If you're yearning for handmade home decor or fabulous jewelry, come to Louisville.

Treat Yourself on This Street
Credit: Meg McKinney

My friend Susan told me she'd gladly take me shopping on Bardstown Road, one of Louisville's premier streets for browsing and dining. "But I'm not buying anything," she said firmly. Famous last words.

She didn't last five minutes at our first stop, Swanson Reed Galleries. The 22-year-old shop gleamed with glass ornaments of every hue hanging in its large front window.

Susan Reed, one of the owners, said the shop is known for the glassware. "We sell beautiful art glass for not out-of-sight prices," she said. (Ornaments range in price from $10 to $72.)

Meanwhile, my friend, her resolve already crumbling, was transfixed by a lamp sporting a cherry-red paper shade ($45). "Don't say a word," she warned as we put our purchases in the trunk of her car. "That lamp is just the color of my love seat. But that's it. No more."

Wisely, I held my tongue.

Swanson Reed Galleries: 1377 Bardstown Road; (502) 452-2904. Edenside Gallery: 1422 Bardstown Road; (502) 459-2787. Discoveries: 1315 Bardstown Road; (502) 451-5034. Kizito Cookies: 1398 Bardstown Road; (502) 456-2891 or www.kizito.com. Leatherhead Shop, Inc.: 1601 Bardstown Road; (502) 451-4477.

Edenside Gallery has been a fixture on Bardstown Road for 12 years. "We have an eclectic collection of fine arts, crafts, and home furnishings," said owner Nancy Peterson. "We're best known for our extensive art jewelry collection, and we also offer estate jewelry.

"This is a historic neighborhood," she continued. "We sell to many different age groups and income levels, so we have a variety of gifts and prices." Mosaic trays ($195) made by a local artist keep company with wooden bowls ($60). Nancy likes to find different objects, such as graphite in the shapes of feathers and seashells that also serve as writing implements ($38).

As Nancy was talking, I saw Susan quietly paying for a pair of silver earrings. I pretended not to notice.

Soon we were in Discoveries, a store filled with ethnically diverse goods. I was immediately drawn to the tambourine from Kenya ($28), made of bottle caps, wire, and wood.

Jenny Kremer, who is the store's manager, said that the business represents 150 different vendors. "The merchandise comes from places such as Mexico, Africa, central Asia, and India," she explains.

Discoveries also puts an emphasis on ethnographic artifacts and textiles. Owner Donna Stone showed us bowls made of used telephone wire ($38) and bracelets fashioned from old manual typewriter keys ($68).

Susan and I both lost our battle of the billfold with the lucky pigs--a palm-size pottery pig ($4.50). "It's a token of friendship," said Jenny, "and it's also supposed to bring good luck."

"Good luck not buying anything else," I said, laughing, as we went into Kizito Cookies. Elizabeth Kizito, Louisville's beloved cookie lady, greeted us with a smile that could melt granite. Her loyal customers choose from biscotti, brownies, 7 types of muffins, and 10 different cookies.

"My favorite is peanut butter," said Elizabeth. She also ships gift boxes, trays, and baskets. (Six cookies cost $4.50; one costs 85 cents.) Susan and I bought one of everything to enjoy later. The cookie called "Lucky in Kentucky" pretty much sized up how I felt on this chilly afternoon. Very broke, but lucky indeed.

Our last stop was Leatherhead Shop, Inc., a local institution since 1967. Owner Nick Boone taught himself the art of leatherworking at age 5.

"We're a custom leather and repair shop," he said. "People come in when they want something different--a work belt, a dress belt, or a guitar strap."

The ergonomic guitar strap ($125) is Nick's latest hot item. "The strap is designed so there's not as much pressure on the trapezoid muscle because the weight is distributed more evenly," he explained. His custom-made belts are also popular.

We watched Nick work on a guitar strap; then we enjoyed browsing his store, which features Frye and Lucchese boots, leather coats, hats, and bags.

With our car packed full, Susan and I had empty wallets. Bardstown Road had worked its shopping magic again.

This article is from the January 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.