Saturday, June 21, 2014

Steppin' Out Boutique has more room in theater building

A view from the stage of the theater building, with the balcony and front door in the background.
Story and photos by Brian Bouhl
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

There a renaissance happening in downtown Midway and it involves both a business and a building.

Steppin’ Out Boutique, an upscale women’s clothing and accessories store, moved into the former Thoroughbred Theatre building on Main Street this winter and reopened for business Feb. 14.

Peggy Angel, left, a business partner at Steppin’ Out’s previous location on the other side of the tracks, bought the business and decided to expand across the street for more room.

“I just was not happy with that location,” said Angel. “We only had nine hundred square feet there, and here I’ve got fifty-three hundred; it’s a big difference.”

The boutique specializes in distinctive, upscale women’s apparel—items you can’t get at national department stores—as well as accessories including jewelry, hats and scarves.

“She’s taken a small boutique and made it into a store out of New York,” said customer Bonnie Smith of Georgetown. “It has such a variety for all ages and all sizes. Not everyone is a size zero.”

The larger space has also allowed Angel to sell antique furniture, which helps create a comfortable atmosphere for customers.

“I wanted the warmth of feeling of people coming in and feeling comfortable, almost like they’re at home,” said Angel, who has included some of her own furniture among the mostly consigned offerings.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the customers go out happy,” Smith said. “She doesn’t push a sale, she makes them feel good and look good. She doesn’t care if you walk out with anything as long as they enjoy themselves.”

Stable doors from Hamburg Place hang on a wall.
Besides the increase in space, Angel also liked the idea of operating inside an historic building. Built in the early 1900s, the theater building was operated as a daily theatre from 1928 to 1958, and was a hot spot in downtown Midway. The building went back and forth through different owners, occupants and business models before brothers John and Jim McDaniel helped turned it back into a working theater in the 2000s. 

The building’s historic features include the doors from Man O’ War’s barn, which hang on one wall, opposite from stall doors from a barn at Hamburg Place, Anita and Preston Madden’s famous farm in Lexington. The original balcony seats are still in place upstairs and the spindles on the steps leading to the stage are from Churchill Downs, Angel said.

“I was born and raised in Kentucky so I naturally have a linkage to the history and the equine world,” she said.

Smaller stores like Steppin’ Out often suffer in the winter, and the recent one was harsh, but Angel said her business increased since the move. She says customers are enthralled by the building and its features and also enjoy the greater room to move around.

A view from the balcony shows items on the floor and stage.
Spring has been good to the shop, which has been visited by guests from around the world who have been in the Bluegrass for both Keeneland and the Rolex Three-Day Event, Angel said. Derby hats were also quite popular this season, she said, with only a handful of the original stock of 40 remaining a couple weeks before the race.

Angel keeps late hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the busiest nights of the week in Midway, in order to host the overflow crowd from the popular restaurants on either side of her building and elsewhere in town. Some of the owners will often let her know if there’s a special event or they’re expecting a big turnout.

“I benefit greatly from the restaurants, it’s a definite asset for me,” Angel said. “I have a wonderful working rapport with them.”

Plans are in the works for regular events at Steppin’ Out, including special outings on the third Saturday of each month. They include cosmetics color testing, an Amish jam tasting, and neck massages. Angel is also planning seasonal style shows utilizing the venue’s unique features.

With a new face on the business, and a potentially successful business in the building, it appears as though there may be a fruitful renaissance at the theater building in downtown Midway.

No comments: