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Our personal home was the beginning. The idea was sound, the plan was naive. Let's buy this old empty house and fix it up, just like on TV! We had no idea what we were starting.
First, we were reminded that TV is not reality. Not even reality TV. Our house restoration was a 2 year process of trial and error, bruised thumbs and egos. But we did it, and we did it pretty well. We learned what most old house owners learn about old plaster walls, wood floors, and wavy glass. We learned about plumbing and electricity and myriad building codes.
But even more importantly we learned new words and ideas: some of the things we learned were big and nebulous like urban infill and green space and city zoning ordinances. Some were much smaller, like how to pick the right height for a banquette.
We learned how every old wood window sash is secretly a piece of art. Hand built by a craftsman, just for your house. We learned that lime plaster can heal itself, breathe out water, and last for hundreds of years. We learned that everything moves in a house, just a little, whether you give it room or not. We learned that old houses are the most sustainable houses, if you just give them a chance.
We learned that we are not house flippers, or remodelers, we are historical preservationists. We are ok with that.
We have taken all those skills and resources and ideas and words and are putting them to use in Paducah. Our big project right now is a building know locally as the Smedley Yeiser.
This is the first time we re-remembered it, back in 2012. Before the vines took it over. Before the city gave up on previous plans for it and offered it for sale for $10,000. Then $1. Before we submitted a proposal and bought it with a golden dollar.
This house is one of the oldest freestanding residences in Paducah and we are the proudest owners we can be. We hope to use the skills we've developed to do it justice. We are approaching it with respect and thoughtfulness. The energy it took to build this house was invested 165 years ago. That's forward thinking and sustainable. We plan to preserve and restore all original features, including the copper roof, and update it to modern standards so that a business could rent it.
We were surprised to find the original chandeliers still work.
While we've been working on this project, a revered public building has become the source of much controversy in Paducah. Although not nearly as old as the Smedley Yeiser, it is no less significant. Paducah City Hall was designed in the 60s by Edward Durell Stone, a world renowned architect, and was meant to be Paducah's sign to the world that we were progressive. The materials and style harken to the time period and post WWII feelings. It was a time of great innovation, enthusiasm, and optimism and we were presenting ourselves to the world. In many ways it is incredibly ironic because we seem to be at a similar impasse.
City of Paducah administrators are looking at options for City Hall. We know that with time and passion and hard work Paducah City hall can be restored to it's original beauty. It is a shining example of classic Mid Century design. It has an open layout, a beautiful atrium, and fantastic woodwork. A quick walk inside will reveal a lack of proper maintenance.
This building sorely needs some preventative care and basic upgrades. We are happy that by getting our friends and community involved, we have convinced our city leaders that this building is worth saving. What remains to be seen is how our city's grand remodel scheme will compare in cost to a new build, and if the public will accept this cost difference. We are concerned they are trying to do too much at once, updating earthquake codes, completely remodeling the interior so that it is a ghost of what it once was. What if we staged the project, fixed it incrementally over several years, and took advantage of the current classic midcentury design that has already come back in style?
We believe this building does not need a full gut renovation, it needs thoughtfulness and creativity. Paducah is a UNESCO creative city. There are twelve in the world and three in North America. Surely we can use some of that noted creativity in this situation.
We have learned from experience that it's often less expensive and easier to take care of what you have, to make updates, and it's definitely the most sustainable option. We believe that with smart choices this is a building we can be proud of for years to come, and it's a more financially responsible project if we are conservative with our choices.
The bottom line: Buildings CAN and SHOULD last hundreds of years. Whether they are pre-Civil War, built in 1917, or even in 1962, we must cherish and preserve our buildings that form the fabric of our history.
So look out, Paducah! Your newest accidental young preservationists are on a mission!
If you agree, let our city leaders know.
Lauren and Levi
Follow along on Instagram: @desertmountain @ljax
Live music outdoors during the peak of amazing fall weather?
Food prepared by very capable hands, including an array of sausages, tons of pretzels, cheeses, strudels, kraut, potato salad, beef tongue (maybe), homemade buns, and so much more?
Five craft breweries?
An art fair?
A German car show?
If you can’t help but exclaim a resounding “HELL YES!” to all these questions, then you are truly ready for the Paducah event that is Maiden Alley Oktoberfest!!!
It is our 5th year, which means it is time to add more fun stuff to the agenda. Up until now we have only highlighted the beer from our amazing friends at Schlafly Beer. They have been the signature beer of Maiden Alley Cinema from the beginning and they have been with us through it all. A big hats off to this amazing company!!!
