Women walking dog in downtown Sharonville (photo by Matthew Allen)
Ohio Life | Best Hometowns

Best Hometowns 2023: Sharonville

A strong business base supports this suburban city just outside Cincinnati that is updating its historic core to further build a sense of place and community.

Just like it did when it opened in 1957, The Root Beer Stand still draws residents and hungry workers to the middle of Sharonville. Cars fill the small parking lot, and customers wait patiently in line at the window for to-go orders. Others grab a seat at the counter or a table under the covered patio to order from the classic menu of coneys, hot dogs and burgers. Of course, no visit is complete without ordering an ice-cold mug of root beer, crafted using water from a 280-foot-deep well that is said to give the stand’s drink its unique flavor.

Sharonville was a small railroad town when The Root Beer Stand served its first customers, and that spirit is still alive in the community. Less than a mile away in The Loop district, the Society of Historic Sharonville operates a small museum. A series of round markers at a park on the opposite side of The Loop traces the town’s rich railroad heritage.

But Sharonville is clearly a modern suburban city with a strong business base, and it has the enormous manufacturing facilities to prove it. Just a 15-minute drive from downtown Cincinnati and located at the conjunction of Interstates 75 and 275, Sharonville offers an attractive home for both businesses and residents and a convenient place to stay for travelers. Yet with a population of just over 14,000, the 9.8-square-mile community still falls within the realm of a smaller city.
      The Root Beer Stand and Cliff Hardware in Sharonville (photos by Matthew Allen)

The Root Beer Stand (above left) has been a fixture of Sharonville since 1957. Cliff Hardware, located in The Loop district, has been serving locals for generations. (photos by Matthew Allen)

That population of around 14,000 swells to more than 35,000 during the day given the number of people commuting to Sharonville for work. Ford Motor Co.’s Sharonville Transmission Plant and The Gorilla Glue Co. are both located here, employing approximately 2,000 and 650, respectively. So are a General Mills facility that makes cereals, including Chex brands and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and the United Parcel Service center that provides logistics for the Greater Cincinnati area. But there are also a multitude of smaller businesses in Sharonville that are vital to the city’s success, according to Mayor Kevin Hardman.

“We’ve got some commercial, some industrial, some education,” he says. “There’s a little bit of everything from our business sectors, which has really helped us to succeed and not see huge bumps in our earnings tax, which is what makes us work and makes us function.” 

The hospitality industry is one of those sectors. Sharonville has more than 20 hotels and is second only to Cincinnati in Hamilton County when it comes to generating taxes collected from overnight stays. Many of those hotels sit along Chester Road near the Sharonville Convention Center, which recently completed an expansion project that doubled its main exhibit hall space to 90,000 square feet. 
      Depot Square in downtown Sharonville (photo by Matthew Allen)

Depot Square sits in the middle of Sharonville’s downtown retail district known as The Loop. A recently completed makeover of the space, included the addition of pop-up fountains that kids are welcome to enjoy during the summer. (photo by Matthew Allen)

“One of the reasons I think we’ve been successful is that we don’t’ really compete with the downtown market — it’s really a complement to it,” says Jim Downton, executive director of the Sharonville Convention Center. “We’re at a much smaller scale, but if someone outgrows us, the downtown convention center is there for them to stay in the county.”

Just down the street from the convention center sits Third Eye Brewing Co., which in fall 2023 was awarded Brewery of the Year at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, for producers that make between 1,000 and 2,000 barrels annually. Light fills the brewery’s large and inviting taproom where patrons can grab a table and choose from a selection of award-winning beers and casual pub fare.

Less than a mile south down Chester Road sits Princeton High School, which serves students from Sharonville as well as six other nearby communities that are part of the Princeton City School District. With a student body of almost 1,600 students, the high school is also one of the most diverse in Ohio with nearly 79% minority enrollment, according to U.S. News and World Report. Hardman graduated from Princeton High School and his four kids have attended or currently attend the school.
      Father and son at Sharon Woods and Book Bus Depot in Sharonville (photos by Matthew Allen)

Sharon Woods spans 730 acres and is one of the most visited parks in the Great Parks of Hamilton County system (above left). The Book Bus Depot opened in 2022, offering used and new books for sale and providing a home base for the Cincy Book Bus (above right). (photos by Matthew Allen)

“Any opportunity you would want your kid to have, you can get it at Princeton,” he says. “International Baccalaureate programs, college-prep programs, Advanced Placement programs — you name it. If you want it, it’s available to you.”

The community’s business strength and what it affords Sharonville is only part of the city’s appeal. Sharon Woods, which sits along Lebanon Road, offers residents and travelers a 730-acre park to explore and is counted among the most visited in the Great Parks of Hamilton County system. Offering short trails and picturesque waterfalls, it is also the home of the Heritage Village Museum, a living-history attraction with a collection of structures that have been moved here to give a picture of what life in this part of Ohio looked like during the 1800s. Pathways connect the buildings and costumed interpreters bring the experience to life during events.

The first of the 13 buildings were placed on the property in 1967, with the Heritage Village Museum being an outgrowth of the Miami Purchase Association, which had bought up historic homes in the Cincinnati area. The group eventually split into the Cincinnati Preservation Society and the Heritage Village Museum.
      Costumed reenactors at Heritage Village Museum in Sharonville (photo by Matthew Allen)

The Heritage Village Museum offers a glimpse of life in southwest Ohio during the 19th century. It has a collection of historic structures that have been relocated to the site in Sharon Woods. Reenactors greet visitors during events (photo by Matthew Allen)

“We try to bring 19th-century southwest Ohio back to life through some really focused events such as period dinners that highlight not only the table fare of the time but also what was going on in Cincinnati, be it architecture, be it politics,” says Steve Preston, executive director of Heritage Village Museum. “We have a first-person program where we highlight either national figures or regional figures. People come in and portray them to our guests to talk about specific events.”

A more recent history of the area can be explored in The Loop district, which sits less than a mile south of The Root Beer Stand. The cute neighborhood is located on a one-way oval upon which you’ll encounter throwback finds like the 150-seat Sharonville Cultural Arts Center located in a historic theater building and Cliff Hardware that has been serving locals for more than 90 years.

Depot Square, a community gathering spot across the road from the hardware store, was remade in 2023. It offers sprinklers that pop up that kids can play in seasonally. The depot building at the site houses Charcuterie Creations, a small business that specializes in crafting food boards as well as lunch and brunch boxes, while also teaching charcuterie-design workshops. It also serves sandwiches and is open for dinner.
     Woman frosting cookies at Firecracker Bakery in Sharonville (photo by Matthew Allen)

Firecracker Bakery is located along Reading Road in Sharonville, across the street from The Book Bus Depot and Adesso Coffee. (photo by Matthew Allen)

The updated Depot Square and recently completed work on Creek Road and Walnut Street was the first of three phases of improvements to The Loop that the city has in the works. A short walk away, The Book Bus Depot — complete with a vintage Volkswagen bookmobile that parks in the space — and the connected Adesso Coffee are two of the city’s newest shops, both having opened within the past year. 

The city is focused on the revival of The Loop to both give new life to this historic core of the city and create a place that can be a focal point for community gatherings. Even though Sharonville often gets lumped in with Cincinnati, Hardman says the city has a distinctive personality that is reflected in the diversity of its business base, its housing and those who call it home. 

“Not only is our business community diversified but our residential community is diversified,” he says. “You could have your CEO sitting next to your line worker as they’re watching their kids play soccer on the field. That’s just who we are.” 

Best Hometowns 2023-24: Celina | Cuyahoga Falls | Grove City | Lancaster | Sharonville