Mario’s Five Points: A New Face in a Familiar Place with the Same Attitude

There’s a brand new eatery in an old familiar place with the same eclectic vibe for residents of Five Points in east Huntsville.

Mario’s brings a slice of Italian cuisine to Five Points.

Mario’s Five Points, which had delivered pizza while sharing space with Galen’s restaurant for a few years, now occupies the entire building at what many city residents knew as Mullins Drive-In for decades.

Mullins, famous for its chili dogs and broasted chicken, was long a fixture in the Dallas and Lincoln Mill villages that make up a large part of Five Points. Galen’s, a popular restaurant in New Hope, gave it a go in the city but left to pave the way for Mario’s.

Mario’s, which began with only pizza deliveries, started dine-in service Nov. 8 and is becoming a fast hit in the area. The restaurant still delivers in an area around the store, but Grub South also delivers and provides service throughout the city.

“We’ve had a lot of good feedback and the reviews have been positive,’’ said Dan Thompson, manager, military brat and once a Five Points resident. “We’re seeing significant growth week after week.

“We’re starting to see a lot of repeat customers.’’

Mario Colorado Sr. and his son Mario Colorado Jr. are the owners and chefs. The elder Mario developed the pizza crust recipe.

“He’s been in the business a long time,’’ Thompson said. “He developed a dough recipe. It’s a special proprietary recipe. I’m not allowed to know it. It’s a lot of secrets.’’

The counter in the original part of the building is still there. A large kitchen where most dishes are made from scratch, the Mario Room and the Colorado Room are in the addition Mullins made many years ago.

The motif is dedicated to Five Points and Huntsville. Photos of old landmarks such as Star Market, Tip Top Cafe, Dunavants Mall and the Lyric Theater are just some of the venues featured.

Classic spaghetti and meatballs is a favorite dish.

And there’s much more on the menu than Mario’s Signature pizza. Appetizers, calzones, pasta, salads and sandwiches are available and on Sunday there is a brunch menu.

Thompson, who said he eats at the restaurant daily, said the Signature pizza, Caprese Skewers, Baked Ziti, Power Green Salad, Meatball Hoagie and Pork Scallopini are among his favorites.

For brunch, Chilaquiles, Caprese Traitor Eggs and Italian Hot Brown, which is a twist on the Kentucky version, are popular.

There’s also a large selection of craft beers.

Mario’s has arcade and board games and a drawing wall for children and even a ping pong table. A soundstage is moved in for live music some nights, and there are trivia contests.

Thompson said most of the employees are from the neighborhood and bring “pride in Five Points and in just being a human being.’’

Mario’s is open 2-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. The Sunday brunch menu is available from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mario’s specializes in catering, sells local art off the walls without taking a commission and will open a patio in the spring.

And it’s all done with a Five Points attitude.

“That’s what we’re trying to capture,’’ Thompson said. “We have everything from people wearing three-piece suits to hippies wearing bathrobes come in here.’’

Sitdown With Success: Sheila Cummings Shatters Glass Ceiling One Solution at a Time

(Editor’s Note: “Sitdown With Success” is a monthly feature spotlighting local entrepreneurs and their keys to success and tips for future entrepreneurs)

Dr. Sheila Cummings is shattering the glass ceiling—one aerospace engineering solution at a time.

As a Native American aerospace engineer, small business owner, community leader, and family-focused female, Cummings is at the forefront of Huntsville’s path to the future.

And although she has encountered many challenges along the way, she maintains that those challenges have been the driving force for her determination.

Cummings Aerospace, her grassroots creation, is on the cusp of its 11th anniversary, and we caught up with Cummings to gain some inside into her entrepreneurial success.

Tell us about your background and how you chose aerospace engineering as a career.

I grew up in the Lumbee Tribe of Indians in Pembroke, N.C. I always loved math and science. I had a few mentors in the military who I looked up to, and at one point, I was honestly very focused on joining the Air Force after high school. The recruiter said “we’d love to have you, but we need nurses not pilots” and that ended my dreams of joining the military. But I chose the aerospace path instead because it would allow me the opportunity to pursue working on systems while allowing me to be near aircraft and leverage what I was good at academically.

What initial challenges did you face?

I graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in aerospace engineering. All throughout college, there were maybe three other girls in my graduating class for aerospace, so I definitely chose a field that was male-dominated. I had to figure out how to operate successfully in that domain. I’m from a large family of many brothers and sisters, so building relationships was a natural capability for me. But there is a difference when you are competing academically.

