Super Chix to Open Its First Alabama Store in Times Plaza

Why did the Super Chix cross the road?

Well, that may not be the right question but the Dallas-based chicken and frozen custard restaurant is coming to Huntsville.

Super Chix is slated to open this summer in Times Plaza, the retail-office-dining development on South Parkway, adjacent to Arby’s, Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate announced.

“Super Chix is a premium, fast-casual dining experience that is devoted to quality offerings and great customer service,” said Nick Ouimet, the restaurant’s founder and CEO. “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.

“The Times Plaza location will serve our delicious never-frozen tenders and fillets, hand-breaded or grilled chicken sandwiches, salads, fresh hand-cut fries and daily-churned frozen custard to a whole new market that appreciates high-quality fare in a fun and lively environment.”

All menu items are made-to-order and feature gourmet toppings free from MSG and GMOs. The fresh, never-frozen chicken is marinated in-store, grilled or hand-breaded and cooked in peanut oil free from additives. Even the toppings come from whole vegetables that are delivered daily and sliced by hand.

“This isn’t fast-food chicken—there are only six ingredients in our breading on our lightly breaded, high-quality tenders and fillets, and we believe simple is best,” Ouimet said. “We have no drive-thrus and our interiors have a cool, modern vibe that’s perfect for a casual lunch or dinner.”

In addition to its first-rate chicken, Super Chix 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, but Super Chix also offers a special flavor of the day.

“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 will have another great option for a fast-casual lunch with both healthy and indulgent options and dinner crowds will discover a new excellent eatery they can enjoy with family and friends.”

4 area shopping centers purchased

Reflecting investors’ confidence in the Huntsville area economy, four shopping centers were recently purchased, according to Newmark Knight Frank, a commercial real estate advisory firm.

The four deals – Highway 53 Centre in Huntsville, Hazel Green Shoppes, Hazel Green Centre and Hartselle 31 Centre – are valued at more than $13 million and encompass 84,616 square feet of premium retail space.

NKF Senior Managing Directors Drew Fleming and Mark Joines, and Associate Henry Kushner represented Athens-based Ming Enterprises in all four transactions. Ming Enterprises, a commercial real estate development and brokerage company, is operated by father and son team, Bill and William Ming.

In the last year alone, several economic development projects were unveiled across the region that represent more than 6,000 new jobs and $4.1 billion in growth. Major employers expanding or relocating in metro Huntsville include Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing, Facebook, Google, GE Aviation and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

“The successful disposition of these four properties exemplifies the investor appetite for e-commerce resistant, un-anchored strip shopping centers located within markets that exhibit strong demographics and job growth,” said Fleming. “Strip centers have become a top choice for private capital seeking both yield and stability, and we anticipate healthy growth across this entire retail portfolio as North Alabama’s economy continues to expand and flourish.”

Ming Enterprises sold the 43,000-square-foot Highway 53 Centre at the intersection of Alabama 53 and Research Park Boulevard to a private buyer. The center is 100 percent leased to tenants Edward Jones, ALFA Insurance, ABC Liquor and other service-oriented uses.

The area boasts a combined traffic count totaling more than 40,000 cars per day, and is a major thoroughfare for commuters who work at Redstone Arsenal and Research Park.

In Hazel Green, Ming Enterprises sold the 30,500 square-foot Hazel Green Shoppes and the 6,212-square-foot Hazel Green Centre.

Hazel Green Shoppes on U.S. 231 was completed in 2017 and is 100 percent leased to anchor tenants Dollar Tree, Hibbett Sports and Verizon Wireless.

Hazel Green Centre, across the highway from Hazel Green Shoppes and in the same parcel as the Walmart Supercenter, was completed in 2015 and is 100 percent leased to tenants Arby’s, AT&T, Great Clips and Papa Murphy’s pizza.

In Hartselle, Ming Enterprises sold the 4,904-square-foot Hartselle 31 Centre, which was built in 2017. It is 100 percent leased to Arby’s, Great Clips and Papa Murphy’s pizza.

Love by The Numbers: This Business of Valentine’s Day

If you were shopping for Christmas swag in hopes of scoring big post-season discounts, you might have taken notice.

In almost a blink of an eye, retailers moved quickly in preparation for Valentine’s Day. By the end of the first week of the new year, inventory on the shelves had magically transformed from tinsel and tree lights to pink and red hearts.

Valentine’s Day is a BIG deal in the United States. From all walks of retail, customers are faced with an endless array of love-inspired offerings to suit every taste and budget.

Each year, Valentine’s Day spending in the U.S. for sweethearts, kids, friends, coworkers, and even the family pet translates into billions of dollars. BILLIONS.

According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s Valentine’s Day spending contributed roughly $19.6 billion to the U.S. economy. Those numbers were the second-highest since 2013; topped only by a record $19.7 billion spent in 2016.  Given a stable economy, Valentine’s Day 2019 spending could easily match or exceed $20 billion.

Who’s Buying?

There’s nothing like the blush of young love. Whether it’s to impress a mate or to woo a potential one, 60 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 and 67 percent of those between the ages of 25 and 34 celebrate Valentine’s Day with gusto, spending more than the older folks. In fact, just half of those between ages 55 and 64 and only 44.7 percent of those 65 and older celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Most Valentine’s Day gift purchases are for a spouse or significant other. The other top gifting categories include family members, kids’ classmates and teachers, coworkers, and pets.

