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The Next Economy | America 360

An Instagram Tour of Louisville

photo of Amy Sullivan
May 17, 2013

To fully experience Louisville, you'd have to buy a $2 ticket to Churchill Downs and enjoy the horses while drinking a highball filled with one of the town's famous bourbons. But if you can't do that, an Instagram tour of the city isn't a bad substitute. On her recent travels to report on Louisville's economy, National Journal's Amy Sullivan took photos of the people and places she visited. 

In the 19th century, Louisville's Main Street was the heart of the bourbon industry, with dozens of buildings housing the main offices of distilleries. Now, however, developers and historical activists are working to restore the facades and buildings in Whiskey Row, which has suffered from decades of neglect. Several of the buildings have been transformed into downtown lofts as the neighborhood has been revitalized into a vibrant, walkable area. And with the introduction of an "Urban Bourbon Trail" to attract visitors who ordinarily head to bourbon distilleries out in the country, the hope is to make Main Street the center of the bourbon world once again.(Amy Sullivan)

The first Saturday in May is a magical time at Churchill Downs, when the Kentucky Derby--aka "the most exciting two minutes in sports"-- takes place. But the equine industry is serious business for Louisville and the surrounding area throughout the year. A 2012 survey by the University of Kentucky found that the race horses and related services based in the state have a total value of more than $20 billion.(Amy Sullivan)

Ten years ago, East Market Street was a downtrodden stretch of homeless shelters and vacant buildings. But then film producer Gill Holland (who married into the Brown family, Louisville royalty) talked a group of fellow investors into buying up a five-block stretch of buildings and he recruited business owners to open up locations in what is now dubbed "NuLu"--New Louisville. The result is the city's trendiest neighborhood with some of the city's tastiest food.(Amy Sullivan)


No baseball fan can pass through Louisville without visiting the Louisville Slugger museum and factory, the western-most anchor of the revitalized downtown. Made by the sports equipment company Hillerich & Bradsby, Louisville Sluggers have been one of the city's most famous exports since 1884.(Amy Sullivan)

In 2012, CafePress CEO Bob Marino moved his company headquarters from Silicon Valley to Louisville, where its production plant had been located for several years. Catwalks connect the plant floor to corporate offices set apart only by their startlingly bright green walls. The online custom design company's 450 Louisville employees--like production worker Raymondo Roman, seen here with Marino--are supplemented during the hectic holiday season by as many as 700 seasonal workers.(Amy Sullivan)

Sarah Fritschner is the coordinator for Louisville Farm to Table, an innovative public-private partnership that helps bring meat and produce from small farms to schools and universities in the Louisville area. By acting as a neutral broker to connect growers and buyers, Fritschner provides the key link that is often missing between farm and table.(Amy Sullivan)


Will Russell is the kind of character every city needs. The owner of two gift shops/art galleries in Louisville--Why Louisville and Why Louisville Two--Russell likes to think of them more as tourist attractions than mere stores. In fact he was thrilled when Why Louisville was officially listed as an attraction in the guide Roadside America, one of his lifelong dreams. But Russell may be better known as the founder and host of Lebowski Fest, which is both a traveling homage to the 1998 film The Big Lebowski and an annual Louisville-based event that now draws several thousand fans every summer.(Amy Sullivan)

Why Louisville's newest location in NuLu, featuring t-shirts designed by local artists, popcorn, pony rides, and a creepily realistic Colonel Sanders figure.(Amy Sullivan)

Josh Thomas and Nathan Ivey are two of the young leaders at Sojourn Community Church in midtown Louisville, a working-class neighborhood that at times teeters on the edge of poverty. Wanting to provide a response to the needs of their community, they started organizing free medical clinics five years ago, which take place two or three times each year. What's special about these clinics is that they go beyond checking blood pressure or diagnosing minor ailments. Dental students provide care, and local dentists agree to take on patients needing extensive work pro bono; representatives from local and state social service offices meet with attendees to determine if they qualify for other services; massage therapists and cosmetologists donate their time to provide luxuries that are often don't exist for those in the greatest need.(Amy Sullivan)


The Garage Bar in NuLu is one of Louisville's most prized reservations, with outdoor pingpong, an unbeatable setting in a former auto service garage, and delicious wood-fired pizzas.(Amy Sullivan)

Before Greg Fischer was elected mayor of Louisville in 2010, he spent several decades as a successful businessman in manufacturing. He's used that background to address the challenge of transforming Louisville's traditional manufacturing workforce and sector to better match the demands of a 21st century economy. The Metropolitan College--a collaboration between the city, local corporations, and the University of Louisville, is one piece of that effort.(Amy Sullivan)

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