Monday, July 23, 2007

Cincinnati Favorites

So after watching Mark Malkoff's record-setting performance of 171 Starbucks in Manhattan, I dusted off a few of my plans. The first one I thought of was the plan to visit every Kroger in the area. There were 108 Krogers in what Kroger considers the Cincinnati "area" (which goes from Batesville to Maysville to Hillsboro to Sidney), and IIRC, the estimate was 22 hours or so to visit all of them (and that's just driving time - not including time to actually go in and buy something).

After ruling that one out, I remembered the 58 Krogers in what I considered Cincinnati. That came in as somewhere around 8 hours of driving time (much more realistic), but I had dismissed it as lacking "cool factor". Upon review of the Starbucks video, I may need to reconsider that. I think that there is definitely some cool factor involved.

But what has currently grabbed my fancy is visiting every "Cincinnati Favorite". Though there are more brands listed on the aforementioned website, I narrowed it down to Busken, Graeters, Skyline, Larosas and Montgomery Inn. With apologies to Sturkey's and Glier's, whatever they are, if after 10 years of living here I have never heard of you, you don't qualify!

So I then set my sights on acquiring the store list. As I already knew, this can be one of the most challenging parts of the whole endeavor. Larosas has an EXCELLENT page - a full store list with Google Maps mashup! I was even able to get latitude and longitude coordinates off of it, so that was nice.

The other sites weren't that bad - I eventually was able to get a full list, but then I ran into another problem. Skyline's store list contains stores inside Kings Island, the Zoo, Coney Island and Great American Ball Park. After thinking about it for a bit, and an (unrelated) trip to Kings Island (where I of course did some reconnaisance work), I decided that those stores don't count. After all, there are also Larosa's and Graeter's in Kings Island, and neither company lists those locations on their official store listings. If Skyline wants to artificially inflate their store count, that's their own business. So I decided (and I do declare myself to be in the best position to arbiter) that only stores that are open to the public are counted. Skyline also lists a store inside the IRS building in Covington, but a quick phone call confirmed that they are open to the public, so they're in.

Then I turned my sights to boundary locations. What, exactly, is considered "Cincinnati". It was easy to rule out locations in places like Oxford, or Hamilton, or Batesville, or Lebanon, or Walton. But as you start getting closer, the line becomes much hazier. If you count Mason, then what about Landen. And then if you count Landen, well what about Maineville? How about Amelia or Goshen? Independence or Alexandria, KY? Lawrenceburg or Bright, IN? There were somewhere around 150 locations to visit, depending on where you drew the line.

But then I decided to just make the boundary the 275 loop. It's a nice definitive boundary without any room for wiggling - either it is inside or it isn't. And that still gives 104 stores. I didn't think that 150 was doable in 24 hours, given the fact that many of them don't even open until 10 a.m. (the exception being Busken). So you don't really have a full 24 hours - it's more like 15 or 18, though I did see a few Skylines that were open till 3 a.m. on weekends and the Hyde Park Busken is open 24 hours a day.

The rules, just as in the Starbucks movie, are that you have to visit every store, and you have to buy something at every store and consume at least part of it. If you happen to come across a store after closing time, then if you can get an employee to sell / give you something, that can count. More codified rules will be written as necessary.

Stay tuned!

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