The Poppy and The Mercantile: Pub, Music Venue Add to Downtown Vibe

Imagine if one could travel back in time to post-World War I Great Britain. What would it be like to sit at the bar in one of those cozy neighborhood pubs? PBD Holdings principals, Paul Daigle, Brian Peoples, and David Clarke think it would be something like their newest venture, The Poppy, which is slated for opening this month.

When it came to project support, “Things literally fell into place,” said Clarke.

With a few introductions made on PBD’s behalf, it didn’t take long before community influencers such as Chris Russell at Cadence Bank, Chad Emerson at Downtown Huntsville, Margaret Anne Goldsmith, and several others came on board.

“It was very well-received,” said Clarke. “Huntsville is very business friendly. We were the first to admit that we needed to build a team, one with good business acumen.

“People we could trust, and we listened. So many people have helped get to this venture going, they’ve been incredible.”

The pub’s name was inspired by the John McCrae’s 1915 poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

“We didn’t want it to be cliché or cheesy to the point that it would alienate non-veterans, but we wanted to honor the ‘Great War’ – World War I,” Clarke said.

When it came to develop the pub theme, Shane Brown, PBD program manager, stepped in to help. He was so impressed with the venture, he invested as a minority owner. A native of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, Shane is a true subject matter expert on pub authenticity.

Inspired by Old No. 7, Brown’s hometown pub in Barnsley, the interior is 1,400 square feet of history recreated.

“We wanted to maintain a conversational atmosphere with a laid back, neighborhood pub vibe,” Clarke said. “A place where folks can indulge in really good beers, English beers, cask beers, a niche that’s been overlooked.” In addition to English beers, there will also be English ciders.

With a 40-foot bar, said Clarke, “We’re really excited about the bar layout, taps on either end, beer engines in the center, it’s a very traditional set-up.”

For those unfamiliar with a beer engine, Clarke said, “There’s a different texture of beer with a beer engine, flavor profiles are easier to discern, smoother.”

The décor will be red oak, stained black, dark red leather, cast brass footrails, and stamped tin ceilings.

Pieces from artist Jacqueline Hurley’s “War Poppy” collection will also adorn the walls.

By the time The Poppy is up and running, The Mercantile will follow suit in late June. Destined to be a space conducive to larger music acts, and hosting special events, such as wedding receptions, The Mercantile promises to be that stop along the way between Birmingham and Nashville, where a national touring act can stop for the night; play gig, grab a meal, do some laundry, and get a decent night’s rest.

The designated music “consigliere,” Jake Peters, Quantaphonics guitarist, said, “Huntsville doesn’t have a venue quite like this. The Mercantile is the perfect space to comfortably accommodate 700-750 people.”

Like spokes on a wheel, Huntsville is geographically central to Nashville, Atlanta, and Birmingham, those bigger cities that are usually on a band’s touring itinerary. The plan isn’t to reinvent Crossroads, that’s not the objective.

“The idea is to create a space that puts Huntsville on the map for major events,” said Clarke.

As a venue “Built by Musicians for Musicians,” there will be significant investment in state-of-the-art sound, light, and stage, to encourage national acts into making a stop in Huntsville, on their way to their next big gig.

For special events, there will be a catering kitchen with lots of electrical capacity. When securing a venue for the October fundraiser, “Chili for Charity,” event co-chair Pam Bouska said, “The Mercantile is the one event space in town that can safely accommodate 35 crockpots of chili without blowing fuses.”

“We are giving back, working with local community foundations, and providing space to nonprofits for special events,” said Clarke. “We are building good long-term relationships and providing something that the community can have as their own.”