Stories Written by Dennis Seid
By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – By this time next week, the old Kilgore’s Supermarket will be just a memory.
The store, which first opened in the early 1970s, will reopen with a new name and a new way of doing business.
Kilgore’s was bought by Food Giant last year for an undisclosed sum, and in January, its new owners began a renovation of the South Gloster Street store.
After closing Saturday night, it will reopen on Aug. 6 as a CashSaver store.
“Our major supplier, Associated Wholesale Grocery, has several CashSaver stores, and we have some stores modeled after them in the same way,” said Food Giant district manager David Holcomb. “But this will be our first CashSaver in Mississippi.”
Essentially, Kilgore’s has been renovated from top to bottom, it has been expanded in the back of the store, and new equipment, fixtures and lighting have been added throughout the building
“It’s been gutted,” said store manager Enoch Smith.
A new floor has yet to be placed, and other minor work needs to be done in the interior, including new signs. Much of the work over the next week will be done at night.
The store has stayed open throughout the renovation, a herculean task, Holcomb said.
As for the new business model, CashSaver’s is simple: The prices on everything in the store are shown at cost – the store’s expense it takes to buy it and ship it – plus 10 percent that’s added at the register.
For example, an item with a $2 price on the shelf will cost $2.20 when its rung up by a cashier.
Smithey said the business model applies to everything in the store.
“What it does is bring down costs across all categories. Some categories have had larger markups applied at other stores, but that won’t be the case here,” he said.
Overall costs, based on the business model, should be lower for customers. It’s about generating volume, and Holcomb said, “It levels the playing field.”
The weekly sales won’t disappear entirely, Holcomb added.
“We’ll still have featured items, but the everyday low prices will be there week in, week out,” he said.
The savings are generated by volume, and with Food Giant’s size and buying power, working with its suppliers, it’s able to pass those savings on to consumers.
The lower its costs, the more customers can save.
With lower costs overall, that means the new CashSaver should bring in more shoppers like Jettie Shell, who said she’s been shopping at the store for “a very long time.”
She likes the new look of the store, although she admits she’s had to get used to where some items have moved.
She’s heard about the switch to the new format and is glad her favorite store has gone through the makeover.
“It’s clean and beautiful,” she said, “and I’m going to keep coming here. I’m excited about the news.”
On Facebook last week there was a post reminiscing the good old days when Tupelo had a water park of some kind.
Tupelo natives – of which I am not – talked about Grady’s having a water slide, miniature golf course and go-cart track back in the day.
So, fans commented, why not have something like that again?
Indeed, why not?
Tupelo does have a fantastic new aquatic center. And there’s a splash pad nearby, all in Veterans Park.
The popularity of water parks has waxed and waned over the years, and they’re typically built and experienced in big tourist spots like Orlando.
An exception to that would be Geyser Falls in Philadelphia – Mississippi, not Pennsylvania. Splash Adventure in Birmingham is nearby as well.
In Vicksburg back in the early 1980s was Cannonball Park. It had two winding water slides – with actual cannons near the top of the slides – going down a hill on Frontage Road. It had a snack bar and video games, of course.
One problem though: The slides were made of cement. Not the smooth fiberglass that was much more forgiving. I’m convinced that one reason Cannonball Park closed was because of the bumps and bruises that escaped few, if any, park-goers.
I’m pretty sure I still have a few scars and permanent knots from many trips to the Cannonball Park.
In the Jackson area, however, were two huge, massively popular (at least for a few years) water parks – Waterland USA and Rapids on the Reservoir. They co-existed for a few years: Rapids opened in 1984 and closed seven years ago; Waterland operated from 1987 to 1995.
Rapids was home to the first gutterless wave pool in the U.S. Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
Now if you’ve been to places like Wet ‘N’ Wild in Orlando or Aquatica at SeaWorld … well, don’t ever expect anything like that around here.
Building a water park isn’t cheap. Neither is operating and maintaining one. Imagine the insurance costs associated with having one.
There would have to be a strong enough market for one to succeed in Tupelo or anywhere in Northeast Mississippi. The number of people to support one is probably sufficient, but how affordable would a Tupelo water park be for attendees?
Here’s a sampling of other prices: Geyser Falls is $35 for folks 48 inches and higher; $25 or those under 48 inches. Add $5 each on Saturday.
