- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) - A different type of filling is happening at the former Texaco station in Reidland these days.

Paducah dentist Scott Bridges has combined his passion for preservation with his career in dentistry to reinvigorate a vacant building that once served as a neighborhood gathering spot in Reidland.

Bridges has opened the doors to the Smile Station, his new dental office located in the former Texaco station at the intersection of Reidland and Benton roads.

Where teens once hung out in their cars just around the corner from the former Reidland High School, Bridges will now be providing dental services in a business he’s developed from scratch.

And he plans on offering those services while incorporating his own style, which for Bridges means sporting Converse sneakers and no white lab coats.

“I wanted to bring my way of doing dentistry to Paducah,” he said. “I wanted to be able to practice the way I want to. I believe in a really relaxed environment … Dentistry can be stressful for everybody, and I want it to be a fun environment. I like for people to come in and feel relaxed as soon as they walk in the door.”

Bridges, a Reidland native, has more than one reason for investing in the building. After having worked in Clarksville, Tennessee, over the past five years, he was ready to return to Paducah where he previously practiced. When he began searching for potential office locations, he knew he wanted the office to have a focus on fun, something not often associated with a trip to the dentist.

While scouting out potential spots, Bridges found the former Texaco station in Reidland. He has personal ties to both the former gas station and the neighborhood.

Over the past year, Bridges has been working to recreate and polish the station, which included remodeling work and expanding the building for room to grow. In addition to focusing on the features needed to open a dental office, he’s incorporated decor to make both the interior and exterior setting reminiscent of the 1950s.

Outside, anyone who’s driven through Reidland lately has surely noticed the remodeled garage-like look of the office and the Texaco sign out front, which was specially made to replicate the original gas station signs of yesteryear.

Inside, new and longtime patients of Bridges will find hints of his family history - a vintage radio his grandfather once listened to, a toy truck his dad once played with as a kid - among other features that highlight a different era, including an original Texaco gas pump contributed by Bridges’ cousin, Walter Bridges.

To add to the inviting setting, Bridges also plans to offer a snack bar with baked goods from Kirchhoff’s Bakery and coffee from Etcetera Coffeehouse, which he said is a part of his goal to support other local businesses.

Recreating the vintage feel is one way Bridges has aimed to bring the Texaco station back to life.

The shop opened in the 1950s, in a day and age when filling stations were the local hangout. Bridges’ father, Don Bridges, a member of the first graduating class of the then-brand new Reidland High School building in 1955, spent a lot of his free time at the station.

Bridges remembers when the Texaco station was owned and operated by a man named Jim Nunn, known locally as “Nunny,” who would give candy to local kids at the service station.

“Nunny would give us candy. We loved to go see him. Everybody knew him. He was a great guy,” Bridges said.

The station later became a Gulf station before becoming a convenience store, which later closed. It sat vacant for eight years before Bridges bought it last year.

One reason he bought the building was because “something just struck” him while looking at the station.

But an underlying motive in choosing the Reidland site as his new location was to make a commitment to the place where he grew up.

Bridges noted that it sometimes seems like “a lot of people have started writing off Reidland” since the high school closed in 2013.

He’s hopeful that others will choose the area as a place to open shop.

“I’m hoping that other people will follow suit,” he said. “It just takes one person to get out there and do something, just like with the artist relocation project in Lower Town. Someone had to go and renovate a house first.

“I saw it as an opportunity to really do something good for the community of Reidland and for the city of Paducah as a whole,” Bridges said. “Not just Reidland, but Paducah, by restoring something. Even though it’s not original, it’s reminiscent to what people perceive as a good time.”

His desire to make the dental office a friendly place is why he chose the Smile Station as the shop’s name.

“We do everything under one roof here … I want it to be pleasant and reminiscent of full-service gas stations where you really get full service.”

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Information from: The Paducah Sun, http://www.paducahsun.com

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