WilCo Sparks of Kindness to Stuff the Bus

The Leadership Wilson Kindness Team plans to begin its second phase of the kindness mission, Stuff the Bus.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash, Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty and Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings recently declared May 8 as Kindness Day throughout Wilson County, and WilCo Sparks of Kindness reached more than 11,000 people and had more than 4,000 post engagements since that time. 

Wilson County residents will continue to spark kindness with donations of food items for the summer backpack programs. 

“There are hundreds of students who face food insecurity and hunger in the summer when they do not have access to school meals. This program provides food that the students can eat with little to no prep,” said Betty Williams, a Leadership Wilson member. The Stuff The Bus program is designed to gather food and distribute it to qualified students who attend Lebanon Special School District and Wilson County Schools.”

CedarStone Bank’s Lebanon and Mt Juliet locations are drop-off points for food items to Stuff the Bus during Kindness Day on May 8. 

“We are so excited to be a part of this great kindness revolution in Wilson County,” said Bob McDonald, president of CedarStone Bank. “What better way to be kind than to make sure our students have access to food this summer. We look forward to seeing our community rise up once again to demonstrate great kindness.”

Foods items needed include pop-top ravioli and spaghetti, individual macaroni and cheese bowls and packets, beef jerky, cheese and crackers, chips, individual cookie packets, breakfast bars, Pop Tarts, fruit snacks, juice bars or similar items. 

“These are items we have found work best for our students,” Williams said. “Both school systems want to make sure children have food for the summer. Help us meet our goal. Prior to May 8, take your donation to CedarStone Bank. If you want to be part of the big celebration day, bring your food items to Don Fox Park on May 8, where we will literally stuff the bus.”

To join the kindness revolution, visit WilCo Sparks of Kindness on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

LifeWay to close all 170 stores across the US this year

By Mike Pare

Chattanooga Times Free Press

NASHVILLE (TNS) – Nashville-based publisher LifeWay Christian Resources, the largest Christian retail chain in America, plans to close all its 170 brick-and-mortar stores across the country this year.

In Wilson County, the Mt. Juliet store at Providence will close by year’s end, according to LifeWay.

LifeWay acting president and CEO Brad Waggoner said last Wednesday the entity is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare it for the future and allow it to better serve customers.

“LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business,” he said. “Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth.”

Bob Munce, president of the Christian Retail Association in Largo, Florida, said the planned closing of all of LifeWay’s stores “comes as a bit of of a shock in the industry.”

“I didn’t know it was as tough as it was for them,” he said. “They’re wonderful stores. Everybody wished this didn’t happen and they’d stay in business.”

In January, LifeWay announced it would reduce the number of its retail locations due to declining customer traffic and sales. LifeWay said last week the Hamilton Place store would close for the last time May 31.

“While we had hoped to keep some stores open, current market projections show this is no longer a viable option,” Waggoner said.

He said the decision to close its local stores is a difficult one.

“LifeWay has developed close connections with the communities where our stores are located, and we have been honored to serve those communities. We will continue serving local congregations as they meet the spiritual needs of their neighbors,” Waggoner said.

The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. But, LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year.

Munce said many Christian bookstores and retailers are impacted by online sales just as secular businesses have been with the growth of Amazon and other e-commerce book sellers.

“All brick-and-mortar retail is under pressure,” he said, adding there’s not a decline in the interest in Christian publications and literature. “It’s a change in the way people buy things.”

Munce said the chains seemed to have struggled more than the independent retailers.

He said he’s optimistic Christian bookstores will rebound, as such retailers expand their offerings to inspirational gifts and other items. He said Bible sales at such stores are doing “extremely well.”

“It has gotten stronger rather than weaker,” Munce said, as buyers seek out expert advice to find the right Bible for them.

Lifeway, in operation since 1891, offers a comprehensive selection of Bibles, books, Scripture reference tools, Bible studies, children’s products, Christian music and movies, gifts and church supplies.

“LifeWay has been serving the church for 128 years, and we will continue to grow our ministry to churches and individuals into the future,” Waggoner said. LifeWay distributes resources in 164 nations and licenses resources in more than 60 languages.

As part of the organization’s strategy, LifeWay has introduced a number of digital resources including online Bible studies, worship planning, live streaming of events and online training opportunities.

In one month, LifeWay said it interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores.

Encore Theatre to present ‘Bedtime Stories’

The Encore Theatre Co. production of “Bedtime Stories (As Told by Our Dad)(Who Messed Them Up)” by Ed Monk will take the stage this weekend.

Directed by Erica Jo Lloyd, the show will open Friday and runs weekends through April 14. Friday and Saturday shows will start at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees will start at 2:30 p.m. Doors will open 30 minutes before show time.

It’s dad’s turn to tell his three rambunctious children their bedtime stories, but when he gets fuzzy on the details, the classics get creative. A prince with a snoring problem spices up “The Princess and The Pea,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” cries dinosaur instead, and “Rumpelstiltskin” helps turn all that pesky gold into straw. The fairy tales may be well known but not the way dad tells them.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $13 for youth and seniors. For tickets, visit ticketsnashville.com. To reserve seats and pay at the door, call 615-598-8950.

Encore Theatre Co. is at 6978 Lebanon Road, just west of State Rout 109, in Mt. Juliet. For information on auditions and upcoming productions, visit encore-theatre-company.org.

“Bedtime Stories” is produced by a special arrangement with Playscripts Inc.

Mt. Juliet chamber hears about autonomous vehicles, traffic

By Matt Masters


The Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce held its March chamber connection luncheon last Wednesday at Rutland Place, where Dan Work, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering and computer science and the institute for software integrated systems at Vanderbilt University, spoke about the future of autonomous vehicles and traffic.

Work’s presentation entitled “Autonomous Vehicles: The End of Traffic?” detailed the future adaptations and challenges that face the increased move toward vehicle automation.

“If it’s easy to travel, then we’re going to travel more,” Work told the crowd of more than 50 people.

While the idea of people each having their own autonomous vehicle to travel in seems like the next step in America transportation, Work said it will take more than just a few autonomous vehicles to help change traffic issues.

Work said a few autonomous vehicles on the road and those with adaptive cruise controls, which automatically slow down with traffic when cruise control is enabled, can help to elevate phantom traffic jams.

Work showed several videos of his work on analyzing traffic patterns. One of those videos was collaboration between Ford and Vanderbilt University that studied the effects of adaptive cruise control in reducing and eliminating phantom traffic jams.

