Best of the City 2010

Illustrations by Raymond Biesinger, Photograph by Jonathan Willis

Men’s Hats: Batsakes

Forget baseball caps. Real men wear fedoras, Stetsons, trilbies—and Batsakes is the best place in town to get them. Gus Miller has been hand-making hats at the 103-year-old shop since 1950. (His famous clients include George W. Bush and Pavarotti—hence the music on Vine St. as you walk past.) Visit mid-week, when Gus isn’t busy, and spend the next hour listening to his stories. Before you leave, get a shoeshine at the in-house shine stand. (513) 721-9345

Maternity Boutique: Hot Mama

Just because you’ve got a bun in the oven doesn’t mean you should dress like a cupcake. For versatility and grown-up élan, we like the maternity wear at Hot Mama in Rookwood Commons. Designs by Olian, Michael Stars, and Japanese Weekend will keep you feeling sophisticated and hip for nine months. And the shop’s regular fashions are geared to mothers who don’t want to abandon their chic once baby arrives. (513) 351-2216

Vintage Telephones: Jim Hurtle

Listen up, you whippersnappers—phones haven’t always been bleating, pocket-sized plastic trash. Once upon a time, they were serious instruments of communication, with real metal bells rung by a metal clapper, heavy-duty Bakelite cases, and solid components. In Jim Hurtle’s cases at Duck Creek and Florence Antique Malls you’ll find old telephones lovingly restored to operational condition. Assuming you still have that land line. (859) 689-5265, ext. 25 between 7:30 and 9:30 pm only

Discount / Upscale Fabric Store: Swatches

If you’re into high-end home fabrics but not their high-end price tags, check out Swatches. More than 1,500 discounted bolts of fabric line the store walls (arranged by color, no less!), but Swatches also sells trims, tassels, shades and blinds, silk drapes, and hardware, too. If you don’t want to do it yourself, pay Swatches and they’ll re-upholster your furniture, or make custom drapes, bedding, or slipcovers. Two staff designers make house calls as well. (514) 683-5400

Vintage Postcards: Duck Creek Antique Mall

You can find postcards at nearly every antique shop in the city, but we especially love browsing the neatly (if eclectically) organized selection at a booth near the front door of the Duck Creek Antique Mall. We spent a happy afternoon flipping through boxes full of them and an album that featured such categories as “Chairs With A View,” “Swans,” and “Tombs.” (513) 321-0900

Vintage Christmas Ornaments: Ohio Valley Antique Mall

Maybe it’s just a function of when we did our research, but we were struck by the wide selection of Decor From Christmases Past at this Fairfield mega-mall (they name the aisles after streets so you don’t get lost). We saw trees of the aluminum and feather variety, many styles of Santa, and enough ornaments of multicolored glass (many of them vintage, made-in-the-U.S.A. Shiny Brite) to decorate a veritable forest, especially in a booth at the corner of Wyoming and Cincinnati Streets. (513) 874-7855

Writing Implements: Appointments

Should you require an instrument of expression that has more presence than a disposable ballpoint, head directly to Appointments. You’ll find fountain pens (and roller balls and mechanical pencils) from makers that include Cross, Bexley, and Graf von Faber Castell. And they’ll help you bring ailing pens (like that one you got for high school graduation) back to life. (513) 421-7430

Way to Show Your Team Spirit: Sheer Necessities Lingerie

Brides, if you’re looking for a way to give a shout-out to your favorite team on your wedding day (or an inconspicuous way to appease your sports-crazy husband), check out Sheer Necessities Lingerie in Reading. In their second floor bridal area lies a showcase filled with garters of orange and black, blue and white, scarlet and gray. Made from material sporting team logos and mascots, they can show your rooting interest, whatever it may be. Go Mr. and Mrs.! (513) 761-7010

Rare Books: Significant Books

The shelves at Significant Books in Oakley, like any good used bookstore, are filled to capacity and packed so tight you can hardly turn around. And taped to the sides of them are cryptic messages advertising books too precious to be in the open. (“Dictionnaire Des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs, $275. Ask to see.”) Can’t find a particular title? Owners Bill and Carolyn Downing are more than happy to help track it down. (513) 321-7567

Prom Dresses: Kotsovos

First it was furs, then evening-wear and bridal gowns. Now Kotsovos has mastered prom-wear. The entire south side of this Montgomery boutique is filled with prom dresses in every style, size, and color imaginable. True fashionistas will also tell you that Kotsovos is Cincinnati’s exclusive Nicole Miller dealer. The staff here is so knowledgeable, if you tell them which school’s event you’re attending, they’ll tell you what kind of dress girls wear there. (513) 791-3877

