Aside from Brian and Tracy Merkley being an obviously attractive couple, one fact that makes them so much more adorable is that they are high school sweethearts. He was a Trinity basketball player while Tracy cheered for Assumption. Now ain’t that the stuff Louisville is made of.
Brian knows a thing or two about longevity. His family’s store dates back to 1832 and is the third oldest in the United States. The fact that his marriage to Tracy has lasted through an impromptu proposal at Derby to a ring in a parking lot and everything in between just makes sense.
How did you meet?
“We have two different versions of that story,” Brian said. But what the couple can agree on was the meeting place: the Chow Wagon.
“It was our senior year of highschool, so 1991,” Tracy said.
“I was down at the Chow Wagon with a group of my friends and Tracy was there with hers … it’s much funnier when Tracy tells the story,” Brian added.
“So I’m standing there with my girlfriends, and this guy kept coming over saying, ‘Let’s dance, come on people let’s dance.’ I thought maybe he was slightly intoxicated – or just bored, so I was like fine, I’ll dance with him,” Tracy recalled.
“She basically felt sorry for me, but we danced and then exchanged numbers,” Brian added “About a week later, I invited her to go to the Derby festival and a concert later that night thinking it would be a great first date.”
“He picked me up to go on our very first date WITH HIS PARENTS, which he didn’t tell me about beforehand, so our first date was with his mom and dad,” Tracy said.
How did he propose?
Tracy hit it off with Brian, and the couple soon became an item, dating through the remainder of their senior years until going to different colleges – Tracy to Tulane University and Brian to the University of Dayton.
“We agreed we’d see other people but still kept in contact,” Brian said.
The two dated on and off through college until Brian transferred to Loyola University for basketball, which was coincidentally closer to Tulane. Once the couple returned home to Louisville, the proposal came, sort of.
“It was a long day at Derby, and we were hanging out in the Paddock, and I got down on my knee and just asked him,” Tracy said as she recalled their “unofficial proposal.”
“We agreed we would get married, but were fresh out of college and poor, so we also agreed to not get rings,” Brian added. “Little did she know I had been scraping to buy her a ring and propose on bended knee the right way.
“We had made plans to go to dinner, but I didn’t want her to suspect anything, so I wasn’t immediately going to drive somewhere super nice. I asked her where she wanted to eat and she said Texas Roadhouse.” The couple bursted out laughing in unison thinking back to Brian’s panic state.
“He kept asking, ‘Don’t you want to go somewhere nicer?’ but I just thought we were grabbing a quick bite to eat,” Tracy said.
Tracy won that argument, and as the couple pulled into the parking lot, Brian decided that was the moment.
“I didn’t have much planned and was so anxious to just ask her, so I told her to open the glove compartment,” Brian said.
“I had no idea. We were in a parking lot and when I opened the glove compartment he had hidden the ring in a bracelet box, so I was totally caught off guard,” Tracy said.
“So in my 1963 Corvair in the parking lot of Texas Roadhouse we got engaged,” Brian added.
The proposal might not have been the ideal setting, but the marriage has been on track ever since, with a ring Brian picked out at Merkley Kendrick, of course.
How do you make it work on a day-to-day basis?
“We are very much partners at home,” Brian said, “Sometimes when I first come home after a long day I take 20 minutes or so just to decompress from work, that is if she doesn’t intercept me on the way,” Brian said with a laugh.
“But I also understand that if she’s had a trying day and needs to unload, I just have to remember that she needs to have discussions on a parental level,” Brian added.
“There are some days whether he’s busy or I am, but I won’t have an adult conversation all day long, so when he comes home I need to unload too,” Tracy agreed. “ We try to carve out date nights but not nearly enough as we should.”
How do you divide up household chores?
“We agreed when we first got married he mows the grass, and I do the laundry,” Tracy said.
“I would agree,” Brian added, “very traditionally for better or worse that I do the maintenance and outdoor work and she takes care of the domestic household duties.
“After our third child when she started staying at home, we both agreed that she’d take care of all that,” Brian said.
“ But he is good about running up to the grocery store to grab milk if I forgot. He is always just so calm, cool and collected, so it helps keep balance,” Tracy said.
What is one thing you always do as a couple?
“We make an effort to have dinner every night. Whether it’s at 6 or 9 o’clock at night, it’s our time to sit as a family and talk. We go to church as a family every Sunday,” Brian said.
The couple, who despite Tracy’s diehard loyalty to the University of Kentucky, have season tickets to both U of L basketball and football games.
“Brian loves basketball, so it’s our chance to get away and just do something fun together,” Tracy said.
Where do you like to go when you’re out ‘n’ about?
“We bounce around a lot and like to try new things, but one of our all time favorites is Buck’s Restaurant. It is chill, old school always very romantic and private, the food is always good and for the past couple years we have spent our anniversary there,” Brain said.
The couple is also a little biased to paying Texas Roadhouse a visit every now and then.
What is some advice you would offer to couples new or old who desire to walk through life In Tandem?
“I would say try to refrain from silent expectations,” Tracy said. “I’ll have an idea of how I think something is going to go but won’t voice it to him and then we get lost in translation but he doesn’t know because I never told him, and it just goes back and forth. So always expressing what you are thinking is so important, and just makes things easier and flow better.”
“And be flexible,” Brian added. “Sometimes I’ll come home when we’ve planned a date night and expect her to be ready and waiting for me, but I don’t know how her day has gone; it could have been awful – whether one of the kids got in trouble at school, or the dog got sick. So just being understanding of where that person is coming from is helpful in a relationship.”
Oct. 11, 1997
Three children: Blake (15), Alex (12) and Samantha (10).
The couple have resided in the St. Matthews area for the past nine years, close to Merkley Kendrick Jewelers.
Cats or Cards
“Cats – I bleed blue!” said Tracy. Brian, on the other hand, will let her win this battle, pointing out that Tracy earned her masters degree from U of L.
Brian is the third generation president and CEO of Merkley Kendrick Jewelers.
Category: In Tandem
About the Author (Author Profile)
Voice-Tribune Staff Writer Lauren DePaso enjoys being a tourist in her own city, exploring the nightlife and cheering on the Cards. A Louisville native, she currently resides in St. Matthews.