Huntsville-based Merit Bank Announces Board of Directors

Huntsville-based Merit Bank has announced a board of directors reflecting its philosophy of focusing on local small businesses.

The board for the bank, which opened this summer, is comprised of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Merit Bank is among six percent of the banks which are Huntsville-based.

“The directors guiding Merit Bank have been small business owners themselves. They have turned startups into multi-million-dollar companies and have led complex government contracting processes” said Merit Bank President Hill Womble. “They are Huntsville business executives who know what it takes to get things done. Now they are part of the Merit Bank team, bringing their experience and insight to provide a unique voice and vision for local businesses.”

The board members are: Steven Cost, president of Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure; Chad Falciani, founder and CEO of Strategix Medical Solutions; Kevin Heronimus, former CEO of Line-X; current chairman/CEO of Technical Micronics Control Corp.; Jeff Huntley, owner of T-H Marine; and Brent Romine, founder of nou Systems.

“Bankers are an essential lifeline for small business success,” Romine said. “As a Huntsville- headquartered bank focused on industrial and commercial banking, Merit Bank is well positioned to be a small business enabler.

“Our bankers not only understand working capital needs, but are vital advisors for businesses growth.”

 

‘Tis the Season to Shop Small Business

Crisp air and the crunch of leaves underfoot seem to suggest that fall has finally arrived in Huntsville, and along with that seasonal shift arrives the promise of the holidays just around the corner.

Cured and Company features charcuterie gifts. (Photo/Olivia Reed)

For many Huntsvillians, the harried pace of the holidays translates to long lists and the merriment of multi-tasking.

Family, full-time jobs, travel commitments, and social engagements crowd the calendar, and modern day “smart shopping” can typically translate to online shopping carts and expedited shipping.

Although big-box retailers such as Amazon and Target can offer a fast fix in the holiday crunch, community leaders advocate that in the long run supporting small business is synonymous with smart shopping.

“As a consumer, you have purchasing power,” said Bekah Schmidt, Executive Director of South Huntsville Business Association. “If you chose to purchase a product for cheaper at a big box retailer instead of shopping local, you send that purchasing power to support a different economy.

“And, while you may see a return in the short run, when you have a strong local economy, you have a strong quality of life.”

Small Business Saturday is Nov. 30 nationwide and, as the date approaches, Huntsville small business owners strive to remind locals that not only do small businesses offer unique finds, they also offer an experience that can’t be found from filling an online shopping cart.

Whether it’s for corporate clients, holiday host/hostesses, teachers, or just friends and family, gift giving can be tricky, and small stores can offer insight, ideas, and inspiration that is harder to come by at big box chains.

This vision of a more personalized purchasing experience was part of the inspiration when Stephanie Lowe and Emily Rogers, co-owners of Cured and Company, created their custom charcuterie board business.

“We know the holidays are a time for gift giving and many people like to gift food for corporate clients,” said Lowe. “We created this business around the idea that food brings people together, and when you are going to someone’s house to a party, instead of bringing wine or liquor, a box of charcuterie is a fabulous gift.

“It’s something special and unique and pretty. And it’s also delicious.”

Like many other small business owners, Lowe says they are creating special items just for the holidays, including wrapped gift boxes of artfully arranged meat and cheese that can serve up to six.

Stylish presentation is another reason shopping small makes for a more unique gift.

Gina Garrett, owner of South Huntsville gift shop Sweet Pineapple, said although they offer complimentary gift wrapping year-round, their holiday packaging is especially beautiful.

Sweet Pineapple offers cozy sweaters by Barefoot Dreams, Ronaldo Jewelry, and a huge selection of candles and other home goods. (Photo/Olivia Reed)

“It’s hard to order something online and it arrive beautifully wrapped,” she said. “And online shopping can be really overwhelming. Once you start scrolling online, you feel like you need to scroll thorough every single thing to see all of your options.

“It’s nice to be able to just walk into a shop where a lovely display has been curated for you.”

