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Business Pulse - New tenant eyes old Sears store
Doodle fish owner.jpg
Stephanie Fish has opened The Doodle Fish Studio on Main Street next to Topz. Painting options abound at the studio which is available for walk-in customers or groups that want to reserve space in advance. The phone number is 474-8922.

The ruling came down Thursday when a bankruptcy judge approved a $5.2 billion restructuring plan to allow the iconic Sears chain to remain on life support.

The decision means Sears chairman and largest shareholder Eddie Lampert will be allowed to preserve roughly 425 stores and 45,000 jobs. It came in opposition to a group that pushed hard for the company’s liquidation and the end of Sears.

As many of us know, none of this came in time to save our Sears Hometown Store, which shut down last month after years of prosperity at Northgate Center. 

Northgate Center is a sought-after retail location, not known for having many empty stores. So I figured the former Sears spot had received several inquiries by now.

In talking to leasing agent Ray Martin on Friday, Ray told me the old Sears space is currently being renovated. He estimates this process will take about a month. He said an existing business at Northgate Center that’s looking to expand is then going to move into that spot. The problem is Ray wouldn’t tell me which business it is. That’s good and bad.

It’s bad in that I don’t know the answer for sure. It’s good in that it means I’m free to offer wild speculation. I figure it won’t be Big Lots or Save-A-Lot because those business are already bigger than the old Sears store and a move would mean they’re contracting, not expanding.

It wouldn’t be something like La Cazona or China Wok because that would be too much space for those restaurants. After considering all the stores at Northgate Center, it is my unofficial educated guess that Pioneer Express will be the business that’s relocating to the old Sears.

If you consider the monster-sized store Pioneer Building Supply has on Morrison Street, it should be no problem for Pioneer Express to upsize a little at Northgate Center. That’s my fearless prediction.

Evelyn Taylor AveNUE

on verge of opening

I’m asked a couple times a week about the opening of Evelyn Taylor Avenue at the newly constructed building at 211 E. Main Street. So I decided I would let my curiosity get the best of me and poke my head inside the store on Friday to see about its progress.

What I discovered was the kind of store you’d expect to find at the end of a rainbow. It’s an absolute treasure -- a store that will hopefully be a downtown spectacle for many years to come.

Store owner Penny Jones isn’t ready to make a formal announcement about her opening day, but all signs are pointing toward it taking place in February. Penny says she hopes to have her opening date firmed up in the near future so I could possibly have an announcement as early as next Sunday’s Business Pulse. Be on the lookout because this is a store you’re going to want to see for yourself.

Dabble in creativity

At new art studio

Longtime artist Stephanie Fish has a new outlet for expression. She’s dropped anchor at 102 West Main Street and opened The Doodle Fish Studio in the store next to Topz.

The Doodle Fish has been open about a month with a Chamber ribbon-cutting ceremony set for March 1 and an official grand opening celebration scheduled for March 9.

“We love to do parties, but we also want people to know they can be spontaneous and just walk in off the street,” said Stephanie. “Some of the best times are when a group of friends get together and they all come in to have fun.”

Whether you’re looking to add an interesting twist to your normal night out, or you’re looking to create an everlasting masterpiece, The Doodle Fish is a great catch. The business can be reached at 474-8922 and it has an easy-to-use website --

“You can make a reservation and pay online so when you come in you don’t have anything to worry about,” said Stephanie.

She’s starting an after-school art club from 3:45 to 5 p.m. with the first session scheduled to be held March 14. The art club is open to students in grades 5-8.

“We’ll have dedicated projects and kids can work on creating their own gallery so they can show their parents,” said Stephanie. “If you work hard on something, you want people to acknowledge it. You don’t want to throw it in a closet.”

Stephanie said she’s noticed people who visit her studio commonly like to sign their name on the paper that’s covering their spot at the table before they leave. To make their signature more permanent, Stephanie has started a signature wall where visitors can sign their name after completing artwork.

The Doodle Fish Studio adds a unique touch to the downtown district as a business that’s fun to visit before grabbing a cup of frozen yogurt or a grilled cheese. Hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

N. Spring Street

Getting upgrade

If you’ve driving down N. Spring Street in the past couple weeks, you’ve likely noticed the renovation work taking place next to the law office of Ryan J. Moore.

The building is being renovated and, in the next two or three months, will be the future home of 1810 Title & Escrow. It will be an attorney-owned title company with Moore, Hilton Conger, and Christopher Cantrell serving as partners.

Most folks don’t get overly excited about real estate title work, but it’s a key part of the work Ryan does as a local attorney. And it’s very much needed to ensure property owners don’t get the shaft down the road.

I can delve into the particulars of the title business at a later date, but what I’m glad to see at this point are the upgrades being made on Spring Street. The old Walling Arcade was a longtime blemish before it’s been transformed into a law office, CrossFit studio, and Kimi’s Tea Room.

As mentioned earlier in this column, Evelyn Taylor Avenue is a great upgrade on Main Street with second-floor condos over ground-floor retail. Now there are  ongoing improvements at 113 N. Spring with Ryan’s renovation. It’s interesting to note he has salvaged some original solid poplar panels from the 1900s storefront and is incorporating them into a showpiece interior bookcase.

Skilled craftsmen Ken Jones and David Swan are handling the work.

The old phrase, “A rising tide raises all ships” certainly applies to downtown McMinnville. A few little upgrades, and a few huge projects, have served to heat up our downtown district at microwave speeds. I’m hopeful the momentum will continue.

Mark your


For those concerned about the trash their business is throwing away in landfills, a meeting March 8 at Bridgestone Learning Center may be of intense interest.

Warren County is holding its inaugural environmental expo appropriately named Green Solutions: A Small Business Expo. Event hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This expo is specifically tailored for small or growing businesses that do not have a dedicated environmental employee on staff. Get excited because the $25 participation fee includes lunch. 

Who should attend this first-ever extravaganza? Retail businesses, nurseries, manufacturers, distributors, and any other company that produces scrap, garbage or waste can benefit from this conference.  

Attendees will learn how two McMinnville companies are working together to save more than $25,000 per year in disposal and raw materials costs. Discover how one company saved more than $20,000 in 18 months just by changing to a recycled oil.

For more information, visit the website

That’s all folks

Don’t forget this Thursday is Valentine’s Day. In this age of raw violence, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to play Cupid and shoot your spouse with a crossbow. But I’m sure flowers or balloons or fudge pie would be appreciated.

Phone in business tips at 473-2191.