Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment

Opticare Vision/Express Mobile Transport

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fort Thomas & The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky

Want a holiday gift for the dad or grandfather that is impossible to buy for?  Try the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky.  Words just do not describe the amount of information that is in this volume.  Weighing in at over 1,000 pages, it includes over 2,100 entries written by more than 300 authors.  I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of the book in the past couple weeks and I thought I would take the opportunity with all the 'Black Friday' talk to make a case for buying the book as a Christmas gift.

While I haven't had a chance to read all the entries that relate to Fort Thomas one thing stood out to me more than anything else; the important role that Samuel Bigstaff had in building Fort Thomas.  Not only did he build much of the housing stock (especially that built in the early 1900's) but he donated the land for the current Highland United Methodist Church but also developed the Highland Country Club.

In addition to the role Samuel Bigstaff played in Fort Thomas here are some additional tidbits on our fine city:
  • The mess hall was built according to the same plans as the stone mess halls as the Presidio in San Francisco and at Fort Riley
  • The amphitheater was built for boxing matches between the service men stationed at the Fort
  • The mess hall has the original red quarry tile floors intact throughout even though they were flooded at times to provide winter ice skating.
I think that is enough to get you interested. Check it out if you get a chance and buy one for a friend to support this amazing effort.

Update: At least 2 Ft Thomas residents were contributors or authors of articles in the NKY Encyclopedia----Bill Thomas and Paul Whalen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Programming the Renovated AmphiTheater

While a renovated amphitheater while undoubtedly improve the image of Tower Park, as I mentioned in a previous post, the success of the investment in the amphitheater will depend on how it is used.  As I read the Enquirer's coverage of the progress on the amphitheater I was disappointed to read the reaction from the Parks Department about future uses of the amphitheater:
"Buerger said he hopes the bigger stage and better seating will encourage more community groups to use it.  One of the things discussed is the potential for weddings."
You can't just build it and hope that people show up.  Clearly this is the attitude of the recreation department.  The city has to be proactive with programming to really get the most of the new facility.  A great example of this is the redesigned Fountain Square.  Cincinnati spent the money to upgrade the square but it would have been a huge failure had they stopped there, instead they schedule focused programming on a nearly daily basis.  I am not saying it needs to be that frequent, in fact our community of 16,000+ couldn't support that level of programming but we can't have an attitude of merely encouraging the public to use it.

Here are some ideas to make the most of the improved facilities:
  1. Create a program committee to set a schedule of events - the input from a good cross section of citizens will ensure programming that will appeal to as many citizens as possible.  The program committee will also ensure the Parks Department can focus on their leagues and facilities.
  2. How about engaging Midway businesses such as Sarelli's to offer discounts and packaged picnic dinners that can be purchased for dinner during the concert or movie.  This cross promotion of a nearby business district is a win - win.
  3. Beyond summer kid movies, what about a childrens theater performance or Shakespeare in the park from a Cincinnati area performance group.  Partnering with the Know Theater or other area arts group for some unique, eclectic programming.
We have wasted a lot of money and the Greys' time if all we do is book a couple of additional weddings.  This is a great opportunity to really engage the community - especially our families with the new facilities.  We have to take advantage of that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kroger Hiring Ads on the Radio - Opening December 10th

The push is on for a grand opening on December 10th.  I heard radio ads today for a job fair this weekend at the store on Pavilion Way.  US Bank branch inside the Marketplace is also opening on December 10th.  We knew it was immenant with the lights working and the entrance from Grand Avenue now paved it had to be a matter of days.

It has to be a bummer for Kroger that they will miss the Thanksgiving shopping crowds from Northern Campbell County but they have much bigger issues with their Fresh Fare store in Kenwood.  I have included a picture below from the Newport Pavilion Fans site on Facebook that was taken last week from the Chesapeake entrance to the shopping center.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Want Help With Your Christmas Decorations?

Amy from Do It Yourself TV has asked me to put out the word on a show they would like to do not only in Cincinnati but hopefully in Fort Thomas.

