BoBa Cha Brings Taiwanese Flavor to Over-the-Rhine’s Northern Liberties

After opening earlier this month, BoBa Cha has been attracting a healthy crowd for its bubble tea offerings at 1606 Main Street.

The small Over-the-Rhine bubble tea shop is owned by Ingrid Huang and Andrew Lui. The couple previously owned Tea N’ Bowl in Clifton Heights, and said they wanted to open a shop closer to where their customers were coming from.

Huang and Lui moved to Cincinnati from California to raise their family and open Tea N’ Bowl in April 2007. The restaurant offered both the bubble tea in which they now focus, but also healthy Asian food selections. They won a Best of Cincinnati award in 2012, but after seven years their bubble tea had become so popular that they thought it was time to consider a new concept.

In Chinese, cha (茶) means tea and boba (粉圆) is a slang term that stands for the tapioca pearls typically found in bubble tea, which was popularized in Taiwan in the 1980s.

With their family and cultural roots in mind, Huang and Lui said they were looking for a new location with a steady stream of customers that would also serve as a place that would bring the community together; where friends and families can meet with no worries.

“We decided to move to OTR to make our place more accessible and now focus, 100%, on making the bubble tea better and healthier, and using fresher ingredients than before,” Huang explained.

The new shop does not serve any food, but the owners have set up an arrangement with Maki to deliver sushi to the location should customers chose to order it. In addition to the fresh ingredients, the primary focuses of BoBa Cha is on the overall health benefits of the tea they serve.

“The common thing [among flavors of tea] is antioxidants that help to clean the body and help metabolism,” said Huang. As a result, they are also offering more tea bases like Oolong, Jasmine, Green Tea, Black Tea, Golden Tea, Thai Tea, as well as organic herbs like Lotus, Ginseng, Dandelion Root, Peppermint and others.

In addition to their new Over-the-Rhine shop, BoBa Cha has a drink cart that can be found on Fountain Square every Tuesday and in Washington Park each Wednesday. Huang also says that they hope to bring the cart to Findlay Market on Saturdays and Sundays in the near future.

The owners say that BoBa Cha will close down during the cold winter months, but that they are working on arrangements with area Asian restaurants to sell their tea while they are closed for the season. In the meantime, however, the couple says they are excited to be in Over-the-Rhine.

“Right after opening we felt the welcome and support of our neighborhood,” Huang explained. “It made us feel like we were a big part of the community and so far.”

Located inside a 154-year-old building that was renovated in 2008, BoBa Cha is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 8pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 8pm.

URBANexchange Returns to Taste of Belgium in Corryville This Thursday

URBANexchange at Taste of BelgiumIt’s been a busy month for news, so what else could be better than a gathering with fellow urbanists to talk about it all?

General Electric will most likely either locate their new Global Operations Center at The Banks or in Oakley, Cincy Bike Share is rapidly advancing, the Central Parkway Cycle Track had all sorts of controversy, Toyota will relocate its North American headquarters to Plano, Texas, the Republicans in town are now all agush for the Cincinnati Streetcar, ground was finally broken on the second major phase of work at The Banks, and new tenants will soon open at Findlay Market.

Plus, on top of all that, we’ve had Jocelyn and John in Atlanta for the APA 2014 National Planning Conference, and Jacob running all around Colombia to check out their transport systems.

But nevertheless, URBANexchange will go on and we’ll be having this month’s event at Taste of Belgium on Short Vine in Corryville again. The last time we gathered here we were joined by Vice Mayor David Mann and a large group filled the room. And for this month, Councilmember Chris Seelbach and State Representative candidate Dale Mallory have confirmed their attendance on Facebook.

Due to all this recent news, we figure there will be lots to debate and gossip about, so try to make some time in your schedule to join us sometime between 5:30pm and 8:30pm at Taste of Belgium in Corryville.

This month we will be giving away two prepaid transit passes for Metro, who, by the way, recently updated their system maps to include other regional transit operators and show the route of the first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar.

Those interested in attending can come and go at any time during the event, which is free and open to anyone who would like to participate. We do, however, ask that you kindly support our generous host by drinking and eating like a Belgian.

