Welcome Mat

La Grange gets a new Welcome Center

Main Street Program to operate new information center

LA GRANGE, Ky. (December 2015) – After the first of the year, visitors to La Grange, Ky., will be met with a new Welcome Center. It will be in a highly visible spot, replacing the old one that sits in an alley.
“We always wanted a presence on Main Street   but never had access to one,” said Karen Eldridge, executive director of
La Grange Crossroads District, the entity spearheading the project.

Photo by Helen E. McKinney

Crossroads La Grange District Executive Director Karen Eldridge poses in front of the new Welcome Center located just off Main Street.

La Grange Crossroads District will have offices in the front space of the new Welcome Center, located at 208 E. Main St.
Offices are currently in the Welcome Center (also known as the Little Blue House) on Poplar Alley. The Little Blue House has a long history. It is the oldest Gothic structure in La Grange, dating to 1850.
The building was originally constructed at 124 Second St. on property owned by the First United Methodist Church. When the church relocated, the house was sold to the city. Plans had originally called for turning it into a parking lot, but City Council members saw potential in the structurally sound building.
The old Welcome Center will “be kept as a public meeting area,” said Eldridge. The City of La Grange owns both properties.
Presently, the old Welcome Center is only open for special events, she said. The new structure will be open every day during regular business hours and have public restrooms, a huge plus for Main Street.
“It will be a great way to get people downtown,” said La Grange Mayor Joe Davenport. He agreed with Eldridge that there have never been public restrooms available on Main Street. He says it is something that is very much needed.
He said there will also be “plenty of parking in the back.” Visitors can park and shop, and also check out the nearby train observation tower. They will be able to pick up literature about the town from the new Welcome Center and use its clean restroom facilities. The building will also contain a utility room and storage space.
The building next door to it at 210 E. Main St. is also currently vacant and will be sold and “that money used to renovate the property at 208 E. Main St.,” Davenport said. “There is a list of things suggested by the Historic District that needs to be done to the property at 210 to bring it up to standard.” Both properties have been used as incubator properties for the last decade, Eldridge said.
The locations “were successful for businesses that were just starting, until they could filter out,” said Eldridge.
Scot and Taren Winskye, owners of Ink Well Tattoo, started out in the building at 208 E. Main St. Taren Winskye said it was “Ink Well Tattoo’s first location. We moved here from Radcliff and were under a non-compete clause from his previous shop.”
The Winskye’s were in this location from August 2002 to October 2004.
Although it “seemed to fit our needs at the time, we soon outgrew it,” she said. As to its location on East Main Street, “We knew we weren’t dependent on walk-in traffic as much as (other businesses) because our clientele travels to us mostly. So being a little out of the way wasn’t as detrimental to us as it would be to some businesses.”
Ink Well Tattoo, which specializes in the artistic side of tattooing, eventually made the move to 108 E. Main St. “We grew to like the community and figured staying would be good for our family and realized we were becoming an anchor business.”
Davenport said he is “excited about this project. It’s a great addition to downtown La Grange. When I began my term, I said I wanted to move forward. This is just the right project to be working on.”
La Grange Crossroads District does have desk space available at CityPlace “if we are able to be there,” said Eldridge. Sometimes the organization is able to supply volunteer help to man the Visitor’s Center at CityPlace, but La Grange Crossroads would like to have a place of their own as well.
Eldridge expects the new Welcome Center to open after the first of the year. The rear portion of the building has been removed and will be replaced. City Council member Bill Lammlein is the architect for this project.
Several business owners in La Grange got their start in these houses, which afforded them the ability to start out with a small budget and have ample time to grow.

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