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.”

Trash Pandas Emporium Grand Opening Saturday Features Apparel Sales and Season Ticket Orders

The Trash Pandas will hold the grand opening of their store at Bridge Street Town Centre on Saturday. (Photo by Steve Babin)

“If you build it, they will come” is a well-known line from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

Well, in the case of Monday’s “soft opening” of the Rocket City Trash Pandas Emporium – “If you sell it, they will come.”

The area’s new minor league baseball team hasn’t played an inning. Heck, it doesn’t even have a ballpark.

But that didn’t deter fans from showing up and buying merchandise Monday.

The grand opening for the store at Bridge Street Town Centre is set for 9 a.m. Saturday.

The team will also be taking deposits for season tickets – the fee is $250 per seat. There will be brochures available so fans can see the seating for the new ballpark – which is expected to be finished by the end of next year. 

The Trash Pandas officially begin play April 15, 2020; meanwhile, the team is still the Mobile BayBears through next season.

Monday’s activity, though, was supposed to be a “soft opening” for the store.

The key phrase is “was supposed to be …”

“It’s been steady,” said Jennie Askins, the team’s vice president of corporate and community partnerships. “We didn’t promote this. This was to give our Trash Pandas Ambassadors (sales staff) a chance to learn and talk to people.

“And a chance to work out any kinks.”

Things were running pretty kink-free Monday as the steady flow of fans made their choices of apparel – ranging from jackets to caps to hoodies and T-shirts.

“The store will be open everyday through Dec. 30,” Askins said. “Then all sales will be online (trashpandas.milb.com).”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncorked: Wine Shop & Tasting Room a Toast to Success

Uncorked features a price point for everyone. (Photo by Steve Babin)

For the past 26 years, Saranne Riccio has been in the wine business: a distributor, a sommelier, and teaching wine classes to the uninitiated.

She had visions of owning her very own place someday. And, four months ago, those dreams were realized when Uncorked: Wine Shop & Tasting Room opened for business. 

Located in the heart of Providence Main, Uncorked is attractively appointed with a small bar that seats six, a cozy couch and comfy chairs. The walls are adorned with the works of local artists. Recently, the works of Joe Hendrickson were featured, accompanied by an artist’s reception.

Riccio’s secret to her success lies in her simple philosophy.

“Wine doesn’t have to be intimidating. With a price range from $6.99-$200/bottle, there’s a price point for everyone,” she said. “There are several wines for $20 and under that are great bang for the buck.”

For wines by the glass, Riccio offers what she refers to as a “Built in Personal Flight,” a selection of 16 featured wines, either as a two-pour, or as a six-pour flight.

Riccio and her staff are highly responsive to their customers.

“There’s no point in directing someone with a $20 price point into the $200 bottle selections; if someone wants buy a higher end wine, don’t take them to the lower priced varieties,” she said. “Once their spending range is established, we can then find out what their preferences are, what do they like?

“Once we know this, we can help the customer navigate through the wines.”

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. Adding these delightful goodies to a great bottle of wine would make a tasty gift basket.

The holidays, and the associated parties will be here before you know it. Uncorked can help customers with parties for up to 50 people. A $300 facility rental fee allows guests to savor the Uncorked after-hours ambience from 7:30-9:30pm. For an additional fee, there’s a wide assortment of wines and charcuterie that can be tailored to any taste or budget.

What are Riccio’s plans for future growth?

“To make people more aware of our presence, to be that ‘go-to’ place for people to learn about wines,” she said. “… helping to educate people about wines to the extent that they want to learn, and doubling the varieties of our ‘by the glass’ wine selections.”

 

Retailers Dreaming of a Black Christmas

For years economists have pushed the idea that “Black Friday” is the first day of the year in which retailers operating all year “in the red” and at a loss, use the Christmas buying season to turn a profit putting them “in the black.”

Supposedly on the day after Thanksgiving, shoppers are so full of turkey and dressing, and so weary of nonstop football, they can’t wait to blow some dough on heavily discounted merchandise.