I also didn’t have much outside exposure culturally, so going to a university that was amassed in culture and diversity was in itself a tremendous challenge. But I was driven, and I wanted to succeed and make my family proud. I was a minority but I didn’t allow it to deter me. I used it as fuel for the fire in my belly. I was still in a male dominated force and constantly having to prove myself. As women, we just have to work harder to get recognized.

Once you graduated, how did you begin your career?

I began my career with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., as a government civilian.

After nine years of working for the Navy, I transitioned to becoming a contractor for the Missile Defense Agency, and that’s where my connection to Huntsville began – this was the early stages of BRAC.

In 2005, I helped the Kinetic Energy Interceptor Program and I was responsible for helping the government transition the work force. What was supposed to be a six-month assignment turned into Huntsville into being my home.

Tell us about the origin of Cummings Aerospace and what makes you different as an engineering firm.

I decided in 2009 to break out on my own, largely because of the community’s support of small business start-ups. There were lots of advisors in the community who were encouraging me to start my own company.

Our goal at Cummings Aerospace is technical excellence. Being in the engineering domain is very competitive. We can’t do everything all the time, so what we do, we know we have to do very well. Our reputation resides on it. Quality is very, very important to us. But it’s also much more than that. One of the glorious things about being a small business is that we get the opportunity to be a family and to learn about each other and the family we have created.

What does a successful future look like for you?

I’m probably a little different in that I measure success on the capability we are carrying to the war fighters. How are we contributing to our nation’s defense and protecting the freedoms we enjoy? And how are we helping our engineers to be better and how are we advancing their careers? I want to expand to serve different regions and give back to the Huntsville community and the Native American community, but at the end of the day, I don’t have a specific number in mind. Owning a small business is the best engineering project someone can give you. There are too many variables and a constant pursuit of solutions.

Any advice for future entrepreneurs?

If you are a minority, don’t look at yourself as a minority. Focus on who you are and what you want to achieve and don’t be distracted by the labels that society puts on you.

I think in today’s society people are becoming very accepting of women as engineers. We are still a minority, but we’ve come a long way. The playing field is leveling and I finally feel like I have a seat at the table, but that didn’t come without blood, sweat, and tears.

Being a single mother, I’m not sure I knew what I was getting into initially, but my 3 kids have been my greatest champions. I probably missed one too many family dinners and took them to McDonald’s one too many times, but at the end of the day you just have to ask yourself, am I doing the best I can do?

I’ve definitely have had my share of successes and failures but I wear my scars proudly on my back.

 

Rocket City Trash Pandas Pass $2M Mark in Merchandise Sales

MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas today announced the team surpassed the $2 million mark in merchandise sales Friday – in just more than 13 months of operating.

The team began selling official licensed merchandise in October 2018 following their logo reveal event at Dublin Park in Madison. Since then, the Trash Pandas have sold merchandise in the Trash Pandas Emporium at Bridge Street Town Centre in Huntsville.

The team’s original store proved too small to handle the crowds, so the Trash Pandas moved into double the space in their current location, at the foot of the bridge June 29.

Through Dec. 22, the organization sold $2,031,660.25 in licensed Trash Pandas
merchandise, including $492,157.14 in online sales and $1,5439,503.11 at the Bridge Street location.

“This surpasses even our wildest expectations,” said Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph
Nelson. “We are grateful to our fans throughout North Alabama and the entire Tennessee Valley,
as well as those around the world, for support that is simply unprecedented in Minor League Baseball. As I’ve said repeatedly, I do not believe any fan base has ever embraced a new team
like ours has.

“We are truly humbled by this … and it is only the beginning.”

The Emporium at Bridge Street is the only location in North Alabama to purchase official Trash
Pandas merchandise, season tickets and mini-plans. Merchandise is also available in the online
store: https://trashpandas.milbstore.com/.

The Trash Pandas make their Toyota Field debut April 15, 2020 against the Mississippi Braves.

Project XYZ to Purchase Jamie Cooper Television

ATHENS — A Huntsville-based technical solutions company is planning to purchase the area’s only locally owned television station.

Project XYZ is purchasing Athens-based Jamie Cooper Television, a Class A station broadcast on WTZT-TV.

Kim and Larry Lewis own Project XYZ, which provides expertise in the research, design, development, integration, and sustainment of innovative solutions in engineering, logistics, information technology, and alternative energy.

Gloria and Jamie Cooper have co-owned the station since 2003. Founded Nov. 2, 1988, the station is known under the branding ZTV-11 with the slogan “Local and lovin’ it!” and can be seen on numerous cable systems. The long-running morning show, “Cooper & Company,” will continue to air as well as the “Country Rover Classics.”

