26 Huntsville, Madison Businesses Named to Inc. 5000

More than two dozen local companies have landed on this year’s version of the Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.

The list represents the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment — its independent small businesses.

There are 26 businesses from Huntsville and Madison with 17 performing government services. Also included are three engineering firms, two real estate companies, one IT and one human resources business.

The 2019 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth from 2015 to 2018. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2015. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2018. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2015 is $100,000; the minimum for 2018 is $2 million.

Here are this year’s Huntsville-Madison companies listed by ranking:

617 – Cintel, 711 percent, $2.9 million, government services; 727 – Crossflow Technologies, 603 percent, $2.9 million, engineering; 927 – Kord Technologies, 458 percent, $70.1 million, government services; 942 – Freedom Real Estate, 451 percent, $3.7 million, real estate; 1,179 – Shearer, 352 percent, $6.4 million, engineering; 1,408 – Matt Curtis Real Estate (Madison), 293 percent, $5.2 million, real estate; 1,553 – Cortina Solutions, 267 percent, $2.7 million, government services; 1,591 – Martin Federal, 258 percent, $16.9 million, government services; 1,651 – R2C, 249 percent, $5 million, government services; 1,655 – Corporate Tax Advisors, 248 percent, $3.2 million, financial services;

2,083 – Nou Systems, 194 percent, $23.2 million, government services; 2,106 – Noetic Strategies, 191 percent, $4.6 million, IT management; 2,170 – Hill Technical Solutions, 186 percent, $9.9 million, government services; 2,223 – Pinnacle Solutions, 181 percent, $61.9 million, government services; 2,297 – LSINC, 175 percent, $12.7 million, government services; 2,452 – IronMountain Solutions, 162 percent, $42.1 million, government services; 2,818 – i3, 134 percent, $69.8 million, government services; 2,872 – Mission Driven Research, 130 percent, $3.4, million, government services; 2,927 – nLogic, 128 percent, $48.5 million, government services; 2,961 – Engenius Micro, 126 percent, $2.9 million, government services;

3,242 – Simulation Technologies, 112 percent, $31.6 million, engineering; 4,046 – Bevilacqua Research, 80 percent, $52.6 million, government services; 4,200 – Torch Technologies, 74 percent, $405.4 million, government services; 4,316 – Crabtree, Rowe & Berger, P.C., 71 percent, $4.6 million, financial services; 4,404 – Trideum Corp., 68 percent, $27.7 million, government services; 4,976 – Spur, 53 percent, $34.9 million, human resources.

Burgeoning Regional Economy Ensures Everyone a More Valuable Slice of the Pie

Envision Huntsville as an average size pie.

Standing at city center, look outward in all directions toward the far edges of the pie crust – north toward the state line where visitors from Tennessee get their first glimpse of the city. South where many Huntsville businesses draw daily commuters. East across the mountain, west from neighboring communities and all points in between.

For Huntsville and Madison city leaders, this vision of the pie’s edge does not represent boundaries but, instead, corridors of growth.

“That’s always been our vision for Huntsville’s future and the basis for our regional economic strategy,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “The first part of revitalizing your city is to take the center point, known as the living room of your city, and revitalize it to make it economically viable. Get one area going and stretch it out to other areas.

“Year after year, we have pinpointed growth corridors that help us grow both economically and residentially. The result is an economic revival like what you have been seeing in Huntsville and Madison the past 10 years.”

Private investment land developers have that vision too. During the 1990s, brothers Jim and John Hays and their nephew Jeff Enfinger of Enfinger Development opened a growth corridor to the southeast in Hampton Cove and the Hays Nature Preserve.

In 2000, that development led to the expansion of a residential growth corridor along Taylor Lane in Big Cove, and, by 2010, it had extended into the Goldsmith-Schiffman community.

Also during the 1990s, Huntsville opened a residential growth corridor off Zierdt Road in the Edgewater and Mountain Brook communities southwest of the city. In 2010, it expanded into the Williams community further south.

Battle said that by looking at the local economy like a pie, you will see their strategy unfolding.

“Instead of dividing the pie into fifteen different pieces that get smaller the more users you add, we made the whole pie bigger so we could divide it up differently with more restaurants, entertainment and activity venues, more places to spend retail dollars,” he said. “With a bigger pie, each slice is more valuable.”

The Western Corridor

The Town Madison development along I-565 between Zierdt Road and Wall-Triana Highway in Madison will open a gateway to the city.

