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WitchLab emporium shines a light into the shadows

J.R. McMillan



When it comes to weird, Austin (Texas) may market their offbeat brand, but Columbus quietly holds its own.

Despite a disparaging white bread reputation, we’ve secretly become a Midwest mecca for ideas that often seem at odds with the cows and corn fields that surround us. Which is why WitchLab, the occult emporium for oddities and macabre antiques, found Franklinton was the perfect fit.

“I seriously started to consider a retail space about a year ago. So we looked and spent a lot of time talking to building owners,” recalled Tiffany Boggins, founder of WitchLab. “But as soon as I mentioned what we were doing, suddenly the space wasn’t available, the rent quadrupled, or they just weren’t interested anymore.”

Boggins had been working out of her suburban basement for years with business partner Tona Pearson. Originally intended to become an online store for wholesale supplies, classes and community soon distinguished and defined the brand, providing the personal connection practitioners lacked most.

Photos by Brian Kaiser

“I realized I missed being around other people—having coworkers, having people stop by, having a designated place that wasn’t my home started to become imperative,” she noted. “I put it on the back burner and focused on classes and ideas for building our product base. Then in June, we had the opportunity to look at this building, only because we knew the landlord, and it all went very smoothly.”

Finding the right space isn’t uncommon for small businesses, especially those that struggle with stereotypes and prejudice. Their biggest concern should be making sure customers can find their
spaces, though many often have a tough time finding a space themselves.

“Witchcraft is a word that can shut many doors, but it can also open a lot of doors,” Boggins revealed. “Once you start using the word publicly and with pride, people start coming out of the woodwork who have been looking for somewhere to go, to talk openly, to be themselves.”

Columbus’ West Side has evolved into a safe harbor for artists and entrepreneurs across all industries. From 400 West Rich to The Idea Foundry, the initial enclave of innovators and outsiders continues to expand its geographic and creative footprint.

“We’re both involved in the arts community here and everything is so grassroots. That’s why people love it,” explained Pearson. “It’s artists and makers running their own spaces. Not businesses selling things.”

Even areas as live-and-let-live as Franklinton aren’t always welcoming. Boggins and Pearson made of point of getting to know their neighbors at the mission down the block during construction, and hosted a winter solstice open house to help dispel any lingering concerns, to
shed some light into the shadows that tend to surround their craft.

“We were looking at parts of town that weren’t like the Short North. I used to be part owner of Piercology. Tattoo and piercing places also have a tough time with landlords,” Boggins recalled. “We actually moved from the Short North to Victorian Village to get away from what was going on there and the transformation to trendy. We just weren’t interested in being there anymore.”


Every aspiring chef who eventually escapes their home kitchen or artisan who outgrows a garage knows finding that first space isn’t easy—and finding the perfect space is nearly impossible. But WitchLab found the right fit in an empty storefront they could cast into whatever they wanted: a robust retail space, a dedicated classroom, a library open to the public, private reading rooms, and an enormous basement for production.

“All of the places I looked at before, I was picking and choosing what I’d have to give up. But here, I could do everything I wanted,” Boggins said. “It gave me all of the things I couldn’t find elsewhere. Plenty of space, parking is great, and I don’t have to sugar-coat anything or change the way I talk about what we do.”

Magic isn’t as maligned as it used to be, but is rarely represented faithfully on screen. Even Harry Potter still draws some ire and CBS sent the series Strange Angel straight to their streaming service. Both Boggins and Pearson admitted they’re fans of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Despite its somewhat inaccurate depictions, it breaks down barriers and starts a conversation.

“Pop culture and the political climate are making witchcraft less obscure. We used to be all of the ‘weird kids’, but now we’re adults who are finding each other,” Pearson explained, revealing an unexpected clientele. “Christian parents bring in their weird kids in because they support their kids, because they want to learn.”

“They’ll come in and say, ‘I don’t know anything about this, but they’re really interested. How do I help them?’ ” Boggins added. “We didn’t realize that was going to happen. Since then, we’ve brought in a lot of material for those just starting out, at any age, books for beginners.”

Beyond the obvious intrigue of the two-headed calf and the human skeleton in the corner named Clay, it’s the more mundane supplies that attract fellow practitioners from far and wide. Their annual autumn event, The Dark Market, attracts vendors and patrons from across the country. But after a December opening to find their footing, spring is when WitchLab expects to hit its stride.

“All of the Pagan holidays are based on balance. So we have the extremes, the solstices with the longest and shortest days of the year, and the equinoxes, where the pendulum is in the middle,” noted Boggins. “That’s when, particularly in the spring, people are itching to start something new. It’s a season of awakening and perfect timing for us, to be open for a few months listening to our clientele and ready when they are.”

For details on events and classes, visit

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Things To Do

Hit Your Peak: 3 worth-the-drive ski slopes near Columbus

Asa Herron



The cursed Ohio Winter Monster has made its presence known to all with its 5pm sunsets, snow storms, and seasonal depression for all. How are you going to fight back against the gloom this year? It may seem like it’s impossible to do fun things with your friends or to stay active in the winter, but I’m here to tell you that not all hope is lost. Finding a new hobby is a great way to kick your winter woes to the curb and start the new decade on a good foot.

