Posts

Holiday Shoppers Urged to Shop Small, Save Local and Spend Big

They won’t say “Black Friday”, “Small Business Saturday”, or “Cyber Monday” have been called off this year, but instead, it has been extended to incorporate the entire four weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the Madison Chamber of Commerce, the South Huntsville Main Business Association, Downtown Huntsville Inc., the North Huntsville Business Association, and the cities of Huntsville and Madison have launched a Shop Small, Save Local campaign to support Madison County retailers.

After a long, challenging year of pandemic and shutdowns, the traditional Christmas shopping experience looks a lot different this year than it has in the past, but local small businesses are doing what small businesses do best – they have used a lot of creativity in turning COVID problems into new opportunities, while developing practical solutions like required masks, social distancing, easily accessible sanitizing stations and a whole lot of Plexiglas to improve their business models – perhaps permanently.

Ask yourself – will anyone really miss the traditional mad dash at midnight to lay claim to crowded “Black Friday” doorbusters? Will you miss riding people’s heels to take their parking spot, or wrestling your neighbor out of the last Star Wars Child Animatronic Edition of Yoda?

According to Pammie Jimmar, vice president, Small Business & Events for the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber, local retailers large and small started in October preparing for a longer Christmas shopping experience to help local retailers make up some of what they have lost during the pandemic.

“We have to save our local businesses and that is why the Chamber decided to make a strong statement about it,” said Jimmar. “Traditionally, we celebrate Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, but after what our local businesses have been through this year, we felt it was important to support them all the time, all year long, across the board, and not just on one day or two.”

And it is not just an override of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Before you wear the lettering off Amazon’s “Submit” button online, Shop Small (Business), Save Local asks residents to take a pause and look at the benefits to shopping local small businesses, and spending big while you are at it!

“Everything you can find online, you can also find locally,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “You can hold it in your hand, try it on, and save the wait for it to arrive. You can save the expense of shipping or returns, printing labels, buying postage, and having to go to the post office. It is also efficient since the receiver can easily exchange it for a different color or a different size.

“In terms of whether it is safe, grocery stores, pharmacies and big-ticket stores have found ways to safely adjust to the pandemic and North Alabamians have learned to mask, sanitize, and separate. So, there is no reason why shopping cannot be an even better experience this year.”

“When you shop local, you are supporting local government,” Battle said. “The money comes from sales tax and is used to build roads and run schools – all things we provide in support of our community. Know that when you buy local, you are supporting a school child, a teacher, or someone who might be distance learning. It is very important for us and for our community.”

For years, “Black Friday”, and more recently, “Cyber Monday” have kicked off the retail Christmas shopping season. Even in normal times, those three days following Thanksgiving mark the first time all year that retailers begin to turn a profit – that is, operate “in the black”, after operating at break-even or at a loss – “in the red” – all year prior.

In 2020, to say retailers have operated in the red is a colossal understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged retailers in a way they have never had to face before.

“This is definitely an unusual year for shopping,” said Sameer Singhal, president/CEO of CFD Research Corp. and vice chair of Small Business and Events at the Chamber. “The pandemic makes everything look a little bit different and we have a new normal, but it doesn’t stop us from doing what’s the right thing.

“It is all about our small business owners.”

David Christopherson of Roosevelt and Co., a men’s clothing and supply store in Huntsville, said he wants customers to know how conscientious they are in providing a safe and healthy environment where customers can come in and shop.

“Our team is just three people,” said Christopherson. “So, if one of our employees got COVID, we will be losing a part of our team, so I think all small businesses are very conscious about making masking, sanitizing and distancing a priority.

“We extended our Small Business Saturday deals for the entire week so people won’t feel rushed and they can get down here when they can and feel safe and comfortable in the store.  For those who prefer not to come in, we offer more merchandise on our website than usual and provide curbside pick-up and delivery to make it easy for those people.”

Singhal said many small businesses are handling customers the same way.

