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Business Pulse - Empty-nester creates boutique
Line & Grace confetti.jpg
It was cause for confetti and celebration on Friday as a rebranded Linen & Grace Boutique opened on Main Street. Owner Vicki Benedict, right, is pictured with employee Kenzie Deason.

It was four years ago when Vicki Benedict purchased the Weathered Arrow on Main Street. At the time, she was looking for something to move her life forward as she struggled being an empty-nester when her boys left home.

That was in 2017. Fast forward to Friday and Vicki officially unveiled the transformation of her store. The name has changed to Linen and Grace Boutique and customers were eager to check out the grand re-opening.

“I purchased Weathered Arrow, but I created Linen and Grace Boutique,” said Vicki. “When I bought this store, I wasn’t really sure about the direction. Weathered Arrow was more of a home goods store. I let my customers lead me and determine which direction to take and they all said they wanted more clothes. When I started listening to my customers, business exploded.”

Linen and Grace Boutique is filled with women’s apparel in what Vicki describes as a complete rebrand. She says the new store is “something far more beautiful than I had ever imagined.”

She added, “Together we have organically evolved into a charming space. God knew I needed this store. God knew I needed all of you. Thank you for being my saving grace. Together we have created so much more than a boutique. The friendships, the hearts-to-hearts, and the tears we’ve shed together are special things. The shopping is just a bonus.”

Renea Bess was one of the many happy shoppers at the new store on Friday, along with superstar bank employee Carla Savage. The day became even more festive when Linen and Grace employee Kenzie Deason learned she had been accepted into the radiology department at Chattanooga State.

Linen and Grace Boutique is located on Main Street just down from Holder Realty and Juicy’s.


Job fair

Underwhelming


Federal unemployment benefits are set to expire in Tennessee on July 3. Thinking out-of-work local residents might soon need a job without that extra $300 a week, Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Don Vizi organized a job fair on Tuesday.

The job fair was held at the former Goody’s location at Three Star Mall. Jobs were abundant as 30 employers attended the event. 

Unfortunately, visions of people lining up to land a job didn’t materialize. Don estimates about 100 people attended the day-long event.

Don said the event was productive because several people did land a job and several more began the hiring process. But, as a whole, he said the job fair didn’t meet his expectations.

“I really find it hard to understand why more people don’t seem interested in finding a job,” said Don. “It’s a little disappointing because so many jobs are available and nobody wants to take them. It was my hope a lot of people would come out for this.”

Don has embraced his role as new Chamber director and come to town at a time of strong growth. In cities throughout America, Chambers of Commerce are known as the “front door to the community” and Don said our Chamber is no different.

“We have a couple people stop in every day that are new to the area,” said Don. “They want to know where to find this or that, or they ask for a map. There are still a lot of people who use maps. They don’t want to rely on their GPS. A lot of these people are relocating and they know the Chamber is a main place for information. We also get a lot of phone calls. We might get a call from someone with a bus tour and they want to know a good restaurant that can accommodate 20.”


Newell eyes

Extension


At Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Industrial Development Board, director Don Alexander said he’s been in talks with representatives from Newell about extending the company’s lease at its location at 150 Cadillac Lane. The IDB owns the property.

“Newell has a five-year extension and they want to exercise that,” said Don. “But what’s really exciting is they have already asked for another five-year extension after that.”

The company has been part of the Warren County business community for more than 60 years. It first located here in 1959 when it was Oster. It has changed names over the years and was also Jarden for a bit before becoming Newell.

Industrial Board member Jeff Golden says he remembers working for Oster in the early 1960s. “Back then it was really tough to find a job,” said Jeff.


Incentives

To build homes?


The Industrial Development Board can provide certain financial incentives for companies looking to locate in Warren County and bring jobs to the area. At Thursday’s meeting, Don Alexander mentioned that new regulations approved this year by the Tennessee General Assembly allow for financial incentives for home builders.

“To me, this is a slippery slope on whether this is something we want to do,” said Don.

The thinking behind the new incentive program is that some areas are in desperate need of housing, which is a crucial part of a community’s development. By providing home builders with tax breaks, it is viewed as a way to stimulate construction.

It was pointed out at the IDB meeting that Warren County is lacking in available homes in the $200,000 to $280,000 price range. That’s not really a lavish home by today’s standards, considering the way home prices have soared. 

IDB member Brent Nunley questioned the need to provide incentives. “We already have a lot of homes going up in a lot of different price ranges,” he said.

The topic was for discussion only. Don said he would try to get more specific information on the home builder incentive program and the subject may be revisited in the future, although reception seemed lukewarm from IDB members.


