The building that holds the recently closed Miller Fine Art & Framing is about to become what its owner hopes is a shopping destination with as many as eight high-end art and home-decorating retailers.
Mark Miller is leading the major renovation of the building at Woodland Avenue and East High Street with hopes of opening this year. He already has signed one tenant, a custom upholstery shop.
"That's probably one of the hottest corners in the whole city for something that's on the historic edge," Miller said.
Miller said he's been considering the idea since he bought the building, a former ice cream factory, a few years ago. After his wife's store closed in June after more than a decade in business, the plans kicked into high gear.
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"I've gone in and completely gutted it and sandblasted it down to the bare brick, so it's got the old factory look," Miller said.
The 15,000-square-foot building will hold four stores on the first floor and four more on the second.
"It's going to be a completely fresh, renovated space," he said.
His first tenant is New's Custom Upholstery, which is now in Somerset. Owner Jerry New said he's going to close his showroom in Somerset but will keep the workroom there. The Lexington location will have a showroom and work area, he said, and could be open as soon as Dec. 1.
"We're excited about it," he said. "We do a lot of work in Lexington already."
New's mother started the business in the 1970s, and it has expanded from doing primarily custom upholstery to also working on interior decorating for homes.
He said he gravitated to the Woodland Triangle, as that area of shops and intersection is called, because "of all the diversity of the businesses and kind of the old look of that area."
It's a corner, though, that has had trouble maintaining businesses over the years. Previous stores included The Last Genuine Leather Co., which moved last year to Southland Drive.
Wayne Schedler, a leather craftsman at the store, said the impetus for the move was a lack of parking.
"We always heard the song, 'I wanted to stop, but I could never find a place to park,'" he said. "I wish I had a hundred dollars for every time I heard that song. Now that people can park, I'm getting that hundred dollars."
The leather shop's owner, Ken Guyer, complimented Miller on the renovations to the building that formerly contained his store.
"The place will be really nice when he gets done," he said.
Miller is adding some parking spaces behind the building but said people will primarily need to park on the street. He said he doesn't think that will be a major barrier to the building's success.
"There's a lot of businesses downtown that don't have parking," he said.
Becky Naugle, state director of the University of Kentucky Small Business Development Center, said Miller also will benefit from the condos being built across the street.
"That gives them at least some potential clientele built in there," she said. "And there are already some unique boutique-type businesses there. Those types of retail usually support each other, and it works if there's a nice mix."
For the fans of Miller Fine Art & Framing, there's a chance it might return, too.
Miller said his wife, Deborah, closed the store because of a slowdown in business from the recession. With the business closed, she joined him at his business, Woodcraft, which sells woodworking equipment and supplies; she does auditing and paperwork.
She might reopen the store in the building but in the upstairs or back instead of the street-front location.
"It just depends on how it plays out," he said.