St. Jude breaks ground on second Mt. Juliet Dream Home

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
St. Jude Dream Home sponsors and representatives share smiles during Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the second Dream Home in Mt. Juliet in the Jackson Hills subdivision.

Construction on the second St. Jude Dream Home in Mt. Juliet received its official kickoff Tuesday as program sponsors and representatives gathered in Mt. Juliet’s Jackson Hills subdivision.

Tickets for the home will be available in the spring, with the giveaway set for June.

The giveaway, which benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, will give people the chance to win several prizes, including a home valued at $450,000, by buying a $100 raffle ticket.

Only a limited amount of tickets will be available, and all proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit St. Jude and its mission to treat and defeat childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. 

This year’s program is possible because of several sponsors, including WZTV Fox 17, Signature Homes, the BIG 98, Two Rivers Ford, Ashley Homestore, Wilson Bank & Trust and national sponsors Brizo, Shaw Floors, Trane, Bosch and others.

The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway is one of the largest single-event fundraisers for St. Jude nationwide and has raised more than $383 million. All funds raised through the program will help ensure that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food.

Earlier this year, Alyssa Manfredi, of Hermitage, won a home in Mt. Juliet through the St. Jude Dream Home program.

“They said the house was in Mt. Juliet, and when we first moved from Pennsylvania three years ago, Mt. Juliet is where we really wanted to live,” Alyssa Manfredi said. “So I figured it would be good way to support St. Jude.”

For more information, visit

By Xavier Smith

Hypnotist opens business in Mt. Juliet

Gabriel Saunders does not make people cluck like chickens. He says hypnotism works only with the help of the person being hypnotized, so anyone that clucks like a chicken must first want to do it. 

Saunders recently opened Suggestive Lifestyle in Mt. Juliet and works as a consulting hypnotist. He says he can help people with personal development, weight management, smoking cessation and various ailments.

“There’s nothing I do that happens without your help,” Saunders said. “A consulting hypnotist is someone that consults you on a problem and will use hypnotism to try to alleviate or relieve a problem. I’m just a guide into your mind.”

According to the American Psychological Association, most clinicians agree that hypnosis can be a useful therapeutic technique. Though it’s portrayal in the entertainment industry colors it as little more than mind control, the practice today is commonly seen in the field of psychology as just another tool in the doctor’s bag.

“People differ in the degree to which they respond to hypnosis,” reads the APA’s website. “A person’s ability to experience hypnosis can be inhibited by fears and concerns arising from some common misconceptions. Hypnosis makes it easier for people to experience suggestions, but it does not force them to have these experiences.”

The roots of hypnosis trace back to sleep temples in ancient Egypt during the time of Imhotep. Someone with an ailment would visit the sleep temple of Imhotep, do a bit of ritual chanting, maybe take some herbs and go to sleep in the hopes that their dreams would bring them healing. Greeks also adapted sleep temples to their culture, but the practice faded from the pages of history until a man by the name of Franz Anton Mesmer popularized it again in the 18th century.

Mesmer practiced a pseudoscience that used magnets as conductors of the healer’s energy to miraculously cure patients. Many patients flocked to Mesmer in the 1780s for his showmanship, and although most saw him as a fraud by the end of his life, he caused ripples in the field of psychophysiological studies that led to further studies of “animal magnetism” and the practice of mesmerizing patients.

Mesmerists broke off into basically two camps that can still be seen today, those that believe in psychic phenomena and those that merely use the technique for therapy. A man by the name of James Braid changed the name to hypnotism sometime in the 19th century and referred to the processed strictly as a matter of suggestion. In 1959, the American Medical Association officially approved hypnosis as a therapeutic tool.

Saunders found his way into the practice of hypnotism after a 10-minute session helped him quit smoking.

“I smoked cigarettes for 20 years. I went to sleep for 10 minutes, woke up and I’ve never touched them again. No withdrawls. No cravings. It’s like I’ve never done it,” Saunders said.

After this experience, he decided to get training to practice hypnotism in order to share it with others. He went through 100 hours of training, both being hypnotized and practicing hypnotism on others.

He and his wife are both Christians, and he says he doesn’t use hypnotism for exploration of past lives or anything that he can’t prove.   

Saunders said what happens in a session with him is much like meditation but a deeper state of focus.

“You’re mind, the subconscious, is unlimited,” Saunders said. “Every habit we have has a positive intention. Your subconscious knows what you’re supposed to be doing, but no one ever told the younger you that started doing [the bad habit] that it wasn’t right.”

By Sinclaire Sparkman

Local church sends Christmas gift to all homes, businesses in city

Joy Church plans to send a Christmas gift in December to every household and business in Mt. Juliet.      

Each household will receive a free copy of the book, “Winning With Wisdom,” written by Jim Frease and published by Joy Church.

Frease, the senior pastor at Joy Church, shared why Joy Church sent the book to everyone in the community.

