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Coffee Shop to Open on Fifth Street in Downtown Covington

Bobby Maverick is known to Covington festival-goers as the magician and straight jacket performer that attracts large crowds during Maifest and Oktoberfest in Mainstrasse Village.

For his next trick, Maverick (real name: Bobby Kimball) and his wife, Stephanie, will open a coffee shop on Fifth Street in Downtown Covington.

The space that will house Blend has hosted a small parade of new business endeavors over the past four years, including Red Light, Flippin' Jimmy's, Wolf & Co., and Pizza Bomba.

Maverick is convinced that his approach will be different and successful. He's going to do more guerilla marketing and will take treats and coffees to nearby businesses as a get-to-know-you attempt, and will also be aggressive with flyers.

Plus, the block of Fifth between Madison Avenue and Scott Boulevard is the target of revitalization attempts.

"I think the block is great because it reminds me of a side street in New Orleans," Maverick said.

His job as a performer takes him around the country, including New Orleans where he shares mutual friends with his new neighbors across the street. William Poole and Loren Penton are hard at work renovating the former Bottoms Up bar where they will operate the new Fortvna chocolate shop. The couple previously lived in New Orleans and spent time talking about the Crescent City with Maverick.

And that's not their only connection.

Maverick's daughter attended a national high school competition in Denver and discovered a chocolate shop there that she liked so much, she took photos of herself there and brought home treats to her parents.

That chocolate shop was called Wen and was operated by Poole and Penton when they lived in Denver.

Now fate as landed the entrepreneurs on opposite sides of the street in Covington, where city leaders last year made a significant investment in improving it as a gateway.

When the Kimballs first hatched their idea of a coffee shop, they targeted Independence where they live. With the boom in commercial development anchored by a large Kroger and the proximity of the growing Simon Kenton High School, the couple thought they would have a natrual market.

But there was no space that would work for them.

And then they found 14 East Fifth Street in Covington. Bobby did some research on the area.

"You have Gateway (Community & Technical College) going there, there, and there," he said pointing at surrounding buildings where the school plans an ambitious urban campus. "You have the courthouses, the library, the city building."

"I said, wouldn't it make perfect sense? Why? Because in Independence we could be away from everything or we could be here in the middle of it all."

And now they are in Downtown Covington sprucing up the space for its March 3 opening. Bobby is a former executive chef at the Embassy Suites on RiverCenter Boulevard and Stephanie works in banking. Their daughter, Tara Benavides, will manage the new cafe.

Blend will serve breakfast and lunch and will feature signature sandwiches and baked goods made on site in the full commercial kitchen. Maverick will smoke the turkey used in its club sandwich in-house. He'll top that turkey with pork belly (also sliced and smoked in the Blend kitchen) and cover it in smoked apple mayonnaise. "It's a killer sandwich," he said.

The Philly cheese steak panini will include London broil on bread with brie cheese, carmelized onions, and a roasted garlic horseradish cream sauce.

Morning visitors may like the pancake sandwiches with real maple syrup.

The daily house soup will be French onion, a versatile option that can accommodate regular eaters, vegetarians, and those seeking gluten-free dishes.

Can't make it to Blend? Maverick will offer delivery by bike. He said they have boxes and containers that will keep the food and coffee hot in transit.

Blend will be open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. and then Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Kimballs also hope to work with other entrepreneurs by offering a space for pop-up restaurants and is already working with local students who will use the kitchen to make the products they plan to sell at Findlay Market as part of a school group.

"I want to offer a place for pop-up restaurants for up and coming chefs," Maverick said. "There are a lot of talented chefs around Cincinnati working for other people."

That's something Maverick is familiar with and something he doesn't want to do again. "I realize I'll never work for anyone else again as long as I live," said Maverick, who also makes and sells a line of costumes for magicians. "You'll never work as hard as you do for yourself."

Facebook: Blend

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Bobby Maverick at Oktoberfest in Mainstrasse Village/RCN file