Best Of 2020

So, you qualified for medical marijuana in Ohio: Great, and sorry for what ails ya’. Ohio law currently allows those with certain medical conditions (cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, PTSD, chronic pain and many more) to sign up as a patient, after being approved by a licensed physician, with the Ohio Medical Marijuana Registry and Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Your physician will approve you to use a 90-day supply of certain forms of marijuana for your specific condition — oils, tinctures, edibles, vapes. And once you’re approved, you have to go to a licensed dispensary to purchase your medication. There are only a few in the Cincinnati area: Verilife, kind of by Pleasant Ridge; Have a Heart Cincy, co-founded by Rev. Damon Lynch III and located in Hartwell, which is the only dispensary to open so far technically within city limits; and Verdant Creations in Columbia Township, kind of by Target and across from the original little MadTree taproom. (There’s also About Wellness Ohio in Lebanon.) But Verdant Creations seems to be a card-carrying favorite because it has affordable price points and offers frequent discounts. After checking in with your medical marijuana card and ID, you’ll head to the Verdant Creations waiting room to peruse a menu of the current offerings. The menu is divided by form (edible, flower, tincture, etc.) as well as brand and strain (indica, sativa). And if you have no idea what any of that means, the helpful “budtenders” will teach you about the different applications as they relate to your specific ailment, especially if you weren’t or haven’t been a big pot smoker/vaper/eater/tincture-er up until his point. Note: These budtenders aren’t pharmacists, they just know a lot about pot. (They’re also very helpful if you’re confused about what constitutes a “90-day supply” limit.) After you make your selection, it’s filled in a back room and delivered through a window with a prescription label and sealed in a bag with a staple. You have to pay in cash (they have an ATM) or some weird digital payment. But it doesn’t really matter, because prices here are reasonable. And they usually have sales, special deals and promotions. Like they offered 29 percent off their entire inventory on Leap Day (there was a line out the door and an hours-long wait). Sign up for text alerts for discount notifications. Verdant Creations, 5149 Kennedy Ave., Columbia Township, verdantcreations.com.

After 25 years of teaching in various schools across the country, Melanie Moore rerouted her career to focus on inspiring a passion for reading by delivering the joy of books to cafés, flea markets and nonprofit events all from the bed of a vintage blue Volkswagen pickup truck. The Cincy Book Bus offers a unique, beautifully bound selection of reads along with a personable book-buying experience in a time where the internet offers instant gratification and two-day delivery. Moore and her husband, Tony, originally bought the truck from a cherry farm in Colorado and picked it up with cherry pits and juice stains still in the bed. It’s a manual and a little rickety, so Moore leaves the driving to Tony, who has an affinity for vintage vehicles. He’s happy to show off the book-mobile by welcoming customers into the driver’s seat or snapping photos of them with their newly purchased books in front of the bus. On days she’s not popping up at cafés and markets, she’s pulling into yard sales and shuffling through cardboard boxes or meticulously scanning each shelf in any store that sells books. She won’t pick up just anything — they’ve got to be unique and in good shape to make the cut. Though she stepped out of the education system several years ago, she still stays involved, helping schools in the area stock their libraries and participating in community literacy programs. Cincy Book Bus, facebook.com/cincybookbus.

Torn Light Records first made waves in Bellevue, where their eclectic range of records, cassette tapes, zines and VHS tapes made them a must-stop for anyone seeking weird finds and deep dives, whether you’re into Jazz, Punk, obscure 1990s Emo, Black Metal or anything in between. They made the move across the river in early 2019, opening a storefront on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton. The new shop was a big upgrade in terms of floor space — 625 feet to 2,000, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer — which means Torn Light has expanded its inventory to include a larger selection of not only vinyl but films and books, too. They also have an attached parking lot (parking is free for customers), which they’ve used to hold parking lot sales (at least one). In September, the record shop put thousands of LP and 45 records from their own collection and other vendors in crates in the parking lot for people to thumb through. The event also included a DJ, coffee from Deeper Roots and beer from 3 Points Urban Brewery. Torn Light Records, 356 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, tornlightrecords.com. 

Wanna feel fancy? Get something to wear from Hi-Bred, whose new Northside location is turning heads all over town thanks to the immaculately bedecked — and frequently changing — mannequins in the storefront. Owner Shawna Maria curates an incredibly chic collection and, unlike other resale shops that force you to dig through tons of filler for the gold, there’s an abundance of sheer style on the racks. Evening attire, motorcycle jackets, chic army surplus fatigues, fancy footwear ... they’ve literally got all that covered and much more. Want to treat someone with a great sense of style, but too polite to ask their size? Get them a gift card, that’s always en vogue. Hi-Bred, 4041 Hamilton Ave., Northside, hibred.life.

