Building sustainable communities is more than a popular buzz phrase. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency have partnered to work with cities around the country to build self-sustaining and strong communities.
At the federal level, this involves providing assistance with infrastructure, access to affordable housing, and improved and efficient transportation. At the local level, this often means that people can live closer to work, save time and money on travel and enjoy an increased quality of life.
By promoting local rehab and growth, local businesses have a chance to prosper. If people are staying closer to home, this means there will be a need for food and goods within their neighborhoods.
Across the country, the Buy Local or Shop Local movement has given rise to the small business support system. Small businesses account for nearly 50 percent of the United States workforce and create 65 percent of new jobs in the country.
Locally, groups like the Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) work to make the experience of buying local easier for residents, building relationships between independent businesses, and giving voice to the small business owner in the city.
LIBA shared the results of a recent study of Louisville-area businesses, which revealed that for every $100 spent at a locally owned independent business $55 is reinvested locally. Whereas only $14 is reinvested when that same money is spent at a national chain.
Further, according to LIBA, a market shift of just 10 percent from chains to independents would retain an additional $416 million in the regional economy every year.
To put the spotlight on how Buy Local is taking shape in our own city, Louisville Distilled wanted to illuminate successful locally owned businesses that sell goods created and designed in Louisville or Kentucky.
5-0-Lou (2235 Frankfort Ave.)
“We opened in mid-February. Everything is locally made or within 100 miles. About 80 percent is from Louisville artists or craftspeople,” 5-0-Lou Co-owner Tobie Gurley says of the boutique and print shop.
Not even a year ago, when WHY Louisville was shuttering its stores amid the personal crisis of its owner, Will Russell, two of his employees were trying to figure out what came next while dealing with the troubles of a dear friend and pending job loss.
Having worked together for several years, both Gurley and 5-0-Lou store manager Laura Bailey knew that they loved to create and shop local. When Gurley’s mother, Terry Ross, approached them about their contingency plan, she had the itch for a new investment property. All pieces fell into place easily, and the idea for 5-0-Lou was born. The trio along with Gurley’s husband, Doug, scouted properties and found the perfect spot along the Frankfort Avenue corridor in Crescent Hill.
“There really wasn’t anything like this around Frankfort Avenue. A lot of people our age are opening places,” mentions store manager Laura Bailey.
5-0-Lou features art, limited groceries, clothing, custom printing and personal care items.
“We have something for everybody. We have a lot of things for men. We have kid items, a demi-grocery. If you have a gift idea for somebody, you can hopefully find something in our store,” says Gurley.
Each month, 5-0-Lou features a workshop that hosts one of their artists. Other activities including a bourbon tasting and book signing are in the works.
Block Party Handmade Boutique-560 S. 4th St. and 2916 Frankfort Ave.
After seven years of dreaming Owner Mary Levinsky opened Block Party Handmade Boutique in 2015. A mixed-media artist well known for her surreal, hand-painted animal-themed masks, Levinsky had created the Female Art Collective. When she decided to open Block Party, she wanted to sell items that she found beautiful and unique and made room for her and other artists to sell their handmade goods.
This collaborative boutique with locations in Crescent Hill and downtown South Fourth St. operates on a micro-rental space agreement. All items are handmade from local and regional artists. As a cooperative, each artist in the shop pays for space to market and sell his or her wares and work shifts at the store.
Revelry Boutique Gallery-742 E. Market St.
Revelry Gallery began as an extension of Mo McKnight Howe’s dream of being an artist. Finding opportunities lacking, she chose the next best option, to run a successful business giving local artists a venue and support to sell their wares.
“Aside from being a boutique, we also coordinate commissioned works, curate shows outside of Revelry and host a full fine art gallery that rotates exhibits monthly,” she says.
The NuLu boutique is full of handmade jewelry, art and home décor. There is also a room dedicated to screen prints and photography (Think awesome concert posters). The fine art gallery exhibits up-and-comers and established artist in the community.
A new addition to the store’s inventory are the remaining WHY Louisville T-shirts that were sold at the defunct WHY Louisville retail store. Howe purchased a lot of about 2,000 of the popular Louisville-themed T-shirts. She plans to donate a portion of every T-shirt sale to Mental Health America of Kentucky.
Being a space for artists naturally built relationships with the local arts community, and Howe has become increasingly involved. “I have become more involved with local art and nonprofit groups such as LIBA, LVA, and Preservation Kentucky, and I want to give back to the community and help create new programs to highlight the arts and bring more support and exposure to the scene.”
Artists interested in showing works in the gallery should know that it is “very curated,” according to Howe. “To be considered, all an artist has to do is submit photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. If the artist’s aesthetic fits in with what we have going on, we will follow up with an in-person meeting to discuss further.”
Edenside Gallery-1422 Bardstown Rd.
Opening in 1991 on the corner of Bardstown Road and Edenside Avenue, Edenside Gallery has been a consistent presence in the Highlands for 25 years, giving local artisans and makers a place to showcase their work. Artists at Edenside include painters Jeaneen Barnhart and Monique Motiff, fiber artists Penny Sisto and Mary Groft and many more.
“The community really wants local art and fine crafted pieces,” says owner and former Highland Middle School teacher Nancy Peterson. “Yesterday, an amazing fiber artist contacted me, and her work is outstanding. Today a customer from Chicago commissioned a felted piece from seeing her work.”
Edenside has broadened its scope somewhat from only local artists to include works that support small female businesses in places of need such as the Anchal Project. The Anchal Project is an organization that empowers women and fights exploitation in struggling areas with the idea that design and goods using traditional materials in new ways can influence the economic and social environments in which they live.
Edenside is a destination for many people visiting the area looking for jewelry and locally made gift items. With that said, it is the focus on local that holds Peterson’s heart and that has made Edenside a local staple for so long.
“The biggest joy is connecting artists’ work with collectors who love it,” she says. “It may be a turned wooden bowl or a piece of pottery or a painting or a special artisan made necklace.”
Independent locally owned businesses that support locally made goods are vital to the unique character of Louisville. Not only does it support our economy, but buying local is also good for the environment. It conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation and less packaging.
Plus, it’s just good Karma. As LIBA notes, local owners have a natural interest in their communities’ long term health. Community-based businesses are essential to charitable endeavors, and their owners frequently serve on local boards and support many causes.