The show has shot a couple of episodes in Fort Thomas, and they are always struck by how beautiful the community is.  DIY is preparing to shoot a Christmas episode and is looking for a street that really does it up with Christmas lights and decorations. The goal is to help the house on the block that's poorly decorated. They will help the homeowner fix up their front yard to be on par with the neighbors... and the best aspect is that there is no cost to the homeowners.

You can visit their website to complete the application.  They are very interested in finding a family in the Cincinnati area along with the cities of Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Dallas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Fort Thomas Matters

Today is the second anniversary of this blog and I thought I would take this opportunity to promote the site a bit.  I would like to start by talking about why I started the blog and how it has evolved over the past two years and where I would like to take it from here.

I started the blog really as a way to give the community a voice.  At the time I felt our community was really moving in the wrong direction and I sensed there was frustration about many issues in the city and people were struggling for an outlet.  I do think some things have changed for the better but we have a long way to go to develop the type of environment that can support small business retail ownership that I think is one of the life bloods of a community.  A quick aside on this point.  I stopped in to Starbucks the other day and there were literally no seats available anywhere in the store (including the two small tables near the bakery case).  I realized that this community craves a gathering place where they can meet friends for a quick chat or do their homework.  This is what good locally owned retail can be to a community and what I hope to see grow over the coming years.

But back to my post....

Since that time I do believe the city has cleared up some other thorny issues or they have become less of an issue.  This includes the firefighters contract and the deer hunt.  But that doesn't change the fact that our community needs an additional outlet to talk about the things that the Recorder or Fort Thomas Living can't or won't discuss and in a timely manner.

With all that being said I do have a vision for what this site can become.  I would like more personal profiles on people in our community that do amazing things day in and day out with little recognition.  I would like more coverage of our schools and I would like to have another view point or two - even different than my own.  In order for this site to really become a valuable news source to its readers I need more content.  If you are interested in providing a regular post on a particular topic please drop me a note.

This also brings me to my final point.  I have done this blog now for the past two years at a cost to me both in time and money with no personal gain and I would like to change that if only to make my expenses back for hosting and registration.  I am looking for advertisers.  I don't want a cluttered home page but I do think the site can be an attractive way to communicate to customers not just in Fort Thomas but in Northern Kentucky.  Let me illustrate with a few key figures:
  • The largest perportion of visitors to the site are from Fort Thomas but over 50% of the traffic comes from Fort Thomas and surrounding communities of Newport, Bellevue, and Dayton. 
  • The site is now averaging over 2,000 visitors per month and nearly 4,000 page views per month. 
  • The site has seen phenomenal growth in the past year as evidence by the fact that the site's page views were up over 175% and the total number of unique visitors were up 218% over the previous year.
It would be difficult to find that type of advertising opportunity anywhere else.  So if you are interested give me a shout.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Top Twitter Follows from Fort Thomas Kentucky

I have to admit I stole this idea from a recent top 10 Cincinnati twitter follows from Soapbox Media in a recent issue.  Having said that, I thought many of you could find this beneficial as well.

Here is my list of the top Twitter follows in Fort Thomas and why following them can help you keep a pulse on the community:

1.Kevin Keith - Kevin is a wine buyer for Liquor Direct in Fort Thomas.  He has over 1,000 followers and provides good updates on the regular tastings in the Fort Thomas Plaza store.  He always has good insights if you are a fan of the tastings and want some advance insight.

2. Merril Hoge / Andre Caldwell - not much Ft Thomas news here but if you are a football fan follow our famous Fort Thomas residents as they break down all the NFL or updates on the Bengals.

3. Jennifer Specht is an example of the great un-discovered talents in our community through her art in polymer clay.  I don't even know what polymer clay is but one look at a couple of examples on her profile page and I am instantly interested.

4. My former neighbor Mark Collier who recently bought a house on North Fort Thomas Ave is a great follow for me not just because I know and like him but because he is from the area originally and has some good friends still in town and is just getting started with a family in Fort Thomas.  Wish him and his new bride Lindsay best of luck.  Mark tweets more than anyone I know and has some good witty thoughts - enjoy.

