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Business Pulse - It's time for a new big-screen TV
Walmart is the place to shop for a new TV on Black Friday. Pictured are Electronics Department employees Jeremy Gannon, left, and Manie Newby, a 36-year Walmart veteran.

It’s the time of year when it’s fun to look back and reminisce about the good ole days and the times when stores would transform into professional wrestling rings the day after Thanksgiving.

Remember when Black Friday used to be the leading cause of headlocks between women over 65? Remember when people would stand in line in the brutal cold for two hours just to have the chance to buy a $2.99 bath towel?

Like the rest of our lives, the internet has altered the way we shop on Black Friday. It’s no longer an over-the-top-rope battle royal, but there are still some fabulous deals waiting to be found.

When I think of Black Friday sales, I think of TVs – big TVs at ridiculously low prices. Times may have changed, but Walmart is still the place to shop for the best TV deals on the planet.

“TVs are the only thing I’ve ever seen that have dropped so drastically in price,” said Manie Newby, a 36-year Walmart employee. “Everything else goes up, but the price of TVs keeps going down. This year we’ll have a 70-inch TV that sells for $398. It’s ONN, which is Walmart’s own brand, but it’s a really good TV. We hardly ever have one that’s returned.”

Walmart sells a TV that’s up to 75 inches, a far cry from the days when a 19-inch color TV was a sign you lived in an affluent household.

“Once you get it home, 75 inches is really big,” said Manie. “It may not look that big here in the store, but it’s sure big once you put it in your living room.”

Laptop computers and cellphones are two other items which are sure to be on the Christmas list of many shoppers. Manie also noted vinyl records and record players are once again widely popular.

“We sell more vinyl now than we sell CDs,” said Manie. “And we sell a lot of record players too. It’s something that went away but it’s made a comeback.”

Manie is an interesting story himself, having worked at all three Walmart locations in McMinnville. He started with the company when Walmart was located in the building where Tractor Supply is today.

He moved with Walmart when it was located where Lowe’s is today, and moved again when Walmart settled into its current location, which was, to the best of my memory, nearly 25 years ago. How could that have been so long ago?

“Working here, you get to see everybody in the community and I just love it,” said Manie. “When I first started, I wondered if I would make it a week. Now it’s been 36 years and I just love it. We have such a great crew. Tim Fox, our store manager, he will do it all. He puts up freight. He sweeps the floor. He’ll do anything and he doesn’t have to.”

As for his thoughts on Black Friday and how it’s become more subdued over the past five years, Manie said, “The excitement is still there, but with online shopping the stores aren’t as crowded so people have more patience. You don’t have to come into the store to get the great deals the way you used to so I think that’s led to fewer people and a better atmosphere.”

Walmart is closed on Thanksgiving Day with the store opening at 5 a.m. Friday.

Big Lots offers Big savings

There was a time, not too long ago, when I wrote about Black Friday sales I talked about JC Penney, Sears, Goody’s, and Radio Shack.

Sadly, those chains have all closed their doors here in McMinnville so there are fewer national chains left to offer amazing Black Friday doorbuster specials.

Big Lots is one of the chains remaining and there are some significant sales on the horizon beginning Thanksgiving Day itself when Big Lots is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sherrie Shields walked me around Big Lots on Friday and showed me all the amazing sales that will be taking place in a matter of days.

If you like to kick back and prop up your feet in a recliner, Big Lots will have recliners starting as low as $199. It’s been several months since I’ve been in our Big Lots and I must admit I was surprised to see how large the furniture section has grown. I was told furniture sales are brisk, which is why sofas and loveseats are commanding a larger portion of the store.

If you want a $2.99 bath towel – and who doesn’t? – Big Lots will have shelves overflowing with them. Broyhill sheets will be 50% off and blankets that normally sell for $20 will be marked down to $14.99.

I hate that the Big Lots employees have to work on Thanksgiving Day, but they had an upbeat attitude about it and said it’s all part of the retail life.

I’m not going to list all the sale items in the Big Lots flyer, but it appears to be an extensive list so you might want to make your way to Northgate Center to check it out this Thursday through Sunday.

The hotel Retail center

At Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Industrial Development Board, there was a great deal of conversation about the property tax incentives which have been offered to David Hunt, owner of our new Hampton Inn hotel.

Without trying to overly complicate what’s a pretty complicated subject, I will hit on a few of the high points and try to avoid all the confusing details.

When Mr. Hunt entered into an agreement to build a hotel here in September of 2018, he entered into a TIF agreement with the Industrial Board. TIF stands for tax incremental financing and it’s basically a way for Mr. Hunt to save money on his property taxes, which will probably be considerable since he says it was an $11.3 million hotel project.

One of the major questions at Thursday’s IDB meeting is whether the TIF extends to the retail development that’s in front of the hotel. As anyone driving by can see, the retail center is far from complete – and it’s for sale.

Industrial Board members discussed what should happen to the property tax savings achieved through the TIF agreement if Mr. Hunt sells the retail center. And, what would happen to the TIF should he decide to sell the hotel a few years down the road?