I moved to Louisville in July of 2013, and am finally settling in to life in this great town of ours. Despite that, I’m still surprised - both pleasantly and otherwise - by some of the things I encounter. I’m a Michigan native, and Kentucky is quite different from the frigid, arctic northlands that I’m used to (the reactions to snow are so cute!). Louisville likes to keep itself weird, and that it is - here’s a list of some of the most unique and exciting things I’ve encountered.
1. The Roads
When I first moved to town, I was told that Louisville’s expressways were (literally) textbook examples of what not to do. My first thought, of course, was that they can’t be that bad. I was wrong.
Where I come from, it isn’t too difficult to find an entrance to the expressway - if you get off it, chances are the entrance is pretty much right there - even in the city. I was unprepared for the twenty-minute detours I had to take were I to get off at the wrong exit, or worse yet - want to go home from a store or business that wasn’t right down the road from my house.
There’s also the great “merge two interstates together with a greater number of lanes coming from the left and an exit on the right a tenth of a mile from the traffic explosion of five lanes turning into four” that the designers were so fond of. I just love that.
2. Local, Local, Local
As a vegetarian, small-business supporting, arts-loving, localvore hipster, I absolutely adore the fact that Louisville is so in love with local culture. I’m perhaps more excited than I should be at the fact that I can do all my grocery shopping at the Bardstown Road Farmer’s Market, Reynold’s Grocery Store, Nuts ‘n Stuff and Value Market. A few more stops far outweighs the feeling I get when I can give money to these Kentucky businesses that do their best to support and grow Louisville.
It’s not just local food that seems easily accessible - Louisville prides itself on its local retail outlets. Whether it’s the Butchertown Market’s assortment of local products, Market Street’s upscale and local retailers, or Bardstown Road’s plethora of unique and quirky establishments, there’s not a lot of reason to shop outside of Louisville-owned businesses.
Living in less urban areas of Michigan, local shopping was either hyper-emphasized or impossible, and I appreciate the convenience and concentration of stores owned and operated by my neighbors. We should all do our part to help these burgeoning (and established) local stores stay open - the more of them we patronize the more variety and uniqueness we keep in Louisville.
3. The Trouble of Buying Any Drink Besides Beer
Now I know this is a Kentucky thing, but I moved to Louisville: that means the city gets to bear the brunt of my confusion - no, downright bafflement - at the local liquor laws. If I go shopping for groceries and one of the items on my list is “multiple bottles of wine to cure my day-job hangover,” I’m forced to put my groceries in the car, walk (if I’m lucky) to a liquor store or separate entrance to Kroger, find the anything-but-beer I might be craving, and check out a second time.
Why, exactly? I’ve heard the argument that it creates an unfair edge for grocers that are able to sell everything, but there are plenty of liquor stores in Michigan that do just fine. I’ve heard that it has to do with moral objections, but then why is it acceptable to give beer an all-access pass to the food aisles when wine and booze are ostracized? I’ve also heard about it being an old hold-over law that was created for some long-dead reason and no one can get rid of it.
If anyone - and I’ve yet to find them - can explain to me the reason for this, please enlighten this confused yankee. I’m baffled.
Baffled, and I want to buy wine without making two stops.
4. Neighborhoods - Named and Unique
We have a few decently-sized cities in Michigan, but I never lived in one that had named neighborhoods like Louisville. The closest I came was East Lansing’s neighbor Lansing, which has named neighborhoods, though they don’t define residents like Louisville’s do.
If I talk to someone here, they’ll generally tell me that they’re from “Germantown,” “The Highlands,” “Phoenix Hill,” etc - not just Louisville, but the specific part. Residents seem to take pride in their regions, as if living in a particular part of town establishes part of their identity. I’ve heard Deer Park referred to as “the middle-class part of the Highlands.” Germantown seems to be the dive-bar hotspot, and NuLu is where one goes for upscale, independent shopping and dining.
The neighborhoods in Louisville are diverse, and each have a definite personality, which gives the city the feeling of being smaller than it actually is. I’ve met and made friends with shopkeepers from Saint Joseph to Butchertown, and both feel like they’re parts of different communities that share one political border: Louisville.
We have a great town here - it’s diverse, full of things to do and see, and you can experience a wide range of communities and styles without ever setting foot outside. I might still be finding my way around town, but I’m loving every minute of it.
Images courtesy of shop.localview.co, Peter Dedina, Louisville Independent Business Alliance, and Kentucky.com.
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