Holiday Shoppers Urged to Shop Small, Save Local and Spend Big

They won’t say “Black Friday”, “Small Business Saturday”, or “Cyber Monday” have been called off this year, but instead, it has been extended to incorporate the entire four weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the Madison Chamber of Commerce, the South Huntsville Main Business Association, Downtown Huntsville Inc., the North Huntsville Business Association, and the cities of Huntsville and Madison have launched a Shop Small, Save Local campaign to support Madison County retailers.

After a long, challenging year of pandemic and shutdowns, the traditional Christmas shopping experience looks a lot different this year than it has in the past, but local small businesses are doing what small businesses do best – they have used a lot of creativity in turning COVID problems into new opportunities, while developing practical solutions like required masks, social distancing, easily accessible sanitizing stations and a whole lot of Plexiglas to improve their business models – perhaps permanently.

Ask yourself – will anyone really miss the traditional mad dash at midnight to lay claim to crowded “Black Friday” doorbusters? Will you miss riding people’s heels to take their parking spot, or wrestling your neighbor out of the last Star Wars Child Animatronic Edition of Yoda?

According to Pammie Jimmar, vice president, Small Business & Events for the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber, local retailers large and small started in October preparing for a longer Christmas shopping experience to help local retailers make up some of what they have lost during the pandemic.

“We have to save our local businesses and that is why the Chamber decided to make a strong statement about it,” said Jimmar. “Traditionally, we celebrate Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, but after what our local businesses have been through this year, we felt it was important to support them all the time, all year long, across the board, and not just on one day or two.”

And it is not just an override of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Before you wear the lettering off Amazon’s “Submit” button online, Shop Small (Business), Save Local asks residents to take a pause and look at the benefits to shopping local small businesses, and spending big while you are at it!

“Everything you can find online, you can also find locally,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “You can hold it in your hand, try it on, and save the wait for it to arrive. You can save the expense of shipping or returns, printing labels, buying postage, and having to go to the post office. It is also efficient since the receiver can easily exchange it for a different color or a different size.

“In terms of whether it is safe, grocery stores, pharmacies and big-ticket stores have found ways to safely adjust to the pandemic and North Alabamians have learned to mask, sanitize, and separate. So, there is no reason why shopping cannot be an even better experience this year.”

“When you shop local, you are supporting local government,” Battle said. “The money comes from sales tax and is used to build roads and run schools – all things we provide in support of our community. Know that when you buy local, you are supporting a school child, a teacher, or someone who might be distance learning. It is very important for us and for our community.”

For years, “Black Friday”, and more recently, “Cyber Monday” have kicked off the retail Christmas shopping season. Even in normal times, those three days following Thanksgiving mark the first time all year that retailers begin to turn a profit – that is, operate “in the black”, after operating at break-even or at a loss – “in the red” – all year prior.

In 2020, to say retailers have operated in the red is a colossal understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged retailers in a way they have never had to face before.

“This is definitely an unusual year for shopping,” said Sameer Singhal, president/CEO of CFD Research Corp. and vice chair of Small Business and Events at the Chamber. “The pandemic makes everything look a little bit different and we have a new normal, but it doesn’t stop us from doing what’s the right thing.

“It is all about our small business owners.”

David Christopherson of Roosevelt and Co., a men’s clothing and supply store in Huntsville, said he wants customers to know how conscientious they are in providing a safe and healthy environment where customers can come in and shop.

“Our team is just three people,” said Christopherson. “So, if one of our employees got COVID, we will be losing a part of our team, so I think all small businesses are very conscious about making masking, sanitizing and distancing a priority.

“We extended our Small Business Saturday deals for the entire week so people won’t feel rushed and they can get down here when they can and feel safe and comfortable in the store.  For those who prefer not to come in, we offer more merchandise on our website than usual and provide curbside pick-up and delivery to make it easy for those people.”

Singhal said many small businesses are handling customers the same way.