“We want to share what’s truly happening in the community, and we see a need for more local programming in this area,” said Kim Lewis. “We want to help meet that need.”

Gloria Cooper said she is looking forward to working with Project XYZ as they grow the station.

“We feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to work with Kim and Larry Lewis as they grow ZTV-11 to new heights,” said Gloria Cooper.  “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and we’re all staying ‘local and lovin’ it’.” 

 WTZT will continue to broadcast local programming, as well as programming from COZI TV, a division of NBCUniversal. The network airs classic television series from the 1950s to the 2000s.

The new ownership agreement is pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission.

South Huntsville Businesses Receive Facade Improvement Grants

There will soon be a new look to some South Huntsville businesses.

Nearly a dozen small businesses will be able to improve their storefronts, facades and even landscaping thanks to Façade Improvement Grants, the South Huntsville Main Business Association announced.

Business owners applied for the grants, sponsored by Redstone Federal Credit Union. The businesses demonstrated how the improvements to their storefronts would affect the overall appearance, quality, growth and vitality of the South Huntsville district.

The grants provide up to two-to-one in matching funds for 11 projects ranging from $800 to $4,000. The total economic impact is $184,000 in the South Huntsville community.

“The Façade Improvement Grants are contributing to a positive business environment in South Huntsville,” said Bekah Schmidt, executive director for the South Huntsville Main Business Association. “Through the grant, we are encouraging the revitalization of buildings and supporting business improvement. We look forward to seeing these projects completed over the next six months, and greatly appreciate our presenting sponsor, Redstone Federal Credit Union for making this all possible.”

The grant program is part of South Huntsville’s participation in the Main Street Alabama, a statewide effort to build stronger communities through effective downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization. South Huntsville was designated a Main Street Alabama community in June 2018.

The following businesses and or shopping centers will be utilizing the matching grant funds to complete façade renovations, building enhancements, or landscape improvements.

  • Angel’s Island Coffee Shop
  • Apollo Animal Hospital
  • Bubby’s Diner
  • Das Stahl Bierhaus
  • Earth Touch Garden Center
  • Eleanor Murphy Library
  • 8200 Memorial Parkway
  • Off the Rack Boutique
  • Main Street South
  • Sabghi’s Jewelers
  • Village Center

For information, call 256-701-2290, email bekah@shba.biz or visit southhuntsvillemain.org/façade.

The Catalyst Receives Grant for Small Business Training Program

As Huntsville and Madison County continue to grow, there’s been an exponential surge in small business development over the past several years.

Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims: “More qualified workers increase the quality of life in our community.” (Photo/Lori Connors)

Here in North Alabama, small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures have been welcomed with open arms.

Economic development is essential for community growth and stability. To that end, the U.S. Small Business Administration recently awarded The Catalyst Center for Business and Entrepreneurship a $350,000 Management & Technical Assistance Program grant.

“I’m delighted to come here and participate,” said SBA Deputy District Director L.D. Ralph at the announcement hosted at Drake State Community and Technical College.

“We are excited about this endeavor,” said Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims. “The overall, overarching goal is to meet the workforce needs and those needs are growing. We are part of the workforce solution.

“More qualified workers increase the quality of life in our community.”

Over the past 21 years, Ralph has enjoyed a strong affiliation with the Catalyst Center, then known as the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama.

“It’s been a long-term, beneficial relationship,” he said.

The program’s assistance encompasses a wide spectrum of services to include one-to-one customized coaching, business training, and networking/matchmaking opportunities. A key goal of the program is to help firms compete for federal, state and local contracts as a prime contractor or subcontractor.

To participate in the free training program, small businesses must be:

  • Owned and managed by economically and/or socially disadvantaged individuals
  • Located in areas of high unemployment or low-income
  • Certified 8(a) participant or HUBZone small business
  • Economically disadvantaged and woman-owned

Resources are provided through SBA’s network of strategic partners, including The Catalyst, Drake State Community and Technical College, Neighborhood Concepts, Regions Bank, Redstone Federal Credit Union, and Live Oak Bank.

Drake State will provide a certificate program in Entrepreneurship. Neighborhood Concepts and Redstone Federal Credit Union are partnered to provide loans through the Business Assistance Microloan Program.

Live Oak Bank will provide support to 7(j) companies relative to mergers and acquisitions and growth through contract mobilization. Regions Bank will provide facilities, coaches and assistance designed to reach low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs within North Alabama.

