Lewis Prince, owner of the Red Barn Antiques & Art Emporium, and Prince Home - Antiques, Art, Collectables and Decor on Old Shelbyville Road in Middletown.

Lewis Prince Is Enjoying Life Post-Retirement in the World of Antiques and Collectibles

Red Barn Antiques & Art Emporium, and Prince Home – Antiques, Art, Collectables and Decor, sit side by side on Old Shelbyville Road in Middletown. More than a century old, the structures house sister businesses owned by Lewis Prince and his wife of over 49 years, Linda. Prince had a whirlwind corporate career that included developing cutting-edge technical advances of the time. In retirement, Prince took a 180-degree turn to enter the world of antiques and collectables. One thing has stayed steadfast; the couple has continued to have a heart for the history and philanthropic causes of the Louisville area, as evidenced by their desire to give back to the community.

Before Prince retired at age 63, he worked for well-known, major corporations and lived in several different states. Originally from Georgia, Prince served in the Army for six years. He was stationed in Germany, Korea and Turkey. Afterward, his brother-in-law lured him to Bowling Green by offering a job, but instead Prince opted for college in Louisville.

“I used the GI bill to go to college,” he says. “I applied on a Wednesday, got accepted on Monday and started the next week. My brother-in-law wanted me to work for him while I was taking classes, but I wanted to do it right and just focus on school. I got degrees in sociology and political science because I thought I would go to law school, but instead I began working for the Burroughs Corporation in 1974.”

At that time the Burroughs Corporation supplied accounting machines to major banks. A pioneer in data processing, the company developed the technology to read magnetics for ledgers and checks. In the late 1970s Burroughs was instrumental in developing computer systems. Prince was a project manager for a line of products and spent 13 years with the company, traveling all over the world and working both in Louisville and Detroit.

Next, Prince relocated to New Jersey and went to work with AT&T for four years. While in New Jersey, he partnered with a group that bought a company that sold pagers to large national companies and their employees. Eight years later it went public and sold it for more than $30 million. The group then began buying up small internet companies. They consolidated them into a data processing center, which he later sold. His last business endeavor was a company that produced and sold telescoping ladders to establishments such as Sam’s Club and QVC.

“I retired to play golf but I got bored, so I bought the Red Barn,” Prince says. “The barn has special meaning for us. It was built on cinder blocks in 1904. It has two big doors and they used to work on Model A cars inside it. Our uncle died at age 97 about nine years ago. He told us he used to sit in front of the building and drink an RC Cola while he watched cars go by.”

“The little house next door came with the purchase,” he adds. “It became Prince Home. We don’t control what merchandise is in the Red Barn but everything in Prince Home is our stuff. When we opened the Red Barn, we came up with the idea of renting out shelves as well as booths. Shelves are a good way for someone to start out for a minimal amount, and we don’t tell them what to put on it.”

The inside of Red Barn Antiques & Art Emporium is full of diverse objects and furniture, some vintage and others just kitsch. In one corner there is a wooden phone booth, and an ornately painted Singer sewing machine, and lots of toys sit a few steps away. Visitors can find children’s books, Hanna-Barbera dolls, mugs, buttons, Beanie Babies, M.A. Hadley pottery, records and more.

The layout next door at Prince Home is divided up into rooms. There is a dining area and kitchen, she shed and man cave, and a collectibles and jewelry room. Items are grouped appropriately. There are plenty of dishware, prints, paintings and even an old phone or two. Shoppers can find vintage Kentucky Derby memorabilia including an official Kentucky Derby mint julep glass – prized collectibles since the 1940s.

“As seasons change we transfer stuff in and out of storage,” Prince says. “It’s hard to predict what people will buy. Big things take a while to sell. Sometimes we donate large pieces of furniture to Goodwill or another charity to make space for other things. Our merchandise comes from estate sales, online auctions or people downsizing from houses in the neighborhoods. We recently acquired 40 paintings, some dating back from the 1890s.”

Estate sales are the source of an extensive selection of costume jewelry. Prince estimates that there are between 30,000 and 40,000 pieces in inventory between both stores. Some customers buy it and use it for their own art creations. Linda sells a portion of it through her Etsy shop, LDBling. These items are not found on display, but visitors to the little house can ask a sales associate to view them. Likewise, if someone is from the Louisville area, they can save shipping costs and get a 10% discount on specific items if they pick up their LDBling purchases at the brick-and-mortar store.

“Our customers range from their 20s to late 70s and hear about us through word of mouth,” Prince says. “Some people come in looking for art deco, pieces from the early 1940s through 1950s, or for something specific. A couple ladies are from Japan and one is from Turkey. They buy things and ship them back home. One heartwarming thing that happened is when a son bought a key for his 75-year-old father. His dad had lost a key a mayor had given him many years ago, and this one looked just like it. They son relayed back that it gave his father so much joy to get it.”

Set designers from the movie industry are also customers. Due to a Kentucky tax incentive, there have been several recent films shot in the Louisville area. Prince says staff from a movie came in several months back to purchase objects. Sometimes he loans them out, but if they pay for things, he is willing to rebuy them.

Visit the businesses at 12125 Old Shelbyville Road in Louisville. For more info, call 502-245-8330.

“Linda and I believe in giving back,” Prince says. “We help where I can, and it means something special to us to get involved in causes. It can be as simple as supporting a concert pianist who performs in prison, to my wife giving away thousands of Beanie Babies at Christmas. We contribute to lots of charities and organizations such as Brightside Gallopalooza, which beautifies the streets of Louisville with local artists’ painted horses.”

“I get up in the morning and feel good,” he adds. “I still play 18 holes of golf on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and try to walk 10,000 steps a day. I’ve had a full life and enjoyed the heck out of it.”


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