Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is usually your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend, but given the nature of the holiday, we’re providing you with a roundup of local retail stories from this past year.
By Caitlin Bowling, Melissa Chipman and Sara Havens
It’s a little odd that a holiday that celebrates giving thanks and spending time with family is followed by a day so hectic and frenzied, it’s known as Black Friday. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d do a little something different with TCB by looking back on a year in retail news. Comings, goings, trends and tragic departures — they’re all here for you to peruse while you’re munching on leftovers and devising your shopping plan-of-attack, be it online or in person.
New Stores, New Products
Home décor for the holidays
Black Friday and Small Business Saturday will be a madhouse for many retailers, but Amanda Book, owner of a new home décor store in New Albany, is used to it. That’s why she picked the name Madhouse for her business. The self-described workaholic opened earlier this month, just in time to get settled before the holiday rush.
The Beer Syrup Company launched in September
Beer makes everything better, so it was a brilliant idea of Louisvillian Russ Meredith to concoct simple syrups using craft beer as the base ingredient. In September, Meredith launched The Beer Syrup Company, and ever since he’s been selling out of his supply almost weekly at farmers markets and the monthly Flea Off Market (which will be held Dec. 5-6).
Several local bars and restaurants are are utilizing the three syrups — Mocha Porter, Pecan Nut Brown and Bourbon Barrel Stout — in their drink recipes.
Ballotin Chocolate Whiskeys sweeten the deal
Also joining the ingredient list at many local bars are the recently released Ballotin Chocolate Whiskeys, which come in four flavors: Chocolate Mint, Original Chocolate, Bourbon Ball and Caramel Turtle. Created by local entrepreneur and founder of Saloon Spirits Paul Tuell, the 60-proof spirits are excellent in cocktails as well as sipping on the rocks.
Clothing boutique wheeling around town
Why go out to shop when the shopping can come to you?
Sandi’s Styles Fashion Boutique, a mobile store, can help customers find a new outfit or three to wear to the many holiday gatherings happening between now and New Year’s Day.
The boutique on wheels travels around Jefferson County and beyond to bring the latest fashions to ladies who’d prefer to buy new clothes while drinking wine with friends than braving the crowds on Shelbyville Road.
Come to think of it, shopping during the holidays would be much more enjoyable if storefronts offered customers something to imbibe while they scour for the perfect presents. It might even increase sales as the line between what you need and what you want gets blurry.
Vintage Banana peels off from Schnitzelburg, lands in the Highlands
In March, we profiled Brittney and Josh Dunning, the husband-and-wife team behind the throwback clothing store Vintage Banana, which was then opening in the Schnitzelburg neighborhood. After just a few months, the couple jumped at the opportunity to operate in the Highlands, and they’re now keeping kids cool at 1507 Bardstown Road.
The clothing store has a crazy collection of vintage rock ‘n’ roll shirts — from Zeppelin to KISS — which makes browsing feel more like a trip to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
“Music makes us happy, and there is something about wearing a shirt with a band that inspired all the bands we hear today,” Josh told us back in March. “Those shirts came from a time when rock ‘n’ roll was real and your parents didn’t want you listening to it. That’s the throwback vibe we want to put out.”
Storefront gets new life in downtown New Albany
Two businesswomen gave birth to a brand new baby store in a prime downtown New Albany space this year.
Oh Baby! Children’s Boutique opened in October and sells baby clothes and accessories, toys and gifts for moms.
The shop carries high-end clothing brands as well as unique handmade items from artists the owners have worked with in the past. Oh Baby! also buys gently used baby clothes to help moms earn some money back on items that their babies only got to wear a handful of times.
Don’t be fooled: These jams are sweet and spicy
This year, however, Zac Caldwell started up Caldwell’s Quirky Cookery in the west Louisville incubator Chef Space — an idea that came out of a prank he’d played years before on Kentucky YMCA Youth Association CEO Ben Reno-Weber.
Caldwell makes jams and jellies, many of them with a kick, such as peach habanero, blackberry ghost pepper and pineapple jalapeño. The company is accepting orders online that will ship in time for Christmas.
Kentucky for Kentucky rolls out Double Down and Hot Brown candles
The always innovative folks at the Lexington online retail outlet Kentucky for Kentucky added two new scents to their candle line in May — the Double Down, named after the popular KFC sandwich, and the Hot Brown.
We checked in with them to see if they’d be available for the holidays; Whit Hiler said they’re probably out of the Hot Brown for the year, but they will be adding back the Fried Chicken scent to the lineup. Check out their unique Kentucky-inspired goods here, and catch them in town at the Flea Off Market and at the Misc. Goods Co.’s Pop-Up-Shop at Forest Giant on Dec. 4-5.
RIP Fabulous Finds consignment store
There’s not much I love more than a good consignment store, but somehow I never found Fabulous Finds on Frankfort. Maybe that’s why it closed in October. And it was clothes for a cause: Fabulous Finds was created by the Friends of the Louisville Deaf Oral School 22 years ago to raise money for children with communications challenges.