BUT it is time to expand the event as we have more people to please! Starting in 2011 we were over the moon to have around 130 attendees. In 2014 we had over 600. The word is spreading!
Dry Ground even took it a step further and partnered with Schlafly to make a collaboration beer that will be revealed at this year’s event. Done in the Kentucky Common style and aptly named Common Ground, this beer will offer a blast from the past.
Kentucky Common Beer is a once-popular style of ale from the area in and around Louisville, Kentucky from the 1850s until Prohibition. This style is rarely brewed commercially today. In addition, we will also have the amazing beer of West Sixth out of Lexington, KY and Tin Man out of Evansville, IN.
This event really is about 4 things; great beer, great music, great food, and a great cause.
By joining with the amazing crew at Kirchhoff’s Bakery & Deli you know the food will be top notch and of the highest caliber. Louie doesn’t mess around when it comes to a Bavarian spread.
Just as Kirchhoff’s is a Paducah tradition, we like to think that Maiden Alley Cinema is one as well. Through expanding our programming to include live music as well as film, we have found that our audience has become more diverse and broad. This event helps us to raise much needed operating support for the non-profit cinematic art house. Our mission is film, which allows us to bring a new independent/foreign film or documentary to the big screen every weekend, offer several films series (i.e. Faith in Film, Movies for Me and Film Brew), host rotating art exhibits in our lobby and keep amazing music on our stage through Music@MAC.
Speaking of music, we have a stellar line-up this year and as well as one additional hour to enjoy the festivities. Starting the day with local favorites Chris Black & the Eagles of Unemployment and then on to the Paducah Jazz Ensemble Polka Band for some traditional music to match the theme of the day.
Then, we have the Solid Rock’it Boosters - who always bring down the house. After that, we venture outside our great city to bring in Curio of Chicago, IL, and then the Loot Rock Gang of St. Louis, MO. To headline the day, we have Paducah’s own Jessica Lee Wilkes.
And if you are feeling frisky and want to kick off the weekend in style, don’t miss our Maiden Alley Oktoberfest Beer Dinner Friday, October 16 at 7 pm. With food being prepared by German chef we can’t wait for a truly authentic meal. There will be 4 courses with a beer pairing for each course. Anita White of Gold Rush Café is even bringing her mother in from Germany to help in the process.
Tickets and more information can be found at www.maidenalleycinema.org
Also, you can purchase tickets for both events with CASH or CHECK ONLY at any of these fine Paducah establishments: Roof Brothers Wine & Spirits (Park Ave. location), Kirchhoff’s Bakery, Dry Ground Brewery, Etcetera & Etcetera Squared, Bricolage Art Collective, Gold Rush Café, Max’s Brick Oven, and of course Maiden Alley Cinema.
One of Paducah's coolest new business is Ephemera Paducah - an art workshop space. In our newest herPaducah installment, owner Kristin Williams shares her journey to opening the business of her dreams!
Three years ago when I first decided to open my own business, I thought, “You’ve got this, sister.” After all, I’d spent years as a consultant helping other businesses to build and make adjustments to their strategic plans.
As it turned out, I knew a lot about running a business in theory, but little did I know the challenges that awaited me in opening the artists’ workshop and studio space that I now own today, Ephemera Paducah.
Looking back I can appreciate the fact that ignorance is bliss. Had I known the trials that awaited me in these first two years of running Ephemera Paducah I might have been too intimidated to take the first step. Yet, here I am beginning my third year, recruiting national art instructors to teach classes and workshops in my studio and running a retail shop, selling art supplies to the regional art community that surrounds me.
While the path to success has been filled with ups and downs, I’m pleased to say that today Ephemera Paducah is doing well. It’s not unusual to have a class full of folks from Chicago, Atlanta, Louisville, Memphis, Evansville and party beyond attending these national art workshops. In fact, about 80% of my business is now coming from out of town visitors.
I’ve been able to do this using a variety of digital media sources to promote my business. I’ve also had to learn how to think differently about my business. What works for one art instructor doesn’t work for all of my classes. So today I’m celebrating 50 something years of life and working to keep up with all of the new information and marketing tools that await me.
I’m in the business of being creative and that doesn’t simply apply to the art classes I offer at Ephemera Paducah. It means I have to use creative problem-solving techniques when my business needs a boost. I can’t allow myself or my marketing efforts grow stale. Rather, I must always grow and always be open to new ideas.
So as I celebrate starting my third year in business, I’m encouraging other women to be brave and to try something new. While being a business owner is not always an easy task, it’s one that I love.
