Sunday, August 12, 2001

All are welcome at restaurant

Black, white, rich, poor eat at Sugar 'N Spice

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Take a stool at the counter of the Sugar 'N Spice restaurant on any morning, order up a stack of pancakes, and there is no telling who you might be rubbing elbows with.

        It might be a well-known politician on the next stool, or a doctor, a lawyer in pinstripes or a utility lineman in dungarees.

        That person might be rich, might be poor; might be white, might be black. Everyone is welcome at Sugar 'N Spice.

[photo] Irvin Deese has a bite to eat at Sugar 'N Spice restaurant on Reading Road.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        “The only thing our customers have in common is that they are all good people,” said owner Mick Michaelson, who has worked at the restaurant on Reading Road, right on the border between Paddock Hills and Bond Hill, for 25 years.

        Sugar 'N Spice is an institution that has been serving burgers, omelettes and pancakes since the restaurant's founder, the late Morton Keller, opened it in 1941, when much of the surrounding area was a Jewish neighborhood.

        Over the years, the neighborhood has changed — Sugar 'N Spice is now in the heart of Cincinnati's black community. Its clientele remains an interesting mix of races, religions and occupations.

        Bill Hanks lives in College Hill but he stops in nearly every morning on his way to his job at a savings bank in Norwood, and pops in again for lunch.

   Love is Blind, Deaf, Dumb and Off the Hook, an autobiographical play about Rebecca Cherrie Martin's climb from child abuse, drug addiction, and single-parent poverty in Cincinnati's projects, shows today, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., at the Fitton Center for the Arts, 101 S. Monument Ave., Hamilton. Tickets: $18 at the door.
   Habitat for Humanity, FRCH Design worldwide and the Spaulding Foundation kick off the construction of fifth and final home to be built on Winkler Street in Mount Auburn. A celebration begins at 3 p.m. at 101 Winkler St. Information: 621-4147
   Three Square Music Foundation's Push 4 Peace Tour/Talent Search and comes to the North Fairmount Community Center 7-10 p.m. The mission: to reduce youth violence by enlisting their participation in arts and other programs that bring the community together. The tour is searching for youths ages 5-18 who are singers, rappers, dancer, poets, musicians and comedians. Cash prize $100 for best talent. Cost for entry $5; admission $5. Information: 731-3227.
        One day this week, Mr. Hanks, who is white, was sitting at the counter chatting with a black man and his granddaughter about the weather. The elderly man and the little girl soon left and their spots at the counter were quickly taken by more customers — white patrons, who greeted Mr. Hanks and started a debate on what kind of year Corey Dillon would have for the Bengals and Adam Dunn's future with the Reds.

        “I always learn something here,” said Mr. Hanks, finishing his lunch. “It's a wonderful mix of people — black, white, rich, poor. Everybody talks; everybody is friendly. It's an ongoing education for me.”

        Mr. Michaelson said that probably 80 percent of the people who come in from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on any given day are what he considers regulars.

        “They're the politicians everybody knows, the business people, the fellows who come in off the railroad tracks,” Mr. Michaelson said. “We treat them all the same — we treat them good.”

        Across the counter, Irvin Deese held a newspaper in one hand and a fork in the other, digging into a plate of fried eggs and ham.

        “I've come in here for years and years,” said Mr. Deese, who is African-American. “It's a good place. They treat you right.”

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