Small Town Feel, Big City Opportunities
By Lee Rennick
Sitting at one of the outdoor tables at the Café Carpe on Front Street in Smyrna, and looking around the historic area now known as the “Depot District,” you feel transported back to a simpler time. At the café friends still meet and business people still make deals the old fashioned way, face-to-face over a cup of coffee.
“It is the small town feel that draws people to this community and makes them stay,” said Mayor Mary Esther Reed. “That sense of neighbor helping neighbor. And with every decision the town council makes, we try to keep that feeling as we grow.”
With a population estimated to be almost 50,000 people, Smyrna has managed to find a balance between change, and keeping what is the best of what the city has to offer. What ever the town council is doing, they are doing it right, because Smyrna has been named as one of the best places to retire by Forbes magazine for two years in a row, and they were just named by Money magazine as one of the best places to live in 2017.
They have gained all of this national attention because of a strong economy, great cost of living, lots to do, superb medical care, first-rate educational opportunities, significant green space, and a wonderful climate.
A lot is packed into the almost thirty square miles that the Town of Smyrna occupies, from a vibrant business community, to great sports, to the arts, to healthcare, and a strong emphasis on education.
Everything You Want to Know About Smyrna Business
Shopping local is what Smyrna is all about, and the city is working hard to develop the historic area now known at the “Depot District. It is filled with quaint small shops and restaurants located in the old downtown near the train depot. From antiques to the latest in women’s fashions are available in stores like new Lowry Street Pickers, and the women’s clothing store, In Bloom.
A strong group of local small business owners comprise the Smyrna Independent Merchants Association (SiMA), an organization created to focus on building community through buying local, and by bringing the community together through their annual Depot Days, which takes place in late September. For more information about SiMA, go to http://www.simatn.org.
In the center of the Depot District, the city has developed both the old train station house and the Assembly Hall for rental for business meetings, weddings, and other events, as well as for use during community activities, like Depot Days.
Smyrna is also the home to national and international companies like Nissan, Vi-Jon, Schneider Electric, Courier Printing, and Franke. While the headquarters for these organizations are not local, they are all strong community partners through their investment in Smyrna’s people, non-profits, and through their efforts in sustainability.
Franke, a Swiss company that makes kitchen equipment, has located their USA headquarters in Smyrna in an environmentally friendly building that is LEED certified by the United States Green Building Council. And Schneider Electric has a solar energy farm located on six acres adjacent to their plant. Take a tour of Nissan, which happens weekly, and you will learn all about what they are doing to lower their energy usage, and recycle.
Keep The Ball Rolling
Many of these businesses sponsor the youth and adult athletic leagues for which Smyrna is known. For years the city has offered youth soccer, softball, basketball, and adult flag football. Parks and Recreation also provides Homeschool PE. And a number of times a year they have kayaking on Percy Priest Lake.
Besides the athletic leagues, the town rallies around high school sports, especially the longtime rivalry between Smyrna High School and LaVergne High School.
A system of parks and greenways are available for exercise and family fun. One of the most popular locations is Lee Victory Recreation Park. It also contains basketball courts, tennis courts, a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, softball fields, football fields, and much more. It is only one of ten parks throughout the town. There are almost 30 miles of greenways located throughout the city.
Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center is one of the city’s newest locations for events and activities for kids of all ages. There is a pool, multi-story slide, climbing wall and much more.
Located just off of Sam Ridley Parkway, the Smyrna Golf Course offers a regulation 18- hole course, a putting green, a driving range, a practice bunker, and other amenities.
For more information about what Smyrna Parks and Recreation has to offer, visit www.townofsmyrna.org/departments/parks-and-recreation.
Advance Healthcare Offered Close to Home
For the last fourteen years, Tri-Star StoneCrest Medical Center has been the crown jewel in Smyrna healthcare. A promise made to Smyrna’s citizens long ago by the Frist family came true upon the opening of the medical center, and the facility continues to grow with the size and medical needs of the population.
The facility has just announced a new 10.5 million dollar expansion to the emergency room. “This will include 17 new beds,” said Kerry Rogers, Marketing and Communications Specialist, “which will include a behavioral health unit and clinical decision unit (for patients that are not ready to be admitted to the facility but need additional evaluation and medical care). Currently, the hospital industry standards claim 1500-1800 visits per bed per year for capacity. TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center’s ER is currently averaging 2300 visits per bed per year.”
Previous to the announcement to the emergency room expansions, StoneCrest added a state of-the-art interventional radiology suite to provide cutting-edge, minimally invasive treatments that will allow physicians to clearly visualize blood vessels in boney or dense soft tissue. They have also installed a TrueBeam Radiotherapy System that enables a radically different approach to treating cancer with image-guided radiation therapy. Other new developments include the opening of the Center for Joint Replacement and Spine Surgery Institute and a progressive care unit.
Other medical services are provided in the area by Murfreesboro Medical Clinic, the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System (Veteran’s Administration), and a number of other individuals and organizations, including the Primary Care and Hope Clinic.
