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Business Cheetah 3-20
Will Blue Building's fate ever be decided?
Making three of the four generations of barbers in the Smith family are, from left, Billy, Bill, and Tristan Smith. Tristan joined the family business two weeks ago.

When I’m dead and buried, perhaps many years from now, I’m sure there will be someone sitting in my chair writing about this familiar question: What should the city of McMinnville do about the Blue Building?
I’m beginning to think this isn’t an actual question at all, but rather a rhetorical one. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Can you ever really be thinking about nothing?
If the Blue Building gradually sinks into the ground, does it make any noise? The Blue Building can join a long list of rhetorical questions that are so much fun to ponder.
Where do they get the seeds to grow seedless grapes? Why does an alarm clock go “off” when it actually turns on? Does pressing the elevator button repeatedly make it arrive faster?
If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular? When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say? Can you go skinny dipping if you’re really fat? Why can you always expect unexpected delays?
If something goes without saying, why do people still say it? Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
With all these mind-twisting questions, let’s not forget the Blue Building. If the city of McMinnville conducts a $20,000 Blue Building study and everyone ignores it, does it still cost the taxpayers money?
All this is a long way of saying there’s once again interest in the Blue Building. During Thursday’s Industrial Development Board meeting, industrial recruiter Don Alexander told board members he’s received interest from a call center looking to locate in the Blue Building. Don said the company would be looking to bring about 200 jobs to McMinnville.
When asked if the building could house that many employees, Don said, “It can easily hold that many. It’s got 39,000 square feet.”
The call center would need a number of phone connections and a whole lot of cubicles. It would be a place customers could call to help solve problems with their product.
Don stressed the project is in the preliminary stages, but he wanted to know what approach to take since the building is not owned by the Industrial Development Board. It’s owned by the city. Don doesn’t want to get far along in the negotiation process only to find the city is not willing to make a deal.
Alderman Ryle Chastain was in attendance and he suggested Don make a formal request before the full city board in an effort to determine how to proceed. From my perch, such a project sounds as smooth as a mountain stream and would be the best possible scenario in terms of what to do with the Blue Building.
Our downtown area has really started to gain momentum. Adding some 200 jobs at the Blue Building would be an economic awakening for downtown.
If you recall, the Blue Building has been vacant since November 2009 when McMinnville Police Department left the basement and moved to Red Road. City Hall offices had left the first floor earlier that year.
It was as the Police Department was packing its bags that a Blue Building savior appeared, or so we all believed. A company called StrategicWire signed a lease to occupy the Blue Building rent-free, provided the company created 35 jobs its first year. To the best of my memory, this lease agreement was signed Nov. 20, 2009.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any record of StrategicWire creating even one job at the Blue Building. Nearly one year later, on Oct. 22, 2010, StrategicWire president Mark Siedlecki announced the company was surrendering its lease to the Blue Building and returning the property to the city.
The Blue Building has been in the city’s very indecisive hands ever since and yearning for a new tenant to bring life to its lonely walls.

Let the rumors begin

It hadn’t even been 48 hours since Captain D’s announced it was leaving its home of 40 years and moving next to Bojangles that the rumors started to circulate.
First I heard J’s Restaurant at Three Star Mall was looking to relocate to the Captain D’s spot. Then I heard J’s had been sold and would soon be under new ownership. Both those rumors are false, says J’s owner Junior Petit.
“They treat me great and I love it here at the mall,” said Junior. “In fact, I’m about to sign another lease that says I’m a true anchor store here. Business is as strong as ever. I won’t be moving out. There’s no reason for me to go anywhere else.”
As for the rumor J’s has been sold, Junior said that likely stems from the fact he’s received two offers to buy the restaurant in the past six months. He said he rejected both offers, but said he doesn’t want to discourage anyone from coming along and making a much higher offer.
As for other Captain D’s talk, I don’t know if this is a rumor as much as it is wishful thinking from some of the ladies here at the office, but they would really like the spot to become a Krispy Kreme. They want to watch as the hot donuts travel down the line on the way to making a stop in their mouth. A Krispy Kreme would be great fun, but what would it do to my hips?

