I’m baaack. That’s right boys and girls, I’m back from my much-needed vacation and ready to bring you all the latest business news with a refreshed and rejuvenated outlook.
Since most folks like to read about new restaurants, I thought I’d jump right in and tell you about Cruizers Bar and Grill, which opened Friday at Sunnyside Heights in the old Shooters location. It’s owned by Jack Redmon and Mike Sprovero.
The best thing I can tell you about Cruizers is Jack and Mike have done a tremendous amount of work transforming a dilapidated building into a pretty nice restaurant. Through the years, I’ve covered my share of businesses which have come and gone at that location, none of which have really done much to the building.
Cruizers certainly did not follow that mentality as it looks great inside with a spacious dining area, raised platform for live music on Saturday nights, four pool tables and dart boards.
“We made the decision to go all out,” said Jack. “This is a different kind of place for McMinnville. We’re a full-service restaurant with a wide menu selection. We even have alligator tail. But we’re also going to be a place to hang out. I have bands booked pretty much every Saturday night from now until November.”
To get things started, Cruizers is having a grand opening celebration this coming Saturday, Aug. 2. Antic, a band from Ocala, Fla., will begin performing at 8 p.m.
Mike Sprovero is from Miami, Fla., where he enjoyed a career in construction and municipal administration. He has lived in Warren County for more than eight years.
“It got too congested in Miami,” said Mike. “I only lived 12 miles from work but it took me 45 minutes to drive it. I left 8 ½ years ago and I’ve had no desire to go back.”
The restaurant, which has seating for 75, features a menu that includes a 12-ounce ribeye, mahi mahi, grilled shrimp, frog legs, and even a Cuban sandwich. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. six days a week. It’s closed on Monday. No smoking is allowed inside with workers currently finishing a patio which will serve as a smoking area.
As for future plans, Jack says he is going to push hard to see if the city can pave the pothole-filled road that’s known as Sunnyside Heights. Best I can remember, people have been trying to get that road repaired for close to two decades. I have no idea why it’s been allowed to fall into such a bad state. Jack said he would also like to work toward getting the parking lot paved, which would make a big difference too.
Cruizers Bar and Grill is now open and ready for your business. It can be reached at 474-CRUZ.
Viola Small Engine
There are now two locations of Viola Small Engine Repair, with the business expanding to include a showroom and retail outlet on Smithville Highway across from Gateway Tire. There is a grand opening celebration planned for this coming Saturday, Aug. 2, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that will feature hotdogs, hamburgers and a great opportunity to come out and see this business expansion.
As some of you may know, Viola Small Engine Repair was started about a year ago by fabled small engine repairman Ken Davis. The business has enjoyed success as Ken has built a new two-bay garage at his location in the Morrison/ Viola area to accommodate a surge in customers.
The opening of his retail outlet on Smithville Highway is the next progression as Ken is now selling new equipment and providing service after the sale. He has hired Darin Martin as his sales manager to run the new location.
“We are offering the Encore line which really fits in well with this town,” said Darin. “It’s a mid-range mower that allows you to get a quality product without spending a lot of money. You can go to a big-box store and get a product that costs less, but it won’t be well-made. You can go out to some of the high-end places and spend $13,000 for a lawnmower and that’s not what we’re about. We’re going to give you a quality product at a reasonable price. I’m not out here to gouge people.”
With August approaching, Darin admits this is not the time of year where mower sales are soaring. But he says his business will adapt and carry all types of seasonable products. This includes chainsaws, splitters, generators, heaters, power washers, tillers, and trimmers.
“We’re going to adapt as the seasons change,” said Darin. “My sales strategy is I keep one of most everything in stock. After that, I can order anything you want and have it here in two days. I work with three of the major distributors who are the biggest on the planet. If you want it, I can have just about anything here in two days. Our supplier base is amazing.”