Sweet Pineapple offers cozy sweaters by Barefoot Dreams, Ronaldo Jewelry, and a huge selection of candles and other home goods at price points that Garrett says will fit any budget.

For little ones, The Toy Place in Five Points is another spot where in-store service is a key part of the shopping experience.

“There is no algorithm for the investment that a small business makes in its customers,” said owner Susan Blevins. “I take pride in being able to offer guidance to anyone who walks through my door, especially someone who is buying a gift for a child and needs help finding the right item.”

For art enthusiasts and foodies, Harrison Brothers Hardware on the downtown square has become a staple for seeking special and whimsical gifts like gourmet cookware, books, art, fine crafts, and children toys.

TKH Leather Goods by Thad Hooper can be found at OTBX.

And much of Harrison Brother’s merchandise is by local artisans and authors.

Just blocks away from the square, OTBX (Olde Towne Beer Exchange) will offer crate gift bundles with craft beer selections, fun novelty t-shirts, Timbrook toys, and even custom leather goods by local artisan Thad Hooper.

With endless options for unique gifts, exceptional customer care, and the added bonus of supporting a strong local economy, shop owners insist that shopping small isn’t only smart, it’s also a chance to slow down and actually enjoy the season.

“People want an authentic experience,” said Schmidt. “They want to go to Clinton Row and get a cup of coffee at Honest Coffee and then browse the stores like Roosevelt & Co. and In Bloom and Elitaire. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but as a society we are going back to it.

“People crave that authentic find, and that’s exactly what you get when you shop local.”

 

 

‘Corner Office’ Coming to 125 North Side Square

 

 

On the corner of the historic downtown Huntsville square, a new face for an old building is underway.

Jimmy John’s will remain open while the “Corner Office” is under construction. (Photo/Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate)

To be known as the “Corner Office”, the new Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate project at 125 North Side Square will give a much-needed facelift to a property that has seen many lives and uses over the course of its existence. The development will feature retail and modern offices.

A new attractive lobby will be added on the ground floor where offices can receive visitors. There will also be balconies added to the front of the building so, during a busy workday, tenants can step outside and enjoy a breath of fresh air while surveying the busy downtown street below. .

Inside, the spaces will be updated and improved while still maintaining the building’s original charm, such as exposed brick accents.

Contemporary office space will soon occupy the interior of the building.

The first floor will encompass 1,750 square feet of retail/restaurant/entertainment space.

The second and third floors have a combined 7,000 square feet of office space divided into four 1,750-square-foot suites — two on the second floor and two on the third floor.

These suites can also be combined if needed. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Visit crunkletonassociates.com.

 

 

MartinFederal Awarded $3.5 Million RMDA Contract

MartinFederal Consulting has been awarded a two-year, $3.5 million contract by the Army Records Management and Declassification Agency.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with the Records Management and Declassification Agency to provide the highest level of service possible,” said Corey Martin, company president and CEO. “We have a tremendous team with vast experience in records management and are thrilled about this opportunity. “

The Records Management and Declassification Agency is responsible for the entire spectrum of the Army’s interrelated records management programs including Army Records Management, Army Freedom of Information, Army Privacy, Civil Liberties, Joint Services Records Research, and Declassification of Army Records.

Headquartered in Huntsville, MartinFederal is an SBA 8(a) and SDVOSB providing high-tech solutions to the federal government. Visit www.martinfed.com.

Hexagon/Intergraph Celebrates 50 Years of Innovative Software, Mapping and Computer Graphics

There were a lot of headlines in 1969.

The Beatles played their last public concert on the roof of Apple Records and 350,000 young people gathered at Woodstock to protest the Vietnam War.

Bob Thurber: “Our work in hardware and software wasn’t an industry then – it was just the beginning of stuff.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

But while Boeing was debuting its 747 “Jumbo Jet” to the American public, NASA engineers had landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the Moon using the Apollo Guidance Computer. It’s laboriously handmade, read-only rope memory was equivalent to 72 KB of storage today.

