Whether you’re looking to buy a gift or some local art, find something nice for your home or have a meal and a drink, you can do it all while supporting local businesses in NuLu. This hip downtown neighborhood, also known as the East Market District, has seen a renaissance in the past decade, becoming a bustling area that has remained filled almost entirely with locally owned businesses. Local real estate investor Gil Holland, who renovated the building that became Louisville’s first building to attempt LEED Platinum certification, the Green Building, coined the term “NuLu,” or New Louisville, for the neighborhood.
“If you haven’t been here in a while, you should definitely come down and see how much it’s improved, all the new places down here,” says Avalon Sutherland, a manager at Blofish, a gender-neutral t-shirt store. “It’s just pretty cool because it’s all local stuff. A lot of people from out of town come down here because there are a lot of hotels.”
Despite the plethora of new hotels, eateries and boutiques in NuLu, only the modern concept and forward-thinking businesses are new. The area itself was originally a land grant to Colonel William Preston for his work in the French and Indian War. It was later annexed by the city of Louisville and became an entertainment center for German and Irish immigrants, then later became the home of the Bourbon Stockyards. In the late 20th century, it became the home of Wayside Christian Mission, which owned several buildings housing its homeless shelters. Now that the area has seen a revival, crime has diminished and businesses stay open later, allowing both visitors and locals to enjoy it with ease.
In NuLu, you can take in a Louisville Bats game or visit Angel’s Envy Distillery for a tour. Or, see a Louisville City Soccer game and enjoy a craft beer at Against the Grain nestled inside the stadium. Or, experience NuLu at one of the fun neighborhood events like their First Friday Trolley Hop, NuLuFest in September or NuLu Jinglefest in November.
Here’s our guide to where to hang out in this hip and happening haven. Bookmark it for your next visit!
WHERE TO SHOP
Six Sisters Boutique offers a variety of fantastic looks, with a mix of city style and Southern charm. Owned by (yep!) six sisters, this NuLu shopping hot spot carries a variety of clothing lines, gifts and home decor from local and regional vendors, and a selection of LA brands and well-known name brands like Melie Bianco Handbags, Unpublished Denim, Olive & Oak clothing, and Dolce Vita shoes. Owner Katie describes her aesthetic as “Southern charm, but with an urban industrial feel.” Six Sisters gets a lot of traffic from out-of-towners, looking to see what Louisville fashion and style is all about. Katie keeps the store fresh, chic and trendy, so that anyone from anywhere could buy something and be pleased with their purchase. She also serves a market of working women, who come to her store for a quick shopping experience, whether that be buying a gift or an outfit for themselves. The gift selection is “easy and not kitschy” she says. She also wanted to concentrate on local art and locally sourced gifts in her store. She wants to showcase some of the best things about Louisville. Read more about them in our profile HERE and then head to this adorable East Market Street boutique.
One of the original anchors of the NuLu neighborhood, “Scout has been in the area for almost 15 years,” says owner Sam Bassett. It’s a modern, eclectic mix of accessories, gifts, home goods, lighting and more.
“NuLu was pretty much a couple of galleries, Red Tree and us,” Sam says of the time when the store opened. “This location was available, and we decided this would be a good place to go, and it’s starting to go in the right direction.”
Sam says he likes NuLu because it’s “ever-changing — faster now than it used to — there are always new things happening. It’s just an odd, unusual mix of restaurants, storefronts and offices.”
If you are in the mood for funky finds, check out Joe Ley Antiques. It’s located in a schoolhouse built in 1890 and spans two acres — yes, ACRES — of unique finds. Needless to say, it’s huge and has just about anything you can imagine, from carousel horses to antique ironworks. One could get lost for hours in Joe Ley’s vintage postcard collection alone.
More than just a t-shirt shop, Blofish is a movement. Every month the store celebrates a different non-profit organization, giving 10% of profits to that charity. The mission statement is written proudly on the wall, which says, in part, that Blofish is the belief that everyone should have the same opportunities in life. Its slogan, “All for All,” and message are deeply ingrained in its culture. Blofish created its own gender-neutral sizing system, which is displayed by the number of blowfish, from one to five, on each item. This month’s charity is Breathing Becomes Effortless, a cystic fibrosis organization. So stop by and grab a shirt for a good cause!
When you walk into Mahonia, you’re surrounded by lush plant life of all kinds, including a spiky giant cactus right by the front door. Fresh air abounds because of all the plants, but the amazing aroma is produced by a burning Pickwick candle, which is also available for purchase.
The floral design and home store is owned by Bridget Davis, who curates the striking collection of unique plants, decor, pottery, cards and more. “It’s a really fun place to come if you’re decorating your home,” Bridget says. While Mahonia does freshly cut flowers and floral design, it’s not a traditional florist. The floral boutique focuses more on serving corporate and hospitality contracts.
Mahonia has been open since 2016, and Bridget says the independent businesses are what she likes best about NuLu. “That’s my favorite part, that some of the stores have been here a long time, and others are just coming onto the scene, but I love that it’s very much small-business focused,” she says. “I think that it’s becoming a destination. People are like, ‘Let’s go down to NuLu and shop.’ And there are great restaurants here, so people make an afternoon or day of it. It’s a great community feel.”
