Business Thursday: Dentists last to leave Capital Plaza shops

Dr. Will Renshaw stands in his office on moving day. (Alfred Miller/alfred.miller@state-journal.com)

The last bastion of business in the Capital Plaza’s Fountain Place Shops closed its doors for the last time Wednesday.

Since the beginning of the year, demolition crews have been not so quietly taking up residence all around the dental practice of Drs. Will Renshaw, Stephen Wix, Melissa Murray and Melissa Blair-Holland.

“We’ve always felt very safe, but periodically the floor will shake a little bit,” Renshaw told The State Journal. “I’ve never lived in (earthquake-prone) California, but it’s got to feel like that.”

On Wednesday, the dentists could no longer delay the inevitable. With bulldozers scheduled to plow through the building next week, “boots on the ground” were no longer allowed in an office that the now retired Dr. Gene Burch first opened in 1983.

At that time, the Capital Plaza was still in its heyday.

“When this place was in full swing, with shops and the offices, it was really bustling,” recalled Renshaw, who joined Burch’s practice in July 1995.

Gradually, store after store called it quits, with the shuttering of longtime restaurant the Cheesery being something of a death knell for the area.

“That’s when I noticed it was a lot less traffic,” recalled Wix, who joined the practice in June 2003.

Still, the dentists persisted. Over the years, the practice has grown to 10,000 “active” patients, defined as those the dentists have seen in the past 18 months, according to Wix.

When the state Finance and Administration Cabinet gave Fountain Place tenants five months to clear off state property last May, the dentists appealed to Secretary William Landrum. The secretary ultimately acknowledged that five months was not enough time to move a medical facility of that scale and importance to Frankfort, and allowed the dentists to remain through the demolition of the Capital Plaza Tower and beyond.

“I will honestly say that he and his people are responsible for us still being in business the way that we are,” Renshaw said of Landrum.

The dentists say they had hoped to remain downtown, but couldn’t for one simple reason: parking.

“We turned over every stone downtown,” said Renshaw, adding that he was heartbroken to leave. “We just couldnt find a place down here that would meet the parking needs, the handicap-accessibility needs and the need for staff.”

Instead, the dentists are moving from their current 4,200-square-foot facility to a newly constructed 7,000-square-foot office on Burch Court, off the East-West Connector across from the Frankfort Plant Board’s new administration building. They plan to see their first patients in the new building Friday.

The modern office is designed with electronic medical records in mind. It will also allow the dentists to expand the services they offer to include botox for both facial aesthetics and pain, treatments for sleep apnea and some oral surgery for dental implants.

Renshaw promised, however, to carry over, in some form, the most-asked-about tradition from his 20th century office: the smile wall. Originally a cavity-free club, the wall of young patient photos brightened up the old office for decades. Renshaw said it will be likely be reincarnated in electronic form and in compliance with patient privacy laws.

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