Highlands Loses Another Gem–Swanson Reed Gallery. A Few Words from Reed

A lovely corner in time - Swanson Reed Gallery (Photo by Phillip Wolfe)

It is with a troublesome burden that I am writing about another tenured business closing in the Highlands neighborhood.

When I saw the 30% OFF banner across the window of the Swanson Reed Gallery, I felt as if it were a big white flag of surrender. It may have been but this battle was hard fought to the end.  One of the most eclectic pit stops on 31-E, the 1377 storefront was just shy of 30 years and too young to die, in my opinion.

January 2011 did not get off to a very happy new year for several merchants in the heart of the Highlands. Four businesses, including the Celtic Center, Lynn’s Paradise Cafe and Attic Treasures were in sad company with the Swanson-Reed Gallery. as victims of crime.

With stress already in motion due to the spiraling economy and the post holiday echo of the internet-driven purchasing power, robbery was one of the last straws in a nightmarish haystack for Susan Reed’s vibrant, contemporary storefront.

While big box retail are not allowing much local commerce to sprout in its shadow, the allure of online shopping has taken its toll on the sidewalk traffic.

I realize that what keeps Louisville “wired” is making it difficult to be “weird.” Amazon is a long way from home. What replaces opening a door with its welcome sign and jingling bell is a mouse click. The magic of gifts collected by the owner blends well with the talk of local news or offering suggestions and directions to out of town visitors.

And there is no shop cat that I’m aware of on Overstock.com.

I contacted Susan to send my condolences and asked if she could respond to a few questions.

Her responses via email follow. It addresses several elements of the closure, to both patrons and proprietors. As a fellow Highlands resident, it struck a chord.

A message to the shopkeepers in Louisville and the Highlands?

The Highlands neighborhood was always our biggest source of customers.  40204 and 40205 really was the bulk of our support.  The great thing about the gallery was that you could buy something for $1 or you could spend $20,000.  That enabled everybody to shop there.

I don’t have a message to the independent business owners but rather to their customers.  If you want your local businesses to stay, you have to support them.  This is a conscious decision.  Every time that someone pushes a computer button to order a product online, it hurts an independent business.  Every time that a customer visits an independent store and then goes home to order the products that they saw online, they are hurting the independent business.

Healing and redirection for the Highlands indie business?

Independent business owners are the core of the Highlands business district. Individualism is what sets us apart from other neighborhoods. I encourage everyone to not give that up for more generic choices available on the Internet.

I do believe that the neighborhood is in a time of transition and that someone, maybe the Highlands  Commerce Guild, needs to be the overseer.  If we are not watchful, Bardstown road will become another place to shop at nationally owned places.  Do you not think that the new paint store across from mid-city mall will not impact Keith’s Hardware?

Most of the business owners that I am aware of are not taking salaries, but do this work because they love it.  They also provide jobs for others, and help support local, state, and federal tax bases.

Another location?

Chuck Swanson and I both live in the Highlands, raised our children in the Highlands, and are very committed to the Highlands.  We want the neighborhood to stay as special as it has always been.  We had offers over the years to move our business rent-free to different locations but did not want to leave our neighborhood.

Aftermath of the robbery

The robbery occurred on Saturday, Jan. 8th in the middle of the day. Yes, there was a weapon and a threat was made to kill my employee.  Yes, he took money.  Chuck  and I are grateful, in light of what could have happened, that our employee was safe.  He did everything right.

The robbery occurred after our decision to close, but it did solidify that decision.  It was unfortunate timing as we have never been robbed and did not want the negative publicity for the neighborhood.  We had 28 years of not being robbed!

That being said, we had wonderful and supportive customers and were proud to bring the quality of work to Louisville for 28 years.  That is quite an accomplishment and speaks to the loyalty of our customers as well as their interest in unique products.  We had a blast and thank Louisville for the support of our work.

Good luck to Susan and her gallery family. I hope you all continue to bring new ideas and old friends together for the Louisville art community.