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Business Pulse - Getting excited about downtown
Southern Traditions - Dale Groves.jpg
Southern Traditions owner Dale Groves shows fall placemats available at his Sparta Street store. The business is in the process of moving to the old Fraley's building on Main Street in the coming months.

Back in the early 1980s, The Pointer Sisters released a song that climbed the charts called “I’m So Excited.” The chorus was catchy:

"I’m so excited

And I just can’t hide it

I’m about to lose control

And I think I like it."

I don’t know about the losing control part, but when I think about the renovation work taking place at the old Fraley’s building on Main Street, I am excited. You could argue that I need better things to get excited about and I would pretty much agree.

It was two weeks ago when I revealed PI.E was moving into one side of the Fraley’s building when renovation work is complete in the next few months. PI.E has been selling pizzas out of a food truck for about a year and this will provide downtown with another great restaurant.

The good news keeps coming as Dale Groves is currently having a moving sale at Southern Traditions on Sparta Street. The business has been at that location for 18 years. When I got to asking about where Dale would be moving Southern Traditions, he told me he was headed to Main Street.

“I would have liked to have moved downtown 18 years ago, but I couldn’t find a place where big trucks could unload,” said Dale. “My inventory comes in by freight and they don’t like big trucks downtown.”

Not only do city officials not like big trucks, they’ve placed those red bollards around downtown in an effort to catch big trucks. To me the bollards are a hazard, not a safety feature. It would be like lining highways with spike strips to punish motorists who happen to slightly veer off the road.

But I digress. 

Southern Traditions is going to be a great downtown asset. And having it positioned near Evelyn Taylor Avenue and Renewed Creations will be a draw for all three businesses which specialize in home décor items.

“They tell me the building will be ready by the first of November,” said Dale. “We’ve already been packing a few things away and putting it in storage. We’re working on clearing out of the basement now and we had a basement moving sale last weekend. We will probably have another one at the end of the month.”

Dale says he will be thrilled to have a business that’s all on the same floor. He will be downsizing a bit, going from 6,600 square feet on Sparta Street to about half that on Main Street. Dale said he’s in the process of selling the Sparta Street building to a church and the deal is pending, which means he hasn’t gotten a check.

Southern Traditions has been open for 39 years. His two other locations have been inside the Flower Basket on Morford Street and at Northgate Center.

“We want to get rid of as much as we can so we don’t have to move it,” said Dale, “but we also don’t want to open the new store with nothing.”

Goody’s gone,

But there’s hope

Goody’s has very quietly closed its doors at Three Star Mall. Stage Stores filed for bankruptcy and announced it would be closing all of its brands, which includes Goody’s, but a date was never released for when stores would shut their doors.

Our Goody’s has slipped into the night and turned in its keys, leaving a 21,000-square-foot space to rent inside our beloved mall.

There is good news for JC Penney fans, which is a category of fans that includes me. The company was originally scheduled to close its McMinnville store this month, but now it appears like the closing date for Penneys will be Oct. 18.

Three Star Mall manager Sigourney Younglove says mall ownership has been in negotiations with new tenants and she described those talks as promising. However, she’s not going to release any names. 

When I talked with her on Friday, Sigourney said there are well-known retail chains eyeing Three Star Mall, but she’s not about to divulge any details at this time. She said I wasn't allowed to start guessing stores.

JC Penney offers 34,000 square feet of retail space. Roses is the largest store at the mall with 61,000 square feet.

I don’t want to play favorites when I talk about downtown McMinnville and how I’d like to see it thrive. As one of those people who still likes to shop in person, I’m a big fan of Three Star Mall and want to see it bustling with activity too.

Prater Realty

On the move

Phillip Prater is ready to upsize. He’s purchased the old Bridge Builders location on Nashville Highway in Newtown and he’s in the process of relocating Prater Realty & Auction to that site.

“We got the opportunity to buy it and we’re going to move the office,” said Phillip. “It’s good visibility and it fits for us when looking ahead to our five-year plan. This will give us enough office space to accommodate for the future.”

When he talks about the future, Phillip is specifically talking about his family and his sons, a high school senior and an eighth-grader. The boys might want to join the family business or utilize the available office space for a business opportunity of their own.

“You never know with kids, but this will give us room for growth,” said Phillip.