Making the Grade
To stay current, the city has jumped on to the technology bandwagon to insure future job growth with partners like Nissan, Bridgestone, Motlow College, and Tennessee College of Applied Technology. Recently Nissan and the Tennessee College of Applied got together to provide more opportunities for technology training at the brand new Nissan Training Center on their campus in Smyrna.
Job growth has also led to the speedy expansion of Motlow College’s Smyrna Campus due to the opportunities they provide for training for high demand jobs.
A program to help students be more prepared for the future of work, and the educational requirements these jobs will require, was developed by the Rutherford County School System, the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, and local businesses. The first focus of this program was technology, but it has expanded into healthcare, logistics, information systems, and the building industry. Smyrna’s students are better prepared for jobs that don’t even exist today because of the innovative educational experiences being provided.
In the last few years, Smyrna has become a juggernaut in an area that is growing and changing faster than many in the entire country. The development along Sam Ridley Parkway began the process, but it is the strong independent spirit and vision of those who live in the community that are guiding the process. They are insuring that Smyrna keeps the neighborly feeling that has guided so many to the city and kept them there.
Art is Alive and Well and Living in Smyrna
By Lee Rennick
Smyrna also has a great art community that is growing quickly. Springhouse Theatre is considered one of the best in Middle Tennessee.
Springhouse Theater is located just off Sam Ridley in the Springhouse Worship and Arts Center on Old Nashville Highway. They offer a full season of community theater, and summer drama camp for elementary through high school students.
“It is considered one of the best theaters in Middle Tennessee,” said Mayor Mary Esther Reed.
Dedicated to family friendly fare, they began life as Lamplighter’s Theatre, and they were located in the Smyrna Assembly. In 2010, they changed the name of the church.
“Though we actually started doing plays in the late 90’s,” said Ronnie Meeks, the Head Pastor and guiding force, “We did not schedule our first season and promote to the community until the fall of 2004. When the church decided to build a new ministry center in 2003, the plan was approved to build a space that would serve as a theatre as well as for our Sunday morning worship needs.”
On October 1, they completed their production of Beauty and the Beast, which be followed by Smoke on the Mountain in November. In 2018 they are offering a bit of murder and mayhem. They will produce the always funny Arsenic and Old Lace in February, followed by Baskerville, A Sherlock Holmes Mystery in April.
“We also have a Black Box theatre which seats 75,” added Meeks. “This summer we offered productions of Peter and the Starcatcher and The Fantasticks in this space.”
Recently visited by Tennessee Crossroads for a future segment, Carpe Artista, which means seize the artist, has a mission to promote positive cultural and economic development while providing artistic and leadership training, and performance opportunities for local artists through strong partnership with community, donors, and volunteers.
“The idea that the arts (music, visual, theatrical, prose, etc.) can be a positive influence on leaders, culture, and the individual had long been a passion of mine,” said Ron Alley, founder of Carpe Artista. “In 2011, I took a leap of faith and launched this arts organization with a goal to change the community, and eventually the world.”
Alley was joined by Susan Gulley as the organization started to grow. They now offer camps, classes, and events. Classes include music, drama, photography, pottery, fiber arts, and other visual arts. Their premier event is the Simply Smyrna Celebration, which will take place in June 2, 2018.
Carpe Café is their flagship operation. It is a gallery, a café, and a community gathering place. The café has also had a huge influence on the rebirth of the Depot District in old downtown Smyrna. The café offers great breakfast and lunch foods, including their famous cinnamon rolls.
Renovations are currently taking place on their space at 101 Front Street where they offer their classes. It was a former warehouse and retail store.
Smyrna Art Crawl
In June of this year, Smyrna had its first art crawl thanks to a grant from the Greater Nashville Regions Arts Council. The inaugural Smyrna Art Crawl took place in the Depot District and included art, music, food, and lots of family friendly fun.
Art was displayed in the Assembly Hall, the old depot building, and Carpe Artista. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts provided a hands-on art activity.
“We hope to get another grant and do another Art Crawl next year,” said Mayor Mary Esther Reed.
October Events in Smyrna
Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center Fright Nights
October 13th and 14th, 6:00 p.m.to 8:00 p.m. family friendly hours, 8:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. scare hours. There will be creepy games, a haunted walk, frightful characters, and much more.
Smyrna Lion’s Club Inaugural “Monster Mash” Halloween Party
October 21, Smyrna Event Center, 7:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. There will be dancing the entire night, hosted by Dunning Shaw, cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and treats. There will be prizes for a costume contest for the Best Original Individual, the Best Original Couple, the Best Themed Table, and Best Dancing Partners to the song “Monster Mash.”
Halloween in the Park
October 28, Sharp Springs Natural Area Park, 3:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. There will be games, a corn maze, inflatables, a pie eating contest, food vendors, train rides, and over 80 booths with candy. There will be costume contests by age group: Under age three at 3:15 p.m., ages four to five at 3:45 p.m., ages six to seven at 4:15 p.m., ages eight to nine at 4:45 p.m., ages 10 through 14 at 5:15 p.m., and all others at 5:45 p.m.