Blue Rock Medicine Show
It is easy to become mesmerized by vibrant colors and the vast array of items sold at Blue Rock Medicine Show, but behind every stone, embellishment, and scent lies purpose and intent. Owner and founder, DAK, has a long-standing history with Findlay Market. He is a fourth-generation Koch (German for Cook). His great-grandparents came to America from Germany and started selling produce at Findlay Market in 1895.
“They had one horse and buggy they loaded up with strawberries and other things. They left at 3 A.M. and could actually sleep on the way because the horses knew the route to the Market so well.”
The Koch family has had a presence at the Market ever since.
While DAK has been in the stone business since 1987, he got his start selling at the Market in 2010 during the Fourth of July Weekend. He sold his stones and crystals out on West Elder Street at a tent and table for two and a half years before expanding his business and moving into the roll-up doors. When DAK moved into the new space, he wanted it to be not just another store, but an accessible place that sparked curiosity and wonder. He said that his products are treasures that he wants everyone to have the chance to experience, having everything from $1 feathers to $500 crystals.
“You may notice different cultural symbols,” DAK says pointing to a case full of charms and pendants. “Many of their meanings are ancient, but it’s more than just the mythology behind the symbols. The meanings are what matters; it’s personal and sparks conversation and curiosity.”
When people walk through the North entrance doors, they usually are not thinking about the significance of stones or crystals; however, DAK’s goal is to have people leaving his stand with, if not with an item in hand, at least having learned something new about the world or about themselves.
Blue Rock Medicine Show offers unique items from all over the world. “Blue Rock is the Earth. My stones come from six continents and outer space,” says DAK. “Literally, I sell tektites, which are tiny glass meteorites.” He also sells essential oils, salt lamps, interior decorations, mortar and pestles, wedding gifts and so much more. DAK also offers sterling silver chains for his wrapped jewelry and pendants in addition to his adjustable cords.
Blue Rock Medicine show is a place of connection. “In different ways, we can get healing from the Earth and give healing back to the Earth.” Next time you are at the Market, stop by and say hello, check out all the treasures his stand has and, most importantly, ask questions, have a conversation and learn something new.
“I knew nothing about beekeeping, but I found the book so enchanting. It started off as a hobby that quickly got out of control. Two hives became five and five became ten.” Since receiving their first two hives in 2005, Sam and her husband, Scott, have experienced all the highs and lows of beekeeping.
Even after fourteen years of perfecting the craft, not every crop is fruitful. Like all farming, beekeeping requires optimal weather conditions. “This year we lost seven colonies. We are working on getting them healthy again,” Sam explains. “Everything from rain, wind and flower blossoms can have significant impacts on our swarms.”
In addition to the beehives, Sam and Scott also plant blueberry bushes for their bees to pollinate. This year they planted 800 bushes, but are unsure of how well their crop will turn out due to weather conditions. The goal of planting the blueberry bushes is to produce and sell blueberry honey.
“Just like different grapes make different wines, different plants give honeys different tastes. Wildflower Honey made in Ohio will taste different than Wildflower Honey made in California.”
However, bees can only produce a certain amount of honey per season (50-100lbs). Because of this, Sam and Scott connect with other local beekeepers to source additional honey. Their product selection is also expanding. “We’re experimenting with new mold process. We’re trying to make our own using silicone.” Another unique item they sell is their Bee Wraps, which is a natural, more environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic wrap. They also ship their balms and lotions all across the country.
“We came into beekeeping at the right and wrong time,” Sam says regarding the “Save the Bees” campaign. Sam and her husband jumped head-first into this project at a critical time for the bee population. “We were able to learn what to do and what not to do.” Bee Haven is a wonderful testament that shows how curiosity, passion and resiliency can cultivate something wonderful.
Daniel Noguera, founder of Urbana Cafe, did not always drive a bright-blue, 1982 Vespa around Findlay Market. In fact, Daniel spent twelve years working in Corporate America before quitting his full-time job as a project manager to pursue his passion—coffee.
