Year-to-Date: Huntsville Area has Seen More Than $1 Billion in New Capital Investment and 850 New Jobs

Did someone say there is an economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Well, the facts on the ground do not bear that out here, according to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. 

“With COVID-19, this has certainly been a challenging year, but in spite of all that is happening, Huntsville still continues to see job growth in all parts of our City,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “Whether it’s Torch Technologies in South Huntsville, Dynetics in Cummings Research Park, or TriRx in Chase Industrial Park, there are buildings going up and sites being delivered.

“When you combine that with the ongoing work at North Huntsville Industrial Park with Facebook and Toyota and the numerous projects at Mazda Toyota, it’s a remarkable statement to the resiliency of the Huntsville market and its industries.”

Year-to-date economic growth figures show the Huntsville metropolitan region has accrued more than $1 billion in capital investments from new commercial projects, company expansions, and from companies that have increased the scope of previously announced projects in 2020. That growth will also result in 852 new jobs across the region.

“Throughout 2020, Madison County and Huntsville have continued the work in bringing new and innovative business and industry to our community while also supporting expansions among our industry partners,” said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong. “Our diverse economy continues to be robust year after year. With a focus on workforce development the future of the Rocket City and Redstone Arsenal will continue to drive the economy of Alabama and southern Tennessee.”

The bulk of the growth will come from four large Huntsville company projects and four smaller, but significant, projects this year. However, due to coronavirus restrictions limiting celebratory groundbreakings, grand openings and open house events, many of these projects have been operating under the public radar.

“We want to celebrate every expansion, but this year, it has been challenging to do that in a safe way,” said Lucia Cape, the Chamber’s senior vice president of economic development. “These companies are important to our community and to the people they employ, and we want to recognize their growth.” 

Rendering shows the Freedom-Torch-Invariant facility from the south parking lot.

Torch Technologies leads with $32.3 million in investment on two recent expansion projects that will bring 120 new jobs to Huntsville. 

First announced in April 2018, Torch has completed its Technology Integration and Prototyping Center (TIPC) with two-story office space and an attached 10,000-square-foot high-bay facility at the corner of Chris Drive and Vermont Road in South Huntsville. Constructed by its sister company, Freedom Real Estate & Capital, the center includes a 35,000 square-foot lab and solutions facility.

According to board member and Torch President & CEO John Watson the new facility will allow Torch to take on projects of greater complexity.

“These projects will range from developing instruments that will completely change how warhead testing is accomplished, to re-engineering products that protect our nation,” Watson said.

The second Torch expansion is part of a partnership with the Invariant, a Huntsville-based engineering services and software development company founded in 2001. 

Invariant President David Anderson: “We have been neighbors with Freedom Real Estate and Torch Technologies for several years and look forward to continuing those relationships.” (Rendering/Invariant)

Invariant is investing $430,000 in a 92,000 square-foot facility as part of a mixed-use facility being built by Freedom in South Huntsville. 

The facility will consist of office, research, development, and manufacturing space. They quietly broke ground in May and expect the facility to be complete by next summer. Invariant’s growth will produce 23 new jobs.

“We are excited to grow and expand into this new facility that will provide our employees the resources needed to ensure quality services and products are delivered to our customers,” said Invariant President David Anderson. “We are proud to be a part of Huntsville’s continuing success. We have been neighbors with Freedom Real Estate and Torch Technologies for several years and look forward to continuing those relationships.”

Japan-based freight and logistics provider Nippon Express USA will invest $19.1 million in its location on the campus of Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A. over the next two years. They expect to hire more than 100 employees over that period.

After being acquired by Leidos in January, Dynetics will add up to 200 jobs associated with weapon development work, and has hired hundreds of people this year in support of the Human Landing System and other projects. The expansion brings the company’s local employment to 2,740. 

Those four expansions represent a total of 510 new jobs and $71 million in investment.

Four more companies, Aldez, TriRx Pharmaceuticals, Palco Telecommunications and Ridgeview Industries have also significantly expanded in Huntsville.

Aldez is an inventory management and distribution company and has a new facility near the sprawling Mazda Toyota Manufacturing facility. (Photo/Aldez)

Aldez is an inventory management and distribution company with a focus on the automotive industry. Its operations in the SouthPoint Business Park, a couple of miles from the Mazda Toyota plant, will provide maintenance, repair and operations crib management and distribution center services for the MTMUS facility.