To me, the old Bridge Builders location is a spot that has seemed to be vacant for years and years and years. I’ve always found that puzzling because it appears to be a nice, brick building on a well-traveled road. I wondered to myself why that spot wasn’t occupied.

The impending arrival of Prater Realty & Auction will put that wondering to rest. It will also put Phillip closer to home and closer to his coverage area. As chief of Centertown Fire Department, Phillip is always on the go and he’s often one of the first on the scene when there’s an emergency. He’s an all-around great guy and a somewhat decent basketball coach.

“I really like the idea of being closer to my side of town,” said Phillip, who will now be able to get to work without having to go through traffic lights. That’s a huge plus.

Phillip says he started his own real estate firm in 2007 or 2008, best he can remember. It was in August 2009 when he located at Sunnyside Heights for his first big move.

Newtown promises to be a much more happening place in the coming months. From what I understand, the new Mexican restaurant could open this week at the old Billy’s Restaurant. 

And directly across from Phillip’s new spot there’s commercial construction underway at the front of the Woodland Creek residential subdivision. 

Motorists driving by have probably noticed a slab has been poured on the property that’s facing Nashville Highway at the front of the subdivision.

From what I’ve been told based on word on the street, which isn’t always worth much, an office building is going in there. I’ll try to track down that information and deliver the news when I can find out for sure what that construction will be.

Regardless of what it is, things seem to be happening in Newtown. I also hear a pharmacy may be coming to Newtown. That would add another burst. If I can track down that information, I will provide it in next week's article.

Dulce Sweet

Looks tasty

The jewelry store that used to be located in front of Burch Supply is gone. In its place, there’s now a sign that says Dulce Sweet.

Curiosity got the best of me so I tracked down Dulce Sweet online. What I discovered is store owner Nancy Guzman makes some delicious-looking treats. If her milkshakes and bakery items taste half as good as they look, she’ll do a mean business.

Nancy told me on Friday she had planned to open this weekend. But her daughter is about to undergo back surgery so she is delaying her opening until Sept. 30. First and foremost, I hope everything goes well and her daughter makes a full recovery. She’s just 10.

In talking to Nancy, I learned she has a rich history in the baking business. She told me she served as the bakery manager for a Publix in Murfreesboro and planned to have a similar job when she moved to McMinnville.

“I found those type of jobs are hard to find here,” said Nancy. “You have to know somebody to even be considered.”

But the lack of work at a supermarket bakery did not get Nancy down.

“I believe in myself and I want to work for myself,” she said. “Everything I make is from scratch.”

To echo a theme from the first segment in today’s column, Nancy said people have been so excited to learn she’s opening the sweet shop. She’ll offer milkshakes, whole cakes, cake by the slice, shaved ice, and cheesecake. That’s just a small sampling of the menu.

“For the shaved ice, I use homemade syrup that’s made from fresh fruit,” said Nancy.

She indicated one of her most popular items is her bubble gum cake. She said people who have tried it always ask her to bring her famous bubble gum cake any time there’s a gathering. 

Since she knows her trade and makes everything from scratch, Nancy said she can adjust the level of sweetness on pre-ordered cakes. She said she’s found some people like their cakes very sweet, while others don’t like nearly as much. Every sweet tooth is different, she says.

She says she’s thrilled at her high-traffic location.

“It’s a good place and it’s not too fancy,” said Nancy. “I wouldn’t want it to be something so nice where regular people didn’t feel comfortable.”

If all goes well, look for Dulce Sweet to open Wednesday, Sept. 30. She says her normal days of operation will be Wednesday thru Sunday. She will be closed Monday and Tuesday.


leveling off


When COVID-19 struck and many businesses shut down in mid-March, Tennessee unemployment numbers soared through the ceiling.

Prior to the virus, the state had 2,702 unemployment claims. That was for the week ending March 14.

Then the numbers went crazy. Two weeks later, the state received 94,492 unemployment claims and the following week there were 116,141 claims, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Now we are finally starting to see the numbers settle. For the week ending Sept. 5, there were 11,706 unemployment claims, the state says. It marks the sixth straight week claims have been fewer than 14,000.

That's certainly not a great number when compared to 2,702 in mid-March, but that was a time of unprecedented low unemployment. We're currently still fighting a pandemic so the fact the jobless rates aren't much worse is encouraging.

That's all folks

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