The past decade’s zeitgeist in Over-the-Rhine, especially on Main Street, has produced a slew of new and engaging businesses aimed at fostering a renewed interest in local goods and services catering to a burgeoning influx of young, creative and energetic people.
All it took was a casual conversation at a summer barbecue for a few of these entrepreneurs to know they had the ideas, chemistry and assets to get something off the ground. Alisha Budkie, owner and operator of existing Main Street storefront Smartfish Studio & Sustainable Supply, where she sells her handmade shoes and fine art supplies, found kindred spirits in Lindsay Nehls and Adam Petersen of the Marburg Collective, a group of like-minded musicians and artists working to promote and showcase acts in the growing local music scene.
Their idea has taken the form of Rock Paper Scissors, a record store and supply shop utilizing a synergistic trinity. The name is a testament to Budkie, Nehls and Peterson’s vision — incorporating music (“Rock”), locally-sourced art supplies (“Paper”) and various workshops (“Scissors”).
“And it’s a fun game,” jokes Petersen.
The full scope of what they provide is a combination of what the three already do best.
Budkie has been pushing her flagship product, Smartfish Shoes, from her studio and shop located on the corner of 13th and Main streets. She’s also been working tirelessly over the past few years as the force behind local arts movements with events such as OTR Final Fridays, Second Sundays on Main and Crafty Supermarket.
Her shoe sales have steadily increased since national and international demand skyrocketed via word of mouth and snowballing through the blogosphere. The local market alone makes up almost 90 percent of her manageable production output, so to fill her orders she needs to devote the majority of time to this aspect of her trade.
“I’ve realized that I was doing neither the shoes or the supply/workshop side of the storefront justice by doing everything on my own,” Budkie says.
In order to keep things running smoothly, Budkie has joined forces with Nehls and Petersen.
The Marburg Collective has evolved over the past few years into a veritable DIY music label and promotion outfit. It started out as a community of University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music student musicians and artists who moved into the Marburg Hotel building in Clifton in 2008 and promptly started curating an open mic event downstairs, “Open Mind Night.” It continued successfully for 21 consecutive months until the group was forced to find new places to live.
The diaspora of individuals from a central location didn’t dampen their collective resolve, however, and a core group of acts such as ADM (one of Petersen’s monikers), Carnal Unit, The Happy Maladies and SHADOWRAPTR has developed as key players headlining Marburg shows, booking gigs for under-the-radar acts and collaborating on new musical configurations over the past two years. Marburg is heavily involved in an online platform containing press kits and information on booking and collaboration. Petersen does the bulk of the work in regards to organization and communication, and his leadership role combined with Nehls’ experience in retail will bring an authoritative yet open work ethic to the running of Rock Paper Scissors.
Nehls and Petersen now control more of the day-to-day operations of the shop and are working on expanding both the sustainable art supply product line and workshop schedule, which already includes stitching, shoe and sandal making, natural dye methods and more. Budkie will spend more time on her cobbling skills and take some well-deserved time ‘off’ to pursue further training.
Meanwhile, Budkie’s shoes will remain in the store. The managerial shift is not a change of focus, just a wider reach. With the re-opening of the newly outfitted shop this past Second Sunday, a new locus of activity and community has taken root. And, at the end of the day, it’s still simply for the love of the craft.
“I’ve realized that this is what I love doing,” Budkie says. “I want to build on the skills I have and make even better shoes, the kind of shoes you would wear and keep for the rest of your life.”
Increasing investment in the physical space and the transition from Smartfish to Rock Paper Scissors shows Budkie’s dedication to selling her goods in Cincinnati and increasing the new management’s retail repertoire.
Even though several Marburg artists will be represented at RPS, the relationship with the brick-and-mortar start-up is merely an affiliation. This venture is about diversification and reach; the DIY and hyper-local spirit of both enterprises will work in unison to create a space for people to grasp Cincinnati’s creative cultural landscape in a very hands-on way.
While functioning like a typical record store, RPS focuses on consigned merchandise representing bands from the Greater Cincinnati area. A lot of groups already work with local producers like South Paw print shop.
For instance, local acts can bring in T-shirts, CDs and zines to sell while taking instructional workshops on creating products such as these. Rock Paper Scissors plans to expand the “information hub” aspect of the storefront by compiling lists of artists, graphic designers and printmakers thirsting to work with musicians.
Tattoo artists, illustrators, sign painters and anybody else looking for supplies can also meet their needs at the centrally located Over-the-Rhine shop. With everything they’re offering, from fine art shows, local music and merchandise to supplies and workshops, any Cincinnatian with a desire to support this local maker movement shouldn’t be disappointed.
“A lot of the other great businesses on Main Street are already doing this. We’re just adding, expanding and putting it all under one roof,” says Nehls.
Throughout Marburg’s history they’ve worked to put an emphasis on bringing visual artists and musicians together to foster the conditions where locals feel comfortable and encouraged to intertwine their eclectic forms of creative expression, and Rock Paper Scissors is simply the next step in creating a permanent space for this endeavor.
ROCK PAPER SCISSORS is located at 1301 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. More info: rpscincinnati.com.