Fireplace Supplies: Bromwell’s

There’s pretty much nothing related to your fireplace that Bromwell’s doesn’t carry. With a 7,000-square-foot showroom downtown and a full service website, Bromwell’s is hands-down the biggest fireplace supply retailer in the region. And even though they’re also the oldest, they keep up with the times just fine—if you don’t believe us, check out the ceramic “FireShapes” on their website. (513) 621-0620

Urban Farm Supplier: Newtown Feed & Supply

Visiting Newtown Feed & Supply is like going back in time, and not just because it’s in an old building: the Champlin family, who own the place, actually work here; they’re friendly and knowledgeable; and the store is neater than a pin. They carry everything from deer salt licks to horse treats, chicken feed, and holistic food for dogs. And don’t forget the bird food—they sell seven tons of it every week. Plus the dog and cat “greeters” beat their peers at Walmart any day. (513) 271-3446

Contemporary Jewelry: Cockerill

The jewelry selection at Vickie Cockerill’s corner shop on Hyde Park Square runs the gamut from silver and gold to steel, stones, leather, and glass in a wide range of price points. You can pick up earrings for $45, a necklace of felted circles from Argentina for $85, or a river stone and sterling choker by Richmond, Indiana, artist Terri Logan for $1,200. Cockerill’s impeccable eye extends to the few costume pieces in her case too. “I get them on costume jewelry street in New York,” laughs Cockerill, modeling a sparkly elastic bracelet that looks way more luxe than its $295 price tag. (513) 681-7444

Personalized Christmas Cards: Poême

You’re pushing the envelope, but Poême co-owner Kristen Folzenlogen is still taking orders for customized holiday stationery. She says that in a bad economy, customers opt for keepsake cards over costlier gifts and travel. And she’s a genius at designing greetings that serve a dual purpose, such as announcing a move or an upcoming celebration date, saving the cost of a second mailing in the new year. Precious! (513) 321-4999

Funky Wristwear: Cha-Cha’s

She may be new on the boutique circuit, but Rachel Hamilton, the buyer for Cha-Cha’s, knows her stuff, especially when it comes to wristwear. Choose from a sizable collection of faux-diamond-studded wristwatches, delicate wire bangles, rubber-band watches in a test tube, and ornate leather cuffs; pick up a belt buckle to match plus a faux fur vest, and you’ll be the most glam girl on the block. 3156 Linwood Ave., Mt. Lookout

Museum Shop: Shops at Union Terminal

Three different shops under one roof makes the Cincinnati Museum Center in historic Union Terminal this category’s winner. If you can’t find a gift in The Collectors Gallery (jewelry, witty T-shirts, framed art and collectibles), the Store to Explore (local history books, books by local authors, plus educational games and toys for kids), or the Children’s Gift Shop (everything from bath toys for baby to art kits for toddlers), you must not be looking hard enough. (513) 287-7022

Green Hardware Store: Greener Stock

While you won’t find nuts and bolts at Greener Stock, you can find cleaner, greener, more sustainable options for your next remodeling project. Architect Heather Curless has sourced eco-friendly home-improvement products from bottom (cork, bamboo, and recycled rubber floors) to top (high-efficiency roofing). The shop functions as a resource and design center where you can get hooked up with recycled glass tile, non-toxic paint, and solvent-free cabinetry. No wonder green is the new black. (513) 321-0567

Baby Gear: Best for Babies

Lizzie Levin and Sydney Warm Tasner started Best for Babies as the retail arm of their online store. They research the stock like crazy: safety, function, and cuteness rule. You’ll find “big investment” items (the cushy, eco-friendly Orbit Baby Stroller) as well as tiny treasures (gift-boxed booties from Dolly and Dimples). Plus, Levin and Tasner know how everything works and will help you avoid highchair/car seat/breast pump hell. (513) 793-2229

Cycling Jerseys: Weber Sports

Art. Exercise. They’re not mutually exclusive. Elder High/NKU grad Tim Weber is a painter, sculptor, and printmaker; he also has a serious jones for biking. Now he’s merged his passions by producing jerseys with designs adapted from his own bold abstract paintings. They’re available only at his Aurora, Indiana, shop, but you can preview them online. Colorful and contemporary, they could turn an ironman into an aesthete.

Used Modern Furniture: Mainly Art

How’s this for meta retail: Mainly Art co-owner Mark Fisk recently sold a mid-century velvet and chrome chair to John Slattery, who plays ad man Roger Sterling on AMC’s mid-century hit, Mad Men. “Mid-century style is definitely reaching a wider audience,” says Fisk, who owns the Oakley resale shop with his wife, Missy. “Our niche has kept us in the business,” he adds, explaining how they’ve navigated recession waters. That niche includes quality, well-designed furniture from the likes of Eames, Wakefield, Saarinen, Baughman, and McCobb, and excellent service. Says Fisk, “People are more design conscious and want quality and value, and that’s what we try to give them.” (513) 378-8261