If you’re looking for locally made art, crafts, jewelry and more, Revelry has your back. The store has been open eight years now and moved to NuLu from Barret Avenue four years ago, says manager Maya Griffin. “Our mission is to showcase local artists, especially handmade local art. We have over 150 artists now that we feature, and they all specialize in different things: art, jewelry, clothing, apparel, wood and more,” says Maya. There’s an exhibit room in the back of the store that features art from a different local artist each month. Last month’s exhibit featured works from the artisans at the Anchal Project, which helps former sex workers in India and Louisville by training them in textile work. Revelry also has an entire room full of prints of local art you can buy at many different price points.
Maya particularly loves the small size and walkability of NuLu. “People who come down here really see everything, instead of just going to one little spot — then they miss everything,” she says. “I like that every business has its own little niche, its own little thing that it offers. Everyone has their own little spot in the community. People can eat, they can shop, they can go to a cafe, or they can get a haircut.”
WHERE TO EAT
NuLu offers a plethora of culinary options. You can eat an amazing farm-to-table meal at Harvest, delicious chicken at Royals Hot Chicken, nosh on amazing barbecue at Feast BBQ, enjoy sweet treats at Muth’s Candy Shop or pick up a frozen açaí bowl or smoothie at Lueberry Açaí.
A creative menu filled with farm-to-table flavor is what Harvest is known and cherished for. Pairing the season’s freshest flavors in a most colorful and creative way, Harvest offers diners the opportunity to savor the most amazing local fare — tomatoes, grains, greens, poultry — you name it — all in a beautiful and colorful plated display.
The jewel in NuLu’s culinary crown has to be Decca, a gourmet restaurant that specializes in farm-to-table cuisine. Owned by head chef Annie Pettry, the eatery features fresh, gourmet, locally sourced food, alongside local art, amazing music and fabulous cocktails. Decca recently gained fame when it was visited by the cast of “Top Chef” while they were filming in Louisville.
Craft beer aficionados love searching for unique finds at the Louisville Beer Store, which is a bottle shop and on-premise store, meaning you can buy packaged beer or go have a drink at its bar in the beautiful courtyard out back. There are eight rotating taps and monthly special events.
Open for nine years, the Beer Store has seen NuLu’s recent growth firsthand. Manager Ricky Brown says, “A lot of people come down here for NuLu, not necessarily knowing everything, but as they walk around, they can discover places like the Beer Store or any of the other local places.”
Nestled just off Market Street is a little bakery, coffee shop and music venue you may have a hard time finding, but this hidden gem is definitely worth searching for. The bakery has three area locations, and the “Mark” location on NuLu’s Market Street has been around for about eight years. Keeandre Jackson of Please & Thank You says NuLu is the perfect place to be. “You’ll see the businesses start out here, then soon you’ll see more locations around Louisville,” Keeandre says of the neighborhood’s success in launching businesses. “It’s a real nice community, and everybody here knows each other. We interact with each other — we’ll go visit other stores, or other people will come by here on their breaks for coffee and a cookie. We just have good vibes. Everybody loves Please & Thank You.”
And it’s easy to win your way into people’s hearts when you’ve got tasty pastries. While the baked goods are all delicious, Keeandre raves about their famous chocolate chip cookie. Owner Brooke Vaughn is passionate about chocolate chip cookies, and it shows in a mouthwatering version that’s quickly become a local legend among cookie connoisseurs.
Over on Main Street is another coffee shop that will get your gears grinding. Red Hot Roasters is owned by the amazing Sondra Powell. She roasts coffee that’s, in her words, “small batch, 100% USDA-certified organic, fair-trade, gluten-free, non-GMO, possibly magic coffee.” If you’re looking for a guilt-free, conscientious cup of joe to jolt you into action, head to this spot.
Towards the end of your day perusing the shops and eateries of NuLu, mosey down Main Street to Goodwood, a local brewing company and taphouse that distributes to 11 different states. In a nod to Kentucky bourbon, Goodwood brews its beer in used liquor barrels and uses the same pure limestone water used to make bourbon, giving it its signature aged-wood taste. The brewing happens on-site in the back, while people enjoy the taphouse and bar and often live music in the front. The bar area is in the process of expansion to nearly double its size. Grab a cold brew, and raise a glass to NuLu!
There is ample parking around NuLu most of the time, but there are other options for getting where you’re going. You can take the LouLift, which is a free city bus circular that goes up and down Main and Market streets. Or you can rent a bike from LouVelo, a bike rental station just outside of Please & Thank You. NuLu has bike lanes up and down Main and Market streets, so it’s easy to get around.
If you stay in NuLu at Bed and Bike, you get two free bikes to use during your stay. Bed and Bike is operated by Parkside Bikes as an Airbnb. Parkside has a large bike showroom and repair shop, so you can even decide to take a bike home with you if you like.
Now, plan your ideal day in NuLu, and don’t forget to tell them StyleBlueprint sent you! Have fun!
Photos by Lisa Hornung unless otherwise noted.
For Louisville neighborhood highlights, click here!