The Fluff: not the average “Mutha Clucka” of a restaurant

Under the mask of a relaxed, crooner playlist and baked goods, The Fluff on Court Street has become a sort of central hub for Athens residents. Included in their logo are the words “Kitchen. Bakery. Drinks.” It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like at least one of the things included in that list.

On the northern end of Court Street between Pita Pit and the Red Brick Tavern, The Fluff is a pleasant place with drinks, food, and pastries that warm the soul. Their baked goods are made fresh every day and set out for customers to drool over and potentially purchase. Their chalk boards with the menu items colorfully written display the variety of options and fun environment that The Fluff offers.

2015-10-13 16.30.13When The Fluff opened, it was originally called “Fluff”, however, that name was added to in the last year. Why? The owners wanted to expand the definition of “Fluff.” In the past year, besides adding the word “The” to the title, the menu expanded. The little bakery matured into more of a restaurant scene with additions to the breakfast and lunch menus and the bold inclusion of alcoholic beverages to the beverage list. “It’s nice that they have a good mix of everything,” said junior biochemistry major and employee of The Fluff Emma Kessler. “I don’t know where else you can get breakfast and have a drink too.”

The menu is widely assorted with unique titles for the foods like “Mutha Earth” and “The Greenery.” But what items have customers hitting up the place so often? According to Kessler, some popular lunch items she has noticed are the “Mutha Clucka” and the “Thai Bowl.” The most popular, the Mutha Clucka, is a sandwich with roasted chicken, cheddar cheese, hummus, and their fresh, roasted vegetables all on rosemary focaccia bread. When it comes to drinks, Kessler said that lately the Irish Coffee has been a hit, and since it’s autumn, pumpkin spice lattes have been more in demand.

 

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Personally, my favorite is the bacon, egg, and cheese bagel, which can be served on three different types of bagel or even a biscuit. Kessler said that this also is a very popular menu item, especially for breakfast. And for drinks, I love their hot apple cider, but of course I’m not the only Fluff-goer. Freshman publication design major Becca Ryan commented, “I feel like I haven’t been there enough to have a favorite, but I love their hot tea.”

 

2015-10-13 16.30.58The food is not the only charming thing about The Fluff. People who go there also love the atmosphere of the little restaurant and bake shop. “It’s a fun place to relax with friends,” said Ryan. “I love how you can just chill and do homework and listen to their good music.”

To fill my personal pastry and apple cider cravings, I head up to The Fluff a couple times a week and it’s always a good experience. Although The Fluff might not be someone’s first option when going up to Court Street for some drinks or a meal, the restaurant has adjusted its menu and motif to make it compete better with other Court Street dining options.

Bluetique Athens offers a positive experience to shoppers and employees

What once was an independently-owned photography shop on West State St. in Athens, is now a trendy and student-friendly boutique where fashion meets fun. Known as Bluetique, the shop opened this August and is a sight for sore eyes when it comes to the shopping market in small town Athens, Ohio.

Exposed brick and antiqued display tables mimic a New York stationed Urban Outfitters, but the Ohio University bobcat green still holds a place on the floor. After the loss of Kismet, a beloved local fashion boutique to last year’s Union St. fire, Bluetique offers Athens fashion enthusiasts a breath of fresh air with a variety of styles to explore.

Bluetique's chic atmosphere is unlike any other Athens fashion boutique.
Bluetique’s chic atmosphere is unlike any other Athens fashion boutique.

After having opened multiple other locations in college towns like Oxford, Ohio and Bowling Green, Kentucky, the owners decided it was time for Athens to become a part of the Bluetique family. “They thought Athens was a neat little town, they really liked it and they wanted to put a business here,” said Athens Bluetique Store Manager Marissa Whaley. According to Whaley, the couple of owners scoped out the perfect location in Athens for a few years before deciding to land the new store next to O’Betty’s Red Hot on West State St.

In the short time that it has been open, Athens Bluetique set itself apart from other shops around town. “It’s the perfect mix, you see every one of all ages come in,” said Jodie Gipson, Bluetique employee and OU student.  While working, Gipson has witnessed middle-aged women shopping for sweaters, and has also helped a 5-year-old pick out jewelry. Other Athens fashion boutiques are smaller in size, which tend to limit their ability to offer a variety of options. “I think we offer more of a selection,” said Gipson. “We have everything from preppy business clothes to fringy boho jackets.” Bluetique can also personalize just about anything with monogramed initials or a bobcat paw print, which is another element that makes the store unique.

