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Business Pulse - Ready to reopen
J's Restaurant.jpg
J's Restaurant owner Junior Petit is ready to reopen and welcome back customers to his restaurant at Three Star Mall. Junior says J's will resume regular business hours this Monday, opening at 10 a.m.

There are certain moments in life that will always be remembered. 

For me, I can think of a first kiss, a certain talk with dad, an embarrassing moment in the school cafeteria. These are things that don’t go away.

It amazes me the random thoughts I remember from life. Climbing over a fence to enter forbidden woods. Falling through the ice while walking on a frozen pond. Getting attacked by a Doberman while riding my bike.

Maybe I’ve told too much, but these memories remain vivid.

I remember exactly where I was on Sept. 11, 2001 when I watched the World Trade Center towers collapse on national TV.

I remember where I was when I was watching the NFC Championship Game some 25 years ago when legendary San Francisco QB Joe Montana got crushed by Giants defensive tackle Leonard Marshall. Said TV commentator John Madden, “The word from the 49er bench on Montana is everything hurts.” Best football line ever.

And I remember where I was when the President of the United States suggested we inject ourselves with disinfectant products to help ward off coronavirus. OMG!

I’m just guessing this isn’t sound advice.

Said the maker of Lysol in a statement to rebuke this suggestion, “As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body.”

These are moments that deserve rumination as we make our way through times never before seen. When has a president ever before urged the American public to inject household cleaner? We are treading into new waters.

I was chatting with a friend the other day who divulged he had recently gotten a haircut, then he covered his mouth as if he’d said something horribly wrong.

Three months ago, who would’ve ever imagined getting a haircut would be an underground operation to be conducted only in someone’s basement.

All that being said, don’t snort Ajax and here’s Business Pulse.

The grand


For the purposes of this column, I’m going to forgo any commentary about whether it’s proper to reopen at this time, or whether it's a disregard for safety. I’m merely going to report what’s happening and wish everyone the best of health. Good luck!

Three Star Mall is officially reopening Monday at 9 a.m. The widely popular J’s Restaurant is cranking up the grill Monday after being closed since March 20.

“It’s been a little different than closing the week of the fair,” said J’s owner Junior Petit. “We still don’t have all the exact details worked out, but we’re preparing to operate at 50% capacity. That will be every other booth. For our tables in the front, I won’t let there be groups of any more than four.”

Junior said he considered never closing and doing curbside deliveries outside the mall, but determined that wouldn’t be feasible since more than 80% of his business is from dine-in customers.

“I’m bringing everybody back on a normal schedule on Monday so we’ll see how it goes,” said Junior.

Three Star Mall manager Sigourney Younglove said Friday she hasn’t received confirmation from anchor stores such as JC Penney and Bath & Body Works about when they may reopen. Retail stores have been given the OK by Gov. Bill Lee to reopen Wednesday.

Sigourney said the mall will reopen Monday and follow the regular hours of the merchants who are operating there. Ascend Federal Credit Union, J's and Roses are among the businesses that will be operating at the mall on Monday. I don't have a comprehensive list but I will pass that information along in Wednesday's edition if I learn others stores will be reopening.

Medley’s diner

Is ready

Perhaps the biggest restaurant in all Warren County, the granddaddy of them all, is Medley’s Diner in Morrison with a seating capacity of some 400 people. Owner Billy Medley says he will reopen this Monday at 5:30 a.m. and sees no trouble staying under the governor’s suggestion of 50% capacity.

“Being able to have 200 customers is definitely going to work in our favor,” said Billy, who indicated Sundays after church would typically be the only time he would exceed that number. But there’s no church on Sundays nowadays and who can say when we can safely return to traditional worship services.

Billy said he’s been painting and cleaning around his restaurant during the shutdown and is ready to start serving food.

“It’s going to be good to be back at work,” said Billy. “We’ve been doing this for 30 years and we’ve never been shut down for anything like this. It’s a first time for us and it’s been tough. We like to see our customers and interact with them. Since we’ve been closed, we haven’t seen a customer in about six weeks. I know our customers are ready to return too. When we’ve been around here working, the phone has been ringing off the hook.”

Billy said he’s glad we’re to the point where folks can return to making a living. He said he hasn’t endured food costs during the shutdown, but all his other expenses have remained about the same so he needs to return to the point where he has money coming in.

Gondola going


Gondola owner Jimmy Zavogiannis is a man who always puts health and well-being first. He was the first restaurant owner in Warren County to shut down due to coronavirus fears and he is going to be one of the last to reopen.

Jimmy told me Friday that Gondola will reopen May 5 and it will be curbside service only. The dining room won’t be open in any capacity.

“We can’t open and have our buffet,” said Jimmy. “We can seat over 200 people. Even at half capacity, we’re too big. It’s too much to have 100 people together. So we’re going to open with curbside service and monitor the situation. We’ll change accordingly to what we think is the responsible thing to do.”

