A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Secret NKY: Around the Corner Fabrics shop stitches its history into iconic theatre in Latonia

By Kathy Witt
Special to NKyTribune

Bolts of colorful cotton line the walls of a building where black and white movies were once shown more than eight decades ago.

The Kentucky Theatre is described as a “Two-story movie theater with altered first floor extending across street-level with deeply recessed entrance. The upper facade, which now appears set back, is of tawny brick with pairs of modest double windows and a dramatic central feature rising above its flat parapet.” (Photo by Kathy Witt)

The Kentucky Theatre opened in 1939 at 15 West Southern Avenue in Covington’s Latonia neighborhood. The 800-seat movie house brought such flicks to its single screen as the 1938 comedy crime caper, “There’s That Woman Again,” starring two-time Academy Award winner Melvyn Douglas and Virginia Bruce, a leading ladies of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood.

With an original façade of turquoise and yellow terra cotta, the theatre with its Art Deco styling stood out amidst the low suburban-style storefronts on this block, now part of the Ritte’s Corner Historic District.

In the district’s National Register of Historic Places listing, the theatre is described as having “a dramatic central feature rising above its flat parapet. This feature consists of a red wirebrick (laid with stretchers only) quadrant-curved vertical form with horizontal bands of buff brick set diagonally on edge.” The word Kentucky was spelled out down the length of the vertical form.

The façade is no longer turquoise, although the quadrant-curved vertical form still rises high into the sky and the letters spelling out Kentucky are still visible. As dramatic as this feature is, it goes unnoticed by many who walk or drive past the building.

According to the website, CinemaTreasures.org, the theatre was still open in 1957.

Around the Corner Fabrics shop owner Kelly Richardson Nicely and her dedicated shop volunteers Beverly Lewis and Ora Moore.
(Photo Around the Corner Fabrics)

Sixty-four years later, in 2021, Kelly Richardson Nicely repurposed part of the old theatre for Around the Corner Fabrics, a shop geared to quilters, sewists and textile artists. In place of popcorn, soda and other concessions once sold here customers now find fabrics, battings, notions, patterns and books, shop-created kits and a selection of gifts.

Nicely offers quilt finishing services (longarm and/or binding) as well as textile memory treasures and commissioned sewing/quilting requests. Additionally, the shop holds classes on a variety of needle arts topics, like Layer Cake Custard Quilting, Flannel Rag Quilting and Quilt as You Go projects. (Find upcoming classes on the shop’s Facebook page.)

Coincidentally, Nicely is the related to the family that owns the building.

“After the theatre shut down it was purchased by my uncle, who transformed it into apartments and commercial spaces,” says Nicely. The building has been in the family ever since.

Sewists gather at Around the Corner Fabrics for a variety of classes, like Date Night with your Sewing Machine at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2.(Photo: Around the Corner Fabrics)

Nicely has been sewing all her life, having learned the craft at her grandmothers’ knees. Through Around the Corner Fabrics, she wants to help customers achieve their sewing project goals and encourage the art of sewing for generations to come. Nicely liked the Latonia neighborhood for her shop’s home because she lives in the area, and she chose the building not only because her cousins own it but because it also gives the old theatre a new purpose.

Find the clue for the old Kentucky Theatre in Kathy Witt’s book, Cincinnati Scavenger: The Ultimate Search for Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures, which features seven walkable neighborhoods in Northern Kentucky, including Latonia, among the 19 neighborhoods in the book.

Learn more about the book, Covington’s Latonia neighborhood and the theatre’s history at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, when the Behringer-Crawford Museum presents the NKY History Hour, “Cincinnati Scavenger Goes On Location: Around the Corner Fabrics and the Kentucky Theatre.” Kelly Richardson Nicely will discuss the shop and the building.

Secret NKY is inspired by Kathy Witt’s books, Cincinnati Scavenger: The Ultimate Search for Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures (Northern Kentucky’s and Southeast Indiana’s, too!), and Secret Cincinnati: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful & Obscure.

Kathy has become a regular columnist for the NKyTribune and is currently writing Perfect Day Kentucky, due in Fall 2023. For more information about her books, visit the Secrets & Scavengers Facebook page. Email Kathy at KathyWitt24@gmail.com.

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