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Business Pulse: 12-14-14
Ryans inside
The inside of the old Ryans building across from Walmart has been gutted in preparation for a Shoe Dept Encore store that will offer thousands of shoes.

Folks who have noticed all the vehicles parked outside the old Ryan’s building have been asking me about the status of that renovation project. They are curious when Shoe Dept Encore will open its doors in McMinnville.
When I stopped by Friday morning and talked to some workers on site, I was told the company is shooting for Jan. 9 as an opening date. But the workers were quick to add that date is very optimistic thinking, especially with the holidays approaching.
I don’t know if a realistic timetable can be given at this point because the building is completely gutted. That includes removing everything that had been in the kitchen and bathroom areas. Sheetrock work is expected to start this week.
As I was standing there watching all the work take place, one thing that struck me is the amount of money that's been sunk into that building since it was constructed in 2000. It currently has a value of $845,000 on the Warren County property tax rolls, which is probably how much has been spent on remodeling over the years.
It always looked nice when it was Ryan’s, but then the interior was completely redone, most notably with fancy tile floors, when it was turned into Sentosa. Now those fancy tile floors are in the process of being covered by new carpet, which is probably the best atmosphere for a place that sells shoes.
People have been asking if the entire building is going to be used to sell shoes and the answer is yes. It’s going to be used to sell thousands and thousands of shoes. At least that’s what the company envisions.
There will also be some other accessories like purses, handbags, sunglasses and watches, but the primary items on the shelves are going to be shoes.
It won’t be open by Christmas, but the first of the year isn’t a bad time for retail either. Once people get their income tax checks in hand, they’re ready to spend.

Mystery building under construction

There’s new construction taking place behind the old Wilma Jean’s Kitchen on Sparta Street. The property is now owned by Billy and Marie Foutch, longtime operators of Billy’s Restaurant in Newtown.
I called Billy on Friday to ask him about his plans and he joked that he wasn’t sure what was going there. He said it might be a bank. All he would say for now is he’s just building a building and he would have to see what happens down the road.
This is pure speculation, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a restaurant in that spot. If you recall, Billy signed a two-year, no-compete agreement when he sold Billy’s Restaurant. It has flown by in a jiffy, but that two years is over in October. Then Billy is free from any stipulations.
We’ll have to wait and see how all this plays out, but I’m placing my bet on another restaurant run by Billy at that spot on Sparta Street.

Herzog ready to retire

Accu-Router owner and operator Todd Herzog will be leaving the business and waltzing into retirement Jan. 1. One interesting aspect of his retirement is Todd is giving the business to his son and four of his longtime employees.
His son Todd, also known as T.R., will get 50 percent of the company. Employees John O’Connor, Brad Graves, Tim Choate, and Bryan Purnell will each be given 12.5 percent. Todd says it may be a unique arrangement, but it’s one he believes will keep Accu-Router flourishing in the future.
“This is something that’s been in the works for two years when I was encouraged by our board to develop a succession plan,” said Todd. “There were several options on the table, but for me the one that worked best was keeping it here with the people we already have in place. I could have sold it to a competitor or sold it to a third party. There was a company in Texas that really wanted to buy it but they would have moved all the jobs to Texas and I didn’t want that. By me doing it this way, it will keep it business as usual at Accu-Router.”
Todd, who turned 70 in September, said he would have retired years ago if not for owning the business.
“If you work for somebody, you can walk away whenever you want,” said Todd. “If you’re the owner, you have an umbilical cord attached. You can’t just walk away.”
Accu-Router got its start on Oct. 1, 1992 when Todd, then an employee of Powermatic, bought this product line from Powermatic and started his own business. He took 14 Powermatic employees with him.
Accu-Router specializes in building machines for the upholstered furniture industry and the power boat industry. As Todd explains, any piece of upholstered furniture will have a plywood skeleton or a wooden skeleton of some sort. Accu-Router builds machines that will cut that plywood in a hurry.
“There are a number of things we do better than anyone else in the world,” said Todd. “Business is strong and we have four or five major deals pending for 2015 where we are in great position to get the work.”
Todd says a major customer is Jackson Furniture in Cleveland, Tenn., which has 13 Accu-Router machines. Two other companies, Action Layne and Max Home, each have eight Accu-Router machines. Woodhaven, which makes furniture for rental store Aaron’s, has five machines.
One big customer on the horizon is La-Z-Boy in Southern Mississippi. Todd says that would be a huge deal if it comes to fruition. “At that La-Z-Boy plant, they unload a tractor trailer of panel material every hour,” said Todd.
While business is good right now, Todd said that wasn’t always the case. He said his first year in business was very lean and so was 2010-11 coming out of the recession when companies stopped investing in capital improvement projects.
Todd says it has been a memorable working career and he still plans to remain active in his other projects such as the Business Roundtable Action Committee, which he has chaired for over 20 years. Todd will also remain on the Motlow College executive committee and the Habitat for Humanity board of directors. His delightful column, which is published monthly in the Southern Standard, will also continue.
Todd is a graduate from Notre Dame and says he will be in Nashville on Dec. 30 to watch the Fighting Irish get crushed by LSU in the Music City Bowl. I don’t think Todd used the words “get crushed,” but that’s my take on the upcoming game.
The editors of Business Pulse appreciate everything Todd has done for the Warren County business community and beyond. He’s a great American and a decent golfer. Good luck in retirement, Todd.

