BEST HAND-SEWN DENIM FOR DUDES
Every man wants a pair of hand-sewn, quality jeans — even if he doesn’t know it. And that service and expertise is what NOBLE Denim provides. Each pair of jeans is handmade and tailored for the person who wears them. Founder, creative director and jeansmith Chris Sutton sets his brand apart by using organic, reclaimed and responsibly sourced American-made materials to craft his jeans. And by focusing on producing quality and sustainable denim rather than on production costs, he’s able to create ethical, small-batch jeans with an emphasis on the product, not the bottom line. 2929 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, 513-560-5640, nobledenim.com.
BEST STORE TO FILM A DRESSING ROOM MONTAGE
What can we say about the incredibleness that is the House of Adam? Founded in 1955 and nestled in some prime downtown real estate, this men’s clothing store has a fantastic array of window displays boasting brightly colored suits, hats and crocodile shoes, all lining the walkway to the back-set front door. With the promise of finding unique and flare-filled outfits inside, who can resist the call of Adam? 622 Vine St., Downtown, 513-241-0542.
BEST COMPREHENSIVE BOUTIQUE FOR MEN
It seems like men are seeking the boutique treatment more and more these days, and flow: a shop for men is a simple yet sophisticated answer for the local gentleman. Carrying clothing and accessories from independent designers such as comune, DAAP grad Kristy Nguyen and awesome sock brand Richer Poorer as well as select handpicked vintage items and quality consignment, flow is a complete outfitter for the modern man. And with an economically designed, rugged-ish storefront, men will feel comfortable going out for an afternoon of shopping. 621 Scott Blvd., Covington, 859-291-3569, facebook.com/gentlemanflow.
BEST WAY TO REP OHIO
In 2009, designer/DJ/businessman Floyd Johnson began printing his trademark “Ohio Against the World” T-shirts as an appropriation of a Nike slogan — “Brooklyn Against the World” — in order to respond to and affirm the capability and creativity of those of us in the Midwest. His street style brand has since expanded/exploded to include oversized tank tops, leather caps and sweatshirts that play off other brands and designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Givenchy, Chanel and Hermes. The latter influence brought his brand to the attention of Pop star Rihanna, who has been photographed out and about by paparazzi wearing her OATW Hermes-inspired hat. (Johnson mimicked the fashion house’s Collier de Chien gold spiked hardware and affixed it to a leather hat.) He was also recently featured in Jet magazine and a publication in Japan. So Ohio’s not only against, but also all around the world. oatw-usa.com.
BEST ETHICALLY SOURCED SARTORIAL SELECTION
VogueVert is a curated online shopping boutique that offers the “conscious minded woman access to the newest, most talented green and compassionate designers.” Founded by Cincinnati-based Kathy Hamm, a financial advisor, artist and philanthropist, VogueVert’s beautifully made, high-end designs are conscious luxury goods that support women, animals and the environment. Handbags, accessories, jewelry — they’re all ethically constructed. And if supporting the mission of VogueVert by buying products wasn’t enough, one dollar from every purchase and 10 percent of their overall profits go to the VogueVert Charitable Foundation to fund scholarships for design students with similar values. It’s time to look good in green. voguevert.com.
BEST FASHION-FORWARD VEGAN PURSE PURVEYOR
Not every vegan wants to carry a hemp tote. Luckily, Substance boutique’s collection of animal print clutches, brightly colored leatherette bags and faux-ostrich purses look and feel better than the real thing. And with a large selection of other sustainable clothing items mixed in with their own one-of-a-kind recycled “The Design Lab” collection (created by in-house designers using discontinued or overstock styles) and other trend-based stock, Substance is a must-stop on Main. It’s also the second Ohio location for the boutique, which has roots in Columbus. 1435 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-0545, shopsubstance.com.
BEST PLACE TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT BAD EYES
Hip and friendly Holte Eyewear on Hyde Park Square stocks funky frames not found at optician chains. Ryan J. Holte knows just how far to push you out of your comfort zone while making shopping fun. He’ll even order in frames just so you — and he — can see how they look, without pressure to buy. With this service, you’ll feel like a celeb (and you might even spot one through your new lenses; we saw Bengals QB Andy Dalton stop in). Open daily, and there’s meter money on the counter if you’re out of change. 2727 Erie Ave., 513-321-4000, holteeyewear.com; Harper’s Point Eye Associates, 8211 Cornell Road, Suite 510, Symmes Township, 513-489-4000.
BEST PLACE TO SHOD YOUR PAWS
Morrison & Me owners Amy Gaudio-Morrison and Tim Morrison met when they were sales reps at BCBG and, as the website adorably states, that’s when they “decided to be a ‘pair.’ ” As the only exclusively haute couture shoe store in Cincinnati, Morrison & Me offers high fashion footwear and unique pedi-pieces at reasonable prices. You’ll find stock from House of Harlow, Jeffrey Campbell, All Black, TOMS, Frye and so many more that you’ll never need to shoe shop at the mall again. 2643 Erie Ave., Suite B, Hyde Park, 513-232-7463, morrisonandme.com.