“In the early days of the pandemic, I called Wild Birds Unlimited on Whitesburg Drive and bought bird seed and a feeder on the phone,” he said. “The manager met me in the parking lot and put it in the trunk of my car.

“Toy Place in Five Points actually did a Facetime walk-through her store, we picked out a gift, she gift-wrapped it, and we picked it up outside the store without ever getting out of the car.”

Madison Mayor Paul Finley: “I have five boys to shop for and I’m going to be looking forward to shopping locally to make prosperity happen for every store in our community.”

“It is just a different year,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “I think part of what we get to do is be innovative in finding purposeful ways to support our community. Ninety percent of U.S. businesses are categorized as small or medium sized. With this pandemic, about one-third of those businesses right now are either operating on a very basic level or not operating at all.

“I have five boys to shop for and I’m going to be looking forward to shopping locally to make prosperity happen for every store in our community. Let’s make this a really successful, although different, season.”

“The pandemic has impacted us in a lot of ways, but the reality is, you can find more interesting, more unique goods when you shop with our local shops,” said Chad Emerson, president and CEO of Downtown Huntsville Inc. “Gifts you can’t find anywhere else, a lot of exclusive lines in clothing, candles and other gifts.

Downtown Huntsville Inc. CEO Chad Emerson: “… the reality is, you can find more interesting, more unique goods when you shop with our local shops.”

“I want to stress that shopping local isn’t just an altruistic thing to do. It’s different, but one thing that is not different is you can buy everything you need for friends and family locally. You can find interesting and unique gifts whether it is downtown, South Huntsville, North Huntsville or the great Madison community and throughout the County. And remember that a lot of the local boutiques have online stores on their websites where you can request curbside pickup.”

Merrill Wright, interim director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, said shopping local is easy and convenient because you can make a quick stop at a store on your way home from work or school or during a lunch break, to pick up gifts for family and friends.

“We see our small business owners quite often,” Wright said. “We’ve been communicating with them a lot since COVID, and we see the stress they have been under this year. One thing I can say from talking and meeting with them almost daily is, they have a wonderfully positive outlook. They continue to wake up and go to their business in the morning and start every day fresh. And it is not just during the holiday season, it is during the rest of the year as well.

“They need our support whether it is a birthday present or a universal gift, so shop small, local business whenever you can.”

The new North Huntsville Business Association recently introduced Judy Hardin as its executive director. She said North Huntsville’s revitalization projects have helped build relationships between small businesses and the community.

North Huntsville Business Association Executive Director Judy Hardin: “… remember, shopping brings in tourism as well and we all need that.”

“It is the American dream to become an entrepreneur so our business owners are proud of all the new products and services starting up in the area,” said Hardin. “We are having problems due to COVID just like everyone else in Madison County. Small business establishments are supporting each other in getting past the situation, but we are excited and ready to support them because remember, shopping brings in tourism as well and we all need that.”

Bekah Schmidt, executive director of the South Huntsville Main Business Association, said, “This holiday season it is more important than ever to support local businesses. We have great gift guides and if you are buying for the kids, Rocket City Moms website is a valuable tool for ideas.”

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber launched a website this past spring aimed at helping all types of small business retailers, including restaurants. GetYourGiftOn.org is the perfect solution if you are not comfortable shopping in person. It features many local Madison County retail stores and restaurants where customers can purchase gift cards directly on the site. They can be emailed to you or a recipient from the comfort of home. Even though the recipient may not use the gift card until later, the purchase provides financial support to the business owner immediately.

“It is a great way to thank someone and it is free to all local businesses, whether you are a member of the Chamber or not,” said Singhal. “The site is free for businesses to set up a profile and gift cards. In fact, if your company does not currently offer gift cards, you can set them up right there on the site and it only takes about 15 minutes. There is a link at the top to add your business, and a link to set up gift cards if you don’t currently offer them.”

