By Graham Pilotte
After Black Friday, the hunt for steals and deals is on in earnest, and anyone looking for an exceptional gift this year is in luck. Louisville’s wide variety of boutiques and restaurants are preparing for the holidays by stocking up on gifts of all kinds, many of which are crafted by artists and vendors right here in Kentucky. To find these unique creations for someone on your holiday list, start your search at one of the city’s shopping centers—filled with locally-owned businesses and a few hidden gems.
Chenoweth Square is one such shopping center, an open-air plaza lined with small businesses and perfectly situated for many shoppers. “Chenoweth Square is in the heart of St. Matthews, central to many different neighborhoods and major roadways, so it was ideal for our first location,” explains Rashna Carmicle, co-owner of fitness boutique B. YOU. “But most importantly, Chenoweth Square is the home of local boutiques, and has a unique charm.”
From ballet barre to mini trampoline to aerial silk hammocks, B.YOU offers a number of fun and unique fitness opportunities. But like many small businesses, it also stays deeply involved in the community. “We’re more than just a fitness studio—we offer community events, support local charities, host events focused on healthy cooking and nutrition, and so much more,” says co-owner Stephanie Bristow. “We’re all locally-owned businesses within Chenoweth Square, so we all support one another, offer one another partner discounts, and co-market. We also collaborate on special events like the Holiday Walk and Tent Sale.”
Both co-owners say that their Chenoweth Square starting location allowed them to get involved with the community right away. “Many of our clients live in the surrounding areas and love the quick access; others who live further away still love the charming feel of Chenoweth Square,” Carmicle explains. “It has always been our cozy and quaint little studio where B.YOU all began in 2012.” Since then, the fitness studio has expanded to two other locations in Springhurst and New Albany, and is planning to expand its Chenoweth Square location as well. “It’s bittersweet to leave the current space, although we’re only relocating a few steps down the square,” Bristow says. The new B.YOU space will include two studios, expanded child care, showers and a kitchen with complimentary coffee and snacks as well as plenty of space for clients to lounge.
Meredith Metzmeier, co-owner of Cartwheels in Chenoweth Square, also loves operating in the shopping center. “My mom, Kathy Lintner, and I own the store together,” she explains. “Everybody is so pleased to support local businesses at Chenoweth Square.” She cites the location as part of the reason the shopping center is considered a hidden gem, despite its great collection of stores. “So many people come into our store and say, ‘How did I ever miss that this was so conveniently tucked in here?’”
Cartwheels, which features a range of stationery supplies, craft materials and small gifts, matches up well with the range of other shops in Chenoweth Square. Metzmeier recommends browsing through all of them during the holiday season: “You can park on one end and walk the sidewalks from one end to the other,” she says, “or if you need to run in and grab a quick gift, you can be in and out in five minutes. You’ve got all these great shops that are almost all locally-owned, and it’s really neat to see so many people shopping local.” Metzmeier is proud to be operating in Louisville. “I was born and raised in Louisville, and any time we travel I’m reminded of how glad I am that I live where I do,” she says. “It’s a great little big city, with the best of everything. And it’s a great place for small business owners since we’re so well-supported by our community.”
For those located further from St. Matthews, Westport Village is another favorite go-to for holiday shopping. “Westport Village is an open-air shopping center, and the majority of our shops are owned and operated by people in our community,” explains Kelly Brown, General Manager of Westport Village. “You’re not going to get any national retailers or big-box stores here; it’s intentionally meant to be more for the smaller stores.” Locally-owned businesses abound in Westport Village, ranging from classic brunch and coffee spots to boutiques and decor stores.
Brown enjoys finding unique items, like horse-themed art and reclaimed bourbon barrel pieces, among the variety offered at Westport Village. “As a shopper myself, I love the locally-inspired products and gifts here. In any shop, you’ll find items that are specific to Louisville life,” Brown says. “We’re all proud to be from here, and proud to find vendors and artists that create products inspired by our community. They’re not the cookie-cutter pieces you can order online or find at any chain. These are truly locally-inspired pieces, and there’s a lot of variety in price point too.” Shoppers can easily find steals as well as higher-end products, and the shops will often coordinate with each other for sales and events.
“Every shop you go into, you’ll find products that are real conversation starters,” Brown says. “You’ll find a little bit of everything here, items that you just normally wouldn’t come across in a typical mall setting.” She knows that a number of Westport Village’s customers are looking for unusual, authentic items, and she’s certain that the center will not disappoint. “I know we all have those family members we have a hard time shopping for, but I can guarantee you that if you come here to get a gift for anyone on your list, it won’t be a duplicate of last year’s,” Brown assures.
The community around Westport Village has grown to meet the rising demand for buying local. “It seems like Louisville is always incubating new small business ideas, from storefronts to restaurants,” Brown emphasizes. “It’s an exciting place to take a stab at opening up your own place.” She recognizes the advantages of shopping small: “One benefit of the small shopping environment is that you’re going to get more professional service,” Brown asserts. “When I decide to try and find a new outfit, I go to one of our shops, and the person who is helping me is often the owner. They have firsthand knowledge of what’s in their store and they’re able to say, ‘Trust me. You’re going to love this.’”
Similarly, the Vogue Center offers a locally-based, open-air shopping environment, right in the heart of St. Matthews. “We love the character of the area; it’s a very vibrant part of the city with lots of residential areas around. It’s classy without being over the top,” explains Jennifer Griffis, owner of the boutique Dandelion. “We’ve got a great mix of shops, restaurants, a salon, a place you can take cooking classes and a store with ceramics and glass. There’s a lot to do, and a lot of little places to bounce around.”
Dandelion specializes in jewelry, small gifts and home decor, so it perfectly complements a number of other stores in the Vogue Center. “I talk to a number of the owners on a regular basis, especially any time we have an event going on. And we give each other discounts for any employees that work in the Center, so we shop at each other’s stores as well. I’ve actually already done quite of bit of holiday shopping here,” Griffis says. “We do have a lot of customers from the St. Matthews area, and we frequently get people in who say they can walk over from their house.” The Vogue Center’s proximity to residential areas encourages customers to engage with their community businesses.
“I love that we get so much support from the community,” Griffis says. “We were very busy for Small Business Saturda; we regularly find people who say they try to shop local for the holidays.” Griffis also draws inspiration from her customers, carefully choosing products that will be popular among a range of different clients, as well as making sure to stock items that range in price. “Louisville has a wide variety of influences and different cultures and income levels,” Griffis says. “It’s a great mix.”
With locally-owned stores in abundance, Louisville shoppers can easily find something unique for even the toughest person on their list. Shopping centers like Chenoweth Square, Westport Village and Vogue Center are just a few places to start, and shopping small is the best way to support the local economy during the holiday season. “We have a great group of local merchants who recognize that if one of us is doing well, that’s good for the rest of us too,” explains Meredith Metzmeier. “We’re an awesome little best-kept secret of Louisville.” VT