BEST SUPPLY OF KIDS’ CLOTHES YOU WISH YOU FIT IN
When kids dress like tiny adults, it’s hilarious. And The Spotted Goose outfits kids of all ages — infant through 12 — in unique and trendy clothing, just like mom’s (or how mom wishes she dressed ... or at least how we wish we dressed). Upscale apparel, accessories, fabric teepees and more fill this store where parents and children can shop, play and learn. The Goose even offers a variety of classes and events such as sign language for babies in addition to their merchandise. 3048 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-351-9600, thespottedgoose.com.
BEST DRESS UP BOX FOR ADULTS
Looking for a consignment shop with vintage items at reasonable prices? Maybe items that lean heavily toward psychedelic colors, flashes of sequins and nostalgic trends while maintaining a fashionable sensibility? Check out Chicken Lays an Egg in Northside, where the majority of items are $5-$25. You’ll find a colorful, eclectic mix of just about everything at this store, including apparel, jewelry, board games, shoes, toys and more. As one shopper said, “Chicken Lays an Egg is what it looks like in John Waters’ brain,” and don’t we all want to go to there? 1608 Chase Ave., Northside, 513-834-9268.
BEST CONTEMPORARY KIDS’ SHOP
The gift shop at the Contemporary Arts Center has loads of creative and well-designed goodies for adults, but their collection of children’s products is hard to rival. Educational, clever, witty and artistic, the gift shop’s products geared toward the little ones — such as their re-colorable placemats and uber bright topsy-turvy stacking blocks — definitely take a cue from the CAC’s UnMuseum, a gallery of interactive art commissioned by the museum and designed by first-rate artists to offer children and parents an innovative museum experience beyond learning stations. 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-345-8400, contemporaryartscenter.org.
BEST TOY STORE FOR TOTS
Ted’s Toy Store in Madeira features specialty toys to build the imagination. This locally owned, independent shop offers hundreds of toys hand-selected by the owners, many of which have won awards here and abroad. Some notable favorites include Snap Circuits LIGHT, which lights up to the beat when you attach your iPod; Feed the Woozle, a team-building game for ages 3-6; and Puppets-on-a-Stick, colorful, over-sized puppets with moveable mouths. 6934 Miami Ave., Madeira, 513-271-8697, tedstoystore.com.
BEST PLACE TO KNOCK ON WOOD
Brighton Exchange is a contemporary furniture and accessories brand handcrafted by Hayes Shanesy and Rosie Kovacs, the team behind design studio the Brush Factory. Their wood works of furniture and household items are more like works of art because of the material-focused, simple, sustainable and functional approach they take toward craftsmanship. Everything they make is handmade with heart and the appropriate amount of time; there is no mass production. Taking orders for individuals and businesses, Brighton Exchange recently completed a custom order of walnut serving boards for the new Brooklyn bar, Tørst. Popular items in their online store include maple coffee scoops; maple and cork Bottle Rocks, which are reusable wine stoppers; and beautiful white oak tabletop valets to use to display or store linens. 1102 Harrison Ave., Brighton, 513-703-3494, brighton-exchange.com.
BEST PLACE TO FIND A PAPER MÂCHÉ SNAIL
More akin to a party than a traditional craft show, Crafty Supermarket’s innovative and trendy market showcases crafts, trinkets and artwork by local and regional artists, who have all been through a juried selection process. The market provides a place for artisans to connect with consumers and educate the public about conscientious consumption and craftiness. Also, there’s always a DJ and food. Next show is April 27. Clifton Cultural Arts Center, 3711 Clifton Ave., Clifton, craftysupermarket.wordpress.com.
BEST LOCAL LADY GROUPON ALTERNATIVE
Cincinnati Select is a loyalty program created by five local female-owned businesses — Kathy Jones Skin Care, Parlour, Pure Barre Cincinnati, Sherri Barber Photography and Sloane Boutique — that offers clients exclusive discounts and benefits at these prime fashion, fitness, health and style locations. Spend a minimum amount at any of the five businesses and get a Cincinnati Select punch card, which provides you with exclusive benefits at each one, including a discount. Spend again and get another card. There’s no limit to how much you can spend or save. Learn more at facebook.com/cincinnatiselect.
BEST RESIDENT DOG IN A SHOP
Looking through the glass front door of Atomic Number Ten, you can catch a flash of caramel and white and a pinkish nose out of the corner of your eye. And that waggy flash is Scout, owner Katie Garber’s sweet, loyal and adorable furry companion. Scout hangs out in the front of the store by the collection of vintage boots or on the welcome mat, waiting to greet passers-by and for a daily treat from the mailman. Scout might be a secret ploy to get people to stay and shop Atomic’s stock of vintage for “him, her and home” a bit longer, making customers more likely to buy, but with that wiggly butt and a love of tummy rubs, we certainly don’t mind. #scoutlove. 1306 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-226-0252,
BEST ONE-STOP LOCAL HANDMADE SHOP
Sometimes buying stuff off of Etsy is irritating because you have to wait for delivery and pay for shipping, but, happily, Fabricate has taken those two elements out of the equation. The boutique and gallery hybrid focuses on carrying local unique and handmade/upcycled items and art in their Northside storefront. With products including jewelry, clothing, stationery, accessories, soap, housewares, plush, furniture, lighting, prints and more from your favorite local artisans, Fabricate makes shopping local easy. 4037 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-407-6057, fabnorthside.com.