Children 3 and under are free. Splash Adventure is $30 for 18 to 54 year olds, $20 for children 3 to 6, and $25 for youth 7 to 17 and seniors 55 and older. Toddlers are free.
Both places offer season passes as well.
Are those prices reasonable enough for folks in Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi who would flock to a water park?
That, of course, depends on what features are available at the park.
So now it’s time to find a developer – or several – willing to bankroll the project.
But please, no concrete slides.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or email@example.com.
BURNSVILLE – The Brazilian company financing the bulk of the Mississippi Silicon plant said a “desperate” lawsuit by a competitor will not derail its efforts.
Rima Industrial S/A is being sued in federal court by Ohio-based Globe Metallurgical Inc.
The 39-page complaint alleges “a series of criminal and otherwise unlawful actions” against Brazilian-based Rima Industrial and Birmingham-based Polymet Alloys and alleges that proceeds from that criminal conduct are being used in part to construct the $200 million Mississippi Silicon plant.
“This lawsuit is the latest in a series of desperate efforts by Globe Specialty Metals to stop or disrupt the Mississippi Silicon project, hence stifling competition in the U.S. market,” Rima Industrial and Polymet Alloys said in a joint response to the suit.
Though some other U.S. manufacturers make silicon metal for their own use, Globe Metallurgical Inc.’s four U.S. plants are the only domestic producers for a commercial market. It is a unit of Miami-based Globe Specialty Metals.
“Globe is currently the only independent silicon metal producer in the U.S. with plants averaging 40 years plus in age and a less than favorable reputation within the industry,” the companies said. “These efforts show very clearly how concerned Globe is with Mississippi Silicon, which will be the most modern and competitive silicon metal plant in the world while offering the U.S. consumers another domestic source of silicon metal and a friendly service.”
The state is providing $21.5 million for building construction and workforce training, as well as a $3.5 million loan to Tishomingo County for infrastructure improvements.
The plant, expected to open next year, will employ 200 workers.
Rima Holdings USA Inc. owns 80 percent of Mississippi Silicon and is an affiliate of Rima Industrial SA. The other 20 percent is owned by Clean Tech I LLC, a domestic investor group led by John Correnti, who led the effort to build what is now the Severstal steel mill in Columbus.
Globe’s lawsuit seeks not only to halt construction of Mississippi Silicon, but also to receive monetary damages.
The targets of its lawsuit said it will continue building the Burnsville plant.
“Rima Industrial SA and Polymet Alloys Inc. will properly address in court all these false accusations made by Globe,” the companies said. “We are continuing with the construction of Mississippi Silicon without delay and in the end, fair competition will prevail.”
By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Back-to-school and back-to-college spending this year is expected to ring up nearly $75 billion in sales, even as shoppers look for deals and take advantage of sales tax holidays.
Back-to-school spending trails only the Christmas holiday as far as overall spending goes.
Mississippi’s fifth annual sales tax break – mostly for clothes and shoes costing $100 or less – began Friday and ends at midnight tonight.
Some stores opened earlier on Friday and stayed opened later. They’ll do so again today.
Among the back-to-school shoppers on Friday was Daniele Perkins, who was looking for shoes for a second-grader and fifth-grader.
“They’ve both grown some over the summer, especially my fifth-grader, and we go through shoes pretty fast,” she said. “So getting a break here or there helps.
After stopping at a couple of shoe stores at The Mall at Barnes Crossing, they found what they were looking for as far as shoes were concerned. The next challenge was buying clothes.
“We’ll be here awhile, I’m sure,” Perkins said.
Across town at Shoe Country, Annaleise Carroll was looking for the right fit for a pair of Chaco sandals.
A 30 percent off offer on top of the sales tax break on the shoes appealed to her mother, Stacy.
Those additional discounts make the tax-free shopping weekend appealing to everybody, said Mall at Barnes Crossing Marketing Director Cindy Childs.
“We’ve got people who are leaving with shopping bags in their hands – they’re out here buying and taking advantage of those savings,” she said.
Retailers across the city are bracing for what promises to be a hectic shopping day today, and Childs said she expects business to be brisk even after the sales tax holiday.
She said the weekends leading up to this weekend have been busy, and expects the next couple of weeks will stay that way as teachers and students return to school.
“We’re getting shoes and clothes today, then we’re getting school supplies off the lists,” Perkins said. “I’m sure they’ll get back to school and they’ll have more stuff they’ll have to get. It always happens.”
