The persistent rumors have turned out to ring true. Stewart Pharmacy is merging with Rite Aid in a deal that will result in the store at Plaza Shopping Center closing Jan. 27.
Stewart Pharmacy employees were told the news in a meeting Tuesday night. Stewart Pharmacy manager Donna Carr stressed the deal is a merger.
“We’re going to keep as many employees as we can over at Rite Aid,” said Donna. “I will still be here. I’ll just be working at the other place. We’re looking at this as a way to improve our service and help our customers even more. We are combining two good businesses. We have a lot to offer and they have a lot to offer. All of our employees will be interviewing there for potential jobs.”
Donna says anyone who gets their prescriptions filled at Stewart’s will continue using the current location until Jan. 27. She says it will be business as usual until that date with the luncheonette fully operational until that time.
“We’ll be offering a number of food specials,” said Donna, who remembers how well the 50-cent hamburger offer was received during the pharmacy’s 50th anniversary celebration this August.
There will not be a luncheonette at Rite Aid, but Donna said that store will be redesigned to accommodate what is expected to be tremendous growth when the Stewart Pharmacy customers start doing business there.
The merger will bring an end to a mainstay of the Warren County business community. Stewart Pharmacy opened its doors on Aug. 2, 1966 as the second business to locate at newly built Plaza Shopping Center. At that time, the shopping center was viewed negatively by some members of the community, who said it was pulling business away from the traditional downtown shopping district.
“I hated to see Nestor go. He was a good friend. That’s the main thing for me,” said Plaza Shopping Center owner Tom Duggin when asked about the upcoming departure of Stewart Pharmacy. Nestor, the pharmacy founder, died in June at the age of 87.
Stewart Pharmacy is by far the busiest business at Plaza Shopping Center. It occupies a 12,500-square-foot spot.
“It was a good tenant for us, but I’ve lost some good ones before,” said Tom, saying Cooper-Martin, Sullens Department Store, and Grabers have been other popular stores which have closed.
Tom said it’s become increasingly difficult to find retail tenants who need a spot as large as 12,500 square feet. For that reason he said the Stewart’s space may need to be subdivided.
“We do much better with smaller tenants,” said Tom.
While Stewart’s will be closing Jan. 27 and moving its operations to Rite Aid on Chancery Street, there still remains some uncertainly about what might happen next. If you recall, it was the end of October when Walgreens announced it was acquiring Rite Aid for $9.4 billion.
At that time, I talked to a Walgreens spokesman who told me the deal was still in the baby-step stage. However, he did say all stores would be evaluated and it was likely some consolidation would take place. With Walgreens and Rite Aid stores in McMinnville just one mile apart, I wondered out loud if one of our stores might be closed as part of this consolidation plan.
Toward that point, here are things to consider. Adding a very significant customer base from Stewart Pharmacy strengthens the argument for keeping our Rite Aid open.
Businesses are in business to make money, but making money also involves providing customer service. If Walgreens and Rite Aid are both doing a strong business in McMinnville, it would make no sense to close one of the stores. This would only create an environment where the employees at the one remaining store would be overwhelmed with work, which would lead to poor customer service and eventually the loss of customers. So I think merging Stewart Pharmacy and Rite Aid is certainly a positive step to keeping our Rite Aid and our Walgreens open.
Also of note, the Walgreens and Rite Aid deal is not scheduled to close until the second half of 2016 and it has not gained approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which studies retail mergers to ensure they comply with antitrust laws.
New owner hoping to bowl strike
Lifelong bowler Kent Perry is the new owner of our bowling alley, McMinnville Lanes. Kent took over operations Tuesday and says the changeover will be complete Jan. 11.
“I’ve thought about buying it two different times,” said Kent. “I’ve been bowling ever since I was 8 years old and I still have the habit. I remember getting a bowling ball for my 14th birthday and I thought it was the greatest thing. I want to keep bowling alive and see it grow in McMinnville.”
For one of his first goals, Kent says he wants to restart the youth bowling league. He says bowling is a great activity for kids and it’s important to get them involved in the sport. He is also planning a summer program.
“We’re going to let school-aged children bowl two free games a week during the summer,” said Kent.
In addition to Kent, his wife Betty is pretty good when it comes to knocking down pins. She recently bowled a 299, missing a perfect game by one pin on the final frame.
“I don’t know if I’m ever going to get that close again,” said Betty.
With many years in the restaurant business, Betty says revamping the concession stand is one of her top priorities. Things like wings and super nachos will be joining a menu that already includes burgers, fries and pizza.
“When it comes to things to do, McMinnville has a skating rink, a movie theater, and a bowling alley,” said Betty, who added the bowling alley is a great place to grab food and enjoy a few hours of fun.
The Perrys are going to have longer business hours than the previous owners, staying open till 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 10 p.m. during the week.
In just their first few days of operation, Betty says they have already booked four birthday parties. Group rates are available, or you can rent the entire bowling alley for a private party if needed. There are leagues for all ages and all skill levels. Regular bowlers range from small children all the way up to age 89.
“This bowling alley has a special place in my heart and I’m excited to be able to do something with it,” said Kent.
McMinnville Lanes is closed on Mondays and opens all other days at 3 p.m. The current special is two hours of bowling for $10 on the weekend and that includes shoe rental. The cost is $5 for that same deal during the week.
McMinnville Lanes can be reached at 473-6679.
