While COVID has made its impact on several ways across the nation, several Metropolis businesses have either opened afresh or added on during the pandemic.

A-1 AutomotiveJust as Jared English was reopening A-1 Automotive at its original Market Street location in March, COVID lockdowns began.

So with a little time off, English began looking at other business opportunities.

Now, in addition to be being the founder/owner of A-1, English is also the founder/owner of HHO Carbon Clean Systems, a business that uses oxyhydrogen to perform engine carbon cleaning on any gas or diesel engine.

“We were open right in the middle of this whole quarantine, and it’s also when we started this new business,” he said. “(Both businesses have gone) over really well even though we’re still in this pandemic phase.”

English began A-1 in January 2004 when, after graduating from Nashville Auto Diesel College and working for others, he “decided I wanted to open my own shop.”

He rented and retrofitted a former florist shop in Market Street and over time, the business grew, expanded and was remodeled. The building burned in October 2018, but A-1 continued business at a temporary location before reopening in March 2020 in a building designed by English.

“We knew what we were lacking, so we streamlined the shop, made it more energy efficient and with a big floor plan so we could move around,” he said. “We’ve purchased the house next door and will tear it down to get alley access and more parking.”

While the new building has a waiting area, English noted it’s not used often as customers usually just drop off their vehicles for service.

“The automotive repair agency hasn’t really been affected by COVID — people still drive their cars, have to have things repaired,” he said.“At times, I think we were busier because people were off and had more time to get things done; they were doing something they were putting off.”

It was during the quarantine English developed HHO Carbon Clean System.

“I had a lot of time on my hands. I was researching stuff and came across this, which is a practice used in the U.K. Engine cleaning has always used very harsh chemicals that burn the skin and are bad for the environment. I started experimenting with oxyhydrogen. Nobody would sell the equipment. so I developed my own and found a company to build it,” he said. “We’re pretty proud of it. We have a line of people ready to buy franchises when we’re ready to sell in January.”

HHO Carbon Clean System uses hydrogen (HHO) to clean carbon out of any internal combustion engine, gas or diesel. The process, using distilled water and a little gasoline in the generator to create electricity to make the hydrogen, “cleans the carbon out and restores everything to like new — fuel mileage, performance — and it lowers emissions,” English explained. “Lowering emissions is the focus of the future. There’s no harsh chemicals, so we can we provide a service that is eco-friendly and not harming the environment.”

Frosted By MollieMollie Russell admits it: “Ever since my first job, I’ve been kinda ate up with everything to do with baking. Since then, I’ve baked about everything from the best people to learn it from.”

Russell began baking at 16 and hasn’t stopped. She opened her own bakery, Frosted By Mollie, at the corner of East Fifth and Butler streets, on Aug. 17. Frosted not only features Russell’s own creations of custom cakes, cookies and cupcakes but “my favorite parts of Paducah all squished into one space” with Munel’s doughnuts, Kirchhoff’s bread and Piper’s coffee.

Russell just received her culinary degree from West Kentucky Community & Technical College. Her first job was at Alexa’s Sweet Shoppe in downtown Paducah; she also assisted its owner, Allison Hart, with wedding catering through her Occasions Unlimited business. At Cakes by Ally in Herrin, Russell learned how to decorate custom cakes which got her positions at Cold Stone, Walmart and Harrah’s before transitioning to Kirchhoff’s Deli & Bakery.

“Kirchhoff’s is such a big name in Paducah, that’s where I wanted to be. Kirchhoff’s was the dream job. I learned so much from them. It was life changing for sure,” she said, noting she built her own customer base with her custom cake decorating at the same time.

But with two boys, Maddox, 6, and Maverick, 3, the schedule of going in in every night at 2 a.m. to bake wasn’t ideal.

“We needed a change in routine, so as much as I hated to leave Kirchhoff’s … We started this and it’s taken off from there,” Russell said. “I never imagined it would happen so quickly or the way it did. I’m so thankful it did.”

Opening her own business gave Russell space. “I outgrew my house over COVID because nobody wanted to go to the stores to get cakes. I had such a huge influx of orders, my kitchen turned into a bakery. It has been insane since then. I decided if I didn’t use the moment of now, I might not ever get this opportunity again.”

Russell noted it wouldn’t be possible without her family’s support. “They all fill their special little role for me. My aunt (Maxine Russell) is my go-to girl — she does dishes, she’ll clean out the grease pit, she mops the floors every night. My dad (Clarence Russell) will come in here every night and put together boxes. My mom (Julie Jo Russell) babysits the kids.”

Through the bakery, Russell’s passing on what she’s learned from others — she has two interns from West Kentucky and McCracken County High School she’s teaching to bake and decorate.

“I knew I’d always have my custom cake clients, that was enough for me. This was the cherry on top,” Russell said. “When people come in, I want them to experience wow-factor desserts. I am so obsessed with everything sweet, I want everybody to be able to experience something new, fun, trendy, good. I want Metropolis to have something to be proud of.”

Saturdays in October, Russell will offer Frosted After Dark from 6 p.m. until midnight. On Halloween night, she’s planning drive-thru trick-or-treating and a Facebook costume contest with the winner getting a custom cake or cupcakes. “I’m trying to offer another experience that’s positive and offer more to do,” she said.

RE/MAX SouthernKim Wilkins began her sixth year in the real estate business with a bang.

But not intentionally.

When she and her husband JL purchased the former EEI Credit Union building on West 10th Street in December 2019, it was a future investment they had no plans for. “I liked the location because it’s on (Hwy.) 45 at the other end of town,” she said.

Then Wilkins decide to venture on her own, becoming a managing broker with RE/MAX Southern. Her husband renovated the building, she settled in in February and an opening was planned for late-March.

