Women-Owned Businesses Set To Dominate On Trendy National Avenue

By Janet Patton Lexington Herald-Leader

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) This article out of the Lexington Herald-Leader takes a look at how WOMEN are crushing it in business in one up and coming neighborhood in the city.

Lexington Herald-Leader

More changes are coming to National Avenue, the blooming business district off Winchester Road.

The area, which will be home later this year to the new restaurant from popular local chef Cole Arimes, is about to open a building of tenants with businesses all owned by women.

That fits the trend for the area. According to developer Chad Walker, the female-owned businesses in the Warehouse Block area now outnumber those owned by men by far.

The building at 740 National will be fronted with The White Dress of Lexington, a bridal business that is moving from the Southland Drive area.

Owner Julia Reese said that she didn't know much about the area before she saw it. Then she was sold on the industrial look. Her new place will have open ceilings with more than 100 dresses suspended from wooden rafters.

The brides will have three private suites to try on the gowns and a presentation area if they want to stage a "reveal" to family and friends.

"I think it's going to be an ultra cool, modern take on the whole thing," Reese said.

And now that she's gotten to know her new neighbors, she's excited about the prospect of collaborations.

"It's a very artsy area, which will be a good compliment, with flower shops, jewelry stores ... I think we're going to blend really well," Reese said. "Lots of fitness studios ... we can definitely can do bridal boot camps."

Lauren Higdon, owner of Centered, a yoga studio nearby, said that many of the Warehouse Block businesses, particularly those owned by women, are focused on "cooperation, not competition."

"I feel we all do really well with supporting each other, promoting each other," Higdon said. They collaborate on events and work together when they can, she said, including on summer events such as block parties.

Jane Buckner, owner of Rag Peddler Fabrics, said that the businesswomen "all get along. We have the same vision." The Warehouse Block businesses recently collaborated on a map that displays them all, color -coded by type of business, from food to fitness, arts to fashion and much more.

Another tenant coming to the 740 building is Maple & Murphy, an interior design business. A cupcake maker is a possibility, too, according to Walker.

And, yes, they are female-owned businesses.

Sheila Kalas, owner of Fitness Plus, which has been in the area since 2004, said that she's seen a lot of growth, but there's a nice mix of fitness and arts.

Why are there so many fitness studios packed into the neighborhood? Besides Fitness Plus and Centered, there's Wildfire Yoga, Hybrid Martial Arts, Sora Aerial Arts, Maximus, Elle Fitness, Next Level Sports, Mi: Mind and Body, breathe and more.

When Walker Properties began redeveloping the area, the restrictive zoning wouldn't allow many options, Walker said. But gyms were permitted.

Now, on any given weekday, fitness enthusiasts pound up and down the street with heavy medicine balls right between Mirror Twin Brewing, a craft beer maker, and La Petite Delicat, which sells handmade macarons.

And they will be joined by one more: Reform Pilates, which is going into the back of the 740 National building, likely tucked in behind the cupcake place.

Elizabeth Hemphill, owner of Rose and Thistle floral design studio, said that the news that The White Dress puts women-owned businesses in the majority makes sense.

"I see a trend in that area toward creative entrepreneurship ... dresses, catering, I do floral. ... It's really amazing to see this quite industrial area at one time turn into something that's dominated by women," Hemphill said.

"The district does lend itself to creative types ... On the male side of things, Mirror Twin's a great example. Those guys are doing a great job and that was the perfect destination, and again it's a creative business."

The Warehouse Block's trend toward female businesses is a confluence of a district predisposed for creative types and a surge in women entrepreneurs, she said.

In 2017, according to a report for the National Association of Women Business Owners, women-owned businesses accounted for 39 percent of all U.S. firms. And the numbers were growing 2.5 times faster than the national growth rate for all businesses.

"A big part of that is women finding a balance in their lives by working for themselves," Hemphill said said. For women, particularly those with children, self-employment often offers much greater flexibility, she said.

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