The History Channel, however, says this is a myth.

According to the cable TV channel, Black Friday got its name in the 1950s from the Philadelphia police who used the term “Black Friday” to refer to post-Thanksgiving chaos when thousands of suburban shoppers flooded into the city to shop, causing the police to work extra-long shifts to deal with crowds and traffic. This not-so-holly-jolly story also included battling shoplifters who took advantage of the bedlam.

So much for good tidings.

That Black Friday is the single largest retail sales day of the year, however, rings true.

According to the American Marketing Association based on statistics from Adobe Analytics, U.S. retailers earned a record $7.9 billion on Black Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, an increase of nearly 18 percent from 2016.

“Cyber Monday” 2017 added another $6.6 billion in internet sales, making it the largest online shopping day in history. Those sales figures also pushed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s net worth past $100 billion on the day after Thanksgiving, 2017.

This bump in Black Friday spending does not, as many people believe, bode poorly for brick and mortar retail shopping.

Retail research firm ShopperTrak says store traffic declined less than 1 percent on Black Friday 2017, a significantly lesser decline than projected. In 2018, the National Retail Federation projects holiday retail sales in November and December — excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants — will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $720.89 billion.

Here Comes Santa Claus

Janet Brown, manager for Belk at Bridge Street, confirms that Black Friday is the biggest retail sales day of year, but that truth comes with a little enticement.

“We open at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and are open until 1 a.m.,” Brown said. “Then we open again at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. The first 200 people in line Thursday receive a gift card in denominations of anywhere from $5 to one prize of $500 at every Belk store. On Friday, the first 100 customers in line receive gift cards. Belk as a company is giving away $1,000,000 in gift cards to customers who stand in line.”

Belk will hold Santafest in the children’s department Nov. 10 featuring arts and crafts as well as, of course, pictures with Santa.

The retailer will also have a toy store that officials hope will fill the gap left by the departure of Toys ‘R Us; and they welcome choral groups to sing while people shop. The store will offer refreshments and goodies throughout the holidays and during the official tree lighting event on the Bridge Street promenade.

“We are not doing these things to compete with online sales and to bring people into the store,” says Brown. “Belk has always held these special activities to add a festive atmosphere to our stores during the Christmas season.”

All I Want for Christmas

Tiffani Spengler, manager of Alabama Outdoor in Jones Valley, said they notice a big uptick starting on Black Friday, but they see it as the kickoff for the rest of the busy season ahead.

“We sell a lot of gift items, but we have a whole lot of visitors who want to see what we have available, measure their options, and get ideas,” she said. “They may or may not buy on Black Friday, but we see a steady stream of people who return to make purchases all the way up to Christmas.

“Everyone gets the same experience whether you know what you are looking for like a Patagonia sweater or rock-climbing gear; or whether you are looking for a gift for someone who loves hiking and camping, but you aren’t sure what to get them,” said Spengler. “We can show you how to pack a backpack, explain the difference between buying a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad, help you dress in layers, so you stay warm for a three-day camping trip; or help you prepare for a vacation to Iceland.”

Apparel is their most popular holiday items because Alabama Outdoors promotes functionality and fashion. Jackets, pullovers, fleece and down layered clothing that protects against the elements, hats, scarves, neck warmers, blankets, and socks are all gift favorites.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

“Shoppers are on a mission, especially when looking for gifts for Christmas,” said Dr. Ana Byrne, owner of The Little Green Store on Monte Sano Mountain and the new holiday shop in downtown Huntsville. “They are on a mission to find something interesting, looking for one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces, local artwork, and finely crafted décor. The new store downtown is a challenge because most or our merchandise is individual artistic pieces.”

Chris Gregory of Roosevelt & Co Gentleman’s Supply with Ana Byrne of The Little Green Store. (Photo by Steve Babin)

Will they be doing anything different for Black Friday?

