Huntsville Prepares for the Future: Parking Problems or Problem with Perception?

Change is hard but it has never stopped Huntsville from rising to a challenge.

In the same way we adjusted to becoming the Rocket City in the 1960s; to becoming a booming defense industry maven in the 1990s; and a five-county regional economy over the past decade; Huntsville is looking yet again to the future and sometimes – just sometimes – we get a whiff of frustration as the construction holds up traffic, a red light seems to be holding longer than it used to, or there does not appear to be enough parking at a popular new shopping venue!

Parking spaces have become precious commodities.

As Huntsville continues to grow and expand, city planners are trying to get ahead of the headaches seen in large, fast-growing metropolitan cities by redesigning it as they go for the future, and a central tenet of this strategy involves Land Use.

Land Use is the management and modification, or “urbanization” of a natural environment into residential, commercial, and public “urban open” sectors.

In the past, especially in the past 50 years, Land Use has been geared toward making room for urban sprawl and commercialization at all costs. Shopping centers have focused on gigantic asphalt parking lots where drivers battle constantly for the closest parking spot. Stores sit back off the main thoroughfare to accommodate it, while anxious holiday drivers follow on the heels of customers exiting the storefront like automotive stalkers until they reach their vehicle, either sniping the spot or deciding to try for one that’s closer.

Most of the time however, these parking fields are more than half empty, always built larger than required, leaving an asphalt eyesore and a tremendous waste of land.

In the past few years, Huntsville city planners have been studying Land Use analyses to help reshape Huntsville’s character and to better manage Huntsville’s land and natural environment to fit a more contemporary view of how people live, work and play.

The Shops at Merchants Walk and Shops at Merchants Square on Bob Wallace Avenue are based on “New Urbanism.” While the tenants and some customers perceive there to be insufficient parking, Merchants Square was designed to sit close to the street with some ground-level parking, backed up by a three-floor parking deck.

Jessica Partington, property manager for RCP Properties which developed both shopping centers, said the overwhelming success of the developments has put the need for additional traffic and parking solutions front and center.

“The Shops at Merchants Square has been wildly popular, which is something we will never be upset about, but perhaps a bit more popular than we anticipated,” she said. “When Chuy’s opened, it was a record-breaking opening for them nationwide and no one anticipated how popular it was going to be.

“Of course, we are not upset by that but with that came some unexpected challenges.”

She said that as of now, the parking ratios required for that venue are not showing they are under-parked in terms of code compliance, but there are a couple of things at play.

“Employees are required to park on the upper level of the deck but because there is not what most people perceive as being much parking at ground level, we find that people don’t always go all the way up the deck,” she said. “And on weekends, we find there are parking spots at that last hook in the parking deck and up top that people miss.”

Partington said there is a lot of construction work during the day and construction vehicles in the deck that take up a lot of room and are taking up some spaces that would normally be available.

“But we are nearing the end of that, so it won’t be a problem much longer,” she said. “Also, Aspen Dental will have their own ground-level parking and when they are finished, people can park there at night and on weekends when the problem seems to be worse.”

According to Kelly Schrimsher, director of communications for Mayor Tommy Battle’s office, Huntsville is experiencing some growing pains that can be easily addressed by changing people’s perception.

“The Shops at Merchants Square and the Shops at Merchants Walk on Bob Wallace Avenue are the perfect example,” Schrimsher said. “There is actually plenty of parking. You just have to look at it from a more efficient Land Use perspective and tie it to where the future will be taking us.

“We are rethinking parking requirements to better fit a model for the not so distant future where people are walking more, are driving more electric cars, where more people are using services like Uber, and where people will walk outside the store or restaurant and ‘dial their car’ to come pick them up. Although it may sound farfetched now, it is not so far away from reality.”

Rendering shows an example of a crosswalk idea for Bob Wallace Avenue.

The city is also working on a couple of solutions they believe will help alleviate the Bob Wallace traffic and parking issues as well.

