Construction of Mixed-Use Development on Governors Drive Set for Early 2021

Developers of a mixed-use “I-565 gateway” to Huntsville’s Westside have released a preliminary rendering of the project and anticipate a “first quarter 2021” construction start.

Preliminary rendering of the planned mixed-use development on Governors Drive in Huntsville’s Westside. (The Beach Company)

The property, some 13 acres of land on Governors Drive near the intersections with 13th and 14th streets, will be developed by The Beach Company, a Charleston, S.C.-based development company.

The multibuilding community will feature nearly 26,000 square feet of office, retail and dining space in addition to 260 multifamily units, 14 townhomes and a 100-key hotel.

Residential amenities will include a pool, a fitness area, a clubhouse and ample green space with a dog park.

The planned project will complement the neighboring Stovehouse complex and will feature pedestrian walkways between the two developments.

“This community addition will help continue the momentum of growth along Governors Drive through increased walkability and connectivity,” said Ned Miller, development manager with The Beach Company. “The project was thoughtfully designed to enhance the experience of the growing number of residents and businesses expanding to Huntsville’s flourishing Westside.”

Church Street Family Recruits Executive Sous Chef from Miami

It is a strategic move resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Chef Kannon Swaris

Huntsville restaurateurs Matthew and Stephanie Mell of the Church Street Family Group worked with New York-based celebrity chef Jimmy Canora to conduct a nationwide search for a new executive chef who can help them navigate through unprecedented times for the food and beverage industries.

Officially stepping into the position this week, Executive Chef Kannon Swaris has moved to Huntsville from Miami where he was most recently the Executive Sous Chef at Nobu Miami. He opened Nobu as a junior sous chef, working under Nobu Chef Thomas Buckley. 

He was senior sous chef of Terra Mare at the Conrad Hotel and opened Isabelle’s, an Italian-American restaurant at the Ritz Carlton.

Swaris will oversee all culinary aspects of Church Street Family’s six Huntsville restaurants, supervise menu and restaurant development and direct the hiring and training of the culinary staff at all six venues.

The Church Street Family owns the Church Street Wine Shoppe, Purveyor at the Avenue Huntsville, Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen and Pourhouse at Stovehouse. They are also planning to open two venues: Catacomb435 in September and The Corner Pour in October.

According to the Mells, the challenges of the pandemic on the restaurant and entertainment industries require teamwork and exceptional leadership in order to not only move their company forward, but to raise the hospitality bar and increase tourism and travel to Huntsville during these challenging times. 

“We are extremely excited to introduce Chef Kannon,” said Stephanie Mell. “One of his first undertakings is the redevelopment of menus at all locations where he will infuse his own style and talents into each dish. We feel honored to have him on our team.”

In the meantime, Canora will continue to work with the Mells to further develop the CSF brand. An award-winning cookbook author and corporate consulting chef at Delmonico’s Wall Street, Canora honed his skills at the Tribeca Grill in Manhattan, owned by actor Robert DeNiro. Canora’s latest cookbook Italian Family Traditions with a Twist is due out in October.

Sit Down with Success: Restaurateur Stephanie Kennedy-Mell

After she spent more than 20 years in the fashion and apparel industry, Stephanie Kennedy-Mell and her husband Matthew Mell opened the Church Street Wine Shoppe in Huntsville.

Now their Church Street Family owns Purveyor at the Avenue, Pourhouse at Stovehouse; Mazzara’s at Stovehouse; and, in spite of the uncertainty of COVID-19, they are about to open Catacomb 435, a speakeasy in the basement of Downtown Self Storage at the corner of Jefferson Street and Clinton Avenue.

Four restaurants and a fifth on the way – aren’t you facing unprecedented challenges?

I look at it as a time to work on your bobbing and weaving skills. The alternative is to get overwhelmed by it and it’s easy enough outside of COVID for small business to get overwhelmed. We take things as they come at us. Adjust, ask questions, prioritize, and handle things as they come at us. Bobbing and weaving all the time and repeating our mantra #keepmovingforward.

How are you getting through it?

We live in an amazing community. It is so supportive of small business and we feel very lucky for that.

We are extremely cautious with our customers and our employees, thanks to relationships we have with people at the hospital.

They have guided us on how to sanitize our restaurants properly and thoroughly; how to deal with positive cases, and how to follow protocols so we can stay open and keep people safe.

They provide us with quick testing, so all our employees are tested for the virus before they are hired on at the Church Street Family. It must come back negative before they can start.

What advice would you give someone getting into the hospitality business right now?

I’m not sure it’s the best time to start a new business, so if you are not already established, I would advise them to hold off.

If they are already established, I say giving up is not the answer. Go slow, be cautious, do your due diligence, and market yourself using social media to reassure people you have survived and are following protocols and guidelines.