BEST OUTSIDE-THE-BOX FLORIST
Kristen Sekowski, owner and founder of Yellow Canary Flowers & Event Design, holds several arts degrees (BFA in Studio Art, MFA in Art History) and an advanced certificate from the Floral Design Institute in Portland, Ore. And after working for years planning and executing wedding ceremonies, receptions, galas and other special events, she founded her own design studio, Yellow Canary, in 2007. Sekowski and her team can style all aspects of your event, from the favors and vendors to the rentals and tablescapes, but unique floral design is their specialty — bold, tone-on-tone, modern, textural. Unexpected vases, mixed foliage, creative asymmetry — all add to the fresh elegance of Yellow Canary creations. 333 W. Benson St., Reading, 859-609-2020, yellowcanaryonline.com.
BEST SECONDHAND FURNITURE FINDS
Legacies in Hyde Park Plaza has upscale furniture, accessories and unique art at resale prices. The inventory changes from day to day (or more like moment to moment) but it’s always a treat to see gently used furniture, home goods and jewelry displayed with the flair you expect from high-end vendors. And the best part is that all proceeds benefit the Cancer Support Community, a resource center providing free support services to cancer patients and their families throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. 3854 Paxton Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-8899, legacies.biz.
BEST THRIFT STORE TO BENEFIT FURRY FRIENDS
The Peppermint Pig Thrift & Gift is a 100 percent volunteer-run thrift store that supports the Peppermint Pig Animal rescue, a no-kill rescue and adoption center for dogs and cats. With more than 500 animals rescued last year, the Pig relies completely on the support of volunteers, foster homes and the money coming in from the thrift store and donations to run their operations, which include medical care for all of their animals. Visit the Pig on Adoption Saturdays to meet their available pets, shop or volunteer to become a foster parent. 8255 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, 513-474-0005, peppermintpig.org.
BEST PLACE TO FIND A STATUE OF BUDDHA
An exotic storefront in the heart of Over-the-Rhine, The Little Mahatma is full of artifacts, jewelry and folk art from far-off lands. Open for more than 20 years, the ownership has recently changed hands but that won’t change the heart of the store. Inside you’ll always find religious notions from the world’s traditional cultures such as miniature wooden figurines of Ganesh, hamsa amulets and Our Lady of Guadalupe paintings. You’ll also find beautiful metalwork, colorful hangings, an excellent selection of turquoise and amber and any other exotic find you desire. 1205 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-723-1287, thelittlemahatma.com.
BEST SEWING SPACE
Sewn Studio modern fabric shop and sewing lounge offers completely unique sewing supplies and fresh fabrics from designers such as Amy Butler, Tula Pink, Moda and others you won’t see anywhere else in town along with a large selection of monthly workshops for everyone from beginners to advanced sewers. Learn to make everything from quilts and clothing to bags and dolls or join a sew-in, where you can enjoy snacks, space and assistance with a project in their sewing studio.
Studio time, which includes use of space, machines and tools, is also available when classes and events are not in session. 3212 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-321-0600, sewnstudio.com.
BEST GLOBAL FABRIC SUPPLY
St. Teresa Textile Trove is a fabric supply source that carries Mexican oilcloth, mud cloth, African cotton prints, batik and other uniquely patterned fabrics along with buttons, beads (vintage, German glass, hand-dyed bone), workshops and a fun quilt pack of the month club. Join the club to receive quilting fabric and coordinating embellishments (beads, buttons, etc.) themed by color, pattern, country of origin, designer, company or season. Pendleton Art Center, 1310 Pendleton St., Pendleton, 859-380-2833, sttheresatextile.com.
BEST LETTERPRESS AND DESIGN
Steam Whistle uses carefully restored vintage letterpresses, such as their 1891 Chandler & Price printing press, to print their full range of custom designed invitations, stationery, announcements, art pieces, business cards, posters, notebooks and more. With more than 100 cases of wood and lead type, this print shop is on point in catering to today’s interest in a blend of historic and contemporary. They also offer workshops for those who want to learn how to handset type to create print media such as wood type postcards, letterpress business cards and broadside posters. 1342 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-6800, steamwhistlepress.com.
BEST STATIONERY WITH STYLE
Poeme Stationary Boutique brings shoppers back to a time when personal correspondence happened over paper and pen instead of screen and keyboards. The store carries a wide range of beautiful note cards, thank you cards, stationery sets, journals, planners and lovely, quality pens with which to write on them. Our favorite? The Retro 51 Tornado Monochrome collection stainless steel pen finished in bubblegum pink. They also have unique paper-inspired gifts along with whimsical wrapping paper. They even offer custom invitation design services. 3446 Michigan Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-4999, poeme-online.com.