“We are building a decorative pedestrian crosswalk from the much larger parking lot at the Shops at Merchants Walk that will be visually appealing and substantial enough to slow the traffic down on Bob Wallace so people can safely cross back and forth,” said Shane Davis, director of urban and economic development for Huntsville. “The city is acquiring material quotes for the intersection improvements and expect to have it completed in early January. It will also really dress up the area.”

Made of “stamped thermoplastic material” with a brick, stone and slurry concrete design, Davis said it will provide for improved pedestrian crosswalk safety, more driver awareness at the intersection, and overall improved aesthetics of the area.

Over the next year, visitors to that part of the city will also see sidewalks up and down both sides of Bob Wallace from the Parkway to both shopping centers, and down the road there are plans for an equally decorative crosswalk across Memorial Parkway at the Bob Wallace intersection.

“The city also has a plan to connect Regal Drive on the Parkway Place side next to Belk, to the Shops at Merchant Square,” said Partington. “Those through-roads will alleviate some of the traffic flow and allow people to walk a little bit, which we are doing more of in Huntsville.”

“It is a little bit of educating people and preparing them for what we know is coming in the future,” said Schrimsher. “Downtown Huntsville residents have been going through this same evolution since its revitalization began.

“The days of fighting for a parking spot right in the front door and every individual business having their own asphalt parking lot is being phased out and shared parking is being phased in,  If you live downtown, strangers may park in front of or near your home. And they are using parking decks and Uber rather than driving their car everywhere.

“But people who choose to live downtown in areas like Twickenham Square and Avenue Huntsville, do so for the convenience, the amenities, and the pedestrian-friendly environment. They do not have to jump in the car to drive to the grocery store or a restaurant or to have their hair cut or grab a cup of coffee. If they live in these areas, they adjust to it and even enjoy it.”

According to the city’s statistics, Huntsville is a sprawling city overall, but it has population density pockets such as downtown of more than 5,000 people per square mile, making it comparable to cities such as Pittsburgh, Pa., and St. Paul, Minn.

Interestingly, Five Points is an excellent example, originally developed in the early 1900s as a “streetcar suburb” that was not designed for the automobile and is still, today, easily walkable because of it.

Compare that to Cummings Research Park, which was established in 1962.

Designed for driving, originally, there were no restaurants, retail or residential originally allowed within the park.

That began to change when, 1982, the city purchased land and it evolved into Cummings Research Park West. In 2007, Bridge Street Town Centre was developed and it now includes more than 80 restaurants and stores and two hotels. An apartment building has since opened and a third hotel will open soon.

Some sections of Research Park East are being rezoned for small, very condensed multi-use developments, multistoried and sitting close to streets so as not to waste land. The parking will be enough, but it will not be a sprawling field of asphalt.

Tenants can expect some retail-like coffee shops and cafes, and perhaps even hotel rooms on the upper floors to alleviate having to jump in your vehicle for every errand.

Residents are already seeing bikeshares in Cummings Research Park for quick and emissions-free runs.

There are more pedestrian-friendly multi-use developments such as the Village of Providence, downtown’s Twickenham Square, Town Madison along I-565, and MidCity on the old Madison Square Mall property, following a popular trend across the U.S. where people are demanding less pollution, less asphalt, less traffic and more outdoor-friendly landscaping, easier accessibility, and more walkability.

“We recognize that our residents need more mobility options, especially when it comes to urban development,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “With each new project, we look to create safe and unusable connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists as well as public transit and motor vehicles.”

Rocket City Trash Pandas Name Food & Beverage VP, Executive Chef

The Rocket City Trash Pandas have announced the appointment of a veteran culinary director and award-winning Executive Chef to lead the team’s food and beverage operations.

Mary Nixon, who has worked with several Minor League Baseball teams as a food service consultant and catering director, has been named Vice President and Executive Director of BallCorps Food and Beverage, LLC.

