It was in July 2014 when Topz brought soft serve frozen yogurt to downtown McMinnville in a move that’s been warmly embraced by the community. The yogurt, with all those snazzy toppings, is delicious and people of all ages love it.
The plan all along was to gradually expand and offer food in addition to the yogurt. Topz is doing just that with the opening of Topz Metro Deli, which is next door to the frozen yogurt shop at 106 W. Main Street.
“That side is for the sweets and this side is for the sandwiches,” said co-owner Matt Sands. “You can make your food order completely on this side.”
Matt said they had been making soup and sandwiches in the yogurt shop but it got too busy and congested to continue that mode of operation. The deli has plenty of seating and also a stage for live entertainment. Co-owner Josh Baker said bands are on the schedule on 10 of the 15 nights between Oct. 15 and Oct. 30.
“It’s a cool atmosphere,” said Josh of the live entertainment. “It’s background music while you eat.”
The deli menu consists of turkey, ham, corned beef, pork, and other favorites. The cheeses include provolone, American, pepper jack and Swiss.
“We’re a true deli,” said Matt. “We slice the meat and cheese and you can buy it by the pound.”
Combined with the opening of Park Theater across the street, Topz has really provided vitality for its part of Main Street. Matt said they are usually swamped when a Park Theater performance ends, especially if it’s a younger crowd.
Nearly nine years after the city’s $5.2 million downtown revitalization project has been complete, we’re finally starting to see some sustained momentum for Main Street businesses. When our downtown is attractive, it makes our entire community look better.
Say goodbye to hospital taxes
There were cheers heard throughout the community and it felt like Christmas in July when it was announced this summer Saint Thomas was purchasing the remaining half of River Park to take complete ownership of our hospital.
Saint Thomas is a respected leader in healthcare and this purchase is viewed as a way to improve the quality of care administered in Warren County. However, now that the celebration has come to a low simmer, local officials are beginning to analyze the impact of what’s happened. And one thing has become clear.
Saint Thomas is a nonprofit organization, which means it has tax-exempt status. While that’s certainly beneficial to Saint Thomas, it’s not so helpful to the two governments which have relied on property taxes from River Park as a key part of their budget. To state it succinctly, this is going to cost the city of McMinnville and county of Warren a good chunk of change.
According to the property assessor’s office, figures are preliminary because the tax exempt certificate from Saint Thomas has yet to be received. But early estimates show the loss in property tax to be over $450,000. That translates to about $200,000 for the county and $250,000 for the city.
Exact figures are yet to be determined because the hospital property, a total of 15.2 acres, is divided into several tracts. This includes the same-day surgery center which is located further down Sparta Street.
It has also not been established what portions of the Saint Thomas property will be accepted for tax-exempt status. For example, the row of offices to the left of the hospital are leased to for-profit physicians. Will those offices fall under the tax-free umbrella.
There’s much to determine but the one certainly is the city and county are going to be losing tax dollars. If last year is used as an example, the real and personal property taxes paid by the hospital was right at $455,000. It’s not known if some or all of that will disappear before our very eyes.
If nothing else, this does raise a philosophical question. Would you rather have higher taxes and better healthcare, or lower taxes and inferior healthcare? Hmm, let me think on that.
Vacant lot to get facelift
For years and years, the empty lot across from Tietgen’s Super Rama on West Morford Street has been a waste of real estate. It’s been a vacant, overgrown mess with no redeeming value. I don’t ever recall it being anything, with the exception of a three-month stretch when it was a car lot called Express Enterprises.
This appears like it’s about to change as property owner Joshua King appeared before the city’s Historic Zoning Commission on Friday to request permission to construct a 40-by-50 building complete with garage and office.
King plans to open a car lot called Express Motors and he wants to begin construction immediately to be open in November.
“It’s going to look a lot better aesthetically,” King said. “I’m going to pave it and I hope to buy the lot next to it and make the whole area look better. I’ll probably keep about 25 to 30 cars there.”
