Jaqueline Johnson, Miami University
Things to do

Locals Insider Tips

Get insider tips on where to explore from these Butler County locals!

Hear from these local business owners and some Butler County natives to help you discover new favorite places to visit.

Nadja Mirpuri

Smoochies Boba & Crepes ● Liberty Township, OH

Nadja Mirpuri, Smoochies Boba & Crepes

Photo Credit : Butler County Insider Guide, Great Lakes Publishing

Nadja Mirpuri aims to encourage people, which is why the saying "Dream Big" is found on the back of every staff shirt at Smoochies Boba and Crepes. After moving back to the United States from the Philippines, Nadja hoped to pursue her entrepreneurial spirit. She opened her own boba tea shop inside of Liberty Center, and its popularity led to a second location in Hamilton, and a third in West Chester. Smoochies—a fun play off of smoothies—are Nadja's signature drink, layering three flavors together. Her shops also offer a variety of sweet and savory crepes, as well as delicious fruit and milk teas. Nadja's personal favorite drink is the #57. "I call it that because it's so good, people will come back 56 more times to get it," she laughs. Nadja also says she likes being part of a diverse community, enjoying places like Northstar Cafe, Pho96, and House of Bangkok.

Sara Vallandingham + Maria Peckinpaugh

Sara's House ● Hamilton, OH

Sara's House, Hamilton Ohio

Photo Credit : Sara's House

It was always her dream, so when the opportunity presented itself, Sara Vallandingham took the leap. She named her boutique Sara's House to pay homage to her love for decor, design, and repurposing—not realizing it would be foreshadowing. In 2014, Sara and her husband bought a historic building in downtown Hamilton to renovate; Sara's dream shop on the ground level, and their dream home right upstairs. "It was really just meant to be," she says. Mixing modern and vintage pieces, the shop is truly unique; including one-of-a-kind repurposed lamps made by Sara's husband. In 2020 Sara partnered with her daughter Maria, who brought new ideas to the table. Blending Maria's neutral aesthetic with her mom's eclectic style keeps Sara's House fresh and ever-flourishing. Sara says one of the best experiences has been being part of Hamilton's robust community, and they love supporting their neighbors Basil 1791, Tano Bistro and Municipal Brew Works.

Chris, Kenny, James, Matt, Paul + Blaze (The Toy Experts)

The Toy Department ● Fairfield, OH

The Toy Department, Fairfield Ohio

When five friends decided to turn their passion into a business, they brought nostalgia to a whole new level. Their one-of-a-kind toy store showcases over 50,000 vintage and modern toys awaiting their next adventure. The Toy Department buys and sells toys daily, specializing in Kenner memorabilia, pre-production collectibles, and rare prototypes. "It's awesome to see people's faces when they first walk in," says Kenny Koepnick. "We see a lot of cross-generational collecting in families too, which is really cool." The friends met through toy shows, and they each have their own area of specialty. Among the five of them, they have extensive knowledge in Marvel, G.I. Joe, Ghostbusters, and more. Located in Fairfield, Chris says they are also big fans of Jupiter Coffee & Donuts and Lisa's Kitchen


Jacqueline Johnson

Freedom Summer Memorial ● Oxford, OH

Jacqueline Johnson, Miami University Ohio

Surrounding Miami University's western campus lies a magnificent stone monument, preserving a significant piece of civil rights history. The Freedom Summer Memorial commemorates the events of Freedom Summer 1964, where over 1,000 volunteers trained in Oxford to tackle the issue of voter intimidation. Miami University's Archivist, Jacqueline Johnson, began studying Freedom Summer in 2005 and later published, Finding Freedom: Memorializing the Voices of Freedom Summer. "I wanted to write a book that focused on the stories of the Freedom Summer volunteers and Ohio's connection to the civil rights movement," she says. As an archivist, Jacqueline maintains all of Miami's archival materials and assists patrons with reference, public service, and research. She also lives in Oxford, where her favorite restaurant is Bodega Delicatessen and she enjoys the city's Uptown Concert Series every summer.


Our Local Guides are also featured in the Insider Guide!