Phat Sammy’s Brings a Polynesian Vibe to Downtown Huntsville

Phat Sammy’s opening day was March 18, right when COVID-19 was taking the world by storm.

As people were grimly preparing for the inevitable shutdown, Phat Sammy’s four owners braced for the uncertainty.

Adaptability just happens to be one of their core competencies. With 3 1/2 years of operating as a traveling pop-up dining experience, Team Phat was already adept at quickly shifting gears and adjusting to the unexpected. They just rolled with the punches and have kept rolling.

Phat Sammy’s location at 104 Jefferson Street is not super obvious.

At street level, there’s nothing to see, nothing giving it away. No signs. The windows are heavily tinted and there’s a doorbell; something that was installed during the pandemic and is likely here to stay. If you walk past it, you’re liable to collide into the ever-popular official “bird” of downtown Huntsville, the crane. Construction is everywhere and red clay footprints smudge the sidewalk in front of the building.

A hint that coolness lurks in the midst is provided by the large metal pineapple just above the entrance. Almost glass-like, this exquisite gem by Micah Gregg at Drop Metal is backlit at night by green LEDs, thus creating an aura of the exotic.

Once downstairs at basement level, that’s where the magic happens. Adorning a long stretch of wall is a bright, colorful mural by local artist Logan Tanner. And there’s an iconic, grass-edged Tiki bar.

The food and beverages are as colorful as they are tasty. It’s like a Polynesian getaway – right in the heart of downtown.

Phat Sammy’s managing partners are Nick Quinn, Josh Beverly, and the two Jeremys: Executive Chef Jeremy Esterly and Beverage Director Jeremy Concepcion. The foursome bring a diverse repertoire of talent and Tiki to the table.

The K-Mac is an international festival of flavor on a bun.

Historically, the Tiki concept is laced with mystery and romanticism, conjuring imagery of the exotic and lands far away. In 1933, Don’s Beachcomber, a Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant In Hollywood, Calif., officially ushered in what we commonly refer to as Tiki culture.

Phat Sammy’s is a delightful combination of modern Tiki Bar meets Eastern Asia inspiration. The entrees and cocktails go far beyond the everyday, with menu items such as the “K-Mac,” a double cheeseburger with kimchi bacon and egg on a Canadian bacon brioche bun.

Drinks with tongue-in-cheek names such as “Not a Painkiller,” “Sammy’s Pet Flamingo” and “Jungle Bird” are served up in fancy Tiki-inspired mugs, complete with flowers, fresh fruit, and a cocktail umbrella.

There’s a sign on the wall that sums it up: “For us, Tiki means no limits. Our creativity is allowed to grow under an umbrella of culture that craves for experimentation of flavor. Tiki creates an experience where you get to escape the fast-pace lives we live to kick back, grab a cocktail, and just chill.”


I Scream. You Scream. We All Scream for … ButterBurgers! Culver’s Opens Madison Shop

MADISON — It began as a small family restaurant in Sauk City, Wis., famous for their ButterBurgers and fresh frozen custard made with Wisconsin’s renowned fresh dairy products.

Founder Craig Culver: “It’s all about putting smiles on people’s faces.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

This week, founder Craig Culver joined new franchise owner Mike Hinesh and Scoopie the Custard Cone for the grand opening of the Tennessee Valley’s first Culver’s ButterBurger location. It is at the corner of Wall Triana and Brown’s Ferry Road in the Kroger shopping center in Madison.

“People here in Madison, Alabama are probably asking, ‘What in the heck is a ButterBurger?’” said Culver before an enthusiastic audience waiting to be the restaurant’s first customers. “Our signature burger is made with 100 percent fresh, never frozen beef, and gets its name from its lightly buttered and toasted bun.”

And Scoopie the Custard Cone?

Culver’s is equally as famous for its fresh frozen custard, a legendary creamy decadence from high-quality, fresh Wisconsin dairy. Culver’s offers three flavors of these frozen treats daily – vanilla, chocolate and a Flavor of the Day – each that can be customized with more than 30 mix-ins and toppings.

New Culver’s franchise owner Mike Hinesh has been in the restaurant business since he was 15 years old. He is a graduate of the Walt Disney World Culinary apprenticeship program and is a former Walt Disney World chef and restaurant guest service manager.

