New life on the corner

Posted By

Tom Fountain, left, was driving down Greenup when a ribbon of smoke and the aroma from Bean Haus Bakery & Café’s curbside smoker caught his eye. Anthony Jackson takes his order.

City hopes just-opened Bean Haus Bakery & Café

 begins ‘energization’ of neighborhood 

COVINGTON, Ky. – It was the thin ribbon of smoke twirling upward toward a clear morning sky that caught David Fountain’s eye … but it was the powerful aroma – a veritable alchemy of slow-smoking meat – that persuaded him to stop his car.
 
When he ventured inside the newly opened Bean Haus Bakery & Cafe at 1316 Greenup St., he couldn’t resist buying an order of ribs, which Anthony Jackson, who lives next door to the café and also works there, promptly rang up.
 
“I was driving down the street and I saw the smoke and I said, ‘Let me pull over, I’ve got to see what’s going on!’ ” explained Fountain, who lives in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Cincinnati. “What brought me to his ribs is you have to have smoke in the air.”
 
Fountain wasn’t the only one seduced by the aroma and drawn in by the sidewalk flags announcing the opening of the café, which sells coffee and related drinks, pastries and cookies baked on site, quiche and smoked ribs.
 
In a very short span, a man wearing a hard hat approached owner Tim Eversole and asked about smoked ribs for him and his crew, who were working just around the corner. Two small children sat at a table, spooning soft-serve ice cream into their mouths. And Morgan Davenport, who lives nearby in the Austinburg neighborhood, was quick to be among the first to visit the new business on the block.
 
“I’m thrilled,” Davenport said. “Finally, there’s something we can walk to over here. It shows faith in the community.”
 
Transformation
Such is the power of a corner business, especially one that seeks to be as inviting and neighborly as the Bean Haus does.
 
The location is actually Eversole’s third. He opened the first Bean Haus in 2006 in MainStrasse Village and later purchased and renovated Dari-Cest by Bean Haus in Latonia. He purchased the vacant building at 1316 Greenup St. in 2018 from the City of Covington after the City sought bids for the property it had owned since 2006.
 
City officials’ goal? To turn a boarded-up, vacant structure into one that contributed to the neighborhood in the way of jobs, services, and energy.
 
The project took longer than expected, as Eversole’s plans to open in fall 2019 were delayed, first by construction issues and then by COVID-19.
 
“We got just about ready to open and they kept talking about this virus that was going to last a couple of weeks, so I told everybody, ‘Let’s hold off, and it will be over in a month,’ ” Eversole said. “Well, 15 months later, who would have ever guessed?”
 
The building required substantial work, but its finished look displays Eversole’s vigilance in maintaining the building’s historical integrity and narrative.
 
For example, at night, he drove through the city looking for discarded old windows so he could harvest their original glass. He made a point to match the black iron pipes on the front stair rail with the black bars on a kitchen window. And he preserved the double-hinged door on the bottom of the café’s front door, which he learned was installed to ease the sale of liquor during Prohibition.
 
Eversole researched the history of 1316 Greenup, and he has sepia-toned images that speak to the many successful incarnations at that location.
 
In 1869, it housed Boodies Saloon and Grocery, whose owners, Eversole said, had their portraits painted by legendary Covington artist Frank Duveneck. From 1904 to 1919, the building was Covington’s first Kroger store, whose owners moved the main entrance from the front of the building to the corner, where it is now. By 1955, the store was called Modern Grocery and remained so until 1964.
 
Case study in activation
The City readily sold the building to Eversole and has remained intensely interested in the project because it meets two high-priority goals: Bringing long-shuttered buildings to life, and activating neighborhood business districts, including in the neighborhoods that make up what’s called the Eastern Corridor: Eastside, Helentown, Austinburg, and Wallace Woods.
 
In the coming weeks, City officials hope to intensify and formalize efforts to accelerate momentum, opportunities, and investment in the Eastern Corridor in ways that complement the community from the inside. They see the Bean Haus on Greenup as a case study of what can be accomplished.
 