Ryan Curry, whose skills have been recognized in local, national and international media, will be Toyota Field’s Executive Chef & Assistant Director, Food and Beverage Operations.

Ryan Curry and Mary Nixon have some exciting food plans in store for Trash Pandas fans.

“In every aspect of our operation we have strived to build a unique, Major League-type experience,” said Ralph Nelson, Trash Pandas President & CEO. “Today, fans are expecting more than just popcorn and hot dogs; food and beverage is an essential component of the fan experience.

“I am certain Mary and Ryan will provide an unforgettable culinary experience for our fans.”

Curry was most recently Executive Chef with the Albuquerque Isotopes of the Pacific Coast League, where his Tumbleweed Burger (a cotton candy-topped burger) was named by the international publication VenuesNow as Best New Concessions Food Item in 2019. His Green Chile Peach Flambé was runner-up for the same award in 2018.

A native of Sacramento, Calif., Curry graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. With 24 years’ experience as a professional chef, Curry has worked for Major League and Minor League teams, as well as restaurants, country clubs, resorts and hotels on the West Coast from California to Alaska. As Executive Chef with the Sacramento River Cats in 2010, his work was recognized by SI.com as one of the 10 best in Minor League Baseball.

“Minor League Baseball is such an amazing experience to be a part of,” Curry said. “Fans are here for great baseball, which the Trash Pandas will no doubt deliver. But, it’s my responsibility to make sure the food delivers a memorable experience as well.

“Stadium food offerings can no longer be plain hot dogs and hamburgers. Fans want fresh and creative offerings…menu items that motivate them to go to work the next day and ask a co-worker if they’ve tried the ‘such and such food item at Toyota Field’ and, if they haven’t, they need to go check it out.”

Nixon comes to the Trash Pandas from Richmond, Va., and has also worked with Minor League Baseball teams in Hartford, Conn..; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Lehigh Valley, Pa.

“I am excited to join the Trash Pandas and provide an extraordinary food and beverage experience to our fans,” Nixon said. “We undertook an extensive nationwide search for an executive chef, and Ryan was – hands-down – the choice. Our fans will be amazed by his creations.”

“Baseball is the main show at Toyota Field, but when fans are trying our food, I want them to forget for just a moment that they’re at a baseball game,” Curry said. “Then I’ve done my job.”

Super Chix Ready to Serve up Trademark Chicken and Frozen Custard

From the folks who brought Five Guys, Nothing Bundt Cakes and other eateries to the Rocket City, comes Super Chix. And, it’s another first for the Patels.

“This will be our first location outside of the Dallas market and we are very excited to partner with local restaurateurs Kumar Patel and Rajesh Patel to bring the concept to Huntsville,” said Nick Ouimet, founder and CEO of Super Chix. “This isn’t fast-food chicken— there are only six ingredients in our breading on our lightly breaded, high-quality tenders and filets, and we believe simple is best.”

The Dallas-based chicken and frozen custard restaurant opened at Times Plaza on South Memorial Parkway.

Ouimet said Super Chix features a “fast-casual dining experience.”

‘We have no drive-thrus and our interiors have a cool, modern vibe that’s perfect for a casual lunch or dinner,” he said. “We’ve developed a product and experience that stand out in the market and caters to all ages and walks of life—everyone enjoys exceptional food in a fun environment.”

The Super Chix Nashville hot chicken sandwich is a specialty of the restaurant.

Super Chix features “never-frozen” tenders and filets, hand-breaded or grilled chicken sandwiches , hand-cut fries and salads. The toppings come from whole vegetables that are delivered daily and sliced by hand. There are also house-made sauces offered like ranch, honey mustard, a signature Super Chix sauce and its Nashville hot chicken sauce that comes on a sandwich or as a dipping sauce.

