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Creative Firm Re-Imagines Landmark Monmouth Street Building

The building has stood for more than a century, but for three decades it was a Newport landmark as The Thing Shop, a provocative retailer of sleek dresses heavily favored by drag performers, including one who gave the shop an infamous shout-out on a 1990's episode of The Jerry Spring Show.

The Thing Shop closed in 2004.

Now 811 Monmouth Street is home to The Think Shop. Similar name, different mission.

"We considered a name change and that was on the board," said principal David Dalton, who founded the creative marketing and branding firm in 2003 as Red Hot Promotions in Ft. Thomas. In 2013, Dalton split the company and adopted the moniker The Think Shop to work alongside Red Hot Promotions in the renovated building.

"It was a very simple building so it wasn't super intimidating," Dalton said of the project that led to the removal walls, drop-ceiling tiles, and more as the space was stripped to its bones. The front facade that historically presented two showcase windows have been removed and replaced with a sleek new conference room and entrance.

Something about the bare historic charm of such a structure boosts the creativity of Dalton's firm. "There's just so much character and inspiration in the walls," he said. 

The creativity extends beyond the business's day to day operations to the task of creating and maintaining the space. Dalton used his skills of woodworking and re-purposing to create the conference room table from the wood of an old barn in Falmouth and a machine shop table. A lot of the wood scraps that came from framing the new space was used as base boards. 

Some of the same wood created an accent wall in the room.

When Dalton finished his education at the Cincinnati Academy of Design and Northern Kentucky University, he went to work for an ad agency as a copywriter. Following that he was brought on at a new company to be its marketing director. In that position, he nurtured relationships with a couple clients that were enough for him to branch out on his own and launch Red Hot Promotions.

Those first two clients are still with him a dozen years later, as are seven other employees. "My mission from the beginning was to become a creative agency," he said. In 2013, that's what happened when The Think Shop was born and the long renovation process continued at 811 Monmouth. The company finds itself in a unique position as a business that has renovated a historic building in an area where that practice is becoming more common. The Think Shop is also charged with creating a new brand identity for the City of Newport, something that historic buildings will play a role in.

"I think they play a huge part of it," Dalton said. "Newport has a very important history. It's kind of the keystone of Northern Kentucky. The buildings, a lot of them are being resurrected. Companies are finding the same thing we found. You're inspired by what's already there so there is no need to create anything new."

But, with a company like Red Hot Promotions and The Think Shop, there may actually be a need to create something new, though in the backdrop of the historic structure. Dalton already has seven employees but keeps his eye on the growth potential of the business and the space. 

"There is room to grow," he said, noting a parking lot behind the building that could be utilized. "I do have some ideas that I think about."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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