Also in 1969, while millions of children watched the Utopian lifestyle of a space age cartoon called “The Jetsons” with its clunky robots and home automated conveyor belt, engineers were making it a reality, linking for the first time, several large-scale, general purpose computers into a network known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET).

It was against this backdrop that IBM engineer James Meadlock, his wife Nancy, and three young engineers Bob Thurber, Terry Schansman and Keith Schonrock left their jobs at IBM on Feb. 10, 1969 to start M&S Computing on South Memorial Parkway in Huntsville.

With the company that became known worldwide as Intergraph and now known as Hexagon, the now-retired Meadlock and his remaining team returned to the sprawling campus and world headquarters in what is now the new Town Madison, for a 50th anniversary celebration.

Hundreds of current and former employees and their families filled the three-level hexagon-shaped building with its towering glass windows and tiered mezzanine overlooking a private lake to hear Meadlock speak.

Intergraph co-founder James Meadlock left IBM in 1969 to help found M&S Computing, the forerunner to Intergraph. (Photo/Steve Babin)

According to Bob Thurber, co-founder and the original executive vice president of the company, IBM got the contract for the instrument unit on the Saturn launch vehicle because they had built the first digital computer on a missile.

“I came out of college with IBM in Huntsville, so when we finished with the Saturn program, we were the renowned experts on putting digital computers onboard missiles,” said Thurber. “We were able to leave IBM with our heads held high.”

Initially, Thurber said all the Army’s weapons systems needed computers on them, so M&S Computing became a consultant for them.

“One of the things we did in the IBM days was build an interactive graphics interface for the simulation of the Saturn launch vehicle,” he said. “You had to run simulations over and over and over again, but if something went wrong within the first 30 seconds of launch, you didn’t know it until you came in the next day. They needed a quicker interactive system to do it.

“That’s how we got started. By running simulations interactively, you could watch the trajectory on the screen and if it blew up or went off-course, you could just stop it, key in some different parameters, and run it again. You could do in a day what had been taking a month.”

That ability to visualize data led to their graphics mapping capabilities, and M&S Computing was the first company to do that as well.

“Our work in hardware and software wasn’t an industry then – it was just the beginning of stuff,” Thurber said. “There were only four companies in the business when we got into it, but we essentially created the core graphics for AutoCAD.”

Thurber said they sold their first three systems around Christmas 1973: an engineering drafting system for 2D drafting to a company in Houston; a system for municipal mapping to the city of Nashville; and a system to the Army Missile Command (AMC). All three were totally separate industries, but they all needed the same basic graphic capabilities.

“We lost a lot of money when we sold Nashville the mapping system,” Thurber said. “The city said to us, ‘Look, we would love to use this stuff, but we don’t want to build all these maps!’ We said, ‘Okay. We’ll do it for you’.

“We charged them $80 per map. The cost was $500 per map, but it really it forced us to make it a good mapping system and it gave us the experience we wouldn’t have gotten had we held their hand while they did it.”

In the end, Nashville was the first city to map its roadways to understand traffic flow, congestion points, etc. all thanks to M&S Computing’s mapping capabilities.

The company then known as M&S Computing rented office space in Huntsville until the 1974 tornado destroyed the Bendix Building on Alabama 20 in Madison. Using insurance money, they were able to reconfigure it to M&S Computing’s requirements.

“The only eating place near our office back then was a Waffle House,” Thurber said with a laugh.

That would be the first of a sprawling campus with more than 4,000 employees, that is today located amidst the bustling new Town Madison development.

In 1981, M&S Computing went public and changed its name to Intergraph. After Meadlock and Thurber retired from the company, Stockholm-based Hexagon purchased Intergraph in 2010 for $2.125 billion.

Meadlock, who lost his beloved wife and business partner Nancy, is quietly retired.