BEST PLACE TO OUT YOURSELF AS A CRAZY CAT HUMAN
If you’re a cat lover and stumble into Oakley’s Confetti Cats, it might equate a certain amount of danger. They have oodles of cat paraphernalia, from cat figurines, cat mugs and cat socks to cat T-shirts for humans, and they also sell catnip and toys for your feline pals. The best part is they donate a lot of their money to shelters. 3184 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-533-9996, confetticats.com.
BEST SELECTION OF CHARLEY AND EDIE HARPER ARTWORK
The family-owned and -operated Fabulous Frames and Art has been providing full-service custom framing services for more than 30 years, but they also happen to run the Charley Harper Store (charleyharper.com), which is the largest Charley Harper art dealer in the world. Charley, an Art Academy of Cincinnati graduate who went on to illustrate for the likes of The Golden Book of Biology, Ford Times and the National Park Service, was known for his highly stylized geometric reductions of wildlife, and Edie, his wife, was well-known for her whimsical depictions of cats and Christian imagery. Fabulous Frames offers a huge selection of both Harper’s seriographs, lithographs, giclées, posters and prints. They also offer a ton of other Harper merchandise, including iPhone cases. Multiple locations, fabframes.com.
BEST MAVERICK BRIDAL BOUTIQUE
The Reading Bridal District and the shops and services of the Covington Wedding District have a monopoly on local matrimonial necessities. And while the all-in-one mentality is great, sometimes it’s nice to step away from the pack. Enter Amanda’s Hyde Park Bridal, the new specialty bridal boutique in the heart of Hyde Park — going literally where no bridal boutique has been before. As a graduate of DAAP who has worked for magazines such as Glamour and Elle, the owner, Amanda Topits, provides an exclusive selection of designers including Badgley Mischka Bride, Lillen Collection, Hayley Paige, Blush and more, with dresses ranging from $1,500 to $9,000. Each bride-to-be gets the royal treatment with the store all to herself and the staff’s undivided attention when she makes her individual appointment. And all appointments include special parking, champagne and cupcakes. A separate bridesmaids boutique is also available. 3319 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-1800, hydeparkbridal.com.
BEST HOMEMADE MAKEUP YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE AT HOME
Handmade, hand-mixed and hand-selected cosmetics ensure high-quality bath and body products at Blink Makeup Studio. Defying rules and limits, owners Niki McClanahan and Megan Kelly believe the number of combinations and colors you can create with cosmetics are endless. Blink takes pride in offering all-natural ingredients to create customized beauty and bath products based on your personal tastes and color preferences. Northside International Airport, 4029 Hamilton Ave., Northside, email@example.com.
BEST WHAM BAM MANI-PEDI
Ambiance Nail Salon & Spa offers the fastest mani-pedi in town. While some ladies (and gentlemen) want to languish for several relaxing hours in a spa with their feet and hands on hot stones or in bowls of floating lotus flowers, some people like to get in and out of a nail salon quickly, with professional results. Ambiance’s Express Manicure ($12) offers the basics of nail trimming, shaping, cuticle grooming, buffing, conditioning and color of your choice, and the Express Pedicure ($25 for wet; $18 for dry) offers the same, but on your feet. You can even get your hands and feet done simultaneously. Get basic grooming and pretty nails and get out. 2709 Madison Road, Hyde Park, 513-924-9900, ambiancenailsalon.com.
BEST CREATIVE EVENT DESIGN
Margot Madison Creative offers creative details and consulting for all of your event needs. A graphic designer by trade, Madison loves fine paper, ribbons and other ephemera and has used this interest to create beautiful, custom event invitations for more than 15 years. (Her invitations have appeared in the likes of Brides magazine and InStyle Weddings magazine.) Today she combines that ability and vision with perfect party theme ideas to create an event that fits your style and budget. Everything she does is gorgeous, with a carefully crafted DIY aesthetic that looks totally comprehensive yet effortlessly chic. By appointment only. 513-871-2069, margotmadisonstationery.com.
BEST HISTORIC GREENHOUSES
For five generations, the A.J. Rahn Greenhouses have been providing Cincinnatians with annuals, indigenous perennials, houseplants, culinary herbs, vegetables and fruits plants. Open year-round, each plant is grown on location — including the rose bushes, which are grown from roots — in the property/family’s 10,000 square feet of traditional, historic glass greenhouses, which shoppers are free to wander. See the plants’ growing progress firsthand and get lost in the maze-like wonderland of Victorian-esque glass. 4944 Gray Road, Northside, 513-541-0672, ajrahngreenhouses.com.