“The thing that is most apparent to me is that the technologies that go into freight are the ones that are going to be the most beneficial up front – the stuff in the trucking world,” Work said. “Anything that you can do to reduce the labor or reduce the fuel costs of operating those vehicles is direct money that makes your system more profitable. You can offer more services and so on. It’s probably not as attractive. You’re not going to see it in the national news everyday, but it’s definitely where I think a lot of the smarter companies are betting on the technology development. Because the business proposition there is much more straight forward than convincing everybody in this room to basically buy a car that has an $80,000 sensor on top of it.”

Work also said he believes the best opportunity for autonomous vehicles in traffic reduction will be in the shipping industry with autonomous tractor-trailers.

Golden retriever calms patients at dental office

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

A dental office in Mt. Juliet offers more than just procedures; it offers a golden retriever therapy dog that helps children and adults relax and get through the procedure without much stress.

Generations Dental Arts at 2031 N. Mt Juliet Road, Suite 100, in Mt Juliet, features Mack, a trained therapy dog to visit the patients on a regular basis.

Office coordinator Rebekah Glasmeier touted Mack and his benefits to the patients.

“Dr. Glasmeier and I have two children with autism,” she said. “A long time ago, I had seen that service dogs can help children with severe autism, especially those who run. I looked into it then and very quickly saw a price tag that I couldn’t afford. Most people have to fundraise for these dogs.”

As their son needed more therapy, the counselors were volunteers at a place called Retrieving Independence in Brentwood.

“They have service dogs that go through their program that the dogs go through,” she said. “It’s an 18-month program from birth. They’re bred into it. Their parents are both service dogs. At 13 weeks, they go into the prison system, and they work with prisoners one-on-one until they are 12 months old.”

While training, they come home on weekends and go with their volunteers to the communities.

“They’ll go to restaurants and sporting events, just to get them out there and used to people, while servicing at the same time,” she said.

After a year, the dogs go with their trainers into hospitals, Glesmeier said. That is when they decide which dogs will be bred and which would be service dogs, as well as which type of service dog they become. Once the dog graduates, potential owners come in and interact with the dogs to determine the right fit.

“Dogs match you with them,” she said. “You don’t get to match with the dog you want.”

She said her son’s therapist would bring the dogs in for therapy during counseling.

“I thought this is amazing,” she said. “All of the interaction between the kids, the counselors and the dogs were amazing.”

She said she started the process to get a dog for the dental office. Retrieving Independence had never had a dog go into a medical facility, Glasmeier said.

Mack’s original owner wasn’t happy with him because, although he was the ideal service dog, he was too loving, Glasmeier said. She said service dogs are usually not as loving.

When Mack was brought into the dental office, the trainers wanted to see how he would react. He wasn’t phased by the activity in the office, she said. He was calm and worked as a service dog. They even had some special needs patients come in, and Mack was calm and collected around them, as well.

“This came about because of our kids and having a need as a parent,” she said.

Glasmeier said, “every single patient who comes in here, young and old, the first words out of their mouth is, ‘Where’s Mack?’ He makes them smile; he makes them forget about where they are; he takes the unknown out of dentistry. Everyone fears dentistry a lot, because it’s the fear of the unknown.”

Mack often goes into the room with the patients and sits with them, no matter how long it takes, she said.

Glasmeier said, “Mack knows when a patient doesn’t like him. Mack knows when he’s not wanted. They’re taught to know when they’re not needed, wanted or tolerated. He will walk away.”

Carafem clinic gets permits to operate

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The carafem clinic, which is described as a women’s health clinic, received the necessary permits from the city of Mt. Juliet to operate at 5002 Crossings Circle in Mt. Juliet.

However, it will not be able to perform surgical abortions as it originally intended to do, according to Mt. Juliet planner Jennifer Hamblen.

The clinic opened March 1 and originally didn’t get the proper permits to open. The Mt. Juliet City Commission met in a special session March 4 and voted to restrict commercial zoning to not include surgical abortions. A surgical abortion clinic would have to be in an area zoned industrial, if it chose to operate in the city.

By state law, the proposed rezoning has to go before the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission, which it will do Thursday night. Then, the city commission would again have to approve the rezoning.

In the meantime, the clinic is open for women’s health procedures, excluding surgical abortions. Even though surgical abortions are not permitted in the zoning, abortions with a medical abortion pill can still be performed, according to state law.

“Mifeprex is the brand name for the drug referred to, and it is FDA approved for use in clinics but not dispensed in pharmacy. It’s been in use in the U.S. since 2000 with updated guidelines in 2016,” said Tennessee Department of Health spokesperson Elizabeth Hart.

The day of the city commission’s special-called meeting to rezone the clinic, a carafem spokesman said, “carafem opened a reproductive health care and family planning center in the Nashville metro area to provide safe, convenient and affordable health care options with a licensed, quality health provider to serve women in Tennessee. The health center offers early abortion care up to 10 weeks with the medical abortion pill, STI testing, a wide selection of birth control options such as IUDs, birth control implants, Depo Provera shots, birth control pills and emergency contraception.”

“With one-in-four women in the U.S. who will choose to have an abortion before the age of 45, carafem remains committed to ensuring that she has access to a safe, affordable medical care. We are proud to continue our mission to allow a woman to decide when and if she is ready to become a parent. Our doors remain open to serve clients in Mt. Juliet.”

Citizens and others opposed to abortion plan to peacefully protest this weekend, according to social media posts.

Protests are planned for Friday at 10 a.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. The information is on the Hip Mt. Juliet Against Abortion Facebook page. There are posts on the page from pro-life and pro-choice Wilson County residents, as well as people from other areas.

The protests will take place in the public areas in front of the Providence Pavilion building that houses carafem at 5002 Crossings Circle in Mt. Juliet.

Mt. Juliet planners vote to rezone surgical abortion clinics

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission on Thursday night approved a recommendation to the Mt. Juliet City Commission to rezone surgical abortion clinics from commercial to industrial.

The matter was placed on consent agenda at the planning meeting because that’s what happens with rezoning issues, according to city planner Jennifer Hamblen. The consent agenda is a grouping of various measures that are voted on in a single vote, rather than each item individually.

That matter pleased the sparse crowd, especially resident Bill Houston.

“At a clinic like that, two people go in and only one comes out,” he said. “This should not be in Mt. Juliet. It should be in Nashville, where most people would go to it.”

No one spoke for or against any item on the consent agenda when the time came for citizen comment.

By state law, the rezoning had to go before the city’s planning commission. Now that the planners approved it, the matter must once again go before the city commission.

