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Business Cheetah 6-25
Old theater could project new restaurant
Here today gone by Christmas. A building that was once home to the Cowan Oldham Theatre is scheduled to be torn down by the end of the year. A casual dining restaurant has been mentioned for that spot.

A building that was once a movie theater is preparing for its final curtain call.
The end is near for the structure that was once the fabled Cowan Oldham Theatre and now serves as home for National Diamond Company and Horner Rausch. According to Bobby Kirby, who is one of the property owners, plans are to level the building in the coming months with hopes of bringing a casual dining restaurant to McMinnville.
“We are not under any time frame,” said Bobby. “We plan to tear it down later this year, level the lot. The property is much more valuable without the building. The building is obsolete. It’s two story and dysfunctional. I think we can do something with the property because it’s such a great location. A casual dining restaurant would be great there.”
The Strip has certainly been an attractive place for new restaurants in recent years as Bojangles, Zaxby’s and Captain D’s have all constructed buildings within a half mile of one another. All of those chains paid over $400,000 for their land.
I see this bit of property as being even more attractive once the building is gone. The property is owned by Investment Partners, which is comprised of Bobby, Jewel Hale and Freddy Hoover.
“We could build to suit or leave it as is,” said Bobby. “We’re looking to do something by the end of the year.”
The land would be a great spot for O’Charley’s, which gets high marks in my book for its Free Pie Wednesday. I think every restaurant should follow the O’Charley’s model and offer free pie on Wednesday.
Other folks here at the newspaper office are hoping we get a Chili’s. Ruby Tuesday is one of my favorite chain restaurants because of its gorgeous salad bar, but that brand seems to be experiencing technical difficulties at the moment.
If you really want to get me pumping my fists, bring in a Mellow Mushroom. The pizza may be a bit pricey, but your mouth will thank you.
As for current tenant National Diamond Company, owner Shawn Stinson is contemplating his options on where to relocate.
“I’ve driven every road and thought about every spot,” said Shawn, who has been at that same location for 20 years.
I went over different options with Shawn while I was in his store Friday and he’s already considered every one of them, from Three Star Mall to Northgate Center. There seems to be positives and negatives to every location in town, but I’m confident Shawn will land on his feet and his impending move will bring him nothing but good fortune.
“This has been a great spot,” said Shawn. “I hate to leave.”
As for the history behind that building, some longtime residents will remember it as home to the Cowan Oldham Theatre. A full-page ad in the Oct. 22, 1973 edition of the Southern Standard announced the grand opening of the theater the next day. That entire edition was filled with ads from local businesses welcoming the new theater to town.
According to the newspaper ad, the new theater offered the best in high-fidelity sound and automated projectors. Bob Bassham, who still operates Three Star Cinema today, was announced as the theater manager. The facility included 256 plush seats which were said to provide extreme comfort.
There was a separate news story to accompany the ad. The news story talked about how the growing popularity of this thing called “television” was cutting into the attendance at movie theaters around the country. But even with this thing called TV, there was still great optimism the new Cowan Oldham Theatre would prosper.

A new tenant is on the hook

Since we’re talking about the old Captain D’s building, it’s appropriate to use fishing terminology with this segment. It appears a prospective buyer for the old Captain D’s is on the hook and realtor Sally Steakley is trying to reel a deal into the boat.
“There is very good interest,” said Sally when I talked to her Friday. “It’s going to be food. It will be a place for people to enjoy a good meal, if it does materialize. It’s at the point where it could still fall through.”
Sally said defining answers are not far away. She should know something in the next 10 days to two weeks.
“They are still considering both options, either using the existing building or tearing it down,” said Sally. “It’s not a local business that’s interested.”
As is customary, I tried to pry Sally for more information, but she’s like a piece of iron. She won’t budge. The bright side is it appears we’ll know more soon.