“In the early days of the pandemic, I called Wild Birds Unlimited on Whitesburg Drive and bought bird seed and a feeder on the phone,” he said. “The manager met me in the parking lot and put it in the trunk of my car.

“Toy Place in Five Points actually did a Facetime walk-through her store, we picked out a gift, she gift-wrapped it, and we picked it up outside the store without ever getting out of the car.”

Madison Mayor Paul Finley: “I have five boys to shop for and I’m going to be looking forward to shopping locally to make prosperity happen for every store in our community.”

“It is just a different year,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “I think part of what we get to do is be innovative in finding purposeful ways to support our community. Ninety percent of U.S. businesses are categorized as small or medium sized. With this pandemic, about one-third of those businesses right now are either operating on a very basic level or not operating at all.

“I have five boys to shop for and I’m going to be looking forward to shopping locally to make prosperity happen for every store in our community. Let’s make this a really successful, although different, season.”

“The pandemic has impacted us in a lot of ways, but the reality is, you can find more interesting, more unique goods when you shop with our local shops,” said Chad Emerson, president and CEO of Downtown Huntsville Inc. “Gifts you can’t find anywhere else, a lot of exclusive lines in clothing, candles and other gifts.

Downtown Huntsville Inc. CEO Chad Emerson: “… the reality is, you can find more interesting, more unique goods when you shop with our local shops.”

“I want to stress that shopping local isn’t just an altruistic thing to do. It’s different, but one thing that is not different is you can buy everything you need for friends and family locally. You can find interesting and unique gifts whether it is downtown, South Huntsville, North Huntsville or the great Madison community and throughout the County. And remember that a lot of the local boutiques have online stores on their websites where you can request curbside pickup.”

Merrill Wright, interim director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, said shopping local is easy and convenient because you can make a quick stop at a store on your way home from work or school or during a lunch break, to pick up gifts for family and friends.

“We see our small business owners quite often,” Wright said. “We’ve been communicating with them a lot since COVID, and we see the stress they have been under this year. One thing I can say from talking and meeting with them almost daily is, they have a wonderfully positive outlook. They continue to wake up and go to their business in the morning and start every day fresh. And it is not just during the holiday season, it is during the rest of the year as well.

“They need our support whether it is a birthday present or a universal gift, so shop small, local business whenever you can.”

The new North Huntsville Business Association recently introduced Judy Hardin as its executive director. She said North Huntsville’s revitalization projects have helped build relationships between small businesses and the community.

North Huntsville Business Association Executive Director Judy Hardin: “… remember, shopping brings in tourism as well and we all need that.”

“It is the American dream to become an entrepreneur so our business owners are proud of all the new products and services starting up in the area,” said Hardin. “We are having problems due to COVID just like everyone else in Madison County. Small business establishments are supporting each other in getting past the situation, but we are excited and ready to support them because remember, shopping brings in tourism as well and we all need that.”

Bekah Schmidt, executive director of the South Huntsville Main Business Association, said, “This holiday season it is more important than ever to support local businesses. We have great gift guides and if you are buying for the kids, Rocket City Moms website is a valuable tool for ideas.”

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber launched a website this past spring aimed at helping all types of small business retailers, including restaurants. GetYourGiftOn.org is the perfect solution if you are not comfortable shopping in person. It features many local Madison County retail stores and restaurants where customers can purchase gift cards directly on the site. They can be emailed to you or a recipient from the comfort of home. Even though the recipient may not use the gift card until later, the purchase provides financial support to the business owner immediately.

“It is a great way to thank someone and it is free to all local businesses, whether you are a member of the Chamber or not,” said Singhal. “The site is free for businesses to set up a profile and gift cards. In fact, if your company does not currently offer gift cards, you can set them up right there on the site and it only takes about 15 minutes. There is a link at the top to add your business, and a link to set up gift cards if you don’t currently offer them.”

“There are a lot of positives to shopping locally, but the biggest positive is your next door neighbor or your friends may be working at that store, may be part of the economy supporting that store, part of the economy that store supports,” said Battle. “If we take a minute to think about how much these stores mean to us … and support them, we make for a great Christmas for us and a great Christmas for them, a successful holiday season … so shop local and spend big (dollars).”

