'50s parlor entering Fiddles music venue

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Lewisburg couple is expanding its business interests here, the wife said last week as one of her landlords said it would help him repay a loan from the city.

Robert and Judy Crane, the couple authorized by the city to open Judy's Game Room on Second Avenue North, plan to open an ice cream parlor just downhill from the Marshall County Community Theatre.

Bedford County twins Don and Ron Stacey still operate their '50s & Fiddles restaurant and music venue in Shelbyville, but the store of the same name behind the aqua-colored awning on Lewisburg's public square has been closed for months.

It's not just because ice cream doesn't sell well in the winter, Ron Stacey indicated in a telephone interview. "Times are hard," he said, confirming information reported during this month's city council meeting.

The brothers have been late in making monthly payments on a $20,000 loan from the city to renovate the building that was once a furniture store, according to discussion during the council's monthly meeting. It now has the aqua-colored awning.

Robert and Judy Crane want to open a '50s Ice Cream Parlor and plan to do so by renting the Stacey brothers' building on the square, Judy Crane said during an interview in her Water Street office in the back of the Chamber of Commerce building.

That's where she works as an area manager for WR Community Services. It's a business fostering community living in contrast with institutional living, according to a WRCS brochure. It lists in-home respite care, homemaker services and personal care assistance. WR Community Services has offices in Hernando, Miss., and Memphis. Judy Crane recently moved her office from home to Water Street, she said.

"I've got 18 employees," she said, describing their work as like that of a certified nursing assistant with pay starting at about $8.50 an hour. Services also include bathing and private duty shopping. "I've got a lot who want to work part-time. I still have been taking applications.

"It's a 'Choices Program,'" she said. "You can't be rich to have it."

She found her position with the company by answering a help wanted ad in the Marshall County Tribune. Previously, she worked for a nursing home in town.

Meanwhile, she and her husband continue with plans for Judy's Game Room on Second Avenue North and plan to proceed in a couple of weeks with their '50s Ice Cream Parlor in the building that's almost at the back of her WRCS office.

"Business grows better with an office," she said of WRCS. "I've been here about a month."

As for her new landlords' circumstances with the city, Ron Stacey acknowledged the '50s & Fiddles loan payments are in arrears.

"I've got to get caught up" on the loan, he said, declining to publicly discuss the terms of the lease he would have with the Cranes. "It's a contract between me and them... It's for a year."

As for the '50s & Fiddles restaurant and music venue in Shelbyville, Stacey said, "It's doing OK," but taxes and music royalties are problematic.

Memorabilia decorating the walls of the restaurants is taxed as personal property, like tables and chairs, he said. As a result, costs are greater than income and the brothers are spending their personal income from other sources to repay the city loan.

"That's one reason we decided to lease it, so there won't be any problem with the loan," he said.

The loan isn't unique, but it is unusual.

The original source for the $20,000 is the federal government. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development granted well over $100,000 to the city, which, in turn, loaned it to a factory expansion here. That's according to several discussions in City Hall during recent years. The successful auto parts business repaid the money. Under HUD's Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) program, the money was repaid to the city.

As a result, it's had a fund that local officials chose to name the UDAG Fund, although it's not bound by HUD rules on how UDAG money is spent.

Lewisburg's Community Development Committee is authorized to make loans of up to $20,000 each from $100,000 of the city's UDAG fund. The Stacey brothers were granted a $20,000 loan.

During the city council meeting on July 12, Councilman Robin Minor asked about the status of that $20,000 loan. City Attorney Steve Broadway replied that payments are being made and that the property stands as collateral for the loan.

"So," Minor asked, "if that fellow goes belly up," what happens?

"We," Connie Edde, the city's recently retired treasurer, replied in a reference to the city, "are second lien."

Councilman Ronald McRady has apparently been gathering information on the status of the loan, noting that payments were "about three months behind at one time."

Edde, who's currently retained as a consultant on city financial matters, interjected, "They're about one and a half months behind now."

Edde and a few front office city employees indicated that when payments are made on the loan, there's a sum of money delivered in amounts of $200 and $500, or the like.

The reason for payment of less than the full amount: "He does not have a going business," Edde said. "He spent all of the $20,000."

At that point in the city's monthly meeting, councilmen turned to other matters.

Judy Crane has indicated that she and her husband Robert hope to have their '50s Ice Cream Parlor open in about two weeks.

Last year, business at '50s and Fiddles was noticeably better when there was a show at the Marshall County Community Theatre next door. Rough Around the Edges, a men's a cappella group, is scheduled to perform in the theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Monday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.