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Business Pulse: 1/27/13

Like birds flying south for the winter, I’m making my annual trip to the front page of this section. I may be living it up today with color pictures and greater exposure, but I’m sure there will be some explaining to do come Monday morning when I have to take responsibility for my actions.
If there’s some way I can pin this on the city of McMinnville, I’m open to suggestions.
I’m always on the lookout for odd, strange and curious stories, especially if they have a business twist. I think I’ve found that story in Dublin, Ireland where inventor David Bonney has completely changed his marketing strategy when it comes to shoes.
It was two years ago when Bonney launched the revolutionary idea of  “Christian Shoes.” These were shoes that contained liquid in the soles so the wearers could walk on water.
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, these Christian Shoes were not a hit. Orders were scarce. The idea was a flop. Bonney had to do something.
So you could say he tweaked the concept just a bit and came up with the idea of “Atheist Shoes.” The shoes are said to look fetching and come with the motto, “Now atheists can have soles too.”
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, these Atheist Shoes have been a hit. According to his website, Bonney has received $59,132 in pledges from people eager to buy a pair.
It’s essentially the same shoe, only with a different, more negative name. I don’t understand the attraction. I guess this raises a serious philosophical question about whether good really will triumph over evil.
In today’s final tidbit, authorities in Colorado have been hit with a rash of thefts for laundry detergent. Police in the Denver area say they have video footage of one suspect stealing more than $8,000 worth of detergent from six different stores.
So far investigators haven’t developed many promising leads. They do say, however, to be on the lookout for a thief who is extremely dirty.

Positive spin on

Folks are always looking for positive spin, so here goes. Warren County was one of only two counties in Tennessee that saw unemployment decrease in December.
According to figures released Thursday by the state, Warren County unemployment dropped from 8.8 percent in November to 8.4 percent in December. The only other county to see a decrease was Macon County. The other 93 counties in Tennessee saw unemployment increase.
This is proof Warren County is doing something right when it comes to creating local jobs. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but it must be something.
To put Warren County’s 8.4 percent unemployment in perspective, let’s look to the past. Two years ago, local unemployment was 10.8 percent at this time. Three years ago, it was 13.1 percent. We are clearly headed in the right direction.

Social Security
office has moved

It was over a year ago when I told you the Social Security office was going to move from its location across from Walmart to a building on Sparta Street. That move is taking place this weekend.
When I called the Social Security Administration to get all the details on Friday, a recording told me the office was closed due to relocation. It said the office would reopen this Monday at its new spot across from Best Western.
I’m not exactly sure why the Social Security office likes to play musical chairs when it comes to locations. It was downtown in the Park Theatre building before moving into a sparkling new facility across from Walmart. That move was in 2003 to the best of my memory.
In making the move to Sparta Street, the Social Security Administration will have a spacious office, some 8,000 square feet. I haven’t heard word about what might locate at the old Social Security building. It’s certainly at a prime location on the corner of the bypass and Old Smithville Highway.

New restaurant
opens on N. Spring

After about six weeks of renovation work, Kenneth and Paula King will be opening their new restaurant on N. Spring Street on Monday. The restaurant, called Six Packen Angels, will be open for lunch this week leading up to a grand opening celebration next weekend.
Kenneth says there will be 50-cent wings and $1 draft beer Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and he’s hopeful to do a good business during the Super Bowl.
“We’ve had a soft opening and been having a few customers in here so we can try out our recipes,” said Kenneth. “We’ve had some good reviews on our steaks and our wings are phenomenal. I’ve been everywhere eating wings and ours compare to the best of the best.”
Kenneth and Paula say they want to create a relaxing atmosphere where people can enjoy hanging out for an hour or two if they like. There’s a Touch Tune jukebox, pool table, and Kenneth is in the process of installing three TVs.
“We don’t want to be just another restaurant,” said Kenneth. “We want to be a place where you can come and have fun.”
Kenneth is planning evening entertainment such as a DJ, karaoke, and songwriters night. Paula says there are a number of affordable and tasty lunch specials.
“We want to get you in and out for $6 or $7 for lunch,” she said.
Appetizers include homemade salsa that’s really good. I put back several chips when I stopped by Friday. There’s also a tangy cheese dip Paula believes will be popular.
“I’ve seen a lot of businesses come and go,” said Kenneth. “Hopefully we’ll get some support. We plan to buy Warren County products as much as possible. I can’t wait until the Farmers Market opens because I plan to buy a bunch of fresh produce there.”
While I wrote about the improving job market and lower unemployment rate earlier in this column, Kenneth says there are still a number of people looking for work.
“I’ve probably had 50 people come in during the renovation process and ask me when we’d be hiring,” said Kenneth. “We have seven employees now. I’d like to get to the point where we could hire a few more.”
The business can be reached at 474-8363. It’s located at the old Lupita’s spot.

