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Cookeville's Legacy

CEM of Tennessee closed after successful 50-year run

After 50 years in business, Cookeville Electric Motor (CEM) officially closed at the end of 2022. The family-owned service shop had been a staple in central Tennessee since 1972, located right off I-40 about halfway between Knoxville and Nashville in a town of about 35,000.

CEM was purchased by Jim and Anita Dickinson in 1972 and is now owned by their son, Jimmy Dickinson, reported Michelle Price, managing editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal, who covered the closing back in August 2022.

Cookeville Electric Motor owner Jimmy Dickinson has announced that the business will be closing by the end of 2022 after 50 years in business.—Upper Cumberland Business Journal photo

Electrical Apparatus would like to express our gratitude for CEM and its ownership, who were longtime subscribers of our magazine and exemplified the family-owned and operated model that so many of our readers embody.

“I grew up at CEM, I was 11 years old when mom and dad bought the business. Dad worked the shop and phones, and mom was the bookkeeper,” the younger Dickinson told Price. “I started helping out in the shop at age 13 and worked part time until my college graduation. I eventually replaced mom as the bookkeeper, and my sister Vicki worked as inside sales when she graduated high school. Unfortunately, we lost dad in 2002 and Vicki in 2006, but we continued on with them in our hearts and minds.”

CEM encapsulated many of the trademarks of its peers. It was a family-owned and operated business focusing on electric motor sales and service that ultimately grew into something more. The initial premises, according to Price's article, were only around 1,800 square feet before the first addition. CEM began to branch out in the 1980s, highlighted by a move into the electrical distribution business in 1985, when the company started selling Allen Bradley products. By the mid 1990s, CEM had grown to over 12,000 square feet and to 21 employees.

"CEM sold the electrical distribution segment of their business to Irby Electric in 2005," Price wrote in the August piece, "Irby Electric is located next door to CEM and shares a warehouse, so all distribution employees easily made the transition to Irby and continued to serve their customers. CEM retained the motor sales and service segment and continued to serve local industry and municipalities."

Fittingly, Jimmy Dickinson was honored in 2017, when the City of Cookeville renamed the section of road behind CEM to Dickinson Lane in honor of his dad’s years of service on the Planning Commission.

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