Recent additions to the South Elkhorn Village round out Lexington’s newest dining destination
South Elkhorn Village, named for the picturesque creek that flows in close proximity to the commercial property, has seen its share of changes over the years. Once plagued by vacant storefronts due to the struggling economy, the shopping center has gained some major momentum under a new ownership group, which has an innovative philosophy for ensuring the center’s success.
Located on Old Harrodsburg Road just south of Man O’ War Boulevard, South Elkhorn Village has been anchored by the popular Southern comfort-style restaurant Ramsey’s Diner for many years.
But with the addition of an eclectic group of four other restaurant establishments, it is the mission of TB Managed Assets 3 LLC, a subsidiary of Traditional Bank which bought the 50,000 square foot center around a year ago, to establish South Elkhorn Village as a new “dining destination.”
“One of the challenges and goals of repositioning a shopping center is to try and get the correct tenant mix for the trade area the property serves,” said Paul Ray Smith, who serves as executive vice president of NAI Isaac, the leasing agent and property manager for TB Managed Assets 3.
“We don’t have a traditional grocery store-type anchor, but we feel like with the combination of restaurants serving as the anchor tenant, and complementing that with our service tenants and selected retail users, we’re on the right track,” he added.
The other restaurants currently located in South Elkhorn Village are the Coffee Pub, which has been open for over five years; SEC Sports Pub, which opened in late October; El Charro Authentic Mexican Cuisine, which opened in July; and Brick Oven Pizzeria, which is slated to open later this year.
“We think the types of restaurants all fit together well and not only will they be successful, but it will allow us to lease the majority of the center and have the other tenants be more successful based on (the restaurant) traffic,” Smith said.
While the Coffee Pub has fulfilled a south Lexington niche as being one of the only non-chain restaurants in the area that specializes in breakfast, the other restaurants will provide a variety of other options to local patrons. Brick Oven Pizza, SEC Sports Pub and El Charro are also all licensed to serve alcoholic beverages after a restriction was recently lifted as a result of negotiations between the new commercial property manager and Ramsey’s.
“(The alcohol ban being lifted) has been the major change that has caused new (restaurant) people to come into the property,” Smith explained. “That’s been critical.”
Smith hopes South Elkhorn’s family of restaurants will also attract new retail and service tenants. The center currently has around 30 percent of its space available. Its other existing businesses include Q-First in Quilting, Big League Haircuts, Cindy’s Nails, Dentistry By Dr. Erin Langfels, Lexington Investment Company, the Actors Guild of Lexington, and Gymboree Pay & Music Center.
Everybody agrees – some more than others – that the increased traffic and customers to the area will be a boon to the commercial district. Here’s a look at some new, as well as some familiar, faces in the South Elkhorn Village, and their thoughts and expectations on the evolving center.
Ramsey’s, which has four locations throughout Lexington, opened its South Elkhorn Village restaurant in 2000. Owned by Rob Ramsey, it is renowned by locals for its casual atmosphere, made-from-scratch menu items, and Southern hospitality-style service.
Since opening over 12 years ago, the restaurant has endured a number of expected and unexpected hardships – from the Harrodsburg Road widening project and a couple of floods to the initial development of South Elkhorn Village – and has emerged as a dining stalwart in that part of town.
“We have built a successful business by serving a quality product with exceptionally hospitable people,” Ramsey said.
While Ramsey is hoping for the best with the addition of the new South Elkhorn Village restaurants and the commercial property owner’s “dining destination” mentality, as a savvy small business owner and veteran restauranteur he is also aware that the influx of new restaurants could pose a number of challenges to his business.
“We welcome our new neighbors and wish all of us success, but our job to excel will be made more difficult than when we were the only ones on the block,” he said.
The second oldest restaurant in South Elkhorn Village, Coffee Pub, is owned by Erin Rader, who bought the restaurant from its previous owner three years ago.
Located in a quaint, 150-year-old stone house behind Ramsey’s, the restaurant offers a variety of southern and southwest-style breakfast offerings as well as specialty sandwiches for lunch. “We’re known for our chicken salad and tomato basil soup, and we use high quality ingredients,” Rader said. “It’s a great place to bring people from out of town instead of going to a chain. … People are really wowed when they see our menu because it’s extensive for being such a small place.”
A Kentucky native, Rader has been involved in the food business for many years as a hostess and server, most recently working for Josie’s owner Bobby Murray. In the three years since Rader has taken over ownership of Coffee Pub, she says the restaurant’s sales have tripled.
“We have a lot of regulars – there are some people that eat here every day,” Rader said. “I think it’s because we have such a great staff and I don’t have a big turnover. We talk to (our regulars), know them by name and know what they order.”
Rader believes the new restaurants in South Elkhorn Village will help her business. “I think it’s wonderful for the shopping center and for us as restaurants, because it creates traffic,” she said. “It’s not a threat to me. Now people will go to all the places, so it’s a good thing.”