In downtown Marion under one roof, you will find a new fitness center and a new boxing gym as well as the larger and improved homes for established businesses like Chance of Sprinkles Bakeshop and FAB Physique Training Studio. In the near future, other entrepreneurs are expected to set up shop inside this 110,000-square-foot space and help transform a former plant building into a modern indoor mall and events center.

More than a year ago, the McDowell Chamber of Commerce held a triple ribbon-cutting event at the Larry D. Miller Business Complex, which is located in the former Rock-Tenn plant building along Logan, West Henderson and Burgin streets. The three new businesses that first moved into the site were Talent Force, Rocket Sled Design and Marketing and Miller Realty & Development. Titan Brazilian Jiu Jitsu started operating there as well.

Since then, other entrepreneurs have moved into this huge building and much more is in the works for this complex, according to Chad Marsh, vice president of both GEM Construction and Miller Realty, and Chamber Executive Director Steve Bush.

Recently, Marsh and Bush gave a McDowell News reporter a tour of the complex and described what is taking place there now and what is planned for the future.

“Our vision for the complex is to see it become an economic and social anchor for downtown Marion,” said Marsh to The McDowell News. “We hope to accomplish this by creating a safe, clean, family friendly environment for people of all ages.”

In order for this to happen, more improvements are planned. The front entrance will be redone and a kiosk will be placed at the entranceway. It will direct the public toward either the shops or businesses on the left or toward the Municipal Events Center (MEC) on the right. Metal framework already outlines what is planned for that section and big stacks of sheetrock are waiting to be installed. Energy-efficient LED lights now hang from the ceiling.

“This will be the starting point for the entire complex,” said Marsh. “We’re getting that mall effect.”

Chance of Sprinkles Bakeshop

Chance of Sprinkles Bakeshop was one of the first businesses to move into the complex and it is the first one you see when you walk through the front door.

Owner Renee Arrowood said this month she is celebrating her sixth year of operating her bakeshop. Chance of Sprinkles started out in 2013 on the five lane and later moved to a small building on Rutherford Road. Now, her shop has a larger and more comfortable setting in the Miller Complex.

“We’re trying to let everybody know we’ve moved,” she said to The McDowell News. “We would like to invite everyone to see our new shop.”

As at her previous locations, Arrowood makes and serves up an assortment of cupcakes, brownies, pastries and specialty coffees. As before, she has ice cream and milkshakes of all kinds of flavors. She also creates and decorates cakes for all types of special occasions.

“It’s where the forecast is always sweet,” said Arrowood of Chance of Sprinkles.

Her new location at the Miller Complex gives the business more room for customers young and old to enjoy their sweet treats. It has a seating area where children can enjoy games and movies while they eat their cupcakes or ice cream.

Chance of Sprinkles Bakeshop has added protein shakes and smoothies to the menu, which are favored by the folks working out in the fitness centers next door.

Arrowood is working on a Web site and her shop is on Facebook

McDowell Fitness Center

Right next door to Chance of Sprinkles is the new McDowell Fitness Center, which opened only a couple of weeks ago on Friday, June 21.

The big center, owned and operated by William and Misty Morris, has numerous treadmills, exercise equipment, cardio machines, tanning beds, weights and lots of space for anyone to build up their strength and become more physically fit. There is another room that can be used for yoga and other body and mind fitness activities.

McDowell Fitness Center allows a prospective customer to have a free trial. If you choose to continue, a basic gym package costs $20, which allows you to use the weights and exercise equipment. There is also a premium package of $30, which also allows you to do tanning and studio classes. A family package for two members costs $40 and that includes tanning and studio classes. A family package for three members or more costs $50, including tanning and studio classes.

Since it opened on June 21, McDowell Fitness has already received some rave reviews on its Facebook page.

“Great Environment. Great equipment. Best gym in town,” wrote Hunter Ezell.

“Great place to exercise! The staff are very friendly and the equipment is plentiful,” wrote Travis Maltba.

“Friendly, helpful staff, great equipment, clean facilities, and excellent prices! Could not recommend more! We worked out here while out of town and we will be back next year,” wrote Taylor Hall of Louisiana.

On Monday afternoon, the center had numerous patrons who were busy working out and using the exercise equipment. Employee Edie Lytle said she’s looking forward to even more people coming in once the other new businesses are housed in the complex.

“There’s going to be a lot in here, a busy, busy place,” she said to The McDowell News.

McDowell Fitness Center has a Web site and a Facebook page:

Inside Out Boxing and FAB Physique

Another new business inside the Miller Complex is the Inside Out Boxing & Fitness Club where you can “test your limits/train to be limitless.”

Inside Out, owned and operated by Greg Withrow, is a different kind of fitness center that is affiliated with the U.S. Amateur Boxing Association, according to Marsh and Bush.

Inside Out has a full-size boxing ring, punching bags of different sizes and all kinds of exercise equipment. There are different classes available for children, teens and adult women and men.