“I recently heard a statistic that more people take their lives during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas than all the other months of the year combined. When I heard that statistic, it really touched my heart,” Frease said. “We did not want anyone to fall through the cracks this Christmas. As a church, we wanted to give this book, ‘Winning With Wisdom,’ to every home and business in Mt. Juliet as a means of showing God’s love during this time.”

“Winning With Wisdom” is a compilation of many of the encouraging life principles taught at Joy Church. The book was printed locally and will be distributed to more than 22,700 Mt. Juliet home and business addresses by the U.S. Postal Service starting this week.

Joy Church International is a nondenominational church at 10085 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet. Joy Church was founded in Mt. Juliet in 2003 with 18 members and has grown to more than 1,800 in attendance each weekend during three services. Weekend service times are Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. Mid-week services and RealJoy youth ministry services are Wednesdays at 7 p.m. For more information, contact the church office at 615-773-5252 or visit 

Staff Reports

Hobby Lobby, Nothing Bundt Cakes coming to Mt. Juliet

Businesses continue their migration to Wilson County as Hobby Lobby and Nothing Bundt Cakes have announced plans to move to Mt. Juliet, according to Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin.

Martin announced the businesses in an update on the city, distributed Wednesday morning.

Nothing Bundt Cakes will occupy the former Ace Hardware Store on N. Mt. Juliet Road, according to Martin. Nothing Bundt Cakes, which specializes in hand-decorated cakes, has a few locations in Middle Tennessee, including Hendersonville, Murfreesboro and Nashville.

Hobby Lobby will go in the former Gander Mountain building on Belinda Parkway in the Providence Marketplace area. Ashley Furniture HomeStore recently opened in the former H.H. Gregg building, also on Belinda Parkway.

Martin also announced census takers would begin door-to-door surveying Dec. 2 for the city’s special census.

Responding online, by phone or mailer will keep a census taker from coming to a resident’s home. To respond, visit, call 615-773-6298 or return a mailer in a postage-paid envelope.

Mt. Juliet currently receives state-shared tax dollars based on the population from the city’s special census in 2015, which revealed a population of 28,159, almost 4,000 more residents than the 2010 census showed.

Mt. Juliet leaders said the city has experienced tremendous growth since the 2015 census, and the next federal census is not scheduled until 2020. Leaders said additional income from the special census could help the city improve roads, parks, greenways, sidewalks, public safety, public works and recruit new industrial and retail businesses.

Information needed to complete the census are address and the first and last name of everyone living in a household, including any person who lives away from home such as college students or military personnel.

Information collected will be kept confidential and only used by the city for the special census. Information will not be shared, sold, rented or given to any other entity or business.

Forms will be sent in the mail to residents who do not complete their census information online.

Completed forms may also be returned to Mt. Juliet City Hall sewer billing department at 2425 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

For more information, email or call 615-773-6298.

By Xavier Smith

Local nonprofit to take fundraising to new heights

The Keith Edmonds Foundation, well known in Wilson County for its mission to assist and empower victims of child abuse, chose Giving Tuesday to take its fundraising efforts to new heights.

Keith Edmonds, child abuse survivor and director of the foundation, will don a Batman suit and spend the day atop the roof at Active Life Chiropractic on Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet.

Edmonds’ wife, Kelly, came up with the idea after she was advised to raise money, extreme and urgent needs should be made known.

“This will make it fun and get the attention of more people,” she said.

Those who know Edmonds well know he is extremely sensitive to cold temperatures and were surprised he agreed to spend an entire day in late November on a rooftop. 

“We need money to continue our mission,” he said. “I’m willing to do anything for these kids, even if it means being on a roof in a Batman suit.”

Batman will toss breakfast sandwiches down to those who come between 5-8 a.m.  Active Life Chiropractic joined the effort with plans to serve coffee, hot chocolate and a “gift of health,” a free first visit valued at $200 to anyone who makes a donation to the Keith Edmonds Foundation.

Edmonds hopes to raise at least $3,000 by the time he comes back down to earth at 5 p.m.

Giving Tuesday is a day of giving celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. It kicks off the charitable season when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

Staff Reports

Empower Me receives another big donation


Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Empower Me executive director Michelle Hill is pictured with Debbie Melvin, of Mt. Juliet.

Empower Me recently announced another donation from a Dream Launcher, a person or business that has contributed $100,000 or more to help Empower Me’s effort to build the Empower Me Center on South Hartmann Drive.

Empower Me received the $100,000 gift from Debbie Melvin, of Mt. Juliet.

“We are so grateful to Debbie and her family for this incredible gift. She is a true angel who has blessed our organization with her generosity,” said Empower Me executive director Michelle Hill. “She has not only made this generous donation, but her company, Re-Max Exceptional Properties, is the event sponsor for the sold-out Friday’s Dice and Dreams Singer Songwriters Round and Casino Night and has also sponsored other fundraising events for our organization.”

