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Business seeing rebound as patrons plan return to Kentucky Derby – WBKO

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – The Kentucky Derby is now less than a month away.

Whether people are heading to the track or planning on attending a party, they may be doing something they haven’t done in two years: preparing for race day.

From feathers to bows, the fashions of Derby weekend are already coming together at The Hat Girls in St. Matthews.

“Everybody loves to do a little pink for Oaks Day, and we’ve got the reds, yellows, orange,” Kate Smith, who co-owns the hat design shop, said.

After a race with no fans last year, Smith and her business partner, Rachel Bell, said their inventory is up, but unlike 2020, so is demand.

“We are right on par with where we were in 2019,” Bell said. “So, we’re starting to feel like, even though capacity is a little bit dwindled down, people are ready to get out and we are ramping up.”

Infield-only general admissions tickets went on sale by Churchill Downs Wednesday. It was welcomed news to the store specializing in Derby headwear, including hats and fascinators.

“The good news is capacity just keeps going up,” Smith said. “So, things just keep getting better and better.”

So far, most of their customers are from out of town, but they claim that’s how it typically works.

“Most people we’ve been working with are actually planning on going to the track,” Smith said. “But, I think, this week is when we’ve started to get a lot more interest from local people. So, I think we’ll run into that, where it’s definitely some home parties and people going to the track.”

This year is also different for the pair who’ve been designing for Derby for almost a decade – and that’s not just because of the pandemic.

“Kate’s pregnant this year,” Bell said. “So, she’ll be sleeping a little bit more and I’m sure I’ll be picking up the slack in those last final weeks.”

They still expect a rush, but it’ll be a change from years past when the two said they put in 20-hour days for weeks and slept at the shop.

“We have 30 days to sell as many hats as we can and this is our entire year based around the Derby,” Bell said. “So, after a year off last year, we are ready to make some sales and make some more hats.”

When it comes to this year’s fashion trends of the first Saturday in May, those at the Hat Girls said they notice people are still being mindful of matching their masks with their outfits, adding that many are opting for fascinators and pastel colors.

Other than that, they said they aren’t noticing any other major themes in terms of style this year.

The Hat Girls is currently open by appointment only. Its operators said they plan to open to the public the two weekends heading into the Derby and have a presence at Downtown hotels.

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