Old cheese plant sells at auction

Say cheese! A building we know as the old cheese plant sold at online auction on Tuesday with McMinnville resident Ray Hixson emerging from an underwhelming field of participants to be named high bidder.
In what I view as somewhat of a shocker, the industrial building sold at absolute auction for $155,100. That’s for 10 acres of land right off the bypass with a 47,587-square-foot building.
“I wasn’t looking to buy it, but this was too good a deal to pass up,” said Ray on Thursday. “I think at even double that amount it still would have been a good price. I’m a bargain hunter so I had to buy it.”
Folks around these parts may know Ray as the owner of the Treasure Chest on Fairgrounds Road. The second-hand store has been open about five years.
In addition to that business, Ray restores houses. He says he has bought, restored, and sold about 50 homes in his career. This will be the first industrial building he has purchased.
“When I close on it and get to walk around the building and inspect it really well I hope to get some more ideas,” said Ray. “I don’t have a good answer about what I’m going to do with it just yet.”
It’s too bad the owners of the old cheese plant couldn’t get the city interested in their building. The city just got done paying $750,000 for the Metal Products Company property on Bell Street. The MPC property has 11.7 acres of land and a 45,000-square-foot building on it, virtually equivalent to the old cheese plant.
In other words, you get about $600,000 more for your property if it’s purchased with taxpayer dollars.
Ray says the old cheese plant has three tenants he believes are interested in staying. He knows of two tenants who will be leaving. Ray said he would let me know in the coming months when he determines a direction to take.

Morrison’s Florist still flowering

It was 49 years ago when Nell Morrison opened a flower shop behind her home and looked to establish roots. Little did she know she would still be operating the business into her 80s at the same spot.
“I was young when I started this,” said Nell. “I’m striving to make it to my 50th year and then I’m going to quit.”
Morrison’s Florist might create some confusion because it’s not located in Morrison at all. It’s in McMinnville at the corner of West Sparta and Clark streets.
When Nell was pondering career paths, she thought about going to school to become a hairdresser. She soon gave that idea a trim and instead decided she wanted to be a florist. She traveled to Woodbury five days a week for three months and worked for free in order to learn the trade from a florist there. She then opened her business here in town.
“I opened on a Friday and got my first funeral work the next Monday,” said Nell. “After three years, I was so busy I told Carl if he didn’t quit Century Electric and come help me I was going to quit doing this. So he came here and helped me and he’s been here for 46 years.”
Nell and her husband Carl have formed quite a dynamic duo when it comes to floral design. Nell admits the business has changed dramatically over the years.
“It used to be I’d carry flowers to the hospital two or three times a day,” said Nell. “That hardly happens anymore. And for funerals, there would be flowers lined across the wall. Now you’ll be lucky to have seven arrangements at a funeral. People are not buying flowers as much.”
Nell said she remembers when there were 17 flower shops open in McMinnville. Now just a few remain.
“People have gone to gifts more so than flowers,” said Nell. “They’ll want a wind chime or music box or something like that. Orders for fresh flowers have really gone down. Silk flowers are more popular now than fresh flowers.”
Nell said one difference is grocery stores didn’t have floral departments for her first 25 years of business. Now that they do, it’s cut into her business somewhat.
“On holidays we used to work till 1 a.m.,” said Nell. “The work is nothing like that now. The flower business has really changed.”
As a full-service florist, she has driven all over town making deliveries.
“There’s not hardly a road in McMinnville I don’t know,” she said.
One neat tidbit of information about Carl is his family members were some of the original settlers in Morrison and the town is named after his great-grandfather John Morrison.
As the story goes, the Morrison family moved to that section of the county in 1825. John Morrison and his wife, Nancy, built one of the first stores in that area. In 1854, a railroad was constructed that ran behind their store. By 1856, other buildings sprung up around their store and a township began to form.
All of this is a long way of saying congratulations to Nell and Carl Morrison for 49 years of business. By the sound of it, they’re not looking to make it 49 more. One more year will give them a nice, round number of 50 and then Carl says he will be ready to do some fishing.
Until that time, Morrison’s Florist can be reached at 473-3003.

That’s all folks

It was truly a remarkable week for business news. Phone in your tips at 473-2191.