New officer

Elected


Thursday was the last IDB meeting where Scot MacDonald served as chairman. Scot was thanked for his year of solid service and he will make way for Trevor Galligan, who will assume duties as IDB chair in July. Jenny Nafrada moves up as vice chair.

That left an open spot for IDB secretary/ treasurer. In a heated battle, Andy Knowles emerged victorious to claim that spot.

According to IDB guidelines, Knowles will advance to vice chair next year, and then to chairman the following year. That means the board just has to elect a secretary/ treasurer each year, who will then move up the ranks.

“In all likelihood, we’re going to see a lot of great things happen in the very near future,” said Don.

In closing, Don said two more companies have expressed interest in the old Metal Products Company property on Garfield Street. He said that brings the total to three local companies and three out-of-town companies which have expressed interest in the facility which has been vacant for only two months.


Financial advisor

Settles in


Edward Jones financial advisor Chance Von Dette has an interesting story. Chance said it was last year around this time when he was on the verge of becoming a financial advisor for an Edward Jones office in Columbia. Then protests erupted.

A proud member of the Tennessee National Guard, Chance was among the Guardsmen called to Nashville to protect the Capitol building.

“Fortunately, it was a peaceful, 10,000-person march,” said Chance. “They were anticipating violence which is why they called us in. It was an interesting situation. At one point, I worked 40 hours during a two-day period. I took naps on the floor in my riot gear.”

Chance said the peaceful protests set off what he called a “series of fortunate events” in his life. After his brief deployment in Nashville, he decided to take a job at an Edward Jones office in McMinnville and he’s been here nearly a year. 

Chance, his wife, and their small child have relocated to this area and I think they will be a great asset to our community. Chance has formerly worked on Capitol Hill in Nashville and he also spent time deployed to Poland in 2018 with the National Guard.

As for financial advice, it’s an exciting time to be involved in the market with things like Bitcoin and GameStop creating a buzz. Chance said he tries to steer clear of the hoopla and instead guide clients toward dependable, long-term investments.

“If you look at the market over any 10-year period since 1930, the market has made money,” said Chance. “We try to stay conservation and guide people where they want to go. Past performance doesn’t guarantee the future, but the American market has done well for some time. We try to focus on long-term goals like retirement plans and education savings plans.”

With interest rates extremely low, it’s hard to get much of a return by sticking money in a CD. Chance says he tries to work clients through different options that provide higher returns, all depending on the level of risk they are willing to take.

“Risk is hard to explain,” said Chance. “In making a recommendation, we look at a company’s past performance, future potential, and the company’s balance sheet. There are always pullbacks in the market. We just don’t know when. Historically, the market usually has three pullbacks of around 5% each year. We haven’t had a pullback of 5% in eight months.”

Chance seems like a nice guy and he’s easy to talk to. If you’ve been thinking about investing in stocks and bonds, give him a call at (931) 506-7444. His office is located at 604 North Chancery Street.


New produce

stand arrives


Kari Lefebvre says there's something unique about buying produce from a roadside stand. She should know. She's opened Country Roads Farm Stand next to Delores Market on Smithville Highway.

"Like-minded people seem to come shop at farm stands," said Kari. "It's nice to get out in the fresh air and there's always a lot of chatting. People like to stop and talk. I've heard a lot of stories."

Kari and her husband Todd bought the charming white farmhouse on the corner of Smithville Highway and Delores Lane. The home was formerly owned by Joe T. and Mary Cantrell.

Todd is pretty handy and he made Kari's farm stand himself. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Tomatoes are a mainstay, along with other fresh produce. On Friday, the stand had cantelope and watermelon. There are also hanging baskets and other assorted annuals.

Cucumbers, squash, potatoes and apples are a few of the other items Kari had ready to sell Friday.

"We grow some of this ourselves and have several other farmers serving as backup," said Kari. "We also buy from the Amish. We get this goat milk's soap from them and it's turned out to be a big seller."

Kari said they've already started a pumpkin patch so pumpkins will be available in the fall. She says the stand will remain operational until winter approaches.


Gondola closes

for two weeks


With all the volatility in the restaurant world, don't be alarmed when you find the doors locked at Gondola for the next two weeks. The restaurant is not closing permanently. It will be shut down for two weeks with plans to reopen on Tuesday, July 13.

"It's a well-deserved vacation for us and all our employees to take a break," said restaurant owner Jimmy Zavogiannis.

Gondola is not closing for good. It is not pulling a Grandy's. Gondola will reopen July 13.


That's all folks


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