How are things at Stovehouse?

It is a great socially distanced space, mostly outdoors, and the tables are socially distanced. It is a comfortable place to go right now to eat and drink, play bocce ball and enjoy music. It is very popular and still growing. The tenants talk to each other daily and have conversations about what is working and what is not; and what we can do together.

And the future?

It is all about attitude. This too shall pass, so keep your chin up. Have a plan and execute your plan. You may have to alter that plan but stay with it.

Full Moon Rising: “Best Little Pork House” to Open in Huntsville

Full Moon Bar-B-Que is coming to town – and in a big way.

The “Best Little Pork House in Alabama” will open in the fall on North Memorial Parkway near the University Drive intersection.

It will be the largest Full Moon Bar-B-Que – 7,000 square feet – of the 16 franchises.

“Entering into the Huntsville market is one of our most exciting and anticipated openings to date,” said co-owner Naseem Ajlouny. “We look forward to serving the Huntsville community with our great food and superior service.”

Full Moon BBQ Huntsville is the fifth location to be opened by Ajlo Foods, co-owned by Naseem and Chase Ajlouny.

In addition to the standard dining area, the Huntsville restaurant includes a 60-person event space available for private gatherings as well as an overflow dining room to ensure customers are safely distanced within the COVID-19 parameters.

Full Moon BBQ Huntsville will offer a quick-service dining experience and serve a full menu featuring all of its fan favorites by dine-in or drive-thru (including its chow-chow and fresh-baked half-moon cookies), while also expanding catering offerings to the area.

“We already feel very welcomed by the city of Huntsville,” said Operating Partner Jeff Donaldson. “At Full Moon BBQ, we treat our customers like family, and we cannot wait for this brand to become a staple in the Huntsville community.”

Full Moon BBQ Huntsville will be hiring 70 employees. To apply, send resumes to jeff@ajlofoods.com.

Alabama Goods: Distinctive Food and Gifts Made in Alabama

When looking for the perfect gift or gift basket, look no further.

Alabama Goods features art, jewelry, pottery, crafts, and food items from around the state. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Homewood-based Alabama Goods has expanded northward to the Valley Bend shopping center, next to Fleet Feet.

“We’ve been wanting to open a location in Huntsville for a couple of years,” said owner Sherry Hartley. “We would go to Huntsville and ride around, looking for the right spot. When we found this one, we just thought it was a good match for the customer base that will be shopping there.”

What’s so unique about Alabama Goods is the merchandise they carry. It’s all handmade by Alabama artisans.

Alabama Goods got its start in 2008 when Hartley and her business partner Beth Staula teamed up to create their online corporate gift basket business. While serving on a committee with the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Hartley and Staula discussed potential business opportunities.

Staula had been in the business of corporate baskets and Hartley was in website development.  So, the pair began their business venture as a website and a corporate gift company.

There’s a lot of thought that goes into assembling the perfect corporate gift basket.

“Our main thing is that we want our customer, the company to look good,” said Hartley. “We put together pottery, food, all types of gifts. We will put together gift concepts that are not just gourmet foods. We will put together a pottery item and a food item. A lot of times, it’s going to be artwork, a wide variety of things for companies.”

When Hartley and Staula were looking for vendors, they often would come across awesome products that were just not quite “corporate material.”

“We kept finding these really cool items from Alabama but didn’t really qualify to be on the website,” said Hartley. That’s when they decided to open a store.

Alabama-made sauces, spices, jams, jellies and the like will please your palate. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“We opened the Homewood store eight years ago and doubled our space three years ago,” said Hartley. “We decided that we need to be somewhere else in Alabama. I was reading articles all the time about the growth of Huntsville and that’s why Huntsville had been on my radar.”

Along with assorted gift baskets, Alabama Goods boasts one of the largest selections of Alabama-made pottery. The merchandise in the store is highly curated before it reaches the sales floor. Hartley and Staula search far and wide throughout the state for just the right art, jewelry, pottery, crafts, and food items.

“We have so much talent in Alabama,” Hartley said. “it’s just a matter of finding it.”

 

 

 

Stone Age Korean BBQ Opens at Times Plaza

Beef Bulgogi, spicy pork belly, lemon chicken, and Cajun shrimp — you’ll find all this and more at Times Plaza’s newest restaurant, Stone Age Korean BBQ. The eatery invites guests to sample unique Korean flavor while taking part in the cooking process. Best of all, it’s all-you-can-eat, so come with a big appetite.

Stone Age Korean BBQ’s setting has brightly colored booths, fun lighting fixtures, and giant television screens that showcase the latest Korean pop music videos.