“This new, state-of-the-art facility is a strategic move that will allow us to serve MTMUS manufacturing’s newest automotive facility in Huntsville, Limestone County, and enable further growth with their supplier base,” said Aldez COO Mike Byrne. 

“These economic development projects have changed the future of our county by their investments and job creation,” said Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly. “The opportunities provided to our community through these projects will have a lasting impact for years to come.”

TriRx Pharmaceutical Services celebrated its one-year anniversary in Huntsville in May. According to Timothy C. Tyson, chairman and CEO, the Huntsville Liquids, Creams and Ointments Facility has grown from a small number of employees to more than 250 people as of June. 

“We would like to thank our employees, our customers, and our community for their amazing support,” said Tyson. “We continue to be focused on and dedicated to the patients we serve. This has been an exciting year accented by growth with a passion for delivering on our commitment to our customers. And we have just begun.”

Palco Telecommunications, a post-sales supply chain management company started in Huntsville in 1986; and Ridgeview Industries, Inc., a metal stamping and welded assemblies’ manufacturer for automotive OEM, have also among the announced expansions in Huntsville.

“It is exciting to see these quality organizations continuing to grow, building off of their previous successes and adding even more jobs in our community,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “I am excited about the opportunities these companies bring for our region as we continue to grow together.” 

Huntsville/Madison County Chamber Hosting Virtual Empowering Women in Missile Defense Panel

The face of missile defense is changing as women in the community are increasingly leading missile defense teams. In order to achieve next-generation capabilities, it is vital to maintain discussions from a variety of approaches.

On Wednesday, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber is hosting a free virtual panel on “Empowering Women in Missile Defense.”

The discussion will feature female missile defense experts as they share their experiences and discuss how our community can work together to further expand the role of women in missile defense. 

Panelists are: Patti Dare, Huntsville Site Executive/Strategic Solutions Program Area Director, Raytheon Technologies; Melissa Morrison-Ellis, Program Director, Raytheon Missiles & Defense; Debra Murray, Senior Targets Program Operations Manager, Northrop Grumman; Lynn Troy, Co-Founder /CEO, Troy 7 Inc.

Liz Hurley  of WAFF-TV is the moderator. 

The discussion is 10 a.m. Wednesday. There is no cost to attend, but please register by Tuesday at www.hsvchamber.org. Registrants will be sent a Zoom link.

 

Contenders for 2020 Small Business of the Year Announced

More than 160 businesses and individuals are in contention for top honors at the 35th annual Huntsville-Madison County Chamber Small Business of the Year Awards.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oct. 20 event will be a virtual presentation. It will be from 4-6 p.m. and fees are $25 for individual members and $50 for individual nonmembers.

The categories and contenders are:

Culinary Business of the Year

Emerging Business of the Year

Local “Creative” of the Year

Government Contracting: Professional Services of the Year

Government Contracting: Technology Business of the Year

Medical Practice of the Year

Nonprofit of the Year

Professional Services Business of the Year

Retailer of the Year

Service Business of the Year

Technology Business of the Year

Woman-Owned Business of the Year

Young Professional of the Year

Russell G Brown Executive Leadership Award

On your marks. Get Set. Finish! Athleticism Not Required for Annual .12K Microthon

Butler Green, that .12 kilometer stretch of greenspace at Campus 805 between Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer Brewing, is the site of a most unusual “race.”

The annual Rocket City .12K Microthon steps off Oct. 18. The event is a benefit for the special needs arts program at Merrimack Hall.

And you do not have to be in athletic shape to compete!

In fact, if you can run huffing and puffing, walk upright, crawl on hands and knees, skip like the day is young, or roll triumphantly across the finish line, then you will receive a t-shirt; a finisher’s medal (bottle opener); a Golden Ticket to food and beverage at any participating Campus 805 brewery or restaurant; and a “0.12K” bragging rights sticker that says, “Hey I’m better than you.”

