Best of the City Winners 2022: Shopping and Services

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A refillery to help you live that zero-waste life, a gift shop that supports good causes, a place to tame your brows, a theater-worthy costume shop, and a bookstore that’s a hidden gem.


Bootleg Toys: Earth To Kentucky

Photograph by HATSUE

What are bootleg toys, you ask? (Don’t worry—we weren’t sure either.) Bootleg toys are a specific type of collectible that’s part art piece and part pop culture object. They’re action figures built with spare parts and silicone molds; an art form born from pure, unadulterated nostalgia—and you’ll find them at Earth To Kentucky, a quirky Covington art and toy store with a flair for the bizarre. Kids get to have all the fun, so we’re challenging you to embrace your inner child and be a kid in a candy store. Or, in this case, a kid in a super-cool, next-level, bootleg toy store. • 836 Main St., Covington, earth2kentucky.com


Brow Tamer: Brow OTR

Eyebrows looking a little more like sisters than twins? Honour Hook and Co. at Brow OTR are wizards when it comes to microblading, a form of semi-permanent tattoo that mimics natural, hairlike strokes to create fuller, totally realistic brows. Following a thorough consultation process, clients have their facial symmetry mapped and their dream brows measured to perfection. The result is a game-changer for victims of the ’90s pencil-thin trend, chronic over-pluckers, and anyone who’s lost brow volume and definition to time and age. • 36 W. Court St., downtown, (513) 291-7212, browotr.com

Church Gift Shop: Soul Goods

In a small space at Christ Church Cathedral on Fourth Street downtown, Soul Goods offers a wide selection of fair-trade goods. There are bandanas for dogs that say “You sit,” bright Guatemala-made baby bibs, a selection of greeting cards, earrings, T-shirts, tote bags, home goods, and more. Some products directly support a cause, such as the candles, soap, and lotion from Thistle Farms, which helps women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. • 318 E. Fourth St., downtown, soulgoodscincinnati.com

Costume Shop: Theatre House

Whether it’s for spooky season, convention time, a house party, or a stage production, Covington’s Theatre House has the props, accessories, and costumes you need. With a selection of theatrical grade makeup products from some of the best brands in the business (Ben Nye, Mehron), your face is covered, too. And if you don’t find any costumes you like, you can always make one for yourself from the shop’s thousands of yards of nearly every kind of fabric you can imagine. Costuming shouldn’t be this addictive. • 400 W. Third St., Covington, (859) 431-2414, theatrehouse.com

Handcrafted Furniture: Lucca

In a world of build-it-yourself IKEA furniture, it’s a rare thing to be able to walk into a furniture store and actually pick up your products in-person, no assembly required. At Lucca, you’ll find a thoughtfully curated selection of home furnishings, gifts, and decor, all crafted by a close-knit team of designers and machinists. Lucca is headquartered at Findlay Market, where it focuses on smaller items and gifts, but the store opened a workshop on 13th Street this summer to expand its offerings. • 126 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine (Findlay Market Location), luccaworkshop.com

Hidden Gem Bookstore: Conveyor Belt Books

When Brandon Disabatino and Shelbi Schindler left New York for Covington during the pandemic, the pair set out to create a shop where you to discover used and rare books “you can’t find anywhere else.” Conveyor Belt also offers a vibe and sense of community you can’t find anywhere else. With its reading nook decorated like a ’70s living room and typewriters from Disabatino’s collection scattered throughout the space, the cozy shop is the perfect place to sit and thumb through a Bukowski or Cocteau volume, and artists can find community with regular showcases on the patio. Disabatino claims Conveyor Belt is “the greatest bookstore placed next to a gas station,” and we wholeheartedly agree. • 410 W. Pike St., Covington, (859) 360-2311, instagram.com/conveyor_belt_books


Japanese Comic Store: Manga Manga

Illustration by Jessica Dunham

This manga store (Cincinnati’s first) was an overnight word-of-mouth success thanks to its selection of great stories for all ages and all audiences. Popular series like Dragon Ball and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure sit alongside unexpected finds like LGBTQ+ romances and stories of living with mental illness. Owner Jacqueline Wood is also skilled at procuring hard-to-locate books upon request, like unreleased-in-the-U.S. art books or cookbooks detailing how to make your favorite illustrated foods. Next you’ll say, “What a great shop!” • 1612 Cedar Ave., College Hill, (513) 429-8361, mangacincinnati.com


