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November 24, 2010

Keep Louisville Local: Pop art

PAUL LEPREE HOPES YOU LIKE WHAT HE LIKES

Ultra Pop! • 1414 Bardstown Road • 479-1035 • www.ultra-pop.com

If you’ve never wandered into the little shop near the happening corner of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway, the best way to describe it is an art/toy store that has oodles of funky collectibles, art books, cool clothing and gifts. Owner Paul LePree and his dog Fred have held the place down for the past three years, offering artsy swag that one isn’t likely to find anywhere else in Louisville.

What were you doing before you decided to take the big leap?

I was a district manager for a mall retail chain, and I worked for them for 10 years. I oversaw nine to 11 stores in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee.

What made you decide to open your own store?

From when I was very young, I knew I wanted to own my own business. I knew I wanted it to involve the things I loved and the hobbies I had, so I finally (did it). After traveling to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago and seeing other businesses, it kind of helped me put together the concept I wanted to do here in Louisville.

What was your backup plan?

I really didn’t have one. I kind of felt like I had no choice but to move forward with my dream. I’d given my notice at my other job, and when I worked my last day, I still don’t think I knew if my business loan was approved or not. It was kind of an all-or-nothing situation for me. It was a little scary.

What do you like best about owning your own business?

I like the personal nature of what I do. One of the benefits of owning your own business, you kind of fill it with stuff you like, but that can also be a double-edged sword because it can be a tough lesson sometimes in realizing that what you like isn’t necessarily what everyone likes.

The least?

The long hours and the fact that you just never know what your paycheck is going to be, and I don’t really even pull a paycheck — I pay my bills. It’s that uncertainty that can be one of the most challenging, and it can also affect your own self-confidence. Those slow days, you sit in here and no one comes in, and you think, “Am I doing something wrong … or is it just that there’s no one out shopping?” I make less right now than I’ve ever made in my life financially, but I still wouldn’t exchange that twice-a-month paycheck for this.

What does Louisville need more of?

I think it’s important that people remember that face-to-face contact or shopping in a physical store — you support so much more by doing that. I created this store as kind of a meeting place, because I didn’t really see one in Louisville that focused on the art that is off the beaten path. I think that it’s important for people to remember there are benefits gained by shopping in local stores that outweigh a 35-percent discount online, because you’re taking part in a movement and a culture. I think it’s important that people go and seek out this kind of stuff. I love people — that’s one of the reasons I do this. I do this to surround myself with stuff I love, and also to be able to interact, on a daily basis, with people, having intelligent conversations and just be part of something.