“When I visited Empower Me Day Camp and met Michelle Hill for the first time, my life changed. I knew right then I had to do my part and somehow help to make a difference. We visited at the end of the day when the parents were picking up their children, and everyone was so happy,” Melvin said.

“I remember thinking, it’s as much about giving the parents a few hours of time for themselves to do whatever they need or want to do, as it is about these precious children laughing, playing, forming bonds and having fun. Thank God there are people like Michelle Hill and this awesome new facility for Empower Me that will, for sure, change many lives. I am so honored to get to be a part of this wonderful organization. My prayer is that the Empower Me Center is blessed with the donations that they need to make this a state-of-the-art facility for these children to grow and develop.”

“We cannot thank Debbie enough for her contribution and for being a conduit to making the dreams of our participating individuals with disabilities and their families come true,” Hill said.

Empower Me has raised more than $2 million through cash contributions and in-kind gifts toward phase one of its campaign. It recently paid cash and bought 25.45 acres of land on South Hartmann Drive. Phase one includes the land purchase, building two cottages to operate programs and building a splash pad and adaptive playground.

Empower Me currently seeks people who might be able to help with sewer access to the property and perform necessary site work. Mandatory state and local approvals for sewer can take up to six months.

Empower Me’s goal is to hold its annual Fall Sports Festival on the property in 2018 as its first official year-round event.

The Empower Me Center will eventually consist of a community recreational building, a recreational sports complex and independent living cottages, all geared to meet the unique needs of individuals with a variety of disabilities. The building will allow Empower Me to increase their enrollment fourfold during the summer, have year-round recreational programs for adults and offer education classes and courses to health care and education professionals, as well as individuals in the community.

The recreational sports complex will consist of a splash pad, playground, Miracle League Baseball Field, soccer fields, the Garden of Dreams with outdoor musical instruments and an outdoor covered sports court. Year-round recreational sport leagues will be offered.

There will also be 16 cottages for independent living once the main building is built.

For more information about Empower Me, or how to get involved, visit

Empower Me also seeks individuals to serve on committees in 2018.

Staff Reports

City manager gives update on Ace Hardware building

Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin gave an update on what will go in the former Ace Hardware building Friday morning at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce.

According to Martin, the owner unexpectedly closed all six of his stores in the Mt. Juliet area, and the city has since tried to find a replacement.

Martin gave an update Friday morning on where the city was in the process.

“We’ve got two tenants that are in the lease negotiation stage,” said Martin. “One for 10,000 square feet, and the other for 3,000. What’s exciting about that is they’ll renovate the building, and they’ll have to put a new store front on it.”

Martin wouldn’t reveal what businesses were looking at leasing the building, but he hoped an announcement would be made soon.

By Jacob Smith

Wilson County 911 Board talks renovation in work session

Jacob Smith • Mt. Juliet News
The Wilson County 911 Board held a work session Monday to discuss potential contractors for the renovation of its current building.

The Wilson County 911 Board discussed the proposals it received for architectural services for remodeling and renovation of the building at 1611 W. Main St. in Lebanon during a Monday work session.

The renovation in question is for potential co-location of emergency communications and dispatching by additional agencies. Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, Mt. Juliet Police Department and Lebanon Police Department have all expressed interest in co-location.

The board is looking into the possibility of renovating its current building to make enough space to co-locate there.

The board received four proposals from companies that included background information, qualifications, experience and other information.

While a decision won’t formally be made until next week’s board meeting, there was much discussion about what the next step in the process would be. Of particular interest was the cost.

“The only thing I’m trying to do here is stay inside the money,” said former Wilson County sheriff and board vice chairman Terry Ashe. “Let’s see what we can do in our building. If we get in here and it’s jammed up really tight, then maybe we can get some help with the expansion project.”

The board won’t make a decision on how to go forward with the project until its monthly meeting Monday.

“I would hope that on Monday we can come in here with all hearts and minds clear and say, ‘Here’s who we are interested in; let’s now send to them our grocery list,’” said board chairman David Hale. “We need to find out how much it’s going to cost, and if we’re not satisfied with their contract they send us, we can always look somewhere else.”

By Jacob Smith

Kroger plans grand re-opening of Mt. Juliet store

Kroger will celebrate the grand re-opening of its 4120 N. Mt. Juliet Road store Wednesday at 7 a.m. in Mt. Juliet. 

A special ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. The public is invited to attend. The store has undergone a significant remodel over the last several months.     

“We are very excited about the re-grand opening,” said Brent Jones, store manager. “The customers have been very patient during this remodel process, and I think they will be pleased with what we now have to offer them.”

Features of the newly remodeled store include a remodeled deli that now includes fresh sushi and a hot soup bar, fresh produce, meat and seafood, new shelving and cases, new checkout stations, additional self-checkout units, new décor throughout the store, new flooring, and a new store front. The store also has a great selection of wine.    

