‘They see that smoke, they’re coming.’ | Neighbors see business trickle in as Derby crowd heads to Churchill Downs

Most of the homeowners surrounding Churchill Downs wait all year to tear up their lawns, bust out the grills, and make a profit.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — People who live and work near Churchill Downs rarely move away.

“We’ve owned this lot for about 25 years,” Moe Haag said, as he stood on the corner of Taylor Boulevard and Tennessee Avenue.

A few doors down, Sean McGruder was grilling out under a tent. “We’ve been here about 15 years,” he said.

Go another block and the smell of barbeque becomes even more inescapable.

“This is my sixth one,” answered Termaine Cary. The owner of Tim Page Corner Store will proudly tell you, “I named it after my daddy.”

Cary said this was his most profitable Derby yet.

After leaving the spot to open a new location, he returned to Taylor Boulevard just in time for the big race.

“My old customers, my new customers, people walking by,” Cary said. “They see that smoke, they’re coming.”

Back on Taylor and Tennesse, Haag’s empty lot tells a different story.

“We usually sell out,” Haag said. But this year, he said they’re only seeing about 20% of their typical Derby crowd. On a good year, he sells 75 parking spots at $40 apiece. This year, he sold around 15.

McGruder made even less than Haag this year, but he didn’t mind. “It’s beautiful out here,” he said.

The wind blew through the chimes on his porch as he leaned in to provide some more context.

“All of this killing out here and everything, just live life. Ya know, wake up every day and be happy. Bless God.”

While each neighbor to Churchill Downs experienced a new kind of Derby crowd this year, each person smiled, flipped a burger or brat, and looked forward to next year.

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