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Business Pulse - Tree City Inn going to grow
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There are so many different factors that play into the overall health of a community. Somewhere on that list, and I don’t know where they would rank, are hotels.

When I think about Nashville, it’s a city which has flourished thanks in large part to its welcoming hotel industry. Tourists are flocking to Music City now more than ever because they know when they arrive there are nice hotels with fluffy pillows waiting for them.

When it comes to McMinnville, our relationship with hotels hasn’t always been a warm blanket. There was a stretch when a better comparison would be a cold shower.

The Hampton Inn which opened last year gave the city its first new hotel in three decades and was a much-needed addition. I’m pleased to report the promising news continues.

We can rest easy knowing a massive expansion and renovation project is coming to our very own Best Western Tree City Inn on Sparta Street.

I talked to Best Western general manager Keval Sheth on Thursday and he said the hotel will be undergoing a compete transformation and becoming a boutique hotel with four different room themes seasoned with Warren County flavor.

When the projected $2.5 million expansion is complete, the hotel will feature a rooftop bar, a new two-story building with elevator to connect the lobby and guest rooms, and a cocktail lounge.

Another major addition will be a bakery, deli, and coffee shop that will be open to the public.

Keval says he’s been in negotiations with a “nationally recognized chain” when it comes to the coffee shop, but the fact we’re not close to an interstate and are still somewhat of a small community could prevent this well-known national chain from coming.

All 42 rooms in the hotel will be completely renovated and Kevel estimates 7-10 new staff members will be hired to provide all the extra food and beverage services.

“This will give McMinnville a one-of-akind property that feels like McMinnville,” said Keval, who started planning this project in February 2019.

“McMinnville has needed better hotels for some time and we’ve been aware of that. The Hampton Inn coming, that’s been a great asset, but this will be something entirely different. With Hampton Inn, you know you’re getting the same thing every time. This will not be a normal chain. For all the people coming here for hiking, camping, kayaking and outdoor experiences, this will be a place they can stay that’s not like any other. And there are a lot of people who are attracted to that.”

The four room themes will enhance the guest experience and Keval says they were selected based on many of the Warren County attractions people visit during their stay. There will be a mural depicting the room theme on the wall behind the bed and all other interior items in the room will be color matched to the mural.

“Everything in the room will tie into the theme and the theme ties into McMinnville in general,” said Keval.

An addition will connect the lobby to the guest rooms and include an elevator. Keval says the elevator will be a huge plus because guests now have to walk up stairs to reach the second floor. This can be a problem if the ground floor is entirely booked and the guest has difficulty navigating stairs.

When asked about a time frame for renovations to begin, Keval says he’s ready for liftoff. The design concepts have been finalized and he was approved for all the necessary permits last week. The new furniture has been received and is ready to install.

“We’re ready to rock ‘n roll,” said Keval. “Phase one is renovating all the guest rooms. We’re ready to start that now and we hope to be done by the end of the year. Ideally, I’d love to be done with the entire project by the end of the year, but realistically we’re probably looking at spring 2023.”

When complete, Keval said the renovation will allow them to raise their room rates from their current average of $88 per night to an average room rate of around $129 per night. This will result in more money for both city and county governments which both collect a 5% hotel tax on the room rate.

“We calculate it will be an additional $25,000 to $35,000 a year for each of them on top of what they’re getting now,” said Keval. “It will be a winwin for everyone.”

The editors of Business Pulse want to thank Keval and his family for making this investment in Warren County. Better hotel offerings improve the vitality of a community.

You can bank On Bankpak

My relationship with ATMs is pretty simple. I insert my card, money comes out, I’m happy, and I drive away ready to buy something.

Like everything else, the technology in ATMs is rapidly advancing and Bankpak in Morrison is an industry leader when it comes to innovation.

There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at Bankpak as the company joined the Chamber of Commerce. I took that as an opportune time to meet with Steve and Chase Carroll, the father and son owners of the 39-year-old business.