“There are a lot of positives to shopping locally, but the biggest positive is your next door neighbor or your friends may be working at that store, may be part of the economy supporting that store, part of the economy that store supports,” said Battle. “If we take a minute to think about how much these stores mean to us … and support them, we make for a great Christmas for us and a great Christmas for them, a successful holiday season … so shop local and spend big (dollars).”

 

The Bell Still Rings for Madison Station Polar Express Christmas on Main

MADISON — Yes, the bell still rings for any organization wanting to decorate a Christmas tree for the seventh annual Madison Station Polar Express Christmas on Main, but Friday is the final day to register.

Hosted by the City of Madison and the Madison Station Historic Preservation Society, the event kicks off the holiday season with decorated Christmas trees displayed along Main Street in historic downtown and sponsored by the Madison business community.

Part of the Polar Express Christmas on Main, the trees will be on display Nov. 28-Jan. 2. Trees will be selected for the Mayor’s Choice, Most Creative and Honorable Mention awards to be announced at the Jan. 11 City Council meeting.

Trees are $100 for for-profit organizations and $50 for nonprofit organizations and can be decorated Nov. 20-27.

An official tree lighting will take place virtually Nov.29.

The number of Christmas trees available is limited so register by Friday to ensure your company is part of this annual holiday celebration.

For more information, contact the Madison Chamber of Commerce at 256-325-8317.

A Virtual Celebration honors Madison Chamber of Commerce’s Best in Business

MADISON – Virtuous Realty Group was the “virtual” winner for the Madison Start-Up Business of the Year in the annual Madison Chamber of Commerce 2020 Best in Business Awards.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the winners were announced virtually Tuesday afternoon in 13 categories. The winners will be honored  at a dinner Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at Tom Brown’s restaurant in the Target Shopping Center. It will include the winners and Chamber representatives in a small masked and socially distanced event.

Conditioned Air Solutions was named Best Business of the Year and U-Lock-It Storage won the Small Business of the Year category.

Cathy Miller from United Way won Community Servant of the Year; Alice Lessmann from Signalink received the Excellence in Leadership & Service Award and Carlos Mendoza of Edward Jones was the Ambassador of the Year Award winner.

Among the Small Business Awards, Anglin Reichmann Armstrong was recognized as Professional Service Business of the Year and Madison Visionary Partners won Best Non-Profit of the Year.

Fit4Mom-Madison was named Health & Wellness Business of the Year; Hawthorne at the Ridge was the  Essential Services Business of the Year; and Insanity Complex won Culinary Business of the Year.

Huntsville Ballet danced off with the Arts, Entertainment & Hospitality Business of the Year; and Thrive Alabama won Medical Practice of the Year.

 

Madison Community Rocks to Help Those Affected by Pandemic

MADISON — What is so special about a big bag of river rocks?

They can feature an inspirational message, the name of a special person, or an organization on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. These rocks come together to form the Madison River of Hope, a permanent painted rock garden on Bill’s Hill at Dublin Park in Madison. The proceeds go to support people in Madison affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Madison RIver of Hope” features rocks with messages and logos.

The perfect summertime activity for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations and groups have a choice of four types of sponsorship rocks and painting options available through July 11. Donors can paint a name or inspirational message on the stone or a volunteer at the Madison Chamber of Commerce will do it.

“I Wanna Rock” sponsorships start with $10 donations to the Madison River of Hope and include a small People Rock to honor a special person in the community; a $20 donation will go toward a larger Rock Solid stone to support a small business affected by the COVID-19 fight.

With a corporate donation of $500, a company logo can be painted on a large Let’s Rock stone; a $1,000 donation will include a larger stone with special placement in the River of Hope Rock Garden. The company logo and a special message can be painted on the façade as well.

To order the rocks, visit Facebook.com/MVPMadison or contact Liz Brinton at 256-348-4969 or liz.brinton@mvpmadison.org.

