While it seems you can’t turn a corner in Louisville without stumbling into a locally owned coffee shop, there is a serious lack of tea shops.
That will change later this month when Wild Dog Rose opens on Bardstown Road in the Highlands. While Insider talked with co-owners Margaret Hamilton and Emily Gibson in early April while they were just getting started, we thought we’d check back in to see how things are progressing.
Hamilton and Gibson met through connections in one of those aforementioned local coffee shops. Both former baristas, they know their way around the bean, but when they started talking about opening their own place, they almost immediately settled on tea.
“Louisville is totally and completely saturated with coffee shops, Hamilton tells Insider. “I love coffee, we both worked in coffee, but we didn’t want to do that because that’s not really our thing.”
Hamilton says the two balance out each other’s strengths.
“If ever I am worried about something, it is the things she is absolutely not worried about, and vice-versa.” Hamilton notes that extends to dealing with the press. “She doesn’t like the interviewing process, it makes her really nervous.”
The shop, located in the Bonnycastle block of Bardstown Road in the former LIFEbar space, is stocking more than 80 types of teas, tisanes and herbs. It is all kept in shiny rows of silver canisters behind the bar, on dark shelves made of reclaimed barn wood. The teas and herbs come from Elmwood Inn Fine Teas in Danville, Ky.
“They are really great,” says Hamilton. “Bruce and Shelley (Richardson) are the owners, and they have been in the the business forever. They actually go to the tea farms and get the tea, so we know it’s super awesome.”
Wild Dog Rose’s name comes from an old term used to describe a medicinal use for rose hips. “It used to be a common name for rose hips, because they used to grind them into a poultice to cure bites from wild dogs,” she says. Gibson and Hamilton discovered the name while poring over a book of herb lore.
The store will stock some of those herb lore tomes; they already have small book section, which they hope to grow. “Gosh, they really range,” says Hamilton when asked about the books. “We have books on tea, herbs, gardening, astrology, crystals and intersectional politics.”
While the titular tea may end up being their bread and butter, the books, herbs and crystals are important, too. Wild Dog Rose’s stated mission is: “We are committed to creating a place where all of the resources needed to maintain a healthy, metaphysical lifestyle can be found while guaranteeing that all of our resources are fresh, ethically obtained, and eco-friendly.”
Sounds about perfect for the Highlands, the longtime center of Louisville counter-culture.
This isn’t Hamilton’s first time working on Bardstown Road. “I used to work at Dot Fox, I used to work at Sweet ‘n’ Savory, I worked at Ramsi’s,” she says. But this is the first time she has owned a business, which hasn’t quite sunk in. “Now I own my own place. It hasn’t hit me. I don’t even know how to speak to it.”
Part of Hamilton’s excitement stems from her own time spent in the Highlands as a youth.
“I remember walking down Bardstown Road as a kid. I mean, every single day after school, that’s what we did — we walked up and down and hung out at ear X-tacy, and I knew all the people who worked there. They were so cool.”
Hamilton laughs at the idea that she will perhaps be one of those cool people who inspires the next generation of Bardstown Road kids. “Oh my gosh, it’s gonna be horrible and wonderful at the same time, and I’m going to have to remember I once was one of those kids, with purple hair and some lame punk band T-shirt.”
Anyone who has ever worked in a shop or the service industry can tell you the dream of owning one’s own store is often discussed. Hamilton is slow to start talking about how that dream became a reality for her and Gibson.
“Somehow it happened,” says Hamilton, adding it seems “surreal.” When pressed for details, she gives credit to the people who helped the duo get ready to be business owners. “We could not have done this alone.”
She cites Toni Sears of the Kentucky Small Business Development Center as being very important. “Man, she has been so phenomenal, and so helpful.”
Hamilton says they lucked into their prime location. Chase Barmore, owner of LIFEbar, still holds the lease on the building, and they are subleasing from him. He’s a regular at the hair salon where Gibson still works part time. Hamilton says Barmore was waiting for just the right business to take over his spot.
“He wanted to make sure something cool came in, and not something like another vape store or something super commercial,” she says.
Hamilton and Gibson are planning on a very quiet soft opening sometime in the next few weeks. So if you are walking down Bardstown Road, see if they are open. Or you can check their progress and status on Facebook. Wild Dog Tea is located at 1570 Bardstown Road.