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People of NKY: A big, wild, amazing treasure chest — at Jackie Slone’s Left Bank Coffee House

By Ginger Dawson
Special to NKyTribune

Last week, going about my business of pursuing “People of NKY,” I fell into a treasure chest — a very big, very wild treasure chest. I do love surprises like this!

The treasure chest is hidden right out in the open, almost right smack in the middle of Covington. It is masquerading as the Left Bank Coffee House (7th and Greenup, Covington).

Jackie in her treasure chest.

The coffee house features a small, intimate seating area, with a very European ambiance. It literally feels as if one could be on the Left Bank of Paris. But, in this case, it is near the left bank of the Licking and Ohio Rivers. An excellent cup of coffee and your heart’s desire of sweet can be ordered up and enjoyed.

The atmosphere is warm, dark and restful. There are interesting pieces of art on the walls; some with a decidedly existential twist. This adds to a bohemian stew and also signals a certain smart whimsy and irreverence. There is an energy to this place that is not seen. It’s the kind of energy that makes a person feel hipper, smarter and in desperate need of a black beret.

Then, you go to the bathroom. WOW. This is your first real introduction to where that energy is emanating from. At least the start of it.

The bathroom walls are encrusted in a wild, swirling mosaic of tile, broken pottery, glass cabochons and a myriad assortment of found objects. Beautifully designed, it is multi-colored and visually engrossing. I could spend half an hour in the loo just taking it all in!  It is a good thing that the dining room is small. The line to the bathroom is at least controlled by this parameter.

Wow. Here is the loo.

Even the toilet paper dispenser which proclaims “unusual ways trees serve us” is held up by a weird nineties(?) hipster “Ruggedly handsome toilet paper guy.” I am not kidding.

So who is responsible for all of this?   

Jackie Slone.  

Jackie grew up on the west side of Cleveland in Parma Heights. She was shy and quiet like her parents. But, she was not too shy to decide that an early relationship was not quite going the right way and she ended it. In order to truly end it, she moved to Cincinnati. Her brother John was there and that always makes any move a little easier.

John’s wife Pam had matchmaking inclinations. Jackie was on her radar. Pam had a cousin named Russell who she thought might be a good match. And it was. Match made in 1976; married in 1977.

Jackie and Russell have two daughters, Maggie and Katy. There are also two granddaughters in the mix.

Over the years they have lived in several Covington neighborhoods. Mutter Gottes, Helentown, Wallace Woods and now, with Left Bank Coffee House, they are located in the Historic Licking Riverside.

Ruggedly handsome toilet paper guy!

In the late 1990s, Jackie had started to dabble in mosaics and collage after her girls were out of high school. She had a studio in the basement of their home in Wallace Woods.

Around 2001, the National Endowment for the Arts expanded its outreach program under the banner of America Creates for the Millennium. The Center for Great Neighborhoods was awarded grant money to create a mosaic project for the City of Covington.

This was a great opportunity and Jackie immediately signed on.

The project was led by Olivia Gude, a nationally recognized artist known for her work in public murals and mosaics and is currently a professor of Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. She led a four-month intro on mosaics that Jackie and several others benefitted from, and with this knowledge, created a series of mosaic neighborhood signs and installations.

This experience was transformative.  Not only did Jackie increase her skills and artistic sensibility, she was able to discard her innate shyness through the collaborative rigors of working with other artists. In retrospect, Jackie has this to say, “Being shy is a big waste of time.” 

Go ahead. Test yourself.

Shortly thereafter, she started teaching at the Baker Hunter Art and Cultural Center. She has been teaching mosaics and collage for fifteen years.  
In 2005, an opportunity opened when 701 Greenup St., a scant half block from Baker Hunt, appeared for sale. This was an old commercial building with a storefront and an apartment upstairs. There was a second apartment on the ground floor as well.  

This building was the perfect location for Russell and Jackie. They wanted to be closer to the action and Jackie wanted that storefront for a studio. There was just one problem — Harry.

Harry was an antique dealer who rented the storefront and followed peculiar business practices. He was never open. He also didn’t seem to understand that he needed to move. After a little dance with Harry, he finally left and Jackie moved in.

But another thing. There had always been this idea of having a coffee house. For years it was a kind of dream, even early on.

A tiny sampling of inspiration, including grand daughters.

After her Art career was in full swing, Jackie and a friend went to a conference in Mesa, Arizona and visited a little cottage coffee house that had an interior completely upholstered in mosaics. This made a huge impression and shortly thereafter, the little apartment on the ground floor of 701 Greenup St., behind the studio, started its metamorphosis into the Left Bank Coffee House.

After a couple of years of planning, construction, and enduring inspections, the coffee house opened in June of 2013.

Left Bank Coffee House is a family operation. The elder daughter, Maggie, is the general manager, Russ and Katy help out where needed and Jackie is responsible for the look and feel of the place.

A tour of Jackie’s studio is a wild, visual journey. There are mosaics on the floors.  She has large mosaics in progress, laid out on tables.  There are large three-dimensional pieces constructed in mosaic  There are many small shadow box pieces on display everywhere. Little found-object sculptures are in abundance.  And, there are boxes and shelves loaded, neatly organized, with raw material for her to use and be inspired by. 

Jackie says that the one with the dinosaur is an expression of her alter ego.

To call Jackie’s studio eye candy is comparable to calling the Hope Diamond a rhinestone. 

Her favorite artist is Joseph Cornell, a mid-twentieth artist widely renowned for his “assemblages” which are best described as three-dimensional collages constructed in boxes. It is easy to see this influence, and Jackie deftly uses it in her own vision, which has the added appeal of including a subtle humor and a clever sense of irony.

The creative energy flowing from Jackie Slone and her great big treasure chest is a palpable thing and can improve anyone who gets near it. Visit Left Bank Coffee House soon. 

You’ll get more than just a cup of coffee and a pastry.

Ginger Dawson will be writing about the People of NKY — the neighbors you need to know and people you need to meet and understand. The feature will appear periodically at the NKyTribune. If you have ideas for subjects, please share them with Ginger at ginger@fuse.net.

See Ginger Dawson’s earlier People of NKY stories here.

Beautiful tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. (All photos by Ginger Dawson)

My favorite one! But then I am a hard case.

Jackie and Russell Slone — proof that matchmaking works.

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  1. Sandy Kerlin says:

    Good article Ginger! I love the Slone’s and the Left Bank and you captured it!!

  2. kate smith says:

    Jackie’s my sister! So glad you enjoy her creativity and sense of humor. I’ve always loved her ‘why not’ attitude. Thanks for writing about her artistic endeavors and Left Bank.

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