The rocks can be picked up and dropped off Tuesdays at Discovery Middle School on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Madison Public Library from 3-6 p.m. They may also be picked up and dropped off weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Dublin Park  and Posh Mommy and Baby Too!.

Contributions to the River of Hope Rock Garden run through July 11.

 

Ya Gotta Eat! Madison Chamber’s Feeding the Frontline Program Extended into June

MADISON — The Madison Chamber of Commerce is continuing donations through this month for Feeding the Frontline.

The program started in April to provide meals for those in the community who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those most-affected include medical professionals, law enforcement and emergency workers, sanitation workers and even postal workers, all of whom have provided essential those services to the community nonstop since the pandemic began.

As a result, Taziki’s Mediterranean Café has delivered hundreds of dinners, and Chick-fil-A has provided hundreds of lunches to workers at Madison Hospital, the Madison Police and Fire departments, HEMSI, Madison Garbage and Trash Service and the Madison Post Office on Hughes Road over the past two months.

Madison restaurants have also delivered hundreds of gift cards to these workers.

Madison Chamber Ambassadors have been active in the community letting people know about the cause and the Madison Chamber thanks all the local businesses and individuals who have contributed, raising more than $5,300. However, until the pandemic has passed, more help is still needed.

Register at Feeding the Frontline to contribute and get a free #MadisonALStrong t-shirt with every $15 donation.

 

Rocket City Trash Pandas: As Much About Fun as Baseball

MADISON — Just weeks away from the Rocket City Trash Pandas throwing their first strike at Toyota Field in Town Madison, the Madison Chamber of Commerce heard from the “Voice of the Trash Pandas,” Josh Caray.

Josh Caray: “It’s about fun, whether you are a baseball fan or not.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

Caray, the team’s Director of Broadcasting and Baseball Information, gave the Chamber a preview of upcoming attractions during its quarterly luncheon at the Best Western Plus on Madison Boulevard.

“Thank you for being the home of the Rocket City Trash Pandas. It’s been wonderful getting to know the community and we look forward to a very long and prosperous relationship,” said Caray. “It’s been a long journey … we are very excited about what we and this community have to offer.

“It’s going to be the talk of the town not just this year, but for the next several decades to come, so we’re excited about it and happy to be a part of it.”

The Trash Pandas make their home debut April 15 in Toyota Field against the Mississippi Braves. They open their inaugural season April 9 in Birmingham against the Barons.

Caray gave an overview of coming attractions for the Trash Pandas and, as odd as it may sound, he said Minor League Baseball is not so much about baseball as it is a carnival atmosphere with a baseball diamond as its crown jewel.

“The great part about Minor League Baseball is that fans will see the best of what the Minor League system has to offer not only in the Trash Pandas, but in the talent on opposing, visiting teams,” he said. “Double-A baseball is a must-stop if you are a big-time prospect.

“At some point, whether a player starts in rookie ball, Single-A, or High-A, they must stop at Double-A at some point [on their way to the Major League] because it’s such an important point of development.

“One day in two or three years, you will flip on the television and see them playing in the Majors, perhaps play in or win the World Series and say, ‘I remember when I saw him hit a ball out of left field in my ballpark’ or ‘I have an autographed picture of me with him’. It’s fun to watch how they are succeeding in their professional careers.”

Fans of the former Huntsville Stars saw that very scenario play out in Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

The other things to understand, he said is that Minor League Baseball is about the experience.

“It’s about fun, whether you are a baseball fan or not,” he said. “You want the Trash Pandas to win, but if they don’t, it’s all right. We want you to watch the game, but we also want you to get up and walk around.

“Baseball is a long game, three hours in most cases and you won’t be able to keep the kids still that long, so walk them over to the (Kids Zone) playground; visit the Team Store and buy some merchandise; go up to the Rock Porch and have drinks with friends; visit the stadium restaurant. And if, at the end of the game you forgot who won or what the score was, so be it.”

Toyota Field will be open year-round and host concerts, weddings, parties, business meetings and the like.

