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‘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.”

 

 

Redstone Federal, South Huntsville Business Main Announce Business Facade Grants

South Huntsville is about to undergo a facelift.

Or, rather, a façade lift.

Business owners in South Huntsville will be able to apply for money to improve/update their storefronts through the Façade Improvement Grant Program.

The program, sponsored by Redstone Federal Credit Union, was announced Monday by the South Huntsville Main Business Association.

“With the generous contribution of Redstone Federal Credit Union, we are proud to be able to provide this innovative approach to improving the aesthetics of our district,’’ said Bekah Schmidt, executive director of the South Huntsville Main Business Association. “Façade Improvement Grants have had great success in other Main Street communities, such as Birmingham and Gadsden.

“We look forward to seeing the impact this new Façade Improvement Grant Program has on our district.”

The program is designed to promote the improvement of commercial and multi-use properties in the South Huntsville Main district by helping property owners upgrade, rehabilitate, and preserve the façades of eligible structures in the South Huntsville Main district.

The program aims to make revitalization efforts affordable by providing one-third of matching grant funds up to $5,000. Qualifying applications must identify the source of the additional funds required to complete the project within a calendar year of the award date.

After surveying its business owners, the South Huntsville Main Business Association found that most of the South Huntsville building stock was built before 1980. The market study also indicated that both the consumers and b

Redstone is excited about this opportunity to serve small businesses, said John Cook, the credit union’s vice president of lending.

“Redstone is committed to walking alongside the area’s small businesses owners to provide the resources they need to not only survive, but to thrive and grow,’’ said Cook. “That’s why Redstone is excited to partner with the South Huntsville Main Business Association in supporting the Facade Improvement Grant Program.’’

Façade Improvement Grants are provided to owners who apply, and are selected, in recognition of the positive impacts that individual building improvements can have on overall appearance, quality, growth, and vitality of the district.

Additional benefits of the Façade Improvement Grant Program include:

  • Encouraging new private investment the South Huntsville Main District in the form of fixed asset contributions related to exterior building improvements;
  • Preserving, enhancing, and restoring the historical and architectural significance of buildings in South Huntsville;
  • Perpetuating a positive and proactive business climate in South Huntsville that encourages the revitalization of buildings and supports business improvement.

Interested business and property owners inside the South Huntsville Main district are invited to attend the Façade Improvement Grant Workshop on Sept. 23, at 3 p.m. at the Huntsville Hub. The deadline to apply for the grant allocation is Oct. 15, 2019.

More information, including the application and grant requirements can be found at shba.biz.

 

 

A Brand New Time in South Huntsville or, Rather, a New Brand

In the next couple of months, south Huntsville will enter a new era. In fact, a “brand’ new era.

South Huntsville business owners, community members and government officials are coming together to create a vibrant and thriving district.

Extending from, essentially, Martin Road south to the Tennessee River, South Huntsville Main Street will be a corridor reflecting a diverse lifestyle of work and play.

Just imagine, driving south on the parkway through the Martin Road “tunnel.” On the “ceiling” and the sides are row upon row of colored lights.

Talk about a grand entrance!

And as you exit the “tunnel,” laid out in front of you are banners on the light poles welcoming visitors.

There are local businesses along the road, each touting their wares and inviting customers inside.

The South Huntsville Business Association, with Executive Director Bekah Schmidt and President Jerry Cargile, has been the impetus to improving this part of the city.

A major step was being accepted into Main Street Alabama, a nonprofit organization that uses a national model with a 40-year track record of revitalizing downtowns and neighborhoods.

The process concentrates in four areas: organization, design, promotion and economic vitality. Each one is guided by Main Street’s transformation strategy to remain focused on a specific market-based outcome.

With a solid and active SHBA, the organization stage is answered. The design aspect concerns itself with aesthetics and function, such as the tunnel lights, improved landscaping and redesigned parking areas.

Promotion will incorporate some of the design aspects as well as sharing information and marketing the district. Economic vitality is key in that there must be room and desire for businesses to grow and prosper.

To help in the process, SHBA has launched a South Huntsville Community Survey. It is anonymous and the feedback will help provide direction for businesses to grow in South Huntsville. The findings will be shared with the public at a community meeting June 6. You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/sohunt. For information, visit http://shba.biz/

Also at the meeting, the Main Street Alabama officials will revisit south Huntsville to launch a branding presentation, which includes a logo for the district and several variations of it; a marketing strategy; and other information to help south Huntsville soar to new heights.

(Bud McLaughlin is editor of the Huntsville Business Journal. He can be heard every Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. with Fred Holland on WTKI-FM 105.3 and 1450 AM.)