In the meantime, the clinic is open for women’s health procedures, excluding surgical abortions. Even though surgical abortions are not permitted in the zoning, abortions with a medical abortion pill can still be performed, according to state law as found in Tennessee Code Annotated 39-15-201 and 39-15-202.

“Mifeprex is the brand name for the drug referred to and it is FDA approved for use in clinics but not dispensed in pharmacy. It’s been in use in the U.S. since 2000 with updated guidelines in 2016,” said Tennessee Department of Health spokesperson Elizabeth Hart.

A carafem spokesperson previously said, “[carafem] offers early abortion care up to 10 weeks with the medical abortion pill, STI testing, a wide selection of birth control options such as IUDs, birth control implants, Depo Provera shots, birth control pills and emergency contraception.”

Citizens and others opposed to abortions plan to peacefully protest this weekend, according to social media posts.

Protests are planned for Friday at 10 a.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. The information is on the Hip Mt. Juliet Against Abortion Facebook page. There are posts on the page from pro-life and pro-choice Wilson County residents and people from other areas.

The protest will take place in the public areas in front of the Providence Pavilion offices where the clinic opened in early March at 5002 Crossings Circle in Mt. Juliet.

City votes on road, land measures

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Mt. Juliet City Commission met in a special session Friday night to discuss annexation of property at 430 Clemmons Road into the city.

The commissioners had little discussion about the rezoning, which was done because the city previously made an offer for the property in question. If the city buys the property, the land will house a public works annex, which will allow for a variety of public works vehicles and utility structures, according to city public works director Jessica Gore. Among the structures will be sheds to house salt to be used on roads during winter months.

“Several years ago, we built some salt sheds on Industrial Drive, and those will be going away real soon,” said City Manager Kenny Martin. “Those serve our public works department with salt and other equipment. We’re making an offer on a piece of property, and time is of the essence. We moved it to today. We didn’t want to take a risk of not having a quorum on Monday and having to bump that out would actually mess me up with our planning commission.”

The measure was approved unanimously on first reading.

The commission also voted to annex 2.370 linear feet of Clemmons Road, and the right-of-way along the road. The annexation brought the land, which was an island in the county, into the city. The land was on the city’s urban growth boundary. The measure was approved unanimously on first reading.

Commissioner Ray Justice asked if all of Clemmons Road was included in the annexation.

Gore said it was not but would allow the city to “clean up from the city’s property back to Division [Street]. It keeps us from going in the city, out of the city, in the city, out of the city. This will also help with emergency services.”

Also, land, which is known as the Shevel property at 9846 Lebanon Road, was annexed into the city and rezoned from highway commercial to commercial town center. This will allow the property owner to open a real estate office on the property. A single structure will exist on the property. This rezoning was unanimously approved on first reading.

Commissioners voted to annex and create a plan of services for part of South Rutland Road and its right-of-way near 487 South Rutland Road into the city. They also voted to annex and create a plan of services for the intersection of Lebanon Road and North Green Hill Road, along with its right-of-way, into the city. The roads are both in the city’s urban growth boundary, and the measures both passed unanimously on final reading.

In addition, the commission voted to amend the current budget to increase paving costs. This will allow the city to built speed tables in various subdivisions, where speeding is a problem. Asphalt plants open this month, and the extra funding will allow the city to begin to install the speed tables in the current fiscal year, Martin said.

“This is another thing that we felt like was important,” Martin said. “Another reason for having a special meeting tonight. We’ve been meeting with [Gore] and [Andy Barlow, city engineer] about safety concerns. A lot of people are speeding motorists or folks going through people’s subdivisions. We decided to move up our timetable for installing what you’d call speed tables. Speed tables are elongated speed bumps.”

He said instead of stop signs, the city would install the speed tables to calm the traffic in the communities.

“We’re trying to expedite the process, which would have come in July. We’d be doing them at a much later time,” Martin said. “If we get those done sooner, we get ready for spring and summer. Those things are already in place and makes things safer for our community.”

New businesses headed to Mt. Juliet

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Mt. Juliet’s growth is evident with new businesses scheduled to open in the near future.

Construction on the International House of Pancakes is about to end, and the restaurant is expected to open soon, according to planning director Jennifer Hamblen. The retail store, At Home, is also under construction and should open in the near future, she said.

“TriStar emergency room is slated to open [this] week, and Wash and Roll [a drive-through car wash] on Lebanon Road opened [Nov. 21],” she said. “Christian Brothers Auto Repair has submitted a site plan for December, and we have some exciting things lining up for submittal very soon.”

City Manager Kenny Martin said Mt. Juliet is excited about the new businesses, which will help fill holes in the city’s commercial areas.

“We proactively reach out to retailers across the country that our residents and visitors tell us they would like to see in Mt. Juliet,” Martin said. “We also encourage the importance of shopping locally daily.”

In addition to making connections with businesses in Tennessee in person and by email, Martin attends the annual International Council of Shopping Centers conference in Las Vegas each May. He attends with Wilson County, Lebanon and Watertown as a joint Wilson County recruitment trip, he said.

He said, “Because of our low tax base, Mt. Juliet operates mainly off of sales tax revenue. Making Mt. Juliet an even more business-friendly environment not only encourages citizens and visitors to shop in Mt. Juliet, but also encourages businesses to come to Mt. Juliet.

Martin said shopping local “is most important to our mom-and-pop businesses and our corporate business, as well. Sales taxes help pay for our police, fire, parks, schools, public works, roads and so on. Revenue generated from sales taxes also helps us keep our property taxes low.

“Mt. Juliet has a property tax rate of $.016.5 cents. By comparison, Smyrna has a property tax rate of $.7007 per $100 of assessed value. LaVergne’s property tax rate is currently $0.71 per $100 of assessed value, and Hendersonville is $0.758 property tax per $100 of assessed value. Mt. Juliet, by far, has one of the lowest property tax rates in the state and with continued good sales tax revenue and being great stewards of the citizens’ resources, it is our plan to keep it that way.”

Businesses in Mt. Juliet help attract other businesses to come to the city, he said.

“Our businesses are our economic engines, and they are most helpful in helping our great city provide the wonderful services we provide,” Martin said. “This is most important in all communities, but with Mt. Juliet’s low property tax rate, the need for sales tax revenue is paramount. That is why shopping local is so vital for Mt. Juliet. Shopping local helps your community more than you know. When you shop in other communities, it supports that community and not your own, so please shop local by supporting Mt. Juliet and Wilson County businesses first.”