The $19.6 billion spent in 2018 translated into an average of $143.56 per person.  All Valentine’s Day gifting is not created equal, however. Men spend almost twice as much as women do. On average, guys spend $196.39 on their beloved, while the ladies spend only $99.87.

Where Are They Buying it?

As the first gift-centric holiday of the new year, big spending on Valentine’s Day provides a hefty boost to the economy. Despite the ease and convenience of the Internet, only 29 percent of shoppers order Valentine’s Day gifts online.

For Valentine’s Day in particular, shoppers seem to prefer the in-store “brick and mortar” approach to gift buying: 35 percent visit department stores, 32 percent shop at discount stores, 19 percent prefer browsing specialty stores, and 17 percent will stop by the florist’s shop on their way home from work. Even if it means waiting in a line that circles the building.

What Are They Buying?

The top five categories of Valentine’s Day gifts are candy, greeting cards, dining out, flowers, and jewelry.

Candy

More than 80 percent of consumers love their chocolate and it’s not surprising that candy is the No. 1 Valentine’s Day gift of choice.

The great thing about candy is that it can be purchased practically anywhere, at any price point – from grocery stores to high quality confectioneries – yet it’s still inexpensive when compared to flowers, fine dining, or jewelry.

For the past six years, sisters Caitlin Lyon and Michelle Novosel Pennell have owned and operated Pizzelle’s Confections at Lowe Mill.

“Valentine’s Day is literally a line of guys, lined up at the door,” said Lyon. “It’s also the one time of year where we can pre-box a variety of candy and it will sell.”

Pennell said, “Valentine’s Day is one week of craziness! We hope that people will come out and enjoy.”

Cards

Valentine’s Day cards are still popular and represent close to 45 percent of sales. Greeting card purchases include fancy romantic cards for one’s sweetie, as well as those packs of cards parents often buy for their kids’ teachers and classmates.

Despite being a high-volume item, Valentine’s Day cards are very inexpensive, thus generating a mere $1 billion in revenue.

A Night on the Town

Valentine’s Day dining translates into 35 percent of purchases and approximately $4 billion in generated revenue.

Tastes and budgets may vary, but most couples will spend a romantic evening out on Valentine’s Day, whether it be savoring fine wine and a fancy meal at an upscale restaurant or a sit-down meal without the kids at a fast food establishment.

Flowers

With close to $2 billion in revenue generated from domestically cut flowers, bouquets represent 38 percent of Valentine’s Day sales in the U.S.

“Valentine’s day is probably the busiest single day of the year for us. Men buying for their wives or girlfriends; if there’s a child, they buy a valentine for them, too,” said Karen Bowers, longtime sales clerk at Albert’s Florist in Huntsville. “People often wait until the last minute, so it gets pretty hectic.”

Co-worker Carol Moore said, “The phones ring off the hook, there’s a line out to the street. If Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend, it’s even busier.”

Jewelry

Despite representing only 19 percent of Valentine’s Day purchases, jewelry generated nearly $5 billion in revenue in 2018.

“Valentine’s Day is a big day for us,” says Karen Boehme, co-owner of Meyer and Lee Fine Jewelry. “But it’s not an anniversary gift purchase, where thousands might be spent on a special piece of jewelry, like a diamond necklace or ring. It’s usually less expensive, like a pair of earrings, a bracelet, or a necklace.”

Jewelry remains mostly a traditional, gender-based purchase –a man buying jewelry for his lady love.

“Men will often tell us that their wife doesn’t like jewelry,” Boehme said. “This is where we might suggest more traditional ‘staples,’ pieces that have timeless appeal and can be worn as part of an everyday look or for special occasions, such as a strand of pearls or diamond studs.”

To dispel the bad rap of husbands being last minute shoppers, she said there is a strategy to their purchase habits.

“Wives often manage the household budget so, to avoid suspicion, men will come in beforehand to place the order, then make the actual purchase closer to the date.”

Don’t Forget Fifi or Fido

In 2018, Valentine’s Day statistics show that man’s best friend is getting even more love over the past decade. According to a recent NRF survey, about 20 percent of US consumers plan to give their pets a Valentine’s Day gift.

It’s no secret that pets are already a big business 364 days of the year. Add $6 million in heart-shaped squeakies and dog treat sales on Feb. 14 and that’s a significant heart-shaped boost to the economy.

Grand Reopening: Trash Pandas’ Renovated Emporium Includes Season Ticket Center

It’s time once again to start talking Trash.

That’s right. Trash with a capital “T” – as in Trash Pandas.

The Rocket City Trash Pandas are holding a grand reopening of the team’s Emporium and Season Ticket Center on Friday. Doors open at the newly renovated store at Bridge Street Town Centre at 10 a.m.

Fresh on the heels of record-setting sales, the Trash Pandas will be selling never-before-available team apparel and novelty items. The first 250 fans who make a purchase of $25 or more will receive a commemorative “Stadium Groundbreaking” baseball.

“As most people know, our original plan was for a ‘pop-up’ store to stay open only through the
holidays,” said Trash Pandas Executive Vice President Jenny Askins. “But, the demand for our
products from throughout North Alabama was so intense that we complied with our fans’ wishes and will keep the store open at least until we move into the new stadium.

