Carpenters Dish Barn shelves are close to bare after announced closing

Monte Carpenter was a teenager when his parents’ Carpenters Dish Barn opened in 1956. The iconic Nicholasville store closes this month.
Monte Carpenter was a teenager when his parents’ Carpenters Dish Barn opened in 1956. The iconic Nicholasville store closes this month.

Monte Carpenter was there when the first part of Carpenters Dish Barn was built, 60 years ago on U.S. 27 in Jessamine County.

And he’ll be there when it closes at the end of June, the location making way for the new Nicholasville bypass.

The Dish Barn was initally run by Monte Carpenter’s father, Enoch Arden Carpenter, and mother, Rosa Lee Carpenter. At the beginning they sold a lot of dishes and enamelware, including a $1.99 service for six composed of seconds and dishes with slight chips.

People ate at home in those days, Monte Carpenter, 77, recalled. Eating out at the newest restaurant was not yet its own culture. Later the Dish Barn would add space and product lines, such as home decor and scented candles.

“You brought people around here, they wanted to go to the Dish Barn,” Carpenter said last Wednesday, as he surveyed what remained of inventory.

It wasn’t a lot.

Carpenter was prescient about the development that would come to blur the line between Fayette and Jessamine counties, leading more or less in a straight line from Fayette Mall in Lexington down U.S. 27 to Nicholasville. In 1991, he told the Herald-Leader, “In 20 more years, the main part of Lexington is going to be up and down Nicholasville Road.”

Last week had brought the announcement that the business would close at the end of June to make way for the new Nicholasville bypass. And then there was a frenzy of customers mobbing the store to get in on the going-out-of-business sale.

Carpenter and his daughter, Tina Carpenter, didn’t know what hit the store last week. Lines were long.

“We expected to be busy, but not slammed,” Tina Carpenter said.

The store did over $200,000 in business in a week.

“I never dreamed we’d sell that much,” Monte Carpenter said.

It left the vast structure, with its distinctive “This Is It!” roof sign, with very little inventory.

Tina Carpenter, 54, grew up in the business. As a youngster she was tapped by her grandmother into Sunday cashiering duty, then stayed with the store even when she attended UK. Tina Carpenter started working full-time at the store in 1990.

(You may wonder, what does someone who has spent her life at Carpenters Dish Barn collect? Tina Carpenter has a collection of Fiesta ware. She enjoys the variety of colors, sizes and available pieces.)

After Carpenters closes, Tina Carpenter isn’t sure what she’ll do next. “I’m going to take a little time off and then decide,” she said.

Monte Carpenter said he received $600,000 for the 2 acres of land on which the main barn sits and retained the 1 acre of land and building on which the concrete statuary and accompany smaller store is located, just north of the main store. He may lease that building, he said.

Vanessa Oney of Nicholasville was shopping at Dish Barn recently. She said she has been shopping there for years.

“This is the best place in the world,” she said looking at some sale items. “You could come out here and spend a paycheck.”

But, she said, businesses — and roads — go on.

“It’s the end to this and the beginning to a new road,” Oney said.

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman