Destruction is making its way to the business section this week as two of the top stories pertain to ruination.
Our beloved Hardee’s restaurant is now gone, wiped off the map Monday by heavy machinery. While demolition had been planned for months, it still looks odd to round that corner and not see the comforting sight of Hardee’s with its arms open wide. For folks like me, I’ve never known a time when Hardee’s was not standing in that spot.
As for the other destruction of the week, it was not expected and is quite unfortunate. Fire erupted at Rafael’s Italian Restaurant at lunchtime on Wednesday, leaving the popular restaurant closed for the time being.
When I stopped by Friday to survey the damage and see about a possible reopening date, I was told repair work is taking place at a feverish pace.
“We want to get back open soon, soon, soon,” said Martin Macias, who is the owner’s son. “It didn’t do any damage to the kitchen at all and it’s not too bad what happened in the dining room.”
Most of the damage I saw was mainly from ceiling tile that had come crashing down due to water being sprayed into the attic by firefighters. Soggy ceiling tile was all over the floor and covered some tables. There were also plates of food still on tables in various stages of consumption.
“We were pretty busy for lunch when it happened,” said Martin. “Our first thought was to get everyone out.”
Everybody escaped and there were no injuries. There’s no way to project a reopening date at this time, but look for Rafael’s to be back up and running in the coming weeks.
Dena Upton puts on the ritz
The Cat’s Meow will be purring to a different beat as WCHS teacher Dena Upton is taking over the business long operated by Ellen Hankal. It will remain at its same location at 206 Sparta Street, but the name will change to Upton’s Bridal and Formal Boutique.
“This is a great business because everybody who comes in here is happy,” said Dena, who is keeping her job as a chemistry teacher.
Ellen started the business some 10 years ago as a thrift shop. She’s been selling exclusively new items for the past four years and the shop has flourished as a place to buy wedding and prom dresses. Ellen is now 62 and says she is ready to run a 100-yard dash into the realm of retirement.
“I’ve talked about selling it for months and this is something that just fell into place,” said Ellen. “Dena came in delivering fair applications and she asked me about the store. I told her she could still buy it if she wanted to and it went from there. She’s got the right contacts and she’s in the pageant circuit so I know she will do a good job with it and that’s something I wanted. I wanted someone who could take it and make it grow even more.”
Dena took her first dip in the pageant pool when her daughters became active, and successful. Pageant fans will remember her daughter Katelyn Lawrence as the 2012 Fairest of the Fair. Kelsey Lawrence was also a star on the pageant stage as she competed with the Miss America organization and was a darling.
“They got me into this in the first place so it’s their fault,” Dena said with a laugh. “One thing I’m going to do is I’m going to expand our line of pageant dresses. We have an awful lot of pageant girls in this town and I want to give them a place to buy locally if they like. I’ll have the same brands here that they can get out of town so we’re hoping to capture a little bit bigger piece of the pageant pie.”
Dena said she will have pageant dresses for all ages, even small girls competing as young as 7 years old. She will also continue to offer an extensive line of wedding dresses and prom dresses.
“Prom is definitely the busiest season,” said Dena. “Weddings are not so seasonal.”
Ellen says selling the business to Dena is a positive development and she’s happy such a qualified buyer emerged.
“This store has been very successful and I’m delighted to pass it along to someone who cares,” said Ellen. “She really cares about the girls and she’ll do a great job. I’m ready for retirement. I have six dogs and too many hobbies so I have more than enough to keep me busy.”
Ellen and her husband Stan own the building and they will lease the formal wear portion to Dena. Stan will continue to operate his plumbing and electric business in the other part of the building. He is not retiring.
Upton’s Bridal and Formal Boutique is open Tuesday thru Saturday. The phone number remains unchanged, 474-6369.
Upstart company experiences woe
It was in August 2013 when the Industrial Development Board proudly proclaimed a company called Simpkins Energy was relocating to McMinnville with plans to hire 30 employees. Here at the Standard, we heralded the news on the front page of our newspaper.
Unfortunately, I am disappointed to report business hasn’t turned out so well for Simpkins Energy, which is owned by Kent Simpkins. The company is months behind on its lease payments to the Industrial Development Board and board members voted Thursday to begin the legal work to remove Simpkins Energy from its building at 107 Magness Drive.