Darin said the Smithville Highway location can serve as a drop-off point for any repair work to be done at the Viola location. Ken will stay at the shop in Viola where he can do what he does best.
“He needs to be there turning wrenches,” said Darin. “He’s a certified repairman for Honda, Briggs & Stratton, Kawasaki, and Kohler. It’s not easy to get that certification.”
Darin said they have over 10,000 parts at the Viola location. The new branch on Smithville Highway has a selection of merchandise as well including oil, pull cords, filters, and other items.
For more information, give Darin a call at 743-7600. Regular office hours are Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The business is located at 2382 Smithville Highway.
Ready to turn 49
Believe it or not, Stewart Plaza Pharmacy is preparing to celebrate its 49th anniversary this Friday, Aug. 1.
It seems like only yesterday Nestor Stewart opened the store on Aug. 1, 1966. At that time, it was only the second store at Plaza Shopping Center, which was far removed from the dominant retail district, which was downtown McMinnville.
"Back then, I was sort of a one-horse show," said Nestor. "I didn't have much other than I was willing to work and we've been very blessed by this community."
Nearly a half century later, Nestor is still at the pharmacy six days a week. At 86, he says he has no plans to retire.
"I guess I'll probably have to at some point," said Nestor. "But I'm enjoying it too much to want to leave. I enjoy the friends I have here. We have a good group that I meet for breakfast at 7 a.m. We enjoy breakfast and coffee together and we talk about the news."
Nestor continued, "If I want to go to the farm or go home for a few hours, I do have some leverage. I can do that. But I still enjoy being here every day at 7 a.m. For me, it's been church, my family and this business. That's been my regiment. I've never been one to go out and party."
Nestor is proud to say his successes in life have been achieved through hard work. He was working two factory jobs in Detroit and going to pharmacy school when he met his wife, Jo. Their courtship lasted for some time, even when Nestor moved out of state, but it rekindled when he returned to Detroit to finish pharmacy school. They married in Detroit in 1950.
When the Stewarts came to Warren County, Nestor got in business with pharmacist John B. Magness. He worked for him for one year before forming a partnership with Ernest Crouch. That successful business relationship lasted until Nestor decided to go out on his own.
"I made up my mind I wanted my own pharmacy so he bought me out and I moved to the Plaza," said Nestor. "The business has sure changed over the years to the point where we rarely accept cash anymore. It's all done through insurance. But I decided a long time ago that I was going to stay independent and that I wouldn't sell out to a large chain. The chains can't render the same level of pharmaceutical care, although they are open on Sunday. I tried to open on Sunday but that lasted for one day. In all my days, I've been open for one Sunday and that's it."
On a personal note, I'd like to say I admire Nestor for his contributions to the community. He's always tried to help people, not for recognition or to get his name in a newspaper column, but out of compassion and the goodness of his heart.
Nestor and Jo are shining examples of what's right about Warren County. Business Pulse is proud to congratulate them on 49 years of business coming up this Friday.
Much has been said about promoting adventure tourism as a way to help the economy. I know there has been a big push locally about the need to capitalize on our two rivers in Warren County as a way to bring money into our community.
This certainly came to mind as we were making our way through East Tennessee to our vacation home in the mountains of North Carolina. We passed through Polk County, home of the mighty Ocoee River and I was amazed at what I saw.
On the river, there was boat after boat loaded down with people going whitewater rafting. In some places there were 10 to 12 rafts in a small area.
On the road, seemingly every vehicle was loaded down with some sort of flotation device, whether it was a car with two kayaks on top or a big pickup towing a boat. Everybody in Polk County looked focused on having fun on the water.
This is a community which has really capitalized on its natural resources to produce revenue. In addition to the Ocoee River, there’s also the Cherokee National Forest.
With all this in mind, I called Polk County Executive Hoyt Firestone to get his take on the adventure tourism business. He told me 250,000 to 300,000 tourists visit the area each year for whitewater rafting, producing an annual economic benefit of around $14 million, according to a University of Tennessee study.