Each Bluetique location is set up and run a little differently. According to Manager Whaley, based on her knowledge of the other stores, Athens Bluetique is different from the others in that it is more accessible to students. “You have to drive,” said Whaley, referring to the Lexington, Kentucky store.

It’s safe to say that all of Whaley’s employees are college students, some of whom are pursuing degrees in Retail Merchandising and Fashion Product Development. Both Whaley and Gipson agreed that working for Bluetique will help student employees in their future careers. Gipson is a fashion student herself, and made it clear that the workers aren’t there to solely fold clothes and operate cash registers. They are asked to collaborate with all branches of management for Bluetique as a whole. Authority figures from multiple locations within the company visit Athens on a regular basis to check on the store’s progress and talk with the Bluetique girls. “It gives them an aspect of what we do,” said Whaley.

As someone who has worked for many different retail companies including Express and Justice, Gipson made it clear that Bluetique is a great company to work for. “Everyone’s so connected,” said the OU senior, referring to the owners and their relationship with each individual Bluetique location.

Bluetique keeps up with the college students by interacting with them via social media. The company is well established on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and also has created separate Instagram and Twitter accounts for its different locations. The accounts keep followers informed of sales and provide fashion inspiration, all in hopes to shape some avid Bluetique shoppers.

Every customer who stops into Bluetique has the chance to leave appearing more glamorous than before visiting. A free pair of pearls is offered to every customer who stops by, along with free customized bottles of water to keep a serious shopper hydrated, and impressively sized candy jars for the occasional sweet tooth while snatching up a sale. Without a doubt, Athens Bluetique has something enjoyable for everyone.

 

*All photographs used in this article are property of Court Street Stories.

Urban Bobcats adjust to Athens’ slower pace

Making the adjustment from high school to college is a big one, but making the adjustment from a big city to a small college town is even bigger.  Many students at Ohio University come from or live near big cities.  When they first move in and experience Athens, it is a complete culture shock. Everything they grew up around doesn’t exist in Athens, a town surrounded by nothingness.  There are no tourists begging them to take their picture, no skyscrapers, and no malls five minutes away.  The transition from big cities to Athens is eye opening, but this small town does have its perks and can teach a thing or two to these urban dwellers.

I am one of these urban dwellers who made my way to Ohio University. I am a proud Jersey girl, and live about 30 minutes out of New York City. Deep down in my heart, I am a New Yorker. Every free weekend I find myself on the next train to New York Penn Station. I am a die-hard NY Rangers, Yankees, and Giants fan. I can easily roll off all the subway routes, and can tell you which NYC pizza places are completely lying to you when the sign on their window says “World’s Greatest Pizza.” Even though I love NYC, its hot dog stands, and its outrageous sales tax on clothing, I thought I was prepared to attend college somewhere new. Like many other Ohio University students who come from big cities, I wanted to have the chance to experience a typical, quaint college town. While my relatives and friends warned me and told me I was making a huge mistake, I rejected their opinions and happily enrolled at Ohio University.

Coming from living in or near a big city and living in Athens for the first time is indescribable. It is an overwhelming experience, full of feelings of confusion and feeling out of place. Why are these creepy people randomly saying “Hi” to me on the sidewalk? And are cars actually leaving the right amount of space between them and the car in front of them? How can people be in no rush and hold doors open for multiple people? Why is everyone so frickin’ nice? To be honest, I hated the niceness and small town hospitality at first. I wanted cars to beep at me for walking across the street when the light was still green. I wanted people to bump into me on the sidewalk and never think even once to apologize. As much as I tried to get rid of my New York/East Coast state of mind and accept the lifestyle of a small town, I simply couldn’t.

I am definitely not the only urbanite turned Bobcat who has felt this way. Freshman Jenna Sopko is a fellow New Jersey native. She lives roughly an hour from the Big Apple, and an hour and 10 minutes from Philadelphia. “I live in the perfect location, between two cities, and was lucky that I could go to them all the time, whenever I wanted,” Sopko said.

Living so close to two large cities has made Sopko believe she belongs in a city. “I practically grew up roaming the streets of New York City. I’ve window shopped down Fifth Avenue. I’ve eaten more bagels and slices of pizza than you can imagine,” she said. “It has become my second home, and it’s the place I can see myself living when I’m older.”