Jobless rate holds steady in Wilson

Staff Reports

NASHVILLE – The majority of Tennessee’s counties experienced a drop in unemployment, or their rates remained the same, according to the October statistics released Wednesday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Unemployment rates dropped in 26 Tennessee counties and remained the same in 36 counties when compared to September statistics. Thirty-three counties across the state experienced an increase in unemployment during October.

Wilson County ‘s rate of 3.1 percent, which held steady compared to September, remained the seventh lowest in the state behind Williamson, Davidson, Rutherford, Cheatham, Sumner and Sevier counties, respectively.

Wilson County’s rate in October represented 2,220 unemployed workers compared to a 72,090-person workforce and did not include those who did not file with the labor department or no longer receive benefits. Compared to the same time last year, the jobless rate was up 0.6 percent.

Lebanon’s rate for October remained flat at 3.6 percent compared to both September and August and was up 0.6 percent compared to a year ago. The city’s rate represented 540 unemployed workers, compared to a 15,130-person labor force.

Mt. Juliet’s rate for October was 3 percent and also remained flat compared to September’s revised rate and a 0.6 percent increase from a year ago. The rate represented 550 unemployed workers compared to an 18,400-person labor force.

The rate for the Nashville-Murfreesboro metropolitan area, which includes Wilson County, decreased 0.1 percent from September to land at 2.9 percent in October but increased 0.4 percent from a year ago. The rate represented 30,510 unemployed workers compared to a nearly 1.04-million-person labor force.

Williamson County continued to have the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.7 percent.

Sales tax increase fails in close vote

A sales tax increase was close to approval in a referendum Nov. 6, but a difference of 2,225 votes showed the Wilson County sales tax will not increase from 9.25 to 9.75 percent.

Votes came in at 25,199 for and 27,424 against the sales tax increase in the unofficial tally.

The increase was intended to bolster funding for local schools and a proposed Wilson County Jail expansion and fill city coffers for upcoming expenses. Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said it was not to pay off any current debt, but a proactive step.

“This was a call to let the people decide how to pay for a future debt, not for a debt we have today,” Hutto said. “When the next debt rolls around, whether it be a jail or school or other expense, your options have just been narrowed. And we rely on now the adequate facilities tax, the property tax or possibly the wheel tax. The people have spoken, and now it’s down to three.”

Finance director Aaron Maynard said a wheel tax would be subject to referendum, as well.

“At the end of the day, we’re just happy that people had the chance to vote,” Maynard said. “This was about being proactive and trying to be out ahead. We don’t have a school on the table that’s not funded, and the next thing is the expansion of the jail.”

Of the current 9.25-percent sales tax rate, the state gets 7 percent, and Wilson County keeps 2.25 percent. The tax revenue is then split between educational services and the city in which the sale took place, per state law. 

For example, a business in a city collects and remits $1,000 in sales tax. The state would get about $757. The remaining $243 is split with half to educational services and the other half to the respective city.

During the last fiscal year, sales tax accounted for about 9 percent of the county’s revenues.

A half-cent sales tax increase would have generated an increase of about $11 million in additional revenue annually with $5.2 million granted to Wilson County and $5.8 million granted to the city in which the sale took place or the Lebanon Special School District.

With no increase in sales tax, the county will likely seek other methods to increase funding for school and jail construction.

Auditions for character party business taking place

By Angie Mayes

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Ella Rollins interacts with Kamryn Boyd as Beauty, one of many characters that will be a part of By Royal Invitation, a new character party company in Wilson County.

Special to Mt. Juliet News

A new business in Wilson County is expected to be popular among young children thanks to the stars of the show – princesses currently and superheroes in the future.

The company, By Royal Invitation, is owned by Middle Tennessee actress, director and vocal coach Katharine Boettcher.

“I have been wanting to create something like this for the past three years,” Boettcher said. “I played Ursula a few years ago in a production of the Little Mermaid and had an amazing time. Seeing the kids react to the characters on stage just made me smile. I know how giddy I get when I visit characters in the Orlando parks, I can only imagine the excitement is 100 times more in a little one.”

She said as a child, she “hand sewed all of my Halloween costumes and had a blast creating some of my favorite Broadway characters come to life.”

The characters in By Royal Invitation are “based on classic fairy tales and villains. As the company grows, there will be superheroes and heroines and who knows where else our imagination will take us.”

There’s no limit to the number of characters that will be available for shows, parties and the like.

“We will have a small roster to begin with, but as we grow, we will continually expand and bring in new characters,” she said.  Among them will be “the Snow Queen, the Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Mother Goethel, Cruella De Ville and more.”

Not affiliated with Disney, the use of the names is allowed due to the characters taken from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and stories from Hans Christian Anderson. 

“It is not our intent to infringe on copyright,” Boettcher said. “Our fairy tale characters are based on the Grimm Brothers and other historic fairy tale characters. Our costuming is of the highest quality. They are designed by [me], and many are built from scratch by a costumer in Nashville. Our characters have unique names and personalities.”

She said the company will offer “some Jedi knights, and we are hoping to cast a couple of superheroes during the audition process.”

The audition process is currently taking place.

“We currently have a casting call out for face actors and are taking submissions for all characters,” Boettcher said. “Once submissions are gathered, I will pull and have one-on-one auditions.”

Anyone interested in submitting materials must be 16 years old, have reliable transportation, send in a resume with height clearly marked, headshot and full-body shot. The information must be emailed to byroyalinvitation@gmail.com. At the time of hire, eligible talent will have passed a background check and be eligible to work in the United States before a contract will be offered. 

“There is no weight or ethnic requirement,” she said. “I am looking for diversity. Something that will distinguish By Royal Invitation is the fact that a character is not limited by their ethnicity or weight.  I do want to keep true to some height requirements as there are expectations of how tall characters are when they are meeting guests. 

The actors’ auditions, resume and personality will have a lot to do with the hiring process, she said.

“I am looking for people who are fast on their feet,” Boettcher said. “Children can ask a variety of questions, and our characters need to be able to stay in character and answer as the characters.  Our characters are going to be entertaining so they must be able to sing and act, as well as interact with our guests to make their day an extra-special occasion.”

All actors must sing and be able to tell their characters story as if it is their own, she said.  

“We have several options for what our characters will perform-do at a variety of occasions,” Boettcher said. “[That includes] photo opportunities and, of course, corporate and community events. I’m hoping to hold a couple of character nights at some of Wilson County’s local restaurants that have kids’ nights. 

All face characters are paid per event, she said. Each character is accompanied by a paid attendant to assist with children and the character’s needs during the event. All characters are also attendants when not in character.  