“Finally a place for the community to have fun. Something positive for the youth as well,” wrote Tim Velez in a Facebook review.

“Great people. Great setting. Great training,” wrote Amerus Guffey.

It is open during the evenings from 5 to 9 p.m., Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Like other fitness centers, memberships are available for those who want to come train or work out there.

The Miller Complex is also the new home of FAB Physique, which offers one-on-one personal training. Marsh said this fitness center is oriented towards women and has a more comfortable setting where they can focus on their training. He said many women feel uncomfortable working out at other gyms because they feel the men are around to ask them out on a date or make a pass at them. Owned by Wendy Allen, FAB Physique was previously located in an upstairs section above the office of Rhonda Silver Real Estate Group.

“Since (Allen) moved here from above Rhonda’s office, her business has tripled,” said Marsh.

“Wendy is absolutely wonderful. She is very devoted to helping every client meet their needs and goals, as well as helping them maintain once their goals are reached. Highly recommend,” wrote Wendy Fulbright on the Facebook page.

Municipal Events Center

When plans for the complex were first announced, the section that got everyone’s attention was the new Municipal Events Center or MEC, even though it takes up up less than 14% of the total square footage of the entire building.

Located inside the heart of the complex, the 15,000-square-foot MEC is a multi-purpose space that can accommodate all kinds of entertainment, special events and meetings. The MEC hosted its first event on March 3, 2018 with Marion Comic Con. Since then, it has hosted an RV and boat show, the Rotary Club of Marion’s annual auction and the McDowell Chamber of Commerce’s membership banquet. Bush said the venue has also hosted wedding receptions, family reunions and other private events and so far has had more than 10,000 patrons.

The MEC has received new lighting and electrical fixtures. The old restrooms in the hallway outside the MEC have been totally renovated and are now accessible for those with disabilities.

In the future, it will host a concert as part of this year’s WNC Bigfoot Festival and the next annual Marion coin show will be held there. More events are being planned for the MEC, according to Bush.

Unlike the rest of the complex, the Municipal Events Center is a public-private partnership. It is jointly funded by the city of Marion, McDowell County, the McDowell Chamber and the Tourism Development Authority.

But the remainder of the complex is all being funded with private money and is a privately owned venture. The other businesses in the complex are privately owned and each space is leased by that owner, said Marsh.

Unlike some other properties in the downtown, everything at the Miller Complex is locally owned and operated.

What’s next?

In addition to these businesses and the MEC, much more is in the works for the Miller Complex, said Marsh and Bush.

Just outside of Chance of Sprinkles, a local graphic design business called Pressley Made will soon open. There, customers can get everything from logo designs, business cards, vehicle graphics, signs and banners, embroidered hats and shirts and screen printed T-shirts for clients. A section of the complex has been set aside and it is set to open there in August or September, according to Marsh.

The Hair Boutique, which is located on U.S. 221 Business, plans to move into the Miller Complex by this fall.

Owner Emily Gibbs said she is “super excited” about the move. She has worked as a stylist for 25 years and Emileigh Strode, an employee of hers, is moving too. Another employee, Andrea Jones, will also join them at the new location. Massage therapy will be offered along with hair care needs. Gibbs said she has available spots for two to three more employees to join her team.

Walk-ins will be welcomed along with their long clientele list. “That will provide more foot traffic as long as helping our girls grow a great business,” said Gibbs to The McDowell News. “So thankful to get this opportunity and I feel it will be a great success all the way around.”

An indoor playground plans to operate within a 2,600-square-foot room inside the complex. Owned by Lauren Young, it will be named Forever Young and will be similar to the Fun Depot in Asheville or Chuck E. Cheese. There will be an adjacent room for children’s parties and special events, said Marsh.

A new competitive dance and gymnastics academy called Above the Barre is coming soon to the complex. This academy has committed to holding its annual recital in the MEC for the next five years, said Bush.

Marsh and Bush showed a McDowell News reporter down a newly constructed hallway that extends down towards the Burgin Street side. Bush pointed out that a new door has been created for the Burgin Street side. An additional parking lot with 60 spaces exists on that side of the complex.

Marsh said he and others are still working to get a skating rink inside the building, which still has plenty of leftover room.

“We hope to get that by the spring of 2020,” he said.

Marsh said he’s talking with the owner of a restaurant outside of Marion about opening up a more formal sit-down eatery in the complex.

The outside will be upgraded as well. The old sign that once stood in front of the former plant building has been demolished and is now a thing of the past. There are plans in the works to install a new sign to advertise the events at the MEC and the numerous firms in the complex. The plan calls for the banners hanging now will someday be taken down and the exterior walls to be redone.

Marsh said he and other partners are working with Duke Energy to install better outside lighting for the big parking lot on Logan and West Henderson, which will someday be repaved, sealed and striped.

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