 

Some Ideas for Shopping Local, Shopping Small for the Holidays

‘Tis the season to start thinking about holiday gift-giving. Only this year, it comes with a unique pandemic-infused twist.

To help make the annual holiday shopping experience more of a joyous occasion and less of a chore, Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment is hosting its fourth annual “Yule Y’all,” from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Dec. 5. Enjoy one of the most popular outdoor-centric holiday market and spirit sampling events of the season. There will be a tantalizing assortment of maker art, holiday creations, food, and music, along with a spirited chaser. This year’s event will also fully embrace the social distancing mindset and mask protocol.

The lighting of the iconic Lowe Mill water tower will take place at 5 p.m.

With more than 150 working studios and seven galleries, there’s something for everyone at Lowe Mill. From Cigar box guitars to sculpture and all points in between. What’s more, it’s all created by local artisans and/or owned by local entrepreneurs. Support Your Community: Shop Local!

Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment

2211 Seminole Drive

Hours: Wednesday-Thursday, noon-6 p.m.; Friday, noon-8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

(Note: Individual vendors and artists’ hours may vary)

(256) 533-0399

Lowemill.art

Facebook: Lowe Mill Arts

 

Wondering where to begin? Here’s a handful of clever gift ideas, designed to jumpstart even the stubbornest of holiday shopper’s block. If crowds are a concern, many of the businesses listed also have an online retail presence. Listed below are a few of the many talented artisans, makers, and entrepreneurs in Huntsville/Madison. Beginning at Lowe Mill.

CHOCOLATE’S THE WORD

For those stumped on what to buy, it’s hard to go wrong with the gift of chocolate. This isn’t any ordinary chocolate, mind you. Owners Caitlin Lyon and Michelle Novosel have built a mini empire based on their elaborate, unique, and most importantly, delicious confections. In addition to chocolates, there are mini-cakes, ice cream, and chocolate and coffee beverages. Coming soon, just in time for the holidays: Pizzelle’s fabulous Drinking Chocolate ornaments. Willy Wonka beams proudly over their well-run enterprise.

Pizzelle’s

Railroad Room 4A

Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m.

(256) 513-9745

Pizzellesconfections.com

Facebook: Pizzelle’s Confections

 

THERE’S A SONG FOR THAT

Everyone loves the gift of music. And vinyl has made a comeback in a big way. Vertical House has a plethora of 33-1/3 titles, from the well-known to the most obscure. As a fixture at Lowe Mill since 2007, Vertical House is your go-to for all genres of music. Their newest location has more square footage, which means more CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, and of course, more VINYL. If something you want isn’t in stock, owner Andy Vaughn can order it for you.

 

Vertical House Records

Railroad Room 9

Hours: Wednesday – Friday, noon– 6 p.m.; Saturday, noon–5 p.m.

(256)  658-2976

verticalhouse@gmail.com

theverticalhouse.com

Facebook: Vertical House Records

 

JEWELRY IS A GAL’S BEST FRIEND

It can also be a guy’s best buddy, right? Connie Ulrich’s jewelry is a fusion of natural materials and skillfully worked metals and precious stones. Her studio presents an attractive selection of hand-crafted jewelry, rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. There’s even a workshop for making your own ring! Along with the amazing assortment of jewelry, Ulrich also has a fine selection of small paintings available for sale.

Connie Ulrich

Studio 121

Hours: Friday, noon-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; and by appointment only

(256) 536-4653

Connieulrich.com

Facebook: Connie Ulrich Studio

 

WELCOME TO FABULOUS HUNTSVEGAS

Cheers to the Rocket City! If you’re seeking unique, head to Green Pea Press. Green Pea Press has a wide assortment of t-shirts, mugs, coasters, koozies, earrings, and stickers. They also have an assortment of frame worthy screen print art. For those who would appreciate an “experience” kind of gift, Green Pea Pressoffers printing workshops and classes. Gift certificates are also available from $25-up.