Thurber is active with Huntsville’s tech incubator BizTech, but he says for a company that was the first to develop intelligent applications on top of graphics, the software and computing industry has now moved way past him.

“I still come over and visit and when I see the demos of the work Hexagon is doing now, fifty years later, the capabilities are so much more than graphics,” he said. “But they tell me that our software, M&S Computing’s software, is so integrated into their design and construction process, it cannot be unseated.”

Super Chix Ready to Serve up Trademark Chicken and Frozen Custard

From the folks who brought Five Guys, Nothing Bundt Cakes and other eateries to the Rocket City, comes Super Chix. And, it’s another first for the Patels.

“This will be our first location outside of the Dallas market and we are very excited to partner with local restaurateurs Kumar Patel and Rajesh Patel to bring the concept to Huntsville,” said Nick Ouimet, founder and CEO of Super Chix. “This isn’t fast-food chicken— there are only six ingredients in our breading on our lightly breaded, high-quality tenders and filets, and we believe simple is best.”

The Dallas-based chicken and frozen custard restaurant opened at Times Plaza on South Memorial Parkway.

Ouimet said Super Chix features a “fast-casual dining experience.”

‘We have no drive-thrus and our interiors have a cool, modern vibe that’s perfect for a casual lunch or dinner,” he said. “We’ve developed a product and experience that stand out in the market and caters to all ages and walks of life—everyone enjoys exceptional food in a fun environment.”

The Super Chix Nashville hot chicken sandwich is a specialty of the restaurant.

Super Chix features “never-frozen” tenders and filets, hand-breaded or grilled chicken sandwiches , hand-cut fries and salads. The toppings come from whole vegetables that are delivered daily and sliced by hand. There are also house-made sauces offered like ranch, honey mustard, a signature Super Chix sauce and its Nashville hot chicken sauce that comes on a sandwich or as a dipping sauce.

The restaurant also specializes in frozen custard, which is served as hand-dipped in cones or cups, or in milkshakes and fusions (concretes). Chocolate and vanilla are churned each morning and are always on the menu, and there is a special flavor of the day. Future custard flavors include cookies and cream, Reese’s peanut butter cup, Butterfinger, English coffee toffee, chocolate chip cookie dough, black raspberry cheesecake and more.

“Times Plaza is the perfect location for the new-to-market Super Chix thanks to its easy accessibility and prominent visibility from the parkway,” said Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate leasing agent Anusha Davis. “Nearby professionals have another great option for a fast-casual lunch with healthy and indulgent options and dinner crowds will discover a new excellent eatery they can enjoy with family and friends.

“Super Chix has put together an excellent team here in Huntsville who will operate the brand and ensure that each visit has rave reviews.”

‘Career Signing Day’ Helps Aim Students Toward Building Sciences

National Signing Day is a big event in the lives of high school student-athletes and their families.

The kids announce where they plan to continue their education and take their athletic talents to the next level.

Well, in Huntsville, there is another kind of “signing day.”

For the second time, Huntsville City Schools is hosting a “Career Signing Day,” when students are recognized for continuing their career paths within the fields of building science.

Just look around and you’ll see the demand for builders and tradesmen.

Construction zones and caution tape continue to speckle the city, as developers race to keep up with the demands required to complete projects.

Developments designed to enhance the growing infrastructure of Madison County seem to be popping up everywhere, and with no signs of a slow-down, the need for skilled workers and tradesmen is greater than ever.

“We are partnering with people to create more opportunity for internships and practical experience,” said Todd Watkins, director of Career Tech Education for Huntsville City Schools. “We are going to have interviews prior to the event. We are really excited because it gives our students a chance to do interview sessions.

“Then they can actually graduate high school and go straight to work.”

Turner Construction’s Director of Business Development Tyce Hudson said his company is working closely with area schools to ensure that upcoming graduates are aware of their options, whether they choose to pursue a four-year degree or opt for going directly into the workforce from high school.

