Take a walk down Ludlow Avenue, the main drag in Clifton’s Gaslight district, and you’ll find decades-old food spots like Ambar India, Sitwell’s, and Habanero along with long-beloved local stores such as Pangea Trading Company, Toko Baru, and Clifton Natural Foods. Scattered among these stalwarts are newer restaurants like Lydia’s, Los Potrillos, and The Whole Bowl astride shops such as Lentz and Company and Maya. But whether you’re seeking out the tried-and-true or trying something new, there’s one recently arrived store you don’t want to miss: Clifton Market.
Located in the former Keller’s IGA space, Clifton Market operates as a co-op that provides its 1,700-and-counting shareholders with special discounts, eligibility for patronage dividends, first access to special events like cooking classes, and more.
For everyone else, the market serves as a full-service grocery with a heavy emphasis on local and regional goods. Fifteen percent of the market’s products, from bread and honey to beef and dairy, are local. The market has also partnered with Cincinnati’s TriHealth/Good Samaritan Hospital to provide a Healthy Meal of the Day that’s easy to grab and go during the workweek. And you’ll find a wide selection of national products throughout the completely redesigned store.
The colorful, bright interior design and signage (created by Clifton’s own Catt Lyon Design) are welcoming, and the exterior architecture plays off the design of the iconic Esquire Theater across the street. One notable interior feature is the original 1929 tin ceiling, which was re-exposed after a drop ceiling was removed to create a sightline throughout the entire store from the front entrance.
Upon entering the store, patrons are greeted by small stands of sale items, a cheerful flower display, and the Busy Bee café, where they can meet friends for coffee or juice, enjoy a lunch purchased at the market, or attend a special event such as Tuesday tastings. The philosophy behind the café, with its easy-to-reconfigure tables and chairs, is that a grocery is not only a retailer but also a social gathering space.
Other departments include the Juicery, the Clifton Artisan Bakery, Sushi Express, and Emma’s Deli, all of which sell freshly made items with many local ingredients. The market is committed to source accountability, thus all its seafood offerings can be traced to a fishing boat, and all meat can be traced to a farm. Customers can self serve from the bulk food sections of grains and olive oil or grind their own fresh nut butters.
Clifton Market opened in late January to much fanfare, and the enthusiasm hasn’t waned. A steady stream of smiling Clifton residents, University of Cincinnati students, and more far-flung Cincinnatians patronize the store, engaging in friendly chitchat with helpful staff. The market is working hard to fill a gap left when Keller’s IGA closed in 2011 plus much, much more, including free parking and online shopping with groceries delivered to your car.
Clifton Gaslight District
319 Ludlow Ave., Cincinnati
Sarah is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and editor. She frequently writes about design, creative projects, and career advice. Prior to launching her own business in 2013, Sarah served as an editor for HOW magazine for 16 years. You can find her portfolio online and connect with her via LinkedIn @SarahMWhitman.