Run in waves, the races and overall festive atmosphere begins runs from 2-4 p.m. Registration cut off is 4 p.m. Oct. 15. To register, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/AL/Huntsville/RocketCityMicrothon)

Three years ago, Lesley and Darryl Burnette started the Rocket City Microthon in honor of their daughter Kate, who was a fan of Merrimack’s programs during her short life.

Merrimack provides visual and performing arts education and cultural activities to children and adults with special needs. In its first two years, the .12K has raised $40,000 for the center and is coordinated completely by volunteers.

There is a $15 Race Fee for the .12K race and other packages include:

  • The Golden Ticket Stand-Alone Package for $15
  • The Runners Package for $25
  • The Slackers Package for $50 does not require any physical effort whatsoever, and yet you get all the swag of crossing the finish line
  • You may add on a Beer Drinker’s Package with two extra Golden Tickets for $15

All county and state COVID-19 guidelines will be in place, including the starting line which is marked with six-foot spacing. The Campus 805 businesses will also observe social distancing in the food and drink lines.

 

Delayed by Pandemic, The Flower Shoppe of Providence is in Full Bloom

“Lo and behold, I’m back!” said Jessa Harris about her return engagement as a florist.

Harris, an author, photographer, and floral artist recently opened The Flower Shoppe of Providence.

And, business seems to be blooming.

“We’ve have had a really good response from the community,” said Harris.

The Flower Shoppe opened its doors Aug. 1 after a delay brought on by the pandemic.

“We listed having a storefront in February, but then COVID hit,” said Harris.

Despite the setback, Harris and her team still managed to create special arrangements during two of the biggest holidays that florists everywhere anticipate.

“We made it through Valentine’s Day, working out of my apartment,” said Harris. “I had a crew of nine helping me get through Mother’s Day. When we did Mother’s Day, we were still in my apartment.”

The Flower Shoppe location is idyllic, just across from the green space in Providence.

“We found this location and we totally gutted it,” said Harris. “It’s gorgeous, it turned out really well.”

In 1997, Harris opened Gunilla’s, her first flower shop. It was housed in an old barbershop on Main Street in Madison.

However, the demands of parenting prompted Harris into closing the shop two years later.

“I had children, went home to raise my babies, and closed the shop,” said Harris. “We closed in 1999, right after Mother’s Day.”

At the time, Harris wasn’t sure if she would return to the floral business.

“I was knee deep in photography, but I had an investor approach me about opening a shop,” she said. “The more we talked about it, the more we considered it, we just thought we’d see what happened if we did.

“And, oh my gosh, it just kind of snowballed!”

The Flower Shoppe is a European-style florist, in that it makes for a great place for friends to gather. There’s inside and outside seating, along with free coffee and tea.

“It’s very community-oriented,” said Harris. “We’ve got this huge table that we work on inside that has barstools around it. You can just come and hang out and chat while we work.”

For those who love bouquets, the Flower Shoppe has a “Fresh Flower Friday” from 3-6 p.m.

“We put buckets of flowers out in our flower cart for you to create your own bouquet and pay by the stem,” said Harris. “We have a lot of men that come and ask us to pull something together so they can take flowers home when they get off work.”

In addition to flower arrangements and other assorted gifts, The Flower Shoppe offers classes in floral design. Harris incorporates her Facebook Live floral design videos into a small instructional event at the shop. The class is limited to eight participants.

For information, visit FlowerShoppeOfProvidence.com

 

With a Heart of Gold, Colin Wayne and Redline Make Products of Steel

TANNER — Decorated Army veteran seriously injured in Afghanistan.

Redline Steel has produced some 5 million products from its 110,000 square-foot facility in SouthPoint Business Park.

Traveling the world as a fitness model.

Entrepreneur and steel manufacturing guru.

Humanitarian and philanthropist in line to receive Huntsville’s “Key to the City”.

A person can accomplish a lot in just 31 years. Ask Huntsville native and social media extraordinaire Colin Wayne.

His company, Redline Steel, is ranked 110th among the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America – and is the fastest-growing company in the state

. In addition, Inc. 5000 recognized Redline Steel as the No. 4 Fastest Growing Manufacturing Company nationally with a recorded growth increase of 3,215 percent from 2019 to 2020.

Quickly becoming one of the largest steel monogram companies in the U.S., Redline Steel is expecting to surpass $100 million in sales by the end of the year.

