From time to time, folks will bounce ideas off my business brain to see what I think. I guess since I’ve covered the business beat for so long, I’ve given the illusion – mainly with sleight of hand – I know what might work and what won’t.
Truth be told, it’s hard to tell how a business will be received. Case in point, the Pet Rock craze of the 1970s. There has probably never been a dumber business idea that made millions than the Pet Rock, which I suppose really makes it a brilliant idea.
I mention this because Pet Rock inventor Gary Dahl died last week at the age of 78. For anyone stretching the limits of their mental capacity to dream up the next get-rich scheme, Dahl is proof it can be something as simple as a rock.
The Mexican beach stones he used for his Pet Rocks cost 1 cent each in the 1970s. Dahl packaged them in a cardboard box (with air holes because the rocks just have to breathe), placed them in a straw nest, and sold them for $3.95.
Q: So who would buy such a thing?
I actually bought two Pet Rocks after my first one died. The result -- Dahl became an overnight millionaire. In the mid-1970s, Dahl told People magazine he was selling 100,000 Pet Rocks a day, making 95 cents profit on each rock.
Not surprisingly, Dahl told People he came up with the idea while drinking at a bar with friends. Yes, it sounds like an idea that could only come after several beers.
But consumers were the ones who drank it up as the Pet Rock debuted just in time for the 1975 holiday shopping season. The Pet Rock came with a 20-page manual, entitled “The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock.”
“If, when you remove the rock from its box, it appears to be excited, place it on some old newspapers,” the manual says. “The rock will know what the paper is for.” The manual also taught Pet Rock owners commands so their rocks would listen and do amusing tricks.
All this is meant as an uplifting tale to rejuvenate our spirits. If Gary Dahl can make a fortune selling rocks, there’s hope for all of us.
Medley buys old Morrison School
He bought the old Centertown School so you had to figure when the old Morrison School went up for auction Billy Medley would be there. That day was last Saturday and Billy came away as the proud, new owner of the former school.
“I never expected to buy it that day,” said Billy. “But it was one of those deals that was too good to pass up. It comes with close to nine acres. It’s almost worth it just for the land.”
Billy met me at the school Friday and we walked through the building discussing his plans. He has a number of ideas, including laser tag in the old cafeteria, mini storage, event rooms for birthday parties and other gatherings, and keeping the gym intact for athletic use.
“I’ve heard a lot of Morrison people say, ‘Don’t tear it down’ so I want people to know I’m not going to tear it down,” said Billy. “I am open to ideas. I want this to be here for the community. If they have something they’re willing to support, let me know about it.”
As owner of Medley’s Diner, Billy says he frequently gets asked if the restaurant can be reserved for gatherings of 70 to 100 people. Billy says he tries to accommodate these requests the best he can, like the Oster get-together this Tuesday, but sometimes it’s not possible.
“We stay so busy it takes away from our regular business if we allow reservations for big groups,” said Billy. “This school would be perfect for that. No event would be too big. You could decorate as much as you like, or not at all. You could bring your own food or we could do all the catering. We could bring whatever food you wanted right here.”
Billy said the gym remains in good shape and he plans to keep it as a gym. He said it would be available for any type of event, including things like basketball and volleyball tournaments. And if an all-day tournament was scheduled, he could have a full-service concession stand available with food like chicken tenders.
He said the gym could be reserved for smaller functions like a basketball practice. He said he doesn’t have any plans to turn the gym into an inflatable fun park like he did at the old school in Centertown.
As for laser tag, Billy says that’s a hit with his family when they’re on vacation so he would like to turn the old cafeteria into a laser tag zone. Longtime go-cart enthusiast James Crouch made his way into the school Friday and voiced his opinion about what Billy should add on the outside.
“A go-cart track would make a great addition,” said James. “You’d get hundreds of people from all over the area. There’s not another go-cart track anyone around here.”
Billy was eager to get more information about go-carts and mini golf. He received nothing but cheers, thumbs up and a round of applause from me when he mentioned these ideas.
Also under consideration is a daycare operated by Tammy Young in the former kindergarten wing. The wing is complete with six classrooms and is close to the playground.
“I’m excited but I don’t want to get too excited until this is a done deal,” said Tammy, who operates Tammy’s Little Tikes at her home and Tammy’s Tots to Teen in Woodbury. “I’ve already had a meeting about licensing and up next is a meeting about codes. I think everything will be alright since it was a school just three years ago, but I don’t know if maybe something was grandfathered in that’s not acceptable anymore.”
Tammy said if it happens, the daycare would be a large center. She said she doesn’t know how the rooms would be configured but estimates she could keep between 50 and 100 children. She said she would turn one of the rooms into a kitchen area.
