The Cotton Hunt: My search for men’s clothing in Athens

Since the beginning of time, men have hunted, and no good hunt would be complete without an elusive target. My prize, however, doesn’t walk on four legs or even two. It’s much trickier to find. My goal was to track down a store that actually sold men’s clothes in Athens.

“You’ve got to be willing to look for a while if you want to find anything good,” said Ethan Grant, a freshman sympathetic to my cause. I was inclined to agree.

After a day of searching, I came to one conclusion — if you’re trying to find a good selection of men’s clothing, good luck.

I started off close to campus. A short walk down Court Street revealed a few prospects. Stores of all sorts fill in the gaps between local eateries and bars guaranteeing the best drinks in town. If you need new guitar strings, they have a store for you. If you’re looking for a new dress, Athens can provide one.

However, if you’re looking for a new sweater or maybe a pair of khakis, your patience will be tested.

My first choice was the University Bookstore. I thought of this as a store filled with clothes for prideful Bobcats, with an OU emblem on every piece of clothing. My memory was correct. I appreciate school spirit as much as the next guy, but I’m not a billboard.

This seemed to be a running theme throughout Court Street. If they sold men’s clothes, a Bobcat or an OU logo was on it somewhere. Both bookstores, The House and Universitees, marched to the same drum. Also, it seemed their selection began and ended with athletic and casual wear.

Onward I trudged, determined to find something. As I closed in on the end of the street, I saw a faint glimmer of hope. Signs advertising several men’s brands drew my attention towards the Import House.

Once inside, I was not entirely disappointed. They too had the apparently mandatory selection of Ohio University clothes but also offered other things. Band t-shirts hung here and there, and it was also the only store I found on Court Street where you could buy men’s shoes.

According to some employees of the stores on Court Street, the reason they offer only OU clothing is obvious— it’s what people want.  

“We get [the clothes] people ask for, and they keep asking for the same thing,” said Linda Hancock, who works at Import House

I decided to expand my search. I headed to East State Street, far enough away that students without a car would have a hard time making it to any of the stores. Biking there is possible but not for the faint of heart. My heart, being faint, chose to catch a ride from a friend.

The selection in Elder-Beerman and Sears was more diverse. Finally, I had found somewhere that offered formal wear. The prices at Sears were fair, but Elder-Beerman hovered close to being too expensive for a college budget.

These stores, however, were not at the top of some student’s list of desirable places to shop.

“I don’t know anyone my age who shops there,” said Dylan Sterling, a sophomore who thought Athens could do better.

Wal-Mart faced a similar problem. While it has a wide variety of clothing, it’s notorious lack of quality had both Sterling and Grant, who said they did not like to shop at Wal-Mart, wishing for more options.  

The only store left was rue 21. This store did sell men’s clothes geared towards people our age. In all of Athens, I had found one store that sold clothing specifically for my demographic. If you aren’t a fan of rue 21, you’re short on options.

As my hunt came to end along with the day, I come to the conclusion that there indeed places for men to shop. The problem, however, was what few choices we have are out of reach for anyone without a vehicle.

In short, you might be better off waiting until Thanksgiving break to buy that new coat for the coming winter. Happy Hunting.

10 reasons to visit Athens’ newest shop: Honey Lingerie and Sex Store

Honey's walls are lined with a diverse collection of lingirie, varying in sizes, colors, and fashions.
Honey’s walls are lined with a diverse collection of lingerie, varying in sizes, colors, and fashions.

13 West Union St. of Athens, Ohio is sexier now than ever before. Honey Lingerie and Sex Store is owned  by Meredith Allan, former store manager of Kismet, a fashion boutique lost in the fire that struck West Union Street this past November. According to an article published by The Post, Allan opened the store with her boyfriend as a start to a new chapter in life, and to provide an empowering and comfortable environment for women to explore their sexual sides. These are only 10 of many reasons to stop in and experience what Honey has to offer.

1. Body Positivity

Empowering her customers and promoting body positivity is very important to Allan and her store’s image. In fact, every time a customer looks in the mirror she receives an encouraging message painted on the mirror frame  – “Hello, gorgeous!”

