Thursday’s preview day for The Summit at Fritz Farm, a huge shopping, restaurant and apartment complex off Nicholasville Road, went as smoothly as the chicken sliding off the bone at the new Edley’s Bar-B-Que down the hill.
A few hiccups erupted: The parking patterns were new to most visitors, and construction workers were still working to finish up the remaining stores and restaurants, most of which will open by August. Arhaus is the picture of furnishings luxury and open for business, but eyewear phenomenon Warby Parker still has a gravel floor and is not open. In all, 12 of the expected 70 restaurants and stores were open Thursday.
Still, those who came out for the first day of shopping and gazing seemed pretty content with the open venues, which included Bonobos menswear, Ariat equine wear, Marine Layer men’s and women’s clothing, Scout & Molly’s women’s clothing, The Frye Co. boots and shoes and Vineyard Vines men’s and women’s clothing.
The Shake Shack announced a May 11 opening date, and Pottery Barn will open its first Lexington store the same day. Also coming soon: Cos Bar makeup and fragrance, Draper James clothing, Madewell clothing, Hollywood Feed pet food and Fabletics athletic clothing. Whole Foods will be coming this summer.
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Stephanie Bush was the first customer at Bonobos, where she was buying shirts for her executive husband because she had decided he could no longer be trusted to pick out his own looks.
“He does not pick good things,” Bush said, describing a shirt her husband bought that sounded like an exploded orange.
Bonobo’s allowed her to buy some things up front and establish an online dashboard for her husband to pick other items that are already wife-approved.
Thursday’s event also featured several pop-ups for stores that were not yet open. Pasture at Marksbury Farm was grilling free burgers, Draper James gave out cups of sweet tea and CycleBar gave passers-by cards for a free class.
An introductory brunch was held at Ouita Michel’s Honeywood, which will open later this spring. Michel showed off her new space, which includes a huge prep kitchen, lots of color and brick and some artwork from Michel’s father — and sweet potato beignets that you wish you could sneak out in your pockets.
Despite worries, traffic flow around Nicholasville Road and Tiverton Way was smooth. Some people came for destination shopping at stores such as Arhaus and Bonobo’s, others just to look at the storefronts that would soon be open.
“We came out to see everything that’s going on before the crowds get here,” said Marilyn Smedley. “I used to get blueberries off this farm.”
But The Summit is nice, too, she said.
The Summit, and Bayer developments such as Colony Crossing at Madison, Miss., and Pinnacle at Turkey Creek in Knoxville, are a vision of bringing retail into a new era, according to Jeffrey Bayer, founder of Bayer Properties. It’s the new generation of consumers who are driving it, and they are driven more by experiences.
“In today’s world, retailing is under siege,” Bayer said. “To engage people, you need to have an environment where you can shop all day.”
For Bayer, that means moderately priced stores in a walkable community with lots of other things to do, such as lounge by fountains and take a class at CycleBar, eat at a variety of restaurants and walk the broad sidewalks that are also available to office and apartment dwellers on site.
“They want connectivity, to create a little village and not be contrived,” Bayer said. “... As we have retailers closing, we have new retailers emerging. We always attempt to bring new retailers to the market.”
Bayer said the first phase of The Summit is 85 percent leased, with 14 more acres available for additional development.
Of particular importance is appealing to millennials, who will have increasing power in the marketplace as they become established in better-paying jobs.
But having some Generation X celebrities visit their stores couldn’t hurt as a draw, either. Actresses Reese Witherspoon of Draper James and Kate Hudson of Fabletics, whose stores are next door to each other but not yet open, both plan to visit in the future, Bayer said.
Bayer said that when it became obvious that construction was not going to allow The Summit to open in its entirety by the end of April, “ I was so concerned that we did not set the expectations so high that people would say, ‘This is it?’”