“We are hoping to have several special events for kick offs, as well as for charity events,” she said. “My heart is with Make-a-Wish Foundation, and I hope to build a relationship with them. And I am hoping to have a Halloween bash with some fun villains and bad guys, too.”

For more information, contact Boettcher through the company’s Facebook page, By Royal Invitation, or via email byroyalinvitation@gmail.com. Boettcher will launch a website when the full cast of characters is finalized.   

Boettcher said her company is “the first of our kind in Wilson County, and [we] are very proud that we have some amazing Wilson County talent already on our roster of characters. Character parties are huge. So many folks love to have this one-on-one experience with these iconic characters. And if you can’t get to the magic down in Florida, we hope to bring a little fairy tale magic to Middle Tennessee.”  

Mt. Juliet project in running for statewide award

Staff Reports

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
A project completed in Mt. Juliet at the Beckwith north distribution center by S&ME, Inc., is among those under consideration in the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards competition, presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee.

A project completed in Mt. Juliet at the Beckwith north distribution center by S&ME, Inc., is among those under consideration in the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards competition, presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee. 

The award is one of the highest honors an engineering firm can receive and is considered the “Academy Awards of the engineering industry.”

Panattoni, Inc. contracted S&ME, Inc. to provide permitting, design and construction period support services for the restoration of about 800 feet of an unnamed tributary to Cedar Creek. Property owners had mowed the grass to the water’s edge and installed a driveway culvert crossing. No other vegetation was present near the bedrock-lined channel. These combined conditions created a stream channel that was over-widened and lacked habitat diversity. Also, wetlands adjacent to the stream reach needed to be avoided during construction. 

To address the challenges, S&ME used square Bio-D block coir blocks anchored to the bedrock with wooden stakes installed in holes drilled into the rock. The approach avoided wetland impacts, enabled channel restoration to appropriate dimensions, and stabilized the banks using soil behind the Bio-D block for a cost-effective project. 

Construction was completed in August 2017.  The restoration of the unnamed tributary to Cedar Creek helps to improve water quality to provide improved physical habitat for aquatic organisms and eventually provide shading of the stream to avoid elevated temperatures during the summer as the streamside vegetation matures. This streamside trees and shrubs will also provide a source of nutrients for aquatic macro-invertebrates from leaf fall into the stream.  

Project entries from across the state are up for consideration. The winners of the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards will be announced during an awards gala at the Omni Hotel in Nashville on the evening of Oct. 26, where ACEC Tennessee will also celebrate its 50th anniversary. Additional information about the awards can be found at acectn.org. In 2017, the TDOT Diverging Diamond Interchange at State Route 66 exit 407 project, completed by engineering firm Gresham, Smith and Partners, won the top prize.

Founded in 1968, ACEC Tennessee is a statewide organization that represents more than 100 Tennessee engineering firms. ACEC Tennessee has chapters in Nashville, East Tennessee, Southeast Tennessee and Memphis. The organization works to advance the business environment.

14th Transit Citizen Leadership Academy welcomes new class

Staff Reports

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News The 14th Transit Citizen Leadership Academy members kick off Sept. 5 at Barge Design Solutions.

NASHVILLE – The Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee kicked off its 14th Transit Citizen Leadership Academy on Sept. 5 at Barge Design Solutions. 

The six-week program provides attendees with the resources they need to be leaders and actively engage in the transit conversation in Middle Tennessee. The class participants represent eight counties in the region, including Wilson County.

Among the class participants is Gary Soloway, president and owner of Business Brokers in Wilson County. Soloway lives in Mt. Juliet.

The opening class began with remarks by Pete Wooten, board chair of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee. Other featured speakers were Pam Krodenbrock, Tennessee division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration; Toks Omishakin, deputy commissioner and chief of the environment and planning bureau for the Tennessee Department of Transportation; Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan, chairwoman of the Middle Tennessee Regional Transportation Authority; and Jo Ann Graves, president and CEO of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee.

The class features a full schedule of expert speakers, and the class members will graduate as effective advocates for transit in Middle Tennessee. More than 300 Middle Tennesseans have graduated from the Academy since it began in 2011.

“We are thrilled to welcome our 14th class,” Graves said. “It is so important to keep the conversation on transit open and moving, which is why the Transit Alliance is committed to continuing to educate and mobilize Middle Tennesseans on the transit discussion.”

 The academy was made possible by the support of contributors from across the state. The class will meet weekly through Oct. 10.

There are additional opportunities to get involved with the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee. Visit the website to learn more about upcoming TCLA classes, events and supporter opportunities. The Transit Alliance is part of the Transit For Nashville Coalition, a group of more than 110 Middle Tennessee businesses, faith groups and other organizations that bring transit to the people.

Wilson County unemployment rate decreases in July

Staff Reports

NASHVILLE – The unemployment rate in Wilson and 56 other Tennessee counties improved in July, according to statistics released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The unemployment rate remained the same in 19 counties when compared to June, and the number of unemployed Tennesseans increased in 19 counties.

“The summer months significantly impact the unemployment situation across the state,” said TDLWD Commissioner Burns Phillips.  “People are not working seasonal jobs, they’re out of town and not able to work, or they’ve just graduated and are looking for work.  There are many factors that play a role in summer unemployment figures.”

Sixty-two counties had unemployment rates lower than 5 percent in July, while 33 counties had a rate of 5 percent or greater.

Once again, Williamson County had the lowest unemployment rate in Tennessee.  The county’s July rate of 2.9 percent was down 0.1 of a percentage point when compared to the previous month.  The county’s unemployment rate was also 2.9 percent in July 2017.

Davidson County had the state’s second-lowest unemployment rate during July; it decreased by 0.1 of a percentage point and came in at 3.0 percent. The top 10 counties with the lowest unemployment each had a rate of 3.5 percent on less.

Wilson County ‘s rate of 3.2 percent – a 0.1 percent decrease from June – was the seventh lowest in the state behind Williamson, Davidson, Sevier, Cheatham, Sumner and Rutherford counties, respectively, and dropped from fifth lowest in June and fourth lowest in May.

Wilson County’s rate in July represented 2,350 unemployed workers compared to a 73,020-person workforce and did not include those who did not file with the labor department or no longer receive benefits.

Lebanon’s rate for July remained at 3.7 percent compared to June’s revised rate. The city’s rate represented 570 unemployed workers, compared to a 15,320-person labor force.

Mt. Juliet’s rate for June was 3.1 percent, a 0.8 percent increase from May’s revised rate. The rate represented 570 unemployed workers compared to an 15,320-person labor force.