“Our customers were very specific as to the types of merchandise they prefer, and we have restocked and added new items based on their requests.”

The restocked Emporium will feature all sizes of the most popular Trash Pandas merchandise that could not be kept in stock during the holidays, including the ultra-popular New Era 59FIFTY authentic fitted cap; the one worn by all Minor League Baseball players.

Among the new merchandise available Friday will be tank tops, sleeveless tee shirts, and new colors and styles of infant “onesies.” Coming soon will be items such as pop sockets, pennants, wall art, pet supplies, and new styles of hats from New Era.

The store will host the official Trash Pandas Season Ticket Center. There will be seating samples from the ballpark for three premium areas: Home Plate Luxury Field Boxes, Legacy (drink rail) seating and High Tops. A new feature will enable potential seat holders to view the field from any seat in the ballpark.

While two sections of the new stadium have already sold out for the first three seasons (Reserved Seating Stadium Club memberships and the half-moon shaped Four Tops), new reduced-price Stadium Club memberships that do not guarantee an outside seat will be available.

“I continue to be amazed at how this community has accepted and become excited by our team,” said
Trash Pandas’ CEO Ralph Nelson. “Our industry measures brand acceptance by merchandise sales,
and it’s hard to go very far in North Alabama or southern Tennessee without seeing folks in Trash
Pandas apparel. Our fans told us what they like and we think the new items to be introduced this spring are going to start a whole new wave of excitement.

“It made all the sense in the world to keep the store open so that the Trash Pandas Nation will just continue to grow.”

The Dessert Fork: A one-of-a-kind experience with one-of-a-kind creations

MADISON — Using cake as a canvas with frostings as her medium, Pauline McFarlin’s artistic creations are always sweet, inspired and one-of-a-kind.

More people now have an opportunity to experience McFarlin’s made-from-scratch baked goods at the Dessert Fork, in the Medical Park Station shopping area off U.S. 72 in Madison. It’s between the Beef Jerky Outlet and Hollywood Feed.

“People will come here for something to eat out of the case, ready made,” McFarlin said.

That will include brownies, lemon bars, cookies, gourmet caramel dipped apples, and pies, to name a few.

Then there will be off the menu seasonal or exotic items from time to time.

“I may decide to do a bread pudding one day or I may wake up and want to poach some pears,” McFarlin said.  “There will always be the possibility of a surprise in store when you come here.”

She knows she has to have to have people’s favorites, but also offer some variety.

“There are two types of people,” McFarlin said. “There are those who love what they love and they always get the same thing. Then, there are those who always want to try something new.”

Now that she has an established bakery, more people will get to know McFarlin’s specialty — artisan cakes. She will have a small staff to help with baking, but decorating cakes is McFarlin’s passion.

“I like cakes that give me a challenge,” she said. “If you’re looking for simple and plain, I’m not your girl. I can do it, but I like to tell a story through the cake and make it really special.”

Getting a custom cake from McFarlin is not as simple as filling out a piece of paper with cake and icing type. She likes to get to know the person or situation.

For example, one of her most memorable cakes involved a photographer who was celebrating her 40th birthday. McFarlin said she had the client provide a picture of her camera and send her four of her all-time favorite photographs. The result was a square cake topped with a smaller cake, which was crafted into a replica of the camera. The four photos were place around the bottom layer, connected by a sugar string that resembled a darkroom string with each of the four photos hanging off it.

There was a groom’s cake that looked like piano keys. A 21st birthday party cake that looked like a gift box and featured a martini glass filled with Jell-O. She’s made a Mine craft cake. And a baby shower cake that featured a map with pinpoints marking the baby’s geographic heritage, complete with a baby on an airplane over Alabama carrying a banner saying “Hello, World!”

“I don’t like to do the same thing twice,” McFarlin said. “I’ve done it one time when someone saw a cake on my website that they really wanted but that doesn’t happen too often.”

To McFarlin, each cake is as individual as the person.

“I like to interact with them, I take a lot of time to get to know them and what they want,” she said. “A lot of times, after they receive the cake they are so happy they give me hugs and we have a relationship that was built with the common thing being cake.

“This is what I do. Cake is my canvas.”

Over the past 10 years, McFarlin went from baking cakes for church gatherings, which lead to church members asking her to bake a cake for their family’s different special occasions. It got to be a regular thing.

Alabama’s Food Cottage Law came about in 2014, allowing her to get training and start a business out of her home. More training, business coaching, and guidance from other local bakers helped her step out and open The Dessert Fork.

“Well, it’s the only fork you’re going to need,” McFarlin said with a chuckle as she explained why she chose the name. It represents her cakes but other treats she’ll offer as her business grows.

McFarlin, 44, said her husband and three kids moved to the Huntsville area from Maryland in 2008. She says her family has been supportive as she left real estate to become an artisan cake designer.

She wants The Dessert Fork to be a nostalgic place to create fond memories.

“People used to bake a lot and enjoy eating something made from scratch,” she said. “Here, they can have a seat with a friend in a place with a happy atmosphere … a good, feel good place.”

So out of all of the delicious treats coming from the oven, what is McFarlin’s favorite?

