Friday, February 8, 2013
Original Makers Club Launches in Cincinnati Tonight!
If you’ve been near the bustling intersection of 12th and Vine in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine in the last six months, you’ve probably seen this image prominently displayed across the parking lot on the wall of architectural firm A359. When I first laid my hands on a copy of the Cincinnati edition of the Original Makers Club guidebook, the woman sitting next to me at A Tavola recognized it, and wanted to know the story.
The “book,” as the OMC folks call it, is a 64-page, 7” x 10” paperback printed on heavy matte stock and packed with photos (no "advertorial") of 40+ independent Cincinnati businesses and other organizations. This is not your grandfather’s guidebook. Fitting, since every room in Cincinnati’s new 21c museum-hotel – not your grandfather’s hotel – will be stocked with one.
A Louisville start-up, Original Makers Club was founded by photographer Josh Meredith. OMC team member Mike Brady, who is also assistant to 21c founders Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, is managing partner of the Cincinnati operation. (OMC hosted Steve Wilson's birthday party last night in Louisville, and I'll bet it was quite a bash.) OMC guidebooks are in the works for Lexington, where another 21c is under development, and Brooklyn, where OMC will partner with another boutique hotel not affiliated with 21c. Cover illustrations for all the books are by Brooklynite Jon Contino.
But Original Makers Club isn’t just about its guidebooks, which “members” pay on a per-page basis to be included in. Nor is it simply about dovetailing a printed product with a built-in method of distribution. (OMC books are also available free to the public at member businesses.) OMC is partly an aesthetic and lifestyle vision, partly an entrepreneurial collaboration, and partly an ongoing series of events. As Mike Brady told me, “It’s hard for most to grasp the concept until they see it active in their city.”
My curiosity was aroused last summer as I saw that a number of local, independent Cincinnati restaurants I enjoy and respect were choosing to participate. In addition to restaurants, OMC deliberately includes visual artists, floral designers, clothing stores, hair salons, city organizations, etc. in its “curated” mix, which ranges from Jean-Robert's Table to Park + Vine. (You can find a full list at the bottom of this post.)
Folks at one restaurant I spoke to said they decided to sign on for Original Makers Club in lieu of another pay-to-play organization, Greater Cincinnati Independents, aka Eat Local Cincy, which sponsors Cincinnati Restaurant Week (not to be confused with Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week), feeling they had outgrown GCI and hoping that Original Makers Club would help take them to the next level.
Nick Wayne, co-owner of A Tavola with his brother Jared, told me the selling point for him was the presence of OMC books in the 21c hotel rooms, which he thinks will reach a well-targeted audience of Cincinnati visitors who would be interested in what his business and others in Over-the-Rhine are doing. Nick and his wife stayed at Louisville's 21c the weekend they attended OMC's Boat Dock Dinner, and were impressed by the businesses they discovered using the "book" as their guide.
In my ongoing quest to experience one-of-a-kind dinners, the Original Makers Club Dinner Series caught my attention too. Especially after I watched this video of OMC’s very first such dinner, in a bucolic setting on a farm outside of Louisville, complete with a dapper Kentucky gent riding in on a white horse. The first of OMC's "traveling tables" was built for that event.
On a last-minute whim last July when I learned tickets were still available, I headed to Louisville for OMC’s second collaborative dinner, an "underground/pop-up" affair at what turned out to be a mansion overlooking the Ohio River. Although lightning storms prevented our planned pre-dinner boat ride on the Ohio River – complete with matcha tea popcorn snack – we happily huddled around canopied communal tables at the Greystone Estate for a low-country boil prepared by Louisville restaurant (and OMC | LOU member) Hillbilly Tea. The food, libations, and conversation were a delight. Eventually the skies cleared and we cast off the canopies to savor our summer evening overlooking the water.
The Original Makers Club team says that part of its mission is to embrace the culture of each of the cities in which it has a presence. The roster of Cincinnati OMC members is weighted toward downtown and Over-the-Rhine businesses, and my guess is that in holding its launch party tonight on Culvert Street (which I believe is sold out), OMC is embracing an edgier, more urban version of what OMC – and Cincinnati – can be.
Sounds good to me!
I'll happily stay tuned to see what else OMC and its Cincy partners are up to next (on either side of the Ohio River) . . .including yet another new photographic, communal, food-centric venture founder Josh Meredith has launched, called Forage.
OMC | CIN members:
1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab, 21c Museum Hotel / Metropole, 3cdc (Fountain Square, Washington Park); Arnolds Bar and Grill; A Tavola; Bakersfield, Bouquet Restaurant + Wine Bar, Cincinnati Museum Center, Clifton Performance Theatre, Cork + Bottle, Digs, Django Western Tacos / La Poste, Brazee Street Studios, Blue Manatee Bookstore, Ensemble Theatre, Five Dot Design, Flow For Men, 4eg (Four Entertainment Group, which includes The Righteous Room, The Lackman, Mount Adams Pavilion, The Stand, The Sandbar, Alive One, Keystone Bar + Grill, Igby’s, Tap + Go), Framester, Japp’s, Jean-Robert's Table, La Silhouette, Local 127 / Lavomatic, Marti’s Floral Designs, Mica 12/v, Moerlein Lager House, Nada, Paolo Jewelers, Parlour Salon, Park & Vine, Queen City Cookies, Rookwood Pottery, Sloane Boutique, Smartfish Studio and Sustainable Supply, Spotted Goose, Studio N Photography, Switch Lighting and Design, Taste Of Belgium, The City Flea, Via Vite, Jaguar / Land Rover Of Cincinnati, Young Philanthropists Society Of Cincinnati