When Walmart opened on Richmond Road in 1993, it was a big deal for Lexington. How big?
The traffic pattern changed. Suddenly, other stores on Richmond Road saw a big uptick in customers. Except for the nearby Kmart on Richmond Road, which closed in 2002.
People compared the giant retaining wall built for the new Mist Lake Plaza to the Great Wall of China. They sent in suggestions on how to make it more attractive. At least 55 people called in to the Herald-Leader with ideas. Among them: "Carve the faces of four mayors of Lexington on the wall, and we can call it Mount Mistmore."
Since the shopping center was inexplicably named Mist Lake, one reader suggested painting "a mural with a lake and some mist ... make it a pretty thing instead of this monstrosity."
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Another idea: "Invite former President Nixon for the grand opening, since he already visited the Great Wall of China."
In fact, as reporter Dottie Bean wrote at the time, at 34-plus feet, the wall made of about 18,000 keystone blocks was actually twice the size of the one in China. At the time, it was considered "fairly new technology," according to Wayne Wells, then city engineer. Landscaping, including the planting of Austrian pines, Winterking hawthorns and snowdrift crabapples was supposed to hide part of it.
Instead, the ditch seems to have become a haven for interloping pears. And to add insult to injury, the wall had to be rebuilt in 2011.
When the Walmart opened on Sept. 25, the shopping center was the place to be, with a Winn-Dixie Marketplace (which closed in 2000) and more than a dozen other retailers.
A four percent increase in vehicle traffic the first year drew other stores to the corridor as well. After Walmart came, The Chop House, J. Peterman and Jos. A. Bank Clothiers followed nearby.
But times change.
Once the only game in town, Walmart eventually opened Supercenters (bigger stores with more groceries) around town and more intimate Neighborhood Markets in small shopping centers, too. And the shopping moment shifted, first to Fayette Mall, then to Hamburg and now to The Summit at Fritz Farm.
The shopping center parking lot has been the scene of terrible tragedies.
In 1999, 11-month-old Bryan Puckett died after being left in a hot car in the Mist Lake Plaza parking lot by his babysitter while she shopped for two hours at Once Upon A Child, a resale store. His death led to the enacting of Bryan's Law by the state legislature, which defined as second-degree manslaughter the crime of leaving a child in a vehicle if the child dies.
The babysitter was convicted of second degree manslaughter and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
In 2017, 19-year-old Sean Howard was shot and killed while sitting in a parked car in the parking lot.
What will become of Mist Lake Plaza, now filled with discount stores such as Gabe's and check cashing outlets? Stay tuned. It's now owned by Brixmor Properties out of Houston.