Anchored by the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium, the development is surrounded by residential, retail, commercial, and entertainment components that have thrown open a west side growth corridor that never existed.

“The location off I-565 is perfect catchment for a broad audience across the Southeast,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “As the interchanges off the highway are completed, you can expect ease of traffic getting to and from the area.

“If people come for a game or event, we hope they stay and experience all that Madison has to offer, including our historic downtown that offers livability with local boutique shopping and dining.”

Finley also believes Madison’s central geography in North Alabama positions it perfectly to feel the positive impact from economic development in the whole state as well as southern Tennessee.

“Madison benefits from Huntsville’s growth with the FBI and other tech development workforce to our east, as well as from the Mazda-Toyota plant to our west. We look to collaborate with Limestone, Morgan and Marshall counties,” said Finley.

The development is envisioned to become a regional destination.

“Right on the interstate, convenient if you are coming from Cullman or Decatur, and where everybody who passes by can see it,” said Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, which is developing Town Madison and the new Clift Farm project on U.S. 72 in Madison. “We are creating a regional destination with baseball, a food hall, and resort style hotels, similar to, but more diverse than Chattanooga.”

Open Southern Border

Recently, Enfinger and his uncles who are also developing McMullen Cove, announced the development of a multi-use Hays Farm development in South Huntsville that will replace the old Haysland Square and turn a 500-plus acre swath of undeveloped land into a new growth corridor to the south that will draw retailers and residents from Airport Road south to the river and beyond.

“There will be a commercial center all the way up to the Enfinger Building on South Parkway with a Village of Providence-type entertainment district surrounded by a city park, a ballfield, and 500-acre Hays Green with a passive walking park,” said Enfinger. “We’d like to maintain the natural green spaces. The Hays Nature Preserve in Hampton Cove has been a regional draw for a lot of people.”

In many ways, Ceci believes that with population growth and so many people commuting here to work every day from other counties, we already have an active regional economy at work.

“You see workers buying groceries, going out to eat and shopping during the workweek, even if they live outside the city,” he said. “I think there is some pent-up demand for some of the development that is occurring.”

Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies who has developed the AC Hotel as part of CityCentre and developing MidCity on the old Madison Square Mall property, has been watching those employee migration patterns into Huntsville for more than a decade.

“We see the regional trade area as about 50 miles and incorporates the 14-county commuter hubs from which Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park draw its employment,” said Grelier. “As a result, Huntsville has become the region’s primary center for healthcare, civic, cultural, shopping, and dining activity.”

Annexation of Morgan & Limestone counties

Add to all this, the annexation of a small portion of Morgan County to the southwest and a huge chunk of Limestone County due west of city center, and you can see the pie expanding!

“Yes, this annexation is a game-changer because it results in the ability to get infrastructure to certain areas and thus create major employment opportunities,” said Charlie Sealy of Sealy Realty. His company has developed several residential properties including The Belk Hudson Lofts and The Avenue in downtown Huntsville, and is building a sister community, The Avenue Madison. “These new jobs will be an economic driver for the economy and create an incredible multiplier effect.”

The annexation is a precursor to the economic development that follows it, said Grelier.

“Annexing was necessary for the economic development of the Mazda-Toyota plant and other larger manufacturers,” he said. “It’s also helpful in attracting investment into commercial real estate projects across the metro area.”

“We’ve only made a foray into Morgan County,” said Battle, “The annexation of Limestone County where Mazda Toyota made a $2 billion land investment has seriously expanded our metro and opened an industrial growth corridor that is a win-win for both parties.”

City funds, thanks to Huntsville’s AAA credit rating from the S&P and Moody’s Investment Services, have pulled their share of the weight. With the power to borrow $85 million for city and countywide projects, of that, Huntsville will allot $25 million for the Mazda Toyota project infrastructure; and another $55 million for capital plans and schools.

Northern Exposure

Included is the revitalization of North Memorial Parkway. Since widening the well-worn highway into a viable parkway traffic corridor, it has encroached on many properties there, making them less viable.

“They don’t have enough depth to sustain retail, so we’ve taken them out and we’re turning that area into a park with greenways and walking trails,” said Battle. “Perception becomes reality.

“Instead of seeing boarded-up buildings when you enter from the north, you see it more as an entryway into North Huntsville – an economically viable area to move into and to be a part of.”

Among the projects is the upgrading of parks that will be instrumental in bringing in sports teams from all over the Southeast, including recreational rugby fields and soccer fields that can also be used for lacrosse.