“Tourism is our No. 1 industry,” said Firestone. But he added Polk County doesn’t capitalize on those tourism dollars as much as possible because it doesn’t have the support structure.
“The Ocoee is the destination, but people spend the night in other places where there are more restaurants and more places to shop. We don’t have enough retail outlets to keep them here for an entire weekend. They will come to the Ocoee, but then they will go to Chattanooga to spend the night or some people stay in Cleveland which is just 16 miles away. We don’t have the hotels and other things to keep them.”
This echoes a familiar Business Pulse theme in recent years where I’ve mentioned the need for another nice hotel in Warren County. However, finding someone to make that sort of investment is certainly a challenge.
In addition to whitewater rafting, Firestone said Polk County is home to the Hiwassee River, which is a big tourism draw for its trout fishing. I’m starting to see more and more parallels to our community as folks are trying to promote the Collins River for its musky.
Overall, Firestone said outdoor tourism can be a tremendous boost as it attracts people who are ready, willing and able to spend money, even if some of that money is spent in larger surrounding cities. He said the whitewater rafting season lasts from the last weekend in March to the first weekend in November.
I present all of this as food for thought as Warren County is wading into the early stages of adventure tourism with an up-and-coming business like Smooth Rapids attracting kayakers and looking to expand with a local campground. Cumberland Caverns has also announced intentions to expand and offer more attractions.
Rock Island State Park is a huge regional draw, while Fall Creek Falls has added a zipline and ropes course. We have the pieces in place and the natural resources available. It’s my hope our community leaders can expand on all this even more.
Visitors From The
This isn’t necessarily business news, but it’s something I found interesting so I’m including it in this column, which is a lightning rod for interesting information.
Here in McMinnville, Tenn., we frequently hear about the other McMinnville, that being McMinnville, Oregon. To my knowledge, and the knowledge of Google, we’re the only two towns named McMinnville in the United States.
So I was eager to rush to the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday when I heard we had two visitors from McMinnville, Oregon who were touring our fine city, Randy and Susie Grant.
Randy is an economics professor at Linfield College in McMinnville, which is 1,700 students strong. The city has a population of nearly 32,000, making it more than twice the size of our McMinnville.
The first question I asked him was a no-brainer. I asked him if the other McMinnville was filled with Mexican restaurants.
“Actually we do have quite a few,” Randy said. “Because of our agriculture, we have a large Hispanic population. We are right in the middle of wine country. We have over 200 wineries in a 20-mile radius. We’re a central hub to wine tours and the wine business.”
Randy went on to tell me McMinnville is home to a famous UFO Festival, which features a parade, fun run and all types of “experts” who talk about UFOs.
“We had a UFO sighting 50 years ago and the festival has grown from that.”
He told me his McMinnville is also home to the Evergreen Aviation Museum and Water Park. He said the water park features a huge water slide where daring visitors jump from atop a 747 airplane and zip down a slide.
He said McMinnville, Oregon isn’t spread out like our town. He said there is one main highway that stretches from Portland to the Pacific Ocean and almost all business activity revolves around that road.
“We have a great location,” said Randy. “We’re an hour from Portland, an hour from the coast, and an hour from the state capital in Salem.”
When I told him Warren County is touted as the Nursery Capital of the World, he told me McMinnville, Oregon is one of the largest growers of hazelnuts in America. He also told me his city is home to Alf’s, a burger place that features Elvis the monkey.
“Elvis is kept in a cage so he doesn’t get in the food,” said Randy. “But everyone wants to come in and see Elvis.”
Randy told me McMinnville, Oregon did in fact get its name from us as Warren County resident W.T. Newby made the cross-country trip and was one of the first settlers in the area. I wonder if he left Warren County because of Susan Newby.
That’s All Folks
Thanks for reading this post-vacation installment of Business Pulse. To report tips, call 473-2191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.