“Our goal is always to make people feel happy, welcome, and comfortable while they are here, and we always work hard at that,” Byrne said. “If it is cold, I have hot chocolate for them to drink; if it is hot, I have cold water for them to drink. We wrap everything you buy as a gift and deliver if you need help getting it home.

“We hold art shows, open houses, and participate in Under the Christmas Tree, activities that keep people seeing what’s new and gives them a chance to meet the artists,” she said. “We carry a lot of holiday items like handmade tree ornaments, ceramics, and Raku Nativities. Our customers are loyal and we have fun with them. We know their taste enough to say, ‘We have something new you are going to love – take a look at this’.”

Santa Baby

Fatemeh Nazarieh and Donny Maleknia of Donny’s Diamond Gallery admits the Christmas holidays are the busiest time of the year for jewelers, but they offer several advantages for people looking for a more relaxing shopping experience on Black Friday.

“Located along the Parkway, no matter how busy we are, there are no problems finding a parking place, no parking garages, we have easy access with no traffic coming in and out, and we have hot drinks, cookies, and candy for you to enjoy while you shop. It is all part of creating a festive atmosphere for shopping,” said Nazarieh.

“The trends in jewelry among younger customers are custom designs, especially in engagement rings. They want something that is theirs alone and of course custom designs is Donny’s specialty.”

Their holiday kickoff came earlier than Black Friday this year with a gem show in late October featuring David Artinian, the Gem Hunter.

“Colored gems and stones are growing in popularity. We specialize in diamonds, but this is the second year David Artinian has done a show with us. People buy the stones and it takes four to six weeks to design a jewelry piece that showcases the stone, just in time for Christmas,” Nazarieh said. “We also have plenty of preset diamonds and gems in our showcases too, so we have something for everyone and in all price ranges.”

O Tannenbaum

Opening at 9 a.m. on Black Friday Pat and Roger Schwerman’s Christmas Tree Plantation in Lacey’s Spring provides the perfect family holiday experience.

Roger grew up on a large farm in Kansas. He and his wife Pat bought the fully operational Christmas Tree farm in 2002, shortly after 9/11. Being in the Pentagon on that day, Roger wanted to get away for some peace and quiet, so he came back and “bought the farm,” so to speak.

“We don’t sell trees, we sell tradition,” said Schwerman.

“I had people stop by and plead with me, sometimes almost threaten me – ‘I’ve been coming to this Christmas tree plantation for 30 years for my Christmas trees and I want that to continue. You cannot get rid of the trees!’” he said with a laugh.

He and Pat had no intention to do so. Their 70-acre Christmas tree plantation has Virginia pine, white pine, leland cypress and deodar cedars and is only open on weekends from Black Friday through Dec. 24.

There are also horses, cows, baby goats, and chickens for the kids to pet and feed. There are antique tractors to enjoy, a country gift shop, a Santa Claus on site, and a train for the little kids to ride.

Pat Schwerman said families carry out an old tradition of cutting their own Christmas trees.

“When you arrive, we provide you with a saw and a measuring stick. You can pick out any tree on the farm you want. We have ‘elves’ to help you if you need any,” she said. “If you cut a live tree on the day after Thanksgiving and put it in a bucket of water when you get home, it will still be fresh after Christmas.

“A previously cut tree is dead and drying out when you buy it. That is why families get together and enjoy the experience of choosing their own tree.”

Stovehouse Helps Heat Up a New Westside

 

Proving something old can have a fresh start is happening behind the brick walls topped by a large red “STOVEHOUSE” sign along Governors Drive just west of Campus 805. By the end of the year, restaurants and retail boutiques will be open there.

Some office spaces are already in use at what is expected to become one the city’s “destination hot spots,” according to Danny Yancey, founder and CEO of Stovehouse.

“There’s nothing else like it in our area,” he said. “People will come here to work, eat, drink, and shop.”

They’ll also attend events at Stovehouse — from concerts to community meetings — maybe even weddings, he said.