Eli’s Barbeque, Maverick Chocolate First of Several New Tenants to Open at Findlay Market

Findlay Market business leaders and city officials gathered this morning on Elder Street to announce two new tenants that will soon open.

One of the new establishments will be the wildly popular Eli’s Barbeque, while the other is called Maverick Chocolate, which is a craft chocolate maker that will produce its product direct from cocoa beans at the shop.

The announcement comes following a several month-long renovation of three store fronts on the south side of the Market House. According to Findlay Market management, the City of Cincinnati’s Department of Trade & Development contributed approximately $500,000 to “whitebox” the three spaces – each of which is around 1,000 square feet in size.

“We’ve had a pretty significant amount of interest in these spaces, especially the final one of the three remaining,” Joe Hansbauer, President and CEO of Findlay Market, explained to UrbanCincy.

Findlay Market Storefronts

Hansbauer says that concept behind Maverick is similar to the craft coffee movement that emerged several years ago, and explained that this will be the first bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer in Ohio.

Meanwhile, business leaders say that the real exciting thing about Eli’s, aside from the fact that they are returning to the place where they got their start years ago, is that they will stay open until 9pm six days a week.

“This will create an opportunity to generate a little more activity in the evening,” Hansbauer said. “We’re talking to some other tenants, mostly on the exterior of the Market House, where they may stay open later as well.”

While interest has been extremely high in the lone remaining space in between Eli’s and Maverick, Findlay Market management says that they are being selective with the eventual tenant for that space, and are hoping to fill it with something that is not already available at the market.

When asked what kinds of places they are seeking out, Hansbauer said that Findlay Market would love to add a smoked meat place that does their production on-site, a cookware store to compliment the market’s retail offerings, and a Hispanic grocer to help fill a gap in available food offerings.

A big goal, however, is to increase the amount of foot traffic and business activity on the quiet south side of the Market House, and improve visibility for existing businesses like Saigon Market and others.

Over the coming months, Findlay Market shoppers can expect even more changes as additional storefronts are built out on that side of Elder Street. Once all of this work is complete by the end of the year, Hansbauer expects all of the storefronts on the south side of the Market House to be occupied, with the exceptions of Luken’s cold storage building and Mr. Pig building.

One of the more prominent spaces he expects to fill up soon is the storefront at the corner of Race and Elder Streets, where the owners are looking for a café to set up shop.

“All of this will do a tremendous amount for creative foot traffic and creative vibrancy on that side of the market,” Hansbauer emphasized.

Since taking his post at Findlay Market last January, Hansbauer says that one of the challenges has been the growth in popularity of Ohio’s oldest public market. He says that there is constant interest in people wanting to open up stands inside the Market House, but no room for them to go since it is fully leased.

As a result, management and city leaders will be looking to expand the retail footprint out into the surrounding neighborhood.

“People are interested in buying and eating local, and that push has driven a significant increase in shoppers for us over the past couple of years,” Hansbauer concluded. “But the renaissance of Over-the-Rhine continues to benefit Findlay Market not only due to all the new residents, but also with those former shoppers who are feeling comfortable once again with coming to this neighborhood.”

Both Eli’s Barbeque and Maverick Chocolate signed three-year license agreements for their spaces. The third space included in this project is currently available and those interested in it can contact Joe Hansbauer at jhansbauer@findlaymarket.org or 513-604-7567.

Hundreds of Streetcar Supporters Rally in Over-the-Rhine as New Mayor, Council Are Sworn In

There has never been a single anti-streetcar event that has gathered more than 20 people, but earlier today it was estimated that close to 1,000 Cincinnati Streetcar proponents gathered with green balloons at Washington Park to show their support.

Event organizers from Cincinnatians for Progress and We Believe in Cincinnati lined up the hundreds of supports for blocks – stretching from in front of Music Hall on Elm Street to north of Findlay Market, where streetcar tracks are currently being installed.

The event also came on the same day that the new mayor and city council were sworn into their offices, marking the first time an organized protest of hundreds took place on the first day for newly elected leadership. With a defiant Mayor John Cranley (D) and five of the nine members of City Council poised to pass a bizarre collection of ordinances in order to bypass any further public protest of their actions, it appears that legal fights are about to begin.

