Smitty’s, RIP

I haven’t yet seen it in person but, apparently, a three-alarm fire broke out about five hours ago in one of the buildings that houses Smitty’s, the clothing store on Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine, whose amazing typographic cacophony I’ve written about here before.

Smith's Toggery Shoppe in Over-the-Rhine

Smith's Toggery Shoppe in Over-the-Rhine

Smith's Toggery Shoppe in Over-the-Rhine

Smith's Toggery Shoppe in Over-the-Rhine

Smith's Toggery Shoppe in Over-the-Rhine

Smith's Toggery Shoppe in Over-the-Rhine

Smith's Toggery Shoppe in Over-the-Rhine

Smith's Toggery Shoppe in Over-the-Rhine

Smith's Toggery Shoppe in Over-the-Rhine

For more information, check out the Cincinnati Enquirer and Local 12 video report.

I walked past it yesterday afternoon, and resolved to document it again more thoroughly sometime soon. Of course, I didn’t do it then, and here we are. Here is a little piece of Smitty’s that Michael found in the trash a couple of years ago and brought home for us:

SHOES sign from Smitty's

And, Bret Michaels is in the hospital, so a brief snippet of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” played on the news this morning. “Don’t know what you got till it’s gone…” Indeed.

Here’s a shot Michael took this morning:

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22 thoughts on “Smitty’s, RIP

  1. I am so sorry to hear about the fire. I grew up in Cincinnati, but now live on the West Coast. In Feb. 2009 a friend and I went to Smitty’s, met Larry the owner, who graciously spent an hour or more with us, and took all through the place. I am a photographer, so I snapped away in the front of the store as well as in the bowels of the place. If you were impressed by the main part of the store, you would blow your mind to see the back end.

    I’ve been photographing for 40 years, and some of my favorite shots were of Smitty’s. I’ll miss it, just like I missed Ben’s when it folded back in the 70’s or 80’s on Central Avenue.

  2. IMO, this is a professional job. Either for the insurance, or for getting Smitty out of the way so that development can commence. I’ll post about this in detail later.

  3. Hmm. CityKin suspects an electrical problem, but David at 12th & Republic, as he mentioned above, has other ideas. Since Smitty’s was open on Sundays, a friend of mine speculated that it was a Christian conspiracy. I don’t know about any of that, but I do know that all the Smitty’s buildings were for sale earlier this year. 1429 Vine St. is still listed.

    Supposedly the owner wants to reopen elsewhere. Anyone know more about that?

  4. One of the HGC guys was over at my condo fixing something yesterday, and I asked him about the buildings that were being rehabbed. He said they were working their way north on vine, so the buildings closest to Smitty’s had been rehabbed less than the ones on the corner that were spared any damage beyond taking on about 3 feet of water (which was drained quickly). He shrugged and said he doubted it would stop development– plans might change, but there are no plans to stop. He doubts there will even be much of a delay.

  5. Wow. Thanks for keeping an expat up-to-date on all things Zinzinnati. I had no idea. And I’m not much of a conspiracy buff but this does reek of a professional job. Although….all of those polyester suits must have been verrrry flammable.

  6. I went through some photographs I made of Smitty’s while visiting Cincinnati on a couple of occasions–April 2008 and February 2009. It wasn’t the easiest place to take pictures of–inside, it was a mix of stray daylight, fluorescent, and tungsten lighting. A friend and I spent some time talking to Larry Ashford, the owner, and he invited us in out of the rain to talk and gave us a tour of the back storage areas in the two adjoining buildings to the north. It was wall to wall “styles of the future,” as well as the past. An amazing inventory.

    You can see the photos at http://www.pbase.com/photolandscape. Select “all,” and you’ll see the last portfolio–Smitty’s.

  7. This is not a conspiracy or an insurance scam. You can say whatever you believe to be true, I cannot stop you, but you are very wrong. Larry is my grandfather and we are all still devastated by what happened.
    If you followed this story, you have heard that he plans to reopen in the very near future. I am not to disclose location or exact plans, but he would like me to inform you, that he does plan to open the first week in September. Look for it then.
    Thank you.

  8. Pingback: Smitty’s: Then and Now « Visualingual

  9. Pingback: Smitty’s: Coming Soon « Visualingual

  10. Pingback: Don’s Crankshaft Co. Ghost Sign in Over-the-Rhine | Visualingual

  11. Good word: Cacophony. I think it was the paper that just had a photo gallery of locations used in movies, where they turned this into a strip club for the film Traffic.

  12. What?!? I’ve seen Traffic [had to see it again after moving to Cincinnati] and, while I recognized some Vine St. buildings, Smitty’s doesn’t ring a bell. Maybe it was really transformed. Anyway, arrgh, I can’t find this slideshow, but now I’m so curious!

    BTW, a few weeks ago, we watched Harlem Nights, waiting for a glimpse of Cosmopolitan Hall, which never happened. Most of the way through this awful movie, I remembered that the one we’d wanted to see is A Rage in Harlem, which had some scenes shot in the building. Duh.

  13. Huh, I still can’t find it. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

    Definitely don’t waste your time on Harlem Nights. A Rage in Harlem is supposed to be good; unfortunately it’s Notflix, so I don’t know when I’ll see it.

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