It will be an environment, Yancey said, where people can create their own kind of experience with common use areas inside and outside for dining and relaxing.

Construction is moving at a fast pace: six of the seven restaurant spaces have been leased and retail and office spaces are currently being leased.

“I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights because I can see it in my head, what it should look and feel like,” Yancey said. “It’s been a challenge but it’s coming together.”

Yancey used his cumulative background in human resources, mortgage banking and residential construction to put together a solid team to create his vision after he bought the historical building from Davis Lee.

Lee, a well-known poultry farmer and businessman, acquired the Governors Drive building as a potential wood pellet stove production facility before selling it to Yancey three years ago. It had also housed Inergi and, most recently, LSINC.

Yancey’s wife Patti is president of Huntsville’s Liberty Learning Foundation and CFO of Davis Lee Cos.

“I wasn’t out looking for the old Martin stove building,” Yancey said. “But here we are, three years later, building it out and creating a special place for Huntsville residents and tourists who want to experience Stovehouse and all it has to offer.”

Key components were putting together a team with experience in adaptive reuse projects, including Centric Architects of Nashville and Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group in Huntsville.

Danny Yancey looks out over the construction at Stovehouse (Photo by Wendy Reeves)

Yancey studied adaptive reuse projects and said he was especially inspired by what he saw happening in Chicago and Nashville, even Paris, Italy and Australia. He hired Centric because of the architect firm’s previous work and their immediate visions for the old building during their first walk through.

“It took about a year of due diligence to come up with an idea of what we might could do with it,” he said. “I visited a lot of adaptive reuse projects because I was really interested in how we could preserve the old building.

“It’s more expensive to do adaptive reuse … but this is a piece of our city’s history and I feel like it’s important to preserve our history.”

Referring to the revitalized area focused on local arts, dining, and brewpubs as the Westside instead of West Huntsville also has historical ties. Yancey said “old timers” interested in the redevelopment have made it known that the area used to be known as the Westside.

Before rockets, Yancey said the area’s largest employers were cotton mills and gas stove manufacturing. The mixed-use Stovehouse development is within in a large building steeped in that history. It started in 1929 when the Rome Stove Co. built it to manufacture its Electric Belle heaters.

After the company went bankrupt, a bid on the machinery and building was won by W.H. Martin Sr. and Charles Martin, who owned King Stove and Range Co. in Sheffield, and Martin Stove and Range Co. in Florence.

In 1939, they started their third business, Martin Stamping and Stove Co., turning out a small line of unvented gas heaters.

Through the years, the Governors Drive plant expanded with many additions to the building, often with whatever materials were on hand. Gas fuel tanks for acetylene torches were used as support posts in some part of the building. Structural engineers have examined the heavy gauge steel cylinders and say they are structurally sound, Yancey said.

There are several roof types throughout the facility, including saw tooth, flat and hip roof designs. Yancey attributes it to periods of fast-paced growth and company changes through the years.

During War World II, for example, he said the company made bomb crates.

“They were huge,” Yancey says of the crates. “If you look around the Seminole and Lowe Mill area and see long narrow houses with lean too roofs, those were leftover bomb crates. The government sold them for a quarter after the war was over.”

After the war, the plant went back to making stoves.

Visitors will find quirky elements and historical connections throughout the site once it’s completed. For example, a gas lighted shopping alley will reflect the heating source for the heaters that used to be made there. But some of those old rooftops will be gone to create outdoor courtyards.

People who think the project is another Campus 805 are wrong, Yancey says.

“They’re totally different but I think they will complement each other,” he says.

Co-developer Wesley Crunkleton said his favorite part of the project is how different it is from anything in the area.

“In our office, we enjoy working on things that are outside of the box as an atypical commercial real estate space,” he said

Crunkleton said ​the property’s​​ ​proximity​ ​to​ ​downtown,​ ​I-565,​ ​and​ ​Redstone​ ​Arsenal will​ ​make​ ​it​ an​ ​ideal​ ​hub​ ​for​ ​businesses,​ ​first-to-Alabama​ ​restaurant​ ​concepts,​ ​new entertainment​ ​and​ ​events.​

“We think it will be well received by all,” Crunkleton said. “From the millennials looking for a new cool spot to families with multiple children it will be a place they can all enjoy.