The pharmacy area at the store was also remodeled. Customers receive 50 fuel points for every qualifying prescription, and with every flu shot given, Kroger will donate a meal to Feeding America.

The grand opening celebration will continue for a couple of weeks. On Wednesday, the first 300 customers will receive coupons for free breakfast items. The free items include orange juice, sausage, a dozen eggs and English muffins. Drawings for $300 Kroger gift cards will also take place Wednesday at 8 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.  Customers must be present to win.

During the ribbon cutting ceremony at 9 a.m., Kroger will recognize Mid-Cumberland Meals on Wheels. The organization serves Wilson County and surrounding areas with meals, outreach, nutrition education and supportive services for people 60 and older.

“One in seven Tennesseans struggle with hunger,” said Melissa Eads, corporate affairs manager for Kroger. Through our Zero Hunger Zero Waste plan, we are committed to reducing food going to waste and getting wholesome food to people who need it.”

W.A. Wright and West elementary schools will also be recognized during the event for their participation in Kroger Community Rewards. Both schools earned more than $2,000 in the past year through the program.

Staff Reports

Largest spec building in Middle Tennessee to be built in Wilson County

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
The artist’s rendering shows a small portion of what is expected to be one of the largest buildings in Middle Tennessee built in Wilson County. The Cedar Farms bulk industrial development will sit on 103 acres near the Couchville Pike and Interstate 840 interchange in Lebanon.

Commercial real estate developer and design builder Al. Neyer announced Wednesday construction would begin soon on Cedar Farms, a bulk industrial development in Wilson County and one of the largest speculative buildings built in Middle Tennessee.

The two speculative buildings, which will total more than 1.5 million square feet, will be positioned on 103 acres near the Couchville Pike and Interstate 840 interchange in Lebanon.

“It’s an extension of development out there,” said G.C. Hixon, executive director of Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board. “It will mean more jobs and additional economic growth. Hopefully this will lead to some commercial growth in that area. More than anything, it’s the confidence this company has in our area to build without a tenant in hand. We are doing about 1.5 million square feet of building a year for the past several years in Wilson County, so we’re really proud of that growth.”

The first phase will involve a 902,000-square-feet building that will be one of the largest speculative buildings built in the Nashville market.

“Al. Neyer aggressively pursued this deal because we wanted to take advantage of a national trend involving bulk tenants that need larger industrial buildings with outstanding proximity,” said Rob Gage, vice president of real estate development with Al. Neyer. “This prime location offers access to three interstates and 39 million people within 300 miles of Nashville known as the consumption zone for same-day and next-day delivery. We see the industrial tenants in the vicinity – Nissan, Apple, Amazon – and we know we can provide a similar user with a prime location and the scale of size e-commerce needs to grow its business.”

This project represents the second partnership between Al. Neyer and New York Life Real Estate Investors, which invested more than $51 billion in commercial real estate worldwide. The two firms are partners in developing Mallory Green, a 175,000-square-feet office building currently under construction in Franklin.

“Our firm is watching this market and its tremendous demand for industrial space,” said Kevin M. Smith, managing director with New York Life Real Estate Investors. “Nashville is a strong location for national and regional distribution centers, and Cedar Farms is a powerful opportunity to develop something that will compete in this tight market.”

Al. Neyer will also serve as the design builder for Cedar Farms and plans to make improvements to the site in preparation of construction. The firm will use the tilt-wall construction method and plans to include features like 36-feet clear height and LED lighting in 70-feet speed bays that will enhance a tenant’s distribution capabilities. Construction of phase I, which includes the 902,000-square feet speculative building and a second pad for up to a 600,000-square feet build-to-suit building, will begin in the next few weeks, with a completion date targeted for late 2018. Doug McDowell and Jeb Atkinson of ProVenture will represent Al. Neyer in leasing the project.

For nearly 125 years, Al. Neyer has offered a full-range of real estate development and design-build construction solutions for commercial clients. Established in 1894 and employee-owned since 2014, the company specializes in urban mixed-use developments and build-to-suit commercial spaces, including medical office buildings and industrial facilities. Al. Neyer is headquartered in Cincinnati, has offices in Pittsburgh and Nashville and serves a local, regional and national client base. For more information about the company, visit

Staff Reports

State economic director discusses office recruitment


A state economic development regional director joined the Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board recently to discuss the potential future of office space in Wilson County.

Clay Banks, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development regional director, said he believed Wilson County could see more office space development in the near future.

“We probably will start to see office come out this way with rental and real estate rates where they are in Davidson and Williamson counties. I think this is the next big location for those office buildings,” Banks said.

Banks said the office market is a herd mentality that could make its way east of Davidson County.

“All of the office projects have been in Davidson and Williamson counties. They all herd together, because they assume that’s where the workforce is. If you did a drive analysis of where people are coming in to those communities, you would see they’re coming from out here and places like Rutherford County and Spring Hill,” said Banks, who added the area would likely land existing businesses looking to expand.

