Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas in Midway: Quieter than the malls

Story and photos by Kelly Wiley
UK School of Journalism

With fresh snow on the ground and McGee, the community cat, scurrying around looking for a place to get warm, shop owners stayed inside the warm confines of their stores Saturday. However, even with the cold weather, shop owner still had a reason to be cheerful ­– it’s Christmas time.

Christmas in Midway means many things, but for most store owners it means an increase in customers. “A lot of people like the come here to get away from the mall. It’s not real crowded and it’s a relaxing atmosphere with old Victorian buildings, especially when there is a little snow it kind of reminds you of a Victorian Christmas,” said Bill Penn, owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store.

Penn said he sells a lot of handmade jewelry and crafts, along with a bookstore upstairs full mostly of books by Kentucky authors focusing on Kentucky history, with some children’s books packed in there as well. He has owned the Historic Midway Museum Store for 12 years. He and his wife moved to Midway from Indiana because of their love for museum stores, he said.

“We always liked museum stores. When you go into a museum there will always be a museum shop and they always sell educational things related to history,” Penn said.

Being a museum store, it is only fitting to have a museum, which they do. In a room to the left of the entrance there is a smaller than normal museum containing a timeline of Midway history with pictures and artifacts to go with it.

Penn said they have tried to persuade the City Council to purchase one of the vacant buildings along Main Street and turn it into a museum, but they have been turned down. So, for the time being, the history of Midway can be found in the extra room of Penn’s Historic Midway Museum Store.

At the end of the road is Celtic Trends, which sells mostly items imported from Ireland and Great Britain that are Irish or Celtic themed. Clare McCarthy, owner of Celtic Trends and an Ireland native, said Christmas in Midway is better than bigger cities like Lexington because stores are not overly crowded and most times there is always a parking spot that doesn’t require you to walk a mile to your destination.

“We have quite a few Midway residents (who shop here), but the majority are outside from Lexington, Cincinnati and Louisville,” McCarthy said. “They come here with the intention to shop or for the restaurants.”

On Midway Street, commonly called Railroad Street, there are a few restaurants on both sides of the tracks that cut through town. Out-of-towners can enjoy a variety of restaurants like Bistro La Belle, Quirk CafĂ© and Coffee and Darlin Jean’s Apple Cobbler, but McCarthy said the restaurant that attracts the most customers is the Black Tulip, known for its fine wine and Kentucky food.

In the same row as Celtic Trends and the Historic Midway Museum Store is SaopWerks. Just as unique as the rest of the stores, SoapWerks sales soap, candles and jewelry all made by family members and friends of owner Kathy Werking.

“My mother makes the soap, which is all natural. I do soy wax candles. My sister makes the pillows out of old linens, then my brother in law makes salt and pepper shakers … those are out of old chair and table parts,” Werking said. “What we really try to do is do natural products and recycling and repurposing.”

In the past, Werking used her store as way to raise the money necessary to adopt her daughter Leah from a Beijing orphanage. Less than a year ago, Werking said she added to the family with her “recent addition,” Yulan. “Chinese adoptions, well any international adoption is pretty expensive, and, so, I did a lot of fundraising from selling my products,” Werking said. “And people responded really, really nicely.”

As Werking gets ready to close shop and her girls sit making jewelry, outside the snow is still falling and McGee has found some form of shelter near a Christmas tree outside one the many specialty shops on Railroad Street.

No comments: