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Spotlight on London: A thriving and growing downtown district

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Posted at 7:29 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 19:29:16-04

LONDON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The heart of London’s downtown district is adorned in mounds of colorful flowers and is thriving with new businesses opening on every corner.

Main Street is where people go to be together in London.

“We feel like better friendships are established when you meet on Main,” said Local Honey owner Phil Smith.

Local Honey opened in February and serves ‘hip, eclectic comfort food’ inside what was once a frame shop at 300 N Main St.

Smith said the location was ideal for several reasons, but one of the most important being their passion for creating a downtown area their community can be proud of.

“To me, Main Street of any city is always that heart and soul of the community,” he said. “We feel like this is where most people connect.”

London Downtown is a non-profit focused on the economic growth of the district.

Over the past few years, the organization has poured its energy into investing in local businesses to create an area where events are frequent and business is booming.

“When you see a live, vibrant downtown, you can tell that the community is alive and they care. To me, that’s a place I want to be,” said Julie Rae, the executive director of London Downtown. “We want it to be a place that people can come and enjoy.”

Their efforts have made a visible difference.

For several years, many storefronts sat empty.

“Now we don’t have enough buildings to put those people in,” Rae said.

Rae said even the coronavirus didn’t slow them down. No businesses closed permanently as a result of the pandemic.

The area's success drew the attention of London native Chloe Hopkins, who held her own grand opening in May.

“It’s the perfect spot,” she said.

She owns The Bluegrass Baker where she sells all kinds of sweets, including macarons, cake, cupcakes, and her grandmother’s famous chocolate chip cookies.

“People love them. They come and buy them by the dozens,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said she considered opening the bakery in Louisville, where she worked at the time, but her heart was in her hometown.

Seeing the booming downtown district finally sold her on the idea to move back home.

“I’m really excited to bring something new to London that wasn’t here before,” she said. “We’ve had people from all over come to try our treats.”

“That’s what you want. You don’t want an empty downtown. You want people that are excited to get in,” Rae said.

Rae said the more excited local business owners are to be downtown, the more excited people are to go there. And London can only continue growing from there.