“I think older Huntsvillians whose families have been around for decades and lived in the area, they will get a kick out of walking through and remembering what it was, the transitions of the property and enjoy what it’s becoming today. We look forward to welcoming the public, soon.”

 

Oh, the Horror! Cashing in on the Business of Zombies, Superheroes and Mystical Creatures

 

Americans will not just wander around with their arms or heads slashed open for fun this Halloween, but they will gash their wallets wide open in search of the perfect frightfest.

According to 2017 National Retail Federation (NRF) statistics, more than 179 million Americans will participate in Halloween activities this year. Thirty-five percent will either attend or throw a Halloween party and, as creepy as this sounds, they will spend more than $9.1 billion on Halloween-related products and services.

This ghoulish phenomenon is enough to run chills up the spines of many business owners and entrepreneurs looking for new revenue streams. Only Christmas has higher participation and seasonal profits in terms of how far people will go with decorations and holiday activities.

In 2012, David Businda was looking into starting a retail business when a colleague suggested a Halloween store. At first, he was skeptical.

“The more I looked into it, I discovered a Halloween Express franchise was pretty liberal in its operations, giving owners a lot of flexibility not found in most franchise opportunities,” said Businda. “There were no limits or demands on marketing or buying stock, and I was able to buy the North Alabama territory, so I can open stores as far south as Birmingham.

“Right now, we are only in Huntsville but that could change.”

For the first few years, Halloween Express had a store on University Drive.

“We are only open Sept. 1 through Nov. 1, so it is sometimes difficult to lease short-term store space,” Businda said. “Last year, Parkway Place welcomed us into the mall.

“We see profits of between $300,000 and $350,000 in those 60 days, and I don’t see it slowing down.”

Parkway Place Marketing Director Molly Mitchell said they have made a substantial impact on local sales.

“Sales were up significantly throughout Parkway Place in September and October,” she said. “Halloween Express was an amazing addition to our tenant mix and we are thrilled to have them back at Parkway Place for the 2018 fall/Halloween Season.

“They have expanded their footprint into two locations: one for home décor and props, and the other for costumes and makeup.”

Part of the mall’s success has been sponsoring the Mall-o-Ween Extravaganza and hosting the annual Junior Face-Off contest for the past two years. Mitchell said there were more than 2,000 people in attendance last year.

On Oct. 14, Halloween Express will hold a Spooky Halloween Make-up and Prop Class to prep kids for the Oct. 28 Junior Face-Off contest.

Halloween Express will provide contestants with a goodie bag full of make-up, fake blood, and some prosthetics. They will have 45 minutes to use everything in the bag to make up their parents as a Halloween ghoul or their favorite superhero or character. The winner bags a $50 gift certificate.

Due to the growing popularity of Halloween there are several areas where an entrepreneur may find unique business opportunities such as providing Halloween music for parties and events; offering decorating services for residences as well as office environments; setting up a haunted house and charging admission; creating and/or selling costumes, masks, prosthetics, and props; and coordinating and managing parties and events for children and adults.

Many Huntsville business owners and nonprofits are already taking advantage of the benefits.

Nichole Harris, co-owner and event manager for Birmingham-based ICrawlUSA, started an event management company that specializes in theme crawls and theme parties.

Night crawling

Bar-crawling or just “crawling” has grown in popularity across the country in the past three to five years. They are putting on Huntsville’s first Night of the Crawling Dead Halloween Bar Crawl downtown this year.

Below the Radar Brewhouse on Holmes Avenue, SiP on Greene Street, Martin Bar and Bistro on Washington Street, and Pints & Pixels on Clinton Avenue are participating. Crawlers pay $15 for a ticket in advance, and dressed out in full costumes, go from bar to bar enjoying free and discounted drinks at participating bars. The event starts at 6 p.m. and drink specials run through 8:30 p.m., however the party lasts until midnight, culminating in a costume contest at Pints & Pixels.

