January 6, 2011

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Warsaw is one of those small, riverside communities – picturesque with several quaint places to graze and browse – perfect for artists to get inspiration at a relaxed pace. But oftentimes, artists can’t really afford the overhead of opening and maintaining their own retail space. But in this Northern Kentucky community, they now have a rural sales outlet without all the hassles of storefront management.

The Gallatin County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service recently partnered with a business owner in Warsaw to promote community and economic growth, and as a result, several community artisans now have a place to exhibit and sell their offerings right on Main Street.

Jackie Mylor owns the building she calls Shoppe on Main, and the renovated old Victorian next door, where local resellers consign items. She worked with the Cooperative Extension office to bring local artisans into the shop as well, letting them use one or two of the rooms to display their work.

“When this building became available in the spring, I called all the other women who had been my partners, and we sat right here in this very room, with all the bright paint and a little crumbling plaster, and we decided how we would run the shop,” she said from the remodeled front room of the old Federal-style building. “We opened Sept. 28, and we’re open 5 days a week, and we have been building our business throughout.”

Mylor’s Shoppe is full of unique, often local or even historic items to browse. Local artists like Sherry Needy have been building business through the shop for a few months now.

“People don’t really have the opportunity to see it (her drawings); it hangs in your home or it is stored behind the sofa until you have the place to put it,” Needy said. “For the most part this has been great for me; I have had people tell me they have seen my work who have never had the chance before.”

Local photographer Dave Jones has also found the opportunity appealing for himself, but he sees a broader vision.

““If you look at rural communities… if you want to bring in visitors and tourists, it’s usually (through) the arts, the art district,” he said. “You can look around at different areas, and that’s what draws people in to come down and spend the night—spend it at a bed-and-breakfast and tour the arts district. That’s when it starts growing.”

Mylor said she was happy to partner with extension to help the arts, and she said as many as 20 artisans are represented so far.

“The Shoppe on Main is an excellent example of working with local artisans,” said Rosie Allen, extension agent for family and consumer sciences. “We always want to promote economic growth and community development in extension.”

Mylor’s future plans for unused space in the building include classes in many of the arts represented, as well as possible studio space for artists to work.