OTRview VI: Micah Paldino
Micah Paldino is the subject of the sixth OTRview. Micah is the founder of PR firm PB&J (Public Relations, Branding & Jabber) and has been responsible for a host of creative public relations campaigns for several of Cincinnati’s most dynamic companies and organizations. Micah is also an active participant in OTR’s revival. Professionally, he has publicized and organized events like Bockfest and Light Up OTR as well as served clients such as Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, Landor Associates, Busken Bakery, and food trucks like Cafe de Wheels and Senor Roys Taco Patrol. In early 2011, PB&J joined forces with design studio SYN/TAX. Read more about that partnership in this Soapbox Cincinnati article.
You appreciate Over-the-Rhine. When did you first learn about and/or experience OTR? How has your perception of it changed since your first impression? Was it love at first sight?
I first experienced OTR when I was in school at the College Conservatory of Music – I remember loving the area, however it didn’t seem very safe to me at the time. One of the first positive experiences I encountered with the neighborhood was when I stopped by Shadeau for bread, I was blown away with the rustic nature and amazing product.
I grew up in a small farm town north of Dayton OH, called Piqua. The house I grew up in was built in 1850, it was the first house in the area that and a farm house. At my Aunt Bev’s house down the street I used to spend hours looking at this huge lithograph, which detailed the area as it was in 1888.
Quality architecture was ingrained in my life from an early age, I remember going to friends houses in new developments and coming home and saying to my mom, “it’s so stale and everything is from Pottery Barn,” and the rooms were so small and laid out is such strange formations, I never understood why someone would build a house that didn’t fit a queen size bed! But they did!
Community was a large part of our family and our neighborhood as well. Our house in Piqua is a half-block from my Aunt Bev, and my grandmother is one block to the East. My Aunt’s late husband Dik Mikolajewski had his sister who lived across the street from us, and his brother also lived 3 blocks north. You couldn’t walk anywhere really without seeing our family. My church was 3 blocks away and the YMCA where I swam was 6 blocks away. We never used cars unless we had to go to school, or to a bigger city to buy clothing.
The area around our house had literally 20-30 families, and each house had 3-4 kids, so summers were a lot like they are here in OTR, a whole lot of socializing. My favorite thing in Piqua in the summer was ‘Kick The Can’. I used to rock it out and my team usually won.
I think what changed my perception of OTR was having quality friends in the area that sold me on it, and they didn’t have to say anything, or convince me. It just took a trip to Nicola’s for pasta night, then onto the ‘The Bar Formally Known As Grammer’s,’ to see how people were so involved and passionate. I was hooked.
Creating a community that appeals to visitors is number one on my priority list. We have something that no other city in the United States can offer, one of the largest collections of Italianate 19th century architecture, and the best human beings I’ve come across in life.
Could you please discuss your business and how you came to OTR/Cincinnati.
After graduating school, I moved to New York City and worked in PR until the recession hit, so I moved back to Cincinnati and was living in West Chester.
Going from NYC to the suburbs was a huge shift, I was lost living up there, I think what I’ve come to terms with in regards to living up there is this one phrase ‘the suburbs are a development, and OTR is a community’. No matter how may man-made ponds developers make, no matter how many mini-malls are created; car culture doesn’t support interaction in my eyes.
I stumbled upon becoming an entrepreneur; I had never planned on owning my own business. When I moved back I tried the best I could to find a job in PR, however no one was hiring. I started free lancing for clients and before I knew it, I had 6 clients….so I got an office. Everything happened very kinetically, there was no plan, it was more about keeping stimulated and honestly, about survival.
I’ve always been inclined to have a creative outlet, during my summers in Cincinnati I spent one summer singing at the Cincinnati Opera in the chorus, and the next year as an assistant directing intern at the opera under the tutelage of Nic Muni. I had a wonderful time those two summers, to be so up close to the amazing arts in the city opened my eyes to how lucky we are to have such heavily funded organizations.
My business has grown as I recently partnered with Emmit Jones, the owner of Syn/Tax Ltd a creative studio that specializes in design, web design and creative installations. From the first moment I met Emmit, I knew there was something, a spark. We met one evening on a project pitch we were working on and I looked at him and said, “Why don’t you move into our office?” I think it kind of shocked him! But the next day he called to say, ‘yep let’s do it’.
