Sorry for all the storefront posts. I’ll be back in the shop tomorrow to build chests and such.
Several people have asked where the idea came from to buy a storefront in Covington, Ky., and move our business and lives there.
The answer is the building above. It’s at the corner of Pike and Madison streets, the commercial center of the city. My wife’s family owned the Grote Drug store there — plus the Super D pharmacy down the road. My mother in law worked there. My father in law. My wife. And many of her relatives going back to the point where the names are unfamiliar to me (even after 23 years of marriage).
Like many businesses in Covington, the bottom fell out as commerce moved to suburban Florence. The family drugstores closed. And the family lost everything.
That event, while terrible, also instilled in Lucy a sense of financial levelheaded-ness and an acumen for revenge.
How could I not fall in love with that?
Though we’ve always been writers with lame salaries, we never went into debt. And when our kids grew up, we resolved together to move to Covington and run our business there. Completing the circle.
We’ve been looking for a building for four years — this wasn’t a lark. And when we toured the Blaze at 837 Willard St. We knew. We put in an offer that same day.
And now the hard part begins — making it our final nesting place.
I’m typing this while covered head to toe with grime at Braxton Brewing, the brewery down the road from us. And as I walked here with a mighty thirst I passed a lot of other people with the same idea that we had. Tech startups. Design firms. Artist studios. And the stores that survived the crash (thank you Klingenberg’s hardware).
We hope you can stop by sometime after we open in March and get a small taste of this up-and-coming city.
— Christopher Schwarz
20 thoughts on “Where This Began”
That was a very touching story. I can relate on many levels. Thank you for telling it.
Very nice looking place Chris. My wife has always wanted a storefront building with quarters above. Alas we are not even close.
It’s a trip up from Florida, but I plan on getting up there and checking it all out at some point. I admire you & Lucy for making it happen. I agree, dreams wait while the kids get raised. But then there’s no excuse for not making it happen. Thanks for sharing your journey – and inspiration – with all of us.
I am very much enjoying these posts. Twenty five years ago my wife and I with a two years old daughter bought a B & B in New Hampshire. The two prev owners had gone bankrupt over 10 years. I was told that to stop the leak in the kitchen ceiling I had to get 3 feet of snow off the roof and oh I should take all the pennies out of the fuse boxes before it burned down.
We had 19 wonderful years in New Hampshire.
Very cool. Just a side thought, could the growth and popularity of craft brewing relate to or foreshadow a rise in small-time furniture builders?
Chris. Please sketch, the corner, plat the building, your foot plan and provide more photos. What gorgeous architecture. What a gorgeous find.and opportunity.
Nothing like loosing everything to create a financial level head, hope that your new adventure goes well Chris, and I get to enjoy reading your posts.
You need to read the book on urban renewal by Marcus Westbury.
I hope/assume you and Lucy are writing down and documenting (pics etc.) the family histories and stories for your kids. (And putting them in one spot.) It’s a wonderful gift to give them and for them to add to and pass along to their children.
Thanks for sharing. I’ve worked in Covington going on 30 years. I have seen a lot of changes to the city in that time.
Chris et al:
A wonderful story; we are seeing similar things up here in Western Canada, though things are a bit younger in age than the Eastern USA.
In my dreams I will get to meet the LAP Gang; till then, keep up the good work and may things go your may more often than not.
Dead Blow Tropical Stout, deeelicious.
Good to see you diving deep into what you love, and in a place that is so much a part of your family. Good also that others are interested in making old places new again.
The same “re-vivifying” is going on here in Montgomery AL, where we hang out. Hope to get to your place someday.
Please don’t apologize. It’s a delightful yarn.
I’ve gone ‘back to the woodshed,’ trying to wrap my mind around a lot of things. But it’s been inspiring to see what happens to some folks, post-woodshed.
Living debt-free? What kind of radical notion is that? You sound like Dave Ramsey. 🙂
Not owing money to the butcher, the baker and the craft-beer maker every month certainly gives you options in life without adding risk. Well done.
It’s great to see things happening on Pike Street. There’s so much potential in Covington’s intact historic architecture. Maybe you’ve already seen them, but the Sanborn maps of Kentucky are fantastic for researching the early economic landscape. Your press, I think, continues a rich heritage in the area. In 1886 there was a planing mill and lumber yard two blocks down on 8th street. Check it out!
Please don’t apologize for shop posts. You’ve shown us demo, some of the build, and now local context. This is what I’m here for, all of it. Besides, you’ve got a ways to go to catch up to bldgblog. Don’t worry.
You’re doing incredible things Chris. Keep up the great work! Jealously yours, Mike
Chris, again, please don’t apologize for showing us your dream(s). You have worked very hard to reach these/your goals and I think it is wonderful, fantastic actually, that you are doing EXACTLY what you want to do with your life. Some people may complain, however they are just jealous because of their own unsatisfied life/lives. Many people spend their whole life settling for something which if they were honest with themselves, they would do something different. Keep up the great work.
I spent many a night post college at Molly Malone’s (before it was called that). I always loved Covington. Now I’m glad I have another reason to visit the next time I’m in Cincinnati. Thanks for sharing Chris.
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