Scoopie is a hit with the customers. (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

“We’re excited to open and become an active member of the community,” said Hinesh. “When Madison residents are looking for handcrafted meals and tasty frozen treats, we’ll be ready to safely serve them with the warm hospitality Culver’s is known for.

Other guest favorites include chicken sandwiches and fresh garden salads. Side options include crinkle-cut fries and Wisconsin cheese curds, a Dairyland delicacy.

“We started with one restaurant 35 years ago, never dreaming we would even have two,” said Culver. “Now we have 859 and I am traveling to three states today to open this location and two more, so we have been blessed and very fortunate over the years.”

But Culver said his restaurants are not just about food.

“What we are really in is the people business,” he said. “It’s all about putting smiles on people’s faces, giving people our heart, being a good person, a nice person inside or outside the business.”

As they opened the doors to hungry guests for the first time, Hinesh said, “We’re excited to have team members from the surrounding Madison community as part of our team. They are ready to serve!”

Culver’s is open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day except for some holidays. They also offer a kid’s menu.

Talk of Reopening Local Businesses Gains Steam

With the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Madison County flattening the curve, talk of reopening business is growing steam.

The number of positive tests for COVID-19 was the same Saturday — 205 — as it was Thursday. That figure was 198 to start the week. The number of deaths in the county related to the virus — four — also held steady.

Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong said preparations are being made to reopen whenever Gov. Kay Ivey lifts the stay-at-home order but said it would be a gradual process. The order expires Thursday.

“When it is lifted, this is not the green flag at the Talladega 500 where everyone comes out with the gas pedal mashed to the floor, trying to recoup,” Strong said during the most recent virus briefing at the Huntsville City Council chambers.

Strong said when county offices opened safety procedures — using hand sanitizers, wearing gloves and face masks and practicing social distancing — will still be stressed. County employees will be required to work six feet apart.

“This is not a switch we’re going to flip an everything suddenly returns to normal,” Strong said. “Everything we’re doing now, from social distancing, wearing a face covering and not gathering in large groups, is our new normal.”

Earlier in the week, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said whenever the reopening occurs it will happen gradually for businesses such as restaurants.

“At this time right now we’re looking at a possible phased reopening,’’ Battle said. “Maybe 25 percent capacity, then 50 percent capacity, then 100 percent capacity. We don’t know exactly what the governor’s orders are going to have in it. We expect the governor’s orders within the week.

“We’re going to be walking a very fine line. The fine line is how we reopen our economy and re-open our businesses, and how we keep our public safe. That’s a very fine line to walk. We know we’ll have some additional cases.’’

Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson said an increase in positive tests will be unavoidable.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about when we start to open up again and what happens when we see a spike in cases, which we will. What we’re trying to avoid is an uncontrollable spike in cases.’’

For now, she said, she believes the county is “already in the containment phase. There’s no particular line of demarcation but with the continued downward trend in hospitalizations.’’

Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health said they were investigating each case of COVID-19 and are doing contact tracing, a method of identifying people the person with the virus has been in contact with by using all ADHP employees with experience with tracing.

“We are working on expanding the contact investing pool by using pre-med medical students,’’ she said.

As of Saturday, the ADPH listed 6,137 confirmed cases and 212 deaths from the virus.

Area Coffee Shops Brew Up New Concepts to Stay in Business

In the looming shadow of COVID 19, local coffee establishments have been persevering; making “nip and tuck” adjustments, as necessary. Some have scaled back their hours along with their menus; some have reduced staffing hours or have furloughed staff.

Just Love Coffee just loves to make lunch and dinner, also.

Others have added online merchandise sales to help keep their businesses and their talented crew afloat. Most have applied a variety of strategies.

Thus far, whatever they’re doing seems to be working.

While business may not be as brisk as it was pre-March 30, several bean-centric establishments have been holding their own.

Behind Lowe Mill lies Gold Sprint Coffee, serving as a caffeinated oasis for the telecommuter. A relative newcomer, Gold Sprint has yet to celebrate its first year in business.

