Alex and Emily Riddle appear to be typical young professionals, but their aspirations clearly reveal them as something special. In March they purchased The Amsden in downtown Versailles and are putting the finishing touches on the once derelict space.
Both in their late 20s, Alex Riddle hails from Woodford County, and Emily from Lexington. They were high school sweethearts at Lexington Christian Academy and married just after college.
At the time, Alex was working in the coffee industry in Haiti and Emily was working at Street Scene, a vintage retail business in Lexington, and getting her company, Miss Molly Vintage, off the ground. Emily’s degree is in art education from University of Kentucky, and Alex started out playing football at Centre College before a shoulder injury prompted a transfer to University of Kentucky. He left UK to pursue his career in Haiti before finishing his degree at Georgetown College.
The Amsden bank building was constructed in 1890, and is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Versailles. The building has been a variety of businesses since the bank closed in 1931. After years of neglect, it’s been meticulously renovated to restore much of its original character and is leasing for fall of this year. We asked the Riddles a little more about their motivation on this ambitious project and living the vintage life.
TLR: When did this passion for making old things new again begin for you guys?
ER: For me it has been a life-long passion. Alex is just catching up in the last couple of years, mostly due to our renovation of a historic home in downtown Versailles.
TLR: We live in a world full of disposable things, including clothing and housing. What gives you the desire to buck that trend?
AR: It really causes us physical pain to see these historic buildings throughout Central Kentucky (mostly in downtown areas) waste away and sit empty. We’re willing to take the first step because we believe in our vision and think that the community is ready to support small businesses and a revitalization of downtown areas. Emily sees the same thing in the treasures that she finds for Miss Molly Vintage in an old piece of furniture or a vintage piece of clothing.
TLR: With The Amsden on its way to new occupation, what are your other future aspirations?
ER: We hope The Amsden will be the first of many projects in the downtown Versailles area. We know that it will take more than one business to make Versailles the destination spot we envision, but we think this is the right start. We would also love to start flipping houses and doing custom renovations, hopefully also focused in Versailles. And we have a couple of other large projects in our sights.
TLR: Why did you select Versailles as your center of activity?
ER: Alex grew up in Woodford County, and his entire life the family drove past Versailles to get to activities in Lexington. As we grew up, we both saw a lot of potential for downtown Versailles and a lot of people in Versailles who are willing to support a local revitalization. We also just happened to find a home on Main Street in Versailles that we fell in love with, and that anchored us and gave us a “why.”
TLR: How have you achieved a balance of reasonable risk and chasing your dreams?
AR: Emily has an incredible vision and passion for what she does, and I’m really blessed to have a full-time job that I love and that supports us so that we are able to take risks through her business and both spend our days exactly the way we want. I work in a “commission-only” role at Rood & Riddle (Equine Hospital in Lexington), so risk is something that I am very comfortable with and even enjoy.
TLR: Emily, can you imagine yourself doing anything else?
ER: Honestly, no. I always had dreams of owning my own business, but I just had so many different passions and interests to narrow down. When I began working at a local vintage store in college, Street Scene, I fell in love with the retail world and started to see all those interests and passions come together. Without that experience, I likely would have been teaching. I know I would have not been happy teaching and would have been trying to do something creative on the side.
TLR: Alex, what is your day job at Rood & Riddle?
AR: I run sales and marketing for our compounding pharmacy. We do custom medications for horses and are launching into small animal (medications) in the next month. We’re a rapidly growing business, and I also enjoy figuring out the operational requirements of keeping up with our growth.
TLR: How have you built your tribe, professionally and personally?
AR: We are both blessed with incredibly supportive families who have been there every step of the way. What we have learned so far is that you aren’t going to be successful unless you put the best people around you, and we’re really lucky to have incredible partners – a bank, real estate agent, and contractor – who believe in our vision and go above and beyond to make it come true. I like to feel that my strength is putting amazing people around me so that I am the weakest link in the team, and I definitely feel that way about this group.