Because the property is in the downtown historic district, there are certain guidelines King must follow. However, Historic Zoning Commission members admitted this is the first time they can recall new construction taking place in the historic district. Up to this point, all of the guidelines have pertained largely to remodeling.
“This is not on the main block of downtown with other historical buildings around it,” said Historic Zoning Commission member Bobby Kirby. “What you’re doing is a major upgrade.”
While conceding there aren’t many guidelines about new construction, commission members do not want King to use vinyl siding or vinyl windows. They pointed out he would probably have a better long-term return on his investment if he used better materials on the front end of the project.
It was pointed out a product called Hardie Plank is cheaper than brick or stone, but looks much better than vinyl and would be acceptable to the commission. It was mentioned by commission member Ryan J. Moore that King might be a candidate for a grant since the property is in the historic district.
In the end, the commission granted King a certificate of appropriateness to proceed with the project with the stipulation he not use vinyl products. I think King’s car lot, with pavement and a much nicer building, will be a welcome addition to that part of downtown.
Zaxby’s not backing out
I continue to field questions about Zaxby’s. It seems in the court of popular opinion, Zaxby’s has backed out and decided not to come to McMinnville. And just when I was about to get my hands on one of those famous chicken sandwiches.
As I said two weeks ago in this column, Zaxby’s has not backed out and the restaurant is coming to McMinnville. It recently paid $500,000 for the property next to AutoZone so I think it’s fair to say the company remains interested.
Site work is expected to begin in mid-October which means we should see activity at that property on Chancery Street in the very near future.
Pumpkin time is fun time
Cedarwood Pumpkin Patch is one of the great fall attractions in all of Middle Tennessee and it’s nestled right here in Warren County. I had the privilege of stopping by Cedarwood on Wednesday and what I saw were hundreds of Hickory Creek students on a field trip running around and having a blast.
There are several new attractions this year, including giant, plastic tubes that allow children to scamper around like they’re in a hamster wheel. The tubes were a huge hit.
“I can’t take credit for thinking of that because I saw a picture of it somewhere and thought it might be neat,” said Cedarwood owner Buddy Patterson.
Also new is a giant inflatable slide that allows kids to bounce their way to the bottom. It’s great for kids, and even Hickory Creek second-grade teacher Jennifer Shockley enjoyed going down the slide. There’s also a new tricycle race that’s probably best left for the kids without adult participation.
Traditional favorites remain in place. There’s the Cedarwood hay ride that stops in a pumpkin patch and allows visitors to select their own pumpkin. And the hay crawl through darkness provides apprehension and excitement.
“The whole idea is for the kids to have a good time,” said Buddy.
Cedarwood Pumpkin Patch is located on Old Nashville Highway in Centertown. It’s open for school field trips during the week and open to the general public Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 939-3960 or visit cedarwoodfarmstn.com.
Old Redmon’s property available
Most people who have been reading the Southern Standard in recent months know the story of Jack Redmon and how he’s been accused of stabbing a man in the VFW parking lot.
With Redmon behind bars and unable to make bond, I guess his business hasn’t been able to maintain the same pace and Redmon’s Mobile Automotive is no longer located next to Hardee’s. The building has been cleared out, the Redmon's signs are gone, and the property is available to buy or lease.
“It would be a good spot for anything,” said property owner Billy Jones. “Hardee’s has so much trouble with traffic spilling into the street, maybe they should take it.”
Hardee’s is taking a long, hard look at its morning traffic situation as vehicles in the drive-thru line are commonly backed up all the way to W. Main Street. The property owner on the other side of Hardee’s, John Douglass, has already offered to sell his property to Hardee’s. Now Jones is making that suggestion too.
There is an elevation difference between Hardee’s and the old Redmon’s garage that’s currently addressed with a retaining wall. Jones suggested the situation could be fixed with an incline instead of a wall, which would certainly remedy the problems Hardee’s is facing with space.
If you’d like to ask about the property, call Billy at 212-4759.
That’s all folks
To report business tips during this spooking season, give me a call at 473-2191.