“This would not discontinue what I’m doing at my home,” said Tammy. “I would keep that. This would be in addition to it. I think it would be good to have in that area because of all the people who work at Bridgestone and Yorozu.”
Tammy said she’s already received a few phone calls as word has gotten out about her possible plans. She said it’s too early to begin talking about accepting children or hiring employees, but she would let me know when the time is right.
So that’s the five-minute recap of what Billy is thinking of doing with the old Morrison School now that he and his wife, Laura, are the new owners. It sounds like he has some good plans already with more ideas in the works.
Clinic adds another nurse practitioner
Theresa Hill has enjoyed tremendous success with her Family Care Clinic at Northgate Center. She’s been so busy, she’s added Shawn Whitfield to the staff to give the clinic three full-time nurse practitioners.
“We’re still about 80 percent walk-ins, but we’re going to try to transition into more of a traditional medical office where more people make appointments,” said Theresa. “We’re so happy to have Shawn on staff. He has experience with orthopedic and emergency room care. Plus he’s a male and some patients feel more comfortable seeing a man.”
Shawn is originally from New Mexico which gives him another skill that’s helpful in this area. He speaks Spanish. He previously worked in town at Dr. Haynes’ office to provide his experience in orthopedics.
Much of the popularity of Family Care Clinic comes from its convenience. The clinic is open seven days a week and Theresa says that schedule will continue. However, she said there is going to be one change. The clinic will be closed daily for lunch from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
“It’s just so hard to work short-handed for one-and-a-half or two hours as everybody cycles through lunch,” said Theresa. “This way we’ll be able to close for one hour and take care of that.”
Theresa also said the office will be closing temporarily June 5-16 for remodeling. While this is still two months away, Theresa wants to give her patients fair warning.
“We have a really big lobby and we don’t need all that space,” said Theresa. “So we’ll be taking some of that away, doing some reconfiguring, and adding an extra exam room.”
I thought Family Care Clinic would thrive with its nontraditional medical hours. People don’t always get sick Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. so I figured it would do well. The office can be reached at 474-4700.
City to get better Internet
Westwood residents can get ready to celebrate as they will be getting a new communication switch installed in their neighborhood by Ben Lomand Connect.
According to Ben Lomand Connect CEO and general manager Ray Cantrell, the upgrade will make McMinnville, especially Westwood, a gigabyte city because it will provide fiber optics and increase the data transmission speeds by one gigabyte – 100 times the speed of a typical broadband connection.
“You have heard talk about gigabyte cities and things like that,” said Ray. “This puts McMinnville on the map as a gigabyte city, especially Westwood. We’ve already got it down Main Street. We are getting ready to do all the businesses here. We are getting ready to do Chancery right now and some other areas. All our industrial parks have it in our service territory and we’ve seen nothing but positive results from fiber and that is what this is going to serve.”
The switch will be located on the corner of Morrison Street and Westwood 6th Avenue. The city’s zoning code requires Ben Lomand to place “tall evergreen trees, stagger planted, with branches touching the ground” around the lot. Also, code requires the structure to be 40 feet from the property line on Westwood 6th Avenue and 15 feet from the back property line.
Cantrell says some residents in the area have expressed concerns over the installation due to a misunderstanding.
“I think some of the misunderstanding came in the beginning when we went over there and staked out a 50 foot by 50 foot area so we can get our structure set,” said Ray. “The structure is actually at 12 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 10 feet high. The height might be a concern for some people, but three feet of it will be in the ground.”
The switch will improve service to the area because it will be centrally located, and increase property values, says Cantrell.
“We would like to start construction immediately over in Westwood to cover the entire area with fiber optics,” Ray said. “That would bring one gigabyte services to the entire Westwood area before the end of 2015. This one communication switch will incorporate both of those existing structures and allow us to do it more efficiently. If you look at it, this land is centrally located in Westwood. There is one thing I would like to mention, with fiber optics, on average across the nation, it increases the property value from $4,000 to $7,000 per house.”
The information was presented during a McMinnville Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Tuesday. The property is zoned residential. However, a special exception is available for public utilities that serve the immediate neighborhood, excluding general office buildings, warehouses and storage areas. Ben Lomand requested of the board to allow a special exception.
Board members Jim Brock, David Marttala and Joey Haston approved the variance request. Absent from the meeting were members Tom Ward and Jerry Williamson.
That’s all folks
May all your Sundays be filled with golden eggs, not just Easter Sunday. If you have business tips to report, I will try to get to them in a timely fashion. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 473-2191. For quality assurance, your call may be recorded.