I make a request for readers to phone in their business questions at the end of every column. Despite this weekly plea, call it a cry for help, I rarely receive any inquiries or tips.
All this changed last week when two people contacted me about business ideas. To show I am receptive to suggestions and I do value input from readers, I’m starting today’s column with the best answers I could uncover from those two questions.
What’s happening at the old Powermatic?
A lady called to tell me she lives across from the old Powermatic property in Westwood and has noticed much activity there in recent weeks. Of particular note, she said she has seen several trucks pulling onto the property with lumber on the back.
Curious about this possible development, I called Amie Hodges of Pioneer Building Supply. She is one of the property owners. Amie told me cleanup work is continuing on the land, which is about 16 acres. She said the property remains for sale for anyone who might be interested.
However, if any trucks were seen pulling onto the property with lumber, Amie says it was not for the purpose of building there. She says there are absolutely no construction plans in the works for the old Powermatic property.
So in answer to the question of what’s happening at Powermatic, cleanup work continues but there’s no building in store.
Can I recruit ALDI grocery?
A lady sent me an email declaring she really enjoys shopping at the ALDI supermarket chain and she would like me to use my “business acumen” to bring a store to McMinnville. She mentioned the old grocery store in Newtown as the perfect spot.
I appreciate her vote of confidence, however inflated it may be, but I don’t think a few inquiries from a newspaper guy is going to bring a grocery store chain to town. Nevertheless, I have given it a try, eternal optimist that I am.
In working to contact this company, I found ALDI is one of the largest grocery chains in the world with some 10,000 stores in 18 countries. In the United States, ALDI has around 1,600 stores in 35 states, according to its website. ALDI has aggressive growth plans and says it hopes to add about 400 stores in the U.S. over the next two years.
ALDI has nearby stores in Tullahoma and Murfreesboro. Just 10 days ago, the company was given the OK to construct a new store in Tusculum, Tenn., which is in Greene County.
In trying to contact the nearby ALDI stores, I discovered they all have the same toll-free number. When I called the number, there’s a recording that says ALDI does not give out its store numbers as a cost-saving measure. All calls are funneled into one toll-free number, which directs you to the ALDI website.
OK, so I’m jumping through all the hoops and I contacted ALDI through its website. I was given an email reply that said, “ALDI is always looking for new geographic areas to continue to bring smart shoppers the highest quality products at the lowest possible prices. While we have a lot of criteria for choosing store locations, our No. 1 reason is to be where ALDI fans are shopping. We appreciate your input and will share it with our real estate team.”
I also contacted the newspaper in Greene County and exchanged emails with the reporter there who wrote the stories about ALDI locating in Tusculum. He gave me a contact person with ALDI’s real estate development team for Tennessee, but I’ve yet to hear back from him.
ALDI does have some interesting concepts. One is the store charges for bags. This encourages customers to bring their own reusable bags, which saves money and saves the environment.
The store also charges a refundable, 25-cent deposit for shopping carts. ALDI does this as a cost-saving measure so it doesn’t have to pay an employee to run around the parking lot chasing down carts. ALDI believes you’ll return the shopping cart for a quarter.
In closing, I don’t think I’ve done much to bring ALDI to McMinnville, but at least I did get a generic email response and I’ve been assigned Case No. 648753. Feel free to use that number if you contact ALDI on your own.
New manufacturer begins production
It was in mid-April when I told you about Benchmark Tool and its plans to expand into Morrison in the building formerly occupied by Tennessee Warehouse.
I’m pleased to report the plant is up and running, although production is creeping along at a slow pace by design. Jeff Hendrix, who owns the company with Robbie Dickerson, told me on Friday there are currently five employees who are building pontoon boat trailers.
“Everything has been going well and it’s been a positive experience,” said Jeff when asked about start-up operations. “We’re completing equipment installation and we’re doing trial and error on some of our sandblasting. Our output is nowhere near where we want it to be, but we’re just getting started. We probably won’t get into a full-blown situation where we’re fully functional until August.”
Jeff and Robbie started Benchmark 12 years ago in Pelham where the company makes shipping containers for the automotive industry. Jeff says the plant in Morrison will primarily make boat trailers at the start, with the possibility of expanding to agricultural trailers in the future.
The eventual hope is to have a local workforce of about 40. The plant in Pelham employs 100.
While Jeff says things have been going well, he admits starting a company from scratch has its challenges.
“It’s been 12 years since Robbie and I started a business from the ground up and I think we forgot the logistics of how hard it is,” said Jeff. “We forgot some of the startup headaches.”
Jeff said he’s not ready for me to come out to the new plant and take pictures just yet. He said it would probably be toward the end of July, but I’d be more than welcome at that time.
New heights Underground
Like a frisky puppy that won’t let you forget it’s in the room, Cumberland Caverns continues to command attention.
One of our most popular tourist attractions here in Warren County has gotten national notice thanks to the Bluegrass Underground PBS concert series and it’s taking full advantage of the spotlight.
I’m pleased to announce Cumberland Caverns has caught the fancy of The Travel Channel where it will be featured this Thursday, July 6, at 11 a.m. CST. The Travel Channel series is called “Epic Campsites.”
Local couple John and Erica Watson and their daughter, Addisyn, are featured in the segment. They were picked from a field of contestants who answered the call and submitted a video for consideration. The Watsons are followed by cameras as they take what’s called the Cumberland Caverns Caveman Campout.