Skiing can be a great way to casually exercise with friends and resuscitate your serotonin levels. Here are three high quality places to ski within driving distance of Columbus for you to check out.


Located in Zanesfield, Mad River Mountain is about an hour's drive northwest of Columbus. They have the most reasonable prices of all the nearby ski resorts. Plus, their on-property bar, The Loft, has 12 taps of craft beers on rotation to add a little more fun to the night. Mad River is open until 1 a.m. on Fridays, too, so you’re getting a full Friday night of flurries.

Mad River is home to over 20 trails (spanning 3.9 miles) and four terrain parks making it the largest ski resort in Ohio. They also bolster ten ski lifts (the most in Ohio) and are tied with Snowtrails for the largest vertical drop in the state with their 300 foot slope. An added perk of Mad River is that they just built a new $6.2 million facility in 2016 to replace the space they lost to a fire in 2015. Plus, most of their trails are designated “easy” difficulty. Mad River has everything you need to have a relaxing, affordable day of skiing.

Details on hours and pricing can be found at


Founded in 1961, Snowtrails is Ohio’s oldest ski resort. It is located in Mansfield, so also about an hour drive north. This resort is only slightly more expensive, with lift rates starting at $31 for midweek evenings and $52 for all-day on the weekends, with skis, boots, and pole rentals are $37. If there’s one day this month that you visit Snowtrails, let it be January 25 for their mid-season party. Get ready for an outdoor DJ, a custom built snowbar, and a fireworks show 30 minutes after the slopes close for the night. Not into skiing? No problem! The party is free and open to the public, so let your expert friends hit the slopes while you hit the spirits at the snow bar.

Snowtrails is the second largest resort in the state with six ski lifts and 3.3 miles of trails. The majority of their trails are designated “intermediate” difficulty, so more experienced skiers will enjoy their time here.

More information can be found at www.


Boston Mills & Brandywine is the farthest ski resort from Columbus on this list, but great for a full weekend away. This quaint resort is in Peninsula, OH is a two hour drive from Central Ohio. Their pricing is $40 after 3:30 p.m. and $45 for an all-day pass. Staying another night? Come back on Saturday for $5 Late Nights admission from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM.

Boston Mill & Brandywine ski resort is known for being especially conducive to beginning skiers. They offer high quality lessons and will walk you through the process. This is the place to go if you have “stupid” questions about skiing, or just want to tube. However, they also appeal to veteran skiers as the majority of their 18 trails are designated “advanced”. Despite the high quantity of trails, this resort is much smaller than the other two, with only 1.2 miles of skiable trails, and their largest vertical drop being 264 feet. But for these prices? Could definitely be worth the trip.

Learn more about Boston Mills & Brandywine at

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Arts & Culture

Watch: “World’s largest mural” in Short North is more than meets the eye

Regina Fox



At a glance, "The Journey AR Mural" adorning the Graduate Columbus hotel in Short North is stunning. Look a little harder, and it actually comes to life.

Standing at over 107 feet tall and over 11,000 square feet of augmented reality, "The Journey AR Mural," is the world's largest AR mural, offering technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

The gaily-painted snapdragons, hibiscus, Easter lilies, and hummingbirds bloom and fly when viewed through the Journey AR Mural app (free for iPhone and Android). Watch the murals come to life in the video below.

Los Angeles-based artists Ryan Sarfati and Eric Skotnes (going by “Yanoe” and “Zoueh," respectively) are the creatives behind the project.

In an interview with Short North Arts District, Skotnes revealed he was inspired to take on the project after learning that Columbus is home to the second largest population of Somali immigrants in the country—he hopes the murals symbolize strength and prosperity for its viewers.

To learn more about The Journey AR Mural, visit

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Food & Drink

Worth the Drive: Lima’s Kewpee Hamburgers

Regina Fox



Lima, OH may not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a road trip, but you may have to reconsider after learning about a little (AKA one of the oldest burger chain in the world) not-so-hidden gem called Kewpee Hamburgers.

It all started in 1923 when Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs opened in Flint, Michigan. This was home to the "Mity nice Hamburger," which could be purchased for just a nickel. Kewpee was also known for its life-sized naked mascot baby, created to the likeness of the classic comic strip Kewpie dolls.

By 1940, the chain rebranded to simply "Kewpee Hamburgers," and was 400-locations strong. From Ohio to New York City, Kewpee's stole the hearts of Americans with its square patties, hot chili, thick shakes, homey diner atmosphere, and not-to-be-beaten prices.

During its rise to popularity, Kewpee also managed to revolutionize the fast food game by becoming one of the first restaurants to offer a drive-thru.

But much to the dismay of its fans far and wide, most restaurants in the franchise met their demise during WWII meat shortages.

Kewpee's time-honored legacy lives on in Lima, OH where the only three remaining restaurants are located. Despite its novelty across the country, Kewpee continues to offer guests their beloved greasy grub at rock-bottom prices ($2.45 for a cheeseburger? Take that, Five Guys).

It's hard to believe that such a famed piece of America's food history is just 90 minutes from Columbus, but it's true and definitely worth the drive. How could you say no to this innocent, yet slightly ominous face?

To learn more about Kewpee Hamburgers, click here.

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