Believe it or not, I’m a pie person,” McFarlin said. “Apple pie is my favorite.”

Looking back on a great year for local business

According to Inc. magazine, tech companies are feeling the pressure of rising costs in large coastal cities. Businesses and residents are leaving in search of opportunities in less expensive areas.

This is great news for Huntsville which, in 2018, saw new companies planting seeds, older companies deepening their roots, infrastructure branching outward, and the quality of life flourishing as active lifestyles demand more room to grow.

Inc. writer David Brown puts Huntsville No. 2 among the Top Six “Attention-grabbing Cities for Tech Start-ups.”

“NASA’s presence is largely responsible for the Rocket City’s high rankings on the opportunity scale for engineers. The city has also executed well in forging strong public-private partnerships and promoting a thriving technology industry. Software development, electrical engineering, and computer science are top fields, contributing to the city’s 309 percent year-over-year growth in tech jobs.”

With so many sensational “gets” for Huntsville and Madison this past year, the question is whether it is sustainable?

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Chip Cherry, president & CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, answer that question.

“We have spent the past 10 years with a focused, intentional plan to grow and diversify our job base, improve quality of life, and capitalize on the rich assets in Huntsville and North Alabama,” said Battle. “We’ve put an emphasis on workforce development in our schools. Our road projects are designed to keep traffic moving long into the future. We are making Huntsville more appealing and desirable for top talent to move here through parks, music and cultural amenities, greenways and bike lanes.

“We don’t plan just for the next year. We plan for the next 10 to 20 years. For example, we created the Cyber Huntsville initiative and worked with that volunteer group to land the State Cyber and Engineering School in Huntsville. This program, along with many others in our public schools and universities, will help prepare the tech workforce we will need for the future.”

Cherry agreed that diversification is the key.

“A diversified base of businesses coupled with a strong and diversified portfolio on Redstone Arsenal are key to ensuring that we have a dynamic regional economy,” he said. “The community’s economic development wins in 2018 will impact the community for generations to come. 

“The blend of new locations and expansions will provide a broad range of employment opportunities as well as providing business opportunities for local companies to grow.”

Here are the Huntsville Business Journal’s top Madison County business stories of 2018:

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing

Of all the big business acquisitions and developments launched in 2018, Battle said that if he had to focus on a single mayoral accomplishment in 2018, the Mazda-Toyota announcement dwarfs all others because of its impact on our economy year in, and year out.

“I’ve often said the hard work on a project comes after the announcement, and the scale of this [Mazda Toyota] project was no exception,” he said. “It brought enormous challenges from its sheer size and scope. Clearing 1,200 acres, bringing in 7 million yards of dirt, putting a building pad in place with a solid rock foundation, building roads, and all the other challenges associated with a development – many times over.

“Fortunately, we worked in partnership with the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S. team. And we are able to navigate through the challenges together and meet our deadlines. Now the building is ready to go vertical and on track to produce cars in 2021. This plant will provide jobs for 4,000-5,000 workers, generational jobs that will impact our economy for decades to come.”

Being built by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, the sprawling site will produce 300,000 next-generation Toyota Corollas and a yet-to-be-revealed Mazda crossover model annually, beginning in 2021.

Investment in the Mazda Toyota plant is being split evenly between the automakers, allowing both automakers to respond quickly to market changes and ensure sustainable growth.

“While there were a number of things that placed our community in a strong competitive position to win this project,” Cherry said. “In the end, it was the ability of our team, and our partners, to be nimble and responsive that made the difference.”

Rocket City Trash Pandas

In early 2018, the City of Madison approved up to $46 million to build a baseball stadium, signaling minor league baseball’s return to the Tennessee Valley.

Highly visible from I-565 off Madison Boulevard at Zierdt Road, the ballpark will seat 5,500 baseball fans, and is part of the Town Madison project.

The team – named the Rocket City Trash Pandas in a voting contest – will officially move from Mobile to Madison after the 2019 baseball season and remain the farm team for the Los Angeles Angels.

Town Madison

Town Madison development, which held several groundbreakings in 2018 after nearly 2 years of dormancy as $100 million in new road construction was built to accommodate traffic flow to and from the development.

Town Madison will include 700,000 square feet of office space; over 1 million square feet of retail space; 700 new hotel rooms; over 1,200 luxury apartments; and 300 single-family homes.

“We’re very pleased to see groundbreakings underway in the Town Madison space,” said Pam Honeycutt, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce. “When complete, it will be a true destination spot, enabling families to spend the day enjoying entertainment, shopping and dining.”

Last February, HHome2 Suites by Hilton was the first to announce it was breaking ground on a 97 all-suite extended-stay hotel as part of the section called West End at Town Madison. The hotel is scheduled to open early this year.

Wisconsin-based retailer Duluth Trading Co. broke ground on its 15,000-square foot store in early December. The company is Town Madison’s first retail partner and will open this year.

As part of The Exchange at Town Madison, local developer Louis Breland broke ground last April on a 274-unit luxury apartment complex called The Station at Town Madison. It is slated to open in the summer.

In late May, Breland confirmed the development of a 150-room Margaritaville Hotel adjacent to the ballpark. It is set to open in 2020.