The rate for the Nashville-Murfreesboro metropolitan area, which includes Wilson County, also held steady at 3.2 percent in July. The rate represented 33,310 unemployed workers compared to a nearly 1.05-million-person labor force.

Tennessee had a seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in July, which mirrored the rate from June.

Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate experienced a slight decrease to 3.9 percent in July, down 0.1 of a percentage point from June’s revised unemployment rate of 4 percent.

Weakley County experienced a significant jump in unemployment during July.  Its rate of 7.6 percent was a 2.6 percent increase compared to June. In a year-to-year comparison, the July figure was just 0.5 of a percentage point higher than it was in 2017.

Last month Lauderdale County had the highest rate of unemployment in the state. During July the county experienced a slight decrease in its jobless rate; the figure dropped 0.1 of a percentage point to 6.9 percent.

Eight of the top 10 Tennessee counties with the lowest unemployment surround Davidson County, while Knox and Sevier counties round out the list. Seven of the state’s counties with the highest unemployment rates are in West Tennessee, with the remaining three in East Tennessee.

Business leaders hear changes to wine, beer, alcohol laws

By Matt Masters


Tucker Herndon, a partner with Burr and Forman law firm, spoke at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce connection luncheon Aug. 15 at Rutland Place to inform business leaders of the changes to sales of wine, beer and liquor, especially regarding wine sales in grocery stores.

Herndon was instrumental in the wine in grocery stores legislation that went into effect in 2016. He said it was the biggest change in the legislation of alcohol since the end of prohibition.

Herndon educated the audience of more than 50 people about the steps to implement and the results of the legislation that was popular for many Tennesseans in a presentation called, “A Journey into Wine Inside Grocery Stores Law.”

The “Red, White and Food” campaign needed 10 percent of registered voters in each jurisdiction to get the referendum off the ground, which made its way to the legislature March 30, 2017. The bill passed, and by June 20, 2016, the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission received 499 WIGS applications that resulted in 398 letters of approval and 279 licenses granted.

“We’re realizing that things in the ’50s and ’60s are not how people today view or vote in today’s arena, and based upon that, I think that people are more susceptible to understand that as long as we do it in a responsible approach, that we should provide all of the citizens of the state of Tennessee to different goods,” Herndon said. “It’s not limited to just alcoholic beverages. Whatever industry we’re talking about – having the ability to provide them access and unfettered access to a degree.”

Herndon said precautions and restrictions were placed on the sale of wine in grocery stores to help both communities and business owners provide alcoholic beverages responsibly.

Some of the restrictions included the requirement of managers and clerks to have training to limit sales to retailers whose food sales equal at least 20 percent of total sales, which means gas stations are excluded from selling wine.

Wine must also have a minimum 20 percent markup in grocery stores, which was done to appease liquor stores, which had no competition in wine sells before July 2016.

In contrast, local laws govern beer, and the Alcohol Beverage Control board controls liquor sales in the state.

Wine will first be sold in grocery stores on Sundays, beginning Jan. 6, 2019 at 10 a.m., but consumers will not be able to buy wine on Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter.

Herndon also talked about a new change to how alcohol might be gotten – deliveries at homes – legally. Herndon said it wouldn’t be long before companies like Amazon take advantage of the desires of their customers and the laws that allow people and companies to shop for customers.

Herndon said new rules were also put in place for package stores, including no liquor store to be within 1,500 feet of another. Mt. Juliet allows only one store per 8,000 people – currently there are three package stores in Mt. Juliet. No new licenses will be granted until 2021, and the rules were put in place to retain completion and survival of liquor store businesses as completion has increased from wine in grocery stores.

Herndon also spoke about other changes that are outside of WIGS but to the changes in culture around alcohol.

Herndon said so-called “open carry laws” allow patrons to go between adjacent restaurants and bars with open container drinks as long as patrons do not use public walkways to do so. This is currently restricted to beer, and vendors must use branded cups. Herndon also said the implementation of vertical licenses for minors helps bars, restaurants and stores from serving alcohol to minors.

Another change Herndon touched on were the alcoholic beverage trial programs that are implemented at Middle Tennessee State University and Tennessee State University to allow alcohol to be sold on game days.

Finally, Herndon said the Tennessee ABC board implemented a program in January called the Regulatory Licensing and Permitting System, which upgraded the process to get licensed to sell alcohol.

Surefire Fireworks gears up for Fourth of July

Explosions, smoke and the smell of gunpowder will soon fill the air for this year’s Fourth of July celebrations throughout Wilson County.

To prepare for the annual event, tents are already popping up across Wilson County, and officially opened for business last Wednesday until July 5 for residents to fill all their most explosive desires.

Where do all those tents come from, though, and where do the tent operators get their supply? The answer, for some of them at least, is a 40-year-old Wilson County staple, Surefire Fireworks Wholesale and Retail.

Jacob Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Surefire Fireworks gears up for the busiest season of the year as fireworks season approaches, and tents across Wilson County opened last Wednesday.

The company sits up on a hill at 1946 Murfreesboro Road in Lebanon. According to employee Brendan Martel, the organization is able to sell fireworks year-round because the building is outside the city limits, but obviously, its biggest season is around July 4.

“Really, we start getting busy when the tents start to open in town,” said Martel. “People are seeing the visual in town of, ‘Oh, that’s right fireworks,’ and then some people remember we’re here, and they’ll come to us too, because we’re air conditioned.”

Martel said the local tents are really just an extension of the store itself to offer residents in Wilson County a more convenient way to get fireworks for the big holiday. The company also sells wholesale to privately owned firework businesses, but none locally.

“It’s a little bit of both up here; we do the retail and the wholesale,” said Martel. “We’ve just started doing [wholesale] the past couple of years, and we get people from all over the state who will purchase through us at wholesale prices.”

“There’s not any here in Lebanon, because we try to make people aware when they’re buying from us that we don’t want to compete against them. It’s a business relationship, so most of our people are from outside Wilson County.”

The big fireworks finale on sale this year is a 1,000-gram grand finale from Black Cat. A 500-gram show is actually the largest fireworks show allowed to be sold to non-professionals, but the 1,000-gram finale features two 500-gram displays designed to go off at the same time.

“You have to shoot them at the same time to get the full effect, back and forth, in them,” said Martel. “That’s the biggest thing we’ve got this year, and it’s brand new. We just picked Black Cat up again this year. They have some awesome grand finale stuff.”

The 1,000-gram finale can be picked up for July 4 at Surefire Fireworks Wholesale and Retail or at any of the fireworks tents that are supplied by the business across Wilson County.

