You never know how things are going to hit you. When I heard several weeks ago Stewart Pharmacy was going to close, I wasn't overwhelmed with emotion.
In the weeks that have followed, I've done several articles on the storied business and it never really sunk in that this is the end. Well, it finally sunk in Friday as I walked past empty aisles on my way to the door and it occurred to me I was likely leaving Stewart Pharmacy for the last time.
I guess you can grow attached to a business, if for no other reason than it's always been there. And for decades, Stewart Pharmacy and founder Nester Stewart were there for their customers.
"I was one of Nestor's first customers," said Carl Bouldin, 76, of the business which opened at Plaza Shopping Center in 1966. "Nestor was a good man and I can't tell you how many times he helped my family. He'd come up here at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. to get medicine for my boys when they were growing up."
The last day will be this Tuesday. After that, Stewart Pharmacy customers can get their prescriptions filled at Rite Aid or have them transferred to another pharmacy of their choice.
When I stopped by Friday, Stewart employees told me about a handful of workers are going over to Rite Aid to work. David Hill, a 34-year employee at Stewart's, says he is not one of them. Marietta Stotts, a 32-year employee, is not going to Rite Aid either.
Over at the fabled luncheonette, a charming piece of Americana is about to disappear. The luncheonette had nine employees a month ago, but it's now down to just three as food supplies run out and are not replenished.
"We'll still be here Monday and Tuesday serving cake, cupcakes, coffee and punch," said luncheonette employee Lisa Taylor. "Everything will be free. They are looking at it as customer appreciation days. I don't know if we'll be doing any cooking or not. We weren't going to, but some people have asked if we were going to cook up any food we have leftover. I'm not sure what we'll do."
Lisa is a single mother of two and says she hasn't found another job yet. She doesn't know what she'll do after Tuesday.
"With everybody leaving and me having to pick up extra shifts, I've been too busy to look," said Lisa. "One thing you can say is we've been dedicated to the end."
DN Plastics misses job projections
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is about DN Plastics and the number of people who are working there.
The 110,000-square-foot building in Morrison is hard to miss as you drive down Manchester Highway. I suppose it's all too easy for passing motorists to see the large building and the small amount of cars that are in the parking lot.
Raise your hand if you've driven by and counted cars in the parking lot. I have.
So how many people are working at DN Plastics and how much did the Industrial Development Board pay for those jobs?
While employment numbers haven't been readily revealed, the company's lack of jobs was discussed Thursday at the Industrial Development Board's monthly meeting. To put it in simple terms, DN Plastics, as a condition of its contract, was supposed to create 25 jobs by December. It hasn't.
IDB director Don Alexander says he has to talk somewhat guardedly because DN Plastics is a private business, but he did say the IDB was in the process of assessing the company a penalty for every job that's below the 25-job threshold.
However, Don is optimistic DN Plastics will eventually become a thriving local employer with a hearty workforce.
"I think there was a lot of similar concern when Miniature Precision Components first opened and didn't have a lot of jobs initially," said Don. "But they're up and running and they're over 70 employees now. These things take time and Raj is doing it the right way. He's being methodical. He's not backed by a major corporation. He's doing this himself."
Don was referring to company owner Raj Agrawal, who opened DN Plastics in Grand Rapids, Mich. His main reason for moving to Middle Tennessee was to be closer to VIAM Manufacturing in Manchester, which is his primary customer.
Let's all cross our fingers and hope DN Plastics has what it takes to become a major employer in Warren County. In the initial press release about DN Plastics coming to Warren County, job projections were over 100.
Sending out another SOS
The folks who follow business news in this community might remember a company called Store Opening Solutions. If you don't remember this warehouse business, allow me to refresh your memory.
The year was 2006 and the old Carrier building was largely vacant.
At that time, our local economy wasn't as robust as it is right now and there were people willing to work who actually couldn't find a job. I know this is hard to believe.
Just when Warren County seemed down and out and in need of an energy drink, in waltzed Store Opening Solutions to invigorate our local economy. SOS paraded into town with bands playing and crowds cheering and promptly leased 350,000 square feet at the old Carrier building.
And, in what always seems like a recurring theme, SOS said it was going to bring more than 100 jobs. For those of us who remember this story, we know it was a fairytale.
Store Opening Solutions struggled through nearly two difficult years in Warren County before finally closing shop here and focusing on its headquarters in Murfreesboro.
If you're wondering why I'm telling this random story from the past, there's a reason. SOS has returned to the old Carrier building and is in the process of setting up shop.