Banks also discussed the influx of residents to the Middle Tennessee region. He said the area sees about 70-90 new residents a day.

“That’s everything from people with a guitar and a dream to somebody coming in for an executive position with a health care company or IT company and everything in between,” Banks said. “We really haven’t been able to identify where they’re going.”

By Xavier Smith

IndyCar driver gets back on track with special contact lenses

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves visits Dr. Brad Altman with Aprima: Consultants in Eye Health in Mt. Juliet last Wednesday to be fitted with his new OneFit MED scleral lenses.

IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves visited Dr. Brad Altman with Aprima: Consultants in Eye Health in Mt. Juliet last Wednesday to be fitted with his new OneFit MED scleral lenses.

Chaves, 24, who has keratoconus, has worn Onefit lenses since February and attributes the lenses with the best vision and eye comfort he has experienced in many years.

Chaves has had success with Onefit lenses thus far, having achieved better than 20-20 vision in both eyes, resulting in an unrestricted IndyCar license.

With the advanced Onefit scleral lens design – the Onefit MED – was released last month specifically for highly irregular and medically indicated corneas like in Chaves’ case. He was referred to Altman to be re-fit in the Onefit MED scleral lenses.

“The larger optical zone of the Onefit MED lens lends itself to greater peripheral views and even better lens stability, which will only benefit Chaves further in his racing career,” said Altman. “Onefit and Onefit MED scleral lenses are an excellent, game-changing option for all athletes who need vision correction that will enhance and not hinder their performance.”

After he was named rookie of the year in 2015, Chaves had problems with his vision deteriorating and was issued a restricted IndyCar license for the 2016 IndyCar season. He tried to make do with heavy prescription glasses and soft contact lenses, both of which were uncomfortable for him when driving.

Even with the glasses and soft contacts, he was still close to failing the yearly IndyCar eye exam for the 2017 season, and the IndyCar eye doctor expressed significant concerns.

So in February, Chaves found an eye care practitioner who performed a corneal cross-linking procedure and prescribed him with Onefit scleral lenses. Chaves went on to take ninth place in the Indianapolis 500 three months later, his best career finish in the Indianapolis 500.

“When driving at 240 miles per hour, the last thing you can afford to worry about is eye comfort or fluctuating vision,” said Chaves. “I am very grateful to Onefit scleral lenses for helping to get my career back on track.”

Chaves was born in Bogota, Columbia and raced under both the U.S. and Colombian flags.

Staff Reports

Nashville Soccer Club representative kicks it with Mt. Juliet Noon Rotary Club

Jacob Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Chris Jones, general manager of the Nashville Soccer Club’s community engagement and media partnerships team, spoke to the Mt. Juliet Noon Rotary Club recently about Nashville professional soccer.

“Professional soccer is here” is the message Chris Jones, general manager of community engagement and media partnerships for the Nashville Soccer Club, had for the Mt. Juliet Noon Rotary Club.

Jones spoke at the club’s weekly meeting recently about what the Nashville Soccer Club’s move to the United Soccer League means for the city.

Jones helped start the club in 2013 as the Nashville Football Club. The organization was totally amateur and none of the players or him were paid.

“There wasn’t a team here basically and I started one from scratch,” said Jones. “We went from Vista-print T-shirts as jerseys with iron-on numbers, playing in local tournaments that we couldn’t even win to theoretically at the end of the month, we could be on our way to having our own stadium and potentially [Major League Soccer] in four years.”

The USL team will start its season in 2018 playing games in the Nashville Sound’s First Tennessee Park, which will be totally converted into a soccer field for each of the team’s games.

“You’re probably wondering, how in the world do you play soccer in a baseball stadium? You get creative,” said Jones. “What we’re going to have to do is, where the mound is and where the infield is, every single time we play a home game, they’re going to knock that mound down, and they’re going to sod everywhere that there is dirt. Not a cheap undertaking, but because of how much we’ve invested into our coaching staff, our technical staff, and because of how much we’re going to invest in our players, it’s kind of like if you had a Lamborghini and then you put a four-cylinder in it. It doesn’t make much sense.”

The Major League Soccer organization took notice of Nashville’s soccer fan base during the summer when they city had the second largest attendance of the 12 European professional soccer games that were played in the U.S.

The only game that drew bigger attendance was in Miami between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Jones hopes that the large fan base can lead to the Nashville Soccer Club eventually moving up to the Major League Soccer organization, which is a step above the USL.

“We’ve got 30,000 kids in the mid-state alone that are registered to play the sport of soccer,” said Jones. “With the [Nashville Predators], they’ve done a phenomenal job, but when they showed up in Nashville, maybe one or two adult leagues were playing hockey. There were no high school teams like there are now. So, for us to come in, and right off the bat we have 30,000; to have that head start and to see what the Predators have become, if we can just follow their lead, we have no idea how high is high for this.”

