One of the big stories circulating around Warren County in recent weeks is the news Sparta is losing its Kroger store. The decision to close that store was announced March 4 and it has created quite a stir.
According to the Sparta Expositor, Kroger has been a part of that community for 64 years. The store closing will reportedly impact 62 employees who are scheduled to lose their jobs March 28.
Said state Rep. Paul Bailey, who is a Sparta resident, “We made phone calls and tried to get them to keep the store open, but according to their story, they are losing $1 million a year just by keeping the doors open.”
The reason folks are concerned about Sparta losing its Kroger is because we have a popular and beloved Kroger store right here in McMinnville. Many local residents are concerned because if Kroger will close a store 20 miles down the road, will the company close this one too?
In talking with local Kroger employees over the past week, they tell me the Sparta store did not make money, but they say the McMinnville store does well. However, they stressed they can’t make an official comment on behalf of Kroger and I should talk to Kroger spokeswoman Melissa Eads.
I have worked with Eads on a number of stories in the past and have usually gotten a quick response to my questions. But in this instance she did not return two phone messages I left for her last week.
I had hoped to provide a glowing report in this column about how our Kroger store in McMinnville is in no danger of closing. That was my plan. However, I have not been given an official Kroger statement to support that claim. If I do, I will pass it along.
The Industrial Development Board held its monthly meeting Thursday with director George Burke giving a report on the latest job prospects.
Burke first said he doesn’t believe a specialty food maker that expressed interest in Warren County about a month ago will locate here. He said it’s been too long since hearing from company officials and that is normally a bad sign.
On a promising note, Burke said he remains encouraged by a project that’s in the works for the Blue Building and also noted three other companies have expressed an interest to locate here.
One is a German toolmaker that is looking for a 42,000-square-foot building. He said the company is looking to make a $6 million investment and create 50 jobs.
Burke said a concrete product company that needs rail access appears to like the old A.O. Smith building on Red Road.
“This is a project which has come through TVA,” said Burke. “It’s gotten to the point where I got to talk to the consultant which is a good thing. If you’re not in consideration, those folks won’t return your phone call.”
Burke also said a chicken processing business has expressed interest in locating in the old cheese plant. This was not viewed as positive news by Industrial Development Board member Jeff Golden.
“All I’ve ever heard about chicken processors is bad,” said Golden. “I don’t know if I’d be in favor of one of those on the bypass. I know a company located about 500 yards from that spot that was forced to relocate because of the smell.”
Golden was referring to WastAway, which was located in the old Aquatech and current Jarden building. Nearby residents complained WastAway produced a stench, which forced the business to move to Morrison.
For those who are interested, I’ll get to more IDB news later in this column.
store set to open
A new clothing store called Phoebe’s is in the process of opening on Court Square. A friend and family day was held Friday and business owner Sherry Moore says the first official day is set for next Monday, March 31.
Sherry is starting the business with daughters Nikki Moore and Chandi Nunley.
“We’re going to have trendy clothes and the newest things,” said Nikki. “We’re also going to keep only a limited number of each item in stock so you don’t see someone else out wearing your same unique dress.”
Added Chandi, “We’re going to keep something for everyone’s budget because I don’t want to spend $40 for an outfit every time I go out shopping, although sometimes I will.”
Sherry said between the three of them, they should have clothing to fit everyone’s taste.
“Everything we like, we’ll have in this store,” said Sherry. “And it won’t be just clothing. We’re going to have shoes, purses and headbands. We’ve been working through wholesalers and doing this for some time. We can provide services that you can’t get anywhere else. We can hem an outfit if you need us to, and we can make bows in-house to match any outfit. We can go the extra mile to accommodate our customers.”
Sherry said she named the business after her dog. She said Phoebe means “pure light” and she wants to have a shop that brings light to McMinnville.
Items can be customized with initials or a name. There are burlap pillows and flags which are popular at this time.
Phoebe’s is a neat business I hope does well in downtown McMinnville. It’s located next to the courthouse at 115 W. Court Square.
The phone number is 265-4159. Beginning March 31, hours will be Monday thru Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
New owners join
The husband and wife team of Mike and Joan Chalk have joined McMinnville Lanes as co-owners of the bowling alley. They join Larry Morgan, who has owned the bowling alley for the past eight years.
