Topper Corner celebrates opening with ribbon cutting

Natalie Perry

The flash of cameras and round of applause interrupted the otherwise dreary Thursday afternoon as the bright red ceremonial ribbon was cut in front of WKU’s new Topper Corner in the Stadium Park Plaza courtyard.

The ribbon cutting ceremony took place at 3 p.m. outside of the new WKU store. Gary Meszaros, assistant vice president of business and auxiliary services at WKU, delivered a brief introduction to the audience of local business owners, city commissioners, Hot Rods employees and WKU personnel scattered out among the racks of t-shirts and tables full of local artisan sculptures, paintings and bar-ware.

Topper Corner is a boutique style store that sells various items such as WKU merchandise, Hot Rods merchandise and community and student artwork. Store hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The boutique is accessible from inside of the Starbucks or from a separate outdoor entrance, and sits between Starbucks and 6-4-3 Sports Bar. 

Meszaros introduced and thanked those who helped in the process of getting the store up and running. Including Jerry Katzoff, the lead developer of Stadium Park Plaza.

“I think the store really brings the university closer to downtown,” Katzoff said.

Sharing a space and conference area with the neighboring Starbucks, Meszaros and Katzoff hope to see the two businesses benefiting each other and the whole downtown area. Customers, especially students will buy some coffee and walk down the hall to check out the new deals and art in the boutique, Meszaros said.

“We think it’s going to be a good synergy,” Meszaros said. “We’re going to try to co-promote some things in the future, like if you buy a shirt you get a Starbucks gift card or a 20 percent discount. That’s sort of a longer term plan.”

Recruited from Houston to manage Topper Corner, Rebecca Elder returned to her childhood home of Bowling Green. Elder spent part of her childhood growing up on Normal Street, and both of her parents worked for WKU. Elder has previous boutique management knowledge from owning a shop in Houston. With such strong ties to Bowling Green, Meszaros said he, along with the rest of the search committee, is confident that they made the right choice hiring Elder to manage the store.

Students can sell their artwork, photography and handmade goods in the boutique. The store will act as a gallery to display student and community works. Topper Corner will take a commission fee of 25 percent out of whatever the artist chooses to charge for the piece. Elder is currently looking to meet with local artists about displaying and selling their pieces.

President Gary Ransdell spoke before the ribbon cutting, welcoming Elder back to Bowling Green and asking people to suggest ideas for fresh new merchandise, art or any item that relates to WKU. Ransdell said Topper Corner is looking to include unique items in their inventory not found anywhere else.

“We want this store to be a part of what makes downtown Bowling Green a destination place not just across our community but all the communities that surround us,” Ransdell said.

The new bus stop serving the downtown area and free parking in the new parking garage downtown for students is going to make Topper Corner and downtown easily accessible to students. Due to the loss of parking on campus, students will be able to park in the garage without a permit and ride the red line bus to their stop.

“I have been here all day, and I’ve seen 50 buses run by,” Katzoff said. “I’ve seen students sitting out there on the corner with coffee waiting for the bus.”

Lynn O’Keefe, the owner of Gallery 916, said she hopes the new integration of WKU business downtown will benefit her and other local business owners. O’Keefe wants to see more art not only in Topper Corner but also all over Bowling Green. More interest in exploring downtown and all it has to offer is what is going to help businesses, she said. O’Keefe spoke to Elder about having more independent art in the store.

“All of these things are nice, but you can get stuff like this in the bookstore,” O’Keefe said. “Let’s get more one-of-a-kind things.”

The Topper Corner will have a grand opening celebration on Oct. 22 at 10 a.m.

Reporter Natalie Perry can be reached at 270-745-6011 and at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @natalie__carter.