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Business Pulse - It's almost time to Huddle up
Huddle House outside.jpg
Huddle House has more than 330 stores in 23 states with a restaurant scheduled to open in McMinnville in early 2020, according to company media relations director Sydney Thompson.

Restaurant news is always great to deliver, especially around this time of Thanksgiving when it’s so permissible to eat, eat, eat.

The big news this week is the old Captain D’s location appears to have a new tenant. Huddle House has submitted plans to the city of McMinnville for a remodeling project and company spokesperson Sydney Thompson confirms the restaurant has scheduled an opening date here in town for early 2020.

It should be noted the property has yet to change hands and local realtor Sally Steakley says the deal has not been finalized. But she doesn’t foresee any hiccups and expects the deal to close by Christmas.

“As a chain, they are adding quite a few stores,” said Sally.

Huddle House has more than 330 stores in 23 states. The restaurant chain, which is open 24 hours, is primarily concentrated in the Southeast. Nearby locations can be found in Sparta, Shelbyville and Baxter.

The restaurant got its start in Decatur, Ga., in 1964. The name Huddle House comes from giving fans a place to eat after watching a big football game.

One thing I do find surprising is the decision to remodel the old Captain D’s building. I figured the next owner would knock that structure down and start afresh, but it looks like Huddle House officials are going to work with what they have.

Deal collapses

For Foutch’s

I reported in back-to-back weeks about how a deal appeared on the verge of transpiring that would result in Foutch’s Family Restaurant on Sparta Street being purchased by La Cazona owner Manuel Ochoa.

I talked first to Foutch’s owner Billy Foutch and then followed up the next week with an interview with Manuel. Both men shared extreme optimism a deal was imminent. However, as it’s been said many times before, a deal is not done until it’s done -- a point perfectly exemplified by this situation.

I talked to Billy on Friday night and he told me he does not expect a deal with Manuel or with anyone else. He said he’s taking the restaurant off the market and plans to keep operating it himself.

The key sticking point was a no-compete clause. Manuel said he was adamant about Billy agreeing, in writing, to not compete against him with another restaurant. Billy said he would not agree to that term.

“I got messed up in that the last time and I told myself I’d never do that again,” said Billy. “It’s just the thought of it. I don’t like it. The no-compete clause was a big thing.”

Not to bring up bad memories, but Billy ran into legal trouble when he sold his restaurant in Newtown, then opened a restaurant on Sparta Street before the no-compete clause had elapsed.

Billy said he’s been bombarded by questions from customers about when the sale would be finalized and when the transition would begin. He says he hopes this brings to an end any questions about a change in ownership.

Serenity Thrift

About to close

Serenity Thrift’s nearly five-year stay in McMinnville will come to an end this Wednesday. Store officials say that’s when the doors will close for good and the company will leave town.

The building, which may be best known as the old Hastings location, was built in 2003 and is part of the Northgate Center property owned by Harold Martin and Sally Shelton. It has 14,000 square feet of prime retail space.

Property manager Ray Martin says he hasn’t started to market the building yet or accumulate any prospects.

“We’re waiting to get in there after Serenity Thrift leaves and see what we’re looking at,” said Ray. “I hope we have some good interest. Harbor Freight asked about that building about a year ago.”

Harbor Freight ended up locating right across the street in the old Fred’s building. I’ve already put out the Old Navy vibe for the Serenity Thrift building. I’m going to continue with that thought until it’s announced Dollar General will be locating at that spot.

Let there

Be retail

Industrial Develop-ment Board director Don Alexander has returned from his annual trip to the International Council of Shopping Centers Conference in Atlanta and reports there was strong turnout and a positive atmosphere.

“Two years ago, the concern was that e-commerce was going to take over,” said Don. “Now there seems to be more of a commitment to retail. A lot of companies are opening up their own stores. Levi’s is opening all its own stores.”

Don said one recurring theme he heard at the conference was the push to have entertainment combined with a dining experience. This was made popular by the kids chain Chuck E. Cheese and has been expanded more recently with places like Dave & Buster’s and Top Golf.

“Probably the craziest thing I heard was Stumpy’s Hatchet House where you throw hatchets at wooden targets,” said Don. “To me this seems like it might be dangerous.”

Don said he didn’t emerge with any red hot leads of retail prospects eager to locate in our community, but the goal is to keep Warren County in the minds of market executives who makes those decisions.

“It’s definitely worthwhile to go,” said Don. “I can’t think of a place where we can get more exposure in a short time than there.”

The quest to

Recruit industry

Our local Industrial Development Board works hard to recruit industry, but it also has assistance from the Middle Tennessee Industrial Development Association.

During the IDB’s regular monthly meeting on Thursday, Kendrick Curtis gave a presentation to board members detailing the work of the Middle Tennessee Industrial Development Association. He is assistant executive director of that organization, which serves a 40-county area.

Curtis said almost exactly half of all prospect he deals with are looking for an available building. He said this is why spec buildings are so important and why they are snatched up so quickly.

“Most companies don’t have the luxury of spending months looking for a site and then building,” said Curtis.

He said TVA and the state department of economic development funnel many projects to appropriate areas, but local industrial boards like ours here in Warren County can also take the lead in the recruitment process. Self-promotion is the key.

“You can have the most ideal building, but you must have a way to present that building in an appropriate way,” said Curtis.

His organization can help with the presentation aspect. Curtis said when Warren County's new spec building is complete in an expected 180 days, his group can come in and take aerial photography of the area with a drone.

“It could take Google three to four years to get those images up,” said Curtis. “We could use drone photography and get it up quickly.”

Curtis applauded our local IDB for its recent purchase of 218 acres of land at the Coffee County line. This is a long-term project that won’t be ready for years, but having the property in IDB hands will make a huge impact, he said.

“I know a lot of communities that have done the looking part but they haven’t done the leaping part,” said Curtis. “You have done the leaping part and owning the property is a big first step.”


Rates released

The latest unemployment figures released Thursday by the state show Warren County unemployment has inched up to 4.5 percent for October, an increase of 0.7 percent from the month before.

Overall, the Tennessee unemployment rate for October was 3.4 percent. Nationally, the rate for October was 3.6 percent.

Unfortunately, unemployment is ticking higher in some Tennessee counties. In Perry County, the rate is up to 8 percent, an alarming rate considering how low unemployment has been for so long.

That’s all folks

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