New rec center opens in Morrison
You knew Billy Medley had something up his sleeve when he purchased the old Morrison School in April. His idea to turn the old school into a recreational facility has come to life under the guidance of former women’s basketball star Monica Saine.
On Monday, Monica opened The Spot, a recreational and fitness facility that’s open seven days a week. The gym is available for shooting basketball, while there’s an adjacent workout facility complete with weights and cardio equipment.
“Bill talked to me about something like this after he bought the old Centertown School,” said Monica. “I went there and toured the building and I really didn’t get a successful feeling about that location. So after he bought this building, he called me again. I came here and checked it out and my head was spinning with ideas. I saw the potential.”
Monica is no stranger to the fitness business as she worked at Manchester Recreation Complex for the past 13 years. She began there as wellness director and was promoted to assistant director.
She enjoyed a storied basketball career at Coffee County High School when she was Monica Dillon. That included an AAU national championship playing under legendary girls basketball coach Rick Insell.
Her play on that AAU team led to an array of college scholarship offers. Monica eventually decided to attend N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C. There she played under coach Kay Yow, who is well known in the college ranks.
Monica became a starter her freshman year and helped N.C. State defeat UConn to earn a trip to the Final Four that year. After her college career from 1997 to 2001, she had a brief pro career in Spain before returning to Manchester.
“I was engaged and I was ready for my playing career to come to an end,” said Monica. “I was in Spain when I was offered the job at the rec center in Manchester and that's when I took it.”
All that background is a long way of building up Monica’s credentials to say she knows what she’s doing when it comes to fitness training. She’s offering several classes a week, or people are welcome to come in and work at their own pace. She’s also offering one-on-one and group basketball coaching for anyone who is interested.
“I know nothing is more frustrating as a coach than to get a kid who has to learn something they should have already learned years ago,” said Monica.
The gym can be reserved for special functions. Monica says an indoor soccer tournament has been reserved there for February, and AAU basketball tournaments have been discussed for this spring.
Monica is operating the business, while Billy maintains ownership of the building. Billy says the concession stand will be up and running at full strength with great-tasting Medley’s food when the gym is filled with tournament activity.
The Spot is open Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. The phone number is (931) 952-0796.
There are child care hours available during the week. Daily passes are $3 per visit or an individual monthly pass can be purchased for $25. A monthly family pass is $50.
As a fitness advocate, I’m glad to see the old Morrison School transform into a facility that can be a real benefit to the community. I’m a firm believer better fitness leads to more happiness and a better quality of life than less fitness. That’s my belief and I’m sticking to it.
Business looks to take flight
Mankind has long had a fascination with flight. Think back to the Wright brothers and their historic accomplishments in Kitty Hawk, N.C. They may have crashed a time or two, but they were determined to soar.
If you’ve entertained the idea of taking flying lessons and becoming a pilot, a new business has opened to allow your dreams to hit the runway. It’s called Highland Aero and it’s operated by local residents and business partners Cliff Davidson and Tom Evans.
Cliff says he opened the business because he realized a need exists in this area. A licensed pilot since 1995, Cliff says there’s no place around these parts to learn to fly or to rent a plane. Highland Aero remedies that problem with flying lessons available, along with a Piper Archer II four-seater that can be rented.
“We’ve gone years in Warren County with no rentals,” said Cliff. “When I used to have a job in sales, I would rent a plane and fly all over the Southeast. Since then I’ve called airport manager Richard Crawford several times and there has never been an airplane to rent. So we’ve started this business and it’s available for primary flight instruction.”
If you’ve thought about taking flying lessons, Cliff says the first thing to do is give him a call at (931) 581-1478. He says you can do your ground school course work in Warren County so there is no need to drive.
As for the flight instruction itself, that’s based out of Upper Cumberland Regional Airport in White County where the airplane is stored. He says training typically involves flying two days a week. After lessons with an instructor on board, young pilots will embark on their first solo flight.
“I remember on my first solo flight, the instructor never let me know it was coming,” said Cliff. “He told me to stop, he got out, then he told me to take off.”
Cliff says flying can serve two purposes. One is getting you from Point A to Point B in a faster manner than a car. The second is recreational as it can be enjoyable to mingle with the clouds and view the world from a different perspective.
Cliff says he hopes the business can cruise at such altitudes to where he can bring the airplane to Warren County Memorial Airport and provide flying lessons here.
“We will undoubtedly bring more attention to the good things going on at our airport as we make aircraft rental and training more accessible to our community,” said Cliff.
As for the benefits of flying, Cliff says, “The area is quite picturesque.”
For more information, give him a call or send him an email at: cdavidson@HighlandAero.com.
So long to The Chef
It was a nine-month run for The Chef and His Crew, a restaurant located at the old Peking building at Plaza Shopping Center. According to a sign on the door, the restaurant closed Tuesday, Dec. 22.
“We will no longer be operating here,” the sign reads. “Sorry for any inconvenience that this may cause.”
Unfortunately, it probably won’t be an inconvenience to many folks because I never saw many people eating there. I ate there twice and I’m pleased to report the food and service were very good both times. But I guess those glowing comments aren’t worth much at this point.
That restaurant location had some stability when it was Ponderosa and later Peking for about a decade. But the past three or four years have been a tough go with little success enjoyed by the restaurants which have opened there.
That’s all folks
As we welcome a new year, let’s not forget to welcome new business opportunities. Give me a call with your business tips and I’ll track down the information.
I see some promising stories appearing under the rainbow we call Warren County. Phone in tips at 473-2191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.