Madison Mayor Paul Finley said, “Margaritaville is an international brand known for high-quality and fun projects. Not only will this hotel attract guests from across the region, but it will add multiple new dining and entertainment options for Madison residents.”

The Heights and The Commons at Town Madison will provide a mixture of affordable single-family and multifamily homes, townhomes, spacious luxury apartments, and condominiums around a village square. Home prices will range from $250,000 to $500,000.  

MidCity Huntsville

Certain to take significant shape throughout 2019, MidCity Huntsville is a dynamic 100-acre experiential mixed-use community right in the center of Huntsville. When finished, it will consist of a series of interconnected spaces and gathering places.

MidCity will feature dining, entertainment and recreation from names such as REI Co-op, Wahlburgers, Rascal Flatt’s, and High Point Climbing and Fitness.

Already in operation is Top Golf, a sports entertainment center with climate-controlled golf-ball hitting bays, a full-service restaurant and bar, private event spaces and meeting rooms; a rooftop terrace with fire pit, hundreds of HDTVs, and free wi-fi.

The development will also offer bike and walking trails, a park, an 8,500-seat open-air amphitheater, and The Stage for outdoor music and entertainment.

Area 120 is a science and technology accelerator with some 200,000 square feet of space for R&D and startups.

The Promenade with its hardscaped space will accommodate local farmers markets and Huntsville’s growing food truck fleet. You will also find luxury apartments and a hotel.

GE Aviation

Two years ago, GE Aviation announced it had almost cracked the code to mass producing the unique ceramic matrix composite (CMC) components used in jet propulsion engines, and when they did, the company would build two facilities in Huntsville to produce them.

Last May, GE Aviation announced they will open a 100-acre factory complex, destined to be the only location in the U.S. to produce these ultra-lightweight CMC components, which can withstand extremely high temperatures.

Investment in the project is expected to reach $200 million. GE Aviation currently employs 90 people at the Huntsville site and is expected to reach 300 at full production.

Facebook

Facebook will invest $750 million into a large-scale data center in Huntsville that will bring an estimated 100 high-paying jobs to the area.

The Huntsville City Council gave unanimous approval for Facebook to purchase 340 acres in the North Huntsville Industrial Park for $8.5 million. They began construction on the 970,000-square-foot facility in late 2018.

“We believe in preparing our community for the challenges ahead,” said Battle. “Our Gig City initiative to provide city-wide high-speed connectivity is an example of that.”

The Downtown Madison Sealy Project

When the City of Madison announced that changes to the west side of Sullivan Street between Kyser Boulevard and Gin Oaks Court would pave the way for more commercial/retail space, it marked the beginning of a long-term improvement and expansion project for downtown Madison that would pick up steam in 2018.

Known as the Downtown Madison Sealy Project, it is the latest in a series of mixed-use developments about to hit downtown, extending from the east side of Sullivan Street to Short Street.

The city is making improvements to accommodate the 10,000 square-foot development which includes 190 upscale apartments and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space.

GATR Technologies

In April, Huntsville-based GATR Technologies announced it would be quadrupling its production capacity in Cummings Research Park to nearly 100,000 square feet.

The inflatable portable satellite innovator was acquired by Cubic Mission Solutions in 2016 and has grown from 80 employees in 2016 to 157 in 2018. GATR is projected to employ more than 200 people by October 2019.

GATR will soon be delivering systems by the thousands to the U. S. government, military, and any entity that benefits from deployable communications, such as in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Electro Optic Systems

In June, Electro Optic Systems announced it will build its flagship production facility at on Wall Triana Highway in Huntsville.

The Australian aerospace technology and defense company expects to hire up to 100 fulltime employees in its first year and is scaled to grow to at least 250 employees quickly.

EOS has been producing software, lasers, electronics, optronics, gimbals, telescopes, beam directors, and stabilization and precision mechanisms for the military space, missile defense, and surface warfare sectors for more than 20 years.

BAE Systems

BAE Systems, the third-largest defense contractor in the world, broke ground on a $45.5 million expansion of its existing facilities in CRP in July. The growth is expected to create hundreds of jobs.

The new 83,000-square-foot facility is the first phase of a multi-phase growth plan to expand its existing offices on Discovery Drive and develop a new state-of-the-art manufacturing and office space facility in CRP to increase their capacity. An unused adjacent 20-acre lot will provide room for yet more expansion soon. Construction of the new building is expected to be complete in 2019.

Radiance Technologies

Employee-owned defense contractor Radiance Technologies broke ground in July on their first comprehensive headquarters in Huntsville.

The new 100,000 square foot building in CRP will, for the first time, allow the company’s 300 employees, all of whom have operated at remote locations in Huntsville since 1999, to collaborate under the same roof as they provide innovative technology to the Department of Defense, NASA, and national intelligence agencies.

South Memorial Parkway Expansion

The short but significant widening and redesign of the main line of South Memorial Parkway caused many headaches for residents and business owners over the past 2½ years, but in late July, that stretch between Golf Road and Whitesburg Drive officially re-opened.

The $54 million project opened a gateway of uninterrupted traffic through South Huntsville, providing easier accessibility to South Huntsville businesses, schools, and residential areas.

