Just a few years ago, Winchester Road had its struggles with the seamy side of business.
Peppered with strip clubs, vacant buildings, an aging motel and used car lots, the gateway to downtown was in need of some sprucing up and some new life.
And now it’s getting it.
Lately, much of Winchester Road inside New Circle has gone positively upscale. Not only are there new businesses such as the GCH Insurance Group, which renovated an auto-repair garage into sleek and sound-insulated offices at 780 Winchester Road, but also a rapidly growing “decor district” nearby.
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Some of the district’s businesses have been there for a long time — Julie Selby’s Room Service consignment furniture and decor store has been on Liberty Road for 24 years and Mathis Flooring for 30. Scout Antique and Modern store sits between the two stores on Liberty Road just off Winchester.
But others have either moved in, or re-branded, more recently.
That includes what’s now known as Blue Horse Antiques at 930 Winchester Road in a former games retailer space, and Liberty Hill Antiques and Fine Furnishings, which spreads across two buildings nearby at 925 Liberty Road. One of the Liberty Hill Antiques buildings formerly housed Great Dames, a decor and gift shop.
Each store has its own target market, and owners are working together. .
“It helps everybody, because you can refer people (to the other stores),” Selby said. “We’ve all got our own identities.”
Kathryn Clancy Mitchell of Blue Horse Antiques said her brother Jere Clancy will be using a part of the Blue Horse space for his upholstery and fabric shop, called Texture Design Fabrics & Upholstery. Mitchell took a break from the antiques business after Lexington Antique Gallery closed in 2010.
“I thought, that’s it,” she said. “No more antiques for me.”
She changed her mind.
Jere Clancy’s upholstery business is “running about an eight-week backlog right now. Times are good,” he said.
In addition to buying antiques at Blue Horse, Mitchell said, “People can buy stuff from Habitat and come up here and have it re-done.”
Lexington’s Habitat for Humanity’s second ReStore location opened at 817 Winchester Road in June. Its other location is at 451 Southland Drive.
“It’s a fun area, and it’s thriving,” Mitchell said of the Winchester Road area. “If it wasn’t fun I wouldn’t be doing this, that’s for sure.”
John Wilkirson, who partners with Elizabeth Boone and Betty Sue Walters at the two buildings of Blue Horse — between them, about 8,000 square feet of carefully curated traditional home decor space — said that the area is a success for their business.
“I’ve never done better in my life,” Wilkirson said of the store. “We have a constant flow of foot traffic. ... The buildings are fantastic for what we’re doing.”
Across Winchester Road is another sort of retail. Worn and Co., with apparel for men and women, accessories and furniture opened in May, 2017. With all its walking traffic and the presence of a food option on the corner at Charlie’s Fresh Seafood, the area still lacks one thing, Selby said.
Asked if the temptation exists to take home some of the traditional home pieces he sees, Wilkirson replied it doesn’t. But, he does admit to picking up the occasional street side single chair: Traditionally, chairs sell in pairs.
He calls his single chair collection “a hospital and home to the unwanted single chair. Maybe we feel these things have a soul, and they have to be cared for.”