BEST VINTAGE SHOP YOU’LL WANT TO KEEP ALL TO YOURSELF
Edie’s Vintage Rose Room is a small store — more like a fantastic grandmother’s closet — packed with pristine vintage, hand-selected by Edie herself. Unlike other vintage shops where you have to troll through racks and piles of stained and ripped vintage to find the good stuff, Edie has one-of-a-kind pieces, all treasures. People rave about her hat collection, accessories, shoes and clothing, along with her costume jewelry by real designers. Note: Because the shop is run by the wonderful Edie herself, it’s best to call ahead to check to see if she’s open. 3241 Harrison Ave., Cheviot,
BEST FEMALE-CENTRIC START-UP ADVOCATE
Bad Girl Ventures is a micro-financing organization dedicated to assisting and inspiring female entrepreneurs. Although women own 50 percent of all privately held companies, they only have access to 5 percent of traditional capital. And the program at BGV intends to be a highly localized micro-lending organization focusing on female entrepreneurs to help them build and sustain a well-managed, profitable business through guidance, education and access to capital. The BGV program and competition invites 10 finalists to participate in a nine-week business essentials course, guided by a mentor, to complete a business plan, a marketing plan, three-year financial projections and a SBA loan application. The winner receives a $25,000 loan. badgirlventures.com.
BEST DUDES MAKING STUFF
The Losantiville design collective brings together a diverse group of people to share space, tools and a storefront showroom in Over-the-Rhine. Inside the storefront, you’ll find any number of members from the following budding businesses toiling away: Such + Such, Dixon Branded, Ampersand, The LaunchWerks, Chris Heckman and Ian Keller. All members work creatively to blend function, design and innovation in all of their products ranging from wood clocks to cardboard wall pockets to lighting sculptures. 1311 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-214-7732, losantivilleltd.com.
BEST PLACE TO DRINK NEAR SCISSORS
Parlour offers a modern twist on a typical hair salon as creativity blossoms throughout the industrial-esque space. A salon and gallery hybrid, you’ll find art, locally made jewelry/accessories and grooming all tied into one location. Services include customized haircuts, color, waxing, nail treatments and more, so take a look at some art or shop from your chair while you’re getting your highlights. And if getting your hair done isn’t relaxing enough? No worries, a complimentary cocktail is included with every service. FREE DRINK! 2600 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, 513-961-4247, salonparlour.com.
BEST PLACE TO MEET OTHERS WHO ENJOY COST-EFFECTIVE SUNDAY MORNING WINE TASTINGS
After meeting wine representatives at his part-time job in a liquor store in college, Michael Maxwell was hooked. He moved to Cincinnati and worked in the wine department at Party Source before opening Market Wines at Findlay Market. Maxwell provides a relaxed, bar-like feel to his shop of more than 500 wines and variety of beer from around the world. Market Wines also offers everyone’s favorite $5 weekend wine tastings. Maxwell and his staff never over-describe the vino and you’re likely to run into some local politicians, musicians, bartenders, writers and other well-known people along with some new friends. Findlay Market, 128 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-744-9888, findlaymarket.org/merchants/market-wines.
BEST PLACE TO FIND PABST BLUE RIBBON IN A BOTTLE
As tenured bartenders, the owners of The Listing Loon, Beth Harris and Dave Mikkelsen, have a vast working knowledge of specialty beer and wine and have hand-selected the vino and microbrews that line the shelves of their Northside carryout. Opened to satisfy their own desire for a place that carried the kind of beers they wanted to drink — for Harris, it was Pabst Blue Ribbon in a bottle — The Listing Loon carries beers they like and are familiar with, as well as beers they know their customers want to drink; part of the driving force behind the selections at the store are customers’ suggestions and requests. And now they even carry wine. 4124 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-5666, listingloon.com.
BEST INEDIBLE CANDY CONFECTIONS
Designer Carla Morales’ glass line — glace: glass confections — features handmade glass plates, coasters and jewelry resembling everything from mint chocolate chip ice cream to candy dots and lemon squares, and all of them look good enough to eat. As an instructor at the Brazee Street Studios school of glass, Morales noticed that the gloss, translucency and color of the glass (which was named after the likes of butterscotch and marzipan) in the retail shop made it look more like a candy store than an art supply store. So she decided to translate that into her creations, which are based on the nostalgia of childhood confections. Yum. Brazee Street Studios, 4426 Brazee St., Oakley, 513-321-0206, carlarabbit.com.
BEST BASEMENT IN WHICH TO WILLFULLY DRAIN AWAY AN HOUR OR THREE
Another Part of the Forest is a used record/bookstore on Main Street in the thick of Over-the-Rhine (a couple doors down from Iris Bookcafe) that’s really easy to miss. It’s totally dingy inside and there’s no semblance of any kind of organization, which gives it a lot of charm. Prices are really reasonable and the basement is literally overflowing with vintage, hard-to-find magazines and books. There’s a little area with a couple of stools so you can plop down and soak in everything around you. Reminds us of something the High Fidelity dudes would appreciate. 1333 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/anotherpartoftheforest.
