Donuts and Nick Spencer

If you call the Busken Bakery at 800 Walnut St. downtown to place a carryout order for lunch or to arrange to pick up a dozen donuts, the phone will keep ringing and ringing. Apparently they still had enough money to pay their phone bill, but not enough business to keep their doors open. This bakery and restaurant is closed.

When I found out about this, the first person I thought of was Nick Spencer. In November of 2004, I wrote a “Living Out Loud” column called, “They Closed.” It was an essay concerning all the restaurant closings downtown and how lively it is across the river. Spencer was all over me on his Web site, saying I was slamming small businesses downtown and not supporting downtown in general. Our debate continued last May when I wrote a blog posting called “In Search of Food and the Truth,” in which I continued the discussion on downtown businesses closing.

Nick was right there again defending his turf, and we had a lively discussion, to say the least. Nick thought I was all wet; and I thought his head was up his ass and wasn’t seeing reality.
Now, I’m asking who was right. I don’t think Nick can say much about Busken’s closing, because he himself has closed his own business — his nightclub, Alchemize, in Over-the-Rhine. Guess where the club is relocating?

In my November 2004 essay, I compare Kentucky’s thriving business at night to Cincinnati’s rolled up sidewalks. Nick really took me to task on this but I think now he’s eating his words. His new club will be in Covington, Ky.

On his Web site, he gets defensive about the move. He states he looked in Cincinnati for a suitable spot — Za on Ludlow Avenue, The Garage on Ludlow and the Cincinnati Artists Warehouse on Hamilton Avenue. Well, that’s all fine and good, Nick, but none of these places you were exploring were downtown, the area you raked me over the coals for criticizing.

Let’s be real here. The closing of Busken’s on Walnut and Nick’s nightclub moving across the river are yet more examples how downtown cannot keep businesses open. The reality is, Nick, you’re probably doing what you need to do to keep your nightclub afloat. Downtown Cincinnati can’t support it.

— Larry Gross

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9 Comments on “Donuts and Nick Spencer”

  1. dieter schmied Says:

    Cincinnati can support businesses but the city has allienated so many with poor attitute and incompetent bureucracy.

    Spencer was not getting the services that the city should have provided. Instead the city wants to provide what they call services. If he yells, he get less services or retailiation. Until power is shifted to the people through districts, there is little hope for an environment to do business.

    And then there is the trait of businessmen to lie about their business. They can be hemorraging and when one inquires how business is, they say great. It is hard to be sympathetic when one shows interest in another’s problems and be told lies. When should one ever believe a business person , lawyer or politician?

  2. Nick Spencer Says:

    Wrong again, Larry…

    I think the CBD could be a good home for alchemize. Not OTR, but the CBD. We’ve looked at several sites in the downtown proper.

  3. Larry Gross Says:

    No, Nick – not wrong again. In your comment, you reference your blog spot from May 20. You know very well that a lot has changed since May. I urge readers to go to your web site and look at CURRENT entries. Bottom line: You’ve given up on downtown and you’re moving your club to Covington. Bottom line: You’re a businessman trying to make money and it can’t be done downtown because there’s no support for it. Bottom line: you’ve made a good business decision. There’s no need to be defensive about it.

  4. greg Says:


    Most of us had a problem that you cited bars/restaurants as being closed when they actually weren’t. Primary example being Moose on Main, which never really closed and is now Cooper’s on Main. We dont’ really debate that the inner core has a hard time keeping businesses open.

  5. Nick Spencer Says:

    Ill say it again, whether you believe it or not is up to you: I believe alchemize could be successful in the CBD. I am continuing to look at spot there, now that the Covington site I wanted has fallen through.

  6. Blake Fox Says:

    I believe that Newport on the Leve was losing money and was sold to a San Diego company. As well as many of the businesses there have failed. But like many articles I keep reading lately it’s all about how much better it is. Newport benefits from your articles and ones like it. Continue to give it props – “wow look how great it is!” Well whad’ya know, it gets busy. Cincinnati is closing up shop. Now a ghost town. Hmmm, Media 101. Too bad your not getting a cut of the Newport proceeds. Why would a business choose downtown when there is so many like you as an advocate?

  7. Ted Says:

    Newport on the levee is still losing business . Newport opened as a mix of retail and restaurants. Now it is almost all eating places or a few places for people 14 to 25 to shop. Even the movies theater has lost people due to more theaters opening elsewhere .

  8. Doug Says:

    I am very pleased to see people speaking freely about downtown cincinnati. I especially enjoyed the “THEY CLOSED” article…. I am not sure when it was published, but you can add numerous closings to it now. The “kicker” to your discussion here is that Buskin Bakery @ 800 Walnut closed atleast eight months ago and I am assuming that you just recently noticed it or otherwise you would have mentioned trying to order a pizza from Uno’s…uh… I mean Za or crabcakes from Aioli… unfortunately there are dozens of closings that could be mentioned here. I am so pleased to here that the discussion at city hall this week will be about Leslie Ghiz’s opinion of whether or not mayor mallory should have a full time (cincinnati policeman) bodyguard on the tax payers dime instead of a boring issue like businesses being ran out of downtown by cityhall itself. After all, mayor mallory still lives with parents- he should feel safe enough!!

  9. Larry Gross Says:

    To Doug-

    I’m glad you liked “They Closed.” Many didn’t. Perhaps the truth hurts. Apparently, Poppie’s over on Elm Street is also closed. They had great sandwiches and those wonderful “Poppie chips.” Rumor had it for a while they would take over the old Aioli spot, but I believe that has fallen through.

    Poppie’s, Aioli, Za, Buskin’s, and on and on. Yep, downtown restaurants are sort of hurting, but thank god our mayor is safe.

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