By Jacob Smith


Hotel, tourism influx part of county’s growth

Wilson County tourism director Amy Nichols said the recent uptake in hotels, as well as tourism, in the county is a result of growth and the area’s proximity to Nashville.

With Fairfield Inn and Suites opening in April, My Place opening in December and more hotels scheduled to come, Nichols said it’s all part of the process of making Wilson County a more attractive place for tourists who may come to the area to visit Nashville.

“Nashville is just booming when it comes to tourism, so we’re obviously seeing the impacts here,” said Nichols. “Our whole strategy is that we want to build on that growth. We don’t want to ignore the fact that people are here because of Nashville.”

Nichols explained tourism only serves to benefit the county. When tourists come to Wilson County, they stay in Wilson County hotels, eat at Wilson County restaurants and shop in Wilson County shops, then they leave, and the county and local businesses benefit from the money spent here.

“That’s how we can put [the money] back into the schools,” said Nichols. “That’s money we don’t have to build infrastructure for, because these people are coming, they’re visiting and then they’re leaving, and that’s money we can then put into our police force, into our district. So that’s why it’s so important.”

According to Nichols, Wilson County has a unique opportunity to benefit from Nashville’s growth because of the proximity, as well as the dissimilarities between the two areas.

“Our whole thing is saying, ‘yeah, go to Nashville,’” said Nichols. “We want people to come, experience Nashville, Music City, honkytonks, etc. But, when you are vacationing in Tennessee, when you have that idea in your head, if you’re from Florida, if you’re from California, whatever, you’ve never been to Tennessee, so you book a trip to Nashville, but in your head there’s some imagery of Tennessee that Nashville doesn’t accomplish. You think of the country; you think of horseback riding; you think of being out on the lakes. You go to Nashville, and you’re in a city just like any other city. I want tourists to go to Nashville and experience it, but then I want to tack on to your vacation a few nights so that you can stay in Wilson County, because we offer those experiences in your head that are Tennessee.”

Nichols said she expects the growth to continue, in part, because of the Wilson County Expo Center and the events it offers.

“I mean, they’re booked for years,” said Nichols. “We have groups that come in and they want a tour, and they’re like, ‘is this date available?’ and it’s booked out. I feel like we haven’t seen the impact yet because it’s so new, because you book so far in advance. All of the people I’ve met with now are groups for 2019, so there’s definitely a gap between when you get something and when you start seeing the return.”

To people who don’t like or fear the growth Wilson County is experiencing, Nichols said the growth is already here, and it’s up to us whether we’ll adapt so it best benefits the city or just let it overwhelm us.

By Jacob Smith


Construction starts on TriStar emergency center

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Heather Rohan, president and CEO of TriStar Health, speaks to the crowd Thursday during the company’s groundbreaking ceremony for a new emergency center in Mt. Juliet. The facility will be located on Beckwith Road, right off the eastbound exit of Interstate 40.

Construction officially kicked off Thursday for a new TriStar emergency medical center in Mt. Juliet as officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony.

The TriStar Mt. Juliet ER facility will be located on Beckwith Road, right off the eastbound exit of Interstate 40.

“I want to welcome all of you to Mt. Juliet who aren’t familiar with Mt. Juliet. It’s an exciting place. We are currently ranked No. 3 most family friendly city in the state. We’re No. 4 safest city in the state. In nine months – I’m going to declare it now – we’re going to be No. 1 best ER service in the state,” Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty said.

“It’s hard to believe, but in approximately nine months, the property where we’re standing today will be transformed into a state-of-the-art emergency room. Once open, the TriStar Mt. Juliet Emergency Room will be a 24-hour, full-service facility, having approximately 9,000 square feet and featuring eight patient rooms,” TriStar Summit CEO Brian Marger said.

In 2014, when original certificate of need was requested for the facility, TriStar Summit emergency rooms saw about 55,000 patients, with 9,000 of those from the Mt. Juliet area, according to Marger.

“This project represents an approximate $11 million investment into the Mt. Juliet, Lebanon and surrounding areas of Wilson County.”

“We feel privileged to be able to serve the residents of this community. We’re very proud to be a part of this community,” said Heather Rohan, president and CEO of TriStar Health. “As a look at this corridor and the area around, the future is incredibly bright for Mt. Juliet, and we’re humbled and proud to be a part of it.”

By Xavier Smith


Houser headed to big four accounting firm

Alex Houser

NASHVILLE – Lauren Winters and Alex Houser followed different paths to Trevecca, but they’ll travel a similar one after graduation.

Houser, of Mt. Juliet, is a graduate of Mt. Juliet High School.

The seniors graduated May 5 and will both start jobs with one of the big four accounting firms in October, Winters at Ernst & Young and Houser at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“She and I didn’t really like each other at the beginning,” Houser said. “But now we’re friends. It’s two completely different stories with the same end result. I’m really proud of her.”

While both were Nashville-area residents – Winters from Joelton and Houser from Mt. Juliet – they didn’t really know each other until they arrived on campus. Winters came to play soccer, a decision she attributes heavily to former Trevecca women’s soccer coach Mark Foster.

“I just wanted to play soccer in college,” Winters said. “Mark Foster had been a coach for me in high school, and he had just become the head coach here at the time I came here and toured in August. I loved the campus. The pieces all just fell into place. I knew as soon as I got here that I was supposed to be here.”

Houser, on the other hand, had his heart set on playing baseball in college, but an injury ended that dream. He came to Trevecca to interview for the McClurkan scholarship and ended up talking with Allen Jinnette, associate professor of accounting, about Trevecca’s accounting program.

“I knew a few alumni who go to church with me, and they spoke highly of the program,” Houser said. “I had a long list of schools, and the only one that wasn’t crossed off the list was Trevecca.”

Because of Trevecca’s small class sizes, the two got to know each other right away. With the same major and concentration, Houser and Winters were in many of the same classes. Both started applying for internships after their sophomore year, and their parallel journey continued.

“They expose you pretty early on to the Big Four at most universities,” Winters said. “The accounting firms come to you and talk about their companies and internship opportunities. Sophomore year I started applying for internships, and I didn’t get the Big Four internships. It’s funny, Alex was the one who got them. They usually only select one from Trevecca, and he was the one.”

While Houser began interning for PwC, Winters took another route that included various kinds of accounting internships, including tax internships with HCA and other companies.