The restaurant also specializes in frozen custard, which is served as hand-dipped in cones or cups, or in milkshakes and fusions (concretes). Chocolate and vanilla are churned each morning and are always on the menu, and there is a special flavor of the day. Future custard flavors include cookies and cream, Reese’s peanut butter cup, Butterfinger, English coffee toffee, chocolate chip cookie dough, black raspberry cheesecake and more.

“Times Plaza is the perfect location for the new-to-market Super Chix thanks to its easy accessibility and prominent visibility from the parkway,” said Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate leasing agent Anusha Davis. “Nearby professionals have another great option for a fast-casual lunch with healthy and indulgent options and dinner crowds will discover a new excellent eatery they can enjoy with family and friends.

“Super Chix has put together an excellent team here in Huntsville who will operate the brand and ensure that each visit has rave reviews.”

Stovehouse’s ‘Retailtainment’ Concept to Include Gaslight Alley Retail District

There is nothing new about restaurants and retailers using a little pizzazz to entice customers to buy or experience their products and services.

Mexican restaurants have Mariachi bands; traditional pizza parlors entertain customers twirling pizza crusts; New Orleans chefs shuck oysters and suck crawfish heads for their customers; and retailers have BOGOs and Midnight Madness sales.

Gaslight Alley’s design is inspired by decorated alleys and shops in St. Augustine, Fla., and Lovat Lane in London. (Rendering/Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate)

But, according to Haley Clemons, marketing coordinator for Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group, retailers notice contemporary shoppers and diners are putting more importance on the experience of eating and shopping than they have in the past.

“Businesses in the retail industry are adopting out-of-the-box strategies to attract new audiences that value entertainment and interacting with brands in creative ways,” Clemons said. “Known as ‘retailtainment’ … many concepts are drawing in traffic by going above and beyond the basic shopping trip.”

Yoga-wear stores hosting in-shop fitness classes, or beauty brands encouraging their clientele to participate in the creation of their own purchases, are examples of this.

The Stovehouse Food & Leisure Garden, which is at the heart of the old stove factory property, is the perfect example of a venue conceived on the idea of retailtainment.

They have taken compatible concepts such as casual dining, live music, outdoor games, and special events and brought them together to collaborate. This creates a casual, inclusive atmosphere at the Stovehouse that is extremely popular with millennials.

Stovehouse Phase II: Gaslight Alley

With the success of the Stovehouse Food & Leisure Garden, developers are beginning Phase II where they will essentially repurpose an entirely separate section of the expansive old factory for retail, taking care to maintain the property’s old-world architecture and atmosphere. The “old-world shopping district” is called Gaslight Alley.

“Encompassing several retail spaces along a beautiful cobblestone walkway, Gaslight Alley will be home to all kinds of concepts with the hopes of attracting boutiques, soft goods, home décor, hair salons, and more,” said Clemons. “The possibilities are endless, and the district has already captured businesses — some that are scheduled to make their debut later this year.”

The Burn Collective is already hosting events at Stovehouse and its space will be open soon. (Photo/Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate)

When finished, Gaslight Alley, whose design is inspired by decorated alleys and shops in St. Augustine, Fla., and Lovat Lane in London, will be an eclectic shopping experience and a hotspot for one-stop destination shopping and retailtainment.

Currently, several businesses have set up office space at Stovehouse. Spur, Onyx Aerospace, Star Lab, Liberty Learning, and the Stovehouse Properties team are all housed there.

“Gaslight Alley businesses will also be part of the growing West Huntsville entertainment district that connects to nearby Campus 805,” said Clemons.

Among the committed tenants so far are Charlie Foster’s Coffee, F24 Training and the Burn Collective Fit Studio.

Charlie Foster’s is a locally owned, multi-roaster coffee shop at the entrance to Gaslight Alley. There is the 1,850-square-foot shop with a 500-square-foot outdoor patio. They will sell coffee beans from around the U.S., but the most unique thing about Charlie Foster’s is their plan to offer jobs to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

F45 Training, across from Charlie Foster’s, is a 2,835-square-foot functional training center offering high-intensity group circuit training classes. They will provide themed workouts and bring in a live DJ to get people motivated. They will be opening before the end of the year.

