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Business Pulse - New building owner in sight
WC Furn - long truck.jpg
A truck is parked for loading up items inside the old Warren County Furniture building.

Downtown McMinnville has become the spot.

The old Fraley’s building is now an epicenter of activity with Begonias and Southern Traditions filling a void and completing Main Street.

Two glaring weaknesses remain in downtown McMinnville – the old Dinty Moore building and the old Warren County Furniture building. In the case of Dinty Moore, I think it’s always been the old Dinty Moore and it seems like a place that might collapse.

That’s the bad news. The good news is the old Warren County Furniture building appears to have new life. Property owner Jimmy Zavogiannis says a deal is expected to close this Tuesday for an out-of-town buyer to take over with grand plans. 

Anyone driving by Warren County Furniture this past week has likely noticed the truck parked outside and men cleaning out the store. I stopped by Wednesday and the first floor was like a burial ground for old restaurant equipment. The old buffet bar from Gondola was there. There was even a walk-in cooler. Jimmy Z said everything would be out by Tuesday’s closing.

As for who the new owner will be, Jimmy said that will have to wait until the deal is done. He didn’t want to say at this point. Jimmy did say there are definite plans for retail and the new owner has said she wants to work quickly to get open.

It will be a refreshing blast to see activity once again flowing from that spot. The building has somehow managed to still there quietly empty for 11 years. It was built in 1948 and has 10,948 square feet that’s divided almost evenly between two floors. It’s been the site of a thriving business before. I think it can be again.

Our downtown district has gained real pop. This will be another piece to a positive puzzle that’s emerging. When Joe O’Neal gets those two extra retail spots finished next to Collins River BBQ, it will provide another boost.

Job fairs are


A job fair took place Wednesday for our new Hampton Inn on Sparta Street, which is projected to open in mid-September.

Stephanie Hawkins is the general manager and she was at the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday conducting a job fair for all positions. This includes front desk, laundry, breakfast attendant, maintenance and more. 

Stephanie said she expects to hire 15 for the 74-room hotel. She had about a dozen applicants by midday on Wednesday. She is also participating in the Aug. 16 job fair at Milner Recreation Center.

“We hope to have employees who are going to stay with us for a long time,” said Stephanie. “We want to develop a relationship with our continued customers.”

Stephanie was born and raised in Warren County and had previously worked in finance. She said one snazzy feature at the Hampton Inn will be doors you can open with your phone. No room key!

The hotel has been a long-term project that’s endured its share of delays due to the current work environment. It’s challenging to get supplies and an uphill battle to find workers. There was also a pandemic.

It’s amazing to sit here every week and talk about how much our community is improving in nearly every aspect. I think Hampton Inn is going to take us up one notch. Local officials have been talking about the need for a new hotel for a solid decade. David Hunt of Hunt Properties was the one who finally jumped at the opportunity.

Hampton Inn is located across the street from the hospital. The 20,000-square-foot retail center in front of the hotel is on the market, set to be sold in its current condition, which is not finished.

The plan was to have four bays in the retail center with restaurants on each end and shopping in the middle. But I suppose the shell could be finished in any way the new owner sees fit.

Mobile homes

Hard to find

I drove out Smithville Highway past Gateway Tire on Friday to check out land that’s been cleared just outside the city limits. As you’re heading out of town, the land is directly across from Davis Homes.

It doesn’t appear like much is happening with that property. There’s no Starbucks coming in. It’s just getting cleared off as a runway for potential development down the road.

While I was out that way, I looked across the highway to see Davis Homes, which has been in business for 33 years. It’s been five years for owner Dale Davis at his current location. He opened there in May 2016.

“This has been a great spot and new homes are definitely selling well,” said Dale. “The problem is getting homes. It’s like the car business, it’s like everything. It takes so long to get your homes. I deal with one company that says if you order it today to expect it in January. Another company tells me it’s 12 months out. You have to wait a full year.”

Dale said he’s hearing the horror stories that so many companies have encountered. He has homes on order that are nearly completely finished, but there are just a couple parts which haven’t arrived that are crucial to completion.

“It’s great that homes are selling, but if you don’t have them to sell what good does it do,” said Dale. “People call me all the time and ask, ‘Is there anything on your lot I can get today?’ The answer is no. This is the worst I’ve ever seen it by far.”

For people who may be looking to downsize into more simple living, Dale said he does have a tiny home on display that’s 400 square feet. It comes with a large front porch that makes it more appealing.

Dale said he sat out on the front porch and enjoyed the view from the tiny home the other day and enjoyed it. I don’t think I could live in a tiny home for more than a few weeks. The novelty would wear off really fast.

Davis Homes can be reached at 668-2031.

What about

Old Davis Homes?

Business Pulse segments often have a domino effect where one story leads to another. In talking to Dale Davis on Friday, I began wondering about his former location. It’s a great spot on Smithville Highway across from Fairgrounds Road. 

It’s 11 acres of prime commercial property with road frontage on two sides – Smithville Highway and Needmore Road. How that land has sat there vacant for five years is a mystery in this real estate explosion. 

I’ve always thought that would be a great spot for some nice apartments. Do some fancy landscaping in front, toss a pool in the middle, and a nice apartment complex could be built there which could be profitable and a community asset.

The property is now in the hands of Phillip Prater of Prater Realty. Phillip says he’s motivated to sell it.

“It’s probably as good a piece of property as any that’s available in town,” said Phillip. “I just got it and I’m going to see what I can do with it. I’m about to get some drone footage of it and get real aggressive with the marketing.”

The asking price is $875,000. That’s more in line with what a large company would pay than a local resident. The thing about large companies is they are going to do their homework before plopping down $875,000 so there’s going to be a traffic count. I don’t think there’s enough traffic flow on that part of town to entice a big chain out that way for retail.

Residential would be a much better bet, just a hop away from everything in McMinnville.

On a side note, I understand there may be some apartments coming to land behind the office that was formerly Dr. Dean’s eye practice. It could be a 32-unit development. That would be another plus for Warren County.

Homes around

Lake Karen

It was a couple weeks ago I talked about the 103 acres of land that sold off Starlight Road around Lake Karen. A development company from Lakewood Ranch, Fla., bought the property and promptly subdivided it into 17 tracts. The tracts were starting at $79,900 and they went up to $129,900. Nearly every tract has been sold to out-of-state buyers.

Kaye Pendlum brokered the deal to sell the 103 acres around Lake Karen and said the Florida company marketed the tracts to West Coast buyers. They advertised in California, Utah and Arizona and people flew in to check out the land.

Kaye pointed out that $79,900 may seem like a high price around here for 5 residential acres, but it’s a bargain for West Coast residents accustomed to paying five times that amount.

The strategy is brilliant. Instead of haggling with local residents on the price of every lot, advertise the tracts in high-profile places on the West Coast where people won’t scoff at paying full asking price.

The Florida company paid $790,000 to buy all 103 acres. By my math, the company will probably get around $1.4 million for selling all the tracts individually. That’s a tidy profit.

The moral of this story is to develop around water. People always seem to like water. That includes a river, pond, lake, or ocean. If you have water, they will come.

That's all folks

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