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Business Pulse - Downtown renovation gains steam
Fraley's outside.jpg
Doing brick and block work at the front of the old Fraley’s building on Main Street on Friday are, from left, Tom Mix, Carl Mix and Chad Mix. The building is getting a complete makeover and already has retail spaces leased. Anyone interested in leasing a remaining spot can email Raven Young at

I love downtown McMinnville and I especially love the fact people aren’t rioting in the streets and trying to destroy it. That’s a plus.

It’s taken decades of work and many baby steps along the way to give Main Street its current shine. That shine is on the verge of getting a whole lot brighter as the old Fraley’s building is about to slingshot into a hotbed of activity.

Renovation efforts have been cranked up to Level 10 and everyone is drinking from a well of optimism that there will soon be shops -- and a restaurant -- open at the long-dormant building.

“We’re shooting for the end of November,” said Raven Young, granddaughter of property owner Ken Roberts. “When we’re done, we’re going to have seven storefronts and we already have two leases signed. One retail store is going to take two of the units and PI.E is going to take another one. Hopefully we will be ready in November-ish.”

PI.E has gained popularity for its delicious pizza and has thus far been operating out of a food truck. That will change when the business opens in a storefront at the old Fraley’s building, which has been officially renamed Main Street Center of McMinnville.

It’s an exciting time, to be sure, to witness a building breaking free from the crust of a 15-year hibernation. I remember when Fraley’s was fully operational, packed with furniture, and a true downtown gem. To be able to recapture some of that vibrancy and once again bring retail activity to that spot is going to be like throwing the winning touchdown with :01 left. It will be an adrenaline rush.

“Ken has done so much structural work inside,” said Raven. “The building was literally crumbling when he bought it. He’s done so much to save the building.”

Now that work is well under way, interest has sparked. We all know the pendulum swings back and forth, and it’s now swung back in the favor of downtown districts.

“There has been a lot of interest from people wanting to put businesses here,” said Raven.

I’d say so. Main Street space is as desirable as Jessica Simpson in that “Dukes of Hazzard” movie, which was a largely forgettable piece of cinema save for her slow-motion appearances.

So let’s cut to the chase, which is always a good idea since we’ve started talking about the Duke boys. If you’d like to have a spot in the soon-to-be-renovated Fraley’s building, I have great news.

There are three spaces currently available. The spots are 1,100, 1,200 and 1,500 square feet. If you think downtown may be just to place to invigorate your business, send Raven an email at

Home of the

Gator taco?

For years, Billy’s Restaurant in Newtown was the proud home of the Gator Burger. The restaurant has been vacant for more than a year, but a new tenant is one the verge of opening there.

Roberto Lopez has been busy in recent days getting the facility ready for his new restaurant which will be called Nelo’s. Roberto says he hopes to open in about two weeks.

Authentic Mexican cuisine will fill the menu so I think Roberto should seize on this opportunity and declare his new restaurant Home of the Gator Taco! Why not?

The natural talking point at this juncture is that Warren County doesn’t need another Mexican restaurant. I’m going to offer my feedback and say we definitely do need at least one more, maybe two.

My question, and this may be rhetorical, is can we really have too many Mexican restaurants? The blueprint works. Beans, rice, cheese, chips, guacamole, salsa. The only thing missing is a funnel.

“There are no other restaurants in this area so I think we’re going to do well,” said Roberto. “Since we’ve been working on the building a bunch of people have pulled up to ask us what it’s going to be. Then they want to know when we’re going to open.”

Roberto says his food is going to bring a smile. If his food doesn’t, he’s going to offer beer and margaritas so perhaps that will. 

Roberto and his crew are busy getting the restaurant clean and ready to go. I view this as a resounding win for the Newtown community, which jumped up a notch when it landed a Dollar General several years ago. To have a Mexican restaurant and a Dollar General in the same area is a big step toward achieving self-sufficiency.

If Newtown can get a check advance store and a liquor store, I can think of no reason anyone would ever want to leave. It would become a Land of Oz.

Main Street

Garage for sale

People with long memories remember it as the old bus station. People with shorter memories remember it as the old Goodyear store. People with really short memories remember it as BET Auto Repair, which was there until about a month ago.

The property that’s rich with history on the corner of Main Street and North High Street is available for sale or for lease.

“It’s a good piece of property,” said Ray Martin, who manages property owned by Harold Martin. “It’s 7,000 square feet in all with 4,500 of that in the garage and 2,500 in the office.”

According to property tax records, the building at 207 West Main Street was built in 1964. It’s valued on tax records at $145,800, which may mean something, or may mean nothing.

I think the property would be a good spot for a Mexican restaurant, a Subway, or a Dollar General.


Turns 30

I remember when Bridgestone celebrated 25 years in Warren County. There was a band, an upscale tent ceremony, and catering to acknowledge the milestone.

It was a much more subdued occasion when Bridgestone recently celebrated 30 years in Warren County. Actually, I’m not sure if there was a celebration at all, only a press release.

Bridgestone’s Warren County plant began operation in 1990 and continues to play a vital role in the community today by employing more than 1,000 people. To state it as simply as possible, Bridgestone is an asset unlike any other.

 “As we celebrate 30 years of manufacturing, we are thankful for our dedicated team, which is directly responsible for delivering the best-in-class commercial truck and bus tires our customers know and expect from Bridgestone,” said Tamara Martensen, plant manager. “The Warren County team sets the bar for total output and productivity across Bridgestone’s TBR facilities globally.”

In 2018, Bridgestone announced a $40 million investment in the plant to meet market demand and address emerging customer needs. During its 30 years in operation, the Warren County plant has received several certifications for safety leadership, quality management and environmental responsibility, including the Tennessee Green Partnership and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification in 2008, becoming the first tire plant in the world to achieve this designation. 

 Year over year, the Warren County plant team demonstrates the Bridgestone global corporate social responsibility commitment Our Way to Serve through partnerships and community volunteer projects with the Foundation for Educational Progress in Warren County, Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity and Second Harvest Food Bank, just to name a few.

Hooray for Bridgestone, a great company indeed. It has been a huge benefit to Warren County and our quality of life for three decades.

60 years ago

This month

Speaking of milestones, it was 60 years ago this month that Century Electric grabbed front-page headlines in August of 1960 when the company announced plans to locate in McMinnville.

The newspaper article which appeared in the Southern Standard referred to the plant as operating at the old Warren County Fairgrounds site on Red Road. Chamber of Commerce manager D. Porter Henegar was among the officials to welcome Century to the community.

In locating here, Century vowed to hire as many local people as possible with only a few “key men” brought in from other areas. The company would grow to become one of McMinnville’s largest employers at the time. 

It would change names from Century Electric, to MagneTek, to A.O. Smith before shutting its doors nearly 20 years ago around the time Dezurik, Aquatech and others left the community.

Century Electric put food on the table for many local families. It was a good ‘un.

That’s all folks

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