On a more mainstream level, the Burn Collective Fit studio is in the breezeway connecting to Gaslight Alley. They offer individual and group training in cardio, sculpting, and yoga barre classes, as well as athleisure apparel, candles, and jewelry. They are relocating from Franklin Street downtown.

 

Madison Cuts Ribbon on Alabama’s First White Bison Coffee-Twice Daily Store

MADISONIt’s another first for Madison as Nashville-based Tri Star Energy  opened its newest White Bison Coffee and Twice Daily convenience store in Town Madison.

White Bison Coffee and Twice Daily is now open at 115 Graphics Drive in Madison. (Courtesy Photo)

The store at 115 Graphics Drive, off Wall Triana Highway, is the first brand-in-brand retail location for Tri Star Energy outside of Tennessee. The new concept combines convenience and quality with Twice Daily’s convenience store and White Bison Coffee’s artisan coffee beverages and fresh, handcrafted café menu.

“Whether it’s enjoying coffee with friends, grabbing food on-the-go or fueling up, White Bison Coffee and Twice Daily have you covered,” said Steve Hostetter, CEO of Tri Star Energy. “We are thrilled to bring convenience paired with quality to the people of Alabama.”

The White Bison Coffee concept offers roasted, handcrafted specialty coffee drinks – featuring single origin pour-over coffees, cold brew, nitro coffee, espresso beverages and more. The store also features freshly baked pastries and handmade breakfast and lunch items including sandwiches, salads and Bistro snack boxes.

In addition to traditional convenience items, Twice Daily’s premium offerings range from grab-and-go snacks, including organic brands, to a selection of staple groceries.

There is also a fresh deli case with handmade and healthy options featuring fruits, sandwiches, salads and snacks. Additional offerings include donuts and pastries, freshly prepared breakfast & lunch sandwiches and an extensive beer cave featuring local and craft beers.

The employee roster includes Brad Powers, Twice Daily general manager; Kayla Hurst, White Bison Coffee manager; and Corrine Claghorn, White Bison Coffee manager in training.

Rocket City Trash Pandas, Halsey Foodservice Announce Stadium Partnership

MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas and Halsey Foodservice have announced a long-term strategic partnership for food distribution and stadium sponsorship.

Halsey will be the exclusive provider of food and food service products for the Rocket City Trash Pandas stadium. (Photo/Halsey Foodservice)

With the agreement, Halsey Foodservice will be the exclusive provider of food and food service products for the Trash Pandas’ stadium, which opens in 2020.

“We are excited and honored to have Halsey Foodservice, headquartered in Madison, join the Trash Pandas family,” said team President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Not only is Halsey Foodservice synonymous with quality products and superb customer service, but Halsey is one of the most iconic names in North Alabama’s rich history of growth and community service.

“This partnership will go a long way toward our well-documented goal of making the Trash Pandas’ food and beverage program second-to-none in Minor League Baseball.”

As part of the agreement, Halsey Foodservice has been named a Founding Partner of the Trash Pandas and the new stadium.

The 140-year-old company will be the sponsor of the new stadium’s William L. Halsey Suite Level which will feature a timeline chronicling the company’s history throughout the suite corridor. The W.L. Halsey logo will be prominently displayed at the front of the suite level, as well as on the stadium’s video board in right field.

“Halsey Foodservice is proud to be a part of this latest expansion for Huntsville, Madison, and the surrounding area,” said Owner, President and CEO Cecilia Halsey. “My family and, particularly, my father have long been committed to the growth and success of the Huntsville area from fundraising for the UAH campus, Redstone Arsenal, and his early involvement with the space program. My father’s love for this community has been evident and long-lasting.

“I am committed to carrying on my father’s legacy of community involvement and what better way than to form a strategic partnership with BallCorps and the Rocket City Trash Pandas. The Trash Pandas will be a central catalyst in bringing the community and its people closer together.”

