Repair
Clarence Howell is a shoe whisperer, curing the city of its footwear maladies for the past 40 years. From a busted heel to a dull pair in need of a shine, he’ll have your weathered soles feeling good as new, and at a price that will have you sprinting back when the other shoe drops. Pleasant Ridge, (513) 531-746

family affair > Wyoming Shoe Repair
Steve Mondy has been mending shoes for four decades; his father Claude (also the son of a cobbler) opened the shop in 1965. They do everything from basic fixes to orthopedic modifications—as well as most leather repairs and zipper replacements, whether on purses or horse tack. Wyoming, (513) 821-0991

Data Retrieval
Élan Technologies
You never know what to expect when you leave your computer with a stranger. But when a sequence of Genius Bar smartie pants have punted on your problem, or you just need to know your family photos are safe, there’s a sterling place to go. When we dropped off our laptop and its potentially devastating virus with the folks at Élan, they wrestled with it over successive sessions until the bug was eradicated. They got all the data back—and also stored it in case the bugs returned. Plus the bill was ridic (in a good way). Going on 15 years in the QC, Élan manages to be both corporate-friendly and nerd-positive. 5143 Kennedy Ave., Columbia Township,

Home Energy Audit  
Duke Energy
Pack the fridge with MadTree cans because a full refrigerator is more efficient than an empty one. This is just one of the energy saving tips you’ll get out of a free home energy audit from Duke. It’s a top-to-bottom inspection and comes with a start-up kit of CFLs, weather stripping, outlet seals, and a faucet aerator­—just what you always wanted, right? But a little knowledge can translate to big savings, which means more beer. (844) 346-4366,

On-Call Poets
Chase Public Short Order Poetry
Feel like your life should be captured in the written word beyond Twitter? Need some low-level therapy? The talented poets of Northside arts organization Chase Public will come to your event and make it happen, as they’ve done for the May Festival and Cincinnati Art Museum, as well as at off-site company meetings and gatherings. They interview you; you wait 15 minutes; and presto, your life is now the subject of a work of original literary art. Bonus: Everything is written on a typewriter. Order up! 1569 Chase Ave. #4, Northside,

Carpet Cleaning
Burlew’s Restoration and Carpet Cleaning
Cleaning a rug: Not nearly as fun as cutting one (though the latter may explain that red wine stain). Burlew’s can save a living room carpet suffering from pets and kids or a specialty rug needing some TLC—with customer service and a cost that won’t leave you terrified of future spills. For a fixed rate of $2.35 per square foot, they expertly freed a handmade Moroccan rug from decades of dirt and brought a vintage flokati rug back from a dust-and-rust-induced deathbed. Besides, how many businesses send you a thank you letter? That’s what we thought. 830 S. Erie Blvd., Hamilton, (513) 779-9138,

H.J. Benken Florist & Greenhouse
More important than the perfect prom date? Buying the right corsage. H.J. Benken has your back. Choose from a single carnation ($6), a pin-on or wristlet of spray roses and orchids ($35), and everything in between. Wristbands come in virtually every color of the rainbow, as do flowers (just order in advance for anything other than basic pastels). P.S. They sell boutonnieres, too. 6000 Plainfield Rd., Silverton, (513) 891-1040,

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Mr. Bubbles
There’s way too much going on at Mr. Bubbles for you to take in at a glance. Kids getting a free piece of candy for doing well on a school test; neighbors bursting in with news about what’s happening in Pendleton. “We think of ourself as a community center,” says Tabatha Anderson, the lady behind the desk. Most of all, what’s going on is the gleam: That sparkle that comes from old school mom and pop shop handiwork. Mr. Bubble has been around for 28 years, and they put the glide in your ride, whether it’s an OG Olds or a Mini Cooper. 512 E. 13th St., Pendleton, (513) 369-0064


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