Jake Gerth and the Queen City

The Frameshop Crew. Photo Credit: Eric Cronstein

There have been, by conservative estimates, approximately 50 trillion posts about the Revitalization of Cincinnati’s Urban Core. Names like 3CDC, Washington Park, and That Guy with the Two Greyhounds I Always See on Walnut are thrown around constantly. A lot of the urban growth is powered by those with some dough and by edgy tastemakers. It’s led to renovated condos, new parks, and the opening of boutique shops and restaurants in previously derelict buildings.

There’s another, more authentic side to this urban renewal. In an enormous old building in Queensgate, a small group of craftsmen/artists/makers/millenials(?) are building something with purpose, and something truly Cincinnati. Cincinnati currently has this newfound scrappy, come-from-behind success story. We wear it like a badge of honor, a beacon of silent pride that of each us carries. It’s guys like Jake and crew who are creating, envisioning, pushing art, and bringing hard dollars into a remote area of forgotten urban industrialism.

Note: First off — listen to the podcast. It’s great. It’s a long, meandering conversation between Jake and myself with some asides by Eric.

The Framers

I visited Jake Gerth at what is now the new production space for The Frame Shop, and what has historically been the warehouse for sets and props of The Cincinnati Opera. (The Opera moved to a huge warehouse space in Blue Ash). At 1275 Budd St. you find yourself standing outside what is so very Cincinnati: a rough looking massive brick monolith. Inside, however, you find a half dozen young men buzzing around table saws and compressors and stacks of high-quality lumber, looking like just maybe they slept in what they are wearing.

The man with the plan(s): Jake ‘I stole that t-shirt’ Gerth. Photo: Eric Cronstein

The first floor of the old 4-story Opera warehouse is dedicated to the operations of the Frame Shop, or roughly 14,000 square feet of working space. Here they receive orders, cut wood, assemble frames, take meticulous care of art, and turn ideas into beautiful household decorations. They also play foosball.

The Plans

The building itself is big. And mostly empty. There are a smattering of old props — spears and swords and a giant fake fireplace and a disconcerting little boy with a basket. Jake and the crew want to ‘give the building back’ to the city, and this is the part that I f*cking loved. Here’s some of the ideas he’s got:

  1. Cincinnati Opera museum in the space: they’d set up and style some of the props and scenery for people to walk through
  2. Artists’ studios: Kind of like a Pendleton Arts Center West. Would open it up occasionally to the public for events and sales.
  3. Event space: Would be VERY hip as an event space. Big. Historic. Huge windows. Freight elevator. Plenty of nearby parking.
  4. Performance venue: Could easily have bands, artists, plays (think Fringe Festival space), haunted house, all sorts of neat experiential shit.
  5. Maker space: It’s perfect for craftsman of all types. There’s heating throughout, electric throughout, plumbing, fire suppression, etc. Everything to keep Opera Props in great shape.
It was rather temperate on the roof. Photo: Cronstein

So what?

So, everyone’s been building a bunch of new shit. That’s great. Love it. What these guys are doing is not only building something (a company, a new treasure for the city), they are giving back to the city that’s given them this chance. This marriage of the commercial and the historical and a young man’s fiery passion are guaranteed to create something amazing. Keep your eyes on these guys. And go see the space.

Oh! They are also opening a Frameshop location in Hyde Park at the corner of Edwards and Observatory. These boys not only do world-class framing better than anyone else, they will now do it for you well-heeled Hyde Parkers. Shop Local. Support your Queen City.