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.”

Delayed by Pandemic, The Flower Shoppe of Providence is in Full Bloom

“Lo and behold, I’m back!” said Jessa Harris about her return engagement as a florist.

Harris, an author, photographer, and floral artist recently opened The Flower Shoppe of Providence.

And, business seems to be blooming.

“We’ve have had a really good response from the community,” said Harris.

The Flower Shoppe opened its doors Aug. 1 after a delay brought on by the pandemic.

“We listed having a storefront in February, but then COVID hit,” said Harris.

Despite the setback, Harris and her team still managed to create special arrangements during two of the biggest holidays that florists everywhere anticipate.

“We made it through Valentine’s Day, working out of my apartment,” said Harris. “I had a crew of nine helping me get through Mother’s Day. When we did Mother’s Day, we were still in my apartment.”

The Flower Shoppe location is idyllic, just across from the green space in Providence.

“We found this location and we totally gutted it,” said Harris. “It’s gorgeous, it turned out really well.”

In 1997, Harris opened Gunilla’s, her first flower shop. It was housed in an old barbershop on Main Street in Madison.

However, the demands of parenting prompted Harris into closing the shop two years later.

“I had children, went home to raise my babies, and closed the shop,” said Harris. “We closed in 1999, right after Mother’s Day.”

At the time, Harris wasn’t sure if she would return to the floral business.

“I was knee deep in photography, but I had an investor approach me about opening a shop,” she said. “The more we talked about it, the more we considered it, we just thought we’d see what happened if we did.

“And, oh my gosh, it just kind of snowballed!”

The Flower Shoppe is a European-style florist, in that it makes for a great place for friends to gather. There’s inside and outside seating, along with free coffee and tea.

“It’s very community-oriented,” said Harris. “We’ve got this huge table that we work on inside that has barstools around it. You can just come and hang out and chat while we work.”

For those who love bouquets, the Flower Shoppe has a “Fresh Flower Friday” from 3-6 p.m.

“We put buckets of flowers out in our flower cart for you to create your own bouquet and pay by the stem,” said Harris. “We have a lot of men that come and ask us to pull something together so they can take flowers home when they get off work.”

In addition to flower arrangements and other assorted gifts, The Flower Shoppe offers classes in floral design. Harris incorporates her Facebook Live floral design videos into a small instructional event at the shop. The class is limited to eight participants.

For information, visit FlowerShoppeOfProvidence.com

 

The Gun Sales of Madison County: A Booming Business

2020 might well be referred to as “The Year of the Firearm.”

“People want to defend their homes, their communities,” said Melanie Hammer Murray, owner of Bullet and Barrel in Huntsville. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Amid the uncertainty brought on by a pandemic coupled with civil unrest, gun sales have been on a steep, upward trajectory.

Firearm sales took off like a rocket with the arrival of COVID-19 in early March. Just in the first seven months of 2020, approximately 19 million firearms have been sold in the United states.

The states topping this year’s gun purchases are Illinois, Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and California. These four states have had the most background checks for the sale, transfer, or licensing of guns, to date.

Although background checks are key indicator of firearm sales, it also can encompass the sale of multiple firearms.

Thus far, the highest months for background checks have been June at 3.9 million, March at 3.7 million, and July at 3.6 million. According to the FBI, these three months have been top record breakers for background checks associated with the sale, transfer or permitting of firearms since the Bureau began keeping statistics in 1998.

What is especially noteworthy about this year’s gun buyers is the high percentage of first-time owners. According to the National Shoot Sports Foundation, it is estimated that 40 percent of those purchasing firearms are first-time buyers.

“People want to defend their homes, their communities,” said Melanie Hammer Murray, owner of Bullet and Barrel in Huntsville. “There are so many layers to this onion.”

In a “normal” year, there is a regular pattern of gun purchasing, one that peaks around the holidays and drops off around January and February, then May and June, and once again in August and September.

It is also a common trend for gun sales to rise during presidential election years. Fueled in part by potential firearm restrictions that may come with a new administration, gun sales often pick up the closer it gets to the November elections.

“It was quiet on the gun range during April and May; then the rioting started, and people just went crazy again,” said Russ Durling, owner of Last Resort Guns.

“Gun sales follow a four-year cycle,” said Russ Durling, owner of Last Resort Guns in Madison. “In July-August 2019, we were just at the three-year point and gun sales were really bad.”

This election year’s gun sales have been unusually high largely due to COVID-19, a highly contentious political divide, and the heated uprisings over racial inequality and police brutality.

