Trash Pandas to Reveal Jerseys, Offer an Experience for Fans

MADISON — When it comes to baseball, particularly the Rocket City Trash Pandas, Ralph Nelson believes in going big.

In fact, there’s nothing minor about the baseball team that set all sorts of Minor League Baseball merchandise records and recently passed the $1 million mark in sales.

And the Trash Pandas don’t even play until next April.

In the meantime, the team will unveil its five – yes, five – inaugural season uniforms and offer fans the chance to take the field in official, personalized jerseys.

The uniform reveal will be Thursday night in a big bash at Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville. It all starts at 6 p.m. and local television personalities will model the full official uniforms, including the Salute to Military Sunday/Holiday uniform, modeled by Redstone Arsenal Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Counts.

“We are going to tip our hats to the military every Sunday,” said Nelson, the team’s CEO and managing partner. “If we have games on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, we’ll wear them then, too.”

Replica jerseys will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. at the Trash Pandas Emporium in the Bridge Street Town Centre, next to the Apple Store.

Also in Thursday’s lineup are food trucks, music, “bouncy houses,” T-shirt giveaways …  and more, as Nelson hits another home run.

Nelson and his staff engineered a ground-breaking ceremony last year that drew hundreds of people, a team name release party that packed a local craft brewery and a logo/team colors celebration-fireworks gala that packed Madison’s Dublin Park.

So, naturally, this isn’t going to be your standard uniform unveiling – if there is such a thing.

“We decided to turn it into an ‘experience,’” he said. “It’s also another chance for us to integrate with the community.”

So, continuing its mission of fan involvement, the team is offering fans a chance to purchase authentic inaugural season jerseys and take part in the Authentic Jersey Experience.

“We are really excited about the Authentic Jersey Experience,” Nelson said. “The fans who take part will get their jerseys (next March) in the team locker room and go out onto the field before the players do.

“If you’re a baseball fan, this is what it’s all about.”

The package includes a Rawlings authentic Trash Pandas jersey and a ballpark/locker room experience featuring the use of a player’s locker, batting practice on the field, and a post-game “spread” in the players’ lounge, all courtesy of the Trash Pandas clubhouse manager. The jerseys will be custom made for each fan, including size, name and number.

The Experience will be available for purchase for $199 Thursday night through June 30. It can be purchased online or at the Trash Pandas Emporium after Thursday’s event. On July 1, the cost goes up to $249 and wraps up at the end of the year.

“Rather than just box up the jerseys (for the fans who bought them), we decided to offer them this experience,” Nelson said.

Yep, imagine that, Nelson thinking outside the box.

White Bison Coffee-Twice Daily Opening in Town Madison

MADISON – Combining convenience and coffee, the state’s first Twice Daily-White Bison Coffee store will open in Town Madison this fall.

The new concept store from Nashville-based Tri Star Energy merges Twice Daily’s convenience store and White Bison Coffee’s artisan coffee beverages and fresh, handcrafted café menu.

This will be the first brand-in-brand retail location for Tri Star Energy outside of Tennessee.

“We are thrilled to bring White Bison Coffee and Twice Daily to the people of Alabama,” said Steve Hostetter, CEO of Tri Star Energy. “Whether it’s enjoying coffee with friends, grabbing food on-the-go or fueling up, we’ve got you covered. We pair convenience with quality to accommodate our guests and their busy lives.”

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

In addition to traditional convenience items, Twice Daily’s premium offerings range from grab-and-go snacks, including organic brands, to a selection of staple groceries. There is also a fresh deli case with handmade and healthy options featuring fruits, sandwiches, salads and snacks. Additional offerings include donuts and pastries, freshly prepared breakfast & lunch sandwiches and an extensive beer cave featuring local and craft beers.

For information, visit whitebisonTN.com and twicedaily.com. They can also be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Lumberjacks, Flannel Ribbon-Cutting Mark Rainy Opening of Duluth Trading Co.

