We’re nearing the end of January. We’ve made it through snow predictions, just plain old cold weather and a bit of rambunctiously lovely days with surprising sunshine. Whether you’re praying that pesky groundhog doesn’t see his shadow (predicting an early spring) or you’re hoping for a little more time in the snow and cold, I hope you take a moment to consider some business news today along with some bits of information that recently came through my email.
• The Kingsport Human Resources Department will be accepting applications for the position of police officer through Feb. 6. Individuals who are interested in a career in law enforcement are encouraged to apply. All applications must be submitted online using the following link: https://www.GovernmentJobs.com/Careers/Kingsport.
• The U.S. Census Bureau Small Business pulse survey (phase 7) reports the following based on responses collected Jan. 10-16:
— 15.1% of U.S small businesses required employee COVID-19 vaccination and 15.8% a negative COVID-19 test before physically coming to work in the last week.
— 30.1% of U.S small businesses experienced difficulties hiring paid employees in the last week. For responses collected 1/3/22-1/9/22, this statistic was 28.2%.
— 45.3% of U.S small businesses experienced domestic supplier delays and 25.8% experienced delays in delivery/shipping to customers in the last week.
• The MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center is looking for seasonal workers for the annual Chamber dinner. According to the Chamber email, the pay is $13 an hour with built-in meal breaks with complimentary food options, and exceptional training from professionals working for the Marriott International brand. To apply or for additional questions, contact General Manager Ramona Jackson at [email protected] or call (423) 578-6540.
• The Tennessee gas price average is slowly increasing, according to AAA, as the price of crude rises to multi-year highs. The current national average is $3.33. Since last Monday, gas prices across Tennessee have risen a penny on average. The Tennessee gas price average is now $3.04, which is 5 cents more expensive than one month ago and 84 cents more than one year ago. The average for the Tri-Cities is $2.98.
Notes from the field
Along with all the newness of a fresh 2022, it seems we’ve seen a good bit of new businesses and developments within Kingsport. One such story you might have read about in Sunday’s edition of the Times News is on Erin Coffey’s new chocolate store Eat My Art Bonbons and Candies.
What sets Coffey’s store apart are her intricate, hand-painted and carefully designed chocolate creations. The high heel shoes on her shelves are not shoes at all — they’re completely made of chocolate, as are the cars, guns, tiny handbags, roses and more in the shop.
Times are tough for us all thanks to the pandemic and its impacts. Small businesses have certainly been victim to the pandemic as well. But those small businesses, especially those just trying to get started, can benefit from special, unique items and services such as Coffey’s chocolate art, bonbons and chocolate trinkets for parties, birthdays, gifts and more.
There aren’t too many chocolatiers in Kingsport. How often have you seen bonbons designed and painted to look like blocks of gold? Seeing these items in person is proof enough she’s found a niche, which, I believe is what is needed to set a business apart.
Even if a business doesn’t include items that could be considered art (which Coffey’s certainly could), having a specialty item — even if it’s just one item — can be enough to put more eyes on a business.
I think a good example is Ridgewood Barbecue in Bluff City. Yes, they have tasty, sliced, smoky barbecue that alone is worth the windy trip through the Tri-Cities. But if you ask anyone who has frequented the place, you know you haven’t really experienced Ridgewood if you haven’t tried at least one individually wrapped cracker dipped in their chunky and wonderfully sour blue cheese dip. Yes, it’s a dip and, no, it’s not dressing.
It might sound kinda gross to those who don’t normally go for a blue cheese dressing, but I have yet to meet a person who isn’t fond of the blue cheese dip at Ridgewood. I can’t think of any other place with a blue cheese dip on its menu. And at that, their recipe is one that is difficult to duplicate (let me know if you’ve found a recipe that competes!) Those sort of specialty items are memorable and, if not just for the dip, sets Ridgewood apart from other barbecue places in the region.
I bet if you consider your favorite store, restaurant or shop, you’ll likely come across one of these specialty items. When I prepare to write a new business story or even just an article on a new chain opening in town, I aim to include what the business is known for or what customers can expect to have special emphasis. It may not be a foolproof way to keep a business afloat, but if a business owner can combine quality with uniqueness and ingenuity, it might just be a recipe for success.
Have a note you want to send me? Email me at [email protected] with your general notes and business anniversaries (ending in a five or zero) and you could see it in an upcoming Minding Your Business column.