By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Business Pulse - Begonias closing in on opening day
Vanilla Bean girls.jpg
Madison Majors, left, and her sister Destiny Majors enjoy a cupcake and cookie Friday at Vanilla Bean Baking Company on Main Street.

I’ve found there are some things people in Warren County really embrace.

Think Dollar General.

But behind Dollar General in the pecking order, and behind Mexican restaurants, and behind vape shops, and behind check advance places, let’s not forget we all love pizza. Delicious, hot, fresh-from-the-oven pizza.

McMinnville’s newest pizza parlor is on the way. Begonias is nearing the finish line and should be opening in the upcoming weeks on Main Street in the old Fraley’s building.

I stopped by Begonias on Friday and can say the building looks like a polished gem. The restaurant would have probably been open by now if now for the Suez Canal catastrophe, I was told. But vital kitchen equipment which was stuck in limbo by the Suez Canal blockage has finally arrived and the final countdown should be under way for Begonias to open.

I believe Begonias will be a great addition to Main Street as our downtown district continues to flourish. Other retail areas are most definitely struggling, and I will address that later in this column, but Main Streets across the country appear to be building speed and that’s a welcome sight.

Get moooving

With Mad Cow

I’ve been a runner and fitness enthusiast my entire adult life. Now that my adult life is getting more advanced in age, I’m not as fast of a runner, but I’m still a fierce advocate for getting outside and getting moving.

With that said, Mad Cow Running Company and Outfitters is a new business which lands right in my wheelhouse. It’s located on the busy corner of N. Chancery Street and Locust Street in the building which used to be Palace Print Shop for people with really long memories who can remember Palace Print Shop.

June 1 is the Mad Cow opening date.

“This is my passion and a dream of mine,” said Monica Moore, who is opening the business with partners Joel and Colleen Lawrence. “We want to get people outside to play.”

I like Monica’s mindset. I believe the sofa has long been an albatross hanging around the collective neck of American society. The sofa and cable TV, which has now been replaced by streaming services, seem to induce a sedentary lifestyle.

But we don’t have to live our lives in front of a screen watching our waistlines grow. We can get active and embrace vitality.

“My passion is running,” said Monica, who has an active streak of running every single day since January of 2020.

Mad Cow customers don’t have to be as enthusiastic as Monica. She says the business will cater to people of all different abilities and fitness levels.

Mad Cow will have walking groups on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and there will also be a Tuesday night running group. Don’t worry if you’re not up to speed, Monica says. There will be running groups for those who are like gazelles and those who are more like Chihuahuas.

“We’re going to be arranging hikes at Rock Island and other excursions,” said Monica, who is happy to be returning to her hometown to open a business. She’s been a teacher in Eagleville for the past 11 years and has 27 years of teaching experience in all. She’s retiring from the teaching profession to pursue her passion.

I’ll provide more information about Mad Cow Running Company and Outfitters when it opens. I’m excited about this new and unique local business.

Let’s talk

About retail

For years, I’ve enjoyed watching the stock market and investing in companies I think will excel. On Thursday, I watched as Amazon produced one of the most amazing quarters in U.S. history. 

In first-quarter earnings, Amazon produced revenue of $108 billion, which is a 44% increase from the same quarter last year. Amazon’s guidance for this upcoming second quarter, as you might expect, is lofty with the company showing no signs of slowing its business as the pandemic eases.

 With the e-commerce giant continuing to snatch more revenue, the logical question is what’s left for our traditional brick and mortar stores? 

There was a time when people had to drive to a store to shop. Those times are gone.

Glancing around McMinnville, there’s an abundance of retail space. I’m surprised that the old Hasting’s building, which is also the old Serenity Thrift building, has been vacant for 18 months.

That’s a prime retail location in a thriving shopping center. For it to be empty for so long is a telling sign about our trajectory.

There’s also Three Star Mall, which is still heaving from the losses of JC Penney and Goody’s. The mall is about to suffer more wounds when McMinnville Parks and Recreation leaves the spaces it’s leasing, which has to be relatively soon unless there are more unexpected delays to announce on the Civic Center project.

The mall, bless its heart, suffered a huge blow when Kmart left decades ago, but is probably in its worst overall state since it opened in 1981.

There’s also the retail space under construction in front of our new hotel. The property is currently for sale at a price no one would ever pay, $3.6 million, but it still represents four potential stores and some 20,000 square feet of vacant retail space, when it’s finished.

The numbers from Amazon plainly show that our taste for online shopping has accelerated. What does this mean for traditional retail space?

Fortunately for downtown business districts, the pendulum has swung back in their favor. Retail space in downtown McMinnville is desirable and that seems to be the case in much of Tennessee. Retailers want to be downtown, which wasn’t the case 20 years ago.

There’s not much available space in downtown McMinnville, save for the old Warren County Furniture building, which has been owned by local businessman Jimmy Zavogiannis for over 10 years.

Jimmy tells me he’s gotten several nibbles on the property and he thinks it would be great as a development with second-floor residential living and first-floor retail. However, Jimmy also says he’s too old to start such a project, a claim I dispute, so he’s determined to sell the building and not develop it himself.

As an overall conclusion, I think we’re going to see the need for traditional retail stores greatly diminish. If Amazon is going to be up 44% from last year, it stands to reason there are many commercial segments which are suffering.

Downtown districts have the mojo right now. They can offer unique shopping experiences that entice shoppers to leave their homes instead of purchasing online. As it currently stands, I don’t believe malls and traditional shopping centers have that same drawing power.

Speaking of

Main Street

There’s was a bit of joyous news on Friday as the Vanilla Bean Baking Company reopened with its full menu of baked goods intact.

The downtown business had been operating on a limited capacity and just offering coffee drinks, then it closed completely for several days due to sewer line issues.

But all is now good as those issues have been remedied and Vanilla Bean is open at full speed.

“We were limping along,” said Vanilla Bean owner Sally Roberson. “The baking is half my business and the coffee is the other half. We were staying open for the coffee lovers, but it was odd with just half the business. Now we’re back and it’s been a really busy day. Today has been our first full day back,” she said Friday.

With sewer issues now resolved, Sally says it’s great to be back to baking and offering all the tasty cupcakes, cookies and cinnamon buns the Warren County community has come to enjoy.

That’s all folks

Gov. Bill Lee has declared Tennessee has reopened for business. I sure hope so. To report business news, send me an email at