Although Gold Sprint’s quirky trophies-meet-stuffed-trash-panda-riding-a-trike interior remains closed for the duration, customers can easily order at the window or call ahead for curbside pickup.

Out of sheer necessity, Gold Sprint owner Victor Burlingame reduced the hours of operation, along with the menu offerings and staff hours.

“We’re 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 9 to 5 Sunday,” said Burlingame. “We scaled back on the number of people per shift. We had to cut hours back to make it work.”

Burlingame has also been promoting “Sprint Swag,” such as shirts and mugs, both for sale on-site and online. He says the merchandise has been a big hit.

“We’ve had people from Brazil, New York, and Colorado ordering,” said Burlingame. Which made him wonder, “Like, how do you know about us?”

Honest Coffee Roasters, the embedded gem of the Clinton Avenue parking garage was proactive in response to the April 4 mandate.

Managing partner Christy Graves posted a video on Facebook explaining the changes, providing audio-visual reinforcement for her customer base. To serve the community without allowing them inside, Honest adjusted its operations and product delivery; customers can now choose from curbside, pickup, or delivery.

“We have shortened our hours just a little bit – to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week,” said Graves. “Curbside is available and is really easy to use. You can order online, full menu all day. We also have our partnership with GrubSouth and now we’ve added Door Dash as an additional delivery option.”

Just Love Coffee in Times Plaza on South Memorial Parkway was open less than a month when COVID 19 became its unfortunate reality. Despite the surprise setback, Just Love has maintained its operating hours and their menu is an all-day affair.

“We maintained our hours throughout this whole thing,” said Travis Duehring, owner. “We open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“We serve our full menu all day long. You can get ice cream at 6 a.m. or spinach salad at 6 a.m.”

Just Love has a staff of 22 part-time employees; all of whom are still on the payroll.

“Our team is wonderful,” said Duehring. “They all sacrificed for each other and everyone gave hours to those who needed it most.”

In addition to in-store takeout, curbside pickup, online ordering, and delivery, Just Love recently partnered with other area businesses for on-site prepared box lunches, all delivered straight to your door.

Offbeat Coffee Studio, the place where coffee pairs with recorded vinyl at Campus 805, reluctantly furloughed their crew, leaving owners Kyle and Anna Lee Husband to run the business themselves. They have also scaled back their operating hours to 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., seven days a week.

Offbeat is using the @cloosiv app and is open for take-out, curbside pick-up, and GrubSouth delivery. Additionally, Offbeat has added online merchandise sales to help sustain its business and support their crew.

Established in 1996, Olde Towne Coffee is for takeout only. Call-ahead and the staff will have the order ready upon arrival.

The long-established Five Points coffee go-to scaled back their hours to 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., seven days a week. Olde Towne is still offering a full menu; their bakery goods are astonishing, to say the least. Along with brewed coffee, espresso drinks, and assorted menu items, one can buy bulk coffee by the pound and select from one of the many bottles of flavoring syrups that are available for purchase.

There have been discernable shifts in peak customer traffic since March. Burlingame and Duehring have both observed new patterns in customer behavior.

Gold Sprint normally caters to the teleworking community. Since orders are now curbside pickups or at the window, there has been a shift to morning customers, coupled with a late afternoon “pick me up” crowd. The usual, midmorning rush of telecommuters is almost non-existent.

“Strangely enough, our crowd really was kind of late morning, around 9 or 10 a.m., and it was slammed,” said Burlingame. “And now, it’s like just the morning and in the afternoon. In the middle is kind of ‘there’.”

“Prior to this [COVID 19], we would have customers first thing when we opened,” said Duehring. “Our normal morning rush was 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the lunch rush.” Although in the past, customers would be waiting at the door when they opened, “My peak times are now from 10 a.m. till about 1 p.m. and then we get another small rush about 3 p.m.”

Given the unique nature of the present circumstances, the future is cloudy for business owners, at least for the time being. Despite the uncertainties, there remains the undercurrent of resiliency and “can-do” spirit.

“We want to keep coffee in your hands, keep us in business, and still get to see the people we care about,” said Graves. “We appreciate you guys more than anything.”

Area Hospitality Industry Weathering COVID-19 Storm

It officially began with a health order from the state March 20.

