Sarah Roush
 Potter, Paducah, Kentucky 

An innovative, creative artist-turned-businesswoman survives all odds to see her dream become a reality.

There's a new bookstore in a renovated building in downtown Paducah, Kentucky called Books on Broadway. At first glance, it would be difficult to tell that the business and building hadn't thrived for years. Antique light fixtures hang graciously from the lacquered, tin ceiling. Books, cards, magazines and gifts are placed meticulously on generous book shelf space. There are quiet, comfortable areas to relax, browse, ponder. A small section of the mezzanine offers patrons coffee, bagel sandwiches and specialty desserts.


Begging for restoration
Built in 1893, the historic, three story Weille building begged for restoration or, more appropriately, demolition. Years of neglect left large gaping holes in the roof and walls, threatening the building's structural integrity. The third floor housed an established roost of street pigeons. Each spacious floor was littered with years of accumulated debris left by preceding owners. The Weille was a major project few, if any, would chose to take— with the exception of Sarah Roush.
While on a luncheon date with a local businessman, Sarah was convinced to look at a property he had for sale the Weille. "The site was an overwhelming mess," Sarah recalled. "There was no electricity or water, floors were out, the elevators didn't work, the roof leaked. Though others refused the project I embraced the challenge. I bought the building, against my husband's wishes."
A self-proclaimed cockeyed optimist, Sarah invited a number of contractors and other professionals to view the Weille building and it's left-behind contents. "Everyone looked at the place and said, 'no way' adding it would cost over a half million dollars to renovate," Sarah winced. "I was turned down by the local Main Street Association for a construction loan and went head-to-head with the city architect over a colorful paint scheme for the building's facade."
Buyer's remorse
Refusing to be discouraged, Sarah patched together a loan by borrowing against her life insurance policy and taking a second mortgage on her home. She worked tirelessly on her recently acquired project. "Sometimes I would just drive by the Weille building and look at it," Sarah explained. "There were days I had buyer's remorse, often feeling overwhelmed and powerless. Sometimes I was so depressed I would just roam around from floor to floor taking photos."
It was during this time Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery she recalls laying in the hospital bed feeling doomed. Like the Weille building, her world seemed to be crumbling around her. But she never gave up her dream.
On the road to recovery
Back on her feet, Sarah continued with her project. In addition to the renovation, Sarah chose to create her architectural trademark tiles for the first floor of the Weille building. After removing 84 dump truck loads of waste, an archaic boiler, and importing a crane to remove several, spent, 900 pound air conditioning units, Sarah made room for a makeshift studio on the third floor. In her estimation, this tile project required a change in her clay body formula from a clay she used in a previous project.


Sarah contacted Pat Powell, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Old Hickory Clay Company in Hickory, Kentucky, for his advice on an appropriate clay formula. Ultimately a high fire product able to withstand the rigors of rapidly changing weather conditions in Western Kentucky was required. With the help of Pat's ceramic engineers, Old Hickory Clay Company suggested creating a clay that was 45 percent ball clay and 55 percent Feldspar. Though the tile designs hadn't changed from a previous project, Second Street Studio, glazes used were of the cone 5, less brilliant variety, lending an entirely new look to her work.
Start to finish, Sarah's Weille building project took two years to complete. The first floor she rents to the Books on Broadway bookstore, and the third she uses exclusively as her studio, complete with a darkroom for her photographic interests. The second level of the 14,000 sq. ft building she leases to Gresham Associates, an architectural and engineering firm. "The front of the second floor is designed to be a gallery with access from the mezzanine," Sarah explained. "Behind the glass atrium is room for a studio and living quarters. I'm hoping to rent this space to an artist-type like myself."
Concentrating on her artwork
For now, with the majority of the Weille project behind her, Sarah seems satisfied to relax and concentrate on her artwork. As for the future, Sarah would like to work within the Paducah community— perhaps with gifted and talented students.
With care and attention the Weille building should last another hundred years— thanks to Sarah. She is a fine example of an artist turned businesswoman. In addition, she tackled the seemingly impossible. With vision, determination and perseverance made her dream a reality.