We are growing everyday with new clients and larger projects. I have to say, I’ve grown a lot from working with Emmit, he has taught me a lot about his creative process, we are very much aligned to take this agency to the next level.
You’ve been involved with many unique events and organizations, everything from Bockfest to food trucks. Could you tell our readers more about those experiences.
The wonderful thing about my clients is that they give me so much creative control. I’ve had the pleasure to work with brands that exude Cincinnati and show that our city is a vibrant living culture.
One project that reflects our vibrancy was working on the food truck legislation. This project was a positive step for our city, and we all have to thank Laure Quinlavin for her work on this. Council member Quinlavin stepped up to the plate and took a huge risk in the quest for progress. The law in the downtown-vending district stated that no motorized vehicle, or horse drawn carriage (I’m being completely serious here) could sell on public property out of a window south of Central Parkway.
There was really no way around this law, so Laure and her team researched how other cities address the issue, and so we now have mobile food vending spots across downtown at: 5th & Race St., across from the purple people bridge, and on Court St. between Vine and Walnut. I was very relieved to have the Mobile Food Vending Pilot program passed, we are approaching the one-year anniversary of the initiative and everything has gone extremely smooth.
Another client I’ve had the pleasure to work with on various campaigns is Landor Associates and their Renaissance initiative, which draws the brand managers and designers out of the office to seek inspiration in our community. They then take their findings and apply them to the windows where they are located, the old Shillito Department store building.
What they come up with is incredible; the latest window installation was called SmashUP Creative. Each window drew inspiration from local Cincinnati artists; such as Charley Harper, Visionaries and Voices map artist Courtney Cooper, and others. Each window shows a brand they work on and the corresponding artistic inspiration, the results were incredible.
Being able to work on an account that understands the value of our retail history has to be the most fun I’ve had. And the Landorians, as I call them, are an incredible bunch of individuals.
I’d like to talk a little more about Christian Moerlein and OTR’s assets. Maybe here’s a good part to talk about why you chose to live/work/play in OTR. What does OTR offer that’s unique?
Over-the-Rhine’s assets are too many to mention but Greg Hardman at Christian Moerlein Brewing Company is a notable mention. Working with such a good quality human being, fierce businessman and Cincinnati promoter has had a huge influence on how I view my work.
Now, when I meet with future clients, I ask myself when I walk away, “How will this client help Cincinnati shine?” And to be honest, if I can’t answer that question with a ‘yes’ I often turn those potential clients away. I have to be passionate about their product to sell it to the thousands of editors I speak to, and it is difficult securing national press without the Cincinnati story. We are smack dab in the middle of a Cincinnati revolution, and every client that I represent has to join the club.
Moerlein is a company that exudes an incredible amount of positivity, and a family feeling that I enjoy. I love walking into the offices and seeing the progress that Greg makes on a daily basis. What he’s trying to achieve is not something I would wish upon any ‘one’ person, it is a huge task and a monumental moment for Cincinnati.
I’m looking forward to so much in OTR. It’s hard to single out one project, but I think that Washington Park is a huge step in developing community. I was at a wedding last weekend at Music Hall for Dave Rolfes and Priya Patel (congrats!), I looked from the second floor window and holy cow, they’ve made so much progress! I was picturing myself a few summers from now, sitting with friends, listening to the symphony outside, eating some DOJO gelato and savoring the moment.
The streetcar is another project that I look forward to, although it’s been a tough road. We really have to thank Mayor Mallory and others, Brad Thomas, etc. for believing and staying strong through this rough time. I think that as the area starts to generate more businesses, the streetcar will make more sense to commuters.
I also look forward to my mother moving here. She just announced her retirement after 25 years of teaching in the Ohio State system. I’m very close with my family and having them here would make me the very happy. I want to share these moments, we are so lucky to be in this area that is experiencing a Renaissance.
What sort of projects do you have on the horizon, where do you see your business heading…etc.
We have so many projects on the horizon, but what I have to say is this. I am taking steps every day to build a retail group that will hopefully serve the people of Over-the-Rhine. I have a soft spot for retail development, and I love customer service, so you may see a store or restaurant concept open in the next 2 years.
I am also working on a project to be announced at the end of June that will chronicle Cincinnati’s retail history….you’ll just have keep in touch to find out the rest!
Thank you Micah!