New Chamber leadership in place

If you read last Sunday’s front page, you likely saw the story about Mandy Eller being named Chamber of Commerce president. Her first day on the job was Monday.
I had a chance to talk with Mandy on Friday afternoon and she told me it’s been a great first week. She’s been busy visiting some Chamber members, and some former Chamber members, to introduce herself and talk about the exciting new programs she has in store.
One thing she is going to be implementing is marketing and tourism packages. For example, Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander recently helped Smooth Rapids and Cumberland Caverns implement a joint tourism package where participants can take advantage of both attractions. They can see the famous cave and also go kayaking on one of our great rivers.
Mandy says she would like to offer such a tourism package for the once-popular bicycle race held in Warren County, the Highland Rim Cycling Classic. At its peak, the bike race would attract about 400 cyclists to this area.
The Chamber stopped sponsoring the bike race three years ago. It was organized by a private individual two years ago, and was not held at all earlier this year. Mandy says she would like to restart the bike race and offer packages for the cyclists to take advantage of Warren County hospitality once they are here.
Mandy says Chamber membership has dipped to 299, which is well below its normal level of around 400 Chamber members. She obviously wants to increase membership, but she wants business owners to realize they are getting value out of the deal.
Mandy joins administrative assistant Sigourney Younglove as new members of the Chamber staff. Sigourney has been on board for five weeks. Norma Clark remains on staff. She has been with the Chamber since 2009.
If you’d like to meet these ladies and find out more about the Chamber, I have the perfect chance. The Chamber is holding a Christmas open house this Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the community room. There will be all sorts of snacks, cider and hot chocolate available.

Need work? Think Onin Staffing

If you need a job, Onin Staffing is here to help. The company has opened a local office on Sparta Street that’s been operational for a month.
Paula Garrison is the staffing supervisor and she says business has been brisk thus far.
“We’re hiring for a local company that deals with assembly factory work,” said Paula. “So far we’ve had a fantastic response. There are a lot of people here wanting to go to work.”
Paula recently relocated to McMinnville from Murfreesboro and says she likes our town much better.
“McMinnville is full of good, friendly people,” said Paula. “Murfreesboro is more of a melting pot. It’s like a mini Nashville.”
Paula said all job applicants are drug tested and must pass a background check.
After that they are placed in the system as ready to hire. She said Onin offers benefits, which is a perk other staffing agencies don’t always provide.
She said the company she is hiring for is currently in a holding pattern as the holidays approach. She said hiring will resume in January so if you need work give her a visit.
Onin Staffing is open Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., although it’s closed from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch. The phone number is 474-6616.

That's all folks

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