Shortly after we moved to Winchester in 2015, I read in The Sun about developments downtown that would ultimately result in a brand new CVS Pharmacy and a Kentucky Bank branch on Maple Street.
The former bank location — at a prominent gateway to the downtown business district — was to be demolished and replaced by the new drug store, while the new bank branch would be built on another corner of Maple a couple of blocks north.
The final result turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, in my view.
I had hoped for a more substantial bank building on this important urban corridor — something more akin to the Central Bank branch up the street or the People’s Bank on North Main, both of which better reflect the urban nature of the downtown business district than the Kentucky Bank branch, which is virtually identical to the one built on Bypass Road a couple of years prior.
Similarly, I was hoping the new drug store would at least pay homage to the distinctive building it replaced, with its corner plaza that welcomed visitors downtown. Instead, we got a suburban-style store surrounded by a sprawling parking lot. Not very inviting to pedestrians walking about downtown.
Despite these misgivings, I have decided to look on the positive side of these developments.
Both of these new buildings represent a substantial investment in our downtown business district by private businesses, an indication their leaders believe there is a future in Winchester’s downtown district.
At a time when most small town cores are struggling, Winchester’s seems to be picking up steam. One can visit many nearby towns and witness downtowns where no new building has gone up for decades.
Take a look up and down Main Street. I am encouraged by the many dedicated officials, business people and volunteers who are working to make our downtown more vibrant and interesting.
It’s true new businesses tend to come and go, but I sense we are nearing a tipping point.
It takes time to rebuild a business district that, like most downtowns, was wiped out by the flight to the suburbs in the late 20th Century.
I don’t know about you, but I’m bored with big box stores and chain restaurants. Face it, you could be in any town or city in America along “the strip” and not know where you are.
But we have a shining jewel in our mostly-intact Victorian-era Main Street and environs. That’s an authentic backdrop you can’t recreate and is the envy of most small towns.
Last week, I drove past the big boxes and went downtown to buy some supplies at our great locally-owned hardware store on Main Street. I was offered a friendly greeting and help with my purchase, along with a sincere expression of appreciation — none of which are typical at the big boxes.
On the same visit downtown, I stopped by Dirty South Pottery to sign up for a pottery class.
Later in the week, my wife and I were back to check out the updated Engine House Pizza Pub. The atmosphere and food were great, and they have a really good house beer.
We plan to spend more time downtown as warmer weather takes over and we have time to explore all the other great shops and eateries in town. I hope you see you there.
Final thought: You don’t have to own a business or be a town official to help rebuild our downtown; we can all contribute to its success. You don’t have to do anything more than come down and visit. Check out all that downtown has to offer and spend a few dollars where it helps the community the most.
This post first appeared as a column in The Winchester Sun on May 9, 2019.