“The participating pubs can offer whatever drink specials and food too if they want, but we recommend the 3-2-1 method,” said Harris. “That is $3 wells, $2 shots, and $1 beers. Crawlers will receive a wristband and a passport that will guide them to all the participating bars.”

Harris said it is a popular group event, but anyone over the age of 21 is welcome.

“I think the attraction for adults in Halloween is the opportunity to relax and be a kid again,” he said. “People have responsibilities with jobs and families and other obligations, and this is a chance to celebrate, gather together with friends, dress up in a costume, and be anyone you want to be for the night.”

Matthew Bakula, events coordinator at Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, said Halloween is just good business for the art studios.

“We offer something for all ages beginning with the kids from 4-7 p.m. We have Trick or Treat inside the building for the children and all the studios participate with candy, and then we have a pumpkin carving contest,” he said.

Then, at 8 p.m., things get theatrical as the grown-ups take over. In the past, there has been a Pizza Party Massacre and it may return this year; however, in addition to the adult Halloween party, Lowe Mill plans a Drive-in Horror Movie showing on the concert dock, charging $10 per car. There will be three classic Halloween horror flicks – rain or shine. One year it rained, but more than 6,000 people still showed up.

“We are very performance-based here at Lowe Mill,” said Bakula. “Halloween is a time in which adults are free to be whatever they want to be whether it is a different person, some creature, or manifest a different personality – and then of course – enjoy a party.”

Of superheroes and zombies

While nearly half of all Halloween-goers will wear a costume, they will also spend more money on their garb than anything else related to the haunted holiday.

According to the NRF, men average $96 and women average $77 per costume. Witches, superhero characters, animals, and vampires are the most popular choices, but 16 percent of pet owners will dress up their family pet up as a pumpkin, a hot dog, a bumble bee, or the devil.

“Halloween is an escape from reality for a day,” said a spokesperson for Spirit Halloween, a seasonal retailer at Bridge Street Town Centre. “For adults, you can put on a Halloween costume and forget about work … and other pressures.”

Rita Burkholder, owner of Fig Leaf Costumes, said it is not all about the costume itself, anymore, now that people can reek of zombies and realistically display severed limbs and deformities.

“TV shows like the Sci-Fi Channel’s Face-Off has sparked a whole new way to project mystical effects using make-up, prosthetics, fake blood, and body painting to create realistic masklike faces and creature effects,” she said.

Ronnie Young, manager of the prop and decorations division of Halloween Express, and owner of his own Redrum SSX Studios, said Halloween has been boosted by a love for the horror genre and TV shows such as “The Walking Dead,” “Face-Off” and “American Horror Story.”

“You would be shocked at how popular it is with people to create wild characters using hair and make-up,” he said. “With 75 percent of Americans celebrating in a big way, it can expand beyond Halloween.

“I have done zombie-themed corporate parties, horror-themed weddings, and birthday massacre parties.”

Speaking of corporate parties, the Huntsville Young Professionals (HYP) have expanded what used to be a joint party with the Huntsville Land Trust in the Haunt at 3 Caves the past five years, into the Nightmare on Church Street on the east side of Big Spring Park this year.

Mallory Johnston, president of HYP, said the big Halloween party has always drawn more than 600 members and friends to the group’s only fundraiser throughout the year.

“We don’t charge fees or dues to be a member, so this is an important and success event for us,” says Johnston. “We raised $13,000 last year and, even though we don’t have a costume contest, people go all out.”

Strictly for adults 21 and over, HYP offers a cash bar and live band. Tickets are $35 per person and $55 after Oct 16. VIP tickets are $75 and includes six complimentary cocktails, access to bathrooms with no line, and an attendant who takes drink orders.

