Neighborhood Venues in Cincinnati: Folk School Coffee Parlor

The Folk School Coffee Parlor is located in historic Ludlow, Kentucky a short ride from Northern Kentucky, the west side of Cincinnati, and downtown Cincinnati as well. It is owned and operated by husband and wife Mary Williams and Matt “Catfish” Williams, along with friends Casey Campbell and Maria Carrelli whom lend a helping hand as baristas. Converted from an old doctor’s office, Mary and Cat found this place nestled in Ludlow and set out to create a space for anyone to come by listen to some music, take a lesson, and importantly, have a good cup of coffee.                      

The space is not all that big, but doesn’t have to be. There is a soul that magnetically resides within the parlor that welcomes any, and all. Greeted always by a hello and a smile, and while it may not be a doctor’s office anymore it has the welcoming persona of one. Step on in and relax, enjoy a tasty cup of coffee and enjoy a good song. The products that they offer are from the who’s who of local talent. They use local roaster and purveyor of all things coffee from Mount Healthy, Ohio Deeper Roots Coffee. They have a menu that offers up some delicious and savory items; Belgian Waffles from Marty’s Waffles (Alexandria, KY), fresh roasted nuts from Dean’s Mediterranean Imports (Findlay Market), gelato from Madisonos Gelato (Glendale, OH), vegan treats from Grateful Grahams (Covington, KY), sweet and savory pies from Piebird (Newport, KY), and “the best granola in the world” from Whirlybird Granola (Cincinnati, OH). Not to mention they carry wares from local artists and artisans, cd’s from local and regional musicians, and their own merchandise. The Folk School Coffee Parlor is the mirror image of Matt and Mary Williams, welcoming souls with kind hearts and a tenacity for kindness, and Ludlow has welcomed them as well.

Within the community they are adored. Regulars show up simply to hang out and chat about anything, and mostly communal happenings. The community has welcomed in a business with open arms, and paying it forward is all The Folk School is trying to do. In the vain of attracting more folks to the parlor, and just by happenstance, Jerry Springer got involved. Jerry has been running a podcast out of The Folk School for a little over a year now. Jerry’s best friend and producer is a resident of Ludlow, Jene Galvin. Jene had gradually been coming in and loved the vibe of the place. They added another friend and producer in Megan Hils as well.  Tales, Tunes, and Tom Foolery is a podcast hosted by Jene, Jerry, and Megan. Originally the plan was to do a special episode with an original freedom rider that was thrown in Parchment Prison. Jene brought Jerry down to the parlor on a Sunday (a day that The Folk School is closed), and they were peering in through the front window and Jerry said, “Why don’t we just record every episode here in front of a live studio audience?”

After giving it some thought Mary and Matt decided it would be a great experience to host a live podcast. In Matt’s words, “I think at this point they just want to have fun and experience the folk scene today.” Jene, Jerry, and Megan did a live podcast from the Whispering Beard Folk Festival last year, they have one planned for the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn, and they just got back from Cuba, where Casey Campbell went to share American folk’s songs with local folk singers of Cuba.

With the ambience and vibe of the parlor, the podcast breathes and reverberates within the parlor. Truly the vibe, the heartbeat, the soul, or whatever term you would like to describe the feel of the space just feels comfortable, as if you are in your own kitchen amongst friends that are family.

Upon the horizon The Folk School has a few events they put on which are: Whispering Beard Folk Festival (August 25 – 28), and The Curveball Classic (September 24). Here are some that they will be a part of as well: Furry Friends Festival (May 27 & 28 at Washington Park), and Sayler Park Sustains on June 11th, and every fourth Thursday of the month they host a Square Dance, live music most any time, and they are excited to experience what the future will hold. I have had the pleasure to know Mary and Matt for nearly a decade now, and the excitement is palpable for them to do something they love. I am going to let Matt close this out as he said it better than I could. I asked him - I like to ask anyone I do this for, why this? You could have opened up any kind of shop, why this?

Matt Williams: It just seemed to happen. I have worked in every aspect of food, from farms to restaurants and coffee shops to distributors. Having co-founded The Whispering Beard Folk Festival, we wanted a space to showcase the amazing folk music scene going on. It really is surreal still to wake up every day excited to go in and do what I love, talk to people and create memories.

Cincinnati is brimming over with amazing places to see live music. Every pocket within our city has a number of places to check out your next favorite band. will be featuring Neighborhood Venues in Cincinnati. These venues include; a past brothel, the home of the amazing open mic night (and a darn good pretzel), an old school jazz joint, a west side gem, the venue that was once underwater, where to go to worship music, and the go-to spot in OTR for breaking bands. 

Stay tuned to for our Features on your favorite neighborhood venues.



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