For more information on the Nashville Soccer League and to keep up with the team’s roster, schedule and other information, visit

By Jacob Smith

Konnector Woodfire Grille opens in Mt. Juliet


Photo courtesy of Facebook
Konnector Woodfire Grille recently opened in Mt. Juliet at the same location as a former popular restaurant with a similar name

Konnector Woodfire Grille recently opened in Mt. Juliet at the same location as a former popular restaurant with a similar name.

The restaurant, owned and operated by Konnector Restaurant Group, is at 3950 N. Mt. Juliet Road, which formerly housed Woodfire Grille, which closed in July. The restaurant is next door to Houston’s Meat and Produce.

DeWayne Collier owns Konnector Restaurant Group and the company’s first restaurant, Konnector Hot Chicken, operates out of Rivergate Mall’s food court. The company also owns Konnector Restaurant and Lounge in Madison.

Konnector Grille in Mt. Juliet offers Nashville hot chicken and Southern-style cuisine in a family dining environment. The restaurant includes a private dining room that guests can reserve for meetings and other occasions.

The menu includes wings, deviled eggs, fish, salmon, shrimp, fried pickles, steak, pork chops, burgers, chicken and more.

The restaurant is open Sundays through Wednesdays from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and Thursdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

For more information, visit or call 615-754-5864.

By Xavier Smith

Southern Bank vice president honored as economic development volunteer of the year

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Pictured are Southern Bank of Tennessee vice president Phillip Smartt, Tennessee Economic Development Council volunteer of the year (left), and G.C. Hixson, Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board executive director.

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Economic Development Council recently recognized Phillip Smartt, vice president of Southern Bank of Tennessee, as the 2017 Jim Spradley Volunteer of the Year.

Smartt’s leadership efforts and success in economic development were honored in his award selection for the volunteer of the year award.

Smartt’s contributions were made from his position as the treasurer of both the executive committee and board of directors of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County. He’s held position since the agency began in 1989.

Between 2015-2016, Smartt impacted the economic environment of the community by leading in the funding and participating in the design and development of the agency’s professional recruitment initiative.

Serving as chairman of the Wilson County Industrial Development Board for more than 23 years, Smartt worked with legal counsel, elected officials and the JECDB staff to expand the community’s payment in-lieu-of taxes program. His work and support during the past year expanded the program to include additions and expansions to existing structures. The change provides an effective tool, which is used to service Wilson County’s existing employers.

Fulfilling his responsibilities as chairman of the Industrial Development Board of Wilson County, Smartt oversaw one of the most successful years of development in Wilson County history. His commitment to the community spans multiple fields as he has serviced both Mt. Juliet Regional Planning Committee and Mt. Juliet Land Use Committee for more than 18 years.

Smartt continuously contributes to the community through his membership of the Mt. Juliet-Wilson County YMCA board of directors and service in the Mt. Juliet Rotary Club as past president and current member of the board of directors. He has also served as a member of the board of directors and chairman of the Mt. Juliet-West Wilson Senior Citizens Center. Smartt served as president of the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce for the past three terms and was also a member of its board of directors.

“Phillip is committed to these causes not to get personal or professional gain, but instead to make the community he lives in a better place,” said G.C. Hixson, executive director of Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County. “He gives to others without reserve or hesitation.”

The TEDC is a statewide professional organization for those involved in economic development. The Jim Spradley Volunteer of the Year Award was established in 1977. Recipients of the award must be nominated by TEDC members and selected by a committee of past presidents of TEDC from the field of nominees. Smartt’s accomplishments were recognized at the TEDC annual fall conference in Memphis.

Staff Reports

Unemployment rate drops in all Tennessee counties

Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced Thursday unemployment rates decreased last month in all 95 counties and significantly dropped in many rural counties, which often have the highest unemployment rates in the state.

The county figures were released one week after the state posted an August statewide unemployment rate of 3.3 percent – the lowest in recorded history.

“To see a decrease in each and every county across Tennessee is quite an accomplishment and a sign of our state’s financial strength,” Haslam said. “Our historic low unemployment rate is a reflection of Tennessee’s policies – we’re a low tax state that encourages business investment, and we don’t have a lot of debt, which allows businesses to thrive and create jobs.”

This is the third time in 2017 in which county unemployment rates decreased statewide. The rates also dropped in all 95 counties in February and April.

“What’s most impressive is how much the unemployment rate has dropped in our rural areas – several counties have seen a nearly three percent decrease over the last 12 months,” Phillips said.

Wilson County’s unemployment rate in August was 2.9, a 0.4 percent decrease from July and June. In August 2016, the county’s unemployment rate was 4 percent.

Davidson and Williamson counties boasted the lowest unemployment rates with 2.7 percent, followed by Wilson, Rutherford, Sevier and Sumner counties with 2.9 percent unemployment rates.

Wilson County’s rate in August represented 2,000 unemployed workers compared to a 69,350-person workforce and does not include those who did not file with the labor department or no longer receive benefits.

