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Business Pulse: 6-29-14
Business Pulse Ropecourse
This cargo nets serves as bridge high above the ground at Zip Stream Fall Creek Falls, which opened Wednesday. The aerial adventure course takes about 2.5 hours to complete. - photo by Photo provided

There is a heavy emphasis in Tennessee and Warren County to develop adventure tourism. This can be kayaking along the Barren Fork River or enjoying an underground adventure at Cumberland Caverns. The idea is to capitalize on the scenic beauty of this area to attract tourists and tourism dollars.
That’s the concept behind the aerial adventure park which opened Wednesday at Fall Creek Falls State Park, which is billed as Tennessee’s largest and most visited state park. The new aerial park is called Zip Stream Fall Creek Falls. It’s a 2.5-hour, self-guided tour that includes zip lines, suspension bridges and challenging elements like cargo nets and rope swings.
“Once we get up to full speed, we’re expecting to get 20,000 to 25,000 visitors a year,” said Michael Smith, who works for ArborTrek, a company which teamed with The Adventure Guild to open the aerial park. “With Fall Creek Falls full of people on a regular basis, we estimate 50 to 60 percent of the people who visit our aerial park will be visitors to the state park. We figure the other 40 to 50 percent will make a special trip and come just for the aerial course.”
With local students knee deep in summer vacation and families always looking for something to do, Zip Stream Fall Creek Falls is a great addition to the region. Michael said there are six courses with varying degrees of difficulty. He said children should probably be at least 4 years old to be strong enough to complete the easiest course. The courses are great for seniors too, especially seniors who are still active.
“There are six different routes that go from easy to challenging,” said Michael. “The red and black courses are the hardest and they definitely require a high level of athleticism. Participants will be encouraged to start on easy routes, which are low to the ground, and to work their way up to the blue, red, and black courses which can reach heights of 40 feet.”
Michael said an aerial course like this one was added to Ruby Falls in the Chattanooga area in 2010 and has been a tremendous success. As for establishing Zip Stream inside a Tennessee state park, Michael said there was a bidding process and they were awarded the rights to install and operate the aerial course. He said the process took around three years.
Michael also wanted to stress the number of safety features that are present, chief of which is a flexible lifeline which runs above the course and protects participants from falls. Participants are connected to the lifeline 100 percent of the time.
The aerial course is located inside the state park across from the tennis courts. It’s currently occupying about 3.5 acres, but Michael says the lease is for 21 acres so there is room for future expansion. He mentioned an expansion may include a massive zip line across the lake.
To find out more information, visit You can make a reservation on the website or by calling (615) 499-5779.
As we look to build adventure tourism opportunities here in Warren County, this aerial park will no doubt serve as an asset to help energize our entire region. It can even be marketed together with other attractions such as Bluegrass Underground.

Waterfront dining in Rock Island

Folks are always clamoring for a nice place to eat in Warren County. Well here it is.
Blue River Social has opened on the lake in Rock Island in the spot formerly occupied by the Cotten’s Marina restaurant. Tim and Rachel Kohler are operating the restaurant and leasing it from the Cotten family.
Rachel is a 2000 graduate from Warren County High School who has about 10 years of restaurant experience. Tim has been in the restaurant business all his life and has worked in restaurants from Houston to Las Vegas to Manhattan.
“It’s been so busy, we’ve sold out of food every week,” said Rachel, noting they took over the restaurant about a month ago.
The menu offers a little of everything including catfish, chicken salad, burgers, pizza and steak. Tim says he is used to working in nice restaurants and preparing quality food.
“I got started in Houston at a high-end Italian restaurant,” said Tim. “Then when everyone thought pasta and carbs were bad for you, steakhouses started to surge and I opened a steakhouse in Dallas in the mid-1990s.”
Tim said that restaurant in Dallas was enormous, about 16,000 square feet. It had two floors with seating for about 220 people on each floor.
From there, he went to Las Vegas and opened several restaurants inside casinos. After that, he made the cross-country journey to New York City and the high-rent district of Manhattan.
“Space is really constricted there,” said Tim. “You have people living in 500- to 600-square-foot apartments and paying up to $3,500 a month in rent.”
Faced with living in a city jammed with people, Tim and Rachel decided they would like to move to the spacious countryside of Warren County. Tim says he loves operating a restaurant on the water and is certainly staying busy.
Blue River Social hours are Thursday thru Monday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. The phone number is 686-1414.
While I was there, Tim gave me a good business tip. He is in the process of building a coffee house and sandwich shop in Rock Island called Rocky River Roasting Company. It will be located in the Rock Island business district next to the Funky Stump antique shop on Rock Island Road.
“It should be built in the next 60 days or so,” said Tim. “I’m going to have fresh-roasted coffee beans, ice cream, some sandwiches and there will be beer and wine for afternoon cocktails. I’m thinking the business hours will be more morning to afternoon so you can get a bite to eat then walk around and see all the antique shops. I really want this to tie in with the business community.”
Blue River Social is located at 1699 Rock Island Road. Take a left at Cotten’s Marina just before the new bridge, which is probably 10 years old but I still call it the new bridge.