BEST ROAD TRIP PLANNER
Forget AAA. Roadtrippers.com is the best way to “Discover Your America” and to plan and book your dream road trip route. Just type in your starting address and destination and Roadtrippers will not only calculate your route, fuel cost, etc., but they’ll also provide you with a list of the most awesome independent places in America to stop along the way. Designed by James and Tatiana Fisher, graduates of local The Brandery’s seed stage start-up accelerator, and curated by experts and travel writers, you’ll find eccentric roadside attractions, natural wonders, foodie feasts and more. Create an account to save your favorite places, favorite destinations and bucket lists, or just type and drive. roadtrippers.com.
BEST DRAG DEPOT
A little makeup and a dress does not a drag queen make. Professional drag entertainers require elaborate wigs, padding to achieve that feminine shape, costumes galore and much more. Along with his trusty team of The SweatShoppe assistants,Tony Cody (aka Penny Tration) buys, creates and sells drag accessories out of this Pendleton workshop between appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race and hosting countless drag gigs around town. Drag queens (and maybe just a few wig-lovin’ ladies) from across the globe visit The SweatShoppe on ebay for all their accessorizing needs. If you’ve ever seen someone sew a wig from scratch, you know this is a time-consuming art form. ebay.com/the-sweatshoppe.
BEST REASON TO WELCOME A CATHOUSE
The nonprofit Ohio Alleycat Resource & Spay/Neuter Clinic found homes for a record 355 cats and kittens last year, and its low-cost clinic fixed more than 8,000 felines, also a record. But OAR’s biggest news was the groundbreaking last fall for a spacious adoption center across from its existing building in Madisonville. Opening this summer, the shelter will include screened-in outdoor areas, so the cats can privately start primping the moment they see potential adopters arrive. 5616 Orlando Place, Madisonville, 513-871-7297, ohioalleycat.org.
BEST VET BET
The compassionate staff at the Animal Hospital on Mount Lookout Square truly loves animals. Not only will they go above and beyond for pets that are brought to them as patients, they’ll also treat injured wildlife (squirrels) free of charge. And their waiting room is full of adorable, adoptable creatures waiting for forever homes. 3175 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-871-8866, ahomls.com.
BEST PLACE TO PREPARE FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURE
Whether you need equipment for kayaking, camping, hiking, backpacking or other adventures, Roads, Rivers & Trails has the experience and equipment to help. RRT is owned by four young locals who live the life and stock stuff they know. They also took the storefront next door and made it Studio E, where they have classes in first aid, disaster preparedness, talks from local adventurers like a National Geographic expedition participant, as well as yoga, dance, etc. They also have a Green Umbrella team, a local campaign to move residents to adopt behaviors that will positively impact the environment. 118 Main St., Milford, 513-248-7787, roadsriversandtrails.com.
BEST GYM FOR NON-GYM PEOPLE
No meatheads here. The fitness center in the basement of the YWCA is a laid-back, welcoming and supportive environment. The co-ed center is clean, small, has really reasonable rates and an expert staff. Come in for a quick session on the elliptical, join one of the many group fitness classes (spinning, yoga, water aerobics or a 45-minute “lunch express” class) or do laps in the largest indoor downtown pool. They also offer self-defense courses. 898 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-241-7090, ywca.org.
BEST PEACFUL YOGA PRACTICE
World Peace Yoga and Motion Studio is dedicated to nurturing the body, mind and soul through yoga, dance, Pilates and more. Accessible to all ages and abilities, this studio aims to create a meditative sanctuary to allow us to connect with our inner peace. Class offerings run the gamut from Candlelight Yoga and Yin Yoga (a relaxed/passive yoga practice) to Vinyasa Yoga and Jivamukti Yoga. World Peace is now offering a FREEdom Month of Yoga for all those new to the practice. First timers will enjoy 30 consecutive days of unlimited yoga. 268 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-300-9642, worldpeaceinc.com.
BEST DEATH-ROW DOGGIE HERO
When people choose to throw away recyclables like glass bottles or aluminum cans, it’s almost always because it’s more convenient. It’s a little different, though, when the thing you’re throwing away has a heartbeat, a wagging tail and an insatiable love of peanut butter. Recycled Doggies, an all-foster rescue, scoops up dogs in Ohio and Kentucky shelters that have ended up on death row, places them in foster care and helps them find forever homes. Recycled Doggies is dedicated specifically to saving death row shelter dogs, so they don’t accept owner surrenders or strays. Check the website for upcoming adoption events and to scope out potential pups. 513-275-5842, recycleddoggies.com.
