It’s the holiday season and the Standard staff has dwindled to a skeleton crew. It’s this time of year, when the office brass are vacationing and making toasts to their health, that I like to seize control. Whahaha!
Operating under the flawed assumption it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, I’ve once again placed this lovable business column on the front page of a section instead of tucked away in the basement behind boxes of old dishes. I do this because I believe, in my imagination, this is what the public demands.
Today’s business column is historic because it’s the first of 2017. And there’s no better way to embark on a new journey than to talk about the merger of two local optometrists, Dr. Andrew Dean and Dr. Terry Connor.
Most people are familiar with Dr. Dean, who has been an eye doctor in McMinnville for 42 years. That includes nearly 30 years at his current spot on Smithville Highway near the fairgrounds. In carving out his new partnership, Dr. Dean says he is not retiring.
“Terry will be here on a full-time basis and I will be here part time,” said Dr. Dean. “People have asked me what I’m going to do in retirement and I am not retiring. I’m still going to be here.”
Dr. Dean says the more relaxed, part-time schedule will provide more opportunity for him to travel and to dote on his grandchildren.
Dr. Connor will be joining Dr. Dean at the Smithville Highway office and begin seeing patients there this Tuesday. He had been at his former location for 17 years and saw patients there until Thursday.
“This is something we’ve been talking about for a long time,” said Dr. Connor, who has 22 years of experience as an optometrist. “I outgrew my old location years ago. There were some things I couldn’t do there because I couldn’t add the equipment. This new office with all the extra space will allow me to do so much more. That was really my motivation behind doing this.”
Dr. Connor will now have all the latest technology at his fingertips to help diagnose and treat eyesight issues related to glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetes. If you don’t have a major vision problem and just need glasses or contacts, that’s OK too. There’s an entire room filled with frames so you can make the fashion statement of your choice with your glasses.
Terry said the opportunity to utilize first-rate equipment that wouldn’t fit in his former office was a driving force behind the move, which has been in the works for years.
“Terry and I have talked about doing this for probably 10 to 12 years,” said Dr. Dean. “It turned out the time was finally right for both of us.”
The new office has been renamed Connor and Dean Eye Care. Terry says he is bringing both his employees from his previous location and all of Dr. Dean’s employees are staying as well.
“It’s important for me to carry on what he started,” said Dr. Connor. “Years from now, there will probably be somebody carrying it on for me.”
Terry says his old phone number, 473-0890, will roll over to his new office. Dr. Dean’s number remains active as well, 473-7844.
Get ready to get money
For those accustomed to getting money back from Uncle Sam, the new year is a welcome companion. It’s a time when we can expect hundreds, or thousands, of dollars to fall from the IRS sky and snuggle into the warmth of our wallets. From there, it will find its way to retail outlets where bigger TVs and faster smartphones await.
Finally … thankfully … it’s tax time. Do you know how big your refund will be?
If you’re anxious to turn your W-2 into cash, H&R Block is a popular place to frequent. Just don’t go looking for our H&R Block at its familiar spot at Northgate Center because it’s moved. The new location is 477 N. Chancery Street where owners Lee and Debbie Smith are eager to serve your tax needs.
Lee and Debbie have owned our local H&R Block franchise since November 2008. They have previously owned H&R Blocks in Smithville and Carthage so they have a storied history of handling taxes.
“We guarantee you the most legal refund possible,” said Lee, who indicated most people are the same when it comes to their tax returns. They want the most money as soon as they can get it.
Lee is an enrolled agent with the IRS. This means if there are problems with your taxes and an audit occurs, he is skilled at handling the situation. Lee says he will help with an IRS audit whether you are one of his customers or not.
“If you have an audit, I can go to Nashville and handle it all for you,” said Lee. “People like this service and actually I like it better too. A lot of times people don’t know what to say to the IRS because they don’t know what they’re being asked. It can get sticky.”