“We are putting money into the tennis center and into the golf course, which now has cross-country running and mountain bike trails. All of these things tie back to what we call ‘quality of life’ for our residents and activities for our guests,” said Battle. “Travel sports bring people and their families to our area from all over, where they compete, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop in our stores.”

Quality of Life

Town Madison’s $12 million Pro Player Park project with 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields, the $22 million Huntsville Aquatic Center, and the expanding Huntsville Tennis Center are already national attractions for travel sports competitions and events.

“To have a viable and growing economy, we have to offer a ‘quality-of-life’ that attracts people to the area, and quite frankly, we have a lot of jobs on the table too,” Battle said. “To recruit highly-skilled, higher income workers requires a quality of life that is equal to or higher than where they are moving from.”

Battle said “quality-of-life” is found in Lowe Mill, in craft beer, in a vast array of recreation facilities, disc golf, pickleball, art museums and public parks.

“But we still have work to do because people are coming from around the world to work for companies like Blue Origin, Facebook, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Mazda Toyotas,” said Battle.

Finley is ready for whatever challenges lay ahead for Madison.

“As Madison grows our focus is making sure we are responsible with our citizen’s tax dollars by improving infrastructure and providing a good quality of life in every district of our community,” said Finley. “While areas to the West are experiencing booming growth and increased traffic, we need to not only keep pace with growth but foresee areas that will need improvements down the line.”

Huntsville is also adding hotels, apartments, and homesites as more people move into the city. With a goal of adding 1,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Von Braun Center, Battle said it will help draw larger conventions and business meetings.

“Part of the strategy for building smaller hotels instead of one big convention center hotel is to prevent people from living inside the hotel the whole time they are here,” said the mayor. “We want people to experience our city, eat in our restaurants, visit our museums, and shop in our stores.”

Enfinger believes that as we become a more affluent society, people’s wants, and expectations become more demanding.

“It looks like we are evolving in unison with the rest of the country as far as the type shopping we do and the kind of developments we build,” said Enfinger. “Our growth rate is higher than most cities, but I think we follow a national trend in the type developments we can sustain.”

Private Investment is Leading the Way

Private investment must still lead the way and developers such as Breland, RCP, Sealy, and Enfinger are leading the charge.

“When the City can support infrastructure needs or improvements, private investment can take those dollars further,” said Mayor Finley. “This is a win/win for both the City and for the investors. Ultimately, our citizens also reap the benefits of this growth and development.”

“Buy-in is good so far, but much harder than it may seem,” said Grelier. “Huntsville has a great story to tell, but many larger institutional investors are not aware of it or view the market as too small.

“Our team spends most of our time discussing and selling the regional market rather than the immediate project. A big part of Huntsville’s growth moving forward will be how the region is branded to compete for private investment and workforce internationally. It’s a regional story that should include our sister communities.”

He would also like to see the Gen Y & Z workforce move to the area because it’s a cool, fun place to live, and then find a job once they get here rather than moving here for the great job.

“Once this trend reverses, larger private investment and more economic development will follow quickly,” Grelier said.

From the city’s perspective though, Huntsville’s first mixed-use/multi-purpose development at Twickenham Square in 2014 has been a driver in enlarging the pie.

Join us for Part 2 of our series on Huntsville’s growing regional economy in the September issue of the Huntsville Business Journal as we investigate how multi-purpose/mixed-use developments are helping build Huntsville’s regional economy.

 

Valley Bend Dressbarn Closing in August; Customers Urged to ‘Shop Early for Best Selection’

The Dressbarn in Huntsville will shut down at the end of August, according to the women’s clothing retailer.

Franchise owner Ascena Retail Group announced in May it planned to close all 650 branches of the nearly 60-year-old chain by the end of the year. Nine stores will have closed this month and another 53, including the store at Valley Bend at Jones Farm in South Huntsville, are slated to close in August.

“The decision was difficult, but necessary, as the Dressbarn chain has not been operating at an acceptable level of profitability in today’s retail environment,” Dressbarn chief executive Steven Taylor said in a press release. “During the wind down process, we will continue to provide our customers with the same great experience both in-store and online, offering them even better deals and value.”

The company is receiving “fresh inventory,” the press release said, and customers should “shop early for the best selection, and use any outstanding gift cards.” 

Trash Pandas Announce Retail Store Relocation, Expansion

MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas are on the move.

The minor league baseball team that begins play next season is relocating its retail store at Bridge Street Town Centre, effective July 29. The Trash Pandas Emporium will be adjacent to the bridge in the former Michael Kors store, next to Moe’s Southwest Grill.