2. Style Variety

From vintage high-waisted lace pin-up panties to contemporary chic, Honey caters to the fashion needs of all honeybees.

3. Internationally Made Products 

Allan special orders product from all around the world to sell in her store. Just in, the best of Polish bras and lingerie.

4. Green Goddess Friendly

According to an announcement on the company’s Facebook page, Honey also provides its earth-loving customers with panties made from all organic cotton, handmade in the United States.

5. Jewelry

Nothing steps up someone’s fashion game, lingerie style or not, like accessorizing. Honey knows this far too well and has a display full of jewelry just waiting to be paired with any purchase.

6. Hooping Honeys

Honey supports other local business and the inner hula-hooper of all Honeybees by selling locally and handmade hula hoops that will accompany any outfit put together there quite nicely.

7. Wild Honey

Honey encourages all customers not to be ashamed of their inner wild honey, but to embrace it by checking out all the adventurous sex toys that are available at its location. Of course, Honey maintains a classy boutique environment by keeping the adult toys behind the wild honey partition.

8. Unique Fashion Selection

Shop Honey not only for nighttime attire, but for the little black dress every woman needs as a part of their wardrobe. Beyond the racks of corsets and lace panties are some classy fashion pieces that any woman would love to add to her closet.

9. Customer Service

It is important to Allan that women of all body types are able to shop at Honey and feel confident and sexy in anything they might purchase. With that being said, Allan is more than happy to specially order any size or design of lingerie for her customers if they can’t be found in store.

10. Comfortable and Safe Environment

Most importantly, Honey strives to be a place where women don’t have to be ashamed to shop for their sex life. Furthermore, Allan encourages women to shop for lingerie out of love for their own bodies. “It should be something that you can shop for and not feel shameful,” The Post said.

Since opening in July 2015, Honey has sparked an interest in many students and Athens locals alike, and continues to do so. Allan and her co-owner are still working on a set schedule for the hours of operation, but for now, don’t hesitate to join the honeybees Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 to 6 p.m. as well as Friday and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 8.

Honey is located at 13 West Union St. next to Uptown Grill.
Honey is located at 13 West Union St. next to Uptown Grill.

Social media presence of Athens bars

There’s no shortage of bars in Athens, Ohio. In about a one-mile radius, you’ll find nearly 20 bars, all seeking your attention and wanting to serve you a drink.

Though some of the bar managers on Court Street said there isn’t a threat to compete with other bars, they all utilize social media to some capacity to popularize their drink specials and keep people coming back.

Below is a list of every bar in Athens city, along with links to each of their social media pages. While every bar has a Facebook page, the only bars that don’t have a Twitter account are the Cat’s Eye, Cat’s Den, and Smiling Skull Saloon.

Meet Art Oerstrike, the entrepreneur behind Jackie O’s

The Union Street fire on Nov. 16 was the most difficult thing Art Oestrike has faced as the owner of Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery. The blaze stormed a block of West Union Street and rocked several businesses in Uptown Athens, including: Jackie O’s, Bobcat Rentals, Kismet, Jack Neal Floral, Uptown Dog, Smoke Zone Smoke Shop and the Union.

“I have never dealt with anything this difficult in my years as a business owner,” Oestrike told the Columbus Dispatch. The fire forced him to lay off 30 to 40 people at the time, and it took several weeks before he was able to resume full operations.

But Oestrike has a history of staying positive and turning problems into opportunities. I was able to sit down and talk with Oestrike before the blaze, and that discussion shed light on how he handles adversity and seeks out opportunities. His round head was covered by a bandana on top and a scraggly black mustache and beard on the bottom. There was a genuine hunger for success in his eyes. He can be seen wearing anything from a button-down shirt and jeans to a full-blown suit and tie.

While he might defy the stereotype of a successful entrepreneur, Oestrike is just that. He spends a solid 60 hours a week running logistics of the brewery. He also works on distribution, packaging and projections and is currently working to reconfigure the Uptown operations.

