Know Your Neighbor:
Imagine 5 Points being dominated by a big, fat, generic drugstore. Well, that’s exactly what would have happened if not for Scott Stone and his father Cecil, owners of Advanced Tax and Income Services.
Advanced Tax and Income Services has been located in the 5 points area since 1976, on the block of Forrest Avenue that now includes Red Door, Hip Zipper, and The 5 Spot. In the mid-’90s, Walgreens offered to buy their building, as well as the surrounding buildings on Forrest.
“Walgreens pretty much talked to all the business owners on this block, and everybody said, ‘Yes, we’ll sell,’ very willingly,” the younger Stone explains. “Then they came to us and — not being greedy — we said, ‘We can’t relocate for that’ — I believe the offer was for $85,000 — ‘so either leave us be or you’re going to have to significantly up your offer.’ Ultimately, we killed the deal for everybody.”
As Stone sees it, East Nashville’s turning point came a few years later, ushered in by the tornado of ’98. His dad was at Advanced Tax that day and weathered the tornado crouched beneath his desk. The tornado may have ripped East Nashville apart, but after the community put the neighborhood back together, it was better than ever, he says.
Over the years, the Stones have seen 5 Points’ businesses come and go. They recall a time in the ’80s when Red Door Saloon was a hair salon, and then later, a haven for the homeless. They remember The 5 Spot as a computer store and The Hip Zipper as ground zero for a prostitution ring.
Although they opened a second Advanced Tax office in Portland in 1978, and then added locations in Lebanon in ’92 and Gallatin in ’95, they have continued to call the 5 Points office home base. “We felt like there was potential here,” Stone says of why he and his father stayed in what was considered a “bad” neighborhood. “We didn’t have a clue what kind of potential was here, but there was no reason for us to relocate. We were doing fine regardless.”
Their clientele returns year after year in part because their prices are wildly competitive: $65 for a simple return, with most fees at least 30 percent below competitors. They likely return, too, because they can see that the Stones are driven by what they do — that’s why neither of them bothers to leave the office very often.
“Sometimes we make an analogy between our occupation and a bartender,” Stone says. “When the finances come out on the table, everything else comes out with it; so we get to hear the stories and not just see the numbers on a piece of paper. That’s what makes this job interesting. If it was just the numbers, if it was just people dropping off profit and loss statements, we would literally be as boring as people accuse us of being. People make this job rewarding.”