MADISON — Duluth Trading Co., known for its durable, high-quality apparel and iconic TV commercials, opened its first Alabama store in weather befitting the company’s products.

Despite the rain, local dignitaries and excited patrons gathered in front of the store for the cutting of a flannel ribbon, followed by Timberworks traveling Lumberjack Show.

Duluth Trading Co. is famous for its apparel and TV commercials. (Photo by Tina Simon)

“We had a lot of people ask us whether the rain put a damper on our grand opening, but actually, bad weather fits our brand for practical, functional clothing,” said store manager Christopher Sailor. “Our customers will tell you a little rain never slows us down or affects the enthusiasm our customers have for our merchandise.

“In spite of the intermittent drizzle, we had a steady flow of customers throughout the day and we had a lot of people telling us how excited they were to have a Duluth Trading Company store here in the Valley.”

The Minnesota-based company was founded in 1989 as a catalog and, later, successful Internet-only retailer. They began selectively opening stores in 2016 and today have 54 stores across the U.S.

Though the store at Town Madison is the first in the state, Sailor said Duluth Trading already has a large concentration of customers in the area.

“Customer demand brought us to the Madison area,” he said “Madison is an expanding research, technology and high-tech manufacturing center, which fits Duluth’s solution-based culture and products.

Wood chips fly during the lumberjack show.

“We’re very excited to bring our unique retail experience, apparel and accessories to the loyal and hard-working Duluth customers in the area.”

Perched on a side street carved out of Graphics Drive and appropriately named Angry Beaver Way, the Duluth Trading Co. store is the first of many retail tenants to open on the old Intergraph campus section of Town Madison.

In addition to the large and enthusiastic customer base Duluth has here, Sailor said the location near the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium is part of a broader regional draw for the store.

“Our new neighbors and visitors [across North Alabama and Tennessee] can depend on quality, unique products and a retail experience that puts customer service first,” he said. “Duluth is known for its high-quality, solution-based casual wear and workwear for men and women, but in addition to apparel, we also carry travel bags, dog gear, apothecary and more.

“We bring humor to every day universal truths and offer an outstanding customer experience, which really sets us apart.”

Successful Business Family Brings Hand & Stone Massage to Huntsville

Ayesha Patel may be one of Huntsville’s youngest new business owners but, at 26, she comes from a long line of successful Huntsville franchise owners who have built multiple restaurant concepts that were new to Huntsville when they opened.

Now the owner of Alabama’s first Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa is introducing Huntsville to a new pampering and relaxation concept.

Just opened in the Shops at Merchant Square next door to Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa offers a membership-based massage and facial experience that is affordable and convenient.

Ayesha Patel, right, is the latest member of a Huntsville family to join the franchise industry. (Photo by Steve Babin)

“For $60 a month, Ayesha and her Stone & Massage staff are going to pay a lot of attention to you for the hour you are there, for not a lot of money,” said Bob McQuillan, vice president of franchise development for the chain. “A massage and facial are luxury items but, with us, not expensive ones. When you think about it, you can’t get a plumber to come to your home for less than $90 an hour, so this is really a great value.”

“We were thinking about getting involved in a health and wellness concept and, when I saw this, I thought, everybody loves massages and facials and the two seem to really complement each other,” said Ayesha Patel. “I think Huntsville is ready for an experience like this. We have our membership, which is unique and a great value, but we’ve also had so many calls already looking to book last minute appointments.

“When you’re looking around the area for a massage, you typically have to book a week in advance. At Hand & Stone, you know you can call same-day and we can try to get you in right away.”

Ayesha’s father, Kumar Patel, started out with Huntsville’s first Subway shops but sold them several years ago to pursue other restaurant brands in Huntsville: Five Guys, Nothing But Noodles, and Schlotzsky’s Deli, all of which are among Huntsville favorites.