Oestrike is a man who prides himself on having been able to sell beer all across Ohio. With Jackie O’s creating roughly 4,430 gallons of beer per week, it’s easy to see how one can reach such an expansive demographic. Oestrike is certainly a man of many crafts, and many beers. Our discussion provides insight into what makes Jackie O’s the business it is and suggests it will rebound nicely from the fiery tragedy.

Andrew “Art” Oestrike , 38, grew up in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland. He attended Ohio University and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Russian and a Master of Arts in linguistics. After graduation, Oestrike left the country to teach English in South Korea. After three years, he returned to the community he was passionate about: Athens. It was here he fulfilled his dream: starting his own businesses, Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery and Bagel Street Deli, and teaching linguistics at Ohio University.

DR: What are some of the things that make Jackie O’s unique?
AO: There are a lot of breweries doing the local thing, but I think we’ve been in the lead. Being experimental. The artwork and getting outside of the box is very paramount to growth and success and imagery. We don’t need to make another can that looks like a fuckin’ PBR can. I love PBR, but there are enough of those cans on the shelves. Ours stand out. The quality of the product is another one. Striving for world-class products. It’s not about being the best beer in Athens or best restaurant in Athens. It’s about trying to be the best in the United States. Obviously we’re not there. I don’t think we have that much covered yet, but it’s about seeing beyond our micro-cause and taking it to that next step.

DR: How do you find people to bring into your organization who truly care about the business the way you do?
AO: That’s the hardest part of the whole thing. Treating people as people I think is a big one. Giving people the creative freedom to run their department — their area. No one likes being told what to do. People can be your biggest asset or your biggest problem. I’m losing touch. Every time I go to the brewpub I’m signing someone’s paycheck with whom I’ve never met. I’m not best used in the business meeting the new dishwasher. When they’re coming in on the bottom tier sort of thing, I’ll see them when I see them.

DR: How do you build a successful customer base?
AO: Time and pressure. The longer you’re operating, the more customer base you get. Having a very fluid town like Athens helps as well. Five thousand students graduate every spring. Four thousand of those students stay in Ohio. The students take their experiences with them and share via word of mouth. I think that’s a huge part of our success – the students.

DR: To what do you most attribute your success?
AO: Time and pressure, baby. Keeping an open perspective to hear other’s ideas and thoughts and knowing when and where to pick your battles. Managing your time through people’s ideas. Being able to see the big picture and where you want to steer this thing. It takes a lot of time to turn the ship at this point. I’m not a details person, but the details are important.

DR: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
AO: Apple. In 15 years, they’ve gotten themselves into every third pocket. They’re in every third pair of pants walking around the U.S. and the globe. They’re in your pocket. Unbelievable. I like regional. Supporting our local situation and driving business to an area in need of economic help and development.

DR: If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
AO: I probably would have started this earlier — where we’re sitting. I would probably keep things pretty similar to what I’m doing. I like that it’s really just one big gamble right now. Right now everything seems safe and secure like we’re moving in the right direction, but I’ve still got all my financial marbles wrapped into this business and I always have. I keep my day job so I don’t have to take money out of here so I can keep this thing growing and moving forward because I have 100 people who are basing their livelihoods on this place, this business.

DR: Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
AO: I think time will tell. I think becoming synonymous with Ohio beer – Jackie O’s. That’s a goal. A big overarching 10-year plan. We’re getting there, but really it’s not about getting Mystic Mama to California. There are other great IPAs in California. The reason that we can compete with that is because when you go to Kroger in Athens, Ohio, and you want to go buy Mystic Mama, most likely it’s one of the freshest products there because it’s not from 3,000 miles away.

DR: Is there anything you’d like to add?
AO: You have to own your backyard. You have to be synonymous with your backyard. We’re in a very small community, but a very locally engaged, tight community. I don’t know that you have many others that are this much community oriented in Ohio and really anywhere for that matter. Supporting local initiatives left and right and all over the place is so important to what we’re up to. Even if most of the money is coming to us, it’s still coming around here and building that thing where people get to see this lovely little community and talk about the community, not just what we’re up to. I think that helps feed everybody. That puts money in a lot of different coffers. That’s what we’re all about. Without Athens supporting what we’ve been doing for nine years come December, we’re not us sitting here talking to you and you don’t give a shit what we’re up to. A lot of that is from what we’ve done, but how our community has supported us throughout those years.

