Preservation Station is the former West Louisville Elementary School in Owensboro, KY. The building functioned as a high school and an elementary school from 1937-2011. A major fire to the building in 1948 caused by a strike of lightning destroyed half of the building. The school system was able to salvage half of the building and add on to it; however the building lost its original classical appearance for the station-like look it has today. There has been a school on this site of land for as long as anyone from this area can remember.
West Louisville, you say? Please do not confuse this with the large city of Louisville, Kentucky. Way back in 1854, a tiny town outside of Owensboro, Kentucky was named "West Louisville" by a man named James A, Sivers, who built the first log cabin at this point, and kept the first whiskey shop, and kept the first grocery. Local legend says Mr. Sivers must have come from Louisville. He just happened to arrive 125 miles west of Louisville and believed West Louisville would be a good name for a town. Little did he know how much confusion that would cause all the future residents of West Louisville in regards to the mail and directions on how to get here.
Preservation Station is owned and operated by Jennifer Higdon and her mother Deborah Coomes. The mother-daughter partners had a vision for this facility way before the building, the former West Louisville Elementary School, was sold at auction in April 2012. The two had always wanted to open a curiosity shop filled with antiques, vintage finds, and wonderful bargains; the two never dreamed they would end up buying a 39,000 square foot elementary school together for that purpose.
"When I found out the building was going to be auctioned off, my imagination ran wild," says Jennifer Higdon. "I wanted to create a wonderful place with nostalgia for the past that would honor my ancestors and the people from this area of the county. I knew it was a big crazy dream, and I knew I had a slim chance of making it happen, but something inside me just kept saying I was being called to do this. Like I had to. Like I had no choice."
Jennifer Higdon began quietly sharing her dream with a few people. Her biggest supporter was, of course, her mother. "I believed in the dream too," says Deborah Coomes. "I wanted the dream for this area too. I wanted it just as bad, because I dove into the journey with my daughter with equal determination and sometimes greater determination. When Jennifer was discouraged, I'd pick her up and we'd keep putting one foot in front of the other."
"When you buy an elementary school at auction, plan on spending a long time with architects, engineers, and building code inspectors," says Jennifer Higdon. "We had a beautiful vision, but we didn't know quite what we had gotten ourselves into. Luckily, we had some mighty good people step up to help us on our journey- particularly Ben Grove of Hafer Associates and Jim Riney of HRG PLLC. It really has been an amazing faith-filled journey. Just when we have needed certain people, the people just seemed to materialize out of thin air- perfect strangers with just the skills we needed to make it through to the next step."
After a year and a half and many updates to the facility, the two finally received approval from the city to occupy the former elementary school as a retail facility and a community event center in June of 2013. For several years, the family was busy at work with cosmetic updates to the facility- replacing and refinishing flooring, painting, painting, and more painting, cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning, and much, much more.
The first event held at Preservation Station was on Saturday September 28th, 2013. The Daviess County Fiscal Court hosted a West Daviess County Community and Health Fair with free flu shots, free diabetes and cholesterol testing, and information from local governmental agencies and public servants.
The second event held at Preservation Station was in December 2013. The first Market Days event drew a crowd of thousands and a new monthly event was born.
While some have said Preservation Station's being off-the-beaten path might hinder the business, the partners believed it will only add to its curiosity and attractiveness. "This area of Daviess County, Kentucky is beautiful," says Deborah Coomes. "It's where I was born and raised and where, fortunately, I live now. It's a great scenic drive out here from Owensboro, and there are other things to do here as well like fishing, go-cart racing, camping, seeing a bluegrass show and more at Diamond Lake. You can also catch lunch at O'Bryan's or Hayden's or check out Kentucky's largest gun shop at Whittaker's." "Put your radio on play, we're only about three songs away," says Jennifer Higdon.
"Finally being able to open this business seemed like the end of a fairy tale, but I know it was just the start of a new story in our lives," says Jennifer Higdon. "We continue to look forward to the journey and all the wonderful people who become characters in this new chapter."
Deborah Coomes has spent her life in Owensboro KY, raising three children. In her twenties and thirties she enjoyed time as a lead singer in several bands opening up for some major acts and singing at a local restaurant with a pianist, providing dinner music, all while being active in the church and leading the teen choir. In her forties, she went back to school to become an RN and has worked at a local hospital. She currently works as a nurse manager in a veterans care facility. She was president of a local coalition in Owensboro when it received a million dollar grant to fight drug abuse by educating youth. She is married to David (Bucky) Coomes. It was her who instilled a passion for bargain shopping in her daughter, Jennifer.
Jennifer Higdon, daughter of Deborah Coomes, has spent over seventeen years in education, working with teenagers and teachers as a teacher and a staff developer. She co-owns The Tot, the Teen, and the Wardrobe Seasonal Consignment Sale (www.ttwky.com) with her sister-in-law, Stephanie Higdon. She is married to Scott Higdon, and together they have three children.
Jennifer says, "We owe getting this far to our husbands, my brothers, family, friends, and neighbors. Without all the hard labor they have given to us, we would not be this close to opening. Thank God for hard-working, giving, loving people!"
Since 2013, Preservation Station Market and Event Center has had over 55 Market Days, the first weekend of every month- each with over 100 vendors, live music, and delicious food. The entire facility is full of over 60 shops that are open daily Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both Deborah and Jennifer have been blessed by the wonderful vendors, friendships and employees that have crossed their paths.
In 2017, the Preservation Station Family Restaurant, a 100 seat facility was added- serving appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and entrees like catfish, fried, chicken and meatloaf and outstanding homemade desserts. The restaurant is open Tues, Wed, and Thurs 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fri and Sat 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays serving brunch and more 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Chef Deb is the house manager and she came to us with over 25 years experience in the restaurant industry.
In 2016, Deborah Coomes left nursing to be with Preservation Station Market and Event Center full-time, and in 2018 Jennifer Higdon left teaching to also be at Preservation Station Market and Event Center full-time. Both are looking forward to taking the facility to the next-level. Jennifer Higdon’s dream is for the place to one day be published in Country Living Magazine, since her dream began with photos she cut out of the magazine and pasted to a vision board, after reading the first story published on the Junk Gypsies and other similar stories of people with a unique passion for old things.