Lebanon’s rate for August decreased to 3.3 percent, a 0.4 percent drop from July. The city’s rate represented 470 unemployed workers compared to a 14,470-person labor force. 

Mt. Juliet’s rate for August landed at 2.8 percent, a 0.2 percent decrease from July. The rate represented 480 unemployed workers compared to a 17,280-person work force.

The unemployment rate for Nashville-Murfreesboro metropolitan area, which includes Wilson County, decreased to 2.9 percent, a 0.4 percent drop from July. The rate represented 28,840 unemployed workers compared to a just more than one million-person workforce.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate for August shrunk 0.1 percent from July and landed at 3.3 percent. The statewide rate represented 103,300 jobless workers compared to a 3.15-million-person workforce.

The national unemployment rate for August was 4.4 percent, a 0.1 percent increase from July. The national rate represents more than 7.1 million unemployed workers compared to a workforce of about 160 million people.

By Xavier Smith

Southern Bank of Tennessee breaks ground on new main office in Mt. Juliet

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Officials broke ground recently on Southern Bank of Tennessee’s new main office in Mt. Juliet. The project is expected to be complete by next fall.

Mt. Juliet-based Southern Bank of Tennessee celebrated the groundbreaking of its new main office recently. 

The 24,000-square-feet office building will be built at the corner of Rutland Road and North Mt. Juliet Road. Uniquely, Southern Bank of Tennessee is the only local community bank headquartered in Mt. Juliet, and the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce awarded it the 2016 business of the year. 

“We’re truly thankful to be headquartered in such wonderful community, and we appreciate the cooperation we’ve received from local officials throughout the entire planning and design process,” said Southern Bank CEO David Major. “We continue to believe Mt. Juliet has a lot of potential in the future, and this building will hopefully showcase where we are going as a bank and a community.”

Southern Bank also has offices in Lebanon, Smyrna and Clinton. Southern Bank has focused on delivering a community bank with an accessible management team, relatable staff and a dedication to supporting the community. It specializes in business and consumer banking and also has a dedicated mortgage team at its current location at 1499 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

Additionally, Edwards Porter Mattes Wealth Management anticipates a move into the new building, rounding out a full complement of financial services, all available in one location. Edwards Porter Mattes Wealth Management is a local financial advisory firm at 1400 N. Mt. Juliet Road. It offers a wide range of products and services, including retirement planning, investments and insurance. 

Construction is expected to be complete in fall 2018.    

The Hall Group based in Lebanon designed the project. The site will feature a landscaped public plaza at the setting of the former farmhouse in honor of the site’s history. Guests will enter the building through Mt Juliet’s first revolving door entry.  Once inside, customers will be welcomed by a host of amenities such as a two-story customer lobby and lounge filled with northern light, offering a coffee bar, WiFi and charging stations.

“We are excited to deliver value to our client through sustainable evocative user-centric architecture,” said architect Jeff Hall. “Excellence in design is not only a responsibility to our clients and the Mt Juliet community, it has also allowed us to use the programmatic opportunities of this project to put Southern Bank of Tennessee on the map.”

The balance of the lower floor will be filled with glass front offices, biometric accessed lock boxes, conference rooms, training areas, mortgage services, loan officers, executive suite and support spaces. 

On the second floor, accessed by both a grand staircase and elevator, guests will be able to discover the outdoor roof garden, boardroom, break room, investments, insurance, finance and loan departments.

Sustainable features include LED solar sensing lighting, ultra-low flow plumbing fixtures, recycle stations and materials usage, low VOC and locally sourced materials, hi-efficiency elevator, revolving entry door, roof garden, daylighting and views, electrical tinting argon filled glazing, highly reflective roofing, bicycle storage and locker room, city-multi HVAC design and more.

Staff Reports

Two Tennessee State Fair champion hams sell for $9,500

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Following the FFA Ham Breakfast at the Tennessee State Fair, TSFA chairman John Rose, Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton, president for Tennessee Farm Bureau Jeff Aiken, CEO and president for Farm Credit Mid-America Bill Johnson, FFA state president Julia Knaggs, and CEO for F&M Bank and ham auctioneer Sammy Stuard (seated) gathered for a photo marking the event with representatives of both Farm Credit Mid-America and the Tennessee Farm Bureau.

Two prize-winning country hams, including one from Mt. Juliet, were sold at auction Monday for $9,500 at the third annual Future Farmers of America-sponsored Ham Breakfast at the Tennessee State Fair.

The state’s seven announced gubernatorial candidates got much of the attention at the $30-per-plate event attended by an audience of about 600 community, business and political leaders.

For the first time since announcing, all seven candidates, including five Republicans and two Democrats, appeared on stage together to answer questions from FFA members on topics that included agriculture, education and the economy.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to make an opening statement, answer questions presented by FFA members and make closing comments.

