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Going upstairs in downtown Shelbyville

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Some new spots, some new locations and some new ideas have downtown Shelbyville jumping again – including the remodeling of a second-story living space above Ruby Rooster.

By Todd Martin

Downtown Shelbyville often is in a state of flux, but recently there are signs that it’s on the verge of significant change.

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“I was noting today [Wednesday] as I was walking up Main Street that we recently lost three businesses, but we had four come in, and now there’s three more,” said Eilene Collins, the executive director of the Shelby Development Corporation. “It’s a trend we’ve seen lately, businesses moving around, but I think everyone is settling in.”

Several long-time stores have gone, including Avon For Guys and Dolls and CJ’s Candies, and the Shelbyville Antique Mall, at 524 Main is closing soon.

The new businesses are the antique shop At Home on 7th and Main, and parent and toddler speech workplace Teach Me To Talk, both of which opened recently, and Southern Table and Shelby Power and Fitness, which soon will join the lineup.

At Home on 7th and Main moved into the former location of Under the Sun, on the south corner of 7th and Main streets, and provides antique, country-living décor and gifts. Teach Me To Talk has been a Web-based business for several years and is designed to help parents teach toddlers to understand how to use language.

Collins said the addition of Shelby Power and Fitness, being opened by Kyle Stephens, is something new. The gym, which will be located at 320 Main Street, is the first of its kind downtown.

Southern Table, being opened by Chris Harris and Andrew Platt in the former Bistro location at 535 Main, is bringing a modern version of classic southern comfort food to Main Street.

And still on the horizon is the planned renovation for the old Blue Gables Motel. Although the facility still is being used as apartments, the city and a group of citizens are awaiting word a Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Local Government that would provide funding for the purchase of the building at the corner of 8th and Main streets. Through the help of local investors, the units would be converted into an artisan and retail area.

But none of those is the biggest change.

Shelbyville natives Ben and Melinda Hardin are embarking on an effort to bring downtown living back to Shelbyville, recently having purchased the Ruby Rooster building, 514 Main Street, and are in the process of redesigning the living space in the 5,000-square-foot upstairs.

“We’re of the mentality that you have to be a part of what you want to see done,” Ben Hardin said. “We’re both from Shelbyville, and we have a heart for downtown. To do something of this scale is a big commitment, especially when there’s not a lot going on downtown right now.”

Hardin said he is hoping that their commitment will inspire others, and he’s not alone.

“Oh, we’re hopeful that will help draw in more people [willing to renovate and live downtown],” Collins said. “We’re actually going to tour Maysville again.”

The SDC has set up a second trip to Maysville on Nov. 16, which will include another tour of second-story development. Earlier this year, Collins invited some of renovators from Maysville to come to speak in Shelbyville. The group traveled to Maysville last year.

The Hardins are just getting started with their renovation, and Ben Hardin said he hopes the family – they have two young daughters – can move in next year.

“If we can get this done and done right, I think people, especially people our age, will be interested. They have that urban living mentality.”

But there is a lot of work to be done.

“You walk in the second story of a lot of these buildings, and it’s a mess,” he said. “The second level of our building had pigeons living in it for quite a while.”

Keeping with the theme concentrating on Shelbyville, Hardin said he’s trying to use as much local help as he can.

“We’re trying to work with people in the community as much as we can,” he said. “We’ve never done anything like this, so it’s been a big learning curve for me. I was trying to do as much as I can by myself, but within in the first week, doing demolition, I found out I was way over my head.

“This is going to take some time because we need to make sure we get it right the first time.”

Along with salvaging as much as possible, Hardin is hoping that his bet on downtown is coming at the right time.

“I think people want to be downtown,” he said. “I think the coffee shop and the Ruby Rooster are cornerstones that we can build off of. The city is doing a great job with attractions and bringing people in, but we need more things to keep them here.”

He cited Southern Table, the new restaurant opening in the Bistro’s old location, as a big plus that he hopes will draw big, steady crowds like Fiesta Mexican west down Main, which is remodeling and expanding into a second store front.

“If we can continue on a track like that, getting restaurant and retail locations that will keep people downtown, I think it will continue to grow,” he said. “I’ve always heard those stories – and you can see some of the pictures in that book [Portraits of the Past, a pictorial history of Shelby County, Kentucky] – on Friday and Saturday nights, you couldn’t move downtown because there were so many people. You see the pictures of those days, and you think it’d be so neat to have that back.”