A far cry from the hustle and bustle--and more--of Friday night’s Fourth Street, the area was a few decibels quieter on a humid Tuesday afternoon. As always, in spite of the relative quiet, the city of Louisville is a bustle of innovation, quickly changing--and Louisville leading lady Amy Lewis is playing a part in that change.
Lewis, now the assistant general manager of Mercury Ballroom and the Louisville Palace music venue, has been at the helm for the past 3 years. A University of Cincinnati alumni and a southeast native, Lewis has quickly earned a reputation as an innovative, energetic individual and leader with a unique perspective on the business. Her willingness to work with and handle risk, she says, doesn’t hurt.
“I think I’m able to take more risks and be a little bit more aggressive in my approach,” said Lewis. “I don’t have children or a husband or family, so I’m able to be a little riskier with my decision making. And that works for me.”
After completing her education at the University of Cincinnati and Antonelli College, Lewis dove headfirst into the complex world of corporate leadership, working with the Jeff Ruby’s restaurant group and contributing to its expansion.
“That was a key position for me because I learned so much in that one role,” said Lewis. “I was there for twelve years with Jeff, opened ten restaurants and two nightclubs with him in five different cities.”
Lewis not only took control of all marketing and advertising for the company, but also worked hands-on in business operations, working directly with chefs, managers, and restaurant business. At the advent of her first major career change, she was named Director of Beverage and Nightlife Operations at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I was always drawn to hospitality,” said Lewis, “and because that’s such a high level of service, they [her skills] have always all worked together.
“They were looking for someone with a marketing background, food and beverage experience,” continued Lewis. “I was chosen for that position by someone who knew exactly what they wanted and thought I was a good candidate--which was flattering!”
Leadership, curiosity, and a drive to learn and grow are, said Lewis, important to her life and career, as is a penchant for risk and the arbitrary aspect of work in business. Having moved without much warning from to Tropicana Casino and Resort location in Cincinnati to the location on the east coast, Lewis values her ability to adapt.
“I’ve always been able to go from job to job taking my skill set, being able to apply it, and then adding a new element,” said Lewis of her mindset. “It [work at Live Nation] was something new.”
Lewis arrived at her current position in a roundabout way; her introduction to Michael Grozier, executive vice president of theater and club operations at Live Nation, took place at a Cincinnati bar. Grozier was impressed by Lewis’s thorough knowledge of the Cincinnati area, and when an executive position opened up with Live Nation, the rest was history.
“Long story short, we struck up this long conversation, and he ended up hiring me to consult with them,” said Lewis. “I never thought that I would go from restaurant to casino to music, but it worked out that way.”
In spite of the--seemingly clear--differences between the restaurant business to an executive position in music and entertainment, Lewis said the two jobs have had more in common than you’d expect.
“The only difference is that the product is music, and you have to love the product to be good at the business,” she said.
Now in her position at Live Nation and Mercury Theatre, Lewis says her goals and responsibilities have both changed considerably, while her goal overall remains the same. Business is business, she said, only here the product is different--music. Lewis has handled the switch from casino entertainment to live music in the manner characteristic of her--with fluidity and plenty of smarts. Her role, she said, has since moved more into the public eye.
“I’ve been called Oz before,” she laughed. “Now it's a little different. I’ve been behind the curtain, and now it’s my time to shine.”
Lewis is something to watch both now and in the coming years, to be certain--and as it happens, a major outlier. Despite its oft-idealized status in the world of high-power careers, the status of women in the entertainment industry is reflective of the general professional world. With women occupying only 32.2%of music and entertainment industry related jobs--67.9% are filled by men--Lewis is an innovator as one of the few female executives at her level in the corporate level of live entertainment.
Lewis, she says, has felt this divide--and felt it acutely.
“I’ve always found that, whatever position I’m in, there haven’t been a lot of women,” said Lewis. “I’ve always been surrounded by a lot of men. One time, I looked around a boardroom table and it was me and thirty-five men.”
Is there hope for more women like Amy Lewis making their way into the club of Louisville entertainment-makers? Lewis herself certainly thinks so, though she admits it can be a challenge.
“You’re fighting to make a point and an opinion,” said Lewis. “Very few people, I think, will hang in there and really push through to be heard. There’s a certain something you have to have to not be afraid to do that.”
And what is on Lewis’s agenda for the future? Continue to work hard, change and grow, she said.
“I’m a sponge,” said Lewis. “If I find something that intrigues me, I want to go learn everything I can about that. If you find out who people are and what they’re about, you get a better understanding of where they’re coming from…. It’s always taken me on new adventures."
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