6 Businesses I Miss in Downtown Lexington, Mass.

Downtown Lexington, Mass., remains an impressive central district with many outstanding mom and pop shops and restaurants, but I do miss greatly some of the businesses of yesteryear. Ahh, the memories. Here are six Lexington businesses that I wish still existed...

Lexington Drug

Located at the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Waltham, St., where Rancatore's Ice Cream is now situated, Lexington Drug thrived as a cornerstone business in downtown Lexington for many years. Most people went there for prescriptions and the newspaper, but we often went as a family on Sunday mornings for the candy and postcard sections. I loved the Fruito candy bars with real artificial fruit in the middle of a mediocre chocolate bar, as well as twirling the postcard display to receive a mini history lesson on the significant history of Lexington. The gray-haired man behind the counter actually reminded me of a Colonial era politician with wavy locks, a distinct nose, not-from-this generation glasses, a certain old world formality and a gentle diplomacy that endured no matter how crowded Lexington Drug became with locals and tourists. Sorry to see this place close, but not a bad thing that a quality ice cream shop took over!

Bargain Basement

Many remember Decelle's for its discount clothing that, I believe, often surpassed Marshalls, but Bargain Basement might have been ever better at this location. We could always find what we were looking even though the displays were kind of a mess with no rhyme or reason. Bargain Basement truly represented Old School Lexington -- that is, a large downtown space with no pretentiousness and a mission to save locals lots of money on clothing. You would unlikely see this kind of store in downtown Lexington today as the whole central district has become more upscale.

Ingalls Stationery

Generally, stationery stores are about as exciting as a piece of paper (hey, that was a good one!) but Ingalls made the experience a wonderful one -- "willing and label" to go the extra distance (hey, that was a good one, too!). With well-organized isles, an always fully-stocked supply of the basics and beyond, and knowledgeable, friendly staff to help the customer, Ingalls was certainly a "staple" on our shopping list. Pardon the puns, but those are the "fax!"

Peking Garden

I always loved going here with friends on a half-day (one Wednesday a month at Arlington High School, as I recall) for the huge luncheon buffet. Peking Garden didn't look tacky like some other old school Chinese restaurants, the service was generally more friendly and the food clearly created by a master chef. One thing, however, that irked the staff at Peking Garden: asking for separate checks!
As kids, we were always amused by the response: "NO, NO SEPARATE CHECKS!" We got the message loud and clear time after time, but kept asking the question on virtually every visit because we liked the animated, predictable answer.

Bel Canto

Located on the second floor at 1709 Massachusetts Ave., Bel Canto won high praise regionally as a restaurant chain serving outstanding deep dish pizzas and calzones with either regular or whole wheat dough. They also allowed customers to order unbaked calzones to bring home to cook. Bel Canto was unlike any other pizza place and served as a great alternative to traditional local pizza joints like Regina Pizzeria, Santarpio's and The Pleasant Cafe. The ingredients used to make the pizzas and calzones were beyond the norm -- so fresh and bursting with flavor. What's more, Bel Canto  featured a clean-looking atmosphere with spotless surroundings (including the kitchen) and a bright interior with contemporary decor and furniture. Unfortunately, Bel Canto suffered a fire at the Lexington location and the chain eventually started slipping in quality. I wish someone would bring back the Bel Canto name and concept to its original glory.  They would do very well today, I believe!

Battle Green Motor Inn

This intown motel would also never cut it in downtown Lexington today with its basic lodging offerings and affordable prices. Many travelers back in the day needed no more than a carpeted room with television, telephone and individual bathroom and thermostat. That's why the Battle Green Motor Inn lasted from 1959 to 2007!

Because I lived in neighboring Arlington, there was no reason to stay at the motel, but I was continuously curious about the place. I always thought the underground parking was so cool! It didn't take much for me to be happy, as you can see.

The Battle Green Motor Inn gave way to condo development. I suppose that's the way of the world, as Earth, Wind and Fire once said.

Old School Lexington Still Exists!

Yes, downtown Lexington has become more exclusive and expensive, but I am so glad to see so many long-time businesses still thriving like The Crafty Yankee gift shop, Mario's Italian restaurant (try the baked ziti, it's amazing!), Michaelson's Shoes, Spectrum Music and Theater Pharmacy.

Yes, it is sad that so many old-time businesses are no longer with us in Lexington center, but the mix of new and old shops and restaurants comprises one of the more impressive downtowns in all of New England. Shop local, buy local while discovering the wonderful history of this beautiful town!

Related article:
Fond memories of a wonderful Lexington pediatrician

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