It was the end of 2003, and Martha Neal Cooke had recently sold her beloved local bookstore, Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, when she started talking to a school friend, Diane Stege, at a party. They talked about opening up a consignment store and realized that they were both very serious about it. So they did it, just like that. They opened eyedia, design it again on Mellwood Avenue in 2004, which sold consigned furniture and new gifts and accessories. In the age of DIY, they aim for people to design used furniture again and customize it for their tastes. Eleven years later, the seed of their party talk, eyedia, is going strong. They are truly partners, with one’s yin complementing the other’s yang, and it seems like they have worked together forever. You will be tickled at their personalities coming through with their answers, with one not owning nail polish and the other never being seen without her nails done.
How did you two decide to open eyedia together?
Martha Neal and Diane: Met, talked, clicked, did it
How did you amass your inventory?
Martha Neal and Diane: We pleaded with friends. We went to auctions and yard sales. And word of mouth.
Tell us about the history of this beautiful building where eyedia is located.
Diane and Martha Neal: In the 1940s, it was built as a car dealership. In subsequent years, it was used as a mechanics/paint shop, a swimming supply sales shop, a warehouse for bank records, and it was vacant two years before we bought it.
What is the biggest treasure or “wow” piece that has ever come through eyedia?
Diane and Martha Neal: An amazing farmhouse table from France
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
Diane and Martha Neal: Opening the store by getting the cash drawer ready, turning on the lights (and we have a zillion), checking email to see who might be wanting to sell what, receiving consignor merchandise, helping a customer decide if a certain piece will work in their home, making coffee, going to the bank, paying bills, opening the mail, reviewing the many advertising opportunities and constantly coordinating with staff about all of the above. We both do what everyone else does. The staff does more customer work than we do, and we do more back room stuff than they do.
Who are your mentors and what advice do you treasure?
Martha Neal: Marilyn Hohmann is the one woman who was a wonderful mentor to me. She is wise and brilliant. She told me that if I had something important to say, people would listen. She was referring to the eighth graders I was trying to teach in 1968, but the message holds true for all.
Diane: Martha Neal has been my mentor, teacher and friend since we embarked on this journey in the world of retail. Her example and words of wisdom have been invaluable.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my _____________.
Martha Neal: Glasses
Diane: Nails done!
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
What’s your bucket list travel destination?
Martha Neal: South America and to return to Madagascar
Diane: Greece and the Amalfi Coast
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Martha Neal: Enjoy a good movie, eat in one of Louisville’s amazing locally owned restaurants with my husband, Graham, and/or friends
Diane: Having dinner at one of our great restaurants
Night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
Martha Neal: Totally an early bird … I usually zone out in front of the TV during quiet time. I look forward to reading once again.
Diane: Early bird, and I read. I’m too tired at night!
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Martha Neal: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Lightning round! Give us your:
- Candy or junk food splurge: Cellar Door sea salt chocolate with almonds
- Standby nail polish color: I don’t polish my nails
- Favorite cocktail: a good chardonnay
- Candy or junk food splurge: Potato chips
- Guilty pleasure song: “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison
- Tearjerker movie pick: Steel Magnolias
- Standby nail polish color: OPI Go With the Lava Flow
- Favorite cocktail: Red wine
What are three of your favorite things right now?
Martha Neal: There are four—Odin, Lia, Stevie and Horenge … my grandchildren.
Diane: Traveling, hiking and a great meal
Thank you to our talented FACES photographer Adele Reding. See more of her portfolio here.
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