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Home of Lexington first African American-owned pharmacy has new role

The ribbon cutting at the Marksbury Family WayPoint Center at the Historic Palmer Pharmacy
Stu Johnson
The ribbon cutting at the Marksbury Family WayPoint Center at the Historic Palmer Pharmacy

A building with significant historical importance in Lexington is the new home to financial, health, and employment services in the East End. A ribbon cutting Monday attracted state and local leaders plus many community members.

Dr. Zirl Palmer, an activist in many ways, opened Lexington’s first African American-owned pharmacy at 400 East Fifth in 1961. Now, it’s officially a United Way WayPoint Center. The aim is to provide services to people living in underserved neighborhoods and communities of color. Logan Marksbury, president of the Marksbury Family Foundation, said the group’s financial gift helped prevent possible demolition.

“With us growing up in Lexington. I went to school just down the block at Sayre. I was there for 12 years. So, this is a special area for us and something we’re really connected to. So, it really just seemed meant to be,” said Marksbury.

Contrast that with another similar project in Charleston South Carolina, that Marksbury said has run into local government opposition.

The new United Way WayPoint location, when it served as a pharmacy was also the Rexall chain’s first black-owned pharmacy in the country. Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton spoke of the transformation.

“The Marksbury Family WayPoint Center at historic Palmer Pharmacy will help people find financial stability, counseling, health screenings, jobs, and referrals for help with basic needs,” said Gorton.

Gorton said the services also cover food, shelter, and utilities. The building at 400 East Fifth Street was once home to the Catholic Action Center’s Day Center for the homeless.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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