Wild & Woolly closed on its 18th anniversary back in March. Founder and owner Todd Brashear wrote that profits had been declining for the past several years, and the store was no longer “sustainable” in its current form.
Flying in the face of everyone’s stereotype of a dude who works in a video store: Brashear packed it in to become, of all things, a Pilates instructor.
“I am also just ready for something different. I’ve been taking Pilates classes for a couple of years due to a shoulder injury, and they’ve really helped my shoulder as well as my overall health,” Brashear wrote in a farewell email to W&W fans. “But I’ve also gotten deeper into studying this method of exercise, and learning about Joseph Pilates, the man who invented it.”
The Wild & Woolly space will be taken over by Alabama gourmet popsicle company Steel City Pops, which expects to open in late winter.
And yeah, we’ve spilled quite a bit of digital ink on the big ups and huge, heartbreaking downs of Will Russell’s 2015. If you’re an IL reader, you know the sad story of how Russell realized his dream of owning a roadside attraction in Cave City, Ky., only to lose it, his bearings, his freedom and eventually most of his WHY Louisville empire in just a few months.
The eventual fate of WHY Louisville is uncertain. Local entrepreneur Cyndi Masters registered the name with the Secretary of State early this fall and wants to rebuild the brand. It’s an idea that is both terrific and concerning at the same time.
It’s not likely Funtown Mountain will ever be a thing now. And that’s super sad.
Buh-bye Barret businesses
When Lynn Winter took her ball and went home (or to SoCal) two years ago, shuttering her iconic Louisville restaurant and bric-a-brac shop after some bad publicity (and maybe worse behavior), the unintentional consequence was the slow unraveling of the small retail market there.
Regalo was the most recent of the stores to close up shop. “We depended on Lynn’s traffic,” co-owner Jon Freels said at the time. “The continued decline in businesses on Barret is the main reason we have decided to vacate.”
The owners still have stores on South Fourth Street, inside the Galt House and in New Albany.
The area also has lost Revelry Boutique & Gallery (now in NuLu) and Nuts N Stuff (closed for good). Some stores have been replaced by un-browse-worthy businesses like hair salons, tattoo parlors and photography studios. But new retailers like consignment store Le Rack and Hound Dog Press have moved in to hopefully keep the neighborhood thriving.
Luckily, Nitty Gritty is still hanging in there.
NuLu isn’t bulletproof: Revolver closes shop
After four years, Revolver, an upscale home accessories and gift store, closed up shop. The sign on the door read: “We’re selling the building. While I’ve loved my 4 year experiment in retail, it’s time for Revolver to close the big red door for good.”
The store was at 707 E. Market St. And even just four years ago, it a was pretty early entry into the hipster-ization of NuLu.
The apartment above the store is currently listed for rent for $1,950 a month. It has one bedroom and 1.5 baths and is 2,000 square feet. It has an excellent view of hipster heaven, aka The Garage Bar. (Not a hater — you can’t hate a place that makes a cocktail as good as the District 8.)
On the Horizon, Trends, Etc.
LIBA premiered new logo
The Louisville Independent Business Alliance is a little less weird this year, as well, at least on paper.
The membership organization that promotes locally owned businesses redesigned its logo to include its full name and overarching message, Buy Local.
“The ‘Keep Louisville Weird’ slogan will always remain an important part of our outreach, and the new logo complements those efforts by emphasizing the essence of our organization,” Jennifer Rubenstein, LIBA’s director, said in a news release.
The new logo, designed to celebrate LIBA’s 10th anniversary as an organization, was created by Bandy Carroll Hellige.
Retail groups request equal treatment for online and brick-and-mortar stores
To support retail storefronts, the Kentucky Retail Federation and other groups across the United States have asked Congress to pass a law requiring online-only stores to collect sales tax at the time customers make online purchases.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed what is referred to as an “efairness bill,” but it stalled in the House of Representatives. Retail-focused advocacy groups have asked congressional leaders to take up the issue again when they return to Washington, D.C., for the regular session.
Small-time retailers continue to face stiff competition
Despite the “Made in America” and “Buy Local” movements, it can still be difficult for small businesses to compete.
The owner of the 67-year-old children’s furniture store Kiddy Kastle told Insider Louisville earlier this year that she must not only compete against big-box stores but also against Internet retailers.
“I’ve had people come in here, spend an hour looking at and discussing our merchandise with us, and then say, ‘Thanks, but I’m going to go online and buy it, I just wanted to decide which items I wanted to order,'” said owner Pam Thelle.
Small businesses have to set themselves apart by offering superior products and service to keep customers coming back rather than defecting to online and big-box retailers.
New block of retail headed to Butchertown next year
Next year, shoppers will have five new businesses they can patronize, all within one city block.
Developer Andy Blieden is renovating five homes in Butchertown and turning them into retail space to help the neighborhood continue its revitalization started by Butchertown Market, Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. Distillery, and Play.
Three of the coming business have been announced — Stag & Doe, a home goods store; a gallery and studio for photographer Andrew McCawley; and FoodCraft, a specialty food and arts and crafts store.
In three months, Blieden has filled the majority of his spots, and with what he described as overwhelming demand, he hopes to name the last two tenants soon.