Friday, August 8, 2003

The Insatiable Shopper: On the road in Clifton

Ludlow Avenue presents array of global fashions and furnishings

By Joy Kraft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] A brightly painted tropical bench from Bali, $495, sits outside the Spirit House on Ludlow Avenue.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
A Tibetan dowry chest.

A bench painted in the bright colors of Bali blooms.

Beaded leather sandals from Kenya.

Sarongs and delicately embroidered dresses from India.

Sushi dishes from Japan.

Mexican paper art.

Buddhist hand-painted wall hanging or Thangkas.

Raffia hats from Madagascar.

A worldwide shopping spree like this could cost millions in travel, to say nothing of the time - and airport checks - required.

If shopping just doesn't give you goosebumps, you can eat your way around the world on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton at one of the many ethnic restaurants: Ambar India, Habanero, Amol India, Thai Cafe, China Kitchen.

Even the neighborhood coffee shop, Sitwell's, offers alpaccino, a cappuccino with Italian syrup, or a glass of Concha y Toro, a cabernet from Chile with cherry, plum, pepper and soft cocoa flavors.

There are exotic wines at Ludlow Wines and ethnic foods at Jag Deep's Indian Grocery and Mediterranean Foods.

If your tummy just can't take the curry, chile and spices, grab an all-American raspberry chocolate chip cone at Graeter's, or play three-way chess at Sitwell's with a cup of java.

But no passport is needed to fill this exotic shopping list in Cincinnati. Just make it to Clifton and hop on board a sidewalk where Clifton Avenue intersects Ludlow, and head east or west. Follow the smell of incense, the low of the didgeridoo and the tinkle of wind chimes into the dozens of shops specializing in imports.

Just a Second, 268 Ludlow. At first glance, this is a consignment shop with five upstairs rooms of furniture, jewelry, china, silver, crystal, luggage, pottery and knick-knacks stocked by Carol Bunnell. But the real treasure is the adjacent space - Chinese and Tibetan furniture.

Bunnell's son and daughter-in-law live in China and have connected with a warehouse in Shanghai to fill the shop with tables, mirrors, armoires, chests, lamps, baskets, trunks and accessories, some painted in traditional plaster-front style, others in deeply polished rich woods. All carry a hangtag with their origin and history.

"The warehouse finds the pieces, cleans them up, installs new hardware and gives us a background on where each piece originates," says Bunnell.

Favorites: The surprising featherweight bamboo bird cage hanging in the window and the Tibetan dowry chest.

Information: 861-8666.

Pounded copper necklace from Kenya at Kilimanjaro, $28.
Kilimanjaro, 310 Ludlow Ave. Titus Nzioki, originally from Kenya, has brought the crafts and handiwork of the African continent and its varied countries to his store - Masai shields, Fulani straw hats from Mali, Kenyan gourds, drums, walking sticks, woven sisal bags, tribal masks, beaded wedding necklaces, Kenyan bead-trim sandals, necklaces, earrings, rings and the wonderful mudcloth clothes and hats made by Abdulai Barrie of Bond Hill from Sierra Leone. His work alone is worth a stop at the shop.

Favorites: Mudcloth clothes by Barrie and hammered silver and copper Kenyan neckpieces.

Information: 221-0700.

Embroidered dress from India at Pangaea, $64.
Pangaea Trading Co., 325 Ludlow. You can find everything from henna tattoos to Tibetan bowls used as meditation tools, but the real finds in this tiny shop are the clothes, especially the dresses.

"You're not going to see people running around in the same dress you buy here," says Jocelyn Williams of North Avondale, store owner with husband, Victor. "It's one-of-a-kind shopping."

Dresses include traditional sarongs, slim-cut Hong Kong designs, others with whispery flowing skirts and richly embroidered silk tops from Indonesia, tie-dyed and batik prints. Here's a place you can still buy the black cotton Chinese flats ($4) and earrings in the Chinese Mandarin symbols for good will, bravery, wealth, prosperity and love ($4). Note: the space-cramped shop is headed to a roomier location across the street by the end of October, making room for more yummy clothes.

Favorites: Embroidered Indian dresses.

Information: 751-3330.

Toko Baru, 325 Ludlow Ave. Same address, same owners as Pangaea Trading Co., but this side of the shop is filled with gifts, stationery, jewelry, bath and body luxuries, whimsical toys and unusual gifts for kids. Look for occasional special parties for kids in the fall - and for it to expand once Pangaea moves across the street.

Favorites: Little girls' and infants' Indonesian batik print dresses, rompers; paper flower, ribbon-trimmed fairy crowns and layered tulip-skirt fairy dresses.

Information: 751-3338.

Marco Gabriell's turquoise and sterling silver pendant, $55.95.
Spiral Light, 329 Ludlow Ave. Marco Gabriell has scrumptious Adini sweaters from India in sherbet colors, Indonesian sarongs, sandalwood placemats, Czech and German glass beads, crochet tops from Indonesia, Bali handmade paper art, didgeridoos and imports from Thailand, Nepal, Mexico, Ecuador and British Columbia.

But the shop's gems are the rings, necklaces, pendants and pins the self-taught jeweler/store owner designs and creates from sterling silver, turquoise, mother of pearl and other handsome stones.

Favorite: Mother of pearl mosaic band ring ($49.95) and spider web turquoise pendant ($53.95).

Information: 751-5523.

d.Raphael, 341 Ludlow Ave. Specialties are clothes, jewelry and artifacts from India, and a large collection of amber jewelry from Poland and Russia. But go to the back of the shop and look at the glorious colors and designs of Thangkas (a Tibetan word meaning "silk") hangings made by Buddhist monks for worship or decoration. The large hangings are made of silk pieces sewn as a frame around a hand-painted scene, often with images of Buddha ($99-$1,400, depending on the size).

Favorites: Thangkas.

Information: 751-1440.

Crushable raffia hat from Madagascar at Hansa Guild, $29-64.
Hansa Guild, 369 Ludlow Ave. It bills itself as a natural fiber fashion store. What that means for shoppers is a collection of dresses, sweaters and hand-knits in wools, cotton and alpaca, as well as tapestries, rugs, Minnetonka moccasins, mukluks, sheepskin boots and woven hats from Madagascar, Ecuador, China and other countries in Asia.

Favorite: Rice paddy hat made from two layers of rush ($11).

Information: 221-4002.

Sake and sushi serving set from SAKI, $25-$44.
SAKI, 362 Ludlow Ave. It should be on every sushi lover's shopping list with dozens of serving dishes for the popular fish delicacies and dips, as well as sake and sushi sets, barware, photo frames, greeting cards and gift items.

Favorites: Soy candles (I don't like sushi).

Information: 861-9626.

Spirit House, 3408 Telford Ave. This is the third Ludlow-area retail spot owned by the Williamses, this one more like a mini Great Indoors with furniture and decorating ideas from India, Morocco, Nepal, Thailand and Bali. You'll find major room pieces, such as the plantation teak curved cabinet and an Indonesian armoire to mahogany inlaid chests, mirrors, Burmese baskets, stools, hand-carved pieces and Wayang golek, or wooden, puppets. A bare wall in your home would be well served by one of the Roshistant India wall hangings in jeweled colors (especially purples and blues), beads and mirrored embellishments. And the brightly painted bench from Bali would brighten any foyer or kid's room.

Favorite: The brightly painted bench from Bali.

Information: 751-3443.


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