Ayesha’s uncle, Dr. Rajesh Patel, is in partnership with Kumar at the Nothing Bundt Cakes in Jones Valley where Ayesha has worked herself up to operating partner, overseeing a staff of 18 employees.

“I’ve grown up in business, working throughout both middle school and high school in our family businesses,” said Patel. “When I graduated from Birmingham Southern, I told myself I wasn’t going to pursue the family business, but then I came home and found myself working in the bakery. As an adult, I was allowed a more hands-on experience, and really enjoyed it.

“I did some research and found that Hand & Stone was growing like crazy with over 400 spas across the nation, but none in Alabama. I put in my information and waited to see how it would go.”

“Let’s put it this way,” said McQuillan. “If our company was looking for a football team, Ayesha and the team surrounding her including her father, aunt and uncle who have owned multiple businesses in the franchise world for years, made Ayesha a 5-star prospect for what we want to accomplish with our stores in Alabama.”

The Hand & Stone Massage in the Shops at Merchants Square is the first in Alabama. (Photo by Steve Babin)

McQuillan said Hand & Stone has tried to set itself apart in the marketplace and in the industry by offering complementary services across the board.

“Many of the concepts in our industry offer just massages, but we offer facials, hair removal, and two full skin care lines,” he said. “It isn’t just about the body, it’s about skin care, it’s about a regimen – a routine – to protect yourself from the sun and honestly, I think we have knocked the cover off the ball when it comes to the aesthetic side of the business.

“That new store in Huntsville is a rocket ship about to really take off!”

“We have a very spa-like atmosphere with 10-rooms, seven masseuses and we’re about to hire two more; and four estheticians for facials,” said Patel.

“We carry two brands of skin care and anti-aging products. One of them is Dermalogica and the other is Clarity Skin. Dermalogica is more widely known but Clarity is an all-natural brand out of California. It is a little more expensive, but both are excellent choices.

“Furthermore, those are the only products we use in-house, so if you have a facial, you can follow up by purchasing the same products we used on you.”

Kroger Closing Drake Avenue Store

Citing millions of dollars in losses, the Kroger Co. announced it was closing its Drake Avenue store in Huntsville.

The closing, which will impact some 100 employees, is effective July 13. The company said the employees will be offered jobs at other area Kroger stores.

The company said the store has struggled financially, including posting more than $3 million in losses since 2015.

“Closing stores is always a last resort, and only considered after all other alternatives have been exhausted,” spokeswoman Melissa Eads said.

She said there are two other Kroger stores less than five miles away from the Drake Avenue store – one on Logan Drive and South Memorial Parkway and the other on Oakwood Avenue and the Parkway.

Clift Farm: Breland Companies Bought the Farm That Jack Built

MADISON — In 1850, the population of rural Madison was less than 500 residents. Alabama farmers were producing nearly 565,000 bales of cotton and nearly 29 million bushels of corn a year.

John Henry Clift bought a small piece of rural farmland in what was then called Madison Station.

Since then, six generations of the Clift family have farmed that land for cotton, corn, soybeans, fresh fruits, and vegetables, mostly for local consumption.

Construction is underway on the Clift Farm development.

It was Jack Clift, known as Pawpaw to his many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, who moved home from Atlanta after World War II and took over the family farming business. Jack, who turned 100 years old in December, expanded the farm to more than 600 acres off U.S. 72 between Wall Triana Highway and Balch Road in Madison.

Several years ago, he sold off a sliver to developers who built the shopping plaza where Planet Fitness sits today.

Last fall, Jack officially sold the remaining 550 acres to The Breland Companies who, with his blessing, will develop it into a pedestrian-friendly residential community, park, and retail center.

The Breland development recently broke ground across the highway from the Target Shopping Center and Madison Hospital, but according to Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, the development will in every way, honor and represent the Clift legacy.

“Jack has always been a conservationist at heart,” said Ceci. “His original vision for the land was to keep it agricultural, but he realized later in life that it was going to be sold. He wanted to be an active participant in the process and after much discussion with his family, he entrusted the development and preservation of his property to Louis Breland.”