BEST UNIQUE FRAMING SOLUTION
Friends Jake Baker and Jake Gerth, owners of frameshop, are the newest additions to the Over-the-Rhine business landscape. Baker, who has been doing custom framing for years, wanted to open a storefront that specialized in framing with unusual and nontraditional materials, and Gerth’s artistic background was the perfect complement. The creative duo uses items such as reclaimed wood to create statement pieces for customers seeking a non-Michaels/Hobby Lobby framing selection. Rather than thousands of framing options, they offer a carefully curated selection of display frames with more choices in the back. They also sell vintage neon, local art and one-off pieces. 1317 Main St., Over-the-Rhine,
BEST NO-FRILLS CAMERA SHOP
Established in 1975, K&R Photographics was one of the first high-end digital professional suppliers in the country. Built upon a foundation of integrity, they sell the newest and most trusted equipment and offer dependable service; they never sell gray market or alternative import items. Along with selling new and used products (covered by the manufacturers’ warranties and K&R’s experience), they also rent studio space, lights, grips and other assorted equipment and offer independent consultation services to help with digital workflow and color management problems. 538 Terry Lane, Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-341-6986, krphotodigital.com.
BEST PEOPLE TO PAY TO CLEAN YOUR HOUSE FOR YOU
At some point in your life you might feel like you have extra money and are too busy to clean your house, but you really want a clean house. Solution: Call McCarthy’s Home Services. For more than 15 years, Cincinnatians Darren and Trina McCarthy have been helping people have clean homes. With full-service maid cleaning services, as well as window and gutter cleaning options, their quality staff and company have won the Angie’s List Super Service Award for three years in a row. They also give back by partnering with Cleaning for a Reason, a nonprofit that offers the gift of free housecleanings to women undergoing treatment for cancer. 4181 Forsythia Drive, Withamsville, 513-528-0814, mccarthyshomeservices.com.
BEST VACUUM REPAIR
Vacuums are expensive (Dysons are like $600). And their entire mechanical lives are spent sucking up dirt and hair and running into couches and table legs, so sometimes they break. Instead of buying a new one, take your broken one to one of the five Luke’s Sewing Centers locations around town. For more than 40 years, Luke’s has been fixing household, commercial and industrial vacuum cleaners. Today they can fix all makes and models including Dyson, Hoover, Kirby (they’re the only Kirby-authorized service center in Greater Cincinnati) and Eureka vacuums. In addition, they offer a 90-day warranty on all repairs and services. Multiple locations, 513-922-4455, lukessewingcenters.com.
BEST WAY TO SAY I’M THINKING ABOUT YOU
Try a greeting card from The Library Friends’ Shop at the main branch location of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. This gift shop, located on the mezzanine level, carries a ton of interesting products pertaining to the library, literature, Cincinnati and the surrounding area. There are great literary-themed products, geneaology materials, toys for all ages, Charley Harper and pig-themed items, new books, old books and a huge selection of beautiful greeting cards. Thoughtfully selected, the cards cover all the bases — birthday, sympathy, thank you — with special displays for holidays. With an intelligent, DIY aesthetic, there are no corny cards here; just funny, well-designed ephemera anyone would be happy to get in the mail. And all profits from the shop are used to help fund the activities and programs sponsored by The Friends of the Library, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the library make information and knowledge accessible to the communities it serves. 800 Vine St., Downtown, 513-369-6920, friends.cincinnatilibrary.org.
BEST HUMAN GROOMER
Eyebrows can be the windows to the soul or two furry little caterpillars meeting in the middle of your forehead. Jenny Simon of Jenny Simon FACE spa would prefer the former. A licensed managing esthetician with years of experience (working directly with a plastic surgeon performing numerous anti-aging procedures, along with performing waxing, facials and makeup application at elite salons), Simon has perfected the art of perfecting. At her full-service facial salon, you can get customized facials, personalized makeup and, her specialty, an eyebrow design session with wax and tweeze. Walk away from your appointment with an individualized skincare program that will help sustain a healthy and youthful appearance, a new makeup color palette and sculpted eyebrows that complement your face — all to enhance your natural beauty. 3330 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-FACE, jennysimonface.com.
BEST CANINE CLEANER
The Pet Spot in Norwood is a luxury resort that offers doggie daycare, boarding and grooming. With at least two professional groomers on site at any given time, the Pet Spot takes caring for Fido’s appearance very seriously. They offer show-quality cuts, simple trims and everything in between. All grooming services include much-needed nail trimming and anal gland expression — things you do not want to do at home — along with other shampoo, conditioning and cut basics. They also offer an advanced spa menu, which includes a pawdicure, Ear Ecstasy ear cleaning, gentle joint rub, full massage and some specialized playtime for the pampered pooch. The other great option they offer is that dogs do not have to be crated the entire time they’re waiting for their haircut. Plenty of pups are allowed to wander around the grooming area, free of cages, making for a much more relaxing grooming experience. 2503 Norwood Ave., Norwood, 513-351-7768, thepetspot.com.
BEST STOP FOR REALLY SERIOUS CYCLISTS
It’s no secret that Cincinnati has a love affair with cycling; there are so many great and unique bike shops in town, it’s hard to pick a favorite. But Swallow Bicycle Works, a full-service bike shop for the serious cyclist (located by the Loveland Bike Trail), stands out. The store is owned by couple Sarah and Tom Swallow, who live and breathe cycling — like seven hours uphill in the mud/competitive cyclo-cross kind of biking. And they have all the equipment, hardware, soft goods and sundries you need to complete an enjoyable ride. (In their online store you’ll also find branded race jerseys, bib shorts, wind vests, water bottles and more.) And not only can they help prep you for a ride, they’ll take you on some pretty serious adventures, too. The duo organizes different rides, most recently a Ridgetop Ramble through Shawnee State Forest — a 47-mile ramble. 10655 Loveland Madeira Road, Loveland, 513-683-BIKE, swallowbicycleworks.com.