That’s when all on-premise consumption of food and beverages in restaurants and bars had been officially banned.

Then, Gov. Kay Ivey’s “Stay at Home order” followed on April 4 thus further delineating “essential” versus “nonessential” businesses.

One thing that is certain since COVID-19 is uncertainty. Since mid-March, there have been a lot of mandates with the information changing daily, perhaps even hourly in some instances.

Over the past few years, Huntsville and Madison County have been experiencing exponential growth in lodging, dining, and beverage establishments.

However, COVID-19 has been quite the game changer, for both seasoned and new businesses alike.

Although the order was scheduled to end April 30, it is anyone’s guess as to the long-term impact and what Huntsville-Madison County’s version of the “new normal” will be.

Many people do not immediately consider North Alabama as a tourist destination.

However, in 2018, there were roughly 3.35 million visitors to Madison County and more than $1.4 billion generated by tourism.

“We receive information on an annual basis from the Alabama Tourism Department,” said Charles Winters, executive vice president at Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “As far as estimated visitors to our county, their estimation of economic impact of all types of visitors; that’s business travelers, convention attendees, all the folks who come into our community.

In North Alabama alone, tourism-generated dollars are tied to a multitude of capital improvements, as well as an estimated 20,000 jobs in the hospitality-service industry sector.

With the “Stay at Home” order, businesses cut back their hours and services, which translated into fewer employees being needed. Many have been furloughed, laid off, or flat-out terminated.

As a result of COVID-19 and assorted mandates, varying from state-to-state, the hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard, with estimates as high as 7 million jobs lost or furloughed at the national level.

Although restaurants have been deemed “essential” and can still offer curbside or window pickup, as well as a variety of delivery and pickup options, not all restaurants have decided to keep their doors open.

“Due to COVID-19, Grille 29 Huntsville is temporarily closed,” said Regina Burnett, director of catering sales. “We are unsure of a return date at this time.”

The layoffs and furloughs serve as a double-whammy for the already personnel-strapped hospitality sector.

“As an industry, we’ve been growing exponentially here in Huntsville,” said Jennifer Middleton, director of sales at Candlewood Suites Huntsville-Research Park. “Workforce has been a huge issue for everybody, especially the hospitality industry.”

As the area growth ensued, local industry leaders addressed the issue by getting involved in tech programs, culinary programs at area high schools, along with assorted job fairs, all designed to bring attention to showcasing hospitality and service industry jobs as variable career options.

“Then, overnight, this work that we have been promoting as one of the best industries to work in – it comes to a halt,” said Middleton. “It’s just sad, for us to come from one place to another where we were in desperate need and, now, we have too many and not enough demand.”

In response, the Huntsville-Madison County Hospitality Association board took action. Using social media, the association contacted its members, letting them know that resource information had been posted on its Facebook site. A Facebook public group site titled, “HSV Food To Go Options (COVID 19)” was also created so people can find out what restaurants are open along with ways the community can help do their part to boost the hospitality industry.

“On a positive a note, we can promote ourselves as one of the best industries to work in because, as an industry, you can see how resourceful we are,” said Middleton. “We say this all the time, amongst ourselves, that we are one big family.

“And we’re passionate about serving people and especially about taking care of our own.”

The New Normal in the Age of COVID-19: A List of Where to ‘Eat Out’ at Home

For those of you who have long grown weary of your own cooking (or that of your spouse’s, mother’s, or … fill-in-the-blank), here’s a long list of tasty options that will tickle your taste buds while helping to keep local dining establishments afloat during the ongoing “Stay at Home” order, which is in effect until April 30.

Keep in mind, many restaurants have scaled back their operating hours. Food delivery situations may also vary. Many restaurants are now using third-party delivery systems, such as DoorDash, Grubhub, and GrubSouth along with no-contact delivery, ordering at the window, and the call-ahead, curbside pick-up options.

By no means is this list complete. If there’s a fave eatery not on the list, check out their Facebook page or websites to see if they are open for take-out or delivery.

Hungry? Here’s What’s Open in Huntsville:

1892 East Restaurant and Tavern: 720 Pratt Avenue NE. (256) 489-1242.


A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard: 108 Cleveland Ave NW. (256) 715-7130.

