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Business Cheetah
business cheetah
Our Rite Aid on the corner of Chancery and Locust streets is now Walgreens. The move took effect Thursday and the changeover will be made in phases.

Dollar Generals and Mexican restaurants have tested the limits of how many businesses Warren County can support that are the same.

Now Walgreens is entering the mix.

I’m pleased to announce McMinnville now has two Walgreens after Rite Aid officially changed over Thursday. The move comes after a well-publicized purchase where Walgreens has bought 1,932 stores from Rite Aid.

It also comes after a tense waiting period where Walgreens announced it would close about 600 Rite Aid stores as part of the transaction. I was among the many people with fingers crossed hoping our Rite Aid location would remain open.

When I stopped by Rite Aid, now Walgreens, on Friday, I was told the changeover is going to take place in phases. Some Walgreens signs were already in place inside the store and employees were wearing large buttons with the Walgreens logo at the top.

I couldn’t get a timetable on when the outside signage might change and I think that’s because a date hasn’t been firmed up yet. In talking to several employees, they told me they always felt confident the store would remain open because it does such a brisk pharmacy business. One worker told me it would be difficult for one store to handle so much volume if Rite Aid were closed and all business moved to the one Walgreens location.

I guess there’s one bright spot to us being so collectively unhealthy as a nation. We need to take plenty of pills.

My source of concern was that, should our Rite Aid location be shut down, how long would that building remain vacant on a prime corner of town? That’s the type of large building that doesn’t seem like it would be easy to fill with another tenant. My guess is it would have needed to be subdivided to get any interest.

Fortunately that’s a bridge we don’t have to cross. And with two Walgreens in town, the next question is can we support three?

- Sleep easy! Hotel Search makes progress -

The push to bring a new hotel to McMinnville may produce more than one.

According to Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander, a letter of intent has been signed to sell the old River Park Hospital property. The land is located directly across from the current hospital on Sparta Street. Don says the property buyer wants to build a Hampton Inn at that spot.

The deal is contingent on getting property taxes frozen at their current rate, which Don does not expect to be an issue.

“This is something where I made initial contact with him in July of 2015,” said Don. “He didn’t show an active interest until June 2016. At that time I started to take him around and showed him some sites. We looked at the Blue Building and the old Fraley’s building, but he was not interested in downtown. He really liked the old hospital site and is thinking of a hotel with retail space included.”

Don said the businessman, who doesn’t wish to be identified at this point, is from Tennessee and he owns other Hampton Inns. He would be making much of the investment himself.

There has been talk in recent months about the plans of Mike and Keval Sheth to bring a new hotel to McMinnville, possibly a Holiday Inn. It would be located on land they have purchased on North Chancery Street that’s roughly across from Neil Helton State Farm. The sale of that property cleared its final hurdle Tuesday when rezoning was approved.

“There’s been a lot of talk about a new hotel, but I don’t know that we have to settle on just one,” said Don. “We’ve been working on this, but we’re certainly interested in helping Mike and Keval any way we can. We’d love for them to build a new hotel too. That would help the community even more.”

Don said he was upfront with the man who is looking to build the Hampton Inn and told him there is another party also interested in constructing a new hotel here. Don said the man’s reaction was glowing and he compared it to restaurants which like to be next to each other. He said having one nice hotel helps another nice hotel.

The sale of the old River Park property is contingent on it being accepted into a tax abatement program. Don explained how the program works.

He said the vacant property has a current value on the tax rolls which is not extremely high because it’s just empty land. However, once a $5 million hotel is built there, the property value will be significantly higher. That tax abatement program looks to freeze property taxes at their current level before construction.

“It’s an incentive to help the developer,” said Don. “They are pouring a huge amount of money into our community so it gives them a tax break until they start to get a return on their investment.”

Don has been pushing for a new hotel since he took the job as our industrial recruiter over three years ago. He believes a new hotel, or hotels, will unlock a new realm of economic benefits. He says many visitors don’t opt to stay more than eight hours in our community because they don’t spend the night here. That means they don’t eat breakfast here in the morning, get gas on their way out of town, and so on.

The only bad news is don’t get in a hurry for a new hotel to open anytime soon. Don said it would be at least a year before the Hampton Inn opens. He said it would be up to the city and county to approve the tax abatement program.

As for understanding the immense cost associated with building a new hotel, we have to look no further than Fall Creek Falls State Park. Tennessee officials have announced the current inn, restaurant and conference center at Fall Creek Falls will be demolished and a new $25 million facility put in its place.

- Coffee Cat Claws into town -

It’s coffee so good, it will have you climbing a tree. Let’s just hope you don’t start scratching the furniture too.

The Coffee Cat has opened at Northgate Center. Like its name suggests, the coffee is so warm and comforting, it will make you purr.

The Coffee Cat is located in the former Pink Gorilla building, which is in the parking lot area in front of La Cazona. The building has been repainted blue and the new owners are Teresa Paris and Cassie Eckel.

“We use fresh-roasted beans which we grind several times a day,” said Teresa. “Our goal was to get the coffee up and running first and we’ve done that. We’ve worked out the flaws. The next step will be to bring in some desserts and that will probably happen the first of the year.”

Teresa is familiar with homemade desserts after she developed quite a following for her cooking at Paris Café, a made-from-scratch restaurant. Results have been similarly promising during the first month of operation for The Coffee Cat.

“We have some people who come through twice a day,” said Cassie. “They come through on their way to work and on their way home.”

Cassie said their beverages are not at all like drinking coffee at home. Flavors include favorites like peppermint, toasted marshmallow and cupcake. Some coffees include caramel and chocolate to make them more like a succulent dessert than a beverage. Drinks can be served piping hot, or iced.

“It’s been neat because there’s really no rhyme or reason about when we get busy,” said Cassie. “Some days it’s before 8 a.m. Other days it’s at lunch. We can never tell.”
The Coffee Cat is open Tuesday thru Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The phone number is (931) 314-2829. Meow.

- 'C' is for cookie -

It’s easy to find reasons to eat cookies. If you’re scrambling to convince yourself it’s cookie time, cheer up. It’s the holidays. That should do it.

After that, it will be Valentine’s Day. After that, Monday will do.

I want to start this segment by thanking Cindy Rogers at Homeland Community Bank. She is a great lady who brought some delicious cookies by the Standard office on Wednesday. The cookies were packed with so much relentless flavor, I went to the trouble to track down who made them.

What I discovered is it was none other than Diane Morton. I remember Diane from the days when she ran The Inn at Harvest Farms with her husband, Freddie. It’s hard to believe she opened the inn 17 years ago.

In case you’re wondering, or playing a trivia game, Diane and Freddie ran the inn for eight years before selling it to another couple who continued the bed and breakfast tradition. However, the house is now only used for strictly residential purposes.
As for Diane, this is where I finally get to the point. She’s now operating The Cottage Catering and Gifts. If you’re looking for a gift that will really make a lasting impact this holiday season, try her maple nut cookies. I could eat one right now without thinking up a reason why.

Diane also makes cakes, pies and candy. She says she has a few spots open if you want to place an order before Christmas. Santa would really remember your house with one of those cookies under the tree.

If not, there’s always Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Groundhog Day, President’s Day, or any day of your choosing. Diane can be reached at 808-9225.

That’s all folks

Thanks for taking the time from your busy shopping schedule to read today’s column. On the chance you have a business tip to place in my stocking, the email address is editor@southernstandard.com.