But, to Wayne, giving to the community is what moves him.

“I am an entrepreneur, but I have always been a humanitarian and philanthropist at heart,” he said.

Wayne’s journey to becoming a steel manufacturing expert has been nothing short of extraordinary.

He was seriously injured in a rocket attack eight years ago in Afghanistan and spent six months in physical therapy and recovery from lumbar fusion surgery on his back.

Transitioning out of the Army in 2013, he traveled the world as a fitness model gracing the cover of more than 50 men’s health magazines and promoting products for Under Armour and Nike.

Moving back to Huntsville in 2015, it was a fortuitous business transaction that led Wayne to steel manufacturing and eventually build Redline Steel into his own company in January 2016.

Colin Wayne makes a presentation to Huntsville Police Capt. Mike Izzo. (Redline Photo)

Since then, Wayne has paid his good fortune back to the local, regional, and national communities that have resulted in his success many times over.

His company donated $50,000 to the Huntsville Police Department and, in 2017, donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross. Redline Steel has also given back to Alabama farmers, veterans groups, schoolteachers, and truckers.

In the meantime, like hundreds of other businesses, Redline Steel has been adversely affected by the pandemic.

But, unlike hundreds of other businesses, he didn’t let it adversely affect his employees. Redline Steel employs more than 85 employees and based on current projections, Wayne expects that to reach over 100 by end of the year.

“When the coronavirus hit this spring, I doubled our workforce, and we did not lay anyone off, even during the worst of it,” Wayne said. “Then, to lessen the negative impact, I paid all our employees’ house payments in April.

“The coronavirus has been challenging because we have struggled like everyone else to find ways to combat it and keep going. It caused a lot of stress on the company’s growth because of the unknowns and we have had more unemployment the past couple months than we have had in over 50 years.

“People aren’t spending like they were before the pandemic, so we had to get creative to find different ways to monetize.”

He said now that almost every state including Alabama has mandatory mask requirements, they began getting a lot of requests for them through their website. They set up a partnership to make and sell face masks but – to him – that wasn’t enough.

“We donated over $4 million in products to provide support for essential healthcare workers and partnered with my friend, actress Megan Fox, to donate $3.2 million to medical support personnel and first responders,” he said.

From its 110,000 square-foot facility in SouthPoint Business Park just off Interstates 65 and 565 in Tanner, Redline Steel manages all manufacturing and fulfillment coming from their online retail store. In its first four years in business, they have moved some 5 million products. Their mostly steel-based products include personalized and monogrammed gifts, home décor, jewelry, children’s items, and accessories.

Colin Wayne takes a selfie with President Trump after a ceremony in Washington.

This year, President Trump invited him to the White House where he awarded Wayne with a signed commendation plaque. They also took a selfie together and Trump bought an American flag from his company’s Patriotic Flag Collection.

More recently, he was nominated for the 2020 Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award in Alabama for Small Businesses and will be receiving Huntsville’s Key to the City recognition for his charitable community involvement.

In August, Redline Steel launched three nonprofit campaigns.

“I look for causes whose missions align with my values and beliefs,” Wayne said. “My five-year-old niece was recently diagnosed with cancer and the Olivia Hope Foundation specializes in pediatric cancer.

“She is currently in remission, but she is still on oral chemotherapy and it is very difficult.”

The Olivia Hope Foundation was created in honor of 11-year-old Olivia Hope LoRusso, who lost a 15-month fight with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Redline Steel is offering exclusive home décor pieces with every donation. For information, visit oliviahope.org.

“We are also launching a campaign with Midnight Mission,” he said. “They feed the homeless and, of course, that is important to me because 70 percent of homeless people are war veterans.”

In August, a long list of Hollywood celebrities teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to promote a social media campaign called #Hammertime. Redline Steel became involved by making a special steel hammer to send to every person who donated $25 or more.

“And Habitat for Humanity,” he said. “They are a much larger organization obviously, but they are also a Christian organization that helps people in need to build homes.”

Moog Expands Huntsville Footprint with Regional Support Center

Another innovative technology company is expanding its presence in Huntsville. 

Moog – the name rhymes with vogue – has opened a regional support center at 360F Quality Circle in Cummings Research Park West.