“We want to get kids involved and really be a part of the community with fundraisers and other functions here,” said Mike. “Playing baseball and basketball isn’t for every kid. Some may like bowling. You don’t have to be in great shape and it’s something the whole family can do together.”
Mike brings a tremendous amount of energy to the bowling alley and a new level of enthusiasm. He’s a guy who is going to bring to fruition all the plans Larry has been working on in recent years.
“I need to be busy from 6 a.m. to midnight seven days a week,” said Mike, who spent 34 years in the Army. “I’m working to implement the ideas Larry has been developing but hasn’t had the time to put in place. I want to be out in the community. That’s my role.”
One new item the business has purchased is two portable bowling lanes to take to local schools. Mike says he has been to three schools already.
The students get a chance to get some bowling exposure while Mike teaches rules and etiquette. As an added bonus, Mike says McMinnville Lanes will offer $1 bowling all summer vacation from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday thru Friday.
McMinnville Lanes is also going to ramp up league bowling, including two competitive leagues and one league Friday morning for people who work nights.
Mike and Joan say they would like for McMinnville Lanes to be a hotbed of activity when it comes to fundraisers. They say they will be happy to hold events for volunteer firefighters or other organizations in need of money and donate the proceeds.
For more information, contact McMinnville Lanes at 473-6679.
is a contractor
I noticed in the business licenses we published in Wednesday’s edition that Donald Hillis got a license for Hillis Commercial Contractors. Thinking this was a new line of work, I gave Donald a call to get the scoop.
It turns out, Donald has been a contractor for some 15 years. He appeared on the recent business licenses only because he changed his business name.
“I’ve been a commercial contractor since 1999 or 2000,” said Donald. “I did this to get my name out there a little bit better and to get some more exposure. There are going to be some good opportunities coming this way and I want to get a chance to bid on some of the work.”
Donald has been concentrating on building spec houses in recent years and sees a need for new housing in this area in the $160,000 to $180,000 range. He says he expects promising things for Warren and surrounding counties and wants to make sure Hillis Commercial Contractors is in the mix.
Industrial Development Board members approved a $1.51 million budget on Thursday that will require a $275,000 contribution from the county and a $125,000 contribution from the city.
“I wonder if that’s realistic,” said IDB member Sandra Haynes referring to those contributions.
While the county has pledged a large amount of financial support to the IDB in recent years, the city’s contribution hasn’t been much. City alderman Ben Newman was on hand for the meeting and voiced one reason why.
“City residents are in the county so they already pay county taxes to support the Industrial Development Board,” said Newman. “The thinking is you shouldn’t be taxed twice.”
This is a valid point. As a city resident, I can attest to the fact we are taxed to death, or at least it feels that way. If it’s not a tax, it’s a fee. So yes, city residents do get tired of supporting organizations twice.
The city contribution to the IDB was about $40,000 last year.
IDB members voted to approve the budget and wait to see if the funding arrives.
“If the funding doesn’t come in then we will have to adjust our numbers,” said IDB chairman Joe Pugh.
Golden said now is not the time for IDB funding to be compromised.
“People have complained for a long time about how we’re not doing anything up here,” said Golden. “Now we have prospects knocking on our door. We need to get them while we can. If not, we just need to shut our doors.”
It was about two years ago when Billy Medley bought several inflatable, bouncy attractions and put them in the old Centertown School gym. His idea was to have a play area that could be rented out for birthday parties and other festive occasions.
For those who read Friday’s edition of the newspaper, Billy has leased the old Centertown School to Jerry Smith, who is opening Centertown Community School at that spot in August. To help fund this private, Christian school, Jerry is continuing to operate the inflatable play area.
He wants everyone to know Playland at Centertown is open for business and ready to be reserved for your party.
“Kids love this place for birthday parties, but it doesn’t have to be for just that,” said Jerry. “The basketball goals are still up so this can be a place people reserve for basketball practice. It can also be rented for any type of reception. All the money we raise will go toward the school.”
If you missed the article about Centertown Community School, it’s a school for grades 2-9 Jerry is working to open at the old Centertown School. Billy and Faye Cunningham will be handling day-to-day operations.
The Christian-based school will cap enrollment at 24 students the first year. Classes will be held in what was the old Centertown cafeteria, which has recently been home to a couple of restaurants.
If you would like to reserve Playland at Centertown for your next function, the number is 939-3136.
That’s all folks
I’ve reached the point of business exhaustion. If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. To phone in business news, call 473-2191.