• Atlanta Northcutt

Some Good News Finally Begins to Bloom in Warren County Businesses

Updated: Apr 22

By James Clark - Editor at Southern Standard newspaper

Italian Ice; Hot Commodity

Dale’s Italian Ice and it’s set to open this Monday at Plaza Shopping Center. It’s located in the back corner not far from the longtime spot for Stewart’s Plaza Pharmacy. Dale Gardner is the owner.

“Whenever I sell something, I sell the very best I can,” said Dale. “You can’t get an Italian ice like I sell anywhere else in this town. I cook all my own flavors and make them extra stout. Where most places use 1 ounce of concentrate per quart, I use 1.5 ounces and that makes a big difference. I’ve sold these for the past two years at the flea market in Woodbury and they sell like crazy.”

If you’re wondering how Dale is allowed to open during these COVID-19 times, he said he’s been in contact with the health inspector and was told he can operate as long as he doesn’t allow more than three or four people inside the store at once. When coronavirus restrictions are lifted, Dale has seating for 16.

In addition to Italian ice, there’s also movie theater-style popcorn, which is incredibly tempting when a fresh batch is popped. The entire store has a light, buttery aroma.

Dale also sells jumbo soft pretzels and says he will be adding a deep-fried hotdog served on a steamed roll in the near future. He says the hotdog is scrumptious.

Dale has lived in this area for 10 years after moving here from Pennsylvania.

“There’s not one thing about Tennessee I don’t love,” said Dale, who told an interesting story about how he bought his 6-acre property in the Green Hill area.

“I was on the computer and I saw seven pictures of a place between McMinnville and Smithville. It was beautiful. I showed my wife and told her I was going to pack my bag and see if for myself. When I got here, I loved it. I’ve always wanted a little lake and now I’ve got one. It has a floating dock and is 12-feet deep at its deepest spot.”

In an interesting combination, Dale is also selling the supplement kratom at his store. It sells for $7 an ounce and if you buy two you get one free as part of my grand opening special. I can’t sell I product I don’t believe in and kratom is something that’s worked for me. Everybody talks about CDB and I tried CBD for six months and it didn’t do anything for me so I’m not going to sell it. Kratom has helped me sleep, helped with my anxiety and helped with body aches and pain.”

Dale’s Italian Ice will be open seven days a week. Hours are Monday thru Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. The phone number is (931) 349-0409.

Tractor Supply Now Hiring

It’s one thing to hire a few employees. It’s another to launch the largest hiring initiative in company history.

That’s what Tractor Supply has done as the company is looking to fill more than 5,000 positions for full-time and part-time workers. I wasn’t given specific details about how many positions are available at our McMinnville store, but I was told hiring is company-wide for a variety of job opportunities.

At a time when businesses are closing and workforces are shrinking, hopefully on only a temporary basis, Tractor Supply has jobs available. To apply, visit www.TractorSupply.jobs.

With an inventory of essential, needs-based products, Tractor Supply is remaining open during the pandemic. It’s providing a $2 per hour appreciation bonus to all frontline hourly employees through May 9.

Tractor Supply also announced 100% coverage of COVID-19 medical treatment under the company’s medical plan.

Said Tractor Supply president and CEO Hal Lawton, “This week, in all stores, we will add a dedicated greeter and roll out contactless curbside pickup with dedicated parking for Buy Online, Pickup In Store. We also will complete our nationwide rollout of Buy Online Same Day/ Next Day Delivery. We are continuing to implement numerous measures to promote social distancing in our stores and rapidly provide personal protective equipment to team members. I can’t thank the Tractor Supply team enough for all they have accomplished in the last few weeks. I am incredibly proud of how they have responded to take care of each other and serve our customers.”

The new door greeter is charged with informing customers about the need for social distancing inside the store and to also keep a count of the number of customers so the building doesn’t get too full.

As of March 28, Tractor Supply operated 1,863 stores in 49 states.

Bridgestone to Restart

In what’s great news for the local workforce, and yet-to-be determined news for slowing the spread of COVID-19, Bridgestone is set to resume operations this week after a three-week shutdown.

Folks are getting back to work so that’s promising. I hope everyone stays healthy.

Unemployment Still Soaring

I reported on the front page of this newspaper how the Tennessee unemployment rate soared more than 3,000% during a two-week stretch from March 14 to March 28.

Upon further review, unemployment is still rising. The number of new statewide unemployment claims for the week ending April 4 was 112,438, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor.

In comparison, this represents a modest unemployment increase of 18.9% from the week before. During normal times, that figure would be jaw-dropping. But on the heels of a more than 3,000% increase, they seem strangely encouraging.

Tourism Takes a Nose Dive

With the governor telling people to stay at home unless they’re conducting essential business, it’s not exactly the environment for people to book a room for a weekend in Nashville.

It’s been a trying time for Cumberland Caverns, one of Warren County’s largest tourist attractions with some 50,000 visitors per year. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has shut down the cave just as it was gaining real momentum.

“We just had the best February that Cumberland Caverns has ever had and it looked to be a really good year,” said general manager Travis Young. “This time of year we’re especially busy with school tours and other big-time events and we’ve lost money we won’t get back even with some rescheduling.”

Travis said cave officials are awaiting word on whether they can restart tours this Tuesday. If given the green light, Travis said they will be ready to go.

“We’d adhere to social distancing guidelines as much as possible,” he said. “People have to stay somewhat together as a group and stay close enough to where they can hear the tour guide.”

Cave tours are obviously a large part of the business, but the Cumberland Caverns Live concert series is also a popular draw. Travis said the hope was to have 24 concerts this year, but that’s a goal that will not be reached. He said they are now looking to August as the first time to resume concerts, provided the pandemic has subsided.

“We’re trying to reschedule six shows and offering refunds for people who can’t make the new dates,” said Travis.

The tourism industry in general has been throttled by the lack of travel. According to Stratos Jet Charters, a data compilation company based in Orlando, Fla., 94% of tourism businesses have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

I don’t know where this company found the 6% that weren’t negatively affected, but whatever. The company also said 9% of tourism businesses have shut down as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Results are from a survey of 886 travel and tourism businesses.

In another key finding, 34% of respondents say it will take 6-12 months to recover, while 16% think it will take 1-2 years.

Glancing around the region, it’s easy to see the lost revenue accumulate. Jack Daniel’s Distillery is a huge tourism draw in the Lynchburg area, but it’s been close for tours since March 16. A date for tours to resume has not been set.

It should be noted Jack Daniel’s is doing its part during the pandemic. The company is now making hand sanitizer which it is distributing free of charge to local healthcare facilities and emergency medical providers.

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