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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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    This sweet-savvy entrepreneur set out to open a bakery specializing in wedding cakes. But see how she whipped up something completely new on the local bridal bakery scene.

    The Bakeist is homegrown bakery that specializes in weddings and special events.

    Hannah Belanger is all about being fun and unique. Afterall, her friend Chris Fruci did give her the nickname “The Bakeist,” which ended up just sticking amongst her group of friends.

    “Knowing full well it wasn’t an actual word, I thought it had a cute ring to it,” she says.

    After she graduated from pastry school in 2013, she knew that wedding cakes were her calling and started a homegrown bakery that specializes in weddings and special events called The Bakeist.

    Why wedding cakes? Belanger says it’s because there is a more personal interaction with her clients, and being able to see the joy on their faces when they see the final product makes every part of the process worth it to her.

    “I also have a slight obsession with anything wedding related,” she laughs. “It’s one of the best days of every couple’s lives, so why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that?”

    Belanger says she feels like she’s found something special in her homegrown bakery. “I feel like Cincinnati doesn’t have much to offer in the way of specialty wedding cakes, and so far people have responded quite well and are thankful to have some bakery diversity in the city,” she says.

    Currently, Belanger is the only one behind The Bakeist. “As of now, it’s just something that I’m starting out of my home,” she explains. “I hope to eventually grow into a bigger kitchen one day, but I enjoy entertaining my passion with cakes on the weekends.”


    Since launching The Bakeist, Belanger has had help with branding from The Storytelling Company, who also happens to be her wedding videographer Benjamin Nelson, which has helped her to get a good head start in the direction she wanted to take her business.

    Aside from wedding cakes, Belanger says she’s open to any custom desserts. “I have done pies, cheesecakes, cupcakes, mini desserts for bridal showers, etc.,” she says. “Custom desserts are what I like to offer, opening the creativity to anyone involved!”

    The Bakeist is a unique venture to join the Cincinnati bakery scene, and Belanger says that she doesn’t think there are many Cincinnati bakeries that offer custom desserts. “I find that people gravitate to someone who can create exactly what they are looking for,” she adds.

    Belanger also makes all of her desserts from scratch. There are no shortcuts and she uses real ingredients, which she thinks makes all the difference in the baking world.

    When asked what her favorite cake is, Belanger says that it has to be a peach vanilla cake layered with goat cheese buttercream and pistachios. “The flavor combinations will blow your mind and, in my opinion, it’s absolute perfection.”

    Belanger says you can purchase a slice of cake from The Bakeist for $3. Wedding and birthday cakes range from $25 to $35. Any other small dessert items are individually priced out accordingly with each client.

    While Belanger will continue doing cakes from her home, she says that she has participated in some styled shoots and has some opportunities for more in the near future. “I love to do those because then I can really let my creativity fly,” she adds.

    To learn more about The Bakeist, visit or follow along on Instagram. You can also contact Belanger directly through her website. “I would love to hear from you,” she says.

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    Getting married but not sure where to start? One local business is helps to put your big day together – starting with your floral arrangements. Read on for more.

    Jeff and Robert Green of {say i do} love weddings & events llc
    Jeff and Robert Green of {say i do} love weddings & events llc

    {say I do} love weddings & events llc is now a blossoming business, and it all started with their beautiful floral arrangements. Jeff and Robert Green founded the business in July 2011, and now it’s a full service wedding and special events florist based in the Reading Bridal District.

    “After working in the floral industry for 30 years and seeing the same designs and materials being utilizes, over and over, we were both inspired and challenged to bring new bridal bouquet designs to the heart of the wedding industry,” explains Jeff. “We use different mediums, textures and non-traditional floral products.”

    Some of the unique mediums the duo uses in their floral designs include brooches, fruits, vegetables, houseplants, garden succulents and natural branches including twigs and jute. Jeff says that branching out – quite literally — has allowed them to provide an individualized event experience within an affordable budget for brides-to-be everywhere.

    The Greens also provide box-bulk fresh flowers, fresh floral design, glassware rental, Manzanita tree rentals, event coordinating, event vendor referral, candles, delivery-set up-teardown, free personalized consultations by appointment and free prototypes of bouquets.

    “This year, as we grew, we moved to our Design Center at 116 West Benson Street in the nations largest bridal district, The Reading Bridal District,” says Jeff. “In the upcoming year we are planning on hosting some design classes on bouquet making and centerpiece designing for the DIY bride.”

    Jeff adds that he and Robert know how important staying on budget is for brides and grooms, which is why they plan to provide more options for the DIY bride. In the coming year, Jeff says, they want to offer as many options to make as many dream days come true — whatever that dream might look like for each individual couple.

    To learn more about {say I do} love weddings & events llc, visit,, “like” them on Facebook, or check out their website. {say I do} is located at 118 W. Benson Street in the Reading Bridal District.