Anaheim Chili: 2030 Cecil Ashburn Dr SE. (256) 489-5531.


Bandito Burrito: 3017 Governors Dr SW. (256) 534-0866.

Beast Mode Food Truck: 603 Jordan Ln NW. (256) 425-8559.

Beauregard’s: 3310 Memorial Pkwy SW. (256) 469-3005.

Big Ed’s Pizza: 255 Pratt Ave NE, Huntsville. (256) 489-3374.

Below the Radar: 220 Holmes Ave NE. (256) 469-6617.

The Bottle: 101 Washington St NE. (256) 704-5555.


Cajun Steamer: 301 Pelham Ave SW, #C-1. (256) 533-5503.

Canadian Bakin: 501 Church St NW, #A. (256) 489-2323.

Char Huntsville: 931 Bob Wallace Ave SW, #201. (256) 384-4465.

Church Street Wine Shoppe: 501 Church St NW, Huntsville. (256) 970-4097.

Commerce Kitchen: 300 Franklin St SE. (256) 382-6622.

Cyn Shea’s Cafe and Catering: 415 Church St NW. (256) 532-5282.


Dallas Mill Deli: 500 Pratt Ave NW, Huntsville. (256) 489-3354.

Dolce Pan Bakery: 2818 Governors Dr SW. (256) 489-9434.


Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza: 2600 Clinton Ave. (256) 830-8358.

El Vaquero: 10020 South Memorial Parkway (256) 858-1436.


Farm Burger Huntsville: 930 Bob Wallace Ave SW, #219. (256) 270-7392.

Fresko Grille: 3414 Governors Dr SW, #540. (256) 678-7044.


G’s Country Cooking: 2501 Oakwood Ave NW, #5. (256) 533-3034 .

Gold Sprint Coffee: 2515 9th Ave SW. (256) 517-8733.


Hildegard’s German Cuisine: 2357 Whitesburg Dr. (256) 512-9776.

Hippea Camper: Mobile food truck. (256) 520-8109.

Honest Coffee Roasters: 114 Clinton Ave E, #106. (256) 813-4678.


I Love Bacon: mobile food truck. (256) 724-0362.


Just Love Coffee Cafe at Times Plaza: 2317 Memorial Pkwy SW, #135. (256) 489-1223.


La Esquina Cocina: 127 Holmes Ave NW, #101. (256) 858-1026.

Lawler’s: 5004 Whitesburg Dr, #A. (256) 880-1286. (Multiple locations, check website).

Luciano’s: 964 Airport Rd SW, #4. (256) 880-9920.

Lyn’s Gracious Goodness: 2306 Whitesburg Dr. (256) 533-2607.


Mario’s Five Points: 607 Andrew Jackson Way NE. (256) 715-7123.

Mason Dixon Bakery & Bistro: 2358 Whitesburg Dr. (256) 213-7545.

Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen: 3414 Governors Dr SW. (256) 824-0000.

Melt: 201 Jefferson St N, #I. (256) 517-8755.

Moe’s Original BBQ: 127 Holmes Ave. (256) 881-1227.

The Moon Bakeshop: 201 Jefferson St N, #B. (256) 270-8435.

Mountain Valley Pizzeria and Bakery: 2211 Seminole Dr SW. (256) 682-0623.


Offbeat Coffee Studio: 2620 Clinton Ave W #1D. (256) 285-3800.

Olde Towne Coffee: 511 Pratt Ave NE. (256) 603-0308.

Oshi Poke Bowl and Sushi: 201 Jefferson St N, #A. (256) 945-7805.


Pane e Vino at the Huntsville Museum of Art: 300 Church St SW. (256) 533-1180.

Phat Sammy’s: 104 Jefferson St S. (256) 489-0232.

Purveyor Huntsville: 201 Jefferson St N. (256) 419-2555.


Regale Cupcakery: 3219 Bradley St SW. (256) 683-3956.

Rosie’s Cantina: 7540 South Memorial Pkwy, #A. (256) 382-3232. (Multiple locations, check website).

Rhythm on Monroe: 700 Monroe St SW. (256) 551-2311.

Rock N Roll Sushi: 2500 Clinton Ave W. (256) 517-8666.