"Their business has been growing in Murfreesboro and they needed a little more space," said Glen Moore, one of three people who manages the old Carrier building. "They've been here before so they knew what we had. They've taken a small area and they're in the process of drawing lines, putting up racks and getting ready to do business. We're hoping they grow and can serve more clients out of this warehouse."
Moore said SOS has leased 50,000 square feet, making the old Carrier building about 80 percent full. Businesses which currently have space at the old Carrier building are Yorozu, Miniature Precision Components, Tennessee Warehouse, Thermoflex, and now SOS. The building has nearly 1 million square feet under roof.
"It's a big house to take care of," said Moore.
The current makeup of the Carrier building also gives us a clear indication of how local economies typically grow. While there is a heavy emphasis placed on recruiting new business, it's usually existing businesses that are able to expand which create the most jobs.
Yorozu, MPC, and Tennessee Warehouse were all here already and had the need for growth. That's just a friendly observation.
Marketing guru visits McMinnville
For those of us involved in business, a great many of us are interested in ways to grow our companies. Many times this comes down to proper marketing.
In order to keep local business representatives in the loop about the latest marketing strategies, the Southern Standard brought in marketing specialist Mike Blinder for two presentations on Wednesday and Thursday at Warren County Administrative Offices. Blinder provided a wealth of information.
He said the average person spend 3.5 hours a day looking at their cellphone, a figure that is quite alarming. It's with that stat in mind, he said it's vital for businesses to make their goods and services easily available to smartphone users.
He said the No. 1 content people search for online is news. After that it's a variety of topics from entertainment, to travel, to trying to diagnose a medical problem.
Blinder said the No. 1 website in the world in Google. He said Facebook is No. 2. Both present great opportunities to market your business.
"Age 55 and over is the biggest growing demographic on Facebook," said Blinder. "It's not the kids who are on Facebook anymore. The kids got off it as soon as grandma got on there."
While sites like Facebook do present solid marketing opportunities, Blinder says it takes more than that.
"It's a great misnomer that once you throw up a Facebook page you're set," said Blinder. He said it's vital for businesses to market themselves in a wide range of ways and to keep their message out there as much as possible.
He pointed to the fact there are advertisements everywhere, even on walls in public restrooms and on pumps at gas stations.
"It's the repetitive viewing of your message that's important," said Blinder.
Blinder also said it's vital to get your message to the proper spot so it's seen by the right eyes. He said if he was selling cows in the 1600s, he would want to discover paths that cow buyers take on their way to the city and put up signs along those paths.
He said advertisers need to do the same thing today.
"If you're a restaurant and you know business is kind of slow on Wednesday night, you might want to advertise discount pizza and 2-for-1 beer night on the sports page of Wednesday's newspaper," said Blinder. "The sports page is read by 63 percent males. They'll see it and before you know it they'll say 'Honey, you've been working awful hard this week. Let's go out for pizza tonight.'"
Blinder also emphasized that perception is reality when it comes to business. He said if customers perceive something, whether it's true or not, it's dependent on the business to overcome that perception.
A perfect example of this is downtown McMinnville. Mention downtown McMinnville and chances are people will complain about the lack of parking. There are actually hundreds and hundreds of parking spaces just behind Main Street within a one-minute walk, yet people generally perceive there to be a lack of downtown parking.
Blinder offered a wide range of insight about the best ways to market your business with the Southern Standard ad staff on hand to pick up some pointers. Blinder will also have a representative in McMinnville the first week of February for four days who will talk marketing strategies with anyone who is interested.
If you'd like more information about how to market your business, call the Standard advertising department at 473-2191. It may be the most important call you ever make.
is not closing
I probably should have included this at the top by the report on Stewart Pharmacy, but I needed a little break. Stewart Medical Equipment, which is located inside Stewart Pharmacy at Plaza Shopping Center, is not closing.
"It has really created a lot of confusion because people think we're closing too," said Stewart Medical Equipment employee James McBride. "But we're not closing like the pharmacy is. We're staying right here."
McBride said it's his understanding rent on the Stewart Pharmacy building is paid through September. However, he said the medical equipment business doesn't need nearly that much space and would be looking for a smaller spot in the shopping center.
"We want to stay here in the Plaza because we have four rooms of supplies downstairs," said James. "So we don't want to leave here, but we probably will be looking for a smaller spot."
I think it would be a bad idea to have the medical equipment business stay there for very long because the Stewart Pharmacy spot offers an enormous amount of space that would be better utilized if a large business came in and took the entire spot. Will that happen? IDK.
Stewart Medical Equipment will continue with its regular business hours, which are Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phone number remains the same at 473-5387.
That's all folks
There's snow on the ground so put down the newspaper, grab a sled, and enjoy the great outdoors. And always remember to report your business news at 473-2191.