Jimmy said his absolute busiest day of the year is Mother’s Day, which is fast approaching. Jimmy says he’s not going to reopen the dining room for Mother’s Day, but he will be offering a dinner for four. He will begin accepting meal reservations for Mother’s Day on Wednesday, May 6.

“No mother should have to cook on Mother’s Day, or do the dishes, so we’re offering food,” said Jimmy.

I wish I could have called every restaurant in Warren County to find out their reopening plans but I'm going to stop here.

Pioneer Nutrition

Is shaking

This marks the third straight week I’ve written about a new business opening so business activity appears to be gaining velocity on the retail front. Pioneer Nutrition has opened at 1700 Smithville Highway in the back of Tack and Treasures.

Callie Buchanan owns this store. There are sister stores in Woodbury and Smithville operating under the same model of providing protein-enriched shakes and flavored teas.

“They can serve as a healthy meal replacement with 24 grams of protein and between 220 and 280 calories,” said Callie. “It’s a far better option than skipping a meal.”

Instead of grabbing a bag of greasy fast food, Pioneer Nutrition offers a wide range of shakes such as birthday cake, banana caramel, cinnamon roll, butter pecan, and brownie batter. Tea flavors include lemon berry, peach wave and tropical paradise.

Callie says the business has started with a bang as she’s been busy at breakfast and lunch. When social distancing restrictions are relaxed, she said holding a weight loss clinic is likely.

Current business hours are Monday thru Friday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Callie said she’s willing to modify those hours if needed.

“I’m open to weekends as long as the volume is there to support it,” she said. “I can stay open after 2 p.m. as long as the need is there. I’m just waiting to see.”

If you want to call in your order, Callie can have it ready when you arrive, or even deliver it to your vehicle outside the store. The phone number is (931) 304-3866.

Regions banking

On new branch

For anyone driving by the new Regions Bank location on New Smithville Highway, it’s easy to see tremendous progress is being made. According to information I received from Regions, the opening date for that new spot is Monday, June 22. It should be a glorious occasion and the dawn of a new day in banking.

With the good news also comes this sad bit of information. Regions says it will close its downtown branch on Court Square on Friday, June 19 at 2 p.m. For me, I never remember a time when there hasn’t been a bank at that spot so that aspect will be a little odd. 

McMinnville city government says it will move offices to the first floor of that building when the bank leaves. This will allow city business to not be held hostage by a faulty elevator which seems to break down frequently.

The waiting game

Amid the good news delivered by Gov. Bill Lee on Friday was also the bad news that some businesses will have to wait to reopen. Those include gyms and hair stylists, among others.

I know Leland Northcutt had been ready to go with a May 1 reopening date for USA Gym, your source for fitness, but the governor said he will provide additional guidance later this week about when those businesses can begin thinking about opening.

"It's tough because we have a lot of people who want to work out," said Leland. "I've been lifting weights since I was a teenager and this is the longest I've gone without picking up a weight. I figure if my customers can't work out, then I shouldn't either."

I know there are several hair stylists who are upset at the decision to delay their opening and I completely understand their concern. It's a madhouse inside places like Walmart and Lowe's but hair stylists are being told they can't cut hair.

I said at the beginning of this column that I'm not going to offer commentary and I'm only going to report what's happening. So I'm not going to offer my opinion on how hair stylists are getting the shaft.

State park



Rock Island State Park reopened Friday for folks anxious to enjoy the great outdoors. Park ranger Damon Graham said state park officials are urging residents to stay local and visit the park that's closest to them -- not drive great distances to a faraway park.

Rock Island State Park is open for day use only at this time. Explore the trails, but there is no camping or cabin rentals. Those are slated to reopen May 1, which is this Friday.



I've been monitoring Tennessee unemployment figures since the COVID-19 shutdown hit and the statewide numbers have not been encouraging.

I think Gov. Lee said it well in his Friday press conference when he provided this analysis: "It's too soon to say with certainty what will happen for sure, but it's not too soon to say there will be a definite downturn in our economy."

If you look at the week ending March 14, before statewide closures hit, there were 2,702 new unemployment claims filed throughout the state. Since then, the numbers have made me want to look away.

The new unemployment claims for the past five weeks are as follows:

March 21  39,096

March 28  94,492

April 4  116,141

April 11  74,772

April 18 68,968

At least Tennessee is moving in the right direction, but it's tough to do the math and see 393,469 people have applied for unemployment over the past five weeks.

That's all folks

It's been a wild ride these past few weeks in the business world. Perhaps there will be a return to normalcy soon and we won't have to throw things in reverse if there's something awful like another virus outbreak. 

I heard one health official say we're only in the second inning of a nine-inning game when it comes to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. I certainly hope that's completely wrong. 

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