“To understand this property, you need to understand the history of the Clift family and what faithful stewards Jack and Lillian Clift have been for this land,” said Breland. “I have ridden every inch of this property with Mr. Clift to understand its history and his vision for this wonderful piece of land.”

The goal is to create a community that will have a timeless feel, that will preserve many of the existing natural attributes, while providing retail, dining, residential, office space, multifamily homes, and medical opportunities.

“There is a lot of retail in that area already, but this one is different from those you are seeing at MidCity Huntsville and Town Madison, which will draw a regional audience,” said Ceci. “This one will be mostly residential and will have a relatively small, town center retail and restaurant component that supports the Clift Farm community.”

He said it will have a very real element of green space: a passive park area planted with wildflowers and fruit trees as opposed to soccer fields; a man-made pond surrounded by greenways, and a lot of walking trails. The residential component will consist of townhomes starting at $300,000 and homes ranging from $400,000 to $600,000.

In March, the Madison County Commission approved $8 million for Breland to spend on the development, to build roads and a utility infrastructure for the project.

“We have already done a little bit of groundbreaking, but we are currently building arterial roads and putting in that infrastructure,” said Ceci. “Breland is building a third lane into the property from (U.S.) 72 to alleviate the already heavy traffic in that area, and we have brought in traffic engineers to help us install a couple of red lights.”

An expanded farmers’ market is part of the Clift Farm development plan.

The front of the development along U.S. 72 will be retail and restaurants. The back will include three-story luxury apartments and townhomes with an overall pedestrian environment similar to Huntsville’s Village of Providence. Several out-parcels of land may be developed as medical office space, located conveniently across from Madison Hospital.

One of the most unique aspects of the project, according to Ceci, is that they carved out a modest plot of land on which Clift’s son and grandson will continue small-scale farming and they are building an enlarged farmers market where they will continue to sell fresh fruit and produce from the very land they continue to harvest.

“You have heard restaurants talk about farm-to-table ingredients? In this case, if you order a salad, you can almost sit there and watch the guys go pick it for you,” said Ceci.

Breland expects to begin selling residential lots possibly at the end of this year or early 2020. Some of the retail will likely open in April or May next year.

Hays Farm Development: ‘It’s Time; the Community Needs It’

Six to 10 years, that’s how long the Hays family expects the 850-acre, multifaceted development of Hays Farm to take.

Jim Hays, John Hays and Jeff Enfinger, the owners of the property, were on hand Thursday night to highlight the details of the project to a packed house in the Martha deFord Hays Auditorium at Grissom High School.

“For 49 years we’ve been developing communities for people in North Alabama, this is the first time we’ve ever put our name on one,” John Hays said.

John Hays talks about the importance
of the Hays Farm Development.

The development will eventually consist of about 1,000 residential units, three parks and see of new commercial spaces along with the redevelopment of Haysland Square, according to Enfinger.

The first part of the commercial aspect of the development is to raze Haysland Square and develop 175,000 to 200,000 square feet of new commercial space.

“It’s under contract now with a Florida developer who has developed here and we hope to have an announcement this Fall where that center would be redone next year and it would be upscale, walkable and pretty,” Enfinger said.

Enfinger added that they were working with Staples, the only retail store left in the current development.

“We’re providing space for Staples,” Enfinger said. “We have to cut a deal and they have to agree to it, but we’re going to make every effort to keep Staples.”

Jeff Enfinger gives an overview of the master plan for the Hays Farm development

It is expected to take five years before developers get back to the center housing Home Depot and a development north of Mike’s Merchandise, according to Enfinger.

“We’ve got three opportunities to develop and redevelop the high-volume, high-traffic commercial areas,” he said.

The first 500 units of residential development will consist of single-family detached units such as estate homes, patio homes and traditional housing sizes, which will span the $300,000 to $700,000 price points, according to Enfinger. Some of those are being developed now.