For information, visit catalystcenter.org

Madison Shoppers Can Follow the Small Business Word Trail to a $250 Grand Prize

MADISON — The Madison Chamber of Commerce is sending shoppers on a word hunt Saturday, in a quest to discover 12 words to complete a secret Small Business Saturday sentence and a chance to win a $250 grand prize.

The Madison Chamber of Commerce is sending shoppers on a word hunt to support Small Business Saturday. (Photo/Madison Chamber of Commerce)

Kick off the Word Trail by downloading the official Madison Small Business Word Trail sheet found here.

Each of 12 participating Madison retail stores have stickers with one secret word from a 12-word sentence. Shop each store and collect all 12 stickers to form the complete secret sentence.

Shoppers whose sheet contains all 12 words must drop their completed sheet into the bucket at the Madison Chamber of Commerce at 103 Spenryn Drive, Suite 100; or take a picture of your completed sheet and email it to felecia@madisonalchamber.com by noon, Dec. 2, to be eligible for a drawing to win the $250 grand prize.

The winner will be drawn at 3 p.m. and will be contacted by phone, email, and/or Facebook Monday afternoon.

The Madison Chamber of Commerce is known for creating fun and quirky promotions such as the Great Chicken Caper at the Madison Business Expo this past spring.

According to Pam Honeycutt, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Word Trail idea was presented to the Chamber by a member business as a way to increase traffic to locally owned businesses on Small Business Saturday.

“We loved the idea, and from there it was just a matter of working out the details and executing it,” said Honeycutt. “We came up with a special 12-word Small Business Saturday sentence, so we needed 12 participating businesses we thought would be fun places to eat or popular with families holiday shopping together.”

All of the participating businesses are home-grown small businesses in Madison or the Madison location of a locally owned franchise with less than 10 full-time employees.

All 12 are members of the Madison Chamber; they are Ace Hardware, Earth & Stone Wood Fired Pizza, Insanity Complex, Interiors by Consign, Madison Station Antiques, Main Street Café, Pet Supplies Plus, Rita’s Italian Ice, South & Pine Home, Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, The Dessert Fork, and Zion Gourmet Popcorn.

“We are excited to offer this new and entertaining way to experience Madison small businesses on Small Business Saturday,” said Honeycutt. “This is a great family fun activity and a wonderful way to shop local for all your holiday gift-giving.

“Supporting all our local businesses, now and throughout the year, enables our community to thrive and grow.”

She said if the Word Trail is successful this year, the Chamber will select different businesses and highlight other Madison shopping areas next year.

The Time is Right to Start a Small Business in Alabama

What a great time to start a business in Huntsville.

Bolstered by a welcoming atmosphere and supported by a conducive business ecosystem, Northern Alabama is, by far, an entrepreneurial mecca.

The Small Business Development Center at UAH recently presented a “Starting a Business in Alabama” workshop. Hosted at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the workshop presented a comprehensive overview of the steps required for starting a small business in Alabama.

Led by Hilary Claybourne, SBDC director and senior consultant, the two-hour workshop focused on the important things a potential entrepreneur needs to consider before starting that new business venture.

A business often comes into being as a solution to a problem. Would-be entrepreneurs need to make sure that their solution is the right one. And if it is the right solution, will people embrace it? What is the unique value proposition? Are there alternatives? How much are customers willing to pay?

“Who is your customer? Where do your potential customers hang out? Go talk to the customer, don’t just talk to your best friends about your business idea,” said Claybourne. “Just because you think it’s a great idea, doesn’t mean it is.

“Do your primary and secondary market research, evaluate the competition. Find out about things that have failed and why they failed. There’s a plethora of secondary research available; it will arm you to be better at primary research.”

It’s also important for potential entrepreneurs to familiarize themselves with the various legal entities and determine which ones are best for their business.

“I encourage to clients to incorporate,” said Claybourne. “You’re at risk as a small business; you can get sued as a sole proprietor. As a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or S Corp, you can define your business. You will have to be able to track the finances. If you’re a sole proprietor, your business is more likely to be audited by the IRS. If you incorporate as an S-Corp or an LLC, the IRS expects you to have business expenses.”

“Partnerships aren’t my favorite business form. Partnerships have twice the liability and half the profits. A (LLC) gives you much more flexibility; it’s easier to modify structures.”

For those seeking financial resources to fund their ventures, “You’ve got to start a business first before you can get a loan,” said Claybourne. She also recommends that startups “do it as cheaply as you can using your own resources first.”

“An exception to that would be planning for the unexpected,” said Claybourne. “To set up a line of credit, just in case something happens. Banks will lend money when your credit is good. So, it’s a good idea to have that line of credit when things are good.