 ***

Daniel Rader is a photographer currently based in Athens, Ohio. He is a junior at Ohio University studying visual communication with a major sequence in photojournalism and a specialization in anthropology. Rader’s work has been featured in professional advertising and has been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, online publications and websites across the United States including Newsday, Dayton Daily NewsUSA Today College, Muse Machine, WOUB and others. His linked in page is www.linkedin.com/in/danielraderphoto.

 

 

Looking for a bar that’s just right? Shuffle with us

Ask any Bobcat, what makes Court Street unique to Athens and most will reply with the crazy number of bars. There are about 20 bars located in Athens and 13 of them are on Court Street. With so many bars, finding the perfect one with the right atmosphere can be tough. Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned veteran, here is a guide to help you find the place to satisfy your late-night drinking. 

Lucky’s Sports Tavern, 11 North Court St.

This is the first stop on our Court Street bar shuffle. Students come here every Wednesday for Lucky’s liquor pitcher deals. Spending five bucks on these pitchers is worth every penny. You really get what you pay for. However, this bar is known to be one of toughest to get into. Be prepared to show multiple forms of I.D. at the door because the bouncers don’t mess around. This bar is also famous for being the local Steelers bar so naturally Browns and Bengals fans rarely ever go here.

Cat’s Eye Saloon, 12 North Court S.

Right across from Lucky’s, Cat’s Eye is not the place for underage drinkers. Try to use your fake I.D. at the door and it’s guaranteed to be taken away. The frequent visitors at this bar are mostly Cleveland sports fans. They even have a drink named after the Cleveland Browns. Cat’s Eye offers good prices and has plenty of space to accommodate your social activity. There are plenty of pool tables in this bar and one of the best places to play a game without the fear of jabbing someone because it is too crowded.

Red Brick Tavern, 14 North Court St.

This bar is located next to Cat’s Eye and definitely the place to be during a Bengals or Reds game. Cincinnati fans flock to the bar to watch the games on Sunday afternoons. This bar is also notoriously known as the underage bar on Court Street, which is a huge turnoff for the 21+ crowd. Throughout the week, 18+ can get in through a cover charge of $3. It is pretty narrow inside the bar, which makes it hard to move around on crowded weekends. Red Brick is also known for its Wednesday karaoke night that attracts a decent size crowd.

The C.I., 32 North Court St.

This is definitely the bar everyone tries to make it to during a night out.  There is a lot of intermingling between Greeks and GDIs (God Damn Independents), which creates the perfect atmosphere. It gets pretty crowded at the top bar but there is plenty of space in the basement. The bartenders are relaxed and you can count on getting a drink quickly. They have an extensive list of bombs that you can choose from and offer free peanuts during happy hours. If you love the mix of Geek life and GDIs, then go get high at the C.I.

The Crystal, 34 North Court St.

This bar is famous for being the Greek bar on Court Street. If you go here you are bound to wake up with a stamp on your hand that will be impossible to get off. The Crystal has a special place in the Greek community, but chances are if you are a GDI, you are going to hate it. Getting a drink at the bar is nearly impossible unless you know the bartenders. During Homecoming and Greek Week, be prepared to see some crazy costumes from all the socials hosted at this bar. The Crystal is always crowded and the place to be if you are Greek but beware of the bathrooms.

The Pigskin Bar and Grille, 38 North Court St.

This is a popular bar among the 21+ crowd. It’s the best place on Court Street to order food and watch football games. The bar is spacious and has a great vibe on the weekends. This bar attracts a diverse crowd and really has no reputation. It is also stop one in the Bermuda Triangle, which is guaranteed to get you pretty messed up. (The Bermuda Triangle consists of three bars, Pigskin, Pawpurr’s and J Bar, in which you order their signature drinks. You follow this route until you get lost in the Bermuda Triangle.)

