Sunday, June 8, 2003

Downtown shops show promise

Hundreds of prospects get tour

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Leadership Cincinnati was pleased to run out of its stock of 500 shopping bags Saturday.The bags were given to those who showed up for the organization's Unique Downtown Shopping Tour. The group , which is sponsored by the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, is devoted to bringing a better quality of life to the city.

The group designed two walking tours to spotlight distinctive downtown retailers, from new offerings like the Tall Stacks Store to mainstays like Brooks Brothers. Other stores joining in included Tiffany & Co., Hunt Club Clothiers, Cappel's and St. Theresa Textile Trove.

Using Fountain Square as a starting point, shoppers were given canvas shopping bags, coupons and printed maps of downtown shopping areas.

Leadership Cincinnati also suggested other downtown attractions for the shoppers, like the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, which opened to the public Saturday, and Bats Incredible!

"The places we highlighted are uniquely Cincinnati," said Mark Quinlan of Loveland, who helped organize the event. "You're not going to find these cool little antique shops or art galleries at a mall."

It took just over two hours to deplete the stock of shopping bags.

As bags were given out, the group made a record of the shoppers' ZIP codes. Only about 10 percent were from downtown. The remainder were scattered across the Tristate - and beyond. Some out-of-town shoppers were from as far as the Philippines and Canada.

"One man from New York told me, 'I've heard of so many people who want to live in Cincinnati, and now I know why,' " said Katy Hollister of Hyde Park, a Leadership Cincinnati member.

Carew Tower retailer Crow Grando is the owner of Mahatma, a store that features distinctive accessories and creations from all over the world. She was pleased with the project.

"From traveling to other cities, I've always known that downtown Cincinnati is an unusual jewel with a real eclectic flavor," she said. "But showing people what I've already known is a great and wonderful opportunity."

Grando held a special sale for the event.

"I wanted to give all those brave shoppers a little treat for venturing downtown," she said.

The appeal of downtown shopping is no surprise to couple Rusty Warlick, 26, and Jaime Greathouse, 24, and their friend Wendy Eilers, 28. All live in downtown lofts.

"It takes awhile to get to know downtown shopping, because it's so spread out," Eilers said. "But there's really nothing else like it."

Their biggest complaint is that there aren't enough retailers to meet the needs of downtown dwellers.

"Just try to buy a bottle of water after 8 p.m. on a Sunday night," Greathouse said. "You can't do it."


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