The next 500 units will consist of condominiums, townhouses, some lofts over the new retail establishments and possibly some age-restricted housing, according to Enfinger.

“The 1,000 units we’re going to build doesn’t do much for the commercial activity except create sort of a foundation,” Enfinger said. “The commercial activity is part of all of south Huntsville.

“So, if south Huntsville doesn’t become part of the commercial activity then it won’t be as successful.”

The development will have three parks: a 500-acre natural park, similar to the Hays Nature Preserve; a new ballpark with soccer and baseball/softball fields; and a city park, like Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville.

“We have a park system that I believe will be unrivaled by any park system that I know of in my lifetime,” Enfinger said.

There are also plans to have an entertainment district set up in the new development, possibly around the city park, but Enfinger said most of the specifics were still yet to be determined.

“It was really a difficult decision for the family to decide to let the farm go,” Jim Hays said.

“…But, it’s time. The community needs it; so it was time.”

Jim Hays talks about the history behind the land
that will be used as greenspaces in the Hays Farm Development.

Electronic Express Opens First Huntsville Location

Hoping to fill a void in South Huntsville, Electronic Express recently opened its first store in the city in Jones Valley.

“Our philosophy is ‘We Make it Happen’,” said operations manager Haley Harville. “We have had a store in Decatur for five years, but we are currently expanding into Huntsville and Florence.

“We opened this store in Huntsville because it is a prime market for home and auto electronics on the south side of town. You no longer have to drive across town to find a large selection and best prices.”

The Nashville-based electronics and home furnishings retailer is next to Target on Carl T. Jones Drive.

According to Harville, the company sets itself apart from popular big-box electronics stores by putting a strong focus on the home, mobility and lifestyle.

She said Electronic Express fills the void between merchandise in a big-box electronics stores; car stereo stores; a home and office furnishings store; and national home improvement chains.

In addition to computers, TV and home theatre, cellphones, gaming devices, and security systems, Electronic Express also carries home exercise equipment; Yetis and Orcas; outdoor grills, smokers and fryers; car stereo systems and GPS devices; furniture and brand name mattresses; and major household appliances.

Electronic Express has opened its first store in Huntsville. (Photos by Steve Babin)

“We are not a discount store, but customers will find our prices 10 to 20 percent less than most competitors, and we will price-match any well-known competitor’s prices,” Harville said. “So, if you’re at another store and want to see if you can find it at a better price, you can call us to compare, then swing by to pick it up.”

She said, as a regional retailer, the company’s goal is being able to provide the community with the best prices possible on name brand merchandise by Frigidaire, LG, Samsung, Whirlpool, Ashley and Sealy, to name a few.

Visit electronicexpress.com.

A Food Hall of Kitchens, Breweries and Food Trucks Coming to Town Madison

MADISON — At his State of the City Address in March, Madison Mayor Paul Finley told the audience to buckle up for some big announcements coming out of the new Town Madison development this spring. Today, the Breland Companies delivered a big one!

Rendering shows layout of Town Madison around the baseball stadium and Food Hall

The latest addition is a sprawling Food Hall of 18 kitchens curated by local and regional chefs, two breweries, and several stationary food trucks in an outdoor dining area. A central bar with indoor/outdoor seating will serve as an anchor, and developers are talking to several local and regional restaurants about joining the unique dining lineup. 

The Food Hall can be seen to the right in this rendering.

Designed by Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart, an international design firm based in Atlanta, the Food Hall will feature a large outdoor event space and covered stage area for a variety of events including a showcase for songwriters, concerts and big screen showings of various sporting events.

“Town Madison is taking another step toward our goal to provide a new experience in North Alabama living,” said Louis Breland. “We toured some of the finest food halls in the country looking for the right concept. A great food hall becomes a central gathering spot and brings unique energy to a community.

“Along with the (Rocket City) Trash Pandas stadium, the Food Hall and plaza area will become the place to be before a game or any time people want to meet with friends and share new experiences.”