Decorating for demons

Finally, as an extra for Halloween pumpkin carvers, Christy Wray of Silver Moon Art Studio in Scottsboro held several Jack-O-Lantern Sculpture and Wicked Witch 3-D Door Hanger workshops at Top Key Market in South Huntsville . Wray teaches art lovers secret recycling methods to create Halloween sculptures and ceramics using things that most people have laying around the house. They even make their own air-dried clay.

“I have been thrilled at the response to our classes this year,” she said. “We charge $125 for the Wicked Witch 3-D Door Hangers class and $140 for the Jack-O-Lantern sculptures and people go all out to create amazing sculpture for their homes, yards, and patios.”

Considering people will decorate their home or yard, Wray’s classes, which are designed to last two to three hours over a 3-day period, often stretch out longer because participants are enthusiastic about their work creating realistic, life-size sculptures that will give neighbors a chill.

Oh, and attendees are welcome to bring their own spirits … metaphysically and the other kind!

 

REI Co-op’s First Alabama Store to Join MidCity Huntsville Lineup

 

REI Co-op is opening its first location in the state at MidCity Huntsville, RCP Companies announced Tuesday.

REI, a member-owned co-op, offers top quality outdoors gear, expertise and experiences. While anyone may shop at REI, members pay a lifetime $20 membership and share in the company’s profits through an annual dividend.

It is scheduled to open in fall 2019.

REI Huntsville will also have direct access to MidCity Park, a 40-acre public park with a trail system, lakeside dock, and an outdoor amphitheater.

“Huntsville is a growing outdoor community …,” said Gail Kirkland, REI retail director for the Southeast district. “With more than 11,000 active REI members in the state of Alabama, we are excited to continue to grow in the South and invest in this community.”

Similar to other communities REI serves, the co-op plans to invest in Alabama’s outdoor community, working with local nonprofits to steward and maintain local trails, parks and more.

“REI is a best-in-class retailer that improves local communities by working to protect and preserve natural resources and offering high-quality educational and recreational opportunities,” said Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies, the developers of MidCity. “REI will provide an elevated experience for North Alabama outdoor enthusiast and the existing co-op members across the Tennessee Valley region.

“This is a tremendous addition to MidCity, one that really complements our core values through recreation, entertainment, and health and wellness.”

 

Pies & Pints to Join Lineup at MidCity Huntsville

Pies & Pints, a specialty pizza and craft beer restaurant, will open at MidCity Huntsville, RCP Companies announced Thursday.

MidCity Huntsville is the $500 million redevelopment at the 140-acre site of the former Madison Square Mall.

Pies & Pints is an Ohio-based restaurant offering pizza, sandwiches, salads, and desserts along with an assortment of local craft beers that is curated individually for each Pies & Pints location.

The pizzas are hand-stretched and baked on a stone hearth with from-scratch pizza sauce, dough, and sauces. Their menu includes only high-quality ingredients that interchange seasonally and there are also gluten-free options.

The 4,290-square-foot restaurant at MidCity Huntsville will be the third Alabama location, with units in Birmingham and Montgomery, totalling 15 restaurants spread throughout Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Virginia, and Kentucky.

Pies & Pints is scheduled to open summer 2019 along with the first phase of retail at MidCity Huntsville which is currently under construction; this includes Wahlburgers, Dave & Buster’s, Topgolf, High Point Climibing & Fitness, and Aloft Hotel. The pizza and beer destination will be located adjacent to Wahlburgers.

“The quality and concept of Pies & Pints makes it a perfect fit for MidCity. This deal is an early win that will draw more key businesses to the development,” said Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies, the developer of MidCity Huntsville. “I have been looking at Huntsville for years. When I learned of MidCity, I met with RCP Companies right away. The project is the perfect mix of energy, retail, residential, music, restaurant offerings, in a vibrant location located close to downtown and the growing market,

“We can’t wait to be a part of MidCity and grow with Huntsville.”

MidCity is the fourth largest commercial real estate project in the U.S.