5. Peggy Murriner - I know this is a little self serving but I had a difficult time finding a better 5th option and given the connections she has not just in Fort but in Greater Cincinnati she makes a great pick.  Peggy works under the BabysitEase (her business) name but tweets great information on deals she finds or great area places to shop and visit.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bluebirds Football Update

While the final score was not impressive when you consider they started seniors that are not normal starters against one of the better teams in Northern Kentucky (ranked #8 in the Herald Leader poll) then it was a great way to end the season.  Being a spectator at the game I saw quite possibly the best high school kick when Weinel kicked a 47 yard kick with a good 10 yards to spare.

With the win they finish the season undefeated and move into the state playoffs.  In the first round they face a 3-7 Montgomery County and then play what may be their toughest test prior to the finals in Blazer with a record of 9-1.  A possible rematch with Cov Cath could come next.  A possible semifinal matchup with Pulaski Southwestern and then everyone's dream matchup of Highlands and John Hardin in the state 5A Finals.  You can see the entire bracket here.

As far as a rankings update - none of the teams above Highlands lost and the St X win over Moeller didn't appear to carry much weight.

USATODAY - 9 still no change
ESPN - 13 still no change
Rivals - 15 (up from 22)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Update on Newport Pavilion & Kroger Opening

Based on comments from the Facebook group 'Newport Pavilion Fans' here are a few updates:

1. Latest opening date for the Kroger Marketplace is now the week before Thanksgiving.  I am actually starting to believe that the date can be met given that surfacing of Pavilion Way is nearly complete and lighting is about 3/4 completed.  The turn late from Grand Ave has also been carved away and should be surfaced soon.

2. Another member of the Facebook group attached the picture above of an older version of the master plan.  While this plan includes a Best Buy which is apparently no longer an option it does shed some light on where BW3 and Chipotle are planned - the outlot near LaRosa's on the Grand Ave side of the development.  This is a more detailed map than the one that was on Bear Creek's website prior to the domain going down.

3. The final rumor that was included in the stream from the 'Newport Pavilion Fans' site is that Costco is rumored to be looking at the surface lot at the corner of I-471 and Grand Ave. 

I have left another message with Kroger to confirm the date above and will let you know if I hear anything else.

Fort Thomas - A Growing Community?

Recent news from the Enquirer about over crowding at Moyer is just the latest indication that population in Fort Thomas is not decreasing as census numbers would indicate.  The article mentions the rationale given by Fort Thomas Schools that younger families moving into the area and replacing older families is the cause for the over crowding.   There is some impact from out of district enrollments but the numbers indicated in the article is only a fraction of the total increase.  Taking a look at district wide enrollment numbers provides a further indication that this is not a Moyer only phenomenon

Years                 District Enrollment                    Growth Rate
08-09                             2,564                                     4.5%
07-08                             2,453                                     1.7%
06-07                             2,413                                     2.2%
05-06                             2,363                                     1.8%
04-05                             2,322

Even if the housing stock is not increasing (I'll cover this item in a minute) this indicates the average household size is increasing thus leading to increased population.  The article mentions the Ville Grande development and this is one of only a few recent developments that has increased the amount of housing in the city, a topic that I covered before on the blog.  Increased housing stock + larger average family sizes adds up to 1 conclusion - increasing population.

You may be asking yourself - 'why does this matter?' and the conclusion is funding.  Performing a quick google search indicates the following areas where funding could be impacted by census counts:
We are all familiar with the wealth penalty that Fort Thomas gets when it comes to education funding and the same penalty applies with other state funding but the Vision 2015 effort and other regional groups are working hard to change some of these formulas as the 3 population centers (Lexington, Louisville, and NKY) continue to be a larger share of state population.  Lets hope they are successful changing impressions about this component of the funding formula.

While regional efforts work on those changes Fort Thomas should focus on what they can impact and this is one area.  Generally the biggest areas of impact from the population component of funding formulas are general health and safety and it truly requires further work from the city to ensure Fort Thomas is getting their fair share.