Pawpurr’s Bar, 37 North Court St.

This bar is always a good time. During Primetime, 8 p.m.-9 p.m., students flock to this bar to get half-priced drinks. Pawpurr’s also has deals during the week such as 50-cent draft night on Tuesdays and liquor pitchers on Wednesdays. When the bar gets crowded, it is impossible to get served and the bartenders tend to not make strong mixed drinks. If you are a regular, you know who the owner of this bar is because he loves to give out free drinks. This is the second stop on the Bermuda Triangle and students come and go as they please. Overall, this bar has a great mix of social groups.

The Pub, 39 North Court St.

This is one of the most laid-back bars on Court Street. They are known for their giant glasses of beer called Aquariums. This place is not essential to stop at during your evening but a great place to relax and have a nice drink. The negative side is the size; it is pretty small and can get really crowded.

J Bar, 41 North Court Street

Originally this bar was the Junction until the owner of Courtside bought the bar.  J Bar still continues their famous Junction Punch. This is a fruity drink that has way too much alcohol in it and is the drink to order on your final stop of the Bermuda Triangle. Their top bar overlooks the rest of the bar and is a great place to hold a social. Many Greeks and athletes come to this bar and it is not home to any under-agers.

The Over Hang, 63 North Court St.

This is a relatively new bar on campus that not a lot of people go to. Many younger students are too scared to go to this bar because it’s nice and intimidating. This bar is a great place to go if you don’t want to see anyone you know. There are a few regulars but overall has a diverse crowd. The Over Hang is the place to go if you want to get drunk off of $10.

Stephen’s, 66 North Court St.

This bar has gained popularity within the last couple of years. Greeks who cannot deal with the stench of Crystal, end up making their way to Stephen’s. Their three bars offer you a chance to get your drink fast. You can find space about anywhere in this bar whether it’s in the basement or by the top two bars. Be sure to watch out when walking down the stairs. They are steep and not ideal for girls wearing heels, especially since this bar hosts a lot of Greek socials and formals.

Courtside Sports Bar, 85 North Court St.

This is the primary bar for Ohio Bobcat athletes and Sigma Pi’s. An evening at Courtside is guaranteed to be a crazy one. It’s impossible to hear what your friends are saying because of the loud rap music. It isn’t unusual to see students dancing on the tables or ordering rounds of shots. The bar attracts a diverse crowd including Greeks, business majors, and grad students. It is known for its outdoor patio area during the summer and a great place to watch a football game. Courtside attracts a big crowd every Wednesday for their 50 cent slice night of their famous pizza.

Broney’s Alumni Grill, 7 West Carpenter St.

Broney’s is the last stop on the Court Street shuffle and one of the nicest bars that make you pay for overpriced drinks. It is one of the most neutral bars on campus because there are a lot of different people who go here. Many international students have started to take over the bar, but there is something for everyone here. Alumni like to go to this bar because of the cleanliness, space, and diversity of drinks. Their patio is great on a nice summer day and a cool place to relax and have their famous champagne slushy.

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Angela Keane is a junior in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She is involved in Scripps Public Relations Student Society of America, ImPRessions, and Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. She will be interning with the Miss Universe Organization in New York City during Spring semester.

A budget bar guide for Court Street newbies

It’s a Friday night in Athens, Ohio. The air is cool; the leaves have changed color and are starting to fall. College students chirp and laugh on the streets like ants scattering out of an ant farm, all heading in different directions. They yell, “Meet us there” or “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” These are not just students. They are experts on the best places to go on Court Street.

Uptown bar life on Court Street can overwhelm newcomers. Some students don’t even venture past where the bookstores and coffee shops morph into loud bar music, tattoo parlors, and head shops. The karaoke nights with live DJs and bands or unbelievable drink specials might actually scare some people rather than intrigue them. The idea that you can leave your house with a 20-dollar bill and come back with change might seem asinine, crazy, or ridiculous, but to us broke college students there is only one word to describe it: awesome.

