From a historic river city to a quaint 19th century ethnic neighborhood, explore five shopping districts where Main Street thrives.
CENTRAL | south side of downtown Columbus
Bustling streets become a quiet neighborhood as you pass across Livingston Avenue. The beautiful and petite brick homes hearken another time, but this place hasn’t always been so picturesque.
Interstate construction in the 1950s cut German Village off from downtown Columbus, complicating commutes and prompting an exodus of residents. In 1959, city worker Frank Fetch invested in the area’s growing number of blighted properties in an effort to revive the neighborhood, which was established by German immigrants in the mid-19th century.
Primarily a residential area, the 233-acre historic district is also home to a number of old-fashioned shops, nestled on side streets and in between homes. While finding parking along the side streets is easy enough, German Village’s layout encourages visitors to wander on foot.
“That is very much a function of the way the Germans built it,” explains Shiloh Todorov, director of the German Village Society. “What they were used to at home was tucking their businesses in among the residences.” — Hallie Rybka
Caterina Ltd.: Imports such as French Garnier-Thiebaut linens and traditional Italian Deruta ceramics catch the eye, and the scent of lavender fills the air. The wares here are all made in Europe, either by hand or by time-tested processes. (The Chateau du Bois Lavender has been organically grown in Provence since 1890.) “My purpose is to help preserve some of these traditional art forms,” says shop owner Catherine Adams. 571 S. Third St., 614/224-7224, caterinaltd.com
Schmidt’s Fudge Haus: The blocks of fudge sold here have been slow-cooked in copper kettles and finished on a marble table in true old-world fashion. The display case is also filled with buckeyes and pretzels covered in rich Belgian chocolate. Check the back wall for those sugary retro treats from your youth. If sweets aren’t your style, head next door to Schmidt’s Sausage Haus for a home-style German meal. 220 E. Kossuth St., 614/444-2222, schmidtsfudgehaus.com
The Book Loft: Billed as one of the largest independent bookstores in the country, this sprawling spot spans 32 rooms in buildings that once served as general stores, a saloon and a nickelodeon cinema. Fair warning: Meandering through the entire place could take a while, so if you’re on a specific hunt, grab a map at the front entrance. 631 S. Third St., 614/464-1774, bookloft.com
Kittie’s Cakes: After years of baking special orders, co-owners Kelly and Mollie Fankhauser opened their own store in 2011. Try the rum-soaked cranberry cake or the ginger-nog cupcake. Many of the recipes, such as the buttercream frosting, are adapted from Mollie’s mother and grandmother. “It was paying homage to where we grew up — in the kitchen,” Mollie says. 495 S. Third St., 614/754-8828, kittiescakes.com
Helen Winnemore Craft: This gift shop, located in a converted residential home, has carried the work of artisans for more than 60 years. Shop your way from room to room, browsing windowsills covered in bright handmade jewelry and cabinets topped with blown-glass ornaments. “Staying true to Helen’s fairly simple values of having things that are useful, beautiful and handmade has put us on a good path,” says proprietor Sarah Harpham. 150 E. Kossuth St., 614/444-5850, helenwinnemores.com
Mary B’s: Before it was a gift shop, the little red stable was a bead shop, a blacksmith and a chicken coop. Mary Relotto, owner of Dames Bond Marketplace in the Short North, opened her second location next door to Schmidt’s Sausage Haus to house her collection of wearables, edibles and art. Works by Kimberly Erb adorn the walls and rest on tables between map-print charm necklaces and original jewelry by local artists. 223 E. Kossuth St., 614/445-0035
HISTORIC DOWNTOWN LEBANON
SOUTHWEST | 32 miles northeast of Cincinnati
Brick sidewalks and carefully crafted window displays garnished with cornucopias and tin soldiers welcome visitors to downtown Lebanon. Take a stroll through the idyllic district and it won’t be long before you uncover bits of history revealing that the town’s roots stretch back more than two centuries.
A metal sign posted along Mulberry Street explains that the historic William C. Lewis House sits on lot No. 49 of the town’s original 1802 plat: “The owner of a dry goods store on the corner of Mulberry and Broadway, Lewis built the Greek Revival house in 1846,” the sign reads. “The veranda was added around 1900.”
Settled by early pioneers following the American Revolution, surveyors set the center of Lebanon at the intersection of Broadway and Main, where you’ll find city hall, the public library and The Golden Lamb Restaurant & Inn. Ohio’s oldest hotel, it has hosted 12 U.S. presidents, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and many others stretching back to the early 1800s.
While The Golden Lamb has long been Lebanon’s star attraction, Historic Downtown Lebanon also offers interesting shopping options. The district is hemmed in by four streets (Silver to the north, South to the south, Cherry to the east and Sycamore to the west) and is home to an array of antiques stores, boutiques and restaurants. — Leo DeLuca
Ambassador’s Antiques: Two adorable dogs, Molly the English Spaniel and Mano the Hungarian Puli, greet visitors to Minnie LeForce’s shop, located in the former town livery. Browse an impressive collection of fine period pieces from France, Belgium, England and the United States. “We offer top-quality antiques and linens crafted from fabrics found all over the world,” LeForce says. 35 E. Main St., 513/934-5677
Village Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant: Established on July 4, 1969, this spot is the second-oldest restaurant in Lebanon behind The Golden Lamb. The place offers lunch and dinner fare (including a burger we named among the Best Of Ohio in 2012). Of course, you can top it all off with a treat from the old-fashioned ice cream parlor and soda fountain. 22 S. Broadway St., 513/932-6918, villageicecreamparlor.com
The Jam & Jelly Lady: All of the jelly and jams in Sonya Staffan’s shop are locally made and canned by hand. Visitors to this boutique cannery will also find coffee, wine, infused olive oils and other kitchen staples. Staffan also caters to those who want to try their hand at creating their own stash of preserves. “We teach the microbiology and physics behind canning,” she says. 52 E. Mulberry St., 513/932-6470, jamandjellylady.com
William & Mary Antiques and Jewelry: Situated next door to The Golden Lamb, William & Mary specializes in fine jewelry, antiques, furniture, lighting, gifts, home and holiday decor and more. Mary Kaufman and Jim Ventner founded the charming little shop in October 1991, and a rotating cast of warmhearted shopkeepers helps each day of the week. 23 S. Broadway St., 513/932-4030
Gerhardt Antiques: Charles H. Gerhardt Jr. opened his shop, which is also known as Gerhardt Tribal Art, in 1989. It offers a wide range of artifacts from Native American, African and Asian cultures. Beautiful and inimitable items fill every nook and cranny of the store. “We are unique in this region as the source for rare, authentic and fairly priced artifacts,” says Gerhardt. 33 N. Broadway St., 513/932-9946