“A building on a prominent corner like that can be an incredible asset or liability,” Covington Economic Director Tom West said. “When the City owned it, it was a liability, and that was a signal that got sent throughout the neighborhood. We wanted to change that narrative, and we are. What Tim is doing right now will revitalize that area.”
 
West said the stakes are particularly high for buildings at intersections.
 
“For years now, we’ve tried to have an emphasis on corner buildings because corner buildings in a neighborhood are very critical,” West said. “Historically, these places of business were hubs of commerce and gathering spots that helped foster neighborhood and community pride.”
 
New tools, new philosophy
But that transformation required philosophical changes.
 

For decades, the City’s approach to land use employed a rigid zoning ordinance that failed to appreciate and actually negated the importance of these corner hubs. Founded on a Euclidean-based code that was the norm in American cities for nearly a century, the ordinance separated the city into parcels of land based on a single, allowed “use.”

It often prohibited commercial uses in such areas, West said, effectively stripping away “what made neighborhoods great.” As a result, once-vibrant buildings on neighborhood street corners came to an end, their boarded-up windows obfuscating the vital role they once played in a community’s economy and culture. 

But early last summer, the City replaced that unwieldy and rigid zoning ordinance with what it calls a Neighborhood Development Code (NDC). The much-more-flexible NDC seeks to guide proposed development by taking into account the “look” and “feel” of surrounding buildings and by incorporating historic preservation principles to pay tribute to the unique character of each of Covington’s neighborhoods.
 
“When we redid our zoning, we said, ‘let’s make those commercial uses legal again,’ ” West said. “We’re not trying to turn back time, per se, but one of the City’s goals is to have a less auto-dependent community, so we’re trying to bring back these corner businesses – whether it’s a coffee shop, bakery, convenience store, or hair salon – and make our neighborhoods more walkable.”
 
Good neighbors
The Bean Haus Bakery & Café has bought into that approach in several ways and for several reasons.
 
Odds are that Eversole will know most people who walks by and into his café, given that he and his wife, Christine, live only blocks away.
 
“I watch people. I sit out here, I talk to people, I watch people,” Eversole said. “It’s just a great feel.”
 
The day after he bought the building, the business sponsored its first meet-and-greet pop-up event outside to introduce the owners and meet the neighbors – and potential employees. It’s currently open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
 
Help wanted
In addition to his traffic-stopping meat smoker, Eversole has assembled a talented team of bakers, headed up by pastry chef Nicole Black, who has worked with Eversole for five years. He moved all baking from the MainStrasse location to Greenup Street to take advantage of the ample new commercial kitchen the building afforded.
 
But he’s in desperate need of more employees – everything from pastry assistants to counter workers to cooks – across his locations. His average employee on payroll, he said, earns $16 to $17 an hour with tips. (To apply, go to any of the three locations.)
 
“Company-wide, we have 31 employees, with 29 job openings,” Eversole said. “It’s getting bad … We have a lot of job openings. We’re trying to hire local – people that can work within walking distance.”
 
Ora Jackson, whose son Anthony manages Eversole’s Dari-Crest, lives next door to the new Bean Haus café. She sees the new business as turning the page on a new chapter for the neighborhood.
 
“This is helping the neighborhood,” Jackson said. “The kids had nowhere to go to get an ice cream – nowhere to go get anything unless it was McDonald’s. Now, they can come right here. There are so many kids that go up and down this street. It will be great.”
 
Jackson is hopeful that others will follow Eversole’s lead: “Maybe somebody else will do something with another building and make the people come back to the neighborhood.”
 
As Eversole sees it, the neighborhoods in the city where he lives and work create something more akin to family, an undeniable cohesiveness.
 
“The thing about Covington is everybody in Covington has some type of relation,” Eversole said. “And maybe you’re not my cousin, or my uncle, but we’re joined together by community.”
 
# # #