Best Of 2021

If you own an old home and don’t know about Hyde Park Lumber, consider this the best piece of advice you’ll ever receive. This historic Cincinnati business has been around for more than a century and deals in a plethora of craftsman creations you won’t find at your average Home Depot. The showroom is filled with hard-to-find moulding, trim and antique-style doors; replica vintage and traditional doorknobs and hardware; raised paneling; and even historic-style columns. If you’re undertaking any kind of renovation, repair or restoration on a home built in the 19th or early 20th century and can’t find a new — or even antique — item to match your needs, chances are Hyde Park Lumber has it.

The duo behind Bellevue’s Coda Co. boutique have opened a new storefront: Sage & Scout. Named after owners Tanner and Kelti Ziese’s fur kids (aka their dogs), the shop offers products for human babies and toddlers. And as a sister shop to Coda Co., it has the same bohemian lean with a focus on ethical and natural goods — beechwood teething toys, wool mobiles and BPA-free silicone bibs. While the Zieses say they “aren’t blessed with babies of our own just yet,” they want to foster a sense of adventure and love of the outdoors for generations to come.

Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Colerain Township’s Buds is ready to meet all your flower needs — and then some. The shop is run by Donna Hoffman and Emily Bosse-Woolum, who decided to take the next step after years of creating centerpieces and bouquets at home for weddings. They wanted the ability to still function as a floral shop while they ventured out into more activities. Buds boasts a wide selection of pre-made arrangements and fresh flowers daily as well as arrangements that can be ordered to your specifications. They also offer a nice variety of houseplants. But what really sets Buds is are their DIY options. Visitors can build their own bouquets and succulent gardens, or work on larger projects for events. You can even book the space for private parties.

If you’re like us, there’s nothing quite as intoxicating as the smell of old books — and there’s no better place to find them than downtown’s five-story Ohio Book Store. It’s easy to get lost among the racks of classic literature, cookbooks and secondhand fiction, but wherever you wander, be sure to take a look at the glass cabinet in the middle of the first floor. It’s full of rare and wonderful tomes. And if you have some vintage books of your own you’d like to learn more about, be sure to ask about their appraisal services. The Ohio Book Store can appraise rare books, documents and other literary ephemera.

Sage + Garden originally launched as a plant shop, but has since evolved into a sort of eco-friendly resource aimed at “cultivating a fully sustainable community,” reads the website. Inside you’ll find houseplants, gardening supplies, ethically produced pet products from local Applehead City Pet, compostable bags, how-to books, make-your-own kombucha kits and even organic menstrual cups.

When wedding photographer Christine Funke found herself out of work and stuck at home at the start of the pandemic, she began putting her time and energy into her houseplants and realized, “I’m sure if I’m redecorating my house right now, everyone else is doing it, too,” she says. With this thought, Funke took to Instagram and began to take her collection of potted plants to the next level, selling them — social distantly — out of her home. As COVID restrictions lifted and she saw a need for people to get out and shop around, Funke flipped her home garage into Fleurish Grounds, a bright and clean pop-up storefront where customers could come browse and purchase the plants in person. The shop took off. And with support from her friend and business partner Stephanie Cable, plus the city of Madisonville, her garage shop blossomed into a permanent storefront. Fleurish still specializes in plants, but also offers a selection of jewelry and accessories; cards and stickers; and a special Fleurish Grounds coffee blend from Urbana Cafe.

No, we aren’t talking CBD or medical marijuana (although both of those work, too). But if you’re looking for something with more of a witchy-goddess flair, look no further than Queen City Alchemy. 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, 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. Little’s Peace of Mind Anxiety Relief Extract will, as she puts it, “encourage calmness, ease tension, reduce worry and to help you chill the f*** out overall.” It comes in a glass bottle with a dropper so you can dispense the blend of passionflower, mimosa flower, kava kava and skullcap whenever you need it.

Just a short stroll from the Northside Tavern and Shake It Records is a 118-year-old building that was once home to the Parks Woodworking Machine Co., now christened simply The Factory. This wedding and event space was previously used for production purposes until the late 1980s, when it was converted into a shared artist studio space by the late Maureen Wood. Jump-cut to 2016: Sarah Thomas and Chris Pohlar — both halves of Grey Rock Property Development — set out on a three-year renovation and conversion process of the property. Dubbed as a “love letter to historic preservation,” the space is designed with modernity in mind and, like its industrial roots, minimalism. “We carefully restored the exterior to original glory via custom production and installation of cedar shake siding and trim. The modern aesthetic is carried forward in custom steel garden beds, sleek window boxes and trim, and a wall of glass doors adjoining the cascading deck,” says Thomas. “Utilizing the unique shape of the building and the existing tree canopy we have created a ‘room’ for guests to enjoy the lush courtyard that offers an intimate setting within Northside’s bustling business district.” The Factory is now booking weddings and private parties.