TUPELO – Krispy Kreme doughnut lovers who have had to settle for the pre-boxed treats at area grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations may be buying them fresh soon.
A new retail center on West Main Street in Tupelo has been proposed by a Columbus developer, and anchoring the nearly 12,000-square-foot site is a Krispy Kreme.
The doughnut shop with its iconic red flashing “Hot Now” sign would occupy a 3,500-square-foot space, while the rest of the center is divided into five 1,680-square-foot spaces.
The retail center isn’t a done deal, as the plans are preliminary at this point.
However, the developer’s plan will be reviewed by the city’s Planning Commission next month. The board can make a recommendation on the project after the review.
The next step would be getting the necessary permits and approvals from the Development Services department.
The proposed site of the retail center would occupy acreage southwest of the corner of West Main Street and Lakeview Drive. The former Children’s House Montessori School sits on the site now, along with a few other buildings.
The nearest Krispy Kreme store to Tupelo is in Columbus. That store opened almost two years ago.
Krispy Kreme, founded in 1937 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has more than 850 stores worldwide.
A representative for the company has not returned a call for comment.
By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Bruce Patel was named the Mississippi Small Business Person of the Year earlier this year, and was officially recognized Thursday at an awards ceremony at the BancorpSouth Conference Center.
“This is very humbling and greatly appreciated,” he said.
The owner of Fusion Hospitality in Tupelo, Patel has helped build a company with hotels across the state. The company also has properties in several other states.
Some say Patel developed his entrepreneurial spirit at an early age when his family moved from England to Alabama in 1990. His father owned a hotel, where Bruce and his brother Barry Patel learned the operations.
But, Patel said, that spark actually began earlier when he and Barry were kids.
“We used to charge kids to enter our backyard,” he said with a laugh. The Patel brothers converted an old cart to swing their friends around the yard.
Thus bloomed the seeds of entrepreneurship.
David Rumbarger, president and CEO of the Community Development Foundation, said business leaders like Patel stand out.
“Nothing ever is given to them. … every entrepreneur takes a little risk – he’s taken his share – and with risks often come great rewards. He’s put together a great team.”
Indeed, Patel said the key to building any successful business is customer satisfaction and having a “solid team” to lead the company.
“I’ve surrounded myself with an empowered team,” he said.
Patel’s first hotel was the former Quality Inn – also known as the Executive Inn – on McCullough Boulevard in 2003. He bought it with family help, renovated it, then sold it four years later.
“That was my first shot at owning a hotel, my first shot at the American dream,” he said.
Since then, Fusion Hospitality has built or acquired seven hotels in Mississippi and four more are in various stages of construction.
“Only in America, only in Tupelo, Mississippi,” Patel said after accepting his award.
A dream that was sparked in a backyard in England so many years ago has become reality. But there’s more to come, Patel promised.
“That dream has been realized,” he said. “I now what the difference is between dreams and goals . … and the best is yet to come.”
The other 2014 Mississippi SBA Small Business Awards winners who were recognized Thursday:
• Young Entrepreneur: Marissa C. Simms, owner of Royal Bleau Boutique, Jackson.
• Women in Business Champion: Tania C. Bayne, owner of Shanti Yoga and Counseling, Gulfport
• Veteran Small Business Champion: Fred Boykin, chairman of Military Veterans Association, Gulfport
• Financial Services: Regina Austin, FDIC Community Affairs Specialist, Jackson.
By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – It took more than six years, countless visits, traffic pattern studies and plenty of discussion, but west Tupelo finally is getting a large grocery store of its own.
Iuka-based Brooks Grocery will open a 27,000-square-foot supermarket next spring in the densely populated and fast-growing area of the All-America City.
City officials joined representatives of Brooks Grocery and the Community Development Foundation to break ground on the project Thursday.
The store, to be located on a 3.5-acre parcel at the intersection of Coley Road and West Jackson Street Extended, is a multimillion-dollar project that will employ 65-75 people, said owner Brooks Davis.
“We looked at several sites, but ultimately this is where the traffic and where the rooftops are with proximity to several subdivisions,” he said. “Plus we have a stoplight, and with the furniture market next door, it was the ideal location for us,” he said.
Davis first looked at building a store in the area off McCullough Boulevard, and the deal came very close to happening. But during those discussions, a grocery store in Iuka went on sale.
