Local business captures the spirit of Kentucky


Kentucky for Kentucky, a Lexington-based company specializing in Kentucky themed apparel and gear, opened their second Lexington location in the Food Barn at the Summit at Fritz Farm. Lauryn Haas | Staff

Lauryn Haas

“Kentucky kicks ass.”

You’ll find this unmistakable slogan across the t-shirts, the flags and behind the registers in neon at the second location of Kentucky for Kentucky, a Lexington-based company with apparel and gear that is anything but your ordinary spirit wear.

Partner and co-founder of Kentucky for Kentucky Whit Hiler was approached by The Summit at Fritz Farm, a Lexington destination that combines restaurants, shopping and Kentucky culture, to open a location of his retailer in the Food Barn. Combining the casual feel of a food hall with the community support of local businesses, the Food Barn was the perfect location to expand the message of Kentucky for Kentucky. The location opened in September 2017.

“We started this brand as a side project back in 2011 when we tried to crowd fund a Super Bowl commercial for the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Hiler said. “In the end, we only raised $100,000 of the $3.5 million needed, but we got a lot of folks talking about how awesome Kentucky is.”

The spirit of Kentucky shouts from the sweatshirts, mugs, socks and posters sold at the 450-square-foot retail space. Message boards, Lexington Avenue road signs, hand-woven wooden designs and the ABC’s of Kentucky line the walls of the white-paneled shop. A painting of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey on a Campbell’s soup can hangs above a “Jabbatucky” t-shirt on a metal pipe, proudly adorning an image of Jabba the Hutt. A mannequin models a Gucci fanny pack over a bourbon tee.

The flagship location of Kentucky for Kentucky, on 720 Bryan Ave., is called the Kentucky Fun Mall and contains 12,000-square-feet of retail, office and warehouse space. The fun-sized version of the store in the Food Barn “offers a much more curated selection of our goods,” Hiler said.

Abby Matracia, a Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies senior and employee at Kentucky for Kentucky’s second location since mid-September, said that this location reflects the same message as the original location, but she noted the absence of the famed cocaine bear, a trademark of Kentucky for Kentucky. The smaller size of the store, however, allows her to interact with every customer and hear their beloved Kentucky stories.

“My favorite part about working here is the people that come in… Everyone has been so nice,” Matracia said. “A lot of people have really fun stories about how their families knew Colonel Sanders for example, fun cities they’re from, or just stuff about Kentucky.”

Kentucky for Kentucky expands its voice beyond retail. In addition to the Super Bowl commercial funding, it started a petition to have Kentucky’s state drink changed from milk to bourbon. It even translated the beloved Southern smell of fried chicken into a candle to bring the flavor of Kentucky into homes everywhere.

“I think Kentucky for Kentucky is very different from typical retailers for a lot of reasons. We didn’t start this company to become a retailer, we started it to promote the awesomeness of Kentucky,” Hiler said. “Our mission statement is to promote Kentucky’s people, places and things. And to kick ass for the Commonwealth.”