Keeping Louisville Weird at Why Louisville II: Electric NuLu
Will Russell is a busy man.
The Why Louisville owner and Lebowski Fest impresario will be opening a second location of his Highlands-located, Louisville-themed whimsical gift store next month.
You can’t miss it on the 800 block of East Market Street. It’s painted in screamin’ yellow-orange (better known as “Sweet Sunrise” YOLO paint from their neighbor’s Bluegrass Green Store). The store won’t open (or celebrate it’s “Grand Awesoming”) until March, but they’ll be open for visitors and giving out balloons during the NuLu Valentine Open House on Sat, Feb. 9.
Opening a new store, was not, as Russell says, “mission critical.” But when Gill Holland approached him with the idea to open a second Why Louisville in the recently-vacated Hudson Home storefront on East Market Street, “the terms were so attractive, I couldn’t say no.”
He also has a 5 month-old baby and a new festival to plan, Pee-Wee Over Louisville. He has also recently taken the full reins of Lebowski Fest after he and his longtime partner, Scott Shuffitt, parted ways.
Why Louisville II: Electric NuLu’s “Grand Awesoming” will be on March 1, during the First Friday Trolley hop.
The new store will feature a gallery with month-long shows by local artists. The inaugural show is the snack-food inspired paintings of Chimel Ford; opening night Why Louisville II will offer the featured snack foods themselves (Russell is thinking he may need to hit eBay for the Twinkies). Ford is a member of StudioWorks, which is an art studio and gallery for adults with developmental disabilities and a project of the Zoom Group. “SNACKS” will run through March. The gallery exhibit in April will be Derby-themed.
For the most part, the store will feature many of the same items offered at the original Why Louisville. There will be a few more high-end, high-design souvenirs in stock for the downtown tourism/convention crowd (or “souvenirs that don’t suck,” as Russell puts it.)
The new store is more explicitly carnival-themed than the old store. Russell recently acquired a number of artifacts from Fontaine Ferry Park from Joe Ley Antiques, many of which were previously not for sale. Russell said that he strolled in there with Stella, the five month-old, in a papoose and talked to Joe Ley himself and, says Russell, “well, you’ve seen the power of the baby.”
Included in his carnival-themed decor is a giant (1980’s Dominos pizza mascot) Noid head, a funhouse mirror and a ticket booth that will serve as a dressing room. Pop culture artifacts adorn the walls of the office that Russell shares with store manager, Jae Grady (formerly of Taste of Kentucky), including a painting of Eddie Munster and huge Star Wars action figures still in the box. But the horrifying centerpiece of the store’s collection is an animatronic life-sized clown, the very same model that Pee-Wee Herman chains his bike to in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.”
The horrifying clown and the Noid head (ie. the stuff that nightmares of made of):
Speaking of… Russell has a line on that very bike, the one Pee-Wee rode in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” He’s going to check it out when he’s in Los Angeles for the next Lebowski Festival and might turn to Kickstarter to fund the acquisition. If it happens, you’ll know where to find it– chained with an insanely long white bike chain to a horrifying clown inside of Why Louisville II: Electric NuLu.