“We expect to be quiet in January and February,” said Durling. “Then, COVID arrives and people got really panicky. There was a big surge in gun purchases, we were selling quite a lot of guns. It was quiet on the gun range during April and May; then the rioting started, and people just went crazy again.”

Although there has been a significant uptick in new gun ownership, the market is fraught with supply chain issues.

“The big challenge for all firearm stores is that there is not enough ammo or firearms,” said Murray.

Not only are raw materials and components harder to come by, COVID has completely changed up the production dynamics. Social distancing on the production line means staggered shifts, fewer employees, and far less production. This has resulted in the “perfect storm” of raw material storages and reduced firearm production, which comes with its own set of consequences.

“The production line was broken, COVID messed up the supply chain,” said Durling. “No supply; that induces panic buying. There was an ammunition shortage and people were hoarding. It’s a big problem – burgeoning demand and no supply.”

While there has a been a huge boom on firearm and ammo sales this year, Durling speculates that by next summer, business will be quite different.

“There’s lot of people that are going to be saddled with guns and ammo that they didn’t really want and they won’t be buying any in the future.”

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.”

 

 

 

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.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center Reopening to Public

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is reopening to museum members Friday and to the general public Saturday. The Rocket Center has been closed since March 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

To maintain social distancing, visitors will enter at the Rocket Center’s Davidson Center for Space Exploration. The Davidson Center, Rocket Park and Shuttle Park will be open, but some exhibits and all simulators will remain closed.

The traveling exhibit, “Playing with Light,” in the original museum building will be open.

Enhanced cleaning measures are in place, and other safety measures include:

  • Timed tickets are required for admission.
  • One-directional paths are laid out through exhibits.
  • Plexiglass shields are in place at visitor service and ticketing desks.
  • Masks are strongly recommended for visitors and required for staff.

Reopening hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum will be closed Mondays for cleaning.

To purchase tickets, visit rocketcenter.com.

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.”

Chamber Launches GetYourGiftOn.Org to Support Local Restaurants and Stores

If you were not hungry before, you will be after visiting the new GetYourGiftOn.org website (https://www.getyourgifton.org/), launched by the Huntsville-Madison Chamber of Commerce in support of local small businesses, especially restaurants and retail establishments.

The website features retail and dining establishments which can quickly and easily upload detailed information about their business, including any promotional offers and specials; new and limited business hours; whether or not they offer curbside or delivery options (even if they didn’t offer it before); and links to online gift cards that can be used to order food or goods, or that can be given to someone else as gift.

Searchable by neighborhood, it is easy for businesses to take part by clicking the “Submit a Business” link at the top of the site and filling out the information. That information goes to the Chamber to be verified and could go live within a couple of hours if not sooner.

There is no cost for businesses to be added and Chamber membership is not required to participate.

“Maybe your company never thought about offering gift cards or just hadn’t gotten around to it yet,” said Lucia Cape, Senior Vice President of Economic Development at the Chamber. “This makes it really easy, and that was our intent – to keep it really simple and make it very attractive.”

For businesses that do not offer gift cards, there are options available.

  • Instagift, an Alabama-based e-gift card service, is  waiving monthly fees for any Huntsville signups;
  • Gift Up is waiving its 3.49 percent fee on the first $5,000 of gift card sales.

For businesses with e-gift cards and using platforms such as Square, they can be easily and quickly linked.

The Chamber has been brainstorming ways to help support local businesses during this unprecedented shutdown and heard about a site called LocalDistancing.com in Birmingham.

Inspired by three childhood friends and entrepreneurs Vince Perez, Dylan Spencer, and Trey Oliver, the Chamber asked them for help in building a sister site in Huntsville based on the same premise.

According to Cape, it was a labor of love working with them to get the site up quickly, and to provide such an easy format so business owners can add themselves to the site and be up and running almost immediately.

“Please pass along the word about GetYourGiftOn.org and encourage every retail or restaurant owner you know to add their information to the site,” said Cape. “We expect to add a lot more vendors to the site in the coming days so if there is a business you haven’t been to lately; or if you know of a business or restaurant in your neighborhood that should be using the site, be sure and let them and the Chamber know so we can get them up as soon as possible.

“Remember that even though we may be losing track of dates these days, we have not canceled holidays and Mother’s Day is coming up May 10. Maybe you are checking in with your mom, but not able to visit. You can still send her a gift. Go to GetYourGiftOn.org and buy her an online gift card to somewhere to eat or to her favorite retail store.

Because the website is new, the Chamber is seeking feedback to provide improvements and updates.

 

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.”

‘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 https://www.downtownhuntsville.org/blog 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.”