Court Street is known for its delicious food, festive events, and multiple bars in less than a block. Some people might judge Ohio University, saying it’s a “small town with a big drinking problem.” It’s not necessarily “a problem,” but you definitely don’t hear crickets at the bar on a Saturday night. Maybe the real problem isn’t finding a fun bar because let’s face it, they all have their perks. The real problem is getting the most bang for your buck.

Every bar offers not only different drinks, but also a different atmosphere. When out-of-towners do visit they should have an authentic Court Street experience and know exactly what to try when a bartender looks their way. As an OU senior on a tight budget, I am no longer a Court Street rookie. I’ve had plenty of sad Sundays cringing as I log onto my bank account hoping to like what I see. After four years, I think I’ve finally figured it out.

Let’s start off at Lucky’s Sports Tavern, one of the most renowned sports bars on Court Street. It’s one of the first bars you will see after heading away from campus. If you’re from out of state, prepare to be asked for multiple forms of identification. This tends to be one of the stricter bars on campus. And if you are a Browns or Bengals fan, you might want to skip this bar after seeing the black and gold that coats the walls. Pittsburgh fans, this bar might hold you captive for the entire night, and you’ll love every second of it. Start your night off with a vodka lemonade ($3.25), a drink you could order at almost any bar, but for some reason it just tastes right at Lucky’s.

Next, hop across the street to Red Brick. Prepare yourself to be surrounded by freshmen using fake I.D.s and sipping Red Bull vodkas. (Because that’s what college students drink … right?) Order the Ricci Root ($2.50) (pronounced reach-y root). It’s root beer vodka, coke, and if you’re feeling extra adventurous you can ask the bartender to top it off with a splash of Baileys. It’s refreshing and tastes just like a root beer float. Red Brick features an interesting crowd. Besides many freshmen hoping to scoot past the bouncer when he’s not looking, many local Athens residents hang out at Red Brick.

After you’ve indulged, make your way past Court Street Diner, which is perfect for a rough morning hangover, and enter The C.I. Ask the bartender at the front bar for a basket of free peanuts. They’re delicious and provide just enough nourishment to keep you going for the rest of the night. If you’re more of a beer person, the C.I. has multiple drafts to choose from. But if you can handle your liquor, order an SMC ($1.75), which contains vodka, Malibu, cranberry juice, and dragon berry vodka. It’s the perfect mix of strawberry, mango, and cranberry. C.I. is also famous for their bombs (a shot with a chaser already poured inside). The prices vary, but some definitely worth trying are dragon berry bombs or a starry night. Be careful, though. A few too many of these might end your night.

For your sanity, just walk right past Crystal. It’s the most popular underage bar. It is where most of the Greeks hang out, and it smells like sewage. As far as notorious Court Street bars go, The Crystal takes first place.

Past C.I. and Crystal, there’s Pigskin. It is a nice escape from the wooden, sticky floors and crowded spaces of the previous bars. The open area provides room for more people, and the pool and Ping-Pong tables give this bar a laid-back environment. It’s a great bar to take a break from drinking, with its ample seating areas, but I highly recommend trying their Mojitos ($5). This is the most you will spend on a drink, but the end result is more than satisfying. The atmosphere allows you to enjoy your drink rather than chugging it down as you squeeze through the crowd desperately seeking the door.

Across the street you will see Pawpurrs, the bar known for its friendly owner,  drinks suitable for a college student’s budget, and the one place you will find yourself shamelessly singing along to boy band hits of the ’90s. If you’re not one to be right in the action, the open areas allow room for newcomers to just sit back, sip, and watch. Although the cleanliness and stench are only a little easier to deal with than Crystal, Pawpurrs’ perfect playlists accompanying a dancing stage and cheap drinks make the trip worthwhile. Order a Teddy Graham ($2), which is basically a White Russian with RumChata. It goes down smooth and tastes just like that childhood snack. After you’ve sipped down your drink, and maybe busted out a few Backstreet Boys songs, say goodbye and go next door to The Pub.

The Pub is small and tavern-like, but their Bloody Marys ($4) are to die for. They make them pretty spicy so keep that in mind when ordering, but as a pseudo-connoisseur, I’d say the Pub’s take the lead by far. After you’ve sipped on that, stumble right next door again to J Bar.