More than anything Sopko misses always having something to do. Whether she was seeing a play on Broadway or shopping in Times Square, her options for fun and having a new adventure in the city were endless.

Athens is a completely different story. The biggest “adventure” Athens has to offer is driving to Walmart. If you’re feeling extremely adventurous, you can drive the 15 minutes to the Fun Barn in Nelsonville to play arcade games and see a movie. Ohio University has made Princeton Review’s Top Party School List multiple times, and no wonder why. What else is there to do in this small town besides drinking? And when drinks cost a whopping $1.50 compared to Yankee Stadium’s $10 beers, how could you not participate in the nightlife?

Bobcat and Washington, D.C., native Katie Linz struggled adjusting to Athens. She is from a suburb in Northern Virginia, on the outskirts of D.C. “I come from a city that is so diverse, and I miss that. I miss being surrounded by so many people from so many different parts of the world,” Linz said. “I miss stores being open past 10 p.m. I miss always having something to do, and as weird as it sounds, I miss D.C traffic.”

I could go on and on for hours about city traffic. At home when I am stuck in rush hour, all I do is complain, but now I miss it. I don’t necessarily miss the traffic. I miss how people reacted. I hate to admit it, but I miss the road rage.   I miss people riding your tail and flipping you off when you accidentally cut them off. And by accidentally, I mean 100% on purpose because their lane was moving faster than mine. No matter what hour of the day or night, chances are you will never experience that much traffic in Athens. Most students walk everywhere, so the amount of driving in this college town is low. Some students do not even have cars on campus, which comes as a surprise to me because there is barely any means of transportation in this tiny town. No trains and no subways. The closest thing you can get is a Green Cab, and you don’t even have to hail it down.

While living in a small town in the middle of absolute nowhere has been a difficult adjustment, it has its perks. Chicagoan and sophomore Maddie Plaster, just like me, wanted to go to college in a perfect, little college town. When she first drove to Athens, she immediately felt that small-town vibe and knew it was the school for her. Living in Athens has made Plaster grateful that she has had the opportunity to live in two places that are so different. “Being in a small town opened up my eyes to a whole different life that I never experienced,” Plaster said. “Athens not only helped me to appreciate my home and my roots, but it also helped me to appreciate small towns and the quaintness and peacefulness of them.”

At times, I am grateful to live in Athens and do feel that in some ways, as hard as it is for me to admit, Athens is better than a big city. The biggest perk that pops into my head is safety. I feel safer here than I do in NYC because Athens is so small. There are two different police stations on campus, and I constantly see police cars driving by. I can walk home alone or late at night without worrying about getting mugged or something much worse happening. I can walk around Athens with a purse and not have to hold it tightly to my body in fear that someone will pickpocket me. Sopko also enjoys this newfound feeling of security. “I feel safe walking down Court Street late at night or walking home from the library at 4 a.m., something that I would never even considering doing in NYC,” said Sopko.

While living the small-town lifestyle over the past two years has been challenging, it has also been rewarding. I have realized that you don’t need to take a cab or taxi everywhere. I can walk to class, or pretty much anywhere else I need to go. Here, when you walk the 10 minutes to class, you are able to experience all the wonderful architecture and nature that come with Athens. Senior Brett Littrell, a Columbus native, also enjoys having everything within walking distance. “Everything is so close and what I love about living in a small town is that I feel like everywhere I go, I run into people I know,” said Littrell. He’s right. I can’t walk between classes without seeing a familiar face, which makes this campus feel so cozy. I have learned that patience is a virtue, and that complaining and going on a rant about how long a red light is won’t make it change any quicker. I’ve also learned that you should be kind on the road, and let a car merge into your lane. (Just because I learned that one does not mean I’m going to follow it, but it’s a good life lesson!) Finally, I’ve learned that there is nothing more powerful than the strength of a small town. Athens has experienced deaths and tragic fires, and because this is such a little, tight-knit community, everyone came together in times of need and supported one another.