“Stone Age offers a new kind of dining experience in Huntsville,” said General Manager Sung Rose. “Our food is incredible, the atmosphere is friendly and energetic, and we try to make each visit an unforgettable outing.”

Guests can choose from specially prepared beef, pork, chicken, and seafood (during dinner hours) that bring Korean cuisine to life. Diners cook each meat on a circular grill at the center of the table. While the meat is sizzling, servers bring the table as many sides as they can eat such as rice, kimchi, salad, Bibimbob, dumplings, ramen, and even french fries.

“We have had a wonderful response so far,” said Sung. “At the moment, our lunch crowds are bigger than the dinner crowds. But our dinner menu comes with more options, so we encourage everyone to try us out after work. Our restaurant is designed to deliver an experience, so be prepared to spend some time at the table savoring the different meats and sides.

“At 2 p.m., we stop serving lunch and go straight to dinner. If you join us then, we recommend trying the shrimp or filet mignon. There’s even spicy squid for our more adventurous eaters.”

 

MidCity District Adds 40-Foot Mural to Honor Little Richard

Good golly, MidCity!

MidCity District, the mixed-use development on University Drive, is adding a 40-foot by 30-foot mural of late rock ‘n’ roll icon Little Richard to its public mural gallery.

Born Richard Penniman and a graduate of Oakwood University, he devoted his life to music and his faith. Little Richard was a pioneer for living bold and was named “the architect of rock ‘n’ roll”. He died in May at the age of 87.

In a statement, his family said, “The family of Richard Penniman, known to the world as Little Richard, appreciates the extraordinary gesture by the RCP Companies and MidCity Huntsville to create a mural in tribute to our loved one. Richard had many fond memories of Huntsville.

“He loved his alma mater Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) and enjoyed his return visits to the college church, especially when his friend and mentor E.C. Ward was the senior pastor. Richard also enjoyed being one of the headliners for the 1994 Big Spring Jam. An estimated 15,000 fans attended his performance that night.”

He created the famous “Tutti Frutti” line, “A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom,” while washing dishes in his home town of Macon, Ga., before he became a household name across the globe. He was among the first 10 inductees into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

“The idea of a Little Richard tribute was introduced by Bryan Mayo of Rocket CityScope; we decided to pursue artists immediately” said Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies, the developer of MidCity District. “In a short amount of time we were able to connect with Little Richard’s family, get their blessing, secure a talented local artist, and allocate funding for this colorful addition to MidCity District.

The $850 million MidCity District development will include 350,000 square feet of retail, dining, and entertainment space; approximately 400,000 square feet of high-tech office space; 1,400 residential units; and approximately 650 hotel rooms.

“We are looking forward to unveiling this mural to our North Alabama community in several weeks,” said Grelier.

Artist Logan Tanner will paint the mural on the east-facing facade of the Wahlburgers building.  The project is expected to be completed in about four-five weeks, Tanner said.

Tanner has worked on murals throughout the Tennessee Valley including at Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment. His whimsical and vibrant style is a perfect match for Little Richard’s equally colorful legacy.

“As Richard’s survivors, we support any worthwhile effort to celebrate his legacy and innovative contributions to American music and culture,” the family’s statement said. “And we are very appreciative of the artistic efforts of Logan Tanner, the creator of the mural planned for MidCity Huntsville. Mr. Tanner’s art captures Richard’s vibrancy and creativity tastefully and with elegance.

“Thank you for this honor, and God bless you as you move forward with this tribute.”

Church Street Wine Shoppe Moving to the Historic Humphreys–Rogers House

Church Street Wine Shoppe made history by starting the first sitdown wine club in Alabama.

But, now with 600 members, the shop is overflowing at its original location on Church Street downtown.

Owners Stephanie Kennedy-Mell and her husband Matthew Mell are moving the shop, the wine club and their entire Church Street Family restaurant headquarters into the historic Humphreys-Rogers House on the corner of Gates Avenue and Fountain Circle. It will be known as Church Street on Gates.

Chef Kannon Swaris, executive chef for the Church Street family of restaurants.

Built in 1848, the Humphreys-Rogers House has been moved and saved from demolition in recent years and is the only historic house in downtown Huntsville’s business zone.

Listed on the Historic Register, the two-story, 4,000 square-foot mansion is a welcomed expansion from the business’s small location on Church Street. The ground floor corridor, foyer, and formal living room will house the bottle shoppe, serving wine and craft beer. A private room will be dedicated to wine club members.

Upstairs will house the Church Street Family headquarters for all five restaurant venues: Pourhouse and Mazzara’s Italian restaurant, both at Stovehouse; Purveyor at the Avenue; and the new Catacomb Speakeasy opening before Labor Day in the basement of the Downtown Self Storage at 100 Jefferson Street.