J Bar is known for its great playlists but pricey drinks (compared to its neighbors). The real way to go to J Bar is to drink before, that way you don’t find yourself racking up a tab there. If you’re feeling a little thirsty and craving a beverage, though, order a Crabbies ($4). It’s a ginger beer served on ice with lemon and lime, and it tastes incredible. It’s on the higher side in alcohol content but a smooth and light beer. The top level allows for plenty of space although it’s usually not empty, being an extremely popular bar among students.

For the final destination, stop by Courtside, located at the end of Court Street, to enjoy a few slices of delicious, fresh-out-of-the oven pizza (and an ice cold Blue Moon ($3.50) if you just so happen to find a few extra bucks in your pocket.). Courtside has some of the best bar food on campus, including pizza, wings, subs, salads, etc. Whatever your drunken heart desires, Courtside offers (or delivers).

“Closing Time” by Semisonic will play to signal the night is coming to an end. The lights will come on in all of the bars, allowing bouncers to start herding out crowds and prompting friends to reunite to end their night together. People will link arms, yelling to groups ahead to wait up and hugging goodbye, until tomorrow night. After you leave Courtside, you can look over your should at the lit up skyline of small-town Athens, Ohio. You are no longer lost. Athens found you and wants you to know you’re always welcome back.

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Richelle Miller is a senior at Ohio University studying strategic communication and marketing. She is a coffee-addict, bookworm, music-obsessed animal lover. When she’s not in classes, studying, or working, she spends maybe a little too much time on Court Street. Her dream job is to relocate to Southern California, become a writer, and have the ocean as a backyard view.

Passion Works artists blossom in Athens

Paint-covered tables and chairs fill the room. Paintings, drawings and more hand-painted flowers than you can count line the walls. The studio itself is bright, warm, and welcoming. But it is the artists who really bring the studio to life.

Passion Works Studio is more than the average arts studio.  It is a central part of the Athens community that gives everyone who walks through its door a place to express themselves, no matter their physical or mental limitations. It holds a special place in the hearts of its artists, Athens residents and local businesses.

Passion Works Flowers come in all different colors and each is unique
Click the Passion Works flower to see examples of the studio’s work around Athens.

Passion Works was first started in 1998. It began as a workshop between a few artists and members of the Athens community with developmental disabilities. The program continued to grow and now serves as a day program for about 35 adults with developmental disabilities in the Athens community. The studio and its retail store are located at 20 East State St. Passion Works is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Passion Works strives to inspire and liberate the human spirit, enhance quality of life, and strengthen communities through the arts. Their mission is to provide a creative and inclusive atmosphere in which artists with and without disabilities thrive. They accomplish this by focusing on the ability of artists to change perceptions, raise awareness, and beautify our communities through outstanding works of art.

The artists at Passion Works make one-of-a-kind paintings and drawings on paper and canvas. Some also make jewelry and the studio is currently working on a totem pole carving. Some of the artists spend all day at Passion Works. Others come three days per week, while some come for only one hour per week.

“Passion Works is all about choice. People who come here come because they want to and choose to,” says Wayne Savage, Passion Works Studio coordinator.

Noah Hogan, one of the artists at Passion Works, spends his Tuesdays and Fridays in the studio.

“I draw my favorite animals and plants and nature things,” he says. “Predominantly crabs.”

Hogan, 26, also goes to ATCO, a work-training center for adults with disabilities in Athens. He will greet you at the door when you arrive and walk you out when it’s time to leave even though he has difficulty moving his legs and uses a walker. Hogan has also taken his artwork out of the studio by publishing his own set of children’s books featuring his own writing and computer artwork. He has been running Crabby ArtWorks with his mother since he wrote his first book, “Crabby Bakes a Cake,” in 2011. Hogan held a release party for his second book at the Athens Community Center in 2012.

“The Athens community is very supportive of the Developmental Disabilities population,” says Leanne Krul, a senior studying social work and intern at ATCO. Krul helps the clients learn life skills and how to advocate for themselves in order to help integrate them into the community.