Also earlier today, Mayor Cranley and Councilmember Chris Smitherman (I) outlined exactly how they intend to make it all work to their favor. At the same time, reports surfaced of a potential conflict of interest for Smitherman due to his brother’s involvement with the $133 million streetcar project through Jostin Construction.

A majority of city council and the mayor himself have stated that they support the right to referendum, but their proposed legislative action would run counter to that. Whether or not they will allow Cincinnatians to vote on the streetcar directly for a third time, or be forced by the courts to do so, is yet to be seen.

The next big event will take place on Monday, December 2 at 4pm inside City Hall. City Council will hold a special hearing on the streetcar project at that time, and it is expected to be heavily attended by both supporters and opponents. Those who would like to attend are encouraged to arrive early. Those unable to attend that would still like to get involved can do so by donating to the Alliance for Regional Transit and by signing up to volunteer.

“Does it make any sense to lose our reputation with the federal government simply because we want to prove a political point,” Rob Richardson asked the boisterous crowd. “I’ll tell you what does make sense…it makes sense that we have to fight for a comprehensive transportation system so we can compete with cities all across this country and all across the world. That is the goal.”

“We measure greatest not by what we cut, but by what we accomplish.”

Christkindlmarkt Returns for Three Full Weekends This Holiday Season

Organizers are bringing the Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt back for its second holiday season this year, starting Thanksgiving weekend and operating each weekend until December 15.

Last year’s Christkindlmarkt took place every weekend on Fountain Square. This year the festive seasonal marketplace will spend its first weekend on Fountain Square and then move for its final two weekends to Essen Strasse on the south side of Findlay Market in historic Over-the-Rhine.

“It was decided to move the Christkindlmarkt to Findlay Market for the following two weekends because it is the most iconic market place in the city, and is representative of Cincinnati’s German culture,” explained Lisa Bambach, marketing and creative director for Cincideutsch. “It is a link not only to Cincinnati’s German past, but also to the vibrant German-American culture which continues to permeate the city today.”

Cincinnati Christkindlmarkt
Visitors at Cincinnati’s inaugural Christkindlmarkt on Fountain Square in 2012. Photograph by Paige Malott.

Christkindlmarkt have been a holiday tradition in town centers throughout Germany and Austria for hundreds of years.

“It is a place for people to get together with family and friends to enjoy the seasonal weather and celebrate the holidays,” explained Olaf Scheil, a native of Lübeck, Germany and president and co-founder of Cincideutsch. “We are thrilled to be able to bring this tradition to the people of Cincinnati for the second year in a row.”

After more than 15,000 people visited last year, Scheil expects a similar number of visitors to come and enjoy the Christkindlmarkt this season. To help keep things interesting and active, organizers have coordinated live music, glass blowing, holiday sweets and baked goods, drink, decorations and crafts for sale within half-timbered houses.

In addition to the European baked goods, a hot spiced wine called Glühwein is also considered to be a holiday favorite amongst visitors. And in Cincinnati and German fashion, there will also be plenty of beer to go around.

“Glühwein is something I look forward to making each year since I first tried it in Switzerland,” Bambach confessed. “The aroma of the spices reminds me of Christmas just like the smell of pumpkin makes me think of Thanksgiving. It is a consistent feature at Christkindlmarkt in Europe, no matter which city you visit.”

Cincinnati’s Christkindlmarkt is sponsored by Christian Moerlein Brewing Company and will kick off in coordination with Macy’s Light Up The Square and DCI’s Downtown Dazzle on November 29 through December 1. The seasonal market will then move to Findlay Market December 6-8 and December 13-15. Both locations will have heaters to help keep visitors warm on cold days.

“We received both positive and negative feedback from 2012, and we have worked diligently to improve visitors’ experiences based on those comments,” Bambach noted. “The market is completely organized and run by volunteers, and in our second year we wanted to expand while also ensuring the growth was manageable.”

The Christkindlmarkt will be open from 11am to 9pm on Friday and Saturday, and 11am to 5pm on Sunday at Fountain Square. The market will then be open in coordination with normal Findlay Market hours when it moves there for its final two weekends.