Green Pea Press

Studio 150

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

(256) 533-0399

Greenpeapress.com

Facebook: Green Pea Press

In addition to its Lowe Mill studio, Green Pea Press has a location on Governors Drive:

Green Pea Press

2720 Governors Drive

Hours: Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

(256) 924-0451

 

IT RESIN-ATES!

Up-and-coming resin artist Kenzie Johnston (aka KenziB) will first delight you with her personality, then with her eye-catching and creative assortment of colorful geode-like designs and preserved flowers in resin. The flowers are always bright and fresh; Johnston picks up a new batch daily.

KenziB

Studio 301

Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m.

(601) 481-5707

kenzi.boo.art@gmail.com

kenzib.com

Instagram: kenziejohnstonart

 

WHISKEY A GO-GO

One man, One whiskey. NASA engineer Jeff Irons has a natural gift for distilling only the best. Love, patience, and commitment are evident in the final product. And for those reasons, Irons One has continued to grow exponentially in popularity. Irons One is a small batch, handcrafted whiskey. “The only way I know how to make the best whiskey is to be totally involved in every step of the process,” says Irons. “I can only do that if I stay small enough in size to manage each step.” Be sure to check online and sign up to the Irons One e-mail list for product updates and availability.

Irons One Whiskey

Studio 2061

Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m.

(256) 536-0100

ironsonewhiskey@gmail.com

Ironsone.com

Although Lowe Mill provides one of the most uniquely creative shopper’s paradise, here are a few more places to consider.

 

BEER IS THE WORD

If you’re looking for exceptional craft beer, look no further than Das Stahl Bierhaus. With 32 beers on tap, you can have some now, then take some home in a 32- or 64-ounce glass growler.

One of the big hits at Das Stahl this season are the Advent beer calendars. The calendars come pre-assembled and filled with a jolly assortment of holiday brewskis. The Advent box can also be purchased and filled with a selection of personal favorites. Not sure what beers to buy? For $15 more, one of the crew at Das Stahl can fill up that calendar with a selection that’s guaranteed to delight. In addition to draft beer, Das Stahl Bierhaus sells a wide assortment of canned and bottled beers, decorative steins, branded glassware, and t-shirts. Still undecided? There’s always the gift card option.

Das Stahl Bierhaus

7914 Memorial Pkwy SW, B2 (Village Center)

Hours: Monday-Wednesday, noon-8 p.m.; Thursday, noon-9 p.m.

Friday & Saturday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 2-8 p.m.

(256) 858-1495

dsb-hsv.com

Facebook: DSBHSV

 

SWEET HOME ALABAMA

When looking for the perfect gift, check out Alabama Goods. Along with assorted gift baskets, Alabama Goods boasts one of the largest selections of Alabama-made pottery. In fact, everything in the store is created by artisans here in our sweet home Alabama! Owners Sherry Hartley and Beth Staula search far and wide throughout the state for just the right art, jewelry, pottery, crafts, and food items.

Alabama Goods

2722 Carl T. Jones Drive, Valley Bend Shopping Center

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.

(256) 270-7439

alabamagoods.com

Facebook: Alabama Goods Huntsville

 

WINE NOT?

Uncorked is in the heart of Providence Main and owner Saranne Riccio’s secret to her success lies in her simple philosophy, “Wine doesn’t have to be intimidating.” Along with a variety of wines to suit any budget, there are tasty tidbits, such as Mama’s cheese straws, Arabella’s dilled onions, candied jalapenos, and pepper jelly; Belle Chevre goat cheeses, and Pizzelle’s chocolates. Add these delightful goodies with a great bottle of wine to your next gift basket.

Uncorked Wine Shop & Tasting Room

485 Providence Main St

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday, noon-8 p.m.; Saturday, noon-7 p.m.