“I was losing my drive because the job was not allowing me to be innovative. So, I quit my job and took a trip to Italy where I got this idea to sell coffee out of a Vespa.”
For those who may not be familiar with the European vehicle, Vespas were a post-war invention that combined a motorcycle with a utility truck to help people navigate the broken, narrow streets of Italy.
When Daniel returned to the States from Italy in 2013, he received training as a barista in Chicago and found a Vespa for sale in Canada and bought it right away and began forming the foundation for his coffee business. “From the start, when I first had the idea in Italy, the plan was always to sell coffee at Findlay Market.” In fact, the name Urbana means “urban” in Italian. “I think of Findlay Market as the urban center of Cincinnati and I wanted my business to be at the core of this urban space.”
As for the coffee, Daniel blends traditional Italian espresso techniques with tastes of American house blends. He wanted to provide a coffee that was “simple enough for the consumer without sacrificing the complex taste of the coffee.” He sources his beans from small farms across the world from Bali, Indonesia to a women-run farm in San Ignacio, Peru.
“The Indonesian coffee has a blueberry flavor that is specific to that region. I’m most proud of the Women of San Ignacio coffee. They just keep putting out better and better crops every year.”
In the six years that Daniel has been at the Market, he has also expanded his coffee business throughout the city. He now has a second Vespa (same color, model and make), two storefronts and a small retail space in the Scripps Building opening soon. Daniel is also excited to be expanding his business here at the market. “We’re bringing in a new roaster and adding seating and a low and rounded counter. I want this new space to be conducive for conversations and as inviting as possible.”
You can find Daniel walking his loyal dog of ten years, Giacomo, around the Market. “He’s been with me through college, my M.B.A. and would lay out in the yard with me and my friend all night while we worked on the Vespa.” Seven months ago, Daniel adopted a Bernese named Frida. “We donate a portion of our proceeds to dog rescue organizations in Cincinnati.” Next time you are visiting the Market, stop by Urbana, grab a cup of coffee and take some time to unwind through caffeine and conversation.
Susannah Tisue, a local artist and owner of SKT Ceramics, has been shopping at the Market since she was a young girl. She grew up downtown but moved to Brooklyn, NY to pursue her art degree at New York University. During her three-year artist residency at Greenwich House Pottery in Manhattan’s West Village, Susannah produced functional art.
No stranger to the market scene, Susannah set up shop for six years at Brooklyn Flea selling her artwork. She was inspired by the feedback she received from shoppers who loved buying her practical art—things people can appreciate aesthetically but also utilize. Upon returning to the Queen City, she chose to sell her ceramics at Findlay Market.
“I love markets because I get to meet the people who are buying my products and learn about their personal connection to my art.”
“I get my inspiration from the natural world,” says Susannah. “Living in Brooklyn was chaotic. I missed the simplicity of nature.” Susannah takes simple elements from the natural world and incorporates them into her functional art pieces; even the blue glaze she uses is meant to mimic a clear, blue sky. The color is unique to SKT Ceramics, as it was formulated by Susannah and a local glaze chemist. It is a variation of celadon glaze (a 1000-year-old glazing method) and gets its blue color from iron.
Susannah’s illustration catalog has expanded throughout the years, too. She now has 93 illustrations such as her signature Roebling Bridge, fox and chick. However, with new requests comes new art. “I’m currently working on an octopus for a customer. I started a drawing years ago of one and pulled it back out for this request.”
Susannah has rented studio space from Queen City Clay since 2016. “They have a gas kiln, which is really nice.” She and her husband, who is also an artist by design, are currently renovating a building in Walnut Hills. The building formerly functioned as a moving picture and vaudeville theatre in the early 1900s, but will soon be the new studio and home base for SKT Ceramics.
Their business is greatly expanding, as they now ship to more than 100 stores across the country. Additionally, all of SKT Ceramic’s products are dishwasher and microwave safe, so they can be used and enjoyed over and over again. Susannah is proof that art does not have to be something that must solely be admired. Her work is as versatile as it is elegant—a wonderful reminder that we can find beauty in the simplicity of the natural world.