“Realize that you can’t be an expert at everything. Get acquainted with your business ‘Core Four’: You will need a good accountant, business lawyer, banker, and business advisors.”

Vertiv Joins Stovehouse as Newest Office Tenant

Vertiv, a global IT infrastructure provider, will join the Stovehouse development on Governors Drive in West Huntsville, according to a release from Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate and Stovehouse Properties.

Recently ranked as the No. 1 supplier of remote IT management devices worldwide by analytics IHS Markit, Vertiv  expects to complete its move by the first quarter next year and will remain open at its facility on Corporate Drive during the move. Vertiv brings together hardware, software, analytics and ongoing services for data centers, communications networks and commercial and industrial facilities.

“Our new site at Stovehouse will help us match the facility to our people and our business,” said Patrick Quirk, vice president and general manager, IT systems at Vertiv. “When we decided to relocate, we prioritized finding a facility that captured the innovative nature of our company. We have roots as a small, Huntsville-based IT management device startup (formerly Cybex, then Avocent), so having the chance to connect our history with the historic Martin Stove factory was an opportunity we couldn’t miss. It should be able to accommodate our growth for years to come.

“We are excited to create a modern, collaborative work environment that builds on the bones of this historic structure. Our new office will incorporate a state-of-the-science development data center, training and demo space within a high-energy, community-driven environment. We plan to make it a place that will draw in fresh new talent and take care of our current employees.”

The owners of Stovehouse said they are excited to have Vertiv on board.

“It’s an honor to have Vertiv join our list of office tenants at the Stovehouse campus,” said Danny Yancey, owner and developer of Stovehouse. “We hope that the development will offer several amenities that are coveted in the modern workplace, like access to local cuisine, fitness studios, leisure activities, and many other things we plan to add in the future.

“Vertiv will be able to highlight these features when attracting new talent to its team.”

Estimates show when Stovehouse is at full capacity there will be around 500 people working on campus daily at the businesses along with thousands of visitors coming for food and nightly entertainment throughout the week.

“Stovehouse was created to blend the modern workplace with opportunities for leisure,” said Crunkleton’s Eric St. John. “Developers have put together an exceptional space for both emerging and established businesses like Vertiv. Office users have an enhanced quality of life thanks to other nearby services that make their workday more enjoyable and productive.”

 

Regymen Fitness: Feel the Burn … and Afterburn

Ready to Burn, Box, and Build?

Then, let’s get HLIT with High Level Intensity Training at Regymen Fitness in Times Plaza on South Parkway.

Featuring a trailblazing method that’s guaranteed to disrupt any ho-hum workout routine, Regymen’s Burn-Box-Build consists of three programs in 90-minute intervals. Designed to challenge your body for muscle gain, calorie burn, flexibility, and agility, the workouts have been developed with variety and excitement in mind, to prevent muscle complacency and boredom.

“In the world of boutique fitness, most are concentrated on one form,” said Jason Haynes, owner of the Huntsville location. “We offer a lot more variety for our customers; not just for individuals, but for families, too.”

The Regymen program maximizes the potential of afterburn, Haynes said. Scientifically known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), afterburn is caused by the body’s need for oxygen after cardio and resistance training. It must replenish its energy sources to return to its normal state. The body needs to consume energy, and that energy comes directly from the body. This is how calories really burn.

After a long career in federal government, Haynes always had a long-term vision of owning his own business. Jason, his wife Anu, and their two sons enjoy an active lifestyle based on health and fitness.

Regymen Fitness owner Jason Haynes. (Photo/Steve Babin)

After their oldest son, Steven, graduated with a degree in exercise science, he got a job with the Regymen studio in Niceville, Fla. Steven liked the premise and the corporate culture, encouraging his dad to check it out.

Soon after, Jason met with the corporate team, “It seemed like a perfect fit,” he said.

Regymen’s corporate headquarters are in Baton Rouge and the company strongly emphasizes pre-testing at its four locations.

“They’re visionaries, continuously evolving their product in front of industry leaders,” said Haynes. “A lot of forward-thinking staff with a great understanding of fitness. It’s not a closed system; there’s a continuous feedback loop. All the coaches from the studios dial in weekly for ‘boots on the ground;’ not just the fitness side, but the corporate side, too.”

Haynes said the studio provides a local-feel, unique to the Huntsville-Madison County community.

“Regymen’s corporate culture is for us to be involved with the community, getting out into the community, having social events and hosting monthly events to build relationships that go beyond a workout,” said Haynes.