Sam and Greg’s Pizzeria: 116 Southside Square. (256) 469-6932.

Stanlieo’s: 602 Governors Dr SW. 602 Governors Dr SW. locations, check website).

Straight to Ale: 2610 Clinton Ave W. (256) 801-9650.

Super Chix: 2319 Memorial Pkwy SW. (256) 489-0078.


Taco Mama: 301 Pelham Ave SW, (256) 519-6262. locations, check website).

Tender’s: 800 Holmes Ave NE. (256) 533-7599. (Multiple locations, check website).


Walton’s Southern Table: 4901 Whitesburg Dr. (256) 203-2979.

What’s for Supper Catering: 3053 Leeman Ferry Rd SW. (256) 682-7899.

Four Ways to Get Great Food Delivered to Your Door:

  • DoorDash:
  • GrubHub:
  • GrubSouth: (256) 763-0321.
  • Seamless:

Pizza Hut Seeking 30 Drivers for Huntsville Area

GPS Hospitality, an Atlanta-based franchisee, seeks 30 Pizza Hut drivers in the Huntsville area for immediate hire.

Interviews will be conducted via video chat. Pizza Hut is also expediting its hiring and onboarding process to get delivery drivers on the road more rapidly, and ultimately to get customers their pizza quicker.

The new process aims to have delivery drivers trained and on the road safely in five hours, which is nearly three times quicker than the previous training procedure.

Huntsville Pizza Hut locations with immediate hiring needs are:

  • 4802 University Drive, Huntsville
  • 11570 S. Memorial Pkwy, Huntsville
  • 2417 N. Memorial Pkwy, Huntsville
  • 2246 Winchester Road, Huntsville
  • 8830 Madison Blvd., Madison
  • 7950 U.S. 72, Madison
  • 11818 U.S. 231/431, Meridianville
  • 6585 B U.S. 431, Owens Cross Roads

Applicants should visit to view GPS restaurant locations, open positions and apply online. For mobile candidates, please text ‘GPS’ to 37872 to apply.

“With the increasing importance of contactless service, GPS Hospitality is committed to building out its delivery teams to provide quality food options for our customers,” said GPS Hospitality President Michael Lippert. “Although we are looking to staff new drivers immediately, open positions are permanent. During this challenging time, GPS hopes to assist our communities with safe contactless food options, as well as economic uplift.”


New State Regulations Limit Gatherings, Ban Dining-in

The Public Health Officer for the State of Alabama released a new list of stringent containment policies for communities to follow to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

These include full school closures, senior center closures, pre-school and child care closures, nursing home restrictions, delayed elective-medical procedures, limited gatherings of no more than 25 persons, bar closures, and no on-premise consumption of food and beverages in restaurants.

Mayor Tommy Battle said the City of Huntsville will immediately follow these policies in the best interest of public health.

“This is a challenging time for our communities. I remain grateful for the way our residents and businesses have been working together to adhere to the public health guidelines and support each other in this time of need.

To our business community, as a former restaurateur, my heart goes out to you, and to all of our companies and residents who lives have been disrupted by this virus.  The Alabama Health Department has determined these precautions are necessary and we will follow their guidance.”

Battle said Huntsville residents should remain calm but must take coronavirus seriously.

“We’re a smart community, and we’ll be smart about stopping this virus,” he said. “Let’s continue to fully follow health recommendations for social distancing, to remain six feet apart, and wash hands regularly.”

How to Help Neighborhood Businesses During the Coronavirus Outbreak

By Bekah Schmidt

It has never been more important to support our local small business community. The Coronavirus outbreak is affecting brick and mortars all over the nation, and no business is immune to this national emergency.

Here are five ways you can support small businesses in Huntsville, from your couch or car.

  1. Order takeout or delivery from your favorite independent restaurants

Your favorite restaurant may have shut its doors, but you can still order online through apps such as Grub Hub, Grub South, Door Dash and more. Independent restaurant owners are transitioning their servers to deliverers. Call the store first and ask what the best delivery method is for the restaurant. Most restaurants are offering curbside service too, which allows for touchless delivery to your vehicle. If you do use an online delivery app, Grub Hub is waiving fees for independent restaurant owners, so more of your money will end up in the restaurant owner’s pocket.