While COVID put a damper on that grand opening plan, “the market for real estate has been really good despite of COVID because of the lower rates right now,” Wilkins said.

The Wilkinses moved to Metropolis 13 years ago from Ohio where they were home builders in new residential construction. Wilkins owned other businesses in town — Pizza & Dots, Tailgators Sports Bar & Grill — and “after those I needed something to do. I had an interest in real estate from having the experience of residential construction.”

She got her real estate license in 2014 and joined Farmer & Co. that October 2014. In December 2019, she joined RE/MAX Southern, the Anna-based office of the worldwide firm; she is a also part of the RE/MAX Realty Group in Paducah.

Noting RE/MAX isn’t a prominent realtor in this area, Wilkins said she chose the company “because of their marketing, their branding, their opportunities and I can cross state lines with it.

“It’s been a transition for me for people to find out I’m still in real estate versus leaving Farmer’s and leaving real estate all together.,” Wilkins said. “I’m branching outside of Metropolis, bringing buyers into Metropolis from other areas.”

With over 20 years experience in new residential construction, “I believe my residential construction background gives me ideas and insight as to home values, potential and restoration possibilities,” Wilkins said.

The New Village GroomerGail Kearns is The New Village Groomer, and she changed a business name to reflect it.

Kearns became the owner of the former Village Groomers in November and opened on Jan. 2 in the business’ new location — the former home of Touche: A Final Touch salon on West Sixth Street in the Dixon Building.

“The minute I peeked in the window, I knew it was the one I wanted,” Kearns said. “It was already set up — a reception area separated from the grooming, all the stations and the water. Being downtown was the second plus. And I love old buildings — the structure, the woodwork upstairs is just beautiful.”

Kearns brings experience as not only a groomer but as a dog owner to the business. She and husband Terry currently have a husky wolf, a chiweenie and a Dotson at their Paducah home. “I think there’s only been one year out of my life I haven’t had dogs. I grew to loving them,” she said.

So when they had to give up their semi driving, she went to work at PetSmart for two years as a bather and “fell in love with it. I love working with animals.”

She decided to get her certification online through Animal Behavior College and received her 100 hours of training at Tammy’s Pet Salon in Lone Oak, where she was hired and worked for four years before deciding to go on her own. Several of those clients followed her.

“It doesn’t feel like work. Time flies — this is my 10th month; I can’t believe it,” Kearns said.

Along with dogs, Kearns also grooms cats.

“Cats are more difficult because their skin is thinner so you have to really go slow and you can only use two blades, you have to pull their skin tight,” Kearns said. “People say they don’t like water, but I haven’t had any that have been bad. It’s all in how you approach the animal. There are dogs other groomers have thrown out. You’ve got to have a lot of patience and spend time with them and talk to them.”

Depending on the animal’s size and what needs to be done, Kearns said it can take one to four hours to groom, including dematting, nail clipping, brush outs and ear and gland cleaning.

“That’s one big thing people seem to be happy with — I try to be flexible to fit the owner’s needs. When I was 20, I had a toy poodle and when I took her at 8, she wouldn’t get home til almost 6; I didn’t like that; so I try to adjust my schedule to where it wouldn’t be inconvenient. I usually don’t want to go over four (hours),” she said. “I have them coming from all over — one’s near Marion — because you can’t just find somebody. If they come and want to stay in town, I try to get them in and out as soon as possible.”

With his own moving company and resale shop, Kearns’ husband Terry became a member of the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce “to be part of something and meet people for his business.,” she said. “He talked to them and about this and they were very happy. They’ve helped me get started and do things. I’ve never owned a business before, so this was a big, scary step for me. They’ve helped in getting people and getting the word out on websites, ideas, contacts, events.”

Kearns grew up on a farm in Atwood, located three hours north of Metropolis, with “1300 people, one grocery store and that was it. I missed the small town atmosphere. I enjoy it here. Metropolis has been wonderful.”

Rick’s new ventureWhen Rick Bonds first came from Kankakee to southern Illinois about 25 years ago, it was originally to attend college in Carbondale. Instead, “I got in the car business down here and never left,” he said. “I like the area. This town has been good to us.”

Now, Bonds is venturing into the equipment business. Yet-to-be-named, Bonds’ third location is located on the former Little Tractor property on West 10th Street. Its sales manager will be Brett Gentry, who joined Rick’s Auto Sales almost 18 months ago.

With Gentry’s background in equipment, “he started getting calls asking for it and we slowly started selling some tractors and bush hogs,” Bonds said. “We needed some place bigger to store it and recondition it. We’ve been watching this place for a while. When it came up for auction, we thought it was a good opportunity.”

The sale of the property went through Sept. 28 and equipment started being moved to the location that afternoon.

“We’re just going to handle used; there are no plans to handle new lines. We’re just going to do equipment and use this as a conditioning facility for the car business. We will not be selling cars here; we’re going to keep that where it’s at,” Bonds said.

Rick’s Auto Sales started on East Fifth Street 20 years ago. A second location was added at the corner of East 12th Street and Pullen Road five years later.

Bonds saw a slow down in car sales the first 60 days of the COVID pandemic “when they pretty much had us shut down. It’s recovered strong. The biggest problem we’re having in the car business is sourcing inventory. Inventory is very scarce right now. It may be easing up a little bit, but for a while, you couldn’t buy anything — auctions were closed; new car dealers weren’t getting supply so they weren’t getting trade-ins,” he said. “The equipment side has remained pretty strong; it never seemed to die down. We have a lot of people who have 10 to 20 acres. Right now, things are good. I hope we can continue.”

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