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On the doorstep of Fort Knox, a massive piece of property sits dormant, waiting for an opportunity to serve the community and capitalize on the needs and wants of military and civil service personnel pouring out of the Wilson Road gate daily.
At least, that’s what Red Davis thought two generations ago when he developed Redmar Plaza. The Radcliff shopping center, now virtually vacant, still bears the name crafted from his first name and the first syllable of his wife’s, Martha.
Mr. Davis’ vision took hold for a while. In the 1970s, W.T. Grant’s department store, and later Murphy’s Mart, anchored the massive shopping center.
For a few years, Grant’s practically served as our second home. Mom worked as a waitress in the store’s restaurant and because Dad couldn’t cook, we shared a lot of meals there. Thanks to the employee discount, we shopped there a lot too.
Most everyone working there knew us and we knew them, from the checkers on up to Pete Sandknop, the store manager.
As a boy, one job captured my attention. In the days before in-store cameras and security tags clipped to clothing, Grant’s employed a house detective to combat shoplifting. He casually would pretend to shop while observing the activities of others.
A frequent reader of Hardy Boys mysteries, often I would spend time on his heels, observing him observing. That is until he spotted me and shooed me off with a stern, disapproving look.
Redmar had most everything in those days. In addition to the full-service retail store, specialty shops sold classy shoes, women’s clothing and a variety of knick knacks. Winn-Dixie occupied one side – the first of three buildings in Radcliff that the grocery would open and eventually abandon. A seafood shop and deli occupied two buildings standing alone near road.
I remember drooling at the window outside Luzerne’s Bakery and trying to sneak into the shop that sold black-light posters because Mom didn’t quite approve. Sometimes, the family used the coin laundry and I had a few dozen haircuts in the barber shop.
It wasn’t long till others began to mimic Red Davis and built nearby along Knox Avenue. Eventually, the new arrivals included Kmart. In the years before Towne Mall arrived or Walmart changed the retail landscape, it didn’t seem there was much reason to shop anywhere other than the north corner of Radcliff.
Traveling to Fort Knox last week for a meeting with the commanding general, I thought back on those days as we traveled past the empty shell of Redmar buildings.
Also coming to mind was the recent speech given by Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley at the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce. He talked about the opportunity for development available thanks to recent growth at Fort Knox. In his challenging remarks, he mentioned the rich potential of Redmar sitting as it does just outside the post gates.
I’m sure somewhere Red Davis was smiling.
He saw the potential. He made something happen. Changes in retailing and business fortunes of the anchor stores choked off the success. But perhaps lightning can strike again on that corner of Wilson Road.
New jobs, new fortunes and new memories are waiting to be made.
Ben Sheroan, a Hardin County native, is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or email@example.com.