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Business Pulse 11-1-20
westwood market
A touch of sadness hangs over the Westwood community without its familiar store open to the public. But blue skies are on the horizon as Westwood Market is scheduled to reopen in one to two weeks.
robotics outside
The Automation and Robotics Training Center in McMinnville has completed 18 months of operation and is providing workers with the highly skilled training needed by industries today.
Ashley's Attic moving
Ashley's Attic is on the move to a new location on North Spring Street. Showing the store's popular Elf on the Shelf line just in time for the holidays are, from left, Garry and Helen Gillentine and their daughter Ashley Wright.

Since the store in Westwood has been closed for several days, I’ve received one popular question. When will it reopen? And please, let it be soon.

I don’t have an exact date to report, but I do have a general timeline. I stopped by the market Friday morning to check on the latest progress and was told it would likely be one to two more weeks before it reopens. There’s still work being done to prepare for what will be a store that’s packed with merchandise.

For folks who like the convenience of shopping at convenience stores, I was told there will be more cold drinks, more tobacco products, more beer, more hot food, and longer hours of operation than when the store was previously open. There will be plenty of coffee available, cappuccinos, and even slushies.

From what I’ve been told, it will be like multiplying the previous store by five. It will be like injecting the old store with steroids. It will be like taking the old store and giving it monster truck tires so it can crush other stores.

The new hours will be 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. More coolers are on the way to provide the coldest drinks in Westwood.

If you recall, Mike Patel purchased the property, some 1.6 acres at 701 Morrison Street, in October 2018. Mike may be best known as the owner of The Smoke Shop on Sparta Street, which is popular for its breakfast biscuits.

Now those biscuits will be available at Morrison Market so go to bed hungry and wake up ready to eat.

The other popular question I’ve been asked is when will the gasoline pumps return? Many local residents may remember working gas pumps used to be in front of that market when it was called The Store years ago. 

Then the gas pumps stopped working but they remained out front. Finally the gas pumps were removed and the underground tanks were dug up. 

Now gas pumps are scheduled to return, but not just yet. That’s a project that’s further down the road.

Robotics center

Is thriving

Local and state officials had majestic visions when revealing plans to construct a $5 million robotics center in McMinnville.

When goals are so lofty and expectations are so high, it’s rare not to experience some sort of a letdown. Motlow State’s Automation and Robotics Training Center has been a rare exception to that train of thought.

After 18 months of operation, it’s clear our robotics center is providing the type of training industry needs to stay competitive in this age of automation. On a growing scale, robots are performing more production-line tasks in today’s workforce, which means people have new roles. 

What’s so badly needed are highly skilled employees who can program the robots and then repair them when there’s trouble. Our robotics center provides that training.

Larry Flatt has been executive director of the facility since Day 1. Larry has done such an outstanding job of keeping in touch with the latest technology, he’s been selected as Motlow’s nominee for the statewide SOAR Award. This is an award which recognizes excellence by a staff member at a Tennessee Board of Regents institution.

As Larry explained to me on Friday, writing robot programs is somewhat similar no matter the job. What changes is the size of the robots that are needed, which is based on the job.

A robot used to pick up an engine and place it under the hood may use a similar program as a robot used to pick up a windshield and affix it in place. You just have a much stronger robot if you’re lifting an engine than a windshield.

Our local robotics center has partnerships with the largest robot manufacturers in the world. It also has a partnership with Cleveland, Ohio-based Parker-Hannifen, which is the largest fluid power and hydraulics manufacturer in the world.

“We’ve been very successful in what we’ve set out to do,” said Larry. “We have some pretty sophisticated training going on right here.”

Larry said four employees who build equipment for Volkswagen in Chattanooga recently finished four days of training at our robotics center. He said a CTE trainer for Coffee County High School and an employee at Bridgestone were among students who completed a course at the robotics center on Thursday.

Motlow State’s Automation and Robotics Training Center was billed as a big asset for our community and it’s lived up to the hype. It’s another tool in the belt that makes Warren County’s economy stronger.

Housing market

Is booming

When talking about local business news, a frequent topic I hear is the need for more housing. Several candidates running for McMinnville alderman cited our housing shortage as one of our community’s most pressing needs.

One candidate even said, “We want to attract people to move into our area, but where are they going to live?”

In keeping with the phenomenon of supply and demand, the lack of housing has caused prices to float high into the air. For proof of this, you can glance at the nifty graph I composed on this page.

To add to that information, I recently chatted with a representative with the Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors. That agency serves a nine-county area that includes Warren County and these eight other counties – Cannon, Coffee, Grundy, Marion, Rutherford, Bedford, Moore and Franklin.

With Rutherford County included in that group, we’re talking about some high-dollar property. In the entire nine-county region, the average selling home price for September 2020 was $299,028 and the average days on the market was 23.

That’s proof housing prices are going bananas with high prices and very brief listing times.

Ashley’s Attic

Finds new home

It’s been 34 years of business and Ashley’s Attic is still going strong. The business is in the process of moving from Main Street, but it’s staying downtown and finding a new home on suddenly resurgent North Spring Street.

“We are McMinnville’s toy store,” said owner Helen Gillentine, who has the new store looking sharp. “We have a big book section and lots and lots of toys. And we are your Elf on the Shelf adoption headquarters.”

With Halloween in the rearview mirror, it’s time to shift into full Christmas mode. Helen and her daughter, Ashley Wright, were telling me about all the Elf on the Shelf accessories that are available, including a dog. Elf on the Shelf is a sought-after holiday item and Ashley’s Attic has everything you need.

“We’re going to refocus our energy back into what was the original intent of the store, which is toys, gifts and baby items,” said Ashley, who indicated she’s going to become more involved in the day-to-day operations at the new location.

Green Toys is a popular brand available at Ashley’s Attic. The company produces heavy duty toys made in the USA from recycled plastic. That sounds like a company we should all support!

Ashley’s Attic will hold a moving sale this coming weekend, Nov. 7-8, before opening at its new location on Tuesday, Nov. 10. For those who don’t feel comfortable shopping in this COVID era, Ashley’s Attic offers a number of options. Private shopping appointments are available. So are curbside service and free countywide delivery. There’s free gift wrapping with every purchase and layaway options are available.

“I think we’re going to really like being here on Spring Street,” said Ashley. “Wink and Kimmi’s Tea Room are doing well and Ryan J. Moore has made his law office look really nice. This is a high-traffic area.”

To check out all the great items at Ashley’s Attic, be sure to visit its new location at 118 N. Spring Street. The phone number is 473-7006.

Pumpkin Patch

Closing for season

Just like that, another season is in the books at Warren County’s premier fall attraction, Cedarwood Pumpkin Patch. This Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. is the last day to visit the Pumpkin Patch this season.

Cedarwood owner Buddy Patterson said it’s been a different year with COVID concerns and no school field trips, but the fact most schools are closed on Fridays made it a busy day for walk-in traffic.

“It seems like everybody has been real satisfied and I’ve seen a lot of smiling faces when people are walking out with their pumpkin,” said Buddy. “We’ve had to do some things differently this year and we decided not to have a hayride. I know it’s outdoors but we thought it probably wasn’t the best idea to pack everybody in together and go for a hayride.”

Buddy said facemasks were optional and some visitors wore facemasks while others did not. Hmm, that seems like the same type of situation I’ve noticed when facemasks are mandatory.

“Attendance was pretty good,” said Buddy. “We were closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and didn’t have any school buses, but I think the other days made up for it.”

That's all folks

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