One of the unique aspects of Toyota Field is that it will be open year-round. Caray said there will be concerts and festivals in the ballpark and there will be a hospitality area for weddings and wedding receptions, bachelor parties, company outings, holiday parties and a place for team-building sessions.

The Trash Pandas just hired Executive Chef Ryan Curry, recently named one of the best chefs in Minor League Baseball and there will be a wide variety of great food at the stadium. Panera Bread Company, Outback Steakhouse and The Hub will all be within walking distance of the stadium.

Caray said the field has a 360-degree open concourse so if you have seats behind home plate, you can still get up and walk around the entire complex and still see the game.

“Go sit out on the berm and get a suntan; go watch from the outfield or the (Inline Electric) Rock Porch next to the video gameboard ….,” he said. “When it’s hot, there is an air-conditioned suite area with an outdoor patio, so you have the best of both.”

The stadium holds 7,500, including fixed seats and standing-room. There is a party area beyond the bullpen along the left field wall; hospitality suites that seat 75 to 90 people, perfect for group meetings and parties; and a picnic area for large groups of up to 400.

There are also six single-game suites seating up to 25; and the SportsMed Stadium Club along the first-base line that can be booked as well for non-game day events.

Next season, the Hotel Margaritaville should be up and running and the ballpark will be integrated with it, a lazy river, and a swimming pool.

“We are building a year-round revenue-generator with the baseball park as its crown jewel and fun built up all around it with apartments, homes, high-rises, brewhouses, restaurants, and retail outlets,” Caray said.

“I swear we will have a parking lot!” he said to laughter. “If it stops raining, we will have a parking lot with room for about 2,000 cars; plenty of lighting and a live sound system.”

Caray said single-game tickets go on sale March 14 and will range from $8 to $20. There are still some season tickets available and sponsorship and business opportunities available to get involved with the team.

Since the Trash Pandas’ store opened at Bridge Street Town Centre in November 2018, they are closing in on $3 million in merchandise sales (at the store and online) with customers from as far away as Bora Bora, Paris, Ireland and Alaska.

Furthermore, the Trash Pandas have more than 10,000 Twitter followers and they haven’t thrown a single pitch!

For Caray, broadcasting baseball is a family tradition as he comes from a long line of famous baseball broadcasters.

Josh’s grandfather was Harry Caray, a 53-year Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster best known as the voice of the Chicago Cubs during the 1980s and 1990s when the Cubs aired nationwide on Superstation WGN.

He is the son of the late Skip Caray, the longtime Atlanta Braves broadcaster. His brother, Chip Caray is a TV broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves and Fox Sports.

“My dad was behind the mic when Sid Bream slid across home plate to win the 1992 National League Championship Series on Frank Cabrera’s big hit, and when Marquis Grissom made that winning catch in the 1995 World Series,” said Caray.

All Trash Panda games will be carried live on WUMP 730 AM and 103.9 FM. They will also be streamed online using the TuneIn app, and all home games will air via video streaming on MiLB.com (https://www.milb.com/live-stream-games/subscribe).

“First pitch will be at 6:35 p.m. giving people time to get off work, go home, pick up the kids, and go to the game,” said Caray.

Friday games will begin at 7:05 p.m. Saturdays are Fireworks Night beginning at 6:05 p.m. Sunday games will begin at 2:05 p.m. from April through June and move to 5:05 p.m. July through September to help with the heat. For information, visit trashpandasbaseball.com.

 

 

Finley: State of Madison is Strong; Outback, Panera, Marriott, Hub Coming to Town Madison

MADISON — It wasn’t a stretch for Madison Mayor Paul Finley to make a Super Bowl reference Friday night in his annual State of the City Address.

