By Laura Scheuer Sutton
Since early April, WHY Louisville’s splendidly yellow new headquarters has been a beacon of Bardstown Road. Their happy home is nestled next door to the Doo Wop Shop.
The WHY stands for “what have you,” which is as good a phrase as any to explain the eclectic contents of the store. Retailing everything from locally designed T-shirts and Louisville-themed memorabilia to funky, throwback kitsch from the 1970s and beyond, WHY Louisville “just ran out of room” in the space they’d occupied since 2005, explains owner Will Russell.
Clearly, the only option was a move to expanded digs – without leaving the Highlands. Russell grew up in the Highlands, which he calls “a diverse, free-spirited place where artists can feel comfortable,” adding, “I believe it’s the cradle of Louisville’s creative culture.”
Now, happy shoppers can pour over WHY Louisville’s unique blend of jewelry, books, magazines, paper goods, home decor, toys, knick-knacks, amusements and oddities in what Russell dubs the “little indie” neighborhood south of Eastern Parkway. “With neighbors like ear X-tacy and Cherry Bomb, the area really fits the spirit of our store. We’re getting a good response and cruising right along,” says Russell.
Russell is proud of the work WHY Louisville has done to showcase Louisville’s creative community and spread local pride. “As an independent group of locals who have a different take on what the city is, we’re also a destination for visitors to get a true taste of Louisville,” he says. Russell knows a little something about visitors to the city, as he is one of the founders of the iconic Lebowski Fest, drawing huge crowds every summer.
More than just a store, Russell is glad to have watched WHY Louisville develop into “a place to have fun, a place for creative projects to meet, and an opportunity for local artists to make some money. We strive to keep a sense of humor on what we do and how we do it, and not to take it too seriously.”
An attached art gallery, The Kin Ship, completed the picture with a grand opening art show on May 15 that featured Kathleen Lolley, Patrick Jilbert and Skeleton Royal. Curated by WHY Louisville general manager Hillary Harrison and artist Dan Davis (aka Skeleton Royal), The Kin Ship is intended as a venue for up-and-coming local and national artists like Lolley, Bill Green, Scott Ritcher and others. Monthly shows will extend the spirit of WHY Louisville’s renowned art T-shirts into a “venue for non-traditional creativity,” explains Russell. Those shirts have long formed a strong part of WHY Louisville’s appeal, earning commissions for local artists and allowing the public to own affordable, wearable art that supports the community.
And don’t fret, Beer Wolf fans. Everyone’s favorite seasonally dressed totem has been upgraded to a cushier post inside the store, where he’s waiting to greet you.
WHY Louisville is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Parking is available in a lot to the rear of the building. For more information, visit whylouisville.com. WHY Louisville, 1583 Bardstown Road, (502) 456-5400.