“We are trying to get the message out that there are very bright careers in the trade industry right now,” he said. “We see shortages in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing so the demand for those is probably the highest.”

Through the efforts of companies such as Turner Construction, Huntsville City Schools students enrolled in the Career Tech Education Department are able to get practical work experience outside of the classroom by working on actual workplace projects.

Watkins also lauds the district’s newest career tech center at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

The initial program will allow students to work in the hospitality and culinary industries shadowing staff, giving them the opportunity to leave the school campus and report directly to Space & Rocket Center CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart.

Watkins said the increased employment opportunities coupled with the area’s demand for progress equals many more options in the building science arena, whether individuals choose to seek a 4 year degree or not.

“What kids are seeing,” he said, “is that they can be employable right out of school or they can also go to (a four-year college) or a junior college.

“Kids are starting to realize that career tech is not a one-way path.”

 

Stovehouse’s ‘Retailtainment’ Concept to Include Gaslight Alley Retail District

There is nothing new about restaurants and retailers using a little pizzazz to entice customers to buy or experience their products and services.

Mexican restaurants have Mariachi bands; traditional pizza parlors entertain customers twirling pizza crusts; New Orleans chefs shuck oysters and suck crawfish heads for their customers; and retailers have BOGOs and Midnight Madness sales.

Gaslight Alley’s design is inspired by decorated alleys and shops in St. Augustine, Fla., and Lovat Lane in London. (Rendering/Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate)

But, according to Haley Clemons, marketing coordinator for Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group, retailers notice contemporary shoppers and diners are putting more importance on the experience of eating and shopping than they have in the past.

“Businesses in the retail industry are adopting out-of-the-box strategies to attract new audiences that value entertainment and interacting with brands in creative ways,” Clemons said. “Known as ‘retailtainment’ … many concepts are drawing in traffic by going above and beyond the basic shopping trip.”

Yoga-wear stores hosting in-shop fitness classes, or beauty brands encouraging their clientele to participate in the creation of their own purchases, are examples of this.

The Stovehouse Food & Leisure Garden, which is at the heart of the old stove factory property, is the perfect example of a venue conceived on the idea of retailtainment.

They have taken compatible concepts such as casual dining, live music, outdoor games, and special events and brought them together to collaborate. This creates a casual, inclusive atmosphere at the Stovehouse that is extremely popular with millennials.

Stovehouse Phase II: Gaslight Alley

With the success of the Stovehouse Food & Leisure Garden, developers are beginning Phase II where they will essentially repurpose an entirely separate section of the expansive old factory for retail, taking care to maintain the property’s old-world architecture and atmosphere. The “old-world shopping district” is called Gaslight Alley.

“Encompassing several retail spaces along a beautiful cobblestone walkway, Gaslight Alley will be home to all kinds of concepts with the hopes of attracting boutiques, soft goods, home décor, hair salons, and more,” said Clemons. “The possibilities are endless, and the district has already captured businesses — some that are scheduled to make their debut later this year.”

The Burn Collective is already hosting events at Stovehouse and its space will be open soon. (Photo/Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate)

When finished, Gaslight Alley, whose design is inspired by decorated alleys and shops in St. Augustine, Fla., and Lovat Lane in London, will be an eclectic shopping experience and a hotspot for one-stop destination shopping and retailtainment.

Currently, several businesses have set up office space at Stovehouse. Spur, Onyx Aerospace, Star Lab, Liberty Learning, and the Stovehouse Properties team are all housed there.

“Gaslight Alley businesses will also be part of the growing West Huntsville entertainment district that connects to nearby Campus 805,” said Clemons.

Among the committed tenants so far are Charlie Foster’s Coffee, F24 Training and the Burn Collective Fit Studio.