I’ve always loved to dabble in art and to experiment with new art supplies. Now I get to do that every day as part of my job. What’s not to love about that? Being successful is as much about learning how to adapt as it is about having a great plan in the first place.
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Our first Follow Your Dreams Friday post comes from Kristin Williams, the proprietor of Ephemera Paducah. I love the idea that a big birthday can be the impetus for big plans! Thanks for the reminder to keep dreaming, Kristin!
I remember exactly where I was on Interstate 24, and exactly how I felt. Making my way to Atlanta from Paducah for what seemed like my 100,233,978th
economic development conference, I was as uninspired as could be with what lay ahead. Feeling spent, and dreading, absolutely dreading, turning 50 (albeit 13 months away), it hit me that I had to make a change. My “aha” moment came about Exit 78 cruising down the highway near Murfreesboro, TN.
On long car trips I always have a big blank pad of paper and Sharpie in the passenger seat so I can jot down ideas as I drive. I reached over and wrote, “How can I get excited about turning 50?”and began fleshing it out.
My first career started in Knoxville, Tennessee as I pursued a Master’s Degree in Planning at the University of Tennessee where I specialized in economic development. Over the course of eight years, I worked at a high tech recruitment organization and chambers of commerce in Tennessee helping companies locate or expand in my community. I assisted companies like M&M Mars, Kimberly Clark, and countless others cutting deals, navigating tax breaks and developing industrial parks so they could create jobs.
The nature of chamber and ED jobs is to move to larger organizations as one’s career progresses (involving changing cities), which is what brought me to Paducah in 1996. Falling in love and getting married was a good life change in 1999, but limited my opportunities career-wise unless I wanted to move again. The alternative was going it alone, and In August of 2000 I started my second career, a consulting business called KRW Strategies. I enjoyed working with ED groups, non-profit organizations and private businesses for close to 12 years. Meeting facilitation, organizational development, employee assessments, and strategic planning were all in my wheelhouse.
As much as I loved the freedom of consulting, it became quite lonely. Working directly with clients was fulfilling, and the rush walking out of a successful meeting helping to solve an organization’s problems was great, but those events occurred in-between long stretches of staring at a computer screen in a home office writing reports. There were days when my first audible conversation of the day occurred when my husband walked in the door at 5:30 pm.
My stress reliever or “happy place” during downtimes was daydreaming about owning an arts and crafts workshop space and retail store. As I was falling asleep on ick days having navigated curmudgeonly boards of directors or watched my consulting work get shelved by clients, I imagined rows paints and brushes and my fingers covered in glitter or clay.
Starting about 2004, I began taking an annual trip to what I affectionately call “craft camp,” exploring Mixed Media techniques at art retreats. My chamber of commerce background kicked in when I critiqued the hospitality, afforded or not, to those like me who had traveled 1,000s of miles to take workshops. I kept thinking, “I could do this better.”
Being “crafty” has always been a part of my life. I’ve done everything and still love doing everything from card making to painting to embroidery to encaustic. My mother was the most talented woman I’ve ever known, and I grew up appreciating always having a creative outlet in my life.
During my “professional” days, however, I’d deny my need to create when I had a deadline in front of me. If I wasn’t working on my paying gig, some weird psychology kept me away from a crafting. Kind of a “I had to finish dinner to deserve dessert” mentality. In retrospect, having that absent from my life was a big part of feeling so unfulfilled.
So, back to the big blank piece of paper on the passenger seat barreling down I-24. At that precise moment, I decided my 50th Birthday present to myself was to quit economic development, quit talking about opening up a creative business, quit dreaming about it, and just do it. And I did. I spent age 49 plotting and scheming.
After finding the perfect location in Paducah’s LowerTown Arts District, my husband and I became property owners of a facility constructed in 2007 specifically for an artist studio and retail space. May 17, 2013 was opening day of Ephemera Paducah.
Ephemera Paducah hosts art and craft workshops on a regular basis ranging from those national mixed media instructors I sought out at “craft camp” to fun Girl’s Night Out Pinterest-type parties. Being a start-up, I’ve had many of those days staring at a computer screen, but the good news is it’s now MY JOB to be crafty.
The best news is, though, turning 50 was my best birthday ever.
The goal of Ephemera Paducah is to be the least intimidating, most fun, most creative, and most inviting place to learn new art & craft techniques, pick up interesting supplies, and share the joy with other everyday artists. Located at 333 N. 9th
Street in Paducah, Kentucky. Find out about workshops and events at www.EphemeraPaducah.com
Uh-fem-er-ah – Items of memorabilia, typically written or printed, originally expected to have short life, but salvaged and savored by astute everyday artists!