Instant Garden: One Small Garden

No time for spading and hoeing? Too stiff for stooping and weeding? Just need a little jardin potager outside your kitchen door? Then you want One Small Garden. The web-based company will sell you all the makings for a raised-bed garden from its Cincinnati warehouse: bug-resistant red cedar, perfectly prepared soil, even a cold frame lid so you can grow ’til the snow flies. The modular gardens come in a variety of sizes, and they’re ready to assemble. So you’ll have plenty of time to vegetate. (513) 218-0537

Scarves: Soho Boutique

When winter is in full swing and you’re bundled up like a Yeti, style sometimes takes a backseat to function. However, wrapped in Yarnz or Leigh and Luca scarves from Soho Boutique, one need not sacrifice style. Yarnz’s graphic print cashmere wraps you in warmth while keeping you on your fashion game. Leigh and Luca’s scarves are made on 100-year-old looms and embellished with velvet. (They’ve also been seen wrapped around the necks of the Olsen twins, Rihanna, Naomi Watts, and more.) (513) 321-6930

Deal: Holidays in the Bag

Good news first: For the past three years, merchants in OTR’s Gateway Quarter and now Main Street’s Park + Vine have hosted Holidays in the Bag, where shoppers enjoy 20 percent off anything they can fit in a provided bag. Score! The bad news: You just missed it. The splurge-and-save happens on Black Friday so mark your calendar for 2011. You don’t want to miss out on Santa riding a Segway distributing candy canes again. (Yep. You read that right.)

Do-Gooder: Stop Traffick Fashion

After a college trip to Thailand, where she visited a school for high-risk young girls in danger of becoming victims of human trafficking, Cincinnati native Emily Hill was moved to action. In 2009, she founded Stop Traffick Fashion, offering the men, women, and children who have been rescued from their captors a chance to make money by crafting all the goods sold on her website. The shop features jewelry, clothing, tote bags, and more and all proceeds either benefit the victims and survivors directly or organizations dedicated to ending human trafficking. Guilt-free shopping at its finest.

Lightweight Outdoor Apparel: The Benchmark Outfitters

Need a hard shell that breathes for that summer trip to Mt. Washington in New Hampshire? The Benchmark Outfitters has it. Want a new base layer, fleece, and soft shell for a weekend at Perfect North? They have those, too. Benchmark even has Patagonia gear that will pass for office wear. But more important, Benchmark has the books, maps, and—best of all—experience to help make sure you’re prepared on all fronts. (513) 791-9453

Micromarket: Picnic and Pantry

Tucked behind the outdoor courtyard adjacent to Northside Tavern, Picnic and Pantry offers ready to eat healthy foods (many vegetarian or vegan), specialty grocery items to stock your pantry (many sourced from local growers and food artisans), as well as housemade breads and goodies (we’re mad about the peppery, cocoa-dusted chocolate chip marshmallows made by P&P’s market chef Frannie Kroner). Catering too: brunch, lunch, dinner…or picnics. (513) 681-8600

Men’s Socks: Brooks Brothers

Once you’ve tried a merino sock, you’ll throw out every other sock you own. It’s warm, doesn’t itch, and breathes, qualities that have made it the fabric of choice for outdoor apparel. But no sock we found has a higher percentage of merino wool than the 80 percent of Brooks Brothers socks. They look great, whether in orange-navy-green argyle or solid black. (513) 651-1800


Daily Deals

A full week’s worth of Superlative savings.


Explore the Contemporary Arts Center for free after 5 p.m. on Macy’s FREE Mondays. (513) 345-8400


Bargain Tuesdays at Esquire, Mariemont, and the brand-new Kenwood Theatres offers $6 admission to all shows, all seats.,,


Toast Humpday with $1 burgers at Bar Louie 5 p.m. until close. The only caveat? A drink purchase. Cheers! (859) 291-4222


Give swing dancing a whirl at Covington’s Step-N-Out Dance Studio, where the Beginner Swing Class is only $5. Feeling confident? Stay after class for the open dance session. (859) 291-2300


Grown-ups aren’t the only ones thankful for Friday. Treat yourself and your tot at The Blue Manatee’s DeCafé. The beloved children’s bookstore and coffee shop offers After-School Refuel: $1 coffee and tea anytime after 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. (513) 731-2665


At The Righteous Room Happy Hour isn’t just for weeknights—grab a seat and pick your poison because this chic spot offers half-priced drinks 4–8 p.m. seven days a week. (513) 381-4408


The Comet Bluegrass All Stars perform at their longstanding weekly gig. The tunes start at 7:30 p.m. No cover. No excuses. Bluegrass + Burritos + Beer = Best. Night. Ever. (513) 541-8900

* Please note that the information listed in this section was accurate at the time the issue went to print in 2010 and that addresses, menu items, company status, etc., may have changed. Please contact the companies to confirm details.

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