Business Pulse – What a long, strange trip it’s been

I wrote my first Business Pulse column in November 1999. To use a quote from the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

I’ve rested on this perch and watched some major developments take place during my watch at the Business Desk, which has a few more ketchup stains than when I arrived.

There’s been some unfortunate news along the way. Carrier closed and so did Stewart’s Plaza Pharmacy. The old City Drug burned in the heart of Main Street and two downtown retail icons left our landscape forever – Warren County Furniture and Fraley’s Furniture.

Kmart shut down and so did JC Penney. We also said goodbye to Mary’s Greenhouse, but those are just the sad brush strokes.

More importantly, there’s been fabulous news. The Farmers Market got its own pavilion. Lowe’s came to town. We now have a wonderful Zaxby’s and Dollar General has taken over the county with 14 locations. There really is one near you, unless you live on Rattlesnake Road.

There’s a brand new Hampton Inn across from the hospital and Bridgestone just announced plans to add 380 new jobs. In a bit of comforting familiarity, Prater’s BBQ is like your favorite recliner, still there for your enjoyment and cooking up great food in Morrison.

At the risk of sounding like a T-shirt, life is good.

BIGGEST POSITIVE

DEVELOPMENT

Without a doubt, the revitalization of Main Street McMinnville over the past 23 years has been a joy to cover.

Folks may not remember, but there was a time not too long ago when many buildings on Main Street were decorated with plywood on their front windows.

Capalano’s was one of the first major renovation projects. Then came New York Grill and Topz. Now there’s Collins River BBQ, Park Theater, Begonias, The Hitch, and Evelyn Taylor Avenue.

Our downtown area is a charming attraction and a thriving part of our local economy. Much of that is thanks to the courage of city officials who launched Phase 1 of a $5.2 million Main Street revitalization project on Aug. 16, 2004.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

It’s really startling to me in this age of mega development that nothing has happened at the 30-acre field on the bypass and Spring Street.

I’ve watched as bulldozers cleared that property of trees and overgrowth in a matter of days, even working over Labor Day weekend as if a deadline had to be met. But nothing happened.

I’ve even seen a developer’s sketch, which I published in the paper, of how a proposed shopping center there would be designed. But nothing happened.

The land seems to sit there now as quietly as a TV on mute. Will anything come?

BIGGEST BUST

They’re both in the same building and I’m not sure which is the bigger disappointment.

Bojangles lasted 2 years and 10 months before going out of business. Grandey’s lasted six months in a rare combination of poor service and bad food.

Runner up – LiteWire, the company which was supposed to bring 125 jobs to the Blue Building and never showed up.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE

Affordable housing seems like a fairytale in Warren County and really for all America. I don’t see how young couples, or young single adults just starting out can afford homes that are all north of $200,000. It’s out of reach for most.

So maybe they can rent a quality apartment at a good price? That’s a punchline too.

Kids fresh out of college or brand new to the workforce are finding real problems when it comes to housing prices. They reached the stratosphere too fast.

BRIDGESTONE

A TRUE GEM

I’ll put the trip down Memory Lane in park because there’s current business news to report. Our top headline in Friday’s edition was Bridgestone’s announcement on Thursday of a $550 million expansion that will add a projected 380 jobs to our Warren County plant.

When it comes to manufacturing pay in this area, Bridgestone has always raised a tall sail. Adding 380 more high-paying jobs to our economy is going to be a game-changing difference.

This is by far the biggest news of 2022, perhaps the biggest business story of this century. It may be an expansion, but adding 850,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 380 jobs is like landing another major industry that pays extremely well.

Industrial Development Board executive director Don Alexander phrased it well when he said, “This plant could have gone anywhere in the world and they picked Warren County.”

LET THERE BE

CHICKEN Broasters

There’s now great-tasting chicken at the Marathon Station at 306 Beersheba Street next to NAPA.

Store owner Jay Patel and his wife Dhrashti have brought in Broaster chicken, a brand known far and wide. Broaster chicken is so tasty, Jay says people drive across town to scarf it down.

“We make it fresh all day long and it’s very tender and juicy chicken,” said Jay. “We started selling it on Tuesday and our customers love it. I’ve had people tell me it’s hard to find chicken this good.”

Jay says they start cooking breakfast at 5 am with an assortment of chicken, biscuits, tenderloin and gravy. They make the shift to lunch items around 10 am and the fried chicken offerings include all the way up to a family meal with sides like potato wedges and macaroni and cheese. The menu includes chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, and chicken boxes of all sizes commensurate to your appetite.

When I stopped by Friday, the store was full of customers just waiting to buy Broaster chicken. For anyone wondering how great it tastes, Jay says give it a try.

New restaurant

In Mt. Leo

Trends & Treasures Diner has opened in the Mt. Leo Shopping Center next to Homeland Community Bank. Its first day was last Sunday and owners Wilson and Leslie Martin are ready to serve delicious food.

“Our main ingredient is love and by that I mean we care about our food and how it’s prepared,” said Wilson. “We have a nice, clean place and on Sundays we want to make you feel like you’re walking into your own home with cornbread, collard greens, pork chops and things like that.”

Hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken wings and chicken tenders are always on the menu, but Wilson thinks customers will really come back for the delicious daily specials.

“On Saturday, we have BBQ ribs that are made with a special recipe sauce that came from my granddad,” said Wilson. “It’s his own homemade sauce.”

The BBQ ribs are served with cole slaw and baked beans.

There’s a kids menu that includes hamburger sliders, grilled cheese and a corndog. The daily specials include tacos on Tuesday and fish on Friday. Sunday is always home cooking with a meat and two sides.

“We have good prices and we’re just trying to make an honest living,” said Wilson. “This has been our first week of business and we’re working hard to get our name out there.”

The diner is located at 811 Beersheba Street and there are even shirts and hats up front if you’re interested in some apparel. “It’s like a pinch of Cracker Barrel,” said Wilson.

Hours are 4 to 8 pm Monday thru Friday, 8 am to 6 pm on Saturday, and 8 am to 4 pm on Sunday. The phone number is (931) 414-4424.

That’s Really

All Folks

Thanks for reading!

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