Lee wants to make people aware of a change in IRS policy that takes effect this year. Under the PATH Act, which was passed by Congress in 2016 and begins this tax season, filers who take the earned income credit or an additional child tax credit will have their refund delayed until after Feb. 15. The PATH Act was passed in an effort to combat tax fraud.
“This is going to be a hardship on some people,” said Debbie.
But before you work yourself into a panic, H&R Block is providing hope. It can’t furnish your complete tax refund before Feb. 15, but it does have a program where you can get up to $1,250 of your refund on the same day you file.
“We’ll give them part of their tax return that day as a no-fee, no-interest loan,” said Lee. “The only way the government allows us to do this is if we provide it for free.”
If you’re salivating at the thought of getting money back from the government, H&R Block can be reached at 473-5500.
Pharmaceutical musical chairs
It was in October 2015 when a blockbuster deal was announced that had Walgreens buying its smaller competitor, Rite Aid, for $9.4 billion. The deal was contingent on regulatory approval.
Walgreens operates some 13,200 stores and raked in a handsome $117.4 billion in annual revenue in 2015. Rite Aid has about 4,600 stores with $30.7 billion in annual revenue.
I found the story of local interest because we have both a Walgreens and Rite Aid in McMinnville. They are located 1 mile apart on attractive corner lots. With consolidation mentioned as part of the deal, I wonder out loud if we might lose one of our stores.
Now Fred’s has entered the tricky equation after regulators determined Rite Aid must sell some of its stores before the deal can be finalized. In a deal announced about 10 days ago, Fred’s is going to buy 865 stores from Rite Aid to satisfy antitrust concerns over the Walgreen’s takeover. Fred’s will pay $950 million for the 865 stores.
I find this news also of local interest because we have a Fred’s at Northgate Center. The deal will more than double the number of Fred’s, which has a current store count of 650.
“I have not seen a list of the stores they are acquiring,” said local Fred’s manager Mike Smith when asked if our local stores will be impacted. “I’ve seen the same reports you’ve seen but that’s about all I know.”
I’m sure it will take some time for the dust to settle and the details to be finalized, which leaves me time to speculate. If I were to make a guess, which I’m doing at this point, it makes sense for Fred’s to acquire the Rite Aid in McMinnville. That would allow Fred’s to move from an older building to a much newer location on a high-traffic road.
If that were to happen, it would leave a large, vacant building at Northgate Center.
Examining the overall deal, this will make Fred’s a major player in the drug store wars. Fred’s CEO Michael Bloom was quoted as saying it’s a “transformative event.”
Investors think so too as Fred’s stock has soared 75 percent since the deal was announced.
Fred’s was founded in 1947 and operates more than half its stores in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Fred’s has lost money the last two fiscal years and was in the process of closing unproductive stores when the deal was announced.
Analyzing the numbers, Fred’s will be paying about $1.1 million for each Rite Aid it will be acquiring. That’s a fraction of what Walgreens is estimated to be paying for its Rite Aid stores. Walgreens is estimated to be paying $2.04 million per Rite Aid store based on information from the originally announced deal.
Walgreens and Rite Aid are expected to be left with about 12,000 stores. It’s still expected to take another six months of so before this is all worked out.
That’s all folks
May your new year be filled with prosperity and newspaper knowledge. Remember, people who read the Southern Standard are smarter than those who don’t.
I have nothing to support that claim, but in embracing our new U.S. President I've decided it might be fun to just toss out whatever pops into my head, without any supporting facts, and pretend it's true. If I'm ever questioned about this wrong information, I will attack you on Twitter.
Phone in business tips at 473-2191.
Business Cheetah Extra
What a ride! 2016 provided thrills, spills
We’ve taken everything 2016 has hurled at our face and midsection.
The body blows have hurt. Other punches have been glancing. As we stagger into 2017 holding our ribs, the Business Cheetah editorial board is taking a quick look back at 2016. Here are some memorable storylines on the Warren County business front.
MORE, MORE, MORE
For anyone who claimed Warren County did not need another Mexican restaurant or another dollar store, 2016 proved you wrong. Totally wrong.