The company cites the proximity to Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center as key to its long-term growth strategy to better support its aerospace, defense, and industrial customers. 

Martin Bobak, Moog’s vice president defense sustainment, said, “The Regional Support Center will also support growing defense sustainment activities in support of the warfighter.”

The New York-based company specializes in the design and manufacture of advanced motion control products for aerospace, defense, industrial and medical applications. 

The new facility consists of a large laboratory to support local research, development, and testing activities. It also offers abundant office space and essential collaboration space.

Huntsville native Mary Occhipinti takes on the role of Moog’s Huntsville operations’ site manager. She has supported a variety of Moog business groups for more than a decade.

“Huntsville is recognized as a thriving metropolitan area for both business and living,” she said. “With this opening, we have already doubled our local presence and plan to add additional technical positions in the days ahead.” 

For job opportunities, visit www.moog.com/careers.

Moog held a “soft opening” in late August but plans a more formal grand opening based on COVID-19 regulations.

Church Street Family Recruits Executive Sous Chef from Miami

It is a strategic move resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Chef Kannon Swaris

Huntsville restaurateurs Matthew and Stephanie Mell of the Church Street Family Group worked with New York-based celebrity chef Jimmy Canora to conduct a nationwide search for a new executive chef who can help them navigate through unprecedented times for the food and beverage industries.

Officially stepping into the position this week, Executive Chef Kannon Swaris has moved to Huntsville from Miami where he was most recently the Executive Sous Chef at Nobu Miami. He opened Nobu as a junior sous chef, working under Nobu Chef Thomas Buckley. 

He was senior sous chef of Terra Mare at the Conrad Hotel and opened Isabelle’s, an Italian-American restaurant at the Ritz Carlton.

Swaris will oversee all culinary aspects of Church Street Family’s six Huntsville restaurants, supervise menu and restaurant development and direct the hiring and training of the culinary staff at all six venues.

The Church Street Family owns the Church Street Wine Shoppe, Purveyor at the Avenue Huntsville, Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen and Pourhouse at Stovehouse. They are also planning to open two venues: Catacomb435 in September and The Corner Pour in October.

According to the Mells, the challenges of the pandemic on the restaurant and entertainment industries require teamwork and exceptional leadership in order to not only move their company forward, but to raise the hospitality bar and increase tourism and travel to Huntsville during these challenging times. 

“We are extremely excited to introduce Chef Kannon,” said Stephanie Mell. “One of his first undertakings is the redevelopment of menus at all locations where he will infuse his own style and talents into each dish. We feel honored to have him on our team.”

In the meantime, Canora will continue to work with the Mells to further develop the CSF brand. An award-winning cookbook author and corporate consulting chef at Delmonico’s Wall Street, Canora honed his skills at the Tribeca Grill in Manhattan, owned by actor Robert DeNiro. Canora’s latest cookbook Italian Family Traditions with a Twist is due out in October.

Alabama Goods: Distinctive Food and Gifts Made in Alabama

When looking for the perfect gift or gift basket, look no further.

Alabama Goods features art, jewelry, pottery, crafts, and food items from around the state. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Homewood-based Alabama Goods has expanded northward to the Valley Bend shopping center, next to Fleet Feet.

“We’ve been wanting to open a location in Huntsville for a couple of years,” said owner Sherry Hartley. “We would go to Huntsville and ride around, looking for the right spot. When we found this one, we just thought it was a good match for the customer base that will be shopping there.”

What’s so unique about Alabama Goods is the merchandise they carry. It’s all handmade by Alabama artisans.

Alabama Goods got its start in 2008 when Hartley and her business partner Beth Staula teamed up to create their online corporate gift basket business. While serving on a committee with the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Hartley and Staula discussed potential business opportunities.

Staula had been in the business of corporate baskets and Hartley was in website development.  So, the pair began their business venture as a website and a corporate gift company.

There’s a lot of thought that goes into assembling the perfect corporate gift basket.

“Our main thing is that we want our customer, the company to look good,” said Hartley. “We put together pottery, food, all types of gifts. We will put together gift concepts that are not just gourmet foods. We will put together a pottery item and a food item. A lot of times, it’s going to be artwork, a wide variety of things for companies.”

When Hartley and Staula were looking for vendors, they often would come across awesome products that were just not quite “corporate material.”