Closed Sundays and Mondays

(256) 970-4717

Facebook: Uncorked Wine Shop Tasting Room

 

And don we now, our seasonal apparel. If you’re looking for a variety of ladies and kid’s clothing, along with assorted accessories and swag, Redbird Boutique is the place to go. Co-joined with University Pickers, Redbird features over 60 local designers and there’s a wide variety of items to choose from. Bird is the word, shop local!

Redbird Boutique and Gifts at University Pickers

3024 University Drive

Hours: Monday – Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sunday, noon–5 p.m.

(256) 536-5738

Redbirdhsv.com

Facebook: Redbird Boutique and Gifts

Listed below are two of the many local designers with merchandise available at Redbird Boutique.

 

WHISK YOU WERE HERE

The brainchild of Jonathon Fowler, Fow Wow merchandise is iconic, quirky, and uniquely Huntsville. Many of the designs are sure to provoke a smile, or even a laugh. Fow Wow brand products are sold throughout Huntsville in retail establishments, such as Redbird Boutique and Huntsville Museum of Art. Merchandise can also be ordered online. Check their website or Facebook page for a complete selection of products.

Fow Wow Designs

fowwowdesigns.com

Facebook: Fow Wows

 

SOUTHWESTERN HEART CHIC

Summer Sklar, an El Paso native-Huntsville transplant, puts her heart and soul, along with beads and wire, into her captivating assortment of Mexican/Southwestern-meets funky chic jewelry. Sklar creates a beautiful selection of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and wine charms. Each piece of Heart & Wire jewelry is one-of-a-kind and is available at Redbird Boutique or via online at the Heart & Wire website. Custom orders are also welcomed.

Heart & Wire

Heartandwire.com

Facebook: Heart and Wire

 

 

 

 

 

City Opens Haysland Road from Grissom High School to Redstone Road

Things are moving along in South Huntsville and they will be moving along a lot easier now.

On Tuesday, “Phase II” of Haysland Road through the Hays Farm development was opened from Grissom High School to Redstone Road.

Mayor Tommy Battle, City Council President Jennie Robinson, and Director of Engineering Kathy Martin cut the ribbon for the two-mile roadway.

The two-mile roadway includes a 12-foot-wide multiuse path through approximately 250 acres of preserved open space. (Photos/Steve Babin)

Haysland Road provides a parallel road in the city’s growing southern corridor to ease congestion on Memorial Parkway as well as provide direct access to Grissom High School and Redstone Arsenal.

The $8 million project includes a 12-foot-wide multiuse path through approximately 250 acres of preserved open space.

The Hays Farm development will include single-family homes, apartments and townhouses to complement retail businesses and a nine-acre city park.

A Virtual Celebration honors Madison Chamber of Commerce’s Best in Business

MADISON – Virtuous Realty Group was the “virtual” winner for the Madison Start-Up Business of the Year in the annual Madison Chamber of Commerce 2020 Best in Business Awards.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the winners were announced virtually Tuesday afternoon in 13 categories. The winners will be honored  at a dinner Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at Tom Brown’s restaurant in the Target Shopping Center. It will include the winners and Chamber representatives in a small masked and socially distanced event.

Conditioned Air Solutions was named Best Business of the Year and U-Lock-It Storage won the Small Business of the Year category.

Cathy Miller from United Way won Community Servant of the Year; Alice Lessmann from Signalink received the Excellence in Leadership & Service Award and Carlos Mendoza of Edward Jones was the Ambassador of the Year Award winner.

Among the Small Business Awards, Anglin Reichmann Armstrong was recognized as Professional Service Business of the Year and Madison Visionary Partners won Best Non-Profit of the Year.

Fit4Mom-Madison was named Health & Wellness Business of the Year; Hawthorne at the Ridge was the  Essential Services Business of the Year; and Insanity Complex won Culinary Business of the Year.

Huntsville Ballet danced off with the Arts, Entertainment & Hospitality Business of the Year; and Thrive Alabama won Medical Practice of the Year.

 

Trader Joe’s to Open at Huntsville’s MidCity District

A long-hoped for wish from thousands of folks is coming true.