Jalisco Mexican Grill opened in the Foodland Plus Shopping Center. For those of you keeping score, that’s six Mexican restaurants for Warren County. We love our chips and salsa.
And if you thought we had enough Dollar General stores, think again. A shiny Dollar General opened in Newtown, bringing the grand total in Warren County to eight.
Have we reached the saturation point? Nah. Based on Business Cheetah calculations, we can support at least 10 Dollar Generals and eight Mexican restaurants.
MAY I TAKE YOUR ORDER?
We all know about Hardee’s, Zaxby’s and Captain D’s. Aside from those fast-food giants, it was a busy year on the restaurant front.
Rafael’s caught fire on Aug. 17 and was closed for three months before reopening in November.
Saki Japanese Grill seems to have found success at Plaza Shopping Center in the building that has seen one restaurant after another. Saki has done it thanks to delicious food.
Medley’s Diner in Morrison has a new building. The old building, once a packing barn, has been leveled and removed. That’s a good thing.
Billy’s Restaurant in Newtown was purchased by Kelly Taylor, who is on site as an active owner.
In a somber note, 2016 saw Linda Holland close Main Street Bakery after a 12-year run. She planned to enjoy retirement on the hiking trails of East Tennessee, but died two months later. Linda, we still miss you.
After a four-year absence, the MTNA Trade Show rekindled its romance with the city and returned to McMinnville Civic Center. Over 130 companies showed up for the two-day show which brought visitors to Warren County from around the U.S. and beyond.
Among exhibitors renting booth space were folks from Oregon, Canada, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, and Pennsylvania. MTNA partnered with TNLA in presenting the show.
Officials agreed the annual show injects life into the local economy by attracting visitors and generating revenue.
In 2016, we learned about the size of President-elect Donald Trump’s hands. Thank goodness everything is normal.
The year also saw Warren County gain attention on a number of prominent lists as this community blossoms as a tourism destination.
BuzzFeed listed Cumberland Caverns as one of the Top 10 Concert Venues in the World. After that, the accolades just kept coming. Our community was listed as one of the Hippest Places in the South and PureWow listed Rock Island State Park as the Most Beautiful Place in Tennessee in ranking the most beautiful spot in all 50 states. Rock Island was included with the likes of Mt. Rushmore and Bryce Canyon.
ROLLING OUT THE RED CARPET
The welcome mat has been placed and it’s a large one. We want tourists to visit Warren County. More importantly, we want tourists to spend money here.
Kayaking has become a swimming success with the Barren Fork River and the Collins River serving as charming destinations for those in small boats. The success of kayaking led to Smooth Rapids Outfitters opening a store on the Barren Fork River in 2016 where kayaks can be rented and good times can be enjoyed on the deck.
Isha atop Harrison Ferry Mountain attracted over 40,000 visitors last year from around the globe. These are people who would have never, ever made a trip to Warren County if not for Isha and its transformative allure.
Bluegrass Underground is regarded as the crown jewel which started it all, beaming into living rooms across America thanks to the wonder of PBS. Bluegrass Underground creator Todd Mayo says 20 shows are already booked for 2017 with a goal of having entertainment here during 30 weekends.
The Meat Market closed in Newtown, leaving behind sorrow and a thirst for animal flesh.
In other departures, Dr. Michael Questell said goodbye to Warren County to return to the frigid conditions of North Dakota. It can’t be positive news for a doctor to leave in favor of an igloo.
Simpkins Energy failed and left the Industrial Development Board holding the bill for its 15,000-square-foot building on Magness Drive.
But all was not lost at sea. To end on a positive note, Lisa Cope was named CEO of Ben Lomand Connect. An accountant by trade, Lisa was named interim CEO in February and given the permanent title in August.
Last but not least, 2016 saw the creation of a fun zone as Pioneer Playpit opened on South High Street. There are bouncy houses, laser tag and video games at the attraction aimed at kids of all ages.