Club Roxy ready to rock

The building on Sparta Street that was long home to Gillentine’s Restaurant has seen its share of businesses come and go in recent years. Club Roxy is hoping to provide some stability at that location as a nightspot for teens and adults.
Clifford Marsh is managing Club Roxy, which is open Thursday thru Saturday. Thursday is teen night for kids 13-18. The hours on teen night are 6 to 11 p.m. with a $3 cover charge.
Friday and Saturday are regular club nights for adults 18 and up. The hours on those nights are 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. with a $5 cover charge.
“We want to provide an enjoyable place for people to come and have a good time without having any trouble,” said Clifford. “People are always saying there is not a lot to do in this town. We want to give them something to do.”
When I stopped by Thursday for teen night, Club Roxy was fairly active. There were several people on the dance floor and several others shooting pool.
“We want the kids to come in here and have fun while staying out of trouble,” said Clifford. “Some teenagers don’t want to go to the skating rink because there are little kids around their feet. We have a DJ and we’ve had dance contests. We also serve some great food.”
While no alcohol is allowed or served during teen night, that’s not the case during Friday and Saturday nights. You can get in the door at 18, but must be 21 to drink. Activities include dancing and karaoke, with Clifford saying live music is planned for the future.
If you’d like to give Club Roxy a try, it’s located in front of Scottish Inn on Sparta Street and open three nights a week.

Best Western gets award

I’ve been fairly vocal in recent years about Warren County’s need for a new hotel. That stance was reinforced a couple months ago when a guest speaker came to McMinnville and said over and over how we needed another hotel.
All that said, I want to emphasize the recent award that’s been given to Best Western Tree City Inn on Sparta Street. In my opinion, this is our nicest hotel/ motel in McMinnville.
Best Western has received the TripAdvisor certificate of excellence for scoring 4 stars out of 5 based on guest reviews. In presenting the award, TripAdvisor said Tree City Inn “has consistently earned outstanding feedback from TripAdvisor travelers. This prestigious award is based on the quality of reviews and opinions you’ve earned on TripAdvisor over the past year. We know you’ll showcase your certificate to guests and staff with pride.”
Mike Sheath has owned the hotel for the past 17 years. It was formerly a Holiday Inn Express before changing over to the Best Western franchise.
Mike says he works hard keeping the 42-room motel in tip-top shape. In fact he’s currently in the midst of a renovation that will upgrade every guest room, the lobby, and the breakfast area.
“We have to do it gradually one room at a time because we can’t afford to shut down and do it all at once,” said Mike. “We’re putting new bathrooms and new carpet in all the rooms. After the summer is over, probably in September, we’ll do the lobby and the breakfast bar. We really strive for customer satisfaction.”
The editors of Business Pulse want to congratulate Mike and his staff of seven employees for achieving this certificate of excellence.

Unemployment up slightly

After trumpeting Warren County’s low, low unemployment rate of 6.4 percent last month, I had to figure I would jinx us.
In the latest unemployment figures released Thursday by the state, Warren County unemployment has inched up from 6.4 percent to 6.9 percent.
While that jump of a half percent may seem like a pretty good leap, remember the unemployment rate was 9.2 percent at this time last year.
Lincoln County has the lowest unemployment rate in Tennessee at an amazing 4.4 percent. Williamson County is close behind at 4.6 percent.
Only two of Tennessee’s 95 counties have unemployment over 10 percent. It looks to me like the jobs are back.

That’s all folks

With the Fourth of July approaching next weekend, I don’t know if business news will be a blast or a bust. Tune in next week to find out.
Phone in business tips at 473-2191 or send me an email