Old Powermatic
still available

Just when it seemed McMinnville officials had stopped talking about plans to buy the old Powermatic building, Amie Hodges sent a letter to the city asking officials to reconsider. Amie is a member of the Gordon McGee family which owns the 220,000-square-foot building.
“In the recent past, we have been approached by city representatives regarding the property at 619 Morrison Street and its possible acquisition by the city to create an industrial park for business incubation,” wrote Hodges in a letter dated Jan. 21. “Our property will easily satisfy both the needs of the police department, industrial development, and more at an affordable price for the citizens of McMinnville.”
That affordable price, as stated in the letter, is $490,000. Hodges emphasized the building and its 15 acres would be a nice fit for the city with plenty of parking. 
Mayor Jimmy Haley said at a city board meeting last week the property is still under consideration.
“There has been some negotiation back and forth between the property owners and our city attorney and city administrator,” said Haley. “A board member a few weeks ago contacted the McGees to see where they stood, or to see what might still be available. I don’t think they have been adequately informed as to which direction the city is going in now. If the city is still interested, they would like to be reconsidered. Amie has offered a site survey to individual board members or as a group.”
City officials didn’t discuss the matter and it’s my opinion they are more focused on renovating the Blue Building at this point.
The old Powermatic building remains one of the few vacant buildings from the Great Factory Departure a decade ago. The buildings that once housed Carrier, A.O. Smith, AquaTech, Findlay and DeZurik are all occupied – at least to some extent. However, Powermatic remains completely empty.

Totherow buys
building on Main

I’m sure most longtime residents remember when Western Auto was located on the corner of Main Street across from the library. If you’re wondering whatever happened to the Western Auto chain, well it’s defunct.
Sears bought the chain in 1988 and sold most of the company to Advanced Auto Parts 10 years later. By 2003, the Western Auto brand was completely dissolved. I can’t remember when our local store closed, but I’d have to place it around 1997.
That little history lesson aside, James Totherow has purchased the building that used to house Western Auto. It’s a large building with 20,000 square feet. What I didn’t realize is the building has a basement and a second floor.
The building currently has four tenants, most notably Paula’s Dance Academy. But James has a good bit of space that’s available now or will be available in the near future. If you’d like to rent office space in beautiful downtown McMinnville, give him a call at 808-9200.
“Having the Park Theatre next door is one of the biggest reasons I bought it,” said James. “When that gets up and running, it’s going to help all of Main Street and I think it will help me being right next to it.”
With so much space, James thought about the idea of creating a spot for downtown living. But he thinks he’s going to stick with the business concept for now.
The building has entrances from Main Street, or from the parking lot behind it. And if you’re not looking for traditional office space, there are two spots with garage door access that could serve a number of needs.
“I’m looking to get more tenants in here so I’m willing to build to suit,” said James, who already has a successful mini storage business on Smithville Highway next to Delores Market.
If you want to get close to the action when the Park Theatre gets up and running, take a look at the space that’s available at 119 W. Main Suites.

IDB meeting
not noteworthy

The Industrial Development Board held its monthly meeting 10 days ago. The meeting was so uneventful, I forgot to write about it in last week’s column.
The only news I found to be of interest surrounded the job search for a new director of economic development. As many of you may know, current director Jeff McCormick resigned Dec. 31, but has agreed to continue working for the IDB on a contract basis.
This is creating at least one problem. Because McCormick is contract labor and no longer officially an employee, he may not be able to sign documents on behalf of the IDB. The matter is currently being reviewed by IDB attorney Susan Marttala.
As for the search to find a replacement for McCormick, not much interest has materialized. IDB member Mark Brown, who is on the search committee, said the focus area was initially Tennessee, but the search has been expanded to the entire Southeast.
“We’re still not seeing a lot of interest in the position,” said Brown at the meeting. I should note 10 days have passed since he made that statement and I understand interest has picked up slightly.

That’s all folks

I realize you’re probably eager for more business news, but that will have to wait until next week’s column.
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