BEST DECADES-OLD ANTIQUE MARKET
Ten minutes south of Cincinnati, you’ll find the Burlington Antique Show, the Midwest’s premier antiques and vintage collectibles only show. With more than 200 antique dealers peddling architectural salvage, old books, furniture, antique jewelry, glassware, military items, vintage toys, basketware, cooking utensils and a whole lot more, it’s no wonder the market was recently featured on PBS’ Market Warriors. With all the time it takes to wander around the indoor/outdoor booths, factor in a food stop. There are food booths dotting the market expanse serving up yummies such as country ham sandwiches and pulled pork BBQ, as well as Hawaiian ices and freshly popped popcorn. Held the third Sunday of the month April-October; $5 admission. 5819 Idlewild Road, Burlington, Ky., burlingtonantiqueshow.com.
BEST SPLURGE-WORTHY BOUTIQUE
The Wardrobe in Madeira carries an impressive list of international and updated traditional designers: M Missoni, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Minkoff, Red Valentino, Ted Baker London and many more. With a focus on luxury fashion, the prices are a bit steep, but the quality of clothing and customer service make up for it. They offer a full selection of apparel, shoes, handbags and accessories as well as personal styling and private appointments. All clothing is tailored, free of charge, and the owners will schedule in-home and private appointments (and home delivery) if you can’t make store hours. They also offer advanced styling services with Wardrobe Therapy (wardrobetherapyllc.com), where stylists come to your home and work with you and your closet to reimagine your clothes for everyday outfits and special occasions. 6904 Miami Ave., Madeira, 513-271-4800, thewardrobecincinnati.com.
BEST SPA DAY, THE ORGANIC WAY
Andrea and Ashley Lauren are the professional hair and makeup artists behind ALBA (Andrea Lauren Beauty Associates) Organic Beauty Studios. Since 2003, they’ve been serving the production, bridal and beauty industries in Cincinnati and have worked with top-tier companies such as the Food Network, E!, MSNBC, Disney and even Paul McCartney. Their new salon offers all of their professional expertise in one location — makeup, hair and spa — and all services are natural and nontoxic (even the airbrush tanning). Their nail services — from express to shellac — all use Priti NYC’s luxury, eco-friendly polish, which is all made without toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and camphor (all known carcinogens). Pretty and safe! 2882 Wasson Road, Oakley, 513-631-2522, albabeautystudio.com.
BEST THING TO DO WHEN YOU’RE DRUNK BESIDES EAT
Scientists say that having a couple of drinks makes you more creative. Only one way to find out: Stop by Cheers to Art!, the canvas painting studio/bar for an evening of acrylics and booze. With the mentality of painting as entertainment, the instructors at Cheers to Art! will guide you through a stress-free featured painting exercise with step-by-step instructions, so there is literally no painting experience necessary (and only a little drinking experience needed). Each session includes a pre-stretched canvas, paint, brushes, easels, apron and a bar, so you don’t have to bring anything from home except yourself and maybe a friend. Grab a drink, grab a brush and walk home with a painting. Not a bad way to spend an evening; certainly better than drinking on the couch. 7700 Camargo Road, Madeira, 513-271-2793; 1109 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-2051, cheerstoart.com.
BEST SHOE REPAIR, FEET-DOWN
Clarence Howell has been repairing shoes for more than 35 years. Growing up in Atlanta, Howell shined shoes and cleaned shoe shops to pay his way through school. Then, at 19, he moved to Cincinnati for work and operated a shoe repair business on the side. Today, Clarence Howell Shoe Repair holds contracts with major upscale retailers in Kenwood and Amberley Village and is a cult favorite of shoe fanatics everywhere (you can’t leave your Jimmy Choos with just anyone). Howell can repair just about any damage to shoes or leather items such as purses. He will replace heels and soles, dye shoes, cut down heels, replace toe tips and even repair damage done by pets (a 90 percent success rate for salvaging badly doggie-damaged items). The prices are good and all services are performed quickly, on-site. 6089 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-531-7463, clarencehowellshoerepair.com.
BEST WAY TO MID-CENTURY MODERNIZE YOUR HOME
Left Coast Modern is the newish décor depot for all things modern from the design era of the 1950s through the 1970s. An extension of their Florida warehouse, which wholesaled furniture, pottery and all things Mid-Century, LCM’s shop on Fourth Street has an ever-changing inventory of sought-after designers including Milo Baughman, Knoll Bitossi, Raymour, Paul McCobb and Dunbar furniture. Look for tulip tables, metal rod Diamond Chairs, Danish loungers, artwork, side tables, glassware and more. 323 W. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-288-2364.