  1. Look for take and bake options or ready-made meals

Several businesses are offering meals to go for the whole family versus individual meals. This is more cost effective for the business owner and consumer and requires less touch points in handling of the food. Good Company Café is offering a “take and bake” menu, and Kathleen’s Catering is offering dinner for 6 for $35.99! Ordering dinner from a local restaurant, versus going to the grocery store reduces the amount of touch points and exposure you have to the general public. (A small restaurant might have a staff of five or less – going to the grocery store you are exposed to hundreds of people.) One last tip, you can also freeze the meals for later.

  1. Shop your favorite local retailers online

Retail stores are moving their business online and to their social media accounts – which is where customers are, too. You can still pick up a birthday gift for a friend or find the perfect home décor for spring from your couch. Businesses are posting their products online and invoicing customers. Other retailers are offering curbside pickup or delivery. Ruth’s Nutrition, a vitamin store in South Huntsville, is taking orders and payments over the phone, and bringing your order to your car, so you don’t have to leave your vehicle.

  1. Purchase a Gift Card

Purchasing a gift card to a local business is a great way to support the local economy right now. The business gets the cash they need now – and you get to treat yourself later! Most businesses offer gift cards online. If you don’t see a gift card online option, call the store. Business owners are mailing out gift certificates to customers or offering curbside gift card delivery. Even if it is only $20, it makes a huge difference for our local businesses.

  1. Write a positive review

The Coronavirus outbreak has caught everyone off guard and our small business owners are all feeling the pressure of the unknown. As a customer you can like, comment, share and review our businesses and inspire others to do the same. It takes less than a minute to leave a positive review. When you review a business, you build consumer confidence and encourage others to shop local. As many businesses transition to doing most of their business online, business owners will rely on your feedback to improve their processes.

Bekah Schmidt is the executive director of the South Huntsville Main Business Association.





‘To Go’ is the Way to Go for Dining During COVID-19 Emergency

With health agencies recommending against public gatherings, local businesses and restaurants have come up with new strategies and practices to stay in business.

“There are a lot of unknowns but I think people are doing a really good job trying to discern best practices that will keep the customers safe while also providing them with things they need like food,” said Downtown Huntsville Inc. President/CEO Chad Emerson. “I’ve been very pleased with seeing how everyone is willing to consider new approaches especially in the immediate term.”

Emerson spoke to the Huntsville Business Journal about what his organization is doing to keep the food and beverage industry apprised of current events surrounding the virus.

“We’re continuing to gather as much useful information as possible and to share it as efficiently as possible,” Emerson said. “We’re looking at what other cities that are further along in the process because they were exposed to the situation earlier than we were, are using that can help us develop some best practices.

“We have a lot of really smart people here in Huntsville that are resilient, and they are committed to trying new ways to serve the public.”

Go to to find Best Practices information. It is updated regularly.

“Every Monday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. we’re having general updates and information via conference call,” Emerson said. “This is information we are gleaning both locally as well as from other downtowns.

“It is really an opportunity to try to give everyone a chance to be heard and to ask questions. We have designed it for downtown operators, mostly for food and beverage operators, but any of those establishments around Huntsville and Madison are welcome to call in. It is a team effort citywide.”

Emerson also wanted to stress that currently, all downtown restaurants are open for business. Many are increasing To-Go options to the point in which they will bring food out to your car; some are expanding their delivery options; and almost all are modifying their in-restaurant dining experience to increase the distance between guests.

“Even if the in-restaurant dining experience is limited or closed in the days ahead, most of the restaurants we are dealing with are continuing to operate,” he said. “So, if you have a favorite restaurant where you usually go out to dine, check their social media or call them and ask them what their options are including delivery and To-Go.”

Downtown Huntsville does not have any food truck events scheduled, but social media is the best place to find out whether some of them will be set up somewhere remotely. Emerson said no one has called a halt to food trucks right now but the Food Truck Corral at NASA has been postponed.

In terms of retail, Emerson said, “We’re finding that people have more time, and they may not be gathering as often at large public events but people are still interested in getting out of the house and keeping life going as normally as possible, and that includes buying new goods they need.”