Trader Joe’s, the legendary supermarket chain, is opening a store in Huntsville at MidCity District.

Mayor Tommy Battle confirmed the news Wednesday in his annual State of the City Address.

“Huntsville has been waiting for a long time for this one,” he said. “As Huntsville’s most requested retailer for the past 10 years, we are excited to officially announce – Trader Joe’s is opening a new store in Huntsville.”

For two years, RCP Companies has been trying to attract the retailer to MidCity District. The quest, which included an “Open Letter to Trader Joe’s” in July 2018, ended with Wednesday’s announcement.

“We’re really excited about the mayor’s announcement and even more excited about the community’s positive response,” said RCP Business Development Manager Nadia Niakossary. “The MidCity team is thrilled and honored to bring Trader Joe’s to the Huntsville market. Trader Joe’s is a top-of-the-line grocer to have, and their presence will lead the growing lineup of retailers at MidCity.

“People in Huntsville have been wanting this one for a long time and this will be great for workforce recruitment and retainment as Huntsville continues to proactively grow.”

A date for the construction of Trader Joe’s has not yet been released.

MidCity is a mixed-use district that, when complete, will have 350,000 square feet of retail, dining, and entertainment space; approximately 400,000 square feet of high-tech office space; 1,400 residential units; and approximately 650 hotel rooms.

A little more than two years ago, MidCity launched a Facebook campaign to lure the retailer, including the “Open Letter to Trader Joe’s” from RCP Companies.

The letter opens “Dear Captain Dan Bane & The Trader Joe’s Crew:

“You may have noticed a blitz on your website recently. That’s because the phenomenal people

of Huntsville, AL, want you to hear loud and clear how passionate we are about bringing Trader

Joe’s here.”

The letter to Trader Joe’s Chairman/CEO Dan Bane and his “crew” touts the city’s history, technology, education, rankings in national publications and lifestyle while also dropping a couple names that have joined the area, such as Jeff Bezos, Facebook and Toyota-Mazda.

It closes: “So this is an open letter to you, Captain Bane, and your outstanding Trader Joe’s Crew to set sail to Huntsville, the star of Alabama, and anchor down at MidCity. We’ll take care of the mini-lobster here.

“Over & Out,

“Your friends at MidCity Huntsville”

Consider the request answered and granted.

 

The Stay-at-Home Blues Are Helping Retailers See Black

It’s funny how when you only spend six out of 15 daylight hours a day at home, you don’t notice that lumpy sofa, weeds growing in the flower pot or how much better that movie would have been on a wide screen TV.

But staying at home 24 hours a day for days, weeks, growing into months on end with no TV sports or outside entertainment, and everyone’s alter ego rises to the occasion … taskmaster, contractor, landscaper, housekeeper … everyone turns into Lucy & Ethel paperhangers! Who knew there was so much to do around the house!

According to Statista, a company that provides insights into some 170 industries worldwide, reported in August that U.S. retail sales saw a sharp rebound in May and continued to recover in June and July from the historic slump brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furniture retailers have seen an uptick in sales during the pandemic, especially home-office furniture.

Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show total retail and food services sales amounted to $536 billion in July, up 1.2 percent over June and 2.7 percent over last year’s July figure. That follows an 8.4 percent month-over-month increase in June and that latest increase puts retail sales back on its pre-pandemic trajectory.

According to housewares industry news source Homeworld Business, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the mass-market furniture business and that continues to drive unprecedented sales.

Charlie Swearingen with Lily Flagg Furniture said sales have increased significantly since the store reopened in May after an eight-week closure from mid-March through April.

“Our problem now is getting furniture in from the manufacturers,” he said. “We have our own warehousing so our customers have always known they can buy right off the floor and we can quickly restock from our warehouse.

“But sales have been so good, we have sold and replenished most of what we usually have in the warehouse and manufacturers are telling us it will be three to six months before we will get certain items from them. Customers don’t want to wait that long.”