“We kept finding these really cool items from Alabama but didn’t really qualify to be on the website,” said Hartley. That’s when they decided to open a store.

Alabama-made sauces, spices, jams, jellies and the like will please your palate. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“We opened the Homewood store eight years ago and doubled our space three years ago,” said Hartley. “We decided that we need to be somewhere else in Alabama. I was reading articles all the time about the growth of Huntsville and that’s why Huntsville had been on my radar.”

Along with assorted gift baskets, Alabama Goods boasts one of the largest selections of Alabama-made pottery. The merchandise in the store is highly curated before it reaches the sales floor. Hartley and Staula search far and wide throughout the state for just the right art, jewelry, pottery, crafts, and food items.

“We have so much talent in Alabama,” Hartley said. “it’s just a matter of finding it.”

 

 

 

Renaissance on Meridian Street Brings New Businesses, Attitude

Downtown Huntsville continues to grow, not just upward, as all of the cranes creating the skyline would suggest, but outward as well.

 

Preservation Company opened next door to Holtz Leather in 2017 and is called “Huntsville’s home for historic architecture.” (Photo/Eric Schultz)

One evolving area of growth is north of the city’s center down Meridian Street, where entrenched tenants Brooks & Collier are getting some new business neighbors down the street from its location near Pratt Avenue and the I-565 interchange.

Holtz Leather Company and Preservation Company are in the old Lincoln Mill Commissary. L’Etoile, a French bakery, is a recent move-in and is taking online orders as it prepares for a fall grand opening.

Meanwhile, Greg Brooks of the longtime family-owned Brooks and Collier said the new establishments, and rumors that many more changes to improve the area are in the works, have already attracted new customers.

“I can tell a lot of the younger crowd, I guess millennials is better, right, are coming in,’’ said Brooks, whose grandfather T.E. Brooks and partner Ernest Collier founded the store as a Feed and Seed in downtown Huntsville in 1946.

“That’s a good sign. Half the people who come in now we don’t even know and I’m used to everybody coming in we would know.’’

Brooks and Collier, which has evolved from selling products to farmers to a cosmopolitan shop carrying a variety of items from patio and indoor furniture and hardscapes to grills, has purchased property across the street from its location for a to-be-determined development.

 

Holtz Leather Company offers products for men, women, home and office, corporate gifts and even guitar accessories. (Photo/Eric Schultz)

Meanwhile, Holtz Leather Company moved into a multilevel store at Lincoln Mill four years ago where the production facility is on-site. The company was founded by childhood friends and the now-married team of Rick and Coleen Holtz.

According to developer Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group, the shop offers product lines covering items for men, women, home and office, corporate gifts and even guitar accessories. Holtz also has a large selection of home accents, pens, pottery, hats, and candles.

“We’ve been primarily e-commerce before opening this retail store and still probably 90 percent of our sales come from online,’’ said Becka Christian, the company’s vice president. “But we’ve been really, really impressed with how the retail store has done.

“When we first opened we honestly thought, ‘If it just pays the rent that would be awesome. That’s all we need.’ It’s far exceeded that, which has been really exciting.’’

Preservation Company opened next door to Holtz Leather in 2017 by owners Jason and Christa Butler. Crunkleton describes it as, “Huntsville’s home for historic architecture,’’ and offers “unusually uncommon inventory that blends old and new design.design.’’

In keeping with the family vibe of Meridian Street, former Army officer Kevin Zurmuehlan and his wife Kristen moved in at Lincoln Mill and have a storefront grand opening for L’Etoile planned for October.

“We’re really excited about that,’’ Christian said. “They did a test taste and it was very good.’’

While Brooks wouldn’t reveal details that were discussed at a recent meeting with city planners,, he say add they should inject even more vibrance into the area. However, things have already been on the upswing despite the pandemic.

“I hate to say it,’’ he said, “but it’s the best year we’ve ever had. I think it’s part of the staying at home thing. People are working in the yard and the patio, grilling out a lot. We’ve been out of charcoal for close to a month.

“That’s part of the people hanging out and not going to a restaurant.’’

Who knows what continued improvements could bring to the current and future stores along Meridian Street in one of the oldest neighborhoods in town?