Margy Taylor debuts new Clay & Cotton at Norton Commons Thur., Oct. 3

Clay & CottonMargy Taylor’s long and often-frustrating retail odyssey is coming to its official end.

Thursday evening, she will have the grand opening of her Clay & Cotton store in Norton Commons, roughly a year after she first told Insider Louisville about her plans.

Someone from the mayor’s office will be on hand, starting at 5 p.m., to cut the purple ribbon. There will be a trunk show for Company C, the popular line of rugs, bedding and pillows that Taylor introduced to the Louisville market at her Highlands store at 1341 Bardstown Rd.

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Margy Taylor

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Wellspring Kentucky, which provides housing and rehabilitative services to mental health patients. There will be cocktails, wine and cheese.

All a very festive occasion, with Taylor putting aside all the complications she’s had with banks, contractors and various suppliers since she embarked on the investment, which she calculates at $1 million.

(The new building at 10716 Meeting St. is both her store and her future home. At some point, Taylor and I will chronicle the specifics of all those headaches for Insider Louisville readers – even naming names! – but that is, as they say, another story.)

The fact is, the ribbon-cutting notwithstanding, Taylor has been open and doing business for a couple of weeks, and she says the early sales are fantastic. There’s a whole new market of shoppers in Norton Commons, Taylor says.

They walk in the evening and on weekends. They have new homes to furnish. And they’re drawn to the bank of 10 large cast iron picture windows on each side of the store’s corner location.

The store will look familiar to her Highlands habitués. It’s the same SoHo loft look with the door set at the same 45-degree angle on the corner. It has the same all-caps, block-lettered logo on the outside.

“We purposefully echoed the Bardstown Road store,” Taylor says. “We think it’s part of our brand, and particularly appropriate for the urban look and feel of Norton Commons.”

As in the Highlands, she’ll keep the lights in the store on at night, the goal being to lure those strollers into looking inside the window, seeing the merchandise and deciding they need to come back the next day.

Clay & Commons 2However, this store – at 2,500 square feet – is nearly three times the size of her original Highlands location.

That gives Taylor more merchandising space for the large items such as furniture and rugs she either had to squeeze into available corners in the smaller store, or order for customers through catalogs.

To achieve that amount of space, Taylor had to buy two lots. But the location is on the town square, in the center of Norton Commons right across from the real estate sales office, “so we’ll be the second thing they see after they’ve purchased their homes,” she says.

The size of the space not only permits that statement, it also allows her to cross-merchandise furniture and accessories in room-like vignettes, including one she displays in what she calls an architectural “jut out,” framed by windows on one side of the store.

Clay *& Cotton 3The Norton Commons store allows her to introduce new lines including:

Pacific Green, an Australian brand that makes furniture from dying coconut trees;

Simon Pearce, a line of hand-blown glassware, pottery and lamps from Vermont;

Johnny Was, a California line of high end womenswear.

As in the Highlands, Taylor blends colorful merchandise and the daylight pouring in from her store windows will really make all the oranges and pinks come to life.

“I even painted the changing room pink,” she told me, “because it’s feminine and fun, and because I always wanted to paint something pink.”

All those windows also have a downside. They deprive the store of much-needed wall space for merchandising. So all racks and fixtures at the new Clay & Cotton are flexible and rollable, allowing Taylor to move things around and re-merchandise as new products come in or as special shopping seasons come along. (Next one up is the Big Kahuna! Or, as some call it, Christmas.)

The inside of the store echoes the exterior; hard, urban surfaces and an industrial look and feel. The floor is a leather brown stained concrete, a backdrop for the orange sofas Taylor favors. The ceilings are nearly 14-feet- high, with exposed ductwork.

She finds the Norton Commons market receptive to that. “Women here are really happy to have a boutique that sells some of the best lines from all over the world,” Taylor says. “They’ll say, ‘Omigod, you have Johnny Was here’ – notwithstanding the $300 price tag on some of his handbags.”

She sees here a chance to expand beyond just selling merchandise to selling design services. “I’ve already been asked by a woman to design two of her bedrooms,” Taylor said. “Bedding, walls, furniture, floors – everything. And really sophisticated design, but colorful. I’d like to show people what color can do for their homes.”

Along the way, Taylor closed her store in The Summit Louisville shopping center a mile away, raising concerns that she’d move the entire operation to Norton Commons when she was ready. So she insists, for probably the 133rd time, that no, she isn’t closing the Bardstown Road location. She’ll split her time equally between the two stores, even though she’ll eventually be living above the store in Norton Commons.

(Why isn’t she already living there? Don’t get her started!)

She’s plenty aware, by the way, of the success the new downtown retailers are having on South Fourth Street and thinks it’s great for the city. She was one of the names first pegged as being perfect for any downtown development.

She demurred then. The timing is better now. She’s even considering it – but not for a while.

“There’s a limit to how often you can go through an experience like this,” she says. She’s still waiting for Time Warner Cable to hook up her Internet.

But, as I said, that’s for another post.