The company got its start in Viola from the home of Jerry and Virginia Hard. When Steve and Chase joined the company in 2016, it had 27 employees. It has expanded its workforce to 44, which represents a 62.9% increase in six years.

It’s located at 130 Tom Grissom Road in Morrison at what was a trucking terminal for years. The facility has been completely remodeled and looks like a painting.

As its name suggests, Bankpak caters to all the equipment needs of banks and financial institutions. This includes ATMs, vault doors, vault locks, alarm and surveillance systems, to name a few.

“We service 500 branches in the Southeast,” said Steve. “We’re mainly in Tennessee, but we also have customers in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and North Carolina. We’d love to grow our footprint. Currently we’re in about 28% of the Tennessee market.”

Steve said when ATMs were first created they were nothing more than cash dispensers. Thanks to technology, Steve said it’s getting to the point where you can do virtually all your banking from an ATM, or ITM as many of them are now being called.

Citizens Tri-County Bank is a main customer and Bankpak currently maintains all 30 of their ATMs. Steve said Citizens Tri-County Bank is making a big investment and upgrading its ATMs at several local branches.

I asked Steve about the yahoos I hear about occasionally who wrap a chain around an ATM and try to pull it away with their truck. He said that happened to five banks they service last year, but all that was accomplished was damage to the ATM.

“With the way we have the alarms set, they only have about two to three minutes to get away and that’s not much time,” said Steve.

He said the latest security systems they are installing include facial recognition and heat sensors.

“The stuff you see in the movies is real,” said Steve. He added that bank vault combinations are easily programmable so if an employee leaves the bank it’s not a problem to change the code.

When so much of our Warren County workforce revolves around automotive, Bankpak provides diversification and a valuable service. The company installs and provides upkeep for all its products to ensure when I pull up to an ATM, I will be able to insert my card and get my money. Now if I could just convince Bankpak to deposit money into my account...

Pikarz strikes deal For bowling alley

Rich Pikarz has been bowling since he was 6 years old and said he knew eventually he would incorporate bowling into his career.

Eventually has arrived as Rich is now the owner of Pioneer Lanes, the one and only bowling alley in McMinnville.

“A number of people have said to me, ‘Well, I guess you get to bowl all the time now since you own the bowling alley,’” said Rich. “I’m actually bowling less now than I have in years. I bowl on my two league days Wednesday and Thursday but that’s about it. I have too much other stuff to do.'

Rich has a number of changes in the works, but a big one is his idea to roll out three different levels of birthday packages. This can range from a simple birthday party up to something with all the trimmings.

“We really don’t have too many places for families and kids in McMinnville,” said Rich. “There’s the skating rink, movie theater and there’s us. We want to be the place to come for your birthday party. We have two birthday party rooms available.”

The food is another area of interest and some folks may remember Rich used to own a local restaurant called Stacked Bistro. He’s not going to bring steaks and grilled chicken to the bowling alley, but his new menu offers a number of upgrades like a club sandwich and Philly cheesesteak.

“We are offering more meal-type items instead of concession stand snacks,” said Rich, who added other menu items include wings, chicken strips, burgers and pizza.

He said glow in the dark cyber bowling is so popular on Saturday nights with every lane taken he is likely going to expand it to Friday nights so more people can enjoy it. He said as a smaller bowling alley with 14 lanes, those lanes can fill up quickly during peak times on the weekends.

Short-term plans include closing during fair week to upgrade several aspects of the operation. He said some of the previous owners have bowled a gutterball when it comes to properly

maintaining the bowling alley and he is committed to having a nice facility.

His long-term plans are much more ambitious.

“I’d eventually like to build a new bowling alley in McMinnville,” said Rich. “But that’s something which would be down the road.”

Rich said expanded hours and new prices are coming. He said Pioneer Lanes is blessed with a solid nucleus of regular bowlers and he is always eager to introduce new players to the sport.

Pioneer Lanes is located at 200 Hobson Street. It can be reached at 473-6679.

That’s all folks

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