The fair has been over for a week now and my body is still adjusting to the whiplash from abruptly switching away from the all-corn dog diet I subjected myself to for nine days. As you may have read in my front-page story on Wednesday, the fair certainly had an effect on the Warren County business world. Fair President Regan Kelsey estimated the fair had an economic impact of $750,000 - $1M on the county both from money made and spent at the fair and the money spent across the county for fair supplies.
The fair also provided a huge financial boost to the many civic and non-profit organizations who work so hard to make the fair a great event while also earning much-needed funds for their groups.
If you were anywhere near the Noon Exchange Club/Treasure Chest parking lot at the fair last week, it would have been hard to miss the incredibly bright video truck that was parked out front. For those wondering about it …
A bright idea
In 1988, Jason Gross launched a rather sound business venture. Always possessing a deep love for music, Jason got into the business from following in his dad's footsteps. His dad had sound equipment as he did work for conventions across the country when Jason was around 12-years-old in the early-1980s. “My dad was into music also so he got me interested in doing that kind of work. From there, I saw people needed music for weddings and class reunions and that kind of thing. So I just built on that,” Jason said. “I’ve always loved music and working with sound and music is just something I’ve always enjoyed doing so I turned it into a business.” That business became The Sound Machine, which Jason launched in 1988 and has become a familiar fixture at a multitude of Warren County and regional events.
“I just started off doing school events, then it built up to weddings and then it just took off into corporate events and other things. Then I began videoing weddings when that started getting popular around 2005,” Jason said.
Jason has provided DJ, sound mixing and video services for countless people and parties over the past 34 years and he’s had to evolve his equipment and his skills along with the times to stay current. One of his most recent evolutions is the addition of a mobile video wall.
“Last year I was doing an event in Murfreesboro where they needed a video wall, so I bought my own video wall to use. I also bought outdoor video panels but I found I wasn’t getting much use out of those so I got together with a few other people and created the video truck out of the panels I already had,” Jason said.
The video truck provides an approximately 14’ x 7’ screen on each side of the truck that can run up to 4K video. I can say from personal experience, the screen provides amazing picture quality and is very bright, as anyone who caught a glimpse of it in the parking lot at the fair can attest. And its mobility means it can be used for a wide variety of applications.
“We started using the video truck in October 2021 and have used it for several events, including the WCHS graduation. We use it for advertising but it can also be used for watching football games or movie nights. The beauty is, there’s no hassle of putting up a screen or blowing up an inflatable screen and setting up a projector. I just drive the truck up and we’re set up and ready to go in minutes. And with the brightness of the screen, you can see it as well in daylight as you can at night.”
Autumn Street Fair goers will have a chance to see the video truck in action Oct. 1 where it will be parked on Main Street near Begonias.
Whether you're looking for traditional DJ services or you're looking to spice up your get-together with a video wall, Jason is ready to meet your needs. Call for pricing at (931) 474-5555 or Jason's cell at (931) 588-9304.
COnsider the source
Rumors were swirling on Facebook and other places Thursday night and Friday morning that United Grocery Outlet at 722 Smithville Highway had abruptly closed its doors and would not be reopening. I made a call to the supposedly closed store and was delighted to talk to the very friendly Allison McClure, a cashier from the very obviously open and busy UGO, Friday at noon. She chuckled, having also heard the rumors and assured me UGO is open for business with no plans of stopping.
"There was an incident Thursday that caused us to temporarily close for the remainder of the day but we're back in business and we're not closing," Allison told me.
She was not at liberty to disclose the nature of the incident.
I don't like to overuse the term "hidden gem," but in the case of Owens Market on Short Mountain Road, I think the phrase is warranted. No secret to Centertown residents, and even some loyal out-of-towners who routinely make lengthy trips to visit the market, the store might be overlooked by much of Warren County.
And that's a shame because Travis Owens-Whitehead and his husband, P.J. Owens-Whitehead have established a remarkable place with all the charm of an old-fashioned country store but with first-class food and a family feel that's welcoming to all visitors.
"We don't see people who come in as customers. We see them as friends and family," P.J. said.
P.J. grew up near Memphis but, even as a child, always had a dream of owning a country store. That dream became a reality when he and Travis, one of the original owners of Owens Market which closed in 2017, decided to relaunch in a new location. While the location was new, the building was not, having been built in the 1950s.
Travis and P.J. opened the convenience store just over a year ago on Sept. 7, 2021. Over that year they've listened and adapted to their customers to continue to tweak and add to their menu and services. They started accepting EBT about two months ago and they became an authorized U-Haul dealer about four months ago.
"I think adding U-Haul is a really big thing for this community because there aren't any others on this side of the county," Travis said.
And community is very important to Travis and P.J. Small touches like a kitchen table for six in the middle of the store makes dining there feel more like visiting a friend's house than being in a convenience store. "We have four ladies from Baxter who come here one Friday a month for girls' night out," P.J. said.
For Christmas, P.J. is looking forward to channeling his inner Clark Griswold to go all out with decorating. "We're going to put Santa's mailbox on our porch for kids to put their letters in and Santa will reply to them all," P.J. said.
Along with the expected items in a country store like glass-bottle soft drinks and candy, Owens Market opens at 6 a.m. and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Travis and P.J. make sure all the food lives up to their own high standards as well as those of the health inspector. "We've been inspected three times and we've scored a 98 each time. The inspector told us we're one of the very few places she actually eats," Travis said. "If I wouldn't eat it, I'm not going to serve it. We don't believe in keeping food in warmers for hours. We cook almost everything to order. It might take a little longer, but it's going to be good," Travis added.
"If you leave Owens Market hungry, that's on you," P.J. said. "We want to be different and we're always looking to add menu items you don't see in this area."
"We make our own pizza and I'd bet money we're the only convenience store in the state with a brick oven," Travis said. "My grandmother was born in 1910 and she taught me to cook. I use many of her family recipes and we use cast-iron skillets the way she taught me."
"We've had some customers from New York tell us our Philly sandwich beats ones they've had in the Bronx and compared us to Gino's Cheese Steak and Onion in Fayetteville, N.Y., which I was excited about because I'm a fan of them and follow them on Facebook," Travis said.
So the next time you're looking for some good food and a down-home family atmosphere, (or even if you need a U-Haul) take a trip to the Blues Hill area and visit P.J. and Travis at Owens Market. You won't just be a customer, you might make some friends.
Until next time,
same biz time,
same biz page
Thanks to all the businesses who have reached out to me. Please keep the tips and requests coming to email@example.com or (931) 473-2191. And I'd like to say a special thanks to the businesses who have been featured and recognized the power of the newspaper to get their businesses noticed and decided to follow up their feature by becoming advertisers. The Southern Standard is also a local business employing local people and we certainly appreciate the support.