Known to most as Katy K, Katy Kattelman is the proud owner of a true Nashville landmark. It was not that many years ago when you needed to use Katy K’s Designs as a reference point for the 12 South area (as in, “Go down 12 South, you know, where that Katy K store is?”). We are thrilled to get to know her better today. Welcome Katy K, today’s FACE of Nashville!
You started your business in Manhattan. When and why did you move it to Nashville?
I did start Katy K Designs in NYC in the early ’80s. I was making 1950s-style rockabilly and Western clothing, and so I had a romantic vision of Nashville. So much of my inspiration came from here. A series of events happened in New York — I lost the lease for my store, had a bad romantic breakup, etc. I was ready for a change, and one of my best friends moved here. I came in February of 1994, and I am happy I did.
Can you sum up Katy K Designs for readers who have never stopped in?
We are a unique slant on Western wear. It is a pop culture, kitsch, mid-century homage to all things American. I have clothing for men, women and children. I should also point out that we have expanded way beyond just Western clothes. We have gift items, party dresses, boots, buckles and burlesque costumes.
Are your customers stage musicians or “everyday” people?
I have entertainers and “everyday” folk. We have had everybody from Pee Wee Herman to Porter Wagoner, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Deborah Harry, Nicole Kidman, the B52s, Jack White. A lot of the regular people who come in are visiting Nashville, and I love to give them advice about what to see and hear.
You were a trailblazing business on 12 South. What made you decide to open up shop there, long before the address had any cache?
I live a few blocks away, and I was growing too big for my tiny store on Music Row.
How do you think the 12 South neighborhood will evolve?
Well, on the good side, lots of good restaurants and interesting shops. On the downside, rents will be going up and traffic will be even more difficult.
Did you always know this was your dream job?
It was up there in my girlish fantasies, along with marrying Roy Rogers.
What is one of the hardest things about owning your own business? What is one of the best?
The hardest thing about owning a business is when people steal or ask for a better deal. I have so many bills to pay, and I often feel because I am a small business owner that some people take advantage. We have been broken into a bit, and that is another blow. The best thing, and this far outweighs the bad, is the wonderful people I have met through the business, as well as the press we have gotten through the years.
What advice have you relied on through the years?
I just look at life as a wonder. I try to focus on the positive. You never know what’s around the corner.
Where was your most recent best meal in Nashville?
I ate at Sitar last week, and it sure was good.
What does your ideal Saturday night look like?
My ideal Saturday night would be spent with my boyfriend, Curtis, and my dachshund, Dee Dee, watching Turner Classic Movies.
If you could change one thing about Nashville, what would it be?
If Nashville had decent public transportation it would be perfect. I hate driving.
Conversely, what do you love most about Nashville?
I love the amazing, accessible music scene here. The music is everywhere, and there are so many talented musicians.
What is your favorite indulgence?
What books are you reading?
I just finished reading a great book about Stax records in Memphis. I also just read a book called All Hopped Up and Ready to Go, by Tony Fletcher, about the New York music scene from the 1930s to the 1970s.
Is there something about you that would surprise our readers?
I love old musicals.
What is something, besides God, family and friends, that you can’t live without?
Thank you Katy! You are fabulous! Check out the Katy K Designs store: www.katyk.com
Special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for her gorgeous “FACES” photos each week: http://ashleyhylbert.com