Athens and small towns are not for everyone; however, small towns can leave a lasting impression on city people. I have to admit, Athens hasn’t completely sold me on the idea of living in a small town, and that’s OK. I don’t regret my decision to come to school here, and I hope that other city dwellers feel the same way. I’ve experienced so many new things here, and have fallen in love with the Bobcat family. Even though I know that I belong in the city, I have a whole new outlook on small towns. In five years when I am hopefully living in NYC and am running 10 blocks in stilettos to try to catch the train or subway, I can always think back to college and Athens. I know Athens will always serve as my escape from all the hustle and bustle of the city. And I know that if I ever get tired of the bright lights, loud sounds, and casual run-ins with the Naked Cowboy, I am always welcome back on the bricks.

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Danielle Podlaski is a junior at Ohio University majoring in journalism with a minor in sports msanagement. She is a proud New Jersey native, sports lover, and Dunkin’ Donuts fanatic.  When she is not shoveling snow as an Ice Girl for the Columbus Blue Jackets, you can find her interviewing the Ohio University Men’s Ice Hockey Team between periods.  Her dream job is to be a reporter for the NHL Network or NBC Sports. 

Court Street’s historical gem: Carsey’s Barber Shop

Court Street has become an extension of the quintessential college town that is Athens, Ohio. Students of Ohio University have turned this historical street into an avenue for partying. As more bars take the place of old shops and restaurants, the locals have had to establish their “townie” hangouts elsewhere. But, despite the party culture, one business has managed to preserve its historical presence on Court Street and offers a glimpse into the past.

The iconic red and white pole seems to swirl from a distance, and can be spotted from several blocks away on Court Street. When you walk into Carsey’s Barber Shop it’s like walking into the ’50s. Black, brown, white and red hair is scattered on the floor. The sound of electric blades wrestles with chatter about the holidays, the game, and the wife and kids. Old advertisements for Coca-Cola and Marlboro cigarettes plaster the walls. University letter jackets hang next to a businessman’s coat on the rack by the door.

This is a man’s world, and it’s obvious that no matter where the customer has come from, he expects nothing less when he walks through the door.

Four proud barbers line the mirrored wall. On the end, you’ll find Mr. Carsey himself, well his son that is, standing behind a leather seat, meticulously combing his customer’s hair. Max Carsey has been a barber his whole life. His father, Jesse Carsey, who still lives in Athens, started the business in 1942 when Max was just a baby. Max grew up in the shop and watched his dad cut men’s hair until one day, he would be old enough to do the same.

“I had so much fun in there, I decided I wanted to be like him,” Carsey said.

Carsey has seen the transition of Court Street’s businesses from a window shop’s view. He reminisces about “the good old days” when he could take a sack of coins to Woolworth’s Five and Dime and fill his pockets with candy. Now, he says, there is nothing but bars and restaurants.

But Carsey has made a point to maintain a high level of tradition in the shop. There is no music playing, no flat screen televisions lining the walls and no selection of flashy hair products. Carsey’s is the real deal. Men go for a good haircut, not the special treatment.

“I’ve been to several of the barber shops,” said Todd Wilson, owner of Sol restaurant. “They have the best haircuts here.”

The regulars at Carsey’s aren’t just Athens’ locals, they are students as well. Matt Watts, a junior at Ohio University, is a regular at Carsey’s.

“I like the vibe here, it’s quick, cheap and easy,” said Watts.

Carsey’s also prides itself on truly knowing their customers. Alan Trout, barber at Carsey’s for 19 years, has many regulars and he considers them his friends. On the off chance that Trout doesn’t recognize the next guy to walk in, he will make a point to learn their name.

“You just don’t get that kind of interaction anywhere else,” Trout said. “It’s a lot of the reason I have this job.”

All four barbers at Carsey’s are trained to use a straight blade, which is hard to find these days. A straight blade is considered dangerous and technique must be mastered before a barber is qualified to use one. Brian Muschott, barber at Carsey’s for three years, said he wouldn’t shave his customer’s hair any other way.

“I know when I walk in here, I’ll walk out with a good cut,” said Watts.

Carsey’s never has a slow day. Customers are in and out all day long, each one of them leaving satisfied with a clean, new haircut. And it is the combination of good conversation, a good haircut, and a sense of tradition and pride in their work that Carsey’s has managed to overcome the flood of students on Court Street and withstand the test of time amidst the chaos of modern life.

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Cassie Kelly is a student journalist at Ohio University. She is working toward a certificate in environmental studies and hopes to pursue a career in science journalism. You can find her hiding out in Village Bakery, typing away on her beloved MacBook.