COVINGTON, Ky. – One man is keeping an eye out for his community, but he can’t remember his own birthday. Maybe that’s because he’s ‘The Village Idiot’.
“I’m 54 today,” touted Charles Killian.
“What? Did I miss your birthday,” chimed in his life partner Chip Adkins, who also co-owns their walk-up coffee shop Pipers Café in Mainstrasse.
“Oh, wait! It’s tomorrow!”
The two bust out a hearty laugh, attributing his forgetfulness to old age.
But one thing that Killian, the self-proclaimed Village Idiot, never forgets is his community and is always in search of ways to make it better for those who live and work there, as well as those who visit. And that community gathered on Saturday to celebrate his efforts.
Hooray For Small Victories
Beginning at 1 p.m., the city of Covington and Mainstrasse Village community dedicated the newest kiosk on the corner of Sixth and Philadelphia streets in what will now be known as ‘Hamelin Square,’ just across from the clock tower.
The kiosk features a map of businesses, as well as flyers and upcoming events posted. Bringing everyone together for fun, positive experiences. Killian has already spotted passersby stopping by, lingering for 10 minutes at a time at the kiosk.
“I knew we did something good. It’s incredibly fulfilling,” said Killian of the kiosk which he was instrumental in making come to fruition. “It’s a testament to success. We need to concentrate on that stuff, not the negative.”
Shawn Masters, former Covington commissioner, agreed.
“I believe these types of projects are what make Mainstrasse a viable community, despite the air of negativity of late,” said Masters, who is now the chairman of the newly formed Northern Kentucky Democratic League.
“For those of us that have a vision for Covington, we must brush the negativity currently festering at city hall to the side, and do what we do best: love Covington for all the wonderful things she has to offer,” he said referring to the city’s ex-financial director embezzlement scandal as of recent.
Coming together as a community, he said, only strengthens the ties that bind Covington together, positively. And he owes the dedication to The Village Idiot.
Who’s The Idiot?
Originally from Owensboro, Ky., the 54-year-old (yes, 54, we’re sure this time), said he fell head over heels for Mainstrasse from the moment he stepped foot inside the village.
“It was a gut feeling. There is just an intangible attraction,” said Killian.
The one-man development company has been dedicated to Mainstrasse for nearly 30 years. In that time, he’s been a puppeteer, actor and property owner and rehabber.
He currently owns Hamelin Square, which consists of an 1878 residential structure and a smaller building on the site of its original carriage house.
When Killian purchased the property in 2005, it housed three businesses. Today, after repurposing the three-story Victorian home, there are seven businesses located there, including Piper’s Cafe, a law firm, a photography studio, bridal and ladies’ accessories shop, and a PR firm, as well as a 17-year mainstay tenant, The Magic Shop.
“Charles has done a tremendous job of rehabbing [his] property, paying close attention to detail, all while assuring that viable businesses are part of this property’s equation,” said Masters.
The more business he was venturing in to, the more his accountant and attorney urged him to create an LLC for his work. So, he diligently began the task of thinking of a name that would project who he was and what he was doing.
As a property owner, he said he feels naïve and fearless about trying out new things, especially in business decisions. And in the community, he stands out and speaks up.
“Many times, I feel like an idiot,” he gushed.
“I am a major curmudgeon sometimes in the village—some neighbors, especially the Mainstrasse Village Association, think I am crazy for being so persistently picky about quality of life and the standards folks set for themselves around me,” said Killian. “I tend to think most folks set their bars pretty low for themselves, so I usually stick out as the crazy, or idiotic one in the group, when it comes to what is acceptable in our village.
And that’s the day Mainstrasse’s very own Village Idiot was born.
It’s no surprise that his attorney wasn’t too keen on the idea, in fear of ever facing an opponent in court. The case would be “Someone v. The Village Idiot,” laughed Killian.
“Who do you think would win?” he scoffed.
It Takes A Village... And Its Idiot
Inspired by work resulting from a neighborhood strategic plan that Covington’s Center for Great Neighborhoods made possible, Killian set out to make the idea for a way-finding, community-announcement “kiosk” a reality.
The process from design to installation became a journey of three years, requiring some special effort on Killian’s part especially. A portion of his Hamelin Square property had to be ceded to the city in form of an easement, in order for the kiosk to find its home.
Hamelin Square is the second newly structured kiosk in Mainstrasse.
Last year, the city of Covington and Mainstrasse Village Association installed the first kiosk, as part of major improvements to the Fifth Street lot.
On Saturday, Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, Mainstrasse Village Association President Marty Boyer and other city officials dedicated the new kiosk and celebrated with their Village Idiot; all while the Rabbit Hash String Band performed.
Bringing politicians together for a common goal and helping his city flourish by one simple kiosk at a time? Maybe… he’s not so idiotic.
Northern Kentucky Voice: Your Voice, Your Story is a periodic and ongoing series on WCPO.com about the people of Northern Kentucky making a difference in their community. If you would like to tell your story, or know someone who should, email Jessica Noll at Jessica.Noll@wcpo.com.