George Roth, a proud Cincinnatian, has seen it all in his 70 plus years of being at the Market. “I’ve been here for 70 Opening Day Parades,” he boasts. “Now, I may not have been in them all, but I’ve been at the Market for that long.” Like many merchants here at Findlay Market, George is a second-generation vendor, and the Market has been an integral part of his life.
George’s father, born in 1912, and his uncle went into business together at the Market in the mid-1920s. The brothers worked for different vendors at the Market as young men before deciding to open their own produce stand together. George joined the family business in 1947 when he was just seven years-old by helping his father and uncle out on the weekends.
When George was not at Findlay Market, he traveled all over the Greater Cincinnati Area working in the shipping industry. “I was at CVG Airport for 14 years loading and unloading air freights. I also worked in the film industry at National Screen Service, that used to be on Central Parkway, shipping film and promotion canisters to theaters in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.” Although he worked outside the Market during the week, he never missed a weekend selling produce.
George is one of ten siblings in the Roth family. “There were three brothers, including myself, and seven sisters in our household,” George reminisces. “My sisters would decorate the Roth Family Float for the parade every year.”
Additionally, produce was more than just a form of revenue for the family—it was a way of life. “We ate a lot of vegetables growing up—lots of soups and hashes. Meat was expensive with ten kids. We were only served meat probably twice a week at most. We never went hungry, though.”
George’s memory is full of boundless stories of Findlay Market. While the Market has under undergone many changes throughout the decades, generational vendors like George remain central to preserving the history and mission of the Market. Next time you are buying a bunch of bananas or a batch of berries from Roth Produce, give George a friendly hello.
Husband and wife duo, Mark and Sara Frommeyer, are farmers by trade and artisan breadmakers by design. “Thirteen years ago my wife and I felt that there was a need for better bread—bread that is fresh, organic and locally sourced,” says Mark. Since their epiphany, the two have been cultivating and revolutionizing the bread-making scene in Cincinnati.
Before Blue Oven Bakery “was a thing,” the pair solely owned and operated their family farm located about thirty minutes outside of the city off of Ohio State Route 32 in Williamsburg where they organically grew (and continue to grow) crops like wheat and tomatoes. In order to focus their attention on breadmaking, the couple took an entire summer off from farming and dedicated months to refining their bread. Mark built a wood-fired oven on the farm—adorned with, you guessed it, blue tiles Mark found at a garage sale while passing through Cleveland—and the rest is history.
“We are at fourteen farmers markets around Cincinnati, including Findlay Market. A large portion of our ingredients are sourced straight from our farm, like our organic grain, but since we have expanded, it’s been challenging trying to source everything locally. We do our best to buy local, in-season produce from other farmers at the farmers markets.” Some of their best sellers include English muffins, their Bad Boy Sourdough and sweet and savory croissants.
In recent months, Mark and Sara have taken on several new, expansive projects simultaneously. The first big project is happening directly on their farm. “We bought a second farm that is going to be open to the public. We want to create an ‘agriculture tourism’ experience for folks. They’ll be able to pick veggies and take in-depth tours of our milling and baking processes.”
The second big project is, as you may have noticed, is taking place right here at the Market. They are building in an oven so they can make and bake their bread in-house.
“We’re really excited about this. We wanted to expand both our rural and urban locations.”
Mark and Sara are wholly devoted to their craft and staying true to their roots. “We want people to know we are committed to being the urban producer of hand-crafted, organic, locally-made bread for Cincinnati. We’ve turned down many opportunities to expand because we always want to be accessible to the public and provide a quality product.”
Blue Oven Bakery is a wonderful marriage of farming and food. Mark and Sara’s dedication to revolutionizing the baking game is unparalleled. Find their products all over Cincinnati at various markets and restaurants and be sure to check out their new farm when it opens!