“I enjoyed it, but I knew I was missing something,” Winters said. “I knew that I was passionate about accounting and that my calling is in that, and I was confident in that. I just didn’t know where I needed to land in the accounting industry. I knew that I wanted to bring a light to the industry. I really prayed about that a lot and felt like God was like, ‘You just have to be you, and I’ll place you where you need to be.’”

Houser also had a few decisions to make. He had the opportunity to graduate a year early and was considering law school, but he wasn’t quite sure. Trevecca alumni and siblings Brady Plummer, chief information officer for the Parallon division of HCA and Houser’s Sunday School teacher, and Kelly King, an assurance partner at PwC, played a pivotal role in helping him make the decision.

“They showed me different routes [in public accounting],” Houser said. “My sophomore year, I asked Mrs. King to meet me for lunch, trying just to decide if I should go to law school or give public accounting a try. That’s kind of what got the ball rolling on me working toward getting in [at PwC} and understanding the industry.”

As junior year slipped into senior year, both Winters and Houser seemed to have separate paths set out for them. Houser started a four-month-long internship with PwC following his junior year and had a job offer. Winters had started applying to graduate schools and took the GMAT, though she wasn’t pleased with her score or sure that graduate school was what she wanted to do.

“While I was applying, I had this awful feeling that I was done with school,” she said. “I could not imagine another year of busting it out in grad school. I was over learning about this stuff. I wanted to be doing it. But I didn’t know what opportunities were out there.”

Around that time, Winters met with a former guest speaker from one of her accounting classes the previous semester. He worked in auditing with Ernst & Young in Nashville and came from a similar background, having graduated from a small Christian college in Chattanooga.

That coffee meeting was a turning point of sorts for Winters.

“He had a lot of experience, but he was also a Christian, so I just wanted his perspective on future opportunities,” Winters said. “He does auditing [at Ernst & Young], and I was like, ‘Well, I’m never doing auditing.’ But he started talking about it, about teams and teamwork, and that feeling you get when you’re done with the audit and you all feel like you’ve contributed something. That’s been soccer for me, and I’ve loved that. I think I need something like that to continue on in my life.”

So, Winters submitted her resume to Ernst & Young, where she’d never had an internship, and got an interview.

“I just loved it,” she said. “I felt really comfortable. When I left, they offered me the job on the spot.”

Winters was then faced with a decision. She’d been accepted to graduate school at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and offered a job at one of the Big Four accounting firms.

“I had two amazing opportunities before me, and I have no idea how to select which one is right,” she said. “It came down to that gut feeling that I was over school, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I am filled with so much peace and able to leave college refreshed and at peace about it.

“Most students don’t often get opportunities to go to the Big Four,” she continued. “It was all word-of-mouth and resume for me and then the interview. That shows that God was working it all into place.”

Both Winters and Houser will start their careers in October. Each will spend the next few months studying for and passing each of the four sections of the CPA exam. Houser successfully completed the first section during spring break.

Despite a few twists and turns along the way, both Houser and Winters said they are thankful for their Trevecca experience. They credit the small class sizes and individual attention from professors and mentors with their success.

“It’s almost every single year that we’re putting people into public accounting and large firms,” Houser said. “I was at a dinner last Tuesday night and Vanderbilt was represented and Belmont and Lipscomb, all the mid-state colleges and universities. And they can’t say that same thing. Our program-two of us are going into Big Four accounting. It speaks to the quality of the program and the work of the professors.”

Trevecca Nazarene University is a Christian university in the heart of Nashville focused on preparing students for lives of leadership and service. Founded in 1901, Trevecca is committed to holistic education, encouraging students to grow intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Located about a mile from thriving downtown Nashville, Trevecca provides a liberal arts education while guiding students to find God’s calling on their lives through traditional undergraduate programs, continuing and graduate studies and online offerings. With students from 44 states and 22 countries, Trevecca offers 15 associate degrees, 83 undergraduate majors, 20 master’s programs and two doctoral programs, as well as specialist and certificate programs.

Staff Reports

Get egg-cited for chicken rentals


Sinclaire Sparkman • Mt. Juliet News
Rent the Chicken servicer RayLee Holladay shows off a coop built for two chickens recently at Fiddlers Grove. The hens inside lay eight to 14 eggs per week.

Seasonal chickens have made it to homes across Middle Tennessee courtesy of RayLee and Bubba Holladay, who offer egg-laying hens for a six-month rental.

A concept known as “yard to table” drives the philosophy behind Rent the Chicken, a business established in Pennsylvania in 2013. Phillip and Jenn Tompkins started service and now partner with more than 45 farms in the United States, including the Holladays’ farm in Lascassas.

The service allows customers to choose between the standard rental of two hens or deluxe rental of four hens, which will provide farm-fresh eggs regularly. Coops, feed, bedding, food and water dishes, guidebooks and support are provided.

“I keep around 60 [chickens] at my house,” said area Rent the Chicken servicer RayLee Holladay. “Right now, we have 39 babies getting ready for next season. It’s been amazing. It really just touches your heart when you see people love chickens and learn about chickens and where their food comes from.”

The Holladays started with Rent the Chicken three years ago. The first year was spent building from scratch, making coops and gathering supplies. Now they’re able to deliver chickens, coops and all within 50 miles of their farm. They deliver beyond 50 miles for an extra fee.   

“We raise them from babies, so they’re ridiculously friendly. They’re kind of like your dog or your cat. They’ll follow you around everywhere,” Holladay said.

Rent the Chicken coops are made to protect chickens from predators and provide easy access for humans.

“There’s an egg door on the side here, and in the back, there’s an access door just in case you don’t want to crawl in there to fix the food and water dishes if they fall over,” Holladay said.

If a chicken gets sick or dies, Rent the Chicken will replace the animal at no charge, unless neglect was involved.

“There’s wire all the way around [the coop], so the fox cannot get in, or the raccoon or the opossum, cannot get in there and get to the chickens. But, say, if you let them out and then go in the house and grab you a glass of tea, you’re not supervising them and they die, you have to pay a chicken fee of $25. If you just come out one day and the poor little thing is dead, we’ll replace it. Things happen. They’re wild animals,” Holladay said.

Only one chicken death has happened in her time with Rent the Chicken, so, she said, it is not all that common.

After the six-month chicken season is over and customers have enjoyed farm-fresh eggs, the hens are available for adoption.

“You can adopt just the chickens, or you can have the whole entire package, coop and all. At the end of the six months, or any time in between, if you chicken out, we’ll pick them up with no questions asked,” Holladay said. 

For more information, call Rent the Chicken at 724-305-0782 or visit rentthechicken.com.

By Sinclaire Sparkman