The Food Hall, a partnership between Breland and Fuqua Development of Atlanta, joins the growing roster of tenants at Town Madison including the baseball stadium; several hotels including the avid Hotel, Home2 Suites and Margaritaville Resort Hotel; restaurants; national retailers such as Duluth Trading Co.; luxury apartments and residential communities.

Construction on the Food Hall begins this summer and tenants will be announced by the end of the year.

It is slated to open next spring – in time for the first pitch.

Hays Farm Multi-use Development Planned for South Huntsville

The answer to the long-asked question “What is going to happen with Haysland Square?” is finally provided.

Hays Farm, an 850-acre development, will soon be raised in South Huntsville after the 55-year-old shopping center is razed.

John Hays and Jeff Enfinger check out the plans for Hays Farm (Photo by Steve Babin)

Jim Hays, John Hays and Jeff Enfinger announced plans for the project which will include an entertainment district, nature preserve, homes, retail, restaurants, a dog park, sports fields and nearly 6 1/2 miles of walking trails.

“This land has meant so much to our family, generation after generation,” Enfinger said. “It has been a place where we’ve worked, played and grown as a family.”

The family has created communities around the county for decades and Enfinger said this is the “best and last” of the large communities they are planning.

“Our best and last large, master-planned community, … Hays Farm and its hundreds of acres of green space will now belong to our friends and neighbors in South Huntsville,” he told the Huntsville Business Journal during a tour of the project.

The project, which is currently under construction, will have about 110 acres of commercial development and 200 acres of residential, leaving about 540 acres for protected land. The development is estimated to provide a $450 million boost to the area.

“The Hays Farm project has the potential to transform the face of South Huntsville and bring vitality and excitement to South Parkway,” said Huntsville City Councilwoman Jennie Robinson, whose district includes the development.  “It will add hundreds of acres of green space to the city as well as miles of trails and recreational amenities while preserving the natural beauty of the area. 

“We applaud the Hays family for their vision and hope it will encourage others to reinvest in South Huntsville and improve the quality of life for the city as a whole.” 

A centerpiece will be the 12-acre “city park” which will have a Town Center on Haysland Road featuring entertainment, restaurants and small shops. Enfinger said the park is similar in size to Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville.

“It will be a Providence-type (development) between Hamilton Square and Grissom,” Enfinger said, referencing the west Huntsville development. “The park has a village green like Providence.”

Hays Farm will have three components, Enfinger said. There will be the community park, nature preserve and ballfields – a 20-acre recreation baseball/soccer complex operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

More than 1 million yards of dirt has been moved for the Hays Farm project. (Photo by Steve Babin)

Some 1,000 housing units will include single-family detached, townhouses and rental units. More than 500 single-family homes will range from $300,000 to $700,000. There are plans for 150 townhouse units and 350 multifamily rentals. Each neighborhood within Hays Farm will offer access to trails and an open space network that connects the community to all of Huntsville.

Haysland Road will also extend from South Memorial Parkway through the development to Hobbs Road, a couple hundred yards east of Redstone Arsenal’s Gate 3.

“The Haysland Road extension should be finished by September,” Enfinger said. “It goes through the series of lakes – wonderful scenery.”

Madison County Commissioner Phil Riddick, whose district includes south Huntsville, said Hays Farm is an exciting change and addition to the area.

“South Huntsville has not seen new development on this scale in decades.  Not only is it substantial in size with greenways, new retail, restaurants and hundreds of new residences, but it will change the face of the community,” he said. “This will be something new and exciting, and will add a lifestyle flavor that we have not seen before in South Huntsville.  It will foster further new development and will create a new demand for living in our area. 

“We are so thrilled that the Hays Family has embarked on this development and are looking forward to it being completed.”

The developers and South Huntsville Business Association have scheduled a community meeting for 6 p.m. May 30 in the Grissom High School Auditorium.