LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A massive business hub on East Market and Main Streets is showing Louisville there is a light at the end of the tunnel after accomplishing a vision during a pandemic. NuLu Marketplace had its grand opening Wednesday with almost 100 percent of the venue filled with small and local businesses.
"Majority of the folks are local, they are small businesses, they are entrepreneurs and startups," developer Mo Deljoo said.
The vision of using old buildings to bring new life to NuLu started two years ago.
"I think this is going to be one of the premiere redevelopments in the entire country," Mayor Greg Fischer said. "It already is but as people start seeing what's going on here like this was a hard project."
Deljoo remained persistent despite challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Every day and every night we had to eat and breathe here to make sure this thing happens," Deljoo said.
As protesters called for racial equity and more diversity in one of Louisville's most popular business community, the chair of NuLu Diversity Empowerment Council, Andre Wilson, took action.
"We need to empower, we need to provide resources, we need a business incubator, we need to educate," Wilson said. "So, we’ve been doing diversity training, talking about microaggressions, gentrification."
NuLu had only one Black-owned business six months ago, but today it has four, according to Wilson.
"Probably I would say by the time you get into the Fall with our business incubator we'll be looking at about 15 to 20," Wilson said.
The marketplace offers food, bars, fashion, art, a speakeasy, office space and Airbnb rentals. The goal is to bring more people to shop and explore NuLu as the district continues to grow.
"We're a place that's community driven where everybody's welcome, everybody can find a place that they want to eat and drink or relax," Matt Bolus said who is the owner of Torino's Sandwich Bar and Gertie's Bar.
Bolus opened Gertie's Bar in Nashville and decided to come back to his hometown in Louisville to bring the business to NuLu.
Some of the businesses in NuLu Marketplace opened months ago while others opened in April.
"We've been looking actually for the right space here in Louisville for over five years and we looked at I mean buildings all around the town," Ben Self said of West Sixth Brewing.
Melissa Huff opened her spot just a week before the pandemic shut things down in March 2020.
"I literally was in shock I mean it took so much to get this space because the space was just a blank shell," Huff said. "Things aren't happening as quickly as we thought they would but finally now that things are opening up in the marketplace and things are picking up on the Main Street side things are a lot better."
To start bringing more foot traffic to the area NuLu Marketplace will host a live music series starting Saturday and every second Saturday of April.