“South Parkway being fully open is a game-changer for businesses and drivers in South Huntsville,” said Claire Aiello, vice president of Marketing and Communications at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Looking to 2019

“Our objective has been to build on the community’s traditional industries such as aerospace and defense, while creating more opportunities in the semi-skilled and skilled sectors of the economy,” said Cherry. “We excelled in all of these areas in 2018. The year will go down in the record books as among the most vibrant economic development years in our history. The companies that selected our community for their new location or expansion will create over 5,400 new jobs and invest over $2.7 billion in new buildings and equipment. These investments and jobs will have a profound impact on our quality of life for decades to come.”

“Cummings Research Park is now at 91 percent occupancy,” said Aiello. “We are making a big focus on new amenities for employees at CRP to keep them engaged and to give them things to do in the park besides work. That will be something to look forward to in 2019.”

And according to Battle, “2019 is going to be a good year. Let’s just keep it at that!”

Trash Pandas to reopen store Feb. 1

After shattering every known Minor League Baseball record for brand popularity in 2018, the Rocket City Trash Pandas have temporarily closed the Trash Pandas Emporium at Bridge Street Town Center.

However, the team will reopen the store Feb. 1 as a combined merchandise and ticket center. The grand reopening will feature previously unavailable, but high-in-demand merchandise, along with updated information on ticket packages and seating options.

Since the Emporium opened Nov. 12, the team has sold more than 32,000 items at the Bridge Street location. This is combined with 3,470 online orders, most for multiple items, from around the world since Oct. 27. This is a record amount of online sales, shattering the mark of 1,022 for three months, set by the El Paso Chihuahuas.

“North Alabama not only chose a nickname that numerous national publications have called the best in sports, but our community has come out in record numbers to support their brand,” said BallCorps Managing Partner and Trash Pandas’ CEO Ralph Nelson. “It is amazing and unprecedented to see this level of support more than 16 months before the first pitch. Our team store at Bridge Street (was) always full and … fans donning Trash Panda apparel can be seen everywhere in the region.

” Our fans have been clear that they’d like the store to stay open and have requested great new merchandise items – we are happy to comply.”

Although the Emporium is closed this month, merchandise is available online at TrashPandas.milbstore.com. Season ticket information is available on the Trash Pandas website www.TrashPandasBaseball.com or by calling 256-325-1403.

A landmark groundbreaking for Madison, Duluth Trading Co.

Duluth Trading Co. will open its first Alabama retail store in Town Madison next year.

 

MADISON — It was a “less than perfect weather day but a perfect day for a groundbreaking.”

With those remarks, Madison Chamber of Commerce Board President Carmelita Palmer opened a landmark groundbreaking ceremony Friday.

The Duluth Trading Co., an innovative apparel retailer noted for its unique TV commercials (the store has a link to the commercials on is website – https://www.duluthtrading.com/TV+Ads.html) will open a 15,000-square-foot retail store in the city’s Town Madison development.

“We are so excited,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “To have Duluth come here … when people heard Duluth Trading was coming here, there is so much excitement.”

The store, Duluth Trading’s first in the state, will join Home2 Suites Hilton, convenience store Twice Daily and other offices and retailers in West End at Town Madison, which adjoins the Intergraph/Hexagon campus along Interstate-565. Duluth Trading is slated to open around the middle of next year.

“This is an exciting day for Town Madison,” said Joey Ceci, representing developer Louis Breland. “You couldn’t pick a better retailer” to join the project’s lineup.

Town Madison is a 563-acre modern, walkable, urban community which will also be the home of the minor league baseball Rocket City Trash Pandas and a Margaritaville Hotel.

Minnesota-based Oppidan Investment Co., a national property development firm, is the project developer.

Like everyone else at the ceremony, the 40-degree, rainy weather was on the mind of Oppidan’s Jay Moore – but in a different way.

“This is nice weather; it’s a switch for us,” he said.

Moore said Duluth was looking around the area for its first Alabama retail store before deciding on Madison.

“We approached Breland about a year ago,” he said. “We are super proud to be one of the first retailers in this fine development.”

From left, Chamber Board President Carmelita Palmer, Mayor Paul Finley, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong and Oppidan’s Jay Moore take part in the groundbreaking ceremony.

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong said the store will enable the development to become an economic engine and a destination.

“This is the start of a destination location,” he said. “To Duluth, this is a great investment. You’ll never regret it.”

Despite the grey skies and gloomy weather, Finley reflected the optimism of the big event and the future it beckons.

“This is a sun shiny day for the city of Madison.”

Make holiday shopping a local adventure

Don’t dread holiday shopping this year. Make it an adventure by seeing what you can find from handcrafted to carefully curated designer merchandise at locally owned businesses.

With gifts ranging in cost from 10 cents to more than $12,000, local shops have it all.

Why not start out at the historic Harrison Brothers Hardware in downtown Huntsville? It’s the city’s oldest operating business, since 1897.  If you’ve never been there, this time of year the brightly colored holiday decorations in the storefront windows will draw you inside just to look around. And if it’s been a while since you’ve visited the store, take the time to go.

Why?

A trip to Harrison Brothers is about more than just shopping. It’s an experience. The store is also a museum, capturing an important piece of history. You won’t find any self-service kiosk here. They still use a 1907 National Cash Register to ring up sales if you find something you want.

