Ben and Melinda Hardin

Sparked by the vision and dream of entrepreneurs Ben and Melinda Hardin, a rehabbed 2.5 story historic building at 524 Main Street is helping bring new business to downtown Shelbyville, Kentucky. Citizens Union Bank Shelbyville helped the Hardins finance their vision to turn the empty building into a facility that features multiple professional offices, retail space and a performance and event venue.

Returning to their roots

After growing up in Shelbyville, the couple moved away before returning to invest and slowly rehab several properties along Main Street, including a 5,000 sq. ft. second floor loft that serves as their residence. There is another two-bedroom loft in the same building.

“We love our community, and Shelbyville is becoming more popular as a destination,” Melinda said. “It has small town charm and is close to the Bourbon Trail, wineries, horse farms and big city activities,” she explained. The couple offers their home loft and the adjacent loft as vacation rentals on VRBO. “It’s been quite successful and provides many adventures for our family,” she says. Last summer, the Hardins and their daughters camped while guests stayed in their home.

Empty building has surprise

“The 524 building had sat empty for decades, and many people were surprised to learn that a gymnasium was on the second floor,” says Ben. “I was told it was the site for Shelbyville High School basketball games in the early 1900s. It also housed the Lee-McClain Clothing Factory where my grandmother worked as a seamstress,” Ben says.

Brian Webb

“Ben has great vision and ideas for rehabbing” Melinda says. “We both wanted to preserve the building’s character and architectural details,” says Ben. Both of the Hardins expressed a desire to encourage other developments that promote sustainability of their community.

“I met Ben and Melinda as they began exploring and sharing their vision for the 524 building,” says Brian Webb, CUB Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending in the Shelby County market. “After listening to their story, reviewing their business plan and seeing what they had done with their home and other projects, I knew this was a project CUB should embrace.”

The Hardins are appreciative of CUB’s willingness to partner with them in their dream. “They took a leap of faith,” says Ben. “I trust that they will grow with us as we expand the project.”

Webb agrees. “We’re not a one and done lender,” he says. “Taking a risk on local business owners is part of CUB’s mission as a community bank.”

Designed as a cityscape, the first floor of the 524 Main Street building includes a shared-space concept: Sharecroppers Urban Co-op Market, with unique retail such as The She Shed, Little Mount Lavender, Bourbon City General Store, Silver B Jewelry, Slate Media and All About B Boutique. The restaurant closed in December, but that space is expected to reopen with a new concept soon. The former second floor gym is now The Gatsby, a beautiful performance and event venue for weddings, receptions and other events. The Gatsby is hosting the Kentucky Wedding Show in March.

The Hardins have worked hard to honor the history and architecture of the building. They’re putting the finishing touches on the upstairs loft. Complete with a revolving entrance door, indoor firepit, antique skeeball and pinball games, and sleeping accommodations for 10, it will most likely become Shelbyville’s next must-stay destination.