Barber shop buzzing with news

There’s great excitement at Smith Brothers Barber Shop in Mt. Leo where a fourth generation of Smith has joined the family business.
Tristan Smith has earned his master barber license and has come on board to cut hair next to his father, Billy Smith. Billy followed in the footsteps of his father, Bill, who followed in the footsteps of his father, Gordon, who has perhaps the most interesting story of the bunch.
Gordon served as a barber, a school teacher, a principal, and later as the county tax assessor. When he was teaching school, Gordon would cut the hair of children in the Irving College community on Saturday mornings. He didn’t have a fancy shop. The children would sit on a stump while he cut their hair.
Bill started cutting hair in 1964 and the Smiths built a shop in Mt. Leo near where the Homeland Community Bank branch is located today. However, that shop was the target of violence.
“It was blown up in 1969,” said Billy. “They wanted them to join the barber union, but they refused because it cost too much money. Back then you only got 50 cents for a haircut. So they wouldn’t join the union and their shop got blown up.”
It was in 1970 when a tiny, brick building was constructed across the street from the one which was blown up. That served as Smith Brothers Barber Shop for 36 years and is now a cozy produce market. That tiny shop is where Billy got his start when he joined the business in 1986.
Smith Brothers moved to its current facility in Mt. Leo nearly 10 years ago today on March 23, 2006. Tristan joined the business two weeks ago.
“Cutting a flat-top is the hardest thing I do,” said Billy. “I guess you could say you have to be real level-headed to do that.”
Billy says he designed his popular vacuum clippers himself. The clippers allow a haircut without a mess.
“I’ve been cutting hair all day and I don’t have a hair on me,” said Billy. “The state likes it too. I’ve been told we’re the cleanest barber shop in the state.”
Asked if people still bring in magazine pictures and ask for a haircut like the guy in the picture, Billy says it still happens, but not with a magazine.
“Now people bring in the picture on their cellphone,” said Billy. “I can do it if I can see the picture.”
A barber shop is seen as somewhat of a recession proof business because people are always going to need haircuts. However, Billy says there are busy seasons.
“When it’s summer and really hot, people come in and get haircuts,” said Billy. “And when it’s the dead of winter and there’s nothing else to do, people will get a haircut. But right now is a slow time when it starts to get nice and people are outdoors doing stuff.”
Tristan is happy to come on board and welcomes friends and new customers to visit him for a haircut. Smith Brothers hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sears joins Dr. Questell

There’s a new family nurse practitioner who has joined the staff of Dr. Michael Questell at Warren Family Practice. It’s Keeley Sears, who came on board last month.
Keeley comes to Warren County from Port St. Lucie, Fla., where she spent five years practicing internal medicine. She says common ailments she deals with are diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight problems, congestive heart failure, and common colds.
“We wanted to get out of the city and move to the country,” said Keeley, who has a home in rural Bone Cave. “This is what we wanted for our family.”
Not that it’s particularly relevant to this story, but out of curiosity I asked Keeley about the prescription drug problem in Florida. As many of you may know, prescription drug abuse is becoming rampant in Tennessee, especially with painkillers. Keeley said the prescription drug problem is not so acute in Florida, but indicated it is a concern for much of the nation.
Joining Keeley as a newcomer at Warren Family Practice is Jennifer Bearden, who is the patient care coordinator. Jennifer is a certified medical assistant who will be prepping patients, taking vital signs, doing lab work, and performing other medical duties.
Warren Family Practice is accepting new patients and can be reached at 815-7200. The office is located at 153 Vo Tech Drive.

Unemployment still lowering

I devoted a large segment of last week’s column talking about Warren County unemployment and how gratifying it is to see the rate dip to a stunning 4.6 percent.
Apparently state officials are giddy too because they’ve already released unemployment figures for February. The figures indicate statewide unemployment has dropped to just 4.9 percent, the lowest rate since August, 2007.
I don’t plan another extended monolog about how great the unemployment rate is, but I will say Tennessee unemployment was around 11 percent in 2009 when it started its downhill freefall. Unemployment has dropped 1.1 percent in the past year.

That’s all folks

If you have a new business you’re trying to build, give me a call and I will publicize it in this column. It’s fairly painless and it may just result in a new customer or two. The phone number is 473-2191.