A few years ago, Josh Merideth got the sense that Louisvillians knew too little about the treasures of their own city, especially its independent businesses.
Working in Downtown Louisville, he found himself surrounded by artists, restaurateurs, fashion designers, hoteliers, bakers, architects—an endless supply of creative types whose products were unique to the city yet under-celebrated.
That notion, born of his civic pride, sparked the photographer’s own creativity to form a company that not only would elevate these businesses’ local profiles, but create events at which those owners’ would network in style.
“I believed that a lot of people weren’t being exposed to this fantastic creative energy that’s all over Louisville, and I wanted to do something that summed it all up,” said Merideth, who founded the Original Makers Club of Louisville about two years ago. “I wanted to take the best of the city, curate that and those people, and make it all come to life.”
What he’s done is create the Original Makers Club City Guide, a firm-back book chock full of color photos — all shot by Merideth — of independent business owners and their products: it’s nearly all visual, very little text.
The guides are free at OMC member businesses and meant to be used by locals and visitors to patronize those local firms.
But just as importantly are OMC’s growing list of events, launch parties for each new City Guide (it has since added Cincinnati, Lexington and Brooklyn to its list), polo matches and “dinner series” get-togethers ranging from small meals for 50 to large and lavish affairs on Lexington horse farms.
“Our motto is ‘curating cities and creating culture,’ and that means we’re really trying to get people to be a cultural participant in these cities,” Merideth said.
“The book gives you insight into the major innovative players in these cities, people who are really on top of what they’re doing.
“The events … make it all come to life by bringing people together. The environment at all our events is fun.”
Managing partner Elizabeth Dowell said Original Makers Club is “a lot about discovering other businesses and people with a similar mindset. Several of our members don’t want to advertise in the local paper or with mass media. But they want to check out restaurants and artists who are in the Original Makers Club books.”
One such member is Maggie Keith, co-owner of Foxhollow Farm in Oldham County near Prospect, where OMC will host a dinner for 100 on June 28 at 6:30 p.m.
She said her OMC membership is more about “meeting likeminded people who are creative and passionate about what they do,” said Keith, who runs the biodynamic farm with her mother, Janey Newton. “I like surrounding myself with people like that because through that networking, we share creative ideas.”
But she also loves the parties, too, which she said are like none other.
“There’s always a surprise, something you’ve never seen before,” said Keith. All OMC parties are filmed. (Click here to have a look at past soirees.)
That wow factor can range from Merideth’s photographs projected onto buildings, creative uses of flame or living art displays of people in “funky costumes. They’re always done so artistically. They just know how to throw a party.”
Foxhollow’s contribution to the June 28 event is fresh ingredients. Nearly all the food grown and raised on the farm will be used during the dinner.
“I’ve been growing stuff for this specific event since March … really unique looking and tasting vegetables that you don’t see in Louisville restaurants,” said Keith, adding that Wiltshire Pantry will cater the event. “I’m going to pick them that morning and Susan (Hershberg, owner of Wiltsire) is going to be coming up with someone unusual.”
The entire gathering will be seated at a 100-foot long table made from wood reclaimed from famed Kentucky horse barns. Merideth said the table weighs one ton, must be pulled to events on a trailer and then assembled from 10, 10-foot long sections.
“This will be the first time we’ve had the entire table together in one place,” he said. “We want these events to be sort of intimate, too, which is why we like one table.”
Tickets for the event are $150 per person, and can be purchased by clicking here.
Attire for the evening is dressy-casual, but Merideth said, “you’ll see lots of denim and polos, and even a few people with bowties and sports coats.”