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Great Summer Road Trips
Antiques Nirvana

Louisville

Drive time: 4.75 hours

Louisville has done the seemingly impossible: reinvented eclectic neighborhoods while keeping chains largely at bay. The rising wave of vintage and antiques shops reflects the city’s distinct character as the merging point of the South and the Midwest and the hub of bourbon and horse countries. Here, a curated guide to getting the most from Louisville’s main antiques districts.

Published May 19, 2016

NuLu

East Market and South Shelby Streets

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Once a bustling commercial district that hosted impromptu horse races in the 1800s, the area around East Market Street fell on hard times. Recently rebranded NuLu (no revival is complete without a SoHo-inspired portmanteau, right?), it is now home to popular stores, galleries, and restaurants.

If you purchase anything hefty—sideboard, suit of armor—it’ll likely be at Joe Ley Antiques (615 E. Market St.), so park there. The restored 1890 schoolhouse holds two acres’ worth of collectibles, ranging from mantelpieces to Kentucky Derby glassware and questionable old-timey promotional items (PBR-branded kids’ lunchbox, anyone?). Next walk two blocks east to Bermuda Highway (811 E. Market St.). Co-owner Katie Toupin, of the folk-rock band Houndmouth, mines inspiration from her life on the road for the store’s vintage concert tees, instruments, and records. (The squirrel-foot earrings, though? Not tour-bus roadkill.) Two blocks south is Louisville Antique Market (845 E. Jefferson St.), which promises “antiques, collectibles, and fine furniture” (i.e., no junk). The 30 pro dealers there stick to that pledge.

Butchertown

East Washington and Buchanan Streets

A mile northeast of NuLu is Butchertown, named for a still-operational meatpacking plant. (Yes, sometimes there’s an odor.)

With 120-plus stalls selling—deep breath—furniture, glassware, clothing, silver, books, LPs, pottery, and bourbon-related collectibles, you’d be excused for thinking Crazy Daisy Antique Mall (1430 Mellwood Ave.) would be as jam-packed as a slaughterhouse. But the 20,000-square-foot mall is spacious and organized. Nevertheless, you’ll still need the full afternoon to work your way through.

Elizabeth’s Timeless Attire  Photo: Beth White

Frankfort Avenue

Frankfort and South Peterson Avenues

Arts and Crafts houses on the residential streets surrounding this boutique-filled thoroughfare provide eye candy while you shop. Start at Elizabeth’s Timeless Attire (2050 Frankfort Ave.), which specializes in clothing and jewelry from 1890 to 1970. Its owner makes annual pilgrimages to Paris (France, not Kentucky), where she scours markets for Jackie Kennedy–style cropped jackets and Hermès bags. Next head four blocks east to Redefine Design on the Avenue (2320 Frankfort Ave.). Its 22,000-square-foot warehouse holds everything you need to furnish a home, from classic (armoires and pianos) to kitsch (Star Wars collectors’ plates and Gone with the Wind ornaments). Five blocks farther east is Margaret’s Consignment (2700 Frankfort Ave.): four contiguous buildings of upscale clothing, as well as jewelry, accessories, and household collectibles. Cut to the chase by scheduling a complimentary appointment with one of the fashion consultants.

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