ATCO and Passion Works Studio work together and many of the same individuals spend time at both. According to Savage, many of the artists come from their families’ homes, group homes and institutional settings in Athens.

The artists at Passion Works are also able to sell their artwork and get paid for any art they help to create. The artists sell their work through the retail store connected to the studio as well as online. Not only can the flowers and works of fine arts be purchased online, but Passion Works also sells greeting cards, jewelry, mugs, mouse pads, ornaments and cutting boards.

“Paintings, drawings and sculptures are sold through our retail store and gallery, and when it sells the artists that work on it get paid for it,” Savage says. “So Passion Works, whether it’s working on our projects or working on one of a kind artwork, provides artistic economic opportunities.”

Passion Works is most known for its handcrafted flowers. The Passion Works Flower is the official flower of Athens County. The idea began with a Passion Works artist who was always drawing and painting flowers. With the help of other artists, a three-dimensional flower was created based on the drawings. The flowers are made out of recycled newspaper printing plates from The Athens Messenger. The flowers used to be hand cut but are pressed out now due to demand and the difficulty of hand cutting them.

“We had to streamline the process to keep up with demand,” Savage says. “People see the flowers and they want one.”

Brittany Rios, a first year graduate student studying education, received a Passion Works flower as a graduation gift last year.

“I wanted a Passion Works flower because of what they stand for. After touring the facility where the flowers are created, I had to have one!” Rios says.

It takes about three weeks to make a flower from start to finish and typically about six adults with developmental disabilities will work on one flower.

A Passion Works Flower typically costs about $60, while other artwork from the studio ranges from $6 to $45. Passion Works has sold more than 21,000 flowers and continues to create new designs. Some of the designs include an OU flower collection as well as a scarlet and gray OSU collection.

The flowers can be found all over Athens in doctor’s offices, healthcare facilities, coffee shops, restaurants, academic buildings, and the Athens County library and at the Athens County Recreation Center. Rios also says that many of the teachers whom she works with have Passion Works flowers in their classrooms.

Court Street Coffee is one of the businesses that supports Passion Works. Passion Works flowers add a burst of color to the shop and Court Street Coffee sells the flowers as well.

The owner of Court Street Coffee, Debby Fulks, says Court Street Coffee sells Passion Works flowers mainly to promote Passion Works retail store and studio.

“We’re very proactive in the community. We work with the Athens News and right now we are in the process of painting all the Athens News boxes,” says Savage, the studio coordinator. “We also work with the city at Christmas time. We do tree toppers. This year I think we are going to do more for the city for Christmas.”

This year Passion Works hosted a family ornament-decorating event for the Athens community. Children were invited to decorate ornaments to put on the City of Athens Christmas tree at the Courthouse. After the event, the community came together on Dec. 4 to decorate and light the tree and place the Passion Works tree topper on the tree.

Passion Works recently received a grant from The Athens Foundation for $5,000, which will allow the studio to expand its programming. The money will be used to buy a kiln, glass, clay, and a potter’s wheel to kick-start a fused glass and ceramics programs.

“It’s going to very much widen the variety of the arts that we teach here and the arts that are available in our retail outlet and gallery. That’s going to produce more income for the artists and more income for the studio and it’s going to expand greatly the experience that the individuals we serve have here at Passion Works,” says Savage.

Going to Passion Works can be a life-changing experience for these artists. Savage says the artists are influenced by the chance to make money, and they also experience higher self-esteem, better manual dexterity and are able to give them a better identity.

“When someone first comes to Passion Works, they are typically shy and quiet. After they have been here for a few weeks, when a tourist or local dignitaries come in they will shout out welcoming our visitors and they will start showing off their artwork,” Savage says. “When they first start coming here they identify themselves as a disabled person, but after a short time they identify themselves as Passion Works artist.”

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Hayley Ross is a junior double majoring in Dance and Journalism at Ohio University. She someday hopes to combine her passions for dance and journalism by working for an arts or entertainment magazine or in communications for a dance company. For her resume and work samples visit http://hayleyross.weebly.com/