Bob and Heather Glaser have owned and run The Highlands Card for over 13 years. It’s a calendar-year’s membership providing special benefits to over 150 local businesses in and around the Highlands of Louisville. There are a wide swath of businesses that participate, including A-1 Vacuum Sales and Service, ACME Ink Tattoos, The Silly Axe Café, Orange Theory Fitness, Panchito’s Ice Cream, and dozens more.
The biggest goal of The Highlands Card is to promote and build loyalty of businesses in and around the Highlands.
Bob and Heather have been together and in Louisville for many years, with strong ties to the Highlands, and the community at large. They felt like an excellent couple to talk to, to learn more about their passion for the neighborhood and what makes them tick.
I wanted to talk to Bob and Heather about the Highlands Card, how they came up with the idea, and what makes the Card so popular around the neighborhood. We agreed to meet and chat for a while in December 2019.
Bob and Heather are always on the go– running the Highlands Card as well as their printing business 502 Print and Copy. And they graciously let me steal them away from work for an hour on a Friday afternoon for beer and conversation at Flannigan’s Ale House. Here is part of our chat:
Tell me how you got The Highlands Card going:
Bob: It was 13 years ago. Basically, we found we were spending most of our time in the Highlands. We were like, wouldn’t it be great if we had something where we could save money going places. It started from a place of loyalty.
Heather: The places that we love, the places that we frequent, being able to save money. That’s what The Highlands Card is. Essentially, a big thank you to the people that support the businesses. If you’re a business and you want to keep the business in the community, you want to offer customers something. Like, Impellizzeri’s, for example.
Bob: They’ve been with us since the beginning.
Heather: Yes, and they offer, with any size pizza, a free order breadsticks. Which is a great value – and that’s in essence their way of saying to the neighborhood, “Thank you for supporting us.”
Where did the idea come from?
Heather: Since we’ve been married, we’ve lived in the Highlands. These are the places we go to, our friends go to, our family, our neighbors. It just kind-of sprung from there.
Bob: I’m trying to remember where it originally came about. Originally, I think we talked to a couple business owners, who were thinking about doing loyalty cards themselves. We thought maybe we could do one and include everybody on it. And then the community decided they liked it because it was a way of bringing business to the Highlands and keeping business in the Highlands and showing support for the neighborhood for the people who live here and people who visit. And it was a unique card, compared to those other fundraising cards you’ll see out there.
I used to live in Cincinnati and they have The Entertainment Card up there and it would give me inspiration on where to go. But it was a one-time use card.
We were thinking, “What could we do that was different from that?” And we liked the idea of a card you could use over and over again.
What advice would you give for someone who has just moved to the Highlands? (not necessarily about businesses to go to, just about the culture of the neighborhood)
Bob: Enjoy and embrace the strong community of The Highlands. People here simply look out for each other.
What do you like most about living in Louisville?
Bob: Our family is here. Love the people of Louisville. Also love being close to Chicago, Indy, Cincy, Lex, the Gorge and Nashville when you want a weekend getaway!
The Highlands Card is a labor of love you’ve been doing for a long time. What are your plans for the future?
Heather: We’ve talked about expansion, maybe not with the Highlands Card, but maybe the same format.
Bob: We’ve talked about doing a loyalty card for kids to use at businesses. It was something we had discussed. It would be city-wide and a great fundraising opportunity for youth groups. But we’d have to have someone run it full time.
Heather: We’re constantly at work with companies to build stronger promotions and build stronger loyalty. The better the promotion, the more often people will come in.
What is an accomplishment you all are proud of?
Heather: Our daughter is pretty much our best accomplishment.
What kinds of struggles have you dealt with, with the Highlands Card?
Bob: In the beginning it was hard because people would let us know they’d tried to use it somewhere and it didn’t work. The card wasn’t as known. And with restaurants there is turnover with management and employees – there was a struggle there. The more we’ve been around doing this it’s so much easier. Now, we might get a call or two a year from people having issues using it.
Heather: What we did to combat that was make laminated signs in front of house and back of house to show the promotion. If there was ever a miscommunication, the promotion was right on the door.
What are your backgrounds?
Bob: I publish magazines. I did a local mag called City Slicker – entertainment guide. A small pocket-size. It was basically an entertainment guide with happy hours, drink specials, bands playing, etc. You could carry in your pocket or purse. A little like a LEO [Weekly magazine] but not a newspaper. I did that while going through college to earn some extra money. Then I went to Cincinnati and started the Small Business Journal magazine, a full business magazine. I took that national, which was hard to do with a limited budget. I was on the opposite end of printing.
Heather: My background is sales. Hospitality and sales.
Bob: Heather worked at the magazine. So, we knew a lot of the bar owners just through selling advertising.
Heather: It’s a good marriage [given our complementary backgrounds in advertising and publishing].
What’s a piece of advice you’d give yourself 20 years ago?
Heather: Relax, slow down, enjoy life!
How long have you been together?
Bob: 11 Years
Heather: (laughs) I knew the answer to that, I wanted to make sure he did.
What advice would you give to couples on how to make a relationship last 16 years?
Bob: Friendship! Mutual respect.
What are some of your favorite things to do together during your down time?
Heather: We take our dogs to the park, have dinner with friends and/or family. Right now, our friends are turning 50. Lot’s of fun. We’ll be “Watching Curb Your Enthusiasm” tonight. That show is so darn funny!
So… you were doing the card before you were together?
Heather: No, we’ve been married 11 years but together 16 years. So we pre-date the card (laughs). But we were working on The Highlands Card before we got married.
Are there any interesting stories that have come out of this project?
Heather: At the festival we work, we have a lot of folks that say they come specifically to the festival just to buy the card. Or they need to get it every year for their mom because she loves the promotion at ValuMarket, or something. Those are the kind of things that stand out to me – experiences people have using the card and that they want to get it every year.
There must be something gratifying and powerful about knowing there are so many Louisvillians walking around at any time with your card in their pocket or purse.
Heather: I run into people all the time that have Highlands Cards. All the time. Also, a lot of people are transplants to Louisville, and they use it as a guidepost on where to go around town.
I feel like Louisville is dealing with a lot of that. A lot of boomerang people, people going to Nashville, going to other cities, coming back, etc.
Heather: The young people love it. I’m telling you.
Bob: When people come to the city, it’s great for them. Especially when you move to the Highlands, you can find out what’s nearby.
Heather: When we’d work the Highlands Festival, we’d meet so many young people who’d moved here from Pittsburg or Nashville, or wherever.
Obviously, you all have numerous businesses and projects. How do you manage to keep everything afloat?
Heather: Wake up, shower and work. Have fun doing it.
To each of you — describe Louisville in one sentence:
What events do you have coming up?
Bob: The winter is a little slow for us. But things pick up in the spring. We’ll probably do Flea Off Market in the spring. We used to do more winter events out on Bardstown Road, but we’d freeze our butts off. Of course, we are in Kentucky…and Kentucky is known for…things you can sip that keep you warm. (laughs)
Interested in The Highlands card? You can find it online here!