The Trash Pandas will open their inaugural season next year with their home debut set for April 15.

Town Madison is Scoring with Residential and Hotel Construction

MADISON — Soon … very soon, Town Madison will be a lighted beacon along I-565, a welcoming 530-acre gateway into the Rocket City for visitors from the east and west.

Town Madison is a sprawling multi-use development extending along I-565 from Wall Triana Highway to Zierdt Road. (Courtesy The Breland Companies)

The shear enormity of the sprawling mixed-use development is on full display amidst the “preponderance of red soil” that gave Redstone Arsenal its name.

Town Madison has already inspired a boom of construction and activity in downtown Madison. It is changing forever the skyline along I-565 between Wall Triana Highway and the intersection of Madison Boulevard at Zierdt Road.

The new stadium with its red roof is now clearly visible amidst the towering LED stadium floodlights and churned red dirt and rocks. Fans of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, the tenants of the new ballpark, are already decked out and geared up for the team’s first pitch at their new home stadium on April 15, 2020.

While the energy is moving toward a April 15, 2020 Opening Day, there is a lot more going on at Town Madison than just baseball!

Phase I Residential

Described as having a “Village of Providence feel”, the first phase of Town Madison’s residential community consists of 216 single-family homes and townhouses, currently under construction.

Townhouses are rising from the red dirt to the north of the baseball stadium. (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

The Village of Providence was one of Huntsville’s first mixed-use communities built off U.S. 72 in 2003. It has been a shining example of how popular pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and the amenity-filled lifestyle have become.

Single-family home lots are already selling out while a sales model of the townhouses graces the main drag a block from the stadium itself. Soon, potential buyers will be able to tour the layout and make preconstruction customizations to fit their lifestyle.

Currently the most visible residential component to rise from the red clay is The Station at Town Madison, a four-story, 274-unit luxury apartment complex, also within walking distance of restaurants, retail stores, the sports complex, and a slew of boutique hotels and destination resort hotels like Margaritaville that will be opening there.

“The Station is opening a leasing office within the next 45 days and will be moving new tenants in by the end of the year,” said Joey Ceci, president of the Breland Cos., which is developing the project. “I believe they already have plenty of interest and even some commitments from potential tenants who are interested in moving into such an exciting environment.”

500 Hotel Rooms

Rendering shows the 170-room Hotel Margaritaville which will be just beyond the centerfield wall of the Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium.

Ceci said hotels have always been an important component of Town Madison and progress on that front has been explosive. Convenient to Huntsville International Airport and I-565 and I-65, the new 97-room Home2Suites is open at 135 Graphics Drive, a block off Wall Triana at the westernmost edge of the development.

On the corner, a new Twice Daily convenience store and White Bison Coffee have also opened. Next to it, the 87-room avid Hotel is 50 percent complete, while a Hilton Garden Inn has broken ground a block up the street.

“The Town Madison target is 500 rooms,” said Ceci. “We will hit that number when the 170-room Margaritaville resort hotel breaks ground by the end of the year or very early next year.”

Announced back in 2018, the groundbreaking for Hotel Margaritaville has been delayed, putting into question whether Margaritaville with its tropical beach atmosphere, attached restaurant and lazy, winding river said to flow along the backside of the Trash Pandas centerfield wall, is still a go.

Ceci however is reassuring that Margaritaville will be in full swing by the Trash Pandas’ second season.

Pro Player Park

Other exciting venues such as Pro Players Park are committed to Town Madison, although construction has not yet begun.

The $12 million venue for travel softball and baseball will consist of 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields; a 65,000 square-foot sports facility with batting cages; a pro shop; a small café and vending area; and an indoor soccer field.

Pro Player Park will be situated west of the Trash Pandas’ stadium in what is known as the old Intergraph campus. No dates have been set for that groundbreaking, but it is expected to generate 300,000 visitors a year and, according to Madison Mayor Paul Finley, will yield about 40,000 room nights per year.

