Construction crews are popping up like weeds around OTR. Scaffolding crawls toward the sun and creeps along the walls of the neighborhood’s famous historic Italianate facades. Residents debate whether the new luxury developments that seem to appear almost overnight are choking out the longstanding features of the neighborhood that give the area its unique character and attractive charm.
Thoughtful citizens think of ways to develop the neighborhood that will nurture and support the urban identity of racial and economic diversity that already thrives there. They embrace the historic landscape rather than plough it under in order to plug something more “profitable” into the space. They recognize that OTR is fertile ground that deserves tending.
“We want to complement the market. We’re not here to compete,” say Brad and Karen Hughes, owners of Artichoke: Curated Kitchen Collection, a kitchenware store set to open on Saturday, April 2 at 1824 Elm Street.
Brad and Karen are longtime residents of OTR and active members of the community. “We had decided to open a kitchenware store after we retired, and then we started thinking about where to do it,” says Brad. Retirement seemed like an opportunity to start a new life chapter in a new city. The two have children scattered across the country – a son in San Francisco, another in Houston, others in Portland and Baltimore, so relocation was tempting. “But,” he continues, “ we thought about how much we have invested in the neighborhood, the work we’ve done here, and we realized we wanted to continue to be a part of it.”
Brad and Karen, for example, are founding members of Believe in Cincinnati, the progressive citizen organization responsible for promoting successful public transportation systems in the city. Now owners of a business planted right along the streetcar route, the two have a tax abatement set up to fund directly the operation and maintenance of the system.
Opening a business is never an easy task, and the experience of Brad and Karen is no exception. The two struggled at first to find a location. “The point was never just to open a storefront and work to make money. We’re doing this because we want to add something to the community, and the most logical place to make a contribution of this sort is around Findlay Market,” explains Karen. So the two had to compete against larger development groups that already have multiple projects in the neighborhood just to secure a property. Perseverance and savvy diplomacy finally earned them the nineteenth-century structure located just on the north edge of the market’s parking lot.
The building’s renovation is a mix of thoughtful renovation and clever innovation. Karen, a graphic designer by trade, designed the store’s logo, which is now embedded into the custom Rookwood tiles that pave the Elm Street entrance. A connected stairway tower allows secure access to the two upper-floor apartments, ready for tenants after so many years of vacancy and neglect. Wrap-around decks and a paved easement link the building with its market host, inviting patrons back and forth between the historic structures.
Brad and Karen are ready to welcome shoppers to their new store on Saturday. They look forward to serving a broad range of the community. “We have some very fine French cookware,” they are proud to say. It reflects their philosophy of offering products that are thoughtfully designed and responsibly produced. Such items carry, as one might imagine, a price tag appropriate to their quality. “But we’re here to help everybody. So, we have a wide range of prices and products.” Karen adds, “We want neighborhood kids to come in to the store and know they can find gifts for their parents.”
We’ll see you on Saturday at Findlay, cincyopolis readers!
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