If you buy something, it will be made in the USA with many products handcrafted by Huntsville area or North Alabama residents.  The most popular item sold in the store are 10-cent marbles.

“People buy them by the hundreds,” says Fran McFall, who has volunteered and worked at the store for eight years. She also points out larger, hand blown marbles, which sell for $3.75 a piece.

The first table you come to upon entering is filled with “Gifts Made Locally.”

There and throughout the store you’ll find old-fashioned candy and treats like Hammond’s chocolate bars, including a popular Pigs N’ Taters chocolate bar with bacon flavored bits and potato chips.

There are angel ornaments made of cotton, specialty soy candles, paintings by local artists and pottery, greeting cards, and books by local authors, classic toys – even an astronaut suit. There’s jewelry, knitting gift sets, dog food bowls, novelty socks, lotions and soaps, a large selection of gourmet foods and so much more.

The nonprofit Historic Huntsville Foundation keeps the store open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Sales support the store’s operation, with employees and volunteers, as well as other community events.

After you’ve perused Harrison Brothers, you’re bound to be ready to seek out what else local shop owners have to offer for holiday gift giving. Here’s a small sampling of what’s available in the area.

Greene Street Market

Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Just a short walk from the downtown square, on the same side of the street, you’ll find the Greene Street Market at Nativity, a shop that offers limited produce and farm fresh eggs. You’ll also find a variety of gifts, mostly from local artists and crafters at a variety of prices.

Marilyn Evans, the shop manager, says a sidewalk holiday market will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 with locally grown produce, farm fresh foods, fresh baked goods, and offerings by local artisans.

Clinton Row

Jefferson Street and Clinton Avenue, hours vary

From the historic to the new and trendy, a few streets away one of the area’s most unique shopping areas awaits at Clinton Row.  This is the place where ground level storage units have been turned into a downtown shopping destination.

Dee Dee Crawford, manager of the Downtown Storage Huntsville, says you can spend anywhere between  $10 and $500 or more at one of the featured shops like The Little Green Store, Clinton Row Gifts, Maxwell Music, the Carole Foray Art studio, In Bloom gift shop, SassyFrazz Boutique, Clachic Boutique and 81 Home Gifts and Glam.

At the shops you’ll find photographs, frames, candles, personalized monogramming, old and new music, unique and trendy clothes, jewelry, handbags, cotton towels with fun sayings and much more.

“There are many nice and fun gifts to be found here,” Crawford says.

Railroad Station Antiques, Gifts & More

315 N. Jefferson St., Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m.

A few blocks away from Clinton Row you’ll find another treasure trove.

From $1 to $12,000, Railroad Station has an eclectic mix of old, vintage and new.

“We have everything from fashion accessories to fine antique furniture,” says Suzanne Conway. “It’s really an emporium, unlike any other shop in our area. Our historic building and diverse merchandise make us a destination shop unlike any other.”

You’ll find gifts for everyone from kids to seniors. Vintage toys, fabulous jewelry, furs, candles, a book shop, and even local honey and cheese straws from the Shoals.

“With 24,000 square feet and a limited word count, I can only touch the surface of what we have!”

Lewter’s Hardware

222 Washington Street, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m. to noon.

Another downtown fixture for 90 years, Lewter’s is a true hardware store with hand and power tools and any manner of home building or repair supplies.

This time of year, you will find a variety of Flexible Flyer red wagons and other vintage toys like cap guns, model airplanes and whirly gigs. Other gift ideas for this time of year include the collection of Lodge cast iron skillets.

Shoe Fly

974 Airport Road, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

8213 U.S. 72, Madison, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What started 11 years ago primarily as an overstock shoe store has transitioned into two area trendy clothing boutiques for teens to women in their 70s.

“Many think we’re just for high school and college age and while we do sell a lot to that age group, we have customers of all ages,” says owner Amy Word. “Our idea is to have trendy clothes at a reasonable price so 90 percent of what we offer is $49 or less.”

The stores get new shipments every week so the inventory is always fresh.

“We carry a lot of unique pieces, and sometimes you’ll find the same looks here that you’ll find in larger department stores, at lower pricing,” Word says. “I know people are spending more time shopping online but there is something to be said about the experience of going into a store and trying something on, whether it’s a mother and daughter or friends.”

Mint Julep Market

7540 S. Memorial Parkway (next to Rosie’s Cantina), Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If you have a person on your gift list who has everything or is hard to buy for, then Hillary Dunham says she’ll help you find the perfect present at Mint Julep Market.

“We have become the place to go to for something different. We have everything from paint supplies and classes, local artists who create pieces special for our shop, custom-made pottery from local and Alabama potters, clothing, luggage, custom embroidery, candles, jewelry, just all kinds of things,” Dunham says. “And if you find something we have in pink and you need it in another color, we’ll find it for you.”

Dunham says keeping collections easy to browse and a wide variety keeps customers coming back.

Topiary Tree 

1801 University Drive, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Dec. 22.

This little shop is packed with gift ideas. Their best selling item this season is the PJ Harlow Pajamas. There are more than 15 styles in eight colors. The shop is known for its embossed graphics stationary, raised ink and embossed stationary, which is made in house.

You’ll also find everyday and holiday collections of handmade pottery from Etta, Miss. With many serving pieces to choose from, they are dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. The store also features Earthborn pottery from Birmingham, jewelry at every price point, fur capes and jackets, leather goods for men and luxurious lotions and soaps for women.