Downbound Books fills a hole in the Northside community as an independent bookstore offering a selection of curated titles. Before returning to Cincinnati, owner Gregory Kornbluh lived on the East Coast for more than a decade where he worked as a bookseller at a shop outside Boston and later in sales and marketing for Harvard University Press. But he’s still very aware of local legacy and has dedicated a corner of his store to “Crazy Ladies, Jr.” The name pays tribute to a much-beloved feminist and LGBTQ bookstore that operated in Northside from the 1970s to the early 2000s. In the Crazy Ladies, Jr. section, readers will find political works, queer stories, books about gender identity and reproductive health and plenty of feminist titles. There’s also a section for “Crazy Kids.” 

HHH Brick Depot in West Chester is a dream for LEGO fans. The shop offers new and used sets, plenty of parts and bins for little fingers to dig through to find their favorite Minifigs.

The Sustainable Fashion Initiative is a project by students from the University of Cincinnati aimed at breaking the chain of consumerism and fast fashion. Visit @sfi_cincinnati on Instagram to learn more about their mission and upcoming meetings and events, or @sfi.swap to shop and swap clothing with other people and their closets.

Cincinnati Animal CARE Humane Society took over animal welfare operations for Hamilton County from the SPCA (the SPCA didn’t renew their contract), which includes overseeing the main shelter in Northside. With a no-kill mission, they are focused on “The Five Freedoms” for each animal.

Adjacent Covington boutiques Handzy and Gumdrop expanded with new locations this year. The shops — the first one aimed at grown-ups and the latter at kids (and their parents) — opened storefronts in downtown Cincinnati’s Historic West Fourth district this past fall. And just like in Northern Kentucky, their Queen City Handzy and Gumdrop locations are neighbors. But, for an added twist, they’re also connected on the inside.;

If you’re looking to live out a torrid historical romance à la Bridgerton, Grand Antique Mall has the perfect prop: a vintage horse-drawn buggy. Yes, you could purchase your very own surrey with the fringe on top. Now all you need is a corset to rip. And a steed.

Milford’s Fountain Specialist is a unique shop that offers a slew of garden decor. You’ll be able to locate the storefront on the neighborhood’s main drag by the dozens upon dozens of stone figures, religious iconography, fountains and urns lining the street. They also happen to have a nice selection of dog statues (as well as bunnies, turtles, hedgehogs and other animals), so if you need a greyhound to guard your yard or Labrador to lounge in the grass, they have it.

Spring Grove Village’s Flamingo Haven Antique Mall.

If Gen-Z-ers told you skinny jeans are out and you need to update your wardrobe, head to Over-the-Rhine’s Continuum. The modern concept shop carries clothing from emerging and independent designers. Here you’ll find the most up-to-date and original silhouettes and patterns. Think barrel leg, kick flare, wide knits and straight styles from designers like Paloma Wool, Simon Miller and Baserange.

Over-the-Rhine’s Sage Yoga Hot is a health-minded millennial’s dream studio. They offer infrared-heated vinyasa, yin and power yoga classes in a studio adorned with plants, as well as a little boutique with eco-friendly yoga mats, chlorophyll water and CBD seltzer.

Cincinnati-based clothing and home goods boutique The Native One first opened the doors of their Over-the-Rhine shop in the spring of 2018. They have since expanded, adding a second storefront in Covington in 2019. But when the opportunity presented itself to move the OTR location into the larger, shuttered Kaze restaurant space on Vine Street, Native One owner Anna Steffen says it was “everything (she’s) ever dreamed of.” The boutique has taken over — and completely remodeled — the main dining room of the former Japanese gastropub. In addition to more square footage, the space also offers an abundance of natural light and a West Coast vibe, both a perfect setting for Native One’s comfy-meets-chic offerings.

The first floor of Newport on the Levee’s former Barnes & Noble bookstore has been turned into The Exchange, an 11,000-square-foot storefront that houses a rotating roster of local craftspeople, makers and indie merchants. Visit the Levee’s website to see who’s selling what now.