Restaurants and Retail

Finally, Ceci believes several restaurant concepts will be making announcements soon about their plans to open at Town Madison on the Zierdt Road side.

“Negotiations and discussions are happening every day with several restaurant and retail vendors and I believe we are very close to some solid commitments, but nothing I can announce today,” said Ceci.

Along with several national commercial tenants who are currently doing their due diligence, several announcements are expected in the coming weeks.

From Old Times to New Times: Bad Daddy’s has ‘Bad A**’ Burgers

If the first few days are a predictor, one of Huntsville’s newest eateries is headed for success.

Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, which opened Sept. 23 in the new Times Plaza at 2317 Memorial Parkway, launched with a big turnout.

Former Huntsville Times Publisher Bob Ludwig checks out a Bad Daddy’s Burger. (Photo/Wendy Reeves)

“It’s gone pretty well,” restaurant manager Jason Gagnon said soon after closing the first day. “We’re all a little excited, but it’s been good.”

The place was even buzzing with staff hurriedly serving tables full of patrons at 4 p.m. two days later.

The restaurant, the chain’s first in Alabama and 37th nationwide, advertises “Chef-driven burgers, chopped salads, artisan sandwiches, and local craft beers.” The motif has a Huntsville flavor with artwork from local photographer Olivia Reed part of the decor.

The first Bad Daddy’s opened in 2007 in North Carolina.

Times Plaza assumed the address once occupied by The Huntsville Times. Former Times employees gathered to recount old stories and check out the culinary and craft beer offerings during a “soft opening” two days before the burger bar opened to the public.

This is a Bad Ass Burger by Bad Daddy’s. (Photo/Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar)

There were some 32 former employees visiting their old haunts with a combined 791 years of service with the newspaper. Among them were this reporter and Huntsville Business Journal editor Bud McLaughlin, who gave the restaurant’s signature Bad Ass Burger a review of “excellent.”

The burger is billed as featuring a 10-ounce beef patty, housemade American cheese, horseradish mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle and, according to McLaughlin, the star of the ensemble: “Deep-fried bacon.’’

While Bad Daddy’s churns out food where The Times’ newsroom once churned out stories, the site that housed the former production building includes Super Chix, Stone Age Korean Steakhouse and Regymen Fitness.

Super Chix is based in Dallas and specializes in frozen custard in addition to chicken.

Stone Age, operated by local restaurateur Min Liu, will be all-you-can-eat barbecue with an eclectic mix of vegetables, sauces, and other sides.

 

For Founder Larry Lowe, Fractal Brewing Blends the Old and the New

Leave it to an electrical engineer to select a math term to name his new business.

Fractal Brewing Project is ready to take your order. (Photo/Eric Schultz)

That’s what Larry Lowe did in branding the Fractal Brewing Project, which opened Sept. 18, in the building that once housed local craft micro-breweries Olde Towne and Straight to Ale but has been empty for the past two years.

Fractal, as defined by Random Word, is “a never-ending pattern in mathematics built from repeated shapes that are reduced each time they repeat.”

Sounds cool, even for those of us who have no idea what it means.

Cool also defines the renovated tavern at 3200 Leeman Ferry Road. The look of the place will be somewhat new to former patrons of the site under its old banners — the tap room has been relocated, Lowe brought in wood for tables and tabletops that was locally sourced, two large barn doors separate the tap room from the event area, for instance.

But, Lowe added, while he expects customers to make new memories, he also hopes the vibe the former tenants provided is the same. Olde Towne in the early 2000s and Straight to Ale some five years later were the first breweries in the city since prohibition ended.

“If there was ever a historic marker for craft beer in Huntsville, Alabama, it should be this building,” Lowe said as workers prepared to place signs on the building the day before the doors opened for business. “I wanted to try to preserve the building, try to preserve the old character of the trail blazers that came before.

