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Business Pulse - Return of China Wok brings a smile
China Wok - happy lady - Copy.jpg
After being closed for three months, China Wok reopened Wednesday at Northgate Center. Customers were greeted by the smiling face of Lin Jing, who works hard to ensure all orders are properly prepared.

There are great things in life. The wind to my back. Sand at my feet. A baked potato coming out of the oven.

There are bad things in life too. The sun in my face. A pit bull at my feet. No baked potato in the oven.

So where does China Wok stand on this rating scale? It must rank strongly toward the great side because the restaurant reopened Wednesday and people are awfully happy about it. There are plenty of big smiles to go around.

With everything going on in the nation today, we needed this to happen. Warren County needed China Wok to reopen in order to begin the healing process.

What we lacked – or what we craved – was that great taste of China Wok to make those bad days just a little better. How do those eggrolls taste so good?

Alan Fitts is a longtime customer whose day got a little better Friday when he was handed his China Wok order with hot and sour soup.

“It’s addicting,” said Fitts, “and so is that general tso chicken with a little bit of a bite.”

Lines have stretched out the door and down the sidewalk at Northgate Center. China Wok has a new protective glass shield and only five customers are allowed in the store at one time.

“We have been so busy,” said Lin Jing, who is a regular smiling face behind the China Wok counter.

On behalf of Business Pulse, I’d like to wish China Wok a long-overdue welcome back to McMinnville. We’ve missed you the past three months!

We have a

Bobcat dealer!

Forgive me if I find this pretty cool. McMinnville now has a Bobcat dealership.

Bobcat of McMinnville has opened at 3766 Sparta Highway just past the VFW. The local store is being operated by manager Colten Ponder and Tyler Rhea.

“We’ve already determined this will be a huge tractor market,” said Colten. “We’re going to do everything we can to tend to the needs of the local farmer. We’re like a car dealership so we’ll have everything the company offers, but we also realize what a big market this is going to be for the nursery industry.”

The dealership will offer full service on all makes and models of equipment. Repair service is expected to start in a couple weeks.

The McMinnville location is the 18th Bobcat dealership for its ownership group, Gateway Dealer Network. Gateway Dealer was established in 1990 with one location and 11 employees. It now has 18 locations across eight states with more than 250 employees.

“Even though the company has grown, we take great pride in maintaining family-owned and operated values,” said Steve Dickey, south regional sales manager at Gateway Dealer Network.

McMinnville store employees are still getting everything settled. When everything is running full speed in a couple weeks, Bobcat of McMinnville will offer a full inventory of new equipment and parts, rental machines and attachments, and certified service technicians.

“With 18 locations in our dealer network, we have one of the largest rental fleets in the area,” said Dickey. “We will do whatever it takes to get the job done. We offer both in-house and road service for the McMinnville area and always have new, used and rental Bobcat inventory in stock to fill customer needs.”

Bobcat of McMinnville can be reached at 931-488-4767 or visit

Bobcat of McMinnville is part of a network of some 900 Bobcat dealerships worldwide. The widely known Bobcat brand includes an extensive line of equipment and attachments.

“One thing we have going for us is our name,” said Colten. “We are a very reputable and well-known name.” 

Bobcat is one of the only companies I know that’s headquartered in North Dakota. It’s in West Fargo if the question ever comes up in trivia.

Huddle House

Still cooking

I was asked to check on the status of Huddle House because, rumor had it, the company supposedly decided against opening a restaurant in McMinnville. Despite all the renovation work that’s been done at the old Captain D’s building, Huddle House was halting its plans to locate here and was instead putting the property back on the market.

At least that’s the way the information was presented to me.

Fortunately, none of that appears true. Workers were on site Friday continuing to transform the building into what will be a refreshing Huddle House.

I was able to reach a big wig in the Huddle House organization on Friday and received an email from chief development officer Tim Linder. The statement from Mr. Linder said:

“As of now, our plan is to open Huddle House in McMinnville by the end of 2020, and we hope to begin preparing for the opening in the coming months. As soon as we are able to confirm an opening date, we will be sure to share the details with you. We look forward to joining the McMinnville community.”

The great thing about Huddle House is it serves pancakes, glorious pancakes. I think I may have mentioned it before that I love pancakes.

I’m anxious for Huddle House to open and I think it will provide another great offering to our community that’s not a Mexican restaurant. The COVID-19 shutdown has created a little bit of a Huddle House delay, but it’s still a go.

Helton Inc.

Sees slowdown

The job losses in April and May combined for the most dramatic employment swing I’ve seen in my lifetime. Interesting stories have emerged from the mayhem with Helton Inc., in Morrison holding steady with a workforce of about 35.

“We have been maintaining,” said sales manager Steven Helton. “The thermoforming business has been affected as this has hit the car industry pretty intensely. All the work we had lined up with Nissan, those projects all hit the pause button. We did some prototypes for Honda that were supposed to be in mid-production by now, but they’ve been on hold.”

Steven said the automotive industry hit a wall when COVID-19 struck and shuttered factories. That wall is gradually starting to come down, but it will take a little time before work emerges on the other side of the wall.

“Our best-case scenario is for everyone to get back to work and pick up where we left off,” said Steven. “It would be like we just hit a two-month pause button.”

Another scenario that’s not so peachy is that companies will get back to work, but they’ll operate in tip-toe fashion with a larger portion of reluctance.

“It could be people go into correction mode, reining back, and only purchasing what they absolutely need,” said Steven.

Helton, Inc. specializes in thermoforming, which is the process that involves preheating a flat sheet of plastic, then bringing it into contact with a mold. The plastic will then take the shape of that mold. 

This forming is accomplished by vacuum, pressure and/ or mechanical force. Thermoforming offers close tolerances, tight specifications, and sharp detail.

Steven said Helton, Inc. has been in contact with other facilities to ensure it is operating in accordance with industry standards. He said it’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the coming months and the "new normal" that emerges.

Helton, Inc. is a great asset to the Warren County workforce. At its peak, the company has employed as many as 70. That’s putting food on the table for a lot of families.

Old bank has

New owner

It’s a real estate deal that didn’t work in the favor of Tony Cappiello of Knoxville-based Cappiello Real Estate.

He purchased the bank location on West Main Street that I last remember as being First American. Cappiello Real Estate purchased the property in 2007 and it had been vacant for more than a year before that.

According to Warren County property tax records, the selling price in 2007 was $600,000. The property sold again earlier this month on June 5 for a reported price of $200,000.

Ouch! Who was it who said real estate always goes up in value?

Local resident Chad Graves of Graves Family Properties is the new owner. I talked to Chad on Friday and he said big things are on the way.

“It’s been vacant for 15 years and it’s definitely a mess on the inside,” said Chad. “I’ve had it checked out and the building is structurally sound. It’s passed a Level 1 environmental study. What it really needs more than anything is a good cleaning.”

Chad said he doesn’t have any firm plans at the moment. He’s leaning toward making the space condos or apartments, but he’s not ruling out other commercial uses.

“It will shine when we’re done with it,” said Chad. “We’re leaning toward some type of residential but we could go a different direction.”

The two-story building doesn’t lack for square footage. It has 4,992 square feet on the first floor and 3,432 square feet on the second floor, according to property tax records.

That’s all folks

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