In the wake of substantial growth and record-breaking merchandise sales, the relocation provides double the amount of square footage, team CEO Ralph Nelson said.

The Trash Pandas Emporium will open in the former Michael Kors store July 29 with a Grand Re-Opening Celebration.

“The Trash Pandas Emporium has achieved more than $1.25 million in sales since opening at Bridge Street last November,” Nelson said. “If we hear one constant comment, it has been that the store is always crowded.

“The new location should ease that problem in plenty of time for back-to-school shopping and the holiday season.”

The team will hold a day-long Grand Re-Opening Celebration on July 29 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with music, temporary Trash Pandas tattoos for children, merchandise giveaways, and more.

The first 300 people to attend the celebration will receive an official Rocket City Trash Pandas lanyard. Door prizes of Trash Pandas merchandise will be awarded every two hours.

Also, a limited number of Trash Pandas Authentic Jersey Experience packages will be available in the store at a special celebration discount price. The Experience offers fans the opportunity to purchase authentic inaugural season jerseys cut from the same cloth as team uniforms. The package includes a personalized jersey, a locker for the day in the Trash Pandas team locker room, the opportunity to take batting practice on the field, and a post-game meal for participants and two guests in the Stadium Club.

Official licensed merchandise is also available at trashpandasbaseball.com.

The Rocket City Trash Pandas is the Double-A Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. Opening Day is set for April 15, 2020 at the Trash Pandas Stadium at Town Madison.

Razing Buildings to Raise Opportunities in North Huntsville

Devyn Keith ran to represent District 1 on the Huntsville City Council in 2016 vowing to make north Huntsville a destination.

He wasn’t making empty promises.

Devyn Keith helping bring redevelopment and opportunity to North Huntsville.(Photo by Eric Schultz)

With Keith leading the way, eyesore buildings bought by the city have been razed along North Parkway. There have been eight reduced to rubble so far and, if Keith gets his way, more will follow.

Blight isn’t welcome in Keith’s district where he grew up in the Northwoods development.

“We’ll be going after the rest of them shortly,’’ he said of privately owned buildings that have seen better days. “I’m not sure of the time frame.’’

Keith has been a mover and shaker since he unseated longtime District 1 Councilman Richard Showers. Just two years into the job, he was voted council president by his colleagues.

Meanwhile, he created the North Huntsville Business Association, which will soon move into office space near the corner of Oakwood Avenue and the Parkway in a strip mall that has been renovated.

Keith, who holds degrees from Samford and the University of Massachusetts, ran on the platform of reducing crime, increasing property values, investing in infrastructure and enhancing a vibrant quality of life for all of the district.

Some of his initiatives have already taken shape.

Along with the city, the Neighborhood Resource Center, a program that brings city government to the neighborhood, was launched. The Johnson HIgh School campus will soon become the Johnson Legacy Complex complete with indoor volleyball courts, soccer fields, a rock-climbing wall and even a sauna.

Those are just two of the projects Keith is overseeing.

There have been neighborhood block parties and ice cream socials. Streets are being repaved. The public library serving north Huntsville will move from a trailer into the new Berachah Park. There’s also the Council High Park planned for the site where the old building no longer exists.

One of the many empty buildings along North Parkway, the former Gander Mountain store, will soon be filled by Rural King, a farm/home department store slated to open in August/September.

For Keith, nothing is more important at the moment than erasing the blight that corrupts his streets.

“That was the first policy — start tearing things downs,’’ he said. “That was one of the things I ran on. Tearing down blight is a positive to let people know the city is serious about this.

“It’s, ‘What can we bring to north Huntsville?’ There hasn’t been a new subdivision in north Huntsville in a very long time.’’

Keith has his battle lines drawn. Imagine an area encompassing Oakwood Avenue, Pulaski Pike, University Drive, Jordan Lane and the Parkway.

“We’ll work from the outside in,’’ he said.

Drive past the intersection of the Parkway and Lantana these days and there’s an empty lot where dilapidated buildings once stood. It’ll soon be home to Lantana Way, a green space with a planned public art wall.

“We’re just trying to make it clean,’’ said Harrison Diamond, business relations officer for the city. “We’re tearing them down to make green space.

“We’ll work with the private sector to help make it better. We’ve got projects in the hopper.’’

That’s music to Keith’s ears.

“The city is making it advantageous (for businesses and homeowners) to come to north Huntsville,’’ he said. “For us it’s, ‘What can we do to make it easier?’ ‘’

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.