Davis, whose family has a deep background in the grocery business, bought that store, renovated it and the first Brooks Grocery opened.
The Tupelo store will be the company’s “flagship” location, he said.
The stone, brick and glass store also will include a 3,000-square-foot AT&T-authorized retailer, plus it has an additional 6,000 square feet of space that will be marketed to restaurants, other retailers and other service providers.
Along with fresh produce and fruit as well as a meat and seafood market, Brooks Grocery in Tupelo will have a deli and bakery. Davis said a pharmacy or floral shop also are options.
Developer V.M. Cleveland, the owner of Cleveland Properties and owner and chairman of the Tupelo Furniture Market, said additional acreage next to the grocery store could be used for future development.
“I think with the opening of the Northern Loop, we’ll see more traffic and development here, and we’re poised to be a part of that,” he said.
Davis said the Tupelo store will mirror the Iuka store in its “cleanliness, friendliness and service.”
He also said the store would buy locally as much as possible and offer organic options as well.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton, who’s familiar with the Iuka store, said the Tupelo location was “ideal.”
“It’s a great store and it will have a tremendous impact,” he said.
A little more than a week before schools reopen, retailers and shoppers are gearing up for the fifth annual back-to-school sales tax holiday.
Mississippi’s sales tax holiday starts Friday at 12:01 a.m. and ends Saturday at midnight.
The sales tax break will help shoppers on clothing and shoes that are priced less than $100 each. Qualified items include clothes, coats and shoes that aren’t for special activities.
School supplies, book bags, most accessories and computers aren’t included in the annual tax holiday.
In Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana, those items are included in their tax holidays.
“There will be huge crowds as usual taking advantage of the tax holiday,” said Jeff Snyder, general manager of The Mall at Barnes Crossing, “but I’d like to see more items that are exempt so that we can better compete with Alabama and Tennessee.”
The mall is extending its hours on both days, staying open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.
While individual items can’t cost more than $100 each to qualify for the tax break, shoppers have no limits on how much they can spend.
Cindy Childs, the mall’s marketing director, said shoppers also will find additional bargains this weekend.
“A lot of retailers have great promotions going on, so shoppers might get 40 percent, 50 percent or more off items, on top of the sales tax break,” she said.
For families with kids going back to school, the savings add up.
“We’ve got two kids, but by the time you buy their school supplies and the new clothes and shoes they need, every little discount helps,” said Bart Crayton.
Accessories like barrettes and backpacks are not eligible for the sales tax holiday. However, ties, tights, belts and veils do qualify. Raincoats and rain hats are tax-exempt, but overshoes and galoshes are not.
Most sport-specific equipment – such as pads, cleats, gloves, goggles, swim fins and helmets that are used only on the field – are not eligible for the tax holiday. However some items like baseball and football jerseys, caps, tennis skirts, swimsuits and work uniforms are covered.
But not everyone is prepared to battle with the crowds this weekend.
Terri Cook did her back-to-school shopping earlier this week, and said she’ll wait until the rush is over before hitting the stores again.
“If you wait until Friday or Saturday it’s like shopping on Black Friday,” she said. “Once a year is enough for me.”
Michaela Gibson Morris contributed to this report.
• A complete list of eligible and ineligible items for the sales tax holiday is available from the Mississippi Department of Revenue website at www.tax.ms.gov.
By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Bringing jobs back to the United States, also known as reshoring, makes economic sense for many companies.
And the advantages emerge not only from an expense perspective.
“According to a recent study, 78 percent of U.S. consumers in 2012 viewed ‘made in America’ products favorably, compared to 59 percent in 2010,” said Joe Jordan with InnovateMEP Mississippi.
Jordan also pointed to another study that showed 76 percent of U.S. consumers are more likely to buy a U.S.-made product, while 57 percent are less likely to buy a product made in China.
The free two-day reshoring conference at the Itawamba Community College Belden campus wraps up today.
Several business leaders gathered at the workshop on Wednesday to talk about reshoring and its many advantages.
“We want to find local sourcing and reverse the trend of producing things overseas and bringing things back to Mississippi,” said Clay Walden, director of Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension, one of the sponsors of the event. “We’re seeing more companies rethink their offshoring decisions, for many reasons. For example, the hidden costs of quality problems – those are some of the issues that end up making more sense to produce things in the U.S.”