“He knows he’s behind and he told me he’d like nothing more than to write a check to get up to date, but he just can’t do it,” said Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander. “He asked me if he can have till November.”
The request to extend the grace period for Kent didn’t provide a moment of happiness for IDB members.
“Unless he wants to pay, he needs to vacate,” said Joe Pugh.
Added Jeff Golden, “My experience with this is it gets worse and worse. Does he have any good prospects?”
Don told the board that Simpkins reportedly has a few things in the works, but nothing appears to have glowing potential.
“It seemed like such a promising venture,” said IDB member Sandra Haynes.
The Simpkins Energy focus was to take vehicles that run on gasoline or diesel and convert them to run on compressed natural gas. The benefit of this move is it will, in theory, provide a cost savings over time because compressed natural gas is cheaper. However, there’s a significant up-front cost in converting the vehicles and savings will mainly be achieved if you convert a fleet of vehicles, like all the buses in the Warren County School System, for example.
“His business relies totally on the oil industry,” said Don. “When oil is over $100 a barrel, there’s a huge savings with compressed natural gas. Even when it’s down to $60 a barrel, there’s still savings. The problem is oil is down to $42 a barrel today and he is really struggling.”
To accommodate Simpkins and his move to McMinnville, the IDB purchased a 15,000-square-foot building for him at 107 Magness Drive. In turn, Simpkins Energy signed a 15-year lease agreement.
The IDB vote Thursday is essentially a vote to begin the eviction process to get Simpkins Energy out of the building.
“This is a building we need to get on the market,” said IDB president Tommy Foster.
Since the IDB is a government agency, tax records don’t show what the IDB paid for the building when it took ownership on Sept. 13, 2013. The previous owner paid $275,000 when he bought it on March 3, 2003.
It’s safe to say the IDB owes a little loot on this building and is anxious to get Simpkins Energy out and a paying tenant in. Kent is a great guy and I wish him the best, but at this moment it doesn’t appear his company is going to make it in McMinnville.
A new spot for Family Care
It was several months ago when I told you Theresa Hill had purchased the building at 306 North Chancery Street as a new location for her business, Family Care Clinic. I’m now pleased to report renovations have been completed and Family Care Clinic is operational at its new facility.
“A big addition is we now do X-rays here,” said Theresa, who is a family nurse practitioner. “We have a total of nine exams rooms and we’re really excited about the new building.”
Theresa is joined by family nurse practitioner Whitney Blankenship and therapist Charity McMackins, who provides counseling services. Charity can work with medication management for adults suffering from depression or anxiety and she also works with children. They are welcoming new patients and have picked up a number of patients in recent years as their primary care provider due to the lack of doctors in this area.
Theresa said they picked up several young patients when Dr. Regina Reuter closed her practice here and they’ve been getting a few more since Dr. Michael Questell left in July.
Theresa says they provide a full offering of vaccines, even to uninsured children. Flu shots will be available in the fall.
Family Care Clinic is celebrating more than five years in business, first opening Feb. 15, 2011 at Northgate Center.
“We loved our spot and we couldn’t have asked for a better place to start,” said Theresa. “The main improvement we have left to do here is with our parking lot. We want to improve the back so our employees can park there and that will leave the front open for our customers.”
Family Care Clinic is open Monday thru Saturday and can be reached at 474-4700. Theresa says family nurse practitioner Julie Cantrell Carr will be joining the practice in November.
Sullivan’s to expand
With Family Care Clinic leaving Northgate Center, the logical question is what will move into its spot. I have the answer as Sullivan’s Hometown Pharmacy is planning to expand.
“We need more room,” said pharmacy owner Don Sullivan, who said he’s received a number of new customers with the closing of Stewart Pharmacy. Don is also in the process of getting a robot for his pharmacy.
“Pharmacy automation is a growing thing,” said Don. “The robot has 200 cells and you load them with medication. It will fill the bottle, attach a label, and even put on the top.”
That’s all folks
Enjoy your weekend and the therapeutic hands of relaxation.