“When I was going through the process and told people what I was doing, their eyes would sparkle and they’d say,’ You know, I met my husband there,’ or, ‘I had my baby shower there,’ or ‘I had my brother’s funeral (wake) there.’ There were so many good memories in this building and it was such a community place. That’s what I wanted to do. Give everybody a new experience but preserve the character of the old place.”

Lowe spent 22 years in the defense industry after graduating Grissom (Class of ‘93) and then Auburn (MS in ‘99, Ph.D. ‘01). He served as vice president at Huntsville’s GATR Technologies and was part of the executive team that put inflatable SATCOM antennas on the market.

Cubic Corporation bought GATR in 2016. Lowe said he “hung around for three years during the transition” but wanted to move on to something different. He had served as vice president at GATR under Paul Gierow, the president, and wanted to be in charge of his own business.

Fractal Brewing Project is open ready to serve its customers. (Photo/Eric Schultz)

“I was itching to try to do something else,” he said. “Watching Paul run the company, I was just kind of riding shotgun watching Paul make all the decisions. I had the itch to see if I could run my own business and being the one to call all of the shots.”

Professional brewer and retired Marine Brad “Robo’’ Robinson is on board after stints as brewmaster at four sites, including two in town. Tap room manager is veteran Justin Wenz. Fractal has event space, a catering staging area and is wired for conferences and live music.

Lowe said his staff is capable, allowing him to spend some time with wife Amanda and their three children. That doesn’t mean he won’t been seen at his new “Project.”

“I never found that you could be creative in your cubicle or the board room,” Lowe said. “Those aren’t creating meetings. I found the most creating environments were places like breweries where people gather and dig into the next problems and minds get creative.”

Gold Sprint: A Tale of Bikes and Beans

Differentiation is in the details.

The cozy, eclectic interior of Gold Sprint is very welcoming. (Photo/Steve Babin)

With so many new tantalizing third-wave coffee hangs popping up in Huntsville, there’s only one that features a trike-riding stuffed raccoon that’s toting a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Add to that are felt pennants, elaborately designed skateboards, and a multitude of karate trophies.

Gold Sprint Coffee + Bikes is destined to be eclectic, funky, yet still serve you up a memorable cup o’ Joe.

The shop and its quirky décor promise to be quite the unique place to hang out or telework.

Within easy walking distance of the Huntsville Parks and Recreation office, Trailhead and Lowe Mill, Gold Sprint sits at the corner of 1st Street and 9th Avenue with Huntsville West and Urban Engine a good solid walk or bike ride away.

Everything about Gold Sprint has been well-thought out and carefully executed. From the bar design, to the kitchen and the main area tables and seating, there are no accidents.

“We want to be that third space between work and home.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

Although the vibe is geared toward avid and recreational cyclists, the space promises to have guaranteed appeal teleworkers, soccer moms, and aspiring entrepreneurs.

“We want to be a destination location,” said owner Victor Burlingame.

Burlingame’s years of experience in the cycle shop world have prepared him for this moment.

“The bike shop influences how we work here,” he said. “We are the ‘fixed gears’ of coffee shops. Fixed gears appeal to different people. If fixed gears are what gets people into bikes, the same analogy can apply to coffee.

“There is no ‘wrong’ drink.”

Then, there’s the coffee.

“For our roasts, we are working with Domestique, a socially responsible coffee importer and roaster and also the best coffee in Birmingham,” said Burlingame.

The newly minted staff of established baristas is committed to providing a quality product and top-notch customer service.

“Personality is as important as coffee and we want to give customers the best product for their dollar,” said Burlingame. “We want to be that third space between work and home.”

Inspired by the iconic Bottletree café in Birmingham, Gold Sprint has plans to book live music.

“There’s a lot of homogenization of the world because of Pinterest and Instagram,” said Burlingame. “If we build something, they (our competitors) will have to copy us.”