Miranda Jackson has been with Huntsville’s La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery for 15 years and she said they are facing the same dilemma.

“We were only closed for about four weeks in April, but we have seen a tremendous upsurge in living room and dining room furniture and rockers,” she said. “Now we are low on stock on a lot of popular items and out of stock on rockers, which is one of our best-selling items.”

She said their rocker manufacturer has resumed production, but they are backlogged so they are telling stores to expect a minimum 110-day wait.

Swearingen says during normal times, three factors drive furniture sales: building or buying a new house, downsizing, and the desire for change. But he believes staying at home and stimulus checks have driven some of the pandemic upsurge.

Several Huntsville furniture retailers report surges in home office furniture as well.

According to Homeworld Business, the office furniture market is set to grow by $22.32 billion during the 2019 to 2023 period, progressing at a compound annual growth rate of almost 6 percent during the forecast period.

Electronics Express manager Priestley Thomas said the pandemic put its store in Jones Valley on the map.

“Electronics and appliances were deemed essential, so we did not close, however the big box names did close or had limited hours and access based on blanket corporate decisions,” he said. “That was excellent for us as a small business and a lot of people who did not know we are here have become regular customers.”

Sales of home freezers have been “phenomenal.”

He said computer and home freezer sales have been phenomenal.

“People realized their home computers were not sufficient for what they needed to work at home,” Thomas said. “Between that and kids needing computers for home schooling, we have sold more computers and home freezers in the months since the pandemic than we have sold since we opened.”

Freezers?

“In the early days of the pandemic, people were worried about food shortages, so they were buying up a lot of meat and frozen foods and needing freezers in which to store it,” Thomas said. “We sold freezers to people who has never had a freezer before.”

According to the National Retail Federation, just over half of retail categories saw month-over-month gains and three-quarters saw year-over-year increases with electronics and appliance stores up 22.9 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

The numbers coincide with what Thomas reported locally.

The biggest monthly gain came at electronics and appliance stores, which are selling more computers for home offices and online learning, along with more appliances associated with home improvement spending and higher home sales.

Another area where Huntsville retailers are reporting high pandemic sales is in lawn, gardening, and landscaping.

Home gardens have seen a surge during the pandemic.

Randy Cobbler, store manager for TriGreen Equipment, said home mowers and trimmers have been big sellers during the pandemic but it may be surprising to hear that hand-held tillers are far and away in the greatest demand. So much, Cobbler said, the store has run out its stock and can’t find any available with surrounding dealers, either.

“There is nothing like a pandemic to make people start thinking about the food supply and food shortages,” said Cobbler. “Farm-grown food would be essential in that case and a lot of people started planting vegetable gardens, some for the first time. A tiller is essential to planting vegetables and we have a lot of people, especially ladies, calling us because they discovered they need one.”

The NRF sales figures differ from Census Bureau figures because they exclude automotive, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus more on core retail. Those retail figures showed July up 1 percent seasonally adjusted from June, but the July numbers showed a trend. The numbers were up 7.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average and up 4.7 percent for the first seven months of the year.

What are the blues for consumers can be good news for retailers!

Contenders for 2020 Small Business of the Year Announced

More than 160 businesses and individuals are in contention for top honors at the 35th annual Huntsville-Madison County Chamber Small Business of the Year Awards.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oct. 20 event will be a virtual presentation. It will be from 4-6 p.m. and fees are $25 for individual members and $50 for individual nonmembers.

The categories and contenders are:

Culinary Business of the Year

Emerging Business of the Year

Local “Creative” of the Year

Government Contracting: Professional Services of the Year

Government Contracting: Technology Business of the Year

Medical Practice of the Year

Nonprofit of the Year

Professional Services Business of the Year

Retailer of the Year

Service Business of the Year

Technology Business of the Year

Woman-Owned Business of the Year

Young Professional of the Year

Russell G Brown Executive Leadership Award

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 342 multifamily units, including 14 townhomes; 9,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space; and 48,000 square feet of Class A office space.

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.”