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O'Neal eyes renovation of dowtown building
Collins River BBQ owner Joe O’Neal has big plans for the building he owns next to his thriving Main Street restaurant. He wants to renovate the upstairs to accommodate two apartments and upgrade the ground-level retail space so it features exposed brick.

Main Street McMinnville is bustling at levels not seen in decades.

After years of avoiding downtown like a dodgeball, local residents are finally returning to Main Street to shop, dine and socialize. The downtown shopping district is regaining its mojo.

Collins River BBQ is in the middle of the action. Restaurant owner Joe O’Neal says he’s enjoyed steady business in recent months after surviving COVID dining room shutdowns that were enacted this spring.

“We adapted with free countywide delivery and that seemed to do really well,” said O’Neal. “You either adapt or you don’t make it. That’s the world we’re living in now.”

Collins River BBQ was having a steady lunch rush Friday afternoon with nearly every seat in the restaurant taken. With COVID cases rising, and a new White House administration set to take over in January, O’Neal said he doesn’t know what the future may hold.

He hopes restaurant dining rooms are allowed to remain open, but he’s also aware virus cases are at an all-time high and restrictive measures may be leveled.

In addition to the Collins River BBQ facility, O’Neal owns the building next door. He has large-scale plans for that building, which include putting two apartments upstairs and renovating the retail areas that are downstairs.

The renovation effort will impact two stores because of the structural work involved. Ashley’s Attic has already relocated to North Spring Street. Trendy Trunk will be leaving after Christmas.

“The first thing I need to do is add structural beams for the upstairs apartments,” said Joe.

He said he’s planning to have a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment on one side that will be a long-term rental. On the other side, he’s planning a one-bedroom apartment that could be an Airbnb rental.

“They are going to be exposed-brick, rustic apartments,” said Joe.

Once the structural support beams are in place, Joe said renovation will begin on the two retail spaces on the ground floor. He has two, 2,000-square-foot spots.

“I don’t think I will have any problem finding tenants,” said Joe. “Trendy Trunk has already asked if they can have first dibs on the space when I get it finished. They want to come back and be downtown. I think it’s great. How many vacancies were downtown 10 years ago and how many vacancies are here now? Main Street is finally thriving like everybody hoped it would.”

Joe said he thinks a small grocery store would be a great fit for one of the spots. In addition to all the residential space that’s being planned for downtown, a small store that sells milk, eggs and aspirin would be a convenient place to stop for people who work downtown before they head home.