Charlie Foster’s is a locally owned, multi-roaster coffee shop at the entrance to Gaslight Alley. There is the 1,850-square-foot shop with a 500-square-foot outdoor patio. They will sell coffee beans from around the U.S., but the most unique thing about Charlie Foster’s is their plan to offer jobs to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

F45 Training, across from Charlie Foster’s, is a 2,835-square-foot functional training center offering high-intensity group circuit training classes. They will provide themed workouts and bring in a live DJ to get people motivated. They will be opening before the end of the year.

On a more mainstream level, the Burn Collective Fit studio is in the breezeway connecting to Gaslight Alley. They offer individual and group training in cardio, sculpting, and yoga barre classes, as well as athleisure apparel, candles, and jewelry. They are relocating from Franklin Street downtown.

 

Rocket City Trash Pandas, Halsey Foodservice Announce Stadium Partnership

MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas and Halsey Foodservice have announced a long-term strategic partnership for food distribution and stadium sponsorship.

Halsey will be the exclusive provider of food and food service products for the Rocket City Trash Pandas stadium. (Photo/Halsey Foodservice)

With the agreement, Halsey Foodservice will be the exclusive provider of food and food service products for the Trash Pandas’ stadium, which opens in 2020.

“We are excited and honored to have Halsey Foodservice, headquartered in Madison, join the Trash Pandas family,” said team President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Not only is Halsey Foodservice synonymous with quality products and superb customer service, but Halsey is one of the most iconic names in North Alabama’s rich history of growth and community service.

“This partnership will go a long way toward our well-documented goal of making the Trash Pandas’ food and beverage program second-to-none in Minor League Baseball.”

As part of the agreement, Halsey Foodservice has been named a Founding Partner of the Trash Pandas and the new stadium.

The 140-year-old company will be the sponsor of the new stadium’s William L. Halsey Suite Level which will feature a timeline chronicling the company’s history throughout the suite corridor. The W.L. Halsey logo will be prominently displayed at the front of the suite level, as well as on the stadium’s video board in right field.

“Halsey Foodservice is proud to be a part of this latest expansion for Huntsville, Madison, and the surrounding area,” said Owner, President and CEO Cecilia Halsey. “My family and, particularly, my father have long been committed to the growth and success of the Huntsville area from fundraising for the UAH campus, Redstone Arsenal, and his early involvement with the space program. My father’s love for this community has been evident and long-lasting.

“I am committed to carrying on my father’s legacy of community involvement and what better way than to form a strategic partnership with BallCorps and the Rocket City Trash Pandas. The Trash Pandas will be a central catalyst in bringing the community and its people closer together.”

The Trash Pandas will open their inaugural season next year with their home debut set for April 15.

Urgent Care for Children Celebrates Grand Opening of Madison Location

MADISON — Urgent Care for Children, a physician-owned pediatric urgent care provider, has opened an after-hours clinic in Madison.

Urgent Care for Children’s pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners offer acute diagnostic and treatment for non-life-threatening medical needs after-hours and on weekends.

“As a pediatrician, I understand providing quality medical care for your child. As a parent, I understand the convenience that an after-hours clinic offers to busy families,” said UC4C founder and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allury Arora. “Urgent Care for Children was founded on the principles of quality care with less waiting and we look forward to displaying that commitment to our Madison patients and their families.”

Urgent Care for Children treats pediatric patients ages newborn to 21 experiencing non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries ranging from fever and flu to allergies and acute asthma.

The clinic offers an on-site laboratory, x-ray service and in-house pharmacy. Walk-ins are welcome or patients can Save Your Spot online – https://childrensurgent.com/save-your-spot-online/.

“At Urgent Care for Children, we understand that your child’s illnesses or injuries don’t follow normal business hours. We seek to provide quality, compassionate care when you need it most: after school, after bedtime or after your pediatrician’s office is closed,” said Urgent Care for Children CEO Bannon Thorpe. “We are proud to join the medical community in Madison and create a continuum of care for children and families in the Huntsville-area.”

Urgent Care for Children Madison is open everyday and sees patients from 2-10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. The clinic is at 8490 U.S. 72 near Balch Crossing.