Third Street Stuff: Pat Gerhard
By Nicole Musgrave
One of the coffee and breakfast spots recommended to us by the host committee was Third Street Stuff on the edges of the North Limestone and Martin Luther King neighborhoods. With its vibrant exterior of brightly painted walls, Third Street Stuff stands out. The outside of the building is covered with bold colors and playful shapes, and so is everything else. The café’s patio is shaded by lush trees and bushes which are planted in painted metal garbage cans and buckets. The picnic tables are painted. Even the electric meter box is painted. And the inside of the shop picks up right where the outside leaves off. It seems as if every inch of the space is covered in paint or magazine clippings, found objects or chalk “graffiti.” Owner Pat Gerhard, a Pittsburgh native who’s lived in Lexington for 40 years, is a lifelong artist who has made Third Street Stuff into a lively art environment.
When I asked Gerhard about how the space evolved into an art environment, she explained,
"For as long as I have been able, I have always tried to paint my own space… I’m attracted to very expressive spaces. I watch them wherever I go. I always want to do it myself. And so, almost wherever I go — unless someone stops me — I want to have a lot going on. And I’m never quite satisfied. There’s always more. There’s another layer to be added, there’s more to be painted, or there’s something that should be changed. And I find a lot of energy in lively or active spaces."
Gerhard found the building in 1995. After many years of owning a wholesale business in which she and a handful of employees made art objects to sell — such as woven pieces, painted leather bags, and painted mirrors and boxes — Gerhard moved into the North Limestone location and left the wholesale business to open a small shop where she could sell her own painted objects. Then in the early 2000s when a Starbucks opened in the neighborhood, Gerhard shares,
“I fell in love with lattes, and I watched this neighborhood developing, and I only had a little store, and so I just knew there could be more interaction. If you didn’t need to buy something in a little store, how did I get more people involved? So in 2004 I opened a coffee shop.”
Gerhard has taken strides to make the shop interactive:
“I painted one wall black, flat back….and the people that come in here interact with the space in such an awesome way. They filled that wall up in a day…I love the interaction of the community with the space and I like to encourage it. I like to see what other people are thinking about and doing.”
Gerhard also keeps sketchbooks, notebooks, pens, and colored pencils around the shop for people to use. There’s a bucket of chalk for visitors to mark up the sidewalk outside, and there’s a white, enamel-top table that people can draw on with dry erase markers. Gerhard says,
“I’m trying to think of other ways because people like it so much, to be able to make marks. They really like it…I love to see that involvement, that expression.”
Although Gerhard isn’t currently focused on making art to sell, she keeps her artwork alive by painting the shop and painting objects to put into the shop.
“I’m painting the ceiling inside here and hanging words from the ceiling….I’m painting big sticks, great big, long sticks, branches from trees. I’m painting them black and white because I’m going to hang them from the ceiling inside where the words aren’t. I’m going hang sticks and hang things from the sticks, but what I’m going to hang from the sticks, I’m not really sure yet. Whether it’s more words or whether it’s painted coffee cups, or whether it’s a little bit of both. But they seem like really nice objects to hang. I paint everything that I’m allowed…unless somebody says ‘no’ I usually manage to paint it.”
Visit Third Street Stuff at 257 N Limestone #1, Lexington, KY 40507