“We’ve enjoyed a lot of big things and it continues to look up for Cumberland Caverns,” said marketing director Kelly Roberts. “The great thing about this show is they feature so many neat locations it’s an honor for Cumberland Caverns to be selected as one of them. It’s one of those shows they run over and over again so people will see it more than the first run.”
The great thing about appearing on The Travel Channel is the nationwide reach. For example, The Travel Channel has 3.2 million followers on its Facebook page. That’s a whole bunch of exposure.
Cumberland Caverns has about an eight-minute segment on the show. That’s essentially an eight-minute advertisement for the cave and for Warren County. Kelly said the film crew spent two solid days capturing footage at the cave for the eight-minute clip.
“They did so many takes and retakes,” she said. “They look at things entirely different than how we do in terms of determining what’s worthy of being documented.”
Congratulations to Cumberland Caverns for being featured on this show. As the cave attracts more visitors, our community will benefit.
Dr. Haynes diagnoses retirement
Orthopedic doctor Douglas Haynes has decided to make a break from the rigors of working every day. After 35 years of practice, all in McMinnville, Dr. Haynes has decided to retire.
“More than anything, I’d like to thank my patients for putting their confidence in me and allowing me to be their doctor,” said Dr. Haynes. “Over the years, I’ve learned it’s not the big things that make a difference. It’s the little things. Being a doctor, I’ve learned a lot from my patients. I’ve learned how to be a better doctor and how to be a better person too. I’ve helped my patients and they’ve helped me. It’s been a long, rewarding journey.”
Dr. Haynes cast himself toward Warren County in 1982 when he moved to McMinnville and opened his first practice. About three years later, he and Dr. Bratton built an office together at 207 Oak Park and that’s the facility he used for the rest of his career.
As you’d expect, the medical field has undergone its share of changes, but Dr. Haynes says that’s typical. He says nearly all professions have experienced change over the course of three decades.
“When I started, the doctors controlled healthcare,” said Dr. Haynes. “Now it’s all controlled by the insurance companies. They tell you what to do. If you need an X-ray, the insurance companies have to approve it first and they want to know why it’s needed.”
Dr. Haynes says his career is filled with many remarkable memories. He says the most noteworthy of those come from experiences which are unexpected.
He remembers years ago helping a grown woman whose younger sister needed to be admitted to the hospital. Because the girls had lost their mother, the younger sister was very attached to her sibling and refused to go to the hospital unless her older sister could stay with her overnight.
Dr. Haynes said because of severe space limitations, the only way the older sister could stay at the hospital was if she was admitted as a patient. So she called up Dr. Haynes at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night begging him to find a reason to admit her.
“She had some back problems before and was so desperate to be with her little sister I told her I would do it,” said Dr. Haynes. “I really don’t know why I did.”
The move turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the older sister developed a sudden respiratory problem that night which required immediate medical attention. Had she not already been at the hospital, Dr. Haynes says she would have died.
“You wonder how things like that could possibly happen if it wasn’t for a superior being,” said Dr. Haynes.
In an interesting sidenote, Dr. Haynes’ 35-year career as a physician almost never materialized. He majored in electrical engineering in college and found a job in his field after graduation working for South Central Bell in Memphis.
However, Dr. Haynes said he found that line of work uninspiring and unfulfilling. It didn’t take long for him to decide change was in order and he was admitted to medical school in Memphis.
Dr. Haynes says he hasn’t mapped out his retirement itinerary just yet. At 67, he’s fortunate to be in good health and says he plans to stay in McMinnville. He says he may pursue teaching an anatomy class down the road.
The editors of Business Cheetah would like to take this time to thank Dr. Haynes for all he’s done for local patients and this community. He’s a champ and his professional contributions will be missed.
First National banking on growth
There’s big news at First National Bank of Middle Tennessee. Officials cut the ribbon on their second full-service branch in Murfreesboro on June 22, this location at 3427 Memorial Boulevard.
The new branch is First National Bank’s fourth location to open in Murfreesboro in the last six years. The bank currently has 12 offices in several counties where financial services are offered.
Levoy Knowles, First National board of director’s chairman, noted the bank first entered the Rutherford County market in 2007 with a two-person loan office and has now grown to 43 employees at four locations in Murfreesboro.
“If not for the acceptance of folks in Rutherford County, we couldn’t have done this,” Knowles said.
Pieter van Vuuren, president and CEO for First National Bank, emphasized the value of community banking to the national economy and locally.
“We all need a financial institution where you can get an answer. A place where you can speak to someone who can make a decision. A decision on a loan request, a decision on a CD interest rate or just sponsoring a youth baseball team,” van Vuuren said. “Without having his flexibility at a financial institution, we all just became a number in the big banking world.”
In addition to the new bank, van Vuuren has announced the promotion of Kelly Kell to banking officer/ branch manager at the McMinnville branch on Smithville Highway.
“Kelly has been an outstanding employee of the bank and has been responsible for several things throughout the time she has been at the bank. She has been at the Smithville Highway location for a few years now and has shown that she is very well equipped to be the leader of our team at this branch,” van Vuuren said.
Kell has been with First National Bank of Middle Tennessee for nine years. She began her career with First National in 2008 as a teller.
Upon receiving the promotion Kell said, “I feel very honored to have received this promotion. First National Bank of Middle Tennessee has provided many opportunities to grow in my career, that which I am thankful.”
That’s all folks
With Independence Day arriving on Tuesday, it’s sure to throw a wrench into my business gathering routine. So give me a hand and phone in tips at 473-2191.