My conversation with the stranger on Frankfort Avenue was going fine until he asked what neighborhood I live in. When I said â€œOld Louisville,â€ a look of shock and horror crossed his face. Quickly the topic switched from how much we were enjoying the Frankfort Avenue Trolley hop to how I should be sleeping with a knife on my nightstand and one of those security bars bracing my front door.
â€œYou need one of those,â€ the stranger insisted. â€œThat way, they have to beat the whole door down to get in.â€
My attempts to convince him that I feel safe in my neighborhood fell on deaf ears. He didnâ€™t believe me when I said the biggest disturbance Iâ€™ve had in the past three years of living there has been my college-aged neighbors playing the stereo on their balcony too loudlyâ€”oh, the horrors of BeyoncÃ© turned up to 11! He was too concerned about what he perceived as inadequate protection from whatever boogeymen he imagines living between the cracks in my sidewalks.
â€œAnything can happen anywhere,â€ I countered.
â€œYeah, anything can happen in your neighborhood.â€
It is unfortunate how snobby some people can be about neighborhoods in this city, and it is especially ironic that one such person would argue their case at the 10th anniversary of the Frankfort Avenue Trolley (FAT) Friday Hop. The reoccurring event, which happens on the last Friday of each month, is more than a promotional ploy from the businesses lining the avenue. Itâ€™s a celebration of how far the neighborhoods that comprise itâ€”Crescent Hill, Clifton and a tip of St. Matthewsâ€”have come. Itâ€™s a promise to grow it even further. With a following big enough to draw people like myself from other neighborhoods, FAT Friday Trolley Hop and its organizers should be inspiration for more transitional neighborhoods for how to get people excited about everything you have to offer.
Margaret Schneider understands this. She is the namesake owner of Margaretâ€™s Consignment, which at 24 years old is the oldest operating business member of the Frankfort Avenue Business Association. FABA hosts the FAT Friday Hop, as well as other notable neighborhood events like the annual Easter Parade and Santa Sprint & Stroll 5k.
â€œI have nothing against any other neighborhood,â€ she told me. â€œIâ€™m from a family of 12 from Shively. Iâ€™ve lived all over the city. But I belong here.â€
Sometimes nicknamed the â€œMayor of Frankfort Avenueâ€ or â€œMs. Frankfort Avenue,â€ Schneider can no longer recall what compelled her to first open a business on Frankfort Avenue more than two decades ago, but she knows that the atmosphere between then and now is â€œlike night and day.â€ She is indisputably one of Crescent Hill and FABAâ€™s biggest cheerleaders. She has seen it come a long way.
â€œIt was rough,â€ she recalled of her first few years. â€œWe put in hours and hours of work to build it up and put it on the map. â€¦ We do whatever it takes to build a better neighborhood, not just for businesses, but for residents, too.â€
FABA hosts weekly meetings, making it one of the more active business associations in town. Membership is open to business owners and â€œfriends of FABAâ€ who want to support business and community but donâ€™t own something themselves. According to Schneider, FABA is hoping to push these â€œfriend ofâ€ memberships to help cover the thousands of dollars it costs to hold their reoccurring events.
If youâ€™ve never made it out to FAT Friday, the free trolley itself runs along Frankfort Avenue from the 3400 block to the 1500 block, with brief detours down to Butchertown Market on Story Avenue and two stops on Mellwood Avenue. Along the path are a dozen or so stops that drop you off at the doorstep of local businesses for shopping, dining and special events.
Even if you skip the trolley all together and only visit where your two feet can carry youâ€”a popular option among many attendeesâ€”the experience delights with sidewalk stands and live music to stumble across every few businesses. Last Friday included performances by Keltricity and Ghost Holler in the front yard of Crescent Hill Radio and Hound of the Buskervilles in the courtyard of The Wine Rack.
Two of the local businesses I stopped by were celebrating milestones. Core Fluency Pilates in Clifton held its three-year anniversary celebration with an open house that included free demonstrations. Projected on the wall was archival footage from the 1940s of Joseph Pilates, the man behind the fitness system. Meanwhile, Fierce Salon, located next to Margaretâ€™s Consignment, partied a little less holistically at its official grand opening. They offered free five-minute makeovers, consultations, Jell-O shots and cookies.
Tracy Rogers, who co-owns the salon with Allison Meenach, operated Fierce in St. Matthews for about six years before the lure of Frankfort Avenue in Crescent Hill became too appealing.
â€œThe location just couldnâ€™t be beat,â€ Rogers said. â€œItâ€™s so visible and thereâ€™s so much to do. My clients have loved getting to explore the other businesses around here. Weâ€™ve also gotten brand-new clients because the neighborhood is so supportive.â€
Other than the one bad apple I encountered, I am inclined to agree.
For more information on the Frankfort Avenue Trolley (FAT) Friday Hop, visit www.fatfridayhop.org.
Photos by BILL WINE | Contributing Photographer