Neon Sign Restoration: Neonworks

Located adjacent to the American Sign Museum, Neonworks has lots of experience working with the museum to repair neon signs dating back to the artform’s invention 100 years ago—experience that’s now offered directly to individuals and businesses as well. Technicians can restore signs by repairing or replacing the wiring, transformers, and neon tubing, and they can design and build new neon pieces as commercial signage or personal works of art. • 1330 Monmouth Ave., Camp Washington, (513) 771-8559, neonworksofcincy.com

Pop Culture Experience: Cosmic Gorilla

It’s difficult to describe Cincinnati’s Cosmic Gorilla as anything other than an experience. Is it a comic shop? Yes. An effortlessly hip bar? Yes. Does it host unique events? Yes. Does it pull off the kind of pop culture magic that disappears at the stroke of midnight? Yes! Essentially, Cosmic Gorilla is a comic book and board game shop at Findlay Market that not only offers the latest issues of your favorite superhero’s adventures, but also boasts a full bar with signature cocktails—both fortified and nonalcoholic—and hosts the most unique experiences in the city. For example, this past fall’s “Pennifold’s Pub” provided HP fans a glimpse into the wonderful world of J.K. Rowling, complete with butterbeer and televised quidditch tournaments. In short, Cosmic Gorilla isn’t merely a comic shop and bar, it’s a place of real-life whimsy where anything is possible. • 1834 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, gorillaverse.com

Potions: Hierophany & Hedge

Let Coil and Augur, the owners of Hierophany & Hedge, introduce you to the wonderful world of magic at their Covington shop, which looks like something straight out of Diagon Alley (their Victorian clothing lends itself to the illusion). With a “deluxe line of custom magical solutions,” H&H is home to candles, incense, crystals, wands, and all the other accoutrements you might need to put someone under a spell. Mischief managed. • 19 W. Pike St., Covington, hierophanyandhedge.com

Refillery: Fill More Waste Less

The average American throws out nearly five pounds of garbage each day—and that can add up fast. Enter: the refillery. Rather than selling gallon-size plastic jugs of laundry detergent or floor cleaner, refilleries allow customers to bring their own containers and fill them up, trash-free. Madisonville’s Fill More Waste Less is a one-stop shop for anyone looking to embark on a zero-waste journey, with products (everything from dish brushes to reusable utensils), an expansive refilling station, and even a blog that offers tips, support, and resources. • 4305 Whetsel Ave., Madisonville, (513) 390-2873, fillmorewasteless.com

Resale Shop for a Cause: Portaluca

In 2021, Portaluca, the Dress for Success Cincinnati boutique, moved from Fourth Street to a new space near the Hamilton County Board of Elections in Norwood. While there’s no bargain basement, there is a $2 sale rack, plus loads of designer items, dressier pieces, and work wear. We spotted Talbots, Ralph Lauren, and Lily Pulitzer items, and the reasonable prices (dresses are $15, blouses go for $8; designer items are priced slightly higher) make it easy to splurge. After all, you’re helping women enter or re-enter the workforce, and making sure every one of them has an interview fit that’s on point. • 4623 Wesley Ave., Suite I, Norwood, portaluca.org


HEAD-TO-HEAD: FLOWER TRUCK

 Daisy Jane’s 

Years in Business: 4

Truck Names: Daisy & Pearl

Truck Specs: 1965 Ford Econoline & 1961 Ford Econoline

Bouquet to Ask for (Small Surprises): “Smalls”

Bouquet to Ask for (Grand Gestures): “The Great Bambino”

Bottom Line: Not your grandma’s florist, though she may have driven the same truck.

 Scarlet Begonia’s

Years in Business: 2

Truck Names: Scarlet & Maggie

Truck Specs: 1959 Chevy 3100 Apac & 1948 Chevy 3100 Rat Rod

Bouquet to Ask for (Small Surprises): “Tennessee Jed”

Bouquet to Ask for (Grand Gestures): “Ramble on Rose”

Bottom Line: Groovy, whimsical arrangements, delivered right to your door.

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