 

 

Something Delicious is Cooking at Stovehouse

 

In case you haven’t noticed, there is something moving around over at the century-old Martin Stove Factory, and we are sure it is not the ghosts of Charles and W.H. Martin, transitioning wood-burning stoves into electric ranges and cast-iron skillets.

However, there is definitely something cooking in the old stove plant at 3414 Governors Drive in west Huntsville that promises to satisfy that itch you often get – you know, the one where you are craving something out of the ordinary to eat and a unique atmosphere in which to enjoy it?

Danny and Patti Yancey purchased the old Martin Brother’s stove plant facility in 2016 to preserve its rich history. Danny is a Huntsville history buff and 30-year veteran of construction and finance. Together with Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group, they are developing the 200,000 square foot building situated on a 10-acre property into a thriving large-scale food, office, events, and entertainment complex surrounding a hub of eclectic cuisine that showcases the talents of local restaurateurs and chefs.

“Stovehouse will blur the line between modern and historical, work and play, and small-town culture and high-tech urban energy,” said Yancey. “The food garden is the heart of Stovehouse. It’s where the city can mingle, enjoy live music, play games, and experience some of the best food Huntsville has to offer.”

Several local restaurateurs and chefs will be opening unique dining concepts in the food garden, beginning with Kamado Ramen, Oh Crêpe, Pourhouse, and Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen.

Kamado Ramen and Oh Crêpe are Japanese-inspired eateries, both members of Huntsville and Madison’s I Love Sushi restaurant team.

 

Coincidentally, Kamado means “stove” in Japanese and they will feature several bowl options that include various noodles, sauces, vegetables and meats. All sauces will be made in-house and patrons can enjoy dishes that showcase pork belly, chicken breast, kimchi, deep fried pork, and Japanese soft-boiled eggs.

General manager Chao Fang said, “Kamado will be hyper-focused on creating the highest quality ramen dishes in the area. A lot goes into creating exceptional ramen and our goal is to be the place everyone immediately thinks of when someone mentions ramen in Huntsville.”

Jim Xue, partner at Kamado Ramen and Oh Crêpe, said, “Huntsville is very progressive when it comes to accepting new and exciting restaurants to the area. When it came to selecting a site, Stovehouse fit our needs on every level. We are very excited to be a part of it.”

Oh Crêpe will offer a fun spin on traditional crêpes using Japanese flavors and ingredients like banana, green tea ice cream and chocolate, or savory selections like lobster, chicken and spinach. The crêperie will also offer Taiwanese-style shaved ice cream along with several toppings.

General manager Yituan Wang said, “You can completely change the look and taste of crêpes depending on what flour you use. Oh Crêpe will use Japanese rice flour, and pay special attention to the presentation. We can’t wait for people to see how beautiful our crêpes look and discover how wonderful they taste.”

The creators of Church Street Wine Shoppe and Purveyor have committed to opening Pourhouse, an eclectic upscale bar; and Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen at the Stovehouse Food Garden next year as well.

“We like to think that if Purveyor had a little sister, Pourhouse would be in her place,” said Stephanie Kennedy-Mell, the pub’s co-owner and creator. “Pourhouse will be a bohemian, laid-back, upscale and ‘comfortably swanky’ bar with unique touches not yet seen in Huntsville. Customers can grab a drink and enjoy the rooftop deck or one of our heated outdoor patios, complete with fireplace. It will be at the center of everything at Stovehouse.”

Pourhouse will serve a wide selection of wines; domestic, international and local craft beers; spirits; and handcrafted cocktails. Although no food will be served at the bar, guests are welcome to bring food from the eateries over to the Pourhouse area and enjoy their meal with their favorite Pourhouse selection.

Serving fresh, made-in-house pasta, sauces, and other traditional Italian fare, Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen will feature primarily Mazzara family recipes. They have been passed down for generations to owner Stephanie Kennedy-Mell, from her great-grandparents, Stefano and Carmela Mazzara, who were Italian cooks from Sicily.

“Mazzara is my family name and our menu may feature favorites like chicken parmigiana and lasagna as staples, but my great-grandmother’s eggplant rollatini will be something everyone will be watching for,” she said. “Service and quality are our trademarks at the Church Street Family and this will be fast, casual service with the high-quality food our customers have come to expect from us.”

Managed by Chef Rene Boyzo of Purveyor, Mazzara’s will also feature Guistino’s Gelato, a made-from-scratch gelateria created by Huntsville local, Justin Rosoff.

Rosoff took classes in Bologna, Italy, to craft artisanal hard and soft-serve gelato, pastries, and gelato pops. All gelato will be made in small batches on premise, so guests can watch Justin create the desserts in person. Patrons can also enjoy seasonal sorbets, biscotti, rainbow cookies, almond cookies and Italian coffee. Dairy- and gluten-free options will be available.

All four eateries are scheduled to open in March 2019.

“Stovehouse is the perfect backdrop for these new concepts from Matt and Stephanie,” said Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Principal Wesley Crunkleton. “The Food Garden will allow guests to experience delicious authentic food from different destinations around the world, and the Church Street team has a proven track record of success when it comes to creating concepts that Huntsville embraces.”