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birthday parties

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    Whether you’re stopping by to find your favorite candy from the 80s, ordering a gift basket for someone special, booking a “candy bar” for your next big event, or sipping on one of their signature soda floats - this new OTR-based candy store is already seeing sweet success. Read on for all the delicious details.

    OTR Candy Bar sells nostalgic candies as well as local and regional candies.
    OTR Candy Bar sells nostalgic candies as well as local and regional candies.

    When it comes to candy, it’s all about having fun. That’s the inspiration behind the recently-opened OTR Candy Bar, a local candy store that combines old fashioned, fun candies with sweets made by local and regional candy makers.

    “We enjoyed being part of OTR and loved seeing what was coming into the area,” says Co-owner Mike Petzelt.

    OTR CAndy
    OTR Candy Bar opened in July 2015.

    As original investors in Rhinegeist, Petzelt says the team was having so much fun in the newly revitalized OTR neighborhood that they decided to also purchase the building at 1735 Elm Street. “The building had a great retail front located right across the street from the historical Findlay Market,” he says. “Going back and forth with my brother-in-law Patrick Muck, we came up with the idea of a candy shop.”

    Petzelt, who has previous experience in the candy industry, knew several people who could help get his business idea off the ground. “We immediately reached out to family friend Stephanie Recht to add some style and class to our idea,” he adds.

    Recht, who immediately jumped on board, became part of the team that reached out to developers in OTR. The group, Grey Rock Development, was familiar with the look and feel of the area and was able to get the OTR Candy Bar ready.

    OTR Candy Bar opened in July 2015, just in time for the MLB All-Star Game that visited the Queen City. And now, a new streetcar stop made its way right in front of the stop which has also been a sweet new way to bring in business.

    candy bar
    OTR Candy Bar offers care packages for parents to send to children away at college.

    According to Petzelt, OTR Candy Bar is about creating new and reviving old memories, one sweet treat at a time. “OTR Candy Bar is about fun,” he says. “We wanted to mix old-fashioned, fun candies – the candies that people remember as part of their childhoods – with some great candies from local and regional candy makers.”

    Petzelt says they’ve also added a soft serve ice cream machine, and that customers can add their favorite candy toppings to. With a selection of more than 50 flavors of nostalgic and unique flavored sodas, including Red Hot Soda, Bacon Flavored soda, and Dad’s Root Beer, you’re sure to have your sweet tooth satisfied when you’re done.

    And while the concept was his brainchild, Petzelt says the business is now a family affair. “This was a venture we wanted to do and include all of our family,” he says. “All of our kids frequently help with various jobs and provide ideas to help make this fun!”

    When you visit OTR Candy Bar, you’ll find a variety of old-time candies including Necco Wafers, Sugar Daddies, and Pop Rocks as well as the traditional favorites such as Sour Punches, Zots, Bean Boozled Jelly Beans, and a wall of bulk candies and nuts.

    You'll find recent candies as well as candies from the 80s and beyond at OTR Candy Bar.
    You’ll find recent candies as well as candies from the 80s and beyond at OTR Candy Bar.

    But much of what OTR Candy Bar prides itself on its going out and finding local candies. “It has been a big part of our growth,” says Petzelt. “We have items such as Mom Blakesman’s Cream Pulled Candies, Sunshine Caramels, Velveteen Chocolates, and Sweet Tooth Chocolates. We are constantly adding new and great tasting candies for our customers.”

    When asked what it is that makes OTR Candy Bar unique, Petzelt says that it’s the fun that the store has been having. “We want our customers to become our friends and have us bring in candies they had as kids, or try a new flavor of soda, or send out a gift box to their child in college,” he says.

    They also have a corporate gift basket program with unique and local candies. “We deliver, ship, or you can come pick them up and add in some of your favorites,” says Petzelt. You can also select “Candy Bars” that are filled with colorful, fun candies. “The Candy Bars can be for weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, school dances, and work or school events,” says Petzelt. “We also do birthday party bags, holiday gift bags, Halloween ideas – you name it, we can do it.”

    With a staff that promotes good times and a unique experience, Petzelt hopes that OTR Candy Bar will be part of the growth and development of the Findlay Market and Over-the-Rhine area. In addition to its candy specialities, OTR Candy Bar also works with the Mack Family Foundation, a charitable organization that works to help less fortunate kids in the region.

    To learn more about OTR Candy Bar, visit You can also like them on Facebook and follow along on Instagram and Twitter.

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    The Ark Spark is a children’s art studio that aims to boost imagination and creativity.

    In 2010, Jacquelyn Graff and Emily Otte were recent college graduates trying to pave their new career paths. While both in search for teaching jobs, they bonded over a mutual love for education, art and children.

    Eventually, they realized that their calling was to start a business, and The Art Spark was born. “We decided to open our own children’s art studio after working at a similar business during summer break in college,”

    Otte and Graff explain. “We love being able to provide children with lasting memories that instill imagination and creativity into their future endeavors.”

    Today, The Art Spark has been providing Cincinnati’s children with a creative outlet for five years. The business has grown to provide different age-targeted programs that encourage problem solving, independence and individual creation. Their offerings include pre-school classes, after school classes, home school classes, birthday parties, summer and winter camps and personalized events.

    The Art Spark is a bright spot for children among other academic curriculum. “It’s important that children can feel free to carry out their own ideas and [learn] to problem solve in a creative way that they may not be getting during their school day,” say Otte and Graff. At The Art Spark, every class and camp session begins with a brainstorming session. “This allows the child to contribute their ideas – it’s very exciting and makes a child [gain] self-worth and a sense of accomplishment,” Otte and Graff add.

    At The Art Spark, creation is more than a finished product. “It’s an investment in the future of every child,” Otte and Graff explain. Every project helps children to develop fine motor skills by using a variety of different supplies and techniques. “We challenge our children to think outside the box and solve problems creatively,” say Otte and Graff. “The kids see it as a fun puzzle but ultimately it’s helping them develop skills that they can use in their daily life.”

    An instilled sense of imagination helps children from grade-school age and beyond, according to Otte and Graff. As they grow, a flare for creativity, “helps them to be more confident, have exceptional leadership skills and to not give up when they may hit road blocks,” they add.

    The Art Spark offers programs and opportunities to fit every lifestyle. Summer and winter camps are divided up by ages and all have a unique theme. Activities include both individual and collaborative team projects.

    Age ranges for camps are 3-4, 5-9 and 7-11. Birthday parties are another way for children to experience The Art Spark. Families can choose between different packages according to their wishes.

    “Our Play and Create package offers games, activities, and two art projects that each child takes home with them,” says Otte and Graff. “Our Exploration package offers activities within an elaborately build, full-emersion environment and also includes two take-home projects.”

    Birthday parties are also customizable, with the activities and projects based on a theme chosen by the child.

    Playing a role in the development of a child is a rewarding experience for Otte and Graff. “We always stick to our guidelines of inspiring imagination, solving problems creatively, and helping children gain independence and confidence,” they said, “We are always inspired by our students’ creativity and each day is a new adventure!”

    The Art Spark is located inside Rockwern Academy at 8401 Montgomery Rd. Visit for more information.