Cincinnati makeup artist Brit Cochran opened her online beauty retail shop Launch Party in 2019, offering a curated collection of independent skincare, makeup, bath and body, fragrance and accessories brands to make “shopping for beauty a friendly, approachable and inclusive experience,” says the website. And while you can shop by item, you can also shop by cause: woman-owned, eco-friendly, organic, vegan or social good, so you know the product you’re buying aligns with your personal values. Product descriptions have helpful icons, ingredients and information to let you know the background behind each lipstick, bath soak, mask or mascara. Follow the Instagram page (@shoplaunchparty) for fun product and people photoshoots. Launch Party, shoplaunchparty.com.

Emily Little first launched her line of soaps and body products as “Little Organics,” with a focus on herbal medicine, informed and filtered through her Appalachian heritage. Now, more than a decade old, Little Organics is Queen City Alchemy, a high-end locally made holistic skincare and apothecary line featuring soaps, serums, balms, deodorants and other botanicals crafted using non-toxic, compassionate and therapeutic ingredients. There are no dyes, fillers, parabens or sulfates in Little’s products and the cruelty-free line is Leaping Bunny certified. You can find everything you need to craft a witchy-woman-approved #shelfie, from a glowy Green Goddess French green clay/alfalfa/spinach powder facial mask to an anxiety tincture (with passionflower, mimosa flower, kava kava and skullcap) and rose water toning spritzers — all with super clean, minimalist packaging. And if you can’t find what you want on the shelf, head to the DIY Bar in the back of the Findlay Market-adjacent OTR shop to make your own. Ingredients and instructions are included to create your own facial masks or serums, bath soaks, herbal extracts and more. Queen City Alchemy, 1808 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, queencityalchemy.com.

Walk into Over-the-Rhine’s Wolfpack or take a scroll on their Instagram (@shopthewolfpack) and you’ll be hit with a distinct flavor of warm, earthy tones. And if you’ve done the former, maybe you’ve met the owner’s lovable dog Timberwolf. Owned by Katherine Dalton, the cozy store’s mission is grounded in selling clothing, homegoods and gifts that are sustainability minded. As stated on their website, that means items that are ethically sourced and made by people who are being paid a living wage in a safe environment. Those are ideals worth getting behind. Wolfpack, 1342 Main St., Over-the Rhine, shopthewolfpack.com. 

Look, we’ve all been there. You say the wrong thing at the wrong time, you forget to show up to an important event, or you’re generally just really good at pissing people off. When you screw up, Gia & the Blooms in Over-the-Rhine has unique bouquets and fast local flower delivery to mend relationships with irresistible arrangements. Their burlap-wrapped bouquets lean more avant-garde than Hallmark with rich colors and rare finds. Owner Yuliya Bui, from Minsk, Belarus, named the shop after her pitbull Gia, a rescue from the SPCA. Bouquets start at just $35 and 20 percent of all proceeds go to local charities. Of course, the flowers can be sent on any occasion and the shop also sells single stems, houseplants, planters and greeting cards to brighten someone’s day. Stop in or order online. Gia & the Blooms, 114 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine; Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, giablooms.com.

Daisy Jane’s Flower Truck is easy to spot with its bright red exterior and custom-made white canopy, which covers baskets filled to the brim with bouquet-ready flowers, each accompanied by a sign that lists its name, price and background story. Having a bad day? There’s a flower for that. Owner and founder Megan Moore is readily available near her truck — which can be found rolling around Greater Cincinnati on any given day and popping up at various art fairs and events — to answer questions, chat with customers and arrange flowers into vibrant, colorful bouquets. You can even customize your own bouquet and write a personalized note with Moore’s vintage typewriter. As Moore explains, daisies symbolize new beginnings and the name Jane means “God is gracious,” from ancient Greek and Hebrew. If you want flowers to come to you instead of you finding the truck, bouquets start at $35 (greenery starts at $25) and can be delivered Monday through Friday (for a fee). You can also book the truck for events or for your own DIY florals — grab your bridal party and get together to build your own bouquets. Daisy Jane’s Flower Truck, daisyjanesflowertruck.com.

Next time you pull back your hair for a workout, you can do so in support of stopping human trafficking. Ryan and April Berg “couldn’t walk away” when they witnessed the sexual exploitation of women in India. So they founded the Aruna Project, which provides holistic care to women trapped by sex slavery. Once the women are freed, they have the option of employment in their Freedom Business that ensures financial and personal independence. Aruna’s line of luxury athleisure accessories includes artisan-made headbands that are as stylish as they are functional. Each headband is made with Bluesign Certified recycled polyester that supports eco-friendliness and the Aruna mission. Headbands start at $10 and can be ordered online. Aruna Project, arunaproject.com