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Business Pulse - JC Penney swamped with customers
JC Penney - the Martins.jpg
Teressa Martin and son Drake Martin check out some of the great sale items at JC Penney on Friday. The company has announced it will be closing its store at Three Star Mall when the closeout sale is complete in an estimated 10 to 16 weeks.

As I watched customers snatch items off the clothing racks and patiently wait in line at JC Penney on Friday, I couldn’t shake one thought. If folks had shopped like this all the time, JC Penney wouldn’t be closing 154 stores this summer and struggling to survive.

Eager to get their hands on some greats deals on clothing and more, customers flooded through the doors as JC Penney reopened after more than two months of dormancy.

For me, the reopening was drenched in sadness because this isn’t a rebirth or a celebration. It’s a slow walk to the gallows. The company announced last Thursday our store at Three Star Mall will be closing in an estimated 10 to 16 weeks, depending on how long the closeout sale lingers.

“We love to shop here, especially for men’s clothes,” said Teressa Martin while shopping with her son, Drake.

Carlee Fann was trying on sandals Friday and getting ready for WCHS graduation later that day.

“I plan to go to nursing school at Motlow,” said Carlee of her post-graduation plans that are brimming with hope.

When I look at JC Penney, one of my favorite places to shop, that hope has vanished. The store may have reopened and customers are feasting on sales, but it’s like a death row inmate enjoying his final meal. You know what’s coming next. 

JC Penney has been an anchor at Three Star Mall since the mall opened in 1981. I will hate to see it close when that day finally comes.

Unfortunately, JC Penney is fairly indicative of the department store industry, which has seen its revenue cut by more than half since the heydays of 2000 and 2001. The department store world earned a combined $230 billion in revenue in 2000, according to an analysis from, but it’s projected to limp home with about $100 billion in total sales this year.

What can be done to reverse this trend? Probably not much as long as consumers continue their hearty appetite for online shopping.

Come in,

We’re open!

I’d like to start out this segment about China Wok by noting how social media has gotten this story totally wrong. I received a text this week from a concerned citizen wanting to know the status of China Wok since she’d seen it on Facebook that the restaurant would not be reopening.

When I mentioned this to my Cupcake, a big Facebook fan, she too said she’d seen posts on Facebook suggesting the restaurant at Northgate Center would not be reopening after its COVID-19 closure.

Thankfully, we can add this to the long list of misinformation distributed on a daily basis on social media sites.

I talked to Northgate Center property manager Ray Martin on Friday and he said he had heard nothing about China Wok closing permanently. 

Ray was nice enough to call the China Wok owners and that’s when he discovered great news for all the sesame chicken lovers of McMinnville.

“They say they’re going to reopen this coming week,” said Ray. “They’ve been cleaning and everything is ready to go. They say they’re not sure of the exact day. It will either be Tuesday or Thursday.”

So there you have it. The reopening of China Wok appears to be just a few days away! I once got a fortune cookie that said, "Your reputation is your wealth." That might not tie in with this segment, but I've remembered it for all these years.

This is also an appropriate time to discuss the value of reliable information. I often see comments online complaining that we here at the Standard put stories on our website that require a subscription to read. 

People will rant on social media, “Why doesn’t the Standard give us the story for free? Why can I only read one paragraph before it cuts me off?” It’s because we have to pay reporters to generate the story and make sure it’s accurate. And there’s great value to that.

Do you want to believe phony Facebook posts that claim China Wok is closing, or get the real story that the restaurant will be reopening this week? I think we’d all prefer the real story. I know China Wok would.

I mention this because newspapers continue to make the transition to online and there will be a time when the version of the news you read in an actual newspaper is a thing of the past. When you think about it, printing a newspaper and then having someone hand deliver it to your home is a time-consuming and outdated process.

When you can get the same story delivered to your cellphone in a matter of seconds, printing a hard copy of a newspaper and then driving it from our plant to your house seems silly. It would be like me driving to your house and sticking a note in your mailbox that says, "Hey, what's up?" when I could just send you a text.

It doesn't matter if it's online or in our printed edition, the Standard is committed to accuracy above all else. It's important to have the right information and we need your support to deliver it.

New market

Coming to Dibrell

Brandon Locke knows a few things about operating a country store. His parents, Darrell and Tina Locke, operated Locke’s Green Hill Market for 29.5 years before selling it last year. And his grandfather ran the store for 15 years before that.

So I have to think Brandon knows what he’s doing with the upcoming opening of Locke’s Dibrell Market in mid-July or early August. The store is located on Smithville Highway near the entrance to Dibrell School.

“I think my parents have built a good reputation over the years and I’m going to continue that,” said Brandon. “It’s going to be a family atmosphere here. No beer and no lottery. We’ll be serving fresh country food.”

Brandon says he’s done a considerable amount of work to the building, which is in a great location right on heavily traveled Smithville Highway. There will be plate lunches and the popular hand-breaded chicken tenders. There will also be homemade cakes and pies.

“We’re going to keep it simple and focus on quality,” said Brandon. “I’m going to have a smoker outside and smoke chicken and Boston butts.”

Donuts and biscuits will be a staple for breakfast, while lunch will feature burgers, Philly cheesesteak, meatloaf and more. There will also be pizza.

Brandon says schools will be reopening around the time his market is opening and he wants to work with Dibrell students and parents for all their food and snack needs before and after school. The market will be a full-service convenience store with fountain drinks, chips, and other snacks.

The building itself is fairly longstanding and full of history. Brandon says it was constructed over 70 years ago in 1946-47. The property has most recently been a used car lot, according to my memory, and been a country store at least twice before.

It’s my plan to provide more information when Locke’s Dibrell Market gets up and running.

Krystal is

Now hiring

For people keeping track of the unemployment figures released by the state, the statistics are jarring. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, the Tennessee Department of Labor has received more than 600,000 unemployment claims.

For a state with a population estimated at 6.8 million, it’s easy to see how many communities, including Warren County, have an unemployment rate of more than 20%. But if you’re willing to work in fast food, there are jobs available. McDonald’s and Wendy’s are both hiring and so is Krystal.

It was on Tuesday when I received notification from Krystal that it’s now hiring at all locations throughout the Southeast. Krystal is hiring for a variety of positions -- from crew members and shift leaders to general managers.  

“I am proud that Krystal is playing a part to help bring Americans back to work,” said Dawn Agueros, Krystal’s vice president of people experience. “Krystal is primed for growth and is actively hiring to increase its workforce by 25%.”

Krystal offers opportunities for career growth. Potential employee benefits include free or discounted meals, 401(k), paid vacation, personal time, medical, dental and vision insurance, scholarships and more.

That’s all folks

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