Despite a rough patch, Will Russell remains one of Louisville’s most creative and prolific entrepreneurs. To many, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that eventually Russell, who formerly owned WHY Louisville, would return with a new idea. Earlier this month, his next project, The Marvelous Mystery, was announced via Facebook.
The announcement indicated it would be a internet-based T-shirt shop at the start, but that greater plans were on the horizon. Questions abound, including “Who is Lorna-Mae Ward?” — Russell’s partner in the new endeavor.
Insider reached out to Ward to ask a couple of burning questions and get more information on The Marvelous Mystery.
Insider Louisville: Can you tell us a little bit about your background — where you’re from, what path you took to get to Louisville?
Lorna-Mae Ward: I’m originally from England, but I’ve been in America for roughly 16 years. My family moved around a lot, so the move to America wasn’t out of the ordinary for me.
My dad was self-employed for most of my childhood, and I always thought I would follow suit in that.
The thing is, I want to do all the things. I’m currently a year away from graduating with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and plan to obtain a master’s degree in mental health counseling. I would also like to teach neuroscience at some point.
IL: Can you talk a little about your professional experience working in retail?
LMW: The first job I had in Louisville was at Heine Brothers’ Coffee. It is the perfect job for getting to know a city and its people! It is there that I developed a love for Louisville.
Within my handful of years at Heine Brothers, I was given the opportunity to grow into the store manager position. It is here that I learned of my love for creating an inviting environment, both in the store and at events. Management allowed me to look at the shop from several new perspectives — all of which have proven invaluable.
Working at Anthropologie (at the Oxmoor Center Mall) as a sales associate has also given me tools I have been able to use in the building of The Marvelous Mystery. Anthro has a way of taking ordinary things and creating inspiring pieces from them. Real life magic!
IL: How did you meet Will Russell?
LMW: Will and I met during the whirlwind of Funtown Mountain. We were an item when everything came crashing down. It is very painful to watch someone you love become so self-destructive. We took some time apart to repair, and joined forces again early 2017. He is my partner in business and in life.
IL: At what point did a discussion begin about Russell starting a new store, and at what point in that discussion did you become part of that plan?
LMW: Will and I have spent the past year discussing what comes next. It was decided early on that any step taken would be taken together. Building a business together has been a very natural part of our relationship.
IL: How did the idea of starting an online store come up?
LMW: We have a vision for the development of The Marvelous Mystery that involves several stages. Each stage is a step toward the next. The online store is a mindful step toward opening a storefront. We can’t wait to share our vision with everyone.
IL: Do you have specific thoughts on how the online model can be leveraged into a new brick-and-mortar?
LMW: Our pop-up shop will be a taste of what’s to come with The Marvelous Mystery. We love the do-it-yourself aspect and allure of roadside attractions, which our aesthetic is heavily influenced by. It’s more than retail to us — it’s about the experience.
IL: Do you have any ideas yet of when we’ll see these pop-ups?
LMW: We’ve had a few pop-up shop invitations so far. I’m super excited about it. We are looking to launch the online store by August, which will coincide with our first pop-up.
IL: Did you debate at all about what to offer on the online store, or was it automatically T-shirts?
LMW: It was kind of a given that we would start with T-shirts. T-shirts are what Will does best.
IL: Where does the name come from?
LMW: We really wanted the name of our business to reflect all that has inspired our vision. The Marvelous Mystery is a love letter to the first roadside attraction Will ever went to, The Mystery Hole in West Virginia. He has been keen on owning his own roadside attraction ever since. Stay tuned, as more will be revealed.
Keep an eye on The Marvelous Mysteries via social media, which already is revealing details about what classic WHY Louisville T-shirt designs are coming back, chronicling the unfolding process of making a tent for pop-ups, tantalizing hints about a “Marvelous Underground Space” and more.