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Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith / The property that held Wichman Monuments on Brainerd Road is for sale. The 72-year-old business suddenly closed last year.

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“There is such a need for that in town.” — Seller Randy Wilson about how the former Wichman Monuments tract could hold another similar business

The former Wichman Monuments property in Chattanooga is for sale, and its owner says he has had about 10 inquires over the last couple of weeks for the Brainerd Road site.

Randy Wilson of Randy Wilson Painting said Tuesday he's asking $575,000 for the three-quarter-acre tract. He bought the parcel last year after the operator of Wichman Monuments stopped filling hundreds of orders on headstones and markers on which people had paid.

Trent Daniel Wichman, who was the company's president, was later charged with theft of property after the 72-year-old business suddenly closed last year. Wichman, 33, entered a "not guilty" plea and his case is slated to be heard Feb. 12 in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

Wilson said he formed a company, A&R Holdings Inc., and purchased the 5225 Brainerd Road property for $400,000 from Wichman's grandparents and agreed to accept responsibility for the customer accounts, which numbered about 260.

The Chattanooga businessman said that "about 98 to 99 percent" of the cases have been settled with people taking refunds or getting their orders filled by other monument companies.

"When all is said and done, we'll spend more than [$400,000]," he said.

Wilson termed the property acquisition a business deal, but added that he knew 10 to 15 of the people who had problems with their orders.

"I told them we were involved," he said. "They knew who I was and that I stand behind my word."

Wilson said other monument companies came to the rescue.

"A lot was done at cost trying to help everybody out including Trent," he said. Wilson said there have been bumps along the way, however.

"I'm a businessman. I do things in business that sometimes make sense, sometimes they don't," he said. "It made more sense to begin with, probably. There were a lot more problems we ran into and solved as we went on."

Wilson said he has had interest in the property from potential buyers who would put up a variety of ventures, from storage buildings to a tire service center. Property on both sides of the tract are also for sale, he said.

What would work on the site is a continuation of the monument business, Wilson said.

"There is such a need for that in town," he said. "People are still coming by a year later and don't know it happened."

Wilson said he didn't think the problem that happened at Wichman Monuments was intentional.

"In my eye, a young kid took over the business and it got out of hand," he said. "He didn't know who to ask. It was more than a young man could probably handle."

A statement last year announcing the closure of the business said it was precipitated by rising costs and the loss of some key employees to illness.

The indictment said there were five instances in which Wichman between Jan. 1, 2017, and March 1, 2018, unlawfully and knowingly obtained or exercised control of property valued at $2,500 or more but less than $10,000.

In two other counts, Wichman allegedly took the same action involving more than $1,000 but less than $2,500, according to the indictment.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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