A three-year grant to Mississippi Make It In America (MMIIA) hopes to create or save 750 jobs and make an economic impact of $40 million in the Magnolia State.
“We don’t have a cap on it though,” Walden said, “If we can do more, we want more.”
The idea of bringing jobs back to Mississippi isn’t new, but the movement has found some inertia in the furniture industry in recent years. Northeast Mississippi in particular has a strong furniture manufacturing presence, with nearly 40,000 direct and indirect jobs tied to the industry.
Jim Sneed, CEO of Affordable Furniture in Houlka, said his company has tried to keep as many jobs as possible in the state.
“I think we (the furniture industry) is realizing a lot of the jobs – cut-and-sew operations for one – have gone to China and we’d like to get them back for more than one reason,” he said. “It’s a lot more convenient for us, we have more control. Also, we’ve been too quick to jump on the first price that’s given. It’s absolutely not.”
Cut-and-sew workers are whose who, as the name implies, cut and sew the different patterns from the various fabrics used on upholstered furniture.
Sneed said using overseas labor adds cost to inventory, warehousing and delivery, among several factors.
“All of us were caught up in the value we thought we were getting, and in some instances there was value,” he said. “But I don’t think we’ve really gotten a true cost of going overseas.”
The MMIIA program has 84 teams that can go across the state to work with companies and determine if reshoring will help their business.
“It’s not for everyone, but we want to explore those opportunities that are available,” Walden said.
By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – The Barnes Crossing area off North Gloster Street is a retailing mecca, with more than 3 million square feet of commercial real estate encompassing nine major shopping centers, dozens of restaurants and more than 200 retailers and restaurants.
But, business owners insist, the area still has room to grow.
On Tuesday, many of them met to discuss the creation of the Barnes Crossing Business District.
“We’ve been talking about this for years, but we’ve been so busy building our businesses that we didn’t get around it until now,” said Jeff Snyder, the general manager at the 821,000-square-foot Mall at Barnes Crossing, the anchor of the area.
The mall, and Mitchell Scruggs, the owner of Scruggs Farm, Lawn & Garden and Home Improvement Warehouse, are the chief organizers of the group.
“We’re one of the last ones to form a district, when we really should’ve been one of the first,” Snyder said.
The city has long had the Downtown Main Street Association, a South Gloster Business Association has met intermittently over the years and last year, the Midtown District was formed.
After the April 28 tornado, businesses along the North Gloster Street stretch between McCullough Boulevard and North Green Street/Lakeshire Drive decided to create a North Gloster Business District.
Like the other districts, the newly formed Barnes Crossing Business District is being organized so that members can network and communicate with each other, as well as with other businesses in the city.
The ultimate goal, said Scruggs, is to work together to bring more businesses – and customers – to the Barnes Crossing Business District.
“We’ve got to get better organized, pool our resources, have better communication and bring more people to the area who will spend more money,” he said.
The mall is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year, and Snyder said it has been an economic driver for the city and region. Citing figures from the Community Development Foundation, Snyder said since its opening in 1990, the mall has helped generate more than $6 billion in retail sales and more than $200 million in retail sales taxes to the city.
“If we continue to do well, we’ll continue to help the city grow and help the region grow,” he said.
“This is not the mall’s business district, this is a district for everybody in the area,” he added.
The district roughly covers the area north of U.S. Highway 78 to the city limits, west to Mount Vernon Road and east to Big Oaks Golf Club. “We want to complement and work with the other businesses, too, like we already do.”
Mud Creek Festival
In another move to bring more visitors to the area, the new district will roll out the inaugural Mud Creek Festival on Father’s Day weekend.
Pat Rasberry of the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau said the name presents a wide range of opportunities for organizers.
“This will be your event that’s unique and like nothing else,” she told the group.
The festival will have events going on at various sites, and Snyder said the grassy area next to the pond by the mall – now called Mud Creek Lake – would be an ideal spot for some event.
Among some of the event possibilities of the Mud Creek Festival would be a carnival, music acts, a run or bike race and some educational elements to let people know about the history of the area.
“We don’t want to be a rubber stamp of some other festival, we want to make it our own,” Snyder said.
“We’re looking at a bunch of ideas, which is why we want as many businesses as we can to get involved,” he said
Said Scruggs, “People want a family friendly place to go, and the Barnes Crossing Business District has something for everyone. … a festival is a no-brainer, and I think it will bring more people to the area, and that helps everybody.”