Made in Louisville, KY

By Nancy Mann Jackson on May 28, 2014 at 6:00 am EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Photo courtesy of WHY Louisville

At WHY Louisville, the customer experience is as important as the retail transaction. Not only does the store, which has two locations in Louisville, Ky., offer one-of-a-kind goods that are locally designed and produced, but it also offers unique experiences that customers can only have there. For instance, the store features attractions including a lifelike wax sculpture of Kentucky Fried Chicken's Colonel Sanders, an antique fortune-telling machine, an antique prize-egg dispensing chicken, and a variety of other surprises.

"Shopping at WHY Louisville is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of experience," says Laura Read, retail manager at WHY Louisville. "It's just as important to us that you have fun in our shop as it is that you buy a little something. Our success thrives on that symbiotic relationship between service and experience, and as such, shopping at WHY Louisville is about more than just finding the right gift, it's about having fun doing it."

Products

WHY Louisville specializes in "souvenirs and curiosities, with an emphasis on curiosities that you won't find in other retail environments," Read says. The store's T-shirts are its "bread and butter," she says. With more than 40 shirt designs to choose from, each one is designed by local artists and printed on site at WHY Louisville's Bardstown Road location. Almost monthly, new designs are added to the T-shirt wall, and older designs are retired "to keep things fresh and unique to our shop," Read says.

But T-shirts aren't the only items Kentuckians are good at. The store has a variety of other items from the Bluegrass State, including housewares, glassware, jewelry and assorted souvenirs. Some of the top sellers include "anything with a fleur de lis on it or anything bourbon related," Read says. "Some of our favorite products recently are a Kentucky shaped cutting board with a fleur de lis etched over Louisville, locally made in Crestwood. We're also loving the entire Bourbon Barrel Foods line of spices and sauces, which are all aged or smoked in used bourbon barrels right here in Kentucky. Bourbon smoked anything is sure to be a good thing."

Experiences

WHY Louisville's focus on creating a one-of-a-kind experience for its customers led to its stores becoming accredited as official roadside attractions by Roadside America. And providing opportunities for customers to have fun in the store is an important part of WHY Louisville's marketing strategy, tying the store to an authentic Louisville experience.

For instance, "maybe a customer walks in looking for a T-shirt to send to a friend, and when her 5-year-old child discovers the coin operated pony ride in our NuLu location, the whole course of the shopping excursion has changed, and so has the dynamic," Read says. "No longer is it about a simple transaction, it becomes more about having fun and making memories in a specific place, one that hopefully will resonate and motivate the customer to come back over and over again. Or perhaps a group of teens is roving Bardstown Road collecting bumper stickers when they discover the photo booth at our Bardstown Road location. Instantly, their purpose in our shop has changed, and they're more likely to make us a must-stop location on their future trips down Bardstown Road."

Purchasing locally made products is a valuable experience all its own, as WHY Louisville customers can attest. The store doesn't want its customers to make mindless purchases, "because every last item in our shop was placed here mindfully, with our customers and the aesthetic of our city in mind," Read says. "National brands can send all the scouts and do all the market research their corporate money can buy, but being connected to the city, being right at its pulse, is priceless. We're citizens, we're tastemakers, we're consumers, friends, neighbors, and patrons right here in Louisville, and how we see the city is mirrored in what we sell."

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