Republican candidates attending included former state Sen. Mae Beavers, House Speaker Beth Harwell, 6th District Congresswoman Diane Black, former state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and Nashville businessman Bill Lee. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh were the two announced Democrats in attendance.

Farm Credit Mid-America bought the first State Fair champion ham auctioned, a trim-style ham placed in the fair’s annual ham competition by Kody Kimbrough, of Pulaski, for $5,000, while the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, out bid others to buy the second ham, a packing-house trim-style ham cured by Scott Dabbs, of Mt. Juliet, for $4,500.

Both champion hams came from family curing operations with a tradition of winning the country ham competition at the Tennessee State Fair.

Kimbrough is the grandson of Betsa and David Bolden, of Lynnville, champion ham winners last year. Dabbs is the son-in-law of Ed Rice Jr., owner of Rice Country Hams in Mt. Juliet. Rice and his late father have won the State Fair ham competition multiple times in the past several decades.

Proceeds from the sale of the hams and from tickets sold for the breakfast will be contributed to the FFA Foundation to help fund a number of programs that serve the organization’s youth membership, according to event organizer Chelsea Rose, Tennessee FFA Foundation executive director.

John Rose, who chairs the Tennessee State Fair Association board, a volunteer nonprofit organization responsible for producing the State Fair annually, said the FFA breakfast provides a “unique opportunity to showcase our state’s most talented youth to many of the state’s most prominent business and community leaders and, in the case of this year’s event, our next governor.”

“We are so pleased to help support the Future Farmers of America with the ham breakfast, and we are particularly proud of what the FFA and its members contribute to our state and nation,” Rose said.

The Tennessee State Fair, held annually in Nashville at the Nashville Fairgrounds on Wedgewood Avenue, opened Sept. 8 for a 10-day run and closed Sunday. For more information about the State Fair, visit

Staff Reports

Batch and Bushel Farmers Market officially opens

Jacob Smith • Mt. Juliet News
The Batch and Bushel Farmers Market held its grand opening Thursday where local vendors sold their products to the community.

The Batch and Bushel Farmers Market had its grand opening Thursday afternoon at the Wilson County Expo Center in Lebanon.

Vendors from across Wilson County set up booths to sell their food and crafts.

The weekly Batch and Bushel Farmers Market is a new event to the Wilson County Expo Center. A showcase was held in January to introduce Wilson County residents to local self-sustaining products and services.

“Every major community has a successful farmers market, and there’s no reason, with such agricultural history, that the county can’t support one,” said Wilson County Expo Center marketing director Charity Toombs.

The market will be held each Thursday until Oct. 19 from 4-7 p.m.

“We were hoping that this would answer every question for families,” said Toombs. “They can come and shop local; they can grab something to eat. There’s some activities for the kids, and at the same time, they’re shaking the hands of the farmers and getting to know local businesses.”

By Jacob Smith

Vol State representatives talk mechatronics at Mt. Juliet chamber

Jacob Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Tim Dean with Volunteer State Community College speaks to the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning about the school’s mechatronics program.

Representatives with Volunteer State Community College spoke Friday morning at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce’s community development meeting about the school’s mechatronics program.

Jerry Faulkner, president of Vol State, spoke about the college’s wishes to build a campus in Wilson County.

“We’re continuing our quest for a location for Vol State in Wilson County,” said Faulkner. “Mt. Juliet was our preference to start with, but the state architect and state building commission says we need to broaden our search area, so we’ll be looking at all of Wilson County for a possible location.”

Faulkner then introduced Tim Dean from the mechatronics department at the college’s Cookeville campus.

According to Dean, the program was started to meet a need within the state for manufacturing positions.

Mechatronics is the blending of engineering fields, including mechanical, controls, electronic and computer engineering, to automate manufacturing, distribution and complex services through multiple industries.

Local manufacturers and industries hire graduates of the program to repair and maintain robotics and computer-aided equipment.

“It’s a lot of stuff that has to be done in industry,” said Dean. “All kinds of stuff. Anywhere you run into automation, this is what we’re dealing with.”

The program uses a work-based learning course to make sure students are ready for the workforce. With the course, the students work for local manufacturers, doing the job they would do as a full-time employee.

“The goal for work-based learning is to put students, before they finish the program, in industry with someone who’s willing to be a mentor for them,” said Dean. “This is almost a no risk for the industry. We’re not telling you that you have to employ them for the entire semester. We’re hoping you do. We’re hoping it works out, but you’re the driver in that.”

According to Dean, the students in the mechatronics program had a lot of success finding jobs with local companies like Nissan and Old Navy.

“Most of the times that I’ve dealt with any type of internship program like that, the student ends up getting a full-time job with the company,” said Dean. “We often can’t place students fast enough.”

At the end of the presentation, Faulkner talked briefly again about the plans to come to Wilson County.

“We are actively seeking a location in Wilson County,” said Faulkner. “Our timeline is as soon as we can.”

By Jacob Smith