Residents Assess Paint Lick Economic Revitalization

Sep 13, 2017

Part 2 of a two-part series

Paint Lick Kentucky is included on the National Register of Historic Places.  The rural town that sits on the Garrard-Madison County line was once home to a business district that featured banking, eating and shopping for groceries. There was even a car dealership.

Almost a year ago, the re-routing of Kentucky Highway 52 significantly changed the community’s landscape, virtually taking the town off the highway map.

But, there’s interest in a new form of business activity. 

 Paint Lick has seen its share of change and excitement, some brought on by unexpected events, like a fire in 1903 that left only one store standing,  or a deadly circus train wreck in 1882 when three men died and animals roamed the community.  A few years further back, the famous bank robbers Jesse and Frank James visited Paint Lick.

Environmental consultant Mark Gumbert has set his sights on the future of a revitalized Paint Lick.  Still, he appreciates its history and tells the story of a “find” during the renovation of a historic building.

“We took floor joists out of the floor and we were redoing the store front and doors, we did find a bullet slug in one of the floor joists and we worked it into the back door and, like my grandfather always said, ‘you don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story,” said Gumbert.  “So, we have decided obviously Frank and Jesse James were shooting up the place and that’s where the slug came from.”

Gumbert, who operates Copperhead Environmental Consulting with 27 full-time employees in an adjacent building, has purchased a number of Paint Lick buildings.

In addition to plans for a farm-to-table restaurant, there’s already a health clinic across the street.  There are plans for relocating utilities underground, adding streetscape amenities, and making improvements that will encourage cycling.  A sizeable sewer project is expected to help make all this happen.

Vicki Brock, originally from Bogota Columbia, has been in Kentucky for more than a decade.  She welcomes the effort to change the pace in Paint Lick.

“There might be more activity, but I don’t think it will be busy in a negative way,” Brock said.

Next door to the health clinic is Friends of Paint Lick.  It’s a long-standing non-profit swap-shop.  It’s described by volunteers as a receive, recycle and reuse operation.

Shoppers can bring in an item and leave with something else.  Dora Bowles has helped out since Friends of Paint Lick opened in 1988.

“We’ve been a little village that has been laid back, just a bunch of farmers, you know, and we’re not used to the fast pace, but, a little change is the spice of life, I guess,” offered Bowles.

Bowles admits not everyone in the area is eagerly accepting changes aimed at making the community a destination for money-spending visitors.

Katie Rollins has been a part of the Paint Lick area for 40 years.  She, for one, does see great promise for her town and she believes a lot of progress can be attributed to Mark Gumbert and his investments.

“He knows where the money is.  He knows how to get it and there may be some people that could be a little envious of that, because he knows how to do it.  And he jumps in there and goes to it,” said Rollins.A third woman in the Friends of Paint Lick shop on that day was Janet Perry.  A native of Michigan she’s lived in about a dozen states. She came to Paint Lick in 2008 and today her friends at the shop are like family.

In a few weeks, members of the unincorporated community hope to welcome more visitors for a reenergized fall festival and….if local government and business leaders have their way…more business and tourism in the years ahead to a reenergized and revitalized Paint Lick.