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Business Pulse - Sweet smell of reopening Bath & Body Works
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Bath & Body Works is committed to keeping its customers safe. Store manager Lori Acker, left, and Lindsey Mayfield welcome customers for the Semi-Annual Sale. Lindsey has enjoyed a busy three months away from the store during its closure. She got married and bought a house.

One of the founders of our great nation once proclaimed, “Give me liberty, or give me lotion.”

OK, so that might not have been his exact words, but I think many of us are fully aware of the sacrifices that have been made over the past three months with the closure of Bath & Body Works at Three Star Mall.

I'm here to announce the anguish is over! Local residents can now indulge in the riches of scented candles, body spray and lotion with a hint of cucumber melon as Bath & Body Works reopened its doors with trumpets blaring on Friday.

“We had a line waiting for us to open,” said store manager Lori Acker. “I went to make a picture of them and told them all to smile, but so many of them had masks you couldn’t tell.”

For those keeping track, Warren County officially observed a more than 3-month stupor without Bath & Body Works. Acker wants to dispel any doubts the store may leave town.

“We’re here to stay,” she said. “So far, we’re seeing fewer customers than we’re used to, but the customers we have are buying more.”

The big sellers on opening day? In the age of COVID-19, Acker says customers were flocking to soaps and sanitizers. Scented wallflower bulbs were also flying off disinfected shelves.

Friendly customer Tammy Buckner was giddy about the store reopening.

“I like the candles, the body spray and the lotion,” said Tammy. “I like it all.”

Ashley McKinley joined her in the shopping adventure.

“I’ve been waiting and waiting,” said Ashley. “I had run out of candles.”

Bath & Body Works is pleased to welcome back customers, but new guidelines are in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Only 21 people are allowed in the store at one time and space has been cleared in front of the registers to give customers waiting in the check-out line plenty of elbow room.

Customers must enter through the left side of the store where they’re given a splash of hand sanitizer if they choose to accept. From there, shoppers are on their own to enjoy the fairytale land of sugarplum scents and majestic moisture. 

If you can’t have fun in Bath & Body Works, you can’t have fun.

Harris Haley

A local treasure

Think you’ve been doing your job for quite a few years? Harris Haley has got you beat. 

Harris has been selling cars for 66 years and counting. He got his start in 1954 and hasn’t let off the gas since.

“The car business has changed more than anybody could realize,” said Harris. “The first trucks I remember selling cost $2,000 brand new. They didn’t have anything but an engine and transmission. That was it. No heater, no radio. Back then you could fix them on the side of the road. Now you can get everything in the world on a car -- and you can pay $70,000.”

Harris, now 85, has a story that would be a case study for success. He graduated from Van Buren County High School in 1953 as a 17-year-old lad. He was so young, he had to wait a couple months before he turned 18 and could land a job at the local cheese plant.

After more than a year of shuffling around to different jobs trying to find his way, Harris discovered the right road in 1954 when he got a job at Puckett Motors in downtown McMinnville.

It launched an automotive career that continues today as he remains a salesman for Tim’s Motors.

“When the virus hit, my doctor told me I better go home,” said Harris. “I’m working out of my house but I’m still selling cars.”

So what’s changed over the years? Nearly everything, Harris says. 

When he first started in the car business, gas was 30 cents a gallon. When he sold a car, Harris made between $20 and $30 commission. Families did not have more than one car.

It wasn’t until the 1970s when the multi-car family started to become a thing. Financing was typically for 12 months, or 24 months if you could swing a favorable deal.

There wasn’t a wide selection of models. Chevrolet offered three different cars, Harris said. They all has 6-cylinder engines and straight shift transmissions.

“I remember when they first came out with automatic transmission,” said Harris. “You could hardly give them away. People were scared of them. Now that’s the only thing that’s on the road. It’s hard to find a straight shift.”

Harris worked for the Edd Rogers dealership in Sparta from 1981 to 1989. When Edd Rogers bought the Shelton dealership on Sparta Street in 1989, he returned to work in McMinnville. He’s been here ever since, working through the duration of the Edd Rogers dealership here and even into the years when it was Bill Holt Chevrolet.

Harris said his record is selling 75 cars in one month, which came in the early 1980s when the interest rates dropped from around 16% to 3.75%.

“The interest rate was so high, no cars were moving and dealerships were going out of business,” said Harris. “The government dropped the interest rate down to 3.75%, but only left it there for about 45 days.”

One major change is transactions are now handled at the dealership. Harris remembers when that wasn’t the case.

“The best way to sell trucks was to take them out to the farm,” said Harris. “I remember one guy told me he didn’t have time to drive the truck because he had to cut his hay so I cut his hay and told him to drive the truck. He bought it the next day.”

So what’s the key to being a good car salesman?

“Be honest, tell the truth and don’t try to pretend you know something you don’t,” said Harris. “After you make a sale, don’t act like you don’t know them. You have to be there.”

If you see yourself driving a new vehicle in 2020, give Harris a call. He can be reached at (931) 304-4170 or at Tim’s Motors at 474-1414.

Regions Bank

On the move

This Friday will be the last day for Regions Bank as we’ve known it for years. A grand transformation is in the works.

The branch in downtown McMinnville will close Friday at 2 p.m. So will the branch at Plaza Shopping Center next to Walgreens. They will be swept into the wind of forgotteness, never to be heard from again.

But alas, a new Regions Bank branch has emerged from the ashes of what used to be the Cowan Oldham Theater, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Dimitris, and Horner Rausch. On a personal note, I enjoyed eating at Kenny Rogers Roasters and Dimitris.

Perhaps, I will enjoy banking at this new Regions Bank location.

I had a chance to chat with McMinnville city administrator Nolan Ming on Friday. He told me once Regions Bank leaves its downtown building on Court Square, the city will take over the entire building and move offices down to the first floor.

The biggest change, and this could be key, is the city will have a walk-up window to allow people to pay their bills. This walk-up window will be located where the ATM is now.

“The site is very limited for providing drive-up service,” said Nolan. “We’d like to provide it, but we can’t. So we’re going to offer a walk-up window on the first floor.”

The walk-up window will be neat, if you can call paying your water bill neat. Work is also on the way for elevator repair. Nolan says elevator work will start this Monday and it should be about a month before a new elevator is fully operational.

Since I had Nolan on the line, I wanted to ask him one question. What is the status of building inside McMinnville city limits?

According to Nolan, it has never been better in his five years of working for the city. He says residential and commercial building permits are robust and it’s been a challenge for city officials to keep pace with demand.

“There’s a lot of building going on right now and it’s a good thing for our community,” said Nolan.

That’s all folks

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