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Business Pulse - Regions may withdraw to new location
Regions Bank downtown.jpg
A Regions Bank official said earlier this year there’s the possibility of moving the downtown branch elsewhere. The lease expires in one year in July 2020.

Let’s start today’s column with a good news/ bad news scenario. I forget which news I’m supposed to tell first.

OK, the good news. The property on The Strip that was once the Cowan Oldham Theater and was most recently home to businesses such as Horner-Rausch and National Diamond before the building was leveled has been sold.

The selling price was a very attractive $875,000. There’s really no way you can make $875,000 look unattractive.

Now the bad news. Most everyone was hoping for a restaurant like Cheddar’s or Olive Garden to occupy that spot. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen.

The land was sold to Regions Bank, which makes the sale register a 10 on the boring scale. I say that with no intention to put down Regions, because we need quality banks in our community, but I was expecting a little more excitement.

The land purchase does bring with it some questions, chief among them is what’s going to happen to our two existing Regions Bank locations? One Regions Bank office is located downtown on the first floor of City Hall. The other is located at Plaza Shopping Center, right across the street from the property which was just purchased.

Regions spokesman Mel Campbell was kind enough to return my call Friday afternoon and he confirmed the bank has purchased the property, but there was little else he was willing to divulge.

“There’s been no public announcement about what’s going to happen there,” said Campbell, who estimates it will be a few more weeks before anything is released. “Until that announcement, I’m not going to speculate on what may happen.”

Since Campbell is not going to speculate, allow me. I think Regions will end up constructing a super-duper branch on its new property and it will close its two current locations. That’s my theory and I’ve convinced myself that’s what will happen.

If you recall, it was earlier this year when Regions senior associate Aaryn Wilson submitted a new lease proposal to McMinnville city officials for the bank to stay on the first floor of City Hall. At that time, it was revealed the bank pays $32,118 in rent to the city annually.  

Said Wilson, “Regions Bank is assessing their options within the city to look at all options available to them, including a renewal of this location or a consolidation into a potential new location within McMinnville.”

I believe Wilson tipped the bank’s hand because I think consolidating into “a potential new location” is exactly what Regions will do. In addition to renting its downtown location, Regions also rents at Plaza Shopping Center with Duggin Company being the property owner.

For me, the biggest question is what will happen with the downtown property once the Regions lease expires on July 1, 2020. Is that going to be enough time to get the new location built and ready to open?

When Regions is gone, what will locate downtown? If the spot stays a bank, Homeland Community Bank would be the only logical option in my opinion because it’s the only hometown bank that doesn’t have a downtown presence. But Homeland is in the process of finishing an expansion at its headquarters on North Chancery Street and might not be eyeing, or need, more growth at this time.

It’s hard to see the city needing room to expand after the recent purchase of the old Metal Products Building on Bell Street. I know government tends to grow and grow, but more space for city offices would be getting excessive.

And, as a general rule, I’m no fan of putting offices on the ground level of our Main Street shopping district. To me, that should be food or retail, especially considering the positive momentum surrounding downtown at this time.

Dollar General X

Nears completion

It’s time to start referring to our Dollar General stores with Roman numerals like the way Super Bowls are numbered. 

Dollar General X is nearing completion on Sparta Highway near the gas station commonly called Powers 4-Lane. For those who don’t speak in Roman numerals, it will be Warren County’s 10th Dollar General.

If you’re wondering how many Dollar General stores our community can support, I think the answer is 19.

Dollar General does make an interesting story because the company has announced it plans to open 975 stores this year. In a digital age when commerce is trending more and more online, and a chain like Dressbarn has revealed it will close all 650 of its stores, Dollar General is unique.

According to a CBS News report, DG is the No. 1 retailer in America for number of stores it plans to open this year. And it’s No. 1 by a longshot. Dollar Tree is way back in second with 350 planned store openings.

Discount stores seem to be emerging as the big winners in our gradual shopping shift. The top five chains for planned store openings in 2019 are all discount stores. Family Dollar, Aldi and Five Below are the other three.

In contrast, CBS News says 7,200 retail stores will be shuttered this year. As we know, even iconic retailers like Sears have not been spared.

GlobalData Retail is a research agency and consulting firm with headquarters in London and New York. Its managing director is Neil Saunders and he says Dollar General is thriving because its shoppers are satisfied, repeat customers.

Said Saunders, “Overall, we remain impressed by Dollar General’s ability to create a compelling and enhanced shopping experience. Admittedly, stores remain fairly basic, but they are well merchandised, have good stock levels, and categories like beauty and healthy food are being enhanced. Our data shows that against some mainstream supermarkets, Dollar General is now rated higher for the quality of the general shopping experience.”

If there’s not a Dollar General near you, just wait. There will be.

Game Xchange

Hits reset button

Sometimes it’s necessary for a business to reinvent itself in order to stay fresh. That’s what is happening at our Game Xchange at Northgate Center.

The business is still going to stick with its bread and butter and continue to buy, sell and trade video games and movies. But it’s also expanding into new frontiers and there is an emphasis on comic books, trading card games, vinyl records, plastic models, board games, T-shirts and more.

“We’re carrying stuff that’s hard to find that you couldn’t buy in McMinnville before this,” said store manager Dakota Myers. “Some people don’t like to order online. They like to come in to a physical store.”

Two large game tables are now set up at the back of the store and Dakota said the goal is to have regular game nights. Game Xchange sells traditional board games like Clue, but a wide selection of other games like Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Ticket to Ride, Catan, Warhammer, Pandemic and Dungeons and Dragons are in stock.

“We want to be more than a place to buy things. We want to be a place to hang out and have fun,” said Dakota. “Sometimes if you’re into a game, it’s hard to find people to play with, or you might have the same group you always play with and you don’t know of any other people who like the game. This will be a great way to interact with people you may not have met before.”

Dakota said you don’t have to be an expert to give the games a try.

“Come out and we’ll learn together,” he said. “Any game we have on the shelf you are welcome to open up and play. If we’re not busy, I’ll sit down and we’ll play together.”

Dakota said the plan is also for Game Xchange to hold video game tournaments. He said he’s starting a list to determine which games will be best, but he thinks Madden football will be a popular choice as one tournament.

Said area manager Miles Dunlap, “The best way to have a good game store is for people to come in and have fun.”

Dakota said the store’s buy, sell and trade philosophy has been extended to vinyl records and comic books. If you’re one of the people fortunate enough to have the Atari 2600 video game Red Sea Crossing, Dakota said that extremely rare game can fetch more than $10,000.

Game Xchange can be reached at 507-4263. The store is located next to La Cazona.

That’s all folks

If you ate 71 hotdogs this Fourth of July weekend, you’re on pace with hotdog eating champion Joey Chestnut. If you didn’t eat 71 hotdogs, your doctor will thank you.

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