“There will be plenty of parking with the city parking garage right across the street,” said Kennedy-Mell. “Pre-pandemic, our Church Street location could only seat 40 people, which was already problematic for our wine club, which meets once a month. We were holding 13 separate wine club meetings to accommodate our 600 members, and during the pandemic, we had adjusted that to 20 meetings of 20 people.

“We also had to close the bottle shoppe down to the public during the meetings, but we will no longer have to do that.”

The Church Street Wine Shoppe wine club is the only wine club in Alabama to offer five-course, sitdown wine tastings with chef-prepared food pairings and guest speakers, sometimes flown in from wine country around the world like California, France, and Argentina. They will also offer first estate wines.

While the Church Street location is only open for dinner, the new bar and bottle shoppe will be open for lunch and dinner, and will bring back popular customer events such as Wine Love Wednesday. They can also hold larger tasting events like the ones they hold twice a year at Purveyor.

Kennedy-Mell will hold a press conference at the landmark location in October, with tours of the new premises as a prelude to an expected December opening.

Publix to Anchor The Market at Hays Farm

One of the most prominent vacant retail developments in the Huntsville metro area is getting a $23.5 million investment, it was announced Friday.

Publix Super Market will serve as the grocery anchor for the Market at Hays Farm (formerly Haysland Square) development, according to developer Branch Properties.

“This is an exciting development for South Huntsville and a welcome announcement for all those residents who have eagerly hoped for a revival of the Haysland Square property,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “This is also what happens when the city invests wisely in infrastructure that promotes planned growth and development such as the $60 million spent on the South Parkway ‘Restore Our Roads’ project, the new Grissom High School, and the new Haysland Road Extension and greenway.

“We applaud the Hays family for seeing the promise of South Huntsville and for their investment in its success.”

The Market at Hays Farm boasts more than 150,000 square feet of small shops and junior anchor space available in addition to multiple outparcels to serve the needs of the growing South Huntsville community. 

Branch Properties has developed and owned more than 45 Publix-anchored shopping centers around the Southeast and worked in collaboration with Tailwinds Development, which has built more than 15 Publix-anchored centers over the last 20 years.

“Publix has always been a pleasure to work with, and we value our relationship with them,” said James Genderau of Tailwinds. “John Hays and his family, who have owned the property for over 50 years, were truly the reason we made this deal happen. John is a gentleman and man of his word”

Branch Properties Executive Vice President said, “The city’s development staff of Shane Davis (director of Urban and Economic Development), Kathy Martin (city engineer) and Jim McGuffey (manager Planning Service), were rock solid and always had their doors open for us. This team was led by Mayor Tommy Battle who really had a vision for South Huntsville  … We appreciate what (he) has helped us accomplish here”

Since June 2018, South Huntsville has seen $75 million of private investment. The Hays Farm development will include single-family homes, apartments and townhouses to complement retail businesses and a nine-acre city park.

“The much-anticipated Market at Hays Farm is the first of many great things coming to Hays Farm and the South Parkway,” said South Huntsville Main Business Association Executive Director Bekah Schmidt. “We welcome the new Publix to the South Huntsville community and look forward to small businesses and additional anchors coming to the Market at Hays Farm.”

Demolition will begin immediately with the center scheduled to open in the fall of 2021.

Local Pizza Huts to Hire 60 Employees During Weeklong Virtual Job Fair

Huntsville-area Pizza Hut franchises will immediately hire 20 local managers and 40 delivery drivers during their weeklong virtual Job Fair beginning Monday and continuing through Aug. 21. 

Opportunities are available at all four Huntsville locations on University Drive, South Memorial Parkway, North Memorial Parkway and Winchester Road; as well as the Madison locations on Madison Boulevard and U.S. 72. They will also be hiring for the Meridianville Pizza Hut on U.S. 231/431 and on U.S. 431 in Owens Cross Roads.

The process begins digitally with job searchers submitting their applications online. Qualifying applicants will be contacted for video chats and phone interviews throughout the week. Arrangements can also be made for applicants to apply in person at their desired location if they prefer.

While many of the jobs are entry-level positions, Pizza Hut is also hiring managers. All employees are offered training, flexible hours, and opportunities for advancement. After one year of full-time employment, all team members are eligible for accrued paid vacation time. Managers are eligible for performance-driven monetary bonuses, awards, and other benefits.

Tennessee Valley Pizza Huts are owned by GPS Hospitality, which also owns area Burger Kings and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchens. Overall, the company will be hiring 3,000 managers and crew members across 13 states.

Applicants should text GPS to 37872 or visit https://bit.ly/workforgps2020 to view GPS restaurant locations, open positions, and to apply online. For interview requests, contact Cindy Stoltz at 404-239-5437 or cstoltz@alliedglobalmarketing.com