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Business Pulse - Get outdoors with kayak rentals
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Mad Musky Water Sports Rentals is now open seven days a week offering kayak rentals on the musky-filled Collins River. Pictured, from left, are Jasmine Dillabaugh, Gaby Monzon, Morgan Mazzanti and owner Stacy Ellard. The phone number is 815-2FUN.

In one of my favorite songs by the Beatles, John Lennon sings that we should all “Come Together.” I guess the COVID-19 version of that song would be “Stay Apart.”

Many of us are yearning for activities that allow us to flee the stuffy confines of our home while also avoiding the possible infection that can come with crowds. Some activities, like rock concerts, still seem a long way off. At this point, who can say what the NFL season might look like and whether it’s wise to pack thousands of fans into a stadium.

So I’m pleased to bring you information on Mad Musky Water Sports Rentals, a business that specializes in providing outdoor adventure on the Collins River. Stacy Ellard is the business owner.

“So far we’ve been getting more out-of-towners than locals,” said Stacy, who said she was open for a couple months last summer and is ready to go full steam this year for the whole season. “We opened last weekend and did better than we imagined. Every boat was rented.”

Mad Musky Water Sports, located at 1432 Myers Cove Road in the Fairview community, offers kayak and canoe rentals on the Collins River. Stacy said there are short excursions, like a one-hour trip to the Myers Cove Road boat ramp, or longer trips from Turner’s Bend back to her place.

“It depends on how the river is flowing on how long it takes,” said Stacy. “Mother Nature has been bipolar lately.”

Stacy says her business is not flashy and commercial. She's located in the middle of the Warren County countryside with her back to a river and she embraces the down-home charm.

“We’re rustic and laid back and the people who come here really seem to like the country aspect of it, especially the tourists," said Stacy. "We'd like more local people to find out about us because getting out on the water is a lot of fun. And if you're a newcomer, you can hire a guide to take you along the river. Our guides really know this area and can point out all the neat spots you might miss."

Mad Musky Water Sports converted an old pole barn to serve as its general store. The store offers chips, candy bars, drinks, ice and other basics needed for an excursion on the river. Tent camping is currently available with cabins coming in the near future. A zipline is also on the way.

“I’m going to start with one or two cabins and see how it goes,” said Stacy. “I don’t want to build six only to find out nobody wants to rent one.”

The business is listed on Trip Advisor and Stacy says she’s received visitors from Florida, Georgia and all over Tennessee. She currently has a fleet of about 25 kayaks and she’s committed to continuing social distancing.

“When you’re in a kayak, it’s not too difficult to stay six feet apart,” said Stacy. “I’m not currently accepting large groups right now. Somebody called me this morning with a group of 13 and I said I couldn’t do it because I want to abide by the restrictions.”

Mad Musky Water Sports is open seven days a week but kayaks must be reserved by appointment. Reservations can be made online at or by calling 815-2FUN or 743-7566.

Citizens Tri-County

Lends local hand

A number of Warren County businesses are getting a huge economic boost thanks to federal government loans through the Small Business Administration. These are loans which don’t have to be repaid if certain stipulations are meet.

Citizens Tri-County Bank has done its part to get these loans approved for local residents as bank CEO John Barker told me Friday the bank has done 55 of these loans in Warren County for a little more than $5 million.

“We spend a lot of money on advertising but this program is really the best advertising we can do,” said Barker. “It was really a team effort getting all of these loans approved. We worked on them every day and late into the night. Our team was very dedicated to getting this money out.”

Over the entire Citizens Tri-County Bank coverage area, Barker said the bank worked to receive $40 million in loans. He said most of that was for business owners in Coffee, Franklin, Sequatchie and Warren counties.

“For the business owners who get this money, they don’t have to worry about making their payrolls for eight weeks,” said Barker. “This is money to pay their employees so they don’t have to lay anyone off.”

Barker said the loans averaged “north of $100,000” during the first round. They were smaller during the second round, about $35,000 to $40,000. Even though the amount they received is smaller, Barker said some of the business owners receiving the least have been the most appreciative because they truly need the money.

The editors of Business Pulse want to give a warm round of applause and a hearty thank you to the folks at Citizens Tri-County Bank for helping to inject much-needed money into the Warren County economy during this time of financial struggles.

New pizza parlor

Open for business

By all accounts, Sam and Denice Benson picked a difficult time to open a pizza parlor and sub shop. But when they started work in early February, who knew a pandemic would slice through and change our way of life?

Fortunately, Sampa’z has some great food and the Bensons have been building their customer base since the state gave its OK for restaurants to reopen, or in their case open, on April 27. Sampa’z is located at Plaza Shopping Center at the longtime Gondola spot.

“The customers who have come in have come back," said Denice. “I definitely consider that a good sign.”

The Ward family was certainly pleased after stopping by for lunch on Friday.

“I think we’re going to make this a regular Friday night thing to order pizza to take home after work,” said Vanessa Ward. 

“I’m definitely going to come back for sure,” added husband Shawn.

Sampa’z is dedicated to fresh ingredients and its own unique recipes, which have been popular thus far. All sub sandwiches are loaded with toppings and served with their signature pasta salad. Denice says the pizza has been already brought smiles.

“There was a lady who ordered our deluxe pizza and was nice enough to share a picture online,” said Denice. “It wasn’t too long after that we had a customer come in holding her phone and she said, ‘I don’t know what this is, but it’s what I want to order.’”

Sam says they get questions about where they’re from.

“Several people have eaten here and asked if we’re from Chicago,” said Sam. “I guess the pizza must remind them of a Chicago-style pizza.”

The menu also includes wings, jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks, and other munchables. There are four TVs and people are encouraged to come watch the big game, when sporting events return.

“We want to have really good food and consistent food,” said Sam. “I hate it when I go to a restaurant and like the food, only to return and wonder what happened.”

The phone number is (931) 304-8157. Hours are Monday thru Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Still up, up, up

I don’t need to provide much of a narrative when it comes to the unemployment figures in Tennessee. Like the rest of the nation, unemployment is soaring.

For the week ending May 2, there were 37,319 Tennessee residents who applied for unemployment benefits. That brings the total over the past seven weeks to 474,580 people.

When you think of how hard the state has to work to land an employer with 315 jobs, it’s staggering to think of losing nearly a half million jobs in less than two months. I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime, but I’m a reasonably young man and still a relative spring chicken.

Job fair!

It may seem like the only thing happening to jobs is they’re disappearing so allow me to pull a rabbit from a hat.

According to the Greater Nashville Tech Council, there are some 1,500 tech-based jobs available in Middle Tennessee and there’s a virtual job fair scheduled for this Tuesday, May 12, in an effort to fill those jobs. 

Anyone currently seeking a job in the tech industry can register at no cost. Participating employers include Amazon, 3-D Technology, L3 Harris|ForceX, Brookdale Senior Living, TechnologyAdvice and eviCore Healthcare.

The virtual job fair is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Candidates will have the opportunity to upload their resume and explore over 1,500 open positions in Nashville and Middle Tennessee using a virtual, interactive hiring booth interface. 

Each customizable booth allows candidates to learn more about the employer, view job opportunities and speak with company recruiters using a chat function. Employers can then hold on-the-spot interviews via video conference, if they so choose.

Potential candidates can register at

The Greater Nashville Technology Council is the leading advocate for Middle Tennessee’s $8 billion information technology ecosystem and the 50,000 technology professionals who design, implement, manage and safeguard the technology that powers our region’s economy.

That’s all folks

In three of the past four weeks, I’ve written about at least one new business opening in Warren County. That’s encouraging news during a historically brutal economic stretch.

If you have business news, send me an email at