Leader Blues

Monday, June 11, 2007

TOP STORY >>Small city sees itself marching forward

Leader senior staff writer

A new dental office, a popular Mexican restaurant, a donut shop, a supplier of durable medical goods—these are just a few of the businesses that have opened in Lonoke in recent months, and local leaders say construction of the planned west Lonoke I-40 interchange will bring even more.

Lonoke Chamber of Commerce Director John Garner says he’s bullish on the future of Lonoke and that with completion of that interchange, a new Wal-Mart Supercenter can’t be far behind.

Meanwhile, Francesco Salcedo, his wife, brother and in-laws have opened Senor Picante’s, a colorful restaurant gaining popularity.

Salcedo says Senor Picante’s, affiliated with El Canaveral in Cabot and in West Helena, has steady business all day.
“Business is good here so far,” said Salcedo, who opened the restaurant in the Rainbow Center across from Wal-Mart last October. “People are responding.”

Although there are a couple of small mom-and-pop—or madre y padre—businesses serving the Hispanic community around town, Salcedo is the first Hispanic to join the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce in the 20 years he’s been affiliated, says former chamber president Bill Ryker.

Salcedo is active on a retail committee, Ryker says, and is concerned that for those exiting I-40 at the existing interchange, it appears that Lonoke starts and stops within a quarter mile of the interchange.

There are no lights or indications that the town with its many retail businesses lays beyond the vast, dark marsh south of the interstate.

Ryker said the old highway had streetlights leading travelers into town, but the current, redesigned road does not.
Both the restaurant and the new dental clinic prove that entrepreneurs are optimistic about Lonoke’s future growth. Both of those operations made large investments in equipment.

Central Arkansas Dental Associates, a partnership between dental school friends Jordan Cooper and Chad Matone, already is open on Thursdays and Fridays, and associate Andy Orr begins his Monday-through-Wednesday pediatric practice June 18. The office will be open all weekdays. All three are graduates of the University of Tennessee-Memphis College of Dentistry.

The clinic, with X-ray facilities, chairs and equipment for two dentists and a dental hygienist, represents a substantial investment in a Lonoke business.

Cooper will continue to practice four days a week with his father in Jacksonville, and Matone four days a week in North Little Rock.

They were familiar with Lonoke because Matone’s child used to live and attend school in Lonoke. Orr’s wife will be a Lonoke teacher when school opens in the fall, according to the dentists.

“We wanted to satisfy a need,” said Matone. “We had the means and the desire and we love people.”

“This is a great location for ARKids First” dental patients, said Orr. “Right now, people drive all the way from Brinkley” for those services, he said.

Cooper, who said he got his first hands-on dental experience pulling hundreds of teeth on medical missions, says he is fluent in Spanish, which should help with the area’s considerable Hispanic population.

The rest of the dental team includes Sherwood native Jessica Miller, now of Lonoke, and Anna Jane Lipton McCormick of England, both dental assistants, and office manager Brandy O’Hare, a Jacksonville resident now living in Lonoke. Kenny and Jenny Pasley have opened the Lemmon Tree Café at the site of the T&T coffee house, where they serve sandwiches, salads, coffee and ice cream.

The Pasleys, who run Covenant Pest Control, bought the building housing both businesses and “we had so much (restaurant) equipment come our way it was kind of a no-brainer,” she said. “It was one of those God-kind of setups.”

Pasley also pastors the Gateway Fellowship Church, where Jenny Pasley serves as church secretary in her spare time. At the corner of Hwy. 70 and Center Street, a Daylight Donuts store has opened, serving coffee and donuts from 5-11 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Not a new business, construction is underway across from the Depot on Front Street for a new, two-story First State Bank.
Also across from the Depot is It’s a Girl’s Thing, run by Amanda Simpson, a tanning salon that sells purses and accessories Tuesday through Saturday.

Donna and Mike Taylor have opened a discount store across the way from Lonoke City Hall, where they currently carry everything from toys to furniture, records and camping equipment in an ever-changing inventory of overstock or other goods they buy by the truckload, she said. Mike Taylor works days at Ashland Chemical in Jacksonville.

In the Rainbow Center, Jeri Brown manages the third Absolute Medical store in the area. The others are at Cabot and Jacksonville.

They sell or lease various durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, motorized power scooters, hospital beds, diabetic supplies, equipment for oxygen therapy and bathroom-safety equipment.

DDL Enterprises has opened a storage and U-Hall business, also selling sheds, according to Garner. DDL is located at 1219 Front Street, by the MFA service station.