An interview with Jeannette Bahouth, Executive Director and Hannah Rose Neuhauser, Program Director

Client Interview: The Opposite Shop

Young Author’s Greenhouse is a creative writing and tutoring nonprofit in Louisville. Young Author’s Greenhouse operates the storefront, The Opposite Shop. The Opposite Shop follows the model of 826 Valencia, a national nonprofit co-founded by author (and board member) Dave Eggers, the organization’s writing lab is connected to an immersive storefront that supports both the functioning of the organization and the imagination of students.

They came to us with an idea for the storefront: a store inherited by twins who saw themselves as so irreconcilably different that they split the shop down the middle to bring their own visions to life. It was a magnetic idea that carried a poignant lesson underneath the surface: we might all have more in common after all. We became their partners in imagination, helping them bring the store to life without compromising a detail.

The Opposite Shop officially opened its doors this fall.

Interview by Jenny Cobb

JC How do you describe the work of the Opposite Shop? Why do you think it is important?

JB/HRN The Opposite Shop manifests the very spirit of our writing center. We believe in creating an environment that encourages imagination, discovery, and inquiry—an environment that is brave, safe, and inclusive. This is reflected in the shop—a space that is weird and unique, full of surprises and jokes. A person can find and purchase professionally made student-authored books, well-designed t-shirts and swag, as well as helpful tools for adventures made in the clouds or deep in the sea. Students enter the writing lab through a submarine hatch—a portal to exploration and support. Here, anything is possible.

“It’s very creative and freeing, you know. At school, you can’t just pull out a piece of paper and start writing. The teacher will notice you and you’ll be in trouble and get detention for not paying attention!” — Crenshaw, age 13

JC What is the significance of having this space in your community?

JB/HRN Louisville has a large school system, a vibrant art scene, and an incredibly philanthropic community, but there is still a great deal of inequity and writing scores are among the lowest subjects tested in our district (with only 1 in every 3 students in middle school writing at grade level). We serve all of Louisville with free writing programs while prioritizing those areas of our city that are historically under-resourced. We chose the city’s underserved Portland neighborhood and a former community center for young people as our headquarters. We are cultivating a community of shared learning—a space for students and volunteers to engage in conversation and find joy in learning. Young Authors Greenhouse creates a space for young writers to be heard and valued.

JC That is great. How has it been received in the community?

JB/HRN People enter our space with a sense of wonder, and a bit of confusion, which is exactly what we want. We love that the Opposite Shop makes our space jarringly different from any other store or learning environment nearby. Students and families feel a sense of belonging that they are not always able to find in other spaces. The community has been incredibly supportive; we have volunteers of all ages and backgrounds and our young writers love finding other young people who share their same interests:

“I feel comfortable because I’m with people who like the things that I like, writing and drawing, and I can be myself. Mostly.” — Nate, age 13

JC What do you see as the next big opportunity for the Opposite Shop and Young Authors Greenhouse?

JB/HRN We are about to start our second semester of programs in our space. With the opening of the Opposite Shop, we are able to be fully functional and our goal is to bring more students through our doors—particularly for our field trip program, where we host classes of students for a morning of writing. We need to match our snazzy new center with slick promotion that captures the magic of our mission and encourages even more young people, teachers, and volunteers to get involved.

JC How has the branding work we have done together furthered the mission of the Opposite Shop?

JB/HRN The branding work makes the Opposite Shop real and believable. We want people to walk into the store and think, wait a second, is this actually a—what is this place? Are the twins real? Having smart, sharp branding does the heavy lifting of making the store authentic.

“I really liked talking to the other kids. They just seem really nice and they are fun to talk to. They don’t treat me like I’m the weirdest person ever, which it seems like everyone does at my school. It’s actually helped me improve on my social skills. A lot.” — Maddie, age 10

JC I love that. Such a fun story. Anything else?

JB/HRN Our work establishing the Opposite Shop branding experience — our split store Airship Emporium and Deep Sea Supplies — will have a rippling effect ... thousands of students will walk through our doors and think about writing in a whole new (dawn-like) light.