There is a sort of running joke among Louisvillians that the Land Across the River is a strange and confusing place and that it should be avoided at all costs. This kind of attitude is silly, of course – no doubt the predictable result of a friendly rivalry – but it was hard to remember that while cruising around downtown Jeffersonville looking for the Hops, Shops, & Chardonnay event Friday night. The directions I had were simple: the registration table would be located at Glossbrenner Gardens, which is at the corner of Spring Street and Chestnut Street. I was on Spring Street… Where are the beer and wine tents, I wondered? Where is the event? There were plenty of street musicians, but no other evidence. After a couple of passes, I located Chestnut Street… no registration tent in sight. However, I saw people walking around carrying matching brochures, so I assumed it was close and parked a few blocks away.
After some exploration, my wife and I located Glossbrenner Gardens: enclosed by a low wall and enshrouded with trees and plants. It was actually a very lovely little spot, but it would have been benefited enormously from a sign announcing the location. After all, I’m sure they weren’t just expecting residents familiar with Jeffersonville to attend.
We received our wristband and passport, and I figured out why there was no evidence of any kind of festival. The map in the passport indicated about twenty participating shops. The idea was for attendees to explore Jeffersonville’s business district and discover local shops of which they may not have been aware. This made sense to me, so, freshly reoriented, we headed into the first shop.
A couple of stops later, I made a realization: this was not so much an event for the discovery of local food and libations. The point was the discovery of local business. Most shops presented homemade snacks and finger foods for those who stopped in, and local beers and wine were available for sample – occasionally. It was really more incidental. And so, as a food and drinks writer who expected to be covering a food and drinks event, I felt a little lost. My main point of chagrin was with the event’s website, which really didn’t make the idea of the thing clear.
(Also – there was no recycling available. Considering the volume of plastic cups which would be used throughout the night, this was quite irksome to the more environmentally-conscious among us.)
However, we did come across a number of interesting shops:
Riverside Cigar – I always forget that the indoor smoking ban is exclusive to Louisville. This cigar shop and lounge was filled with men in large chairs smoking cigars, discussing whatever it is burly men discuss. The place smelled wonderful. I love cigars, but I’m not terribly knowledgeable about them, so I enjoyed browsing their humidor room. New Albanian Brewing Company was represented and I tasted the Community Dark, an English-style mild ale. Riverside is connected to the Brickhouse Bourbon Bar – a perfect pairing which I plan to visit in the near future.
Schimpff’s – Candy! Halloween is a week away, but it’s never too early to start. As well as selling fresh-made candies and chocolates, Schimpff’s features a “museum”-room filled with memorabilia. I sampled a chocolate-colored espresso bean – crunchy, bittersweet, and delicious.
Spring Street Trading – “Look at all the kitsch!” my wife excitedly whispered. It’s true: this is the place if you want cutesy little knick-knacks or decorations. Not really my thing, but interesting enough.
Designer Fragrance – I don’t wear cologne, but I love the smell (sometimes). This shop stood out because my wife made a very exciting discovery: Armani Code fragrance for only $42 (compared to $78 at Macy’s). I wasn’t even aware of her affinity for this particular scent, but it’s apparently worth mentioning.
Grinny Possum – This is the shop for all your sewing needs. One whole wall featured an impressive array of yarns in all materials and colors. My wife was able to purchase a roll of wonderfully soft alpaca-fur yarn, which is already well on its way to becoming a winter scarf.
At the end of our tour, we turned in our passports, which we had gotten stamped at various shops, and received two pint glasses in return.
To get to Spring Street and Jeffersonville’s business district from Louisville, take the I-65 North across the bridge, and disembark at exit 0. Turn right on Court Avenue. Spring Street is a few blocks down; turn right, and you’re there.
Photo: Allan Day