“This is the second opportunity I have had to give the State of the City Address and on behalf of the City of Madison and the Madison City Council, I am able to say again that the state of the city is strong and continuing to get stronger,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley from beneath the Saturn V rocket at the Davidson Center. “I am so proud to be the mayor of Madison … and if you want some examples, let me give you a couple…,” upon which images of former Bob Jones High School star Reggie Ragland, and Madison Academy’s Jordan Matthews popped up on the big screen to thunderous cheers from the audience.

Madison Mayor Paul Finley delivers his State of the City Address. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Ragland started at linebacker for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs against Matthews’ San Francisco 49ers.

“That’s just cool,” Finley said to even more applause.

Finley also made two “super” announcements at the address that had not yet been revealed.

The first is the city’s upcoming acquisition of the 28,000 square-foot Three Springs juvenile facility on Browns Ferry Road.

The second special announcement concerned Town Madison, the home of the Rocket City Trash Pandas and Toyota Field.

“I’m excited about Three Springs but I am equally excited about Town Madison,” Finley said.

In addition to the recent announcement about J. Alexander’s restaurant coming to Town Madison, Finley said they are also expecting a 200-room Marriott near Toyota Field; Outback Steakhouse and Panera Bread Company will open on the Zierdt Road side of the development and The Hub, a newcomer to the state.

Residents who spend vacation time on the Florida Panhandle will be familiar with The Hub, a relaxing outdoor venue surrounded by live music, ice cream, burgers, and family-friendly movies shown under the stars.

“Town Madison is going to continue to build out,” Finley said. “Outback, Marriott and Panera Bread already have a footprint in the Tennessee Valley, but Town Madison will welcome the first Hub in Alabama.

“The Marriott is the fifth hotel announced – and just so you guys know, the matrix we put in place to fund the stadium had three hotels in that matrix. We are now at five.”

Concerning Three Springs, Finley said the city will be purchasing the empty 33-acre facility, using funds from the sale of the Madison Library. Over the next four to five years, it will be converted it into a community center.

Finley said there are several local entities such as the Madison City Senior Center; the Enrichment Center, which helps schools with counseling; and American Legion Post 229, which is involved in Memorial Day and Veterans Day events around the city that are all bursting at the seams when it comes to parking and office space.

“This purchase will take our city to the next level,” Finley said. “The library is not the right fit for our city right now, so it is up for sale. Over the next five years, you will see other organizations who also need more space, move into the old Three Springs facility.”

Other significant highlights from the speech were updates on sidewalk improvements at Dublin Park to make it safer; the revitalization of an aging Hughes Plaza, a retail center on Hughes Road across from City Hall; and numerous improvements to older office complexes and buildings.

Furthermore, the City Council invested more than $4 million in a new public works facility. They had outgrown the aging building and there wasn’t enough parking for the employees or for the service trucks. The new facility is on 16 acres and they will move into it in a couple of weeks.

Finley shared Census Bureau data showing the growth in Madison’s population over the past 40 years. In 1980, Madison’s population was 4,500. By the 1990s, it was nearly 15,000. There was a big jump in population in 2008 to over 42,000; and in 2019, it has grown to 50,926.

“That is astronomic growth,” Finley said. “In fact, we are in such good shape in our city that our Rocket City Trash Panda mascot, Sprocket, was just named one of the top 20 people locally of 2020.

“Because of what we are doing, we are collectively blowing this growth thing out of the water and the state of Alabama is stronger because this community is stronger.”

There was also a special recognition for Madison City School Superintendent, Robby Parker who is retiring this year; and the mayor announced that the Trash Pandas have broken records, selling over $2 million, in Trash Panda merchandise.

There will be no traffic relief for residents and businesses traveling Madison Boulevard from Zierdt Road to Wall Triana while construction continues on the I-565 interchange at Town Madison; but a greenway extension will run under the railway tracks just south of Palmer Road, into historic downtown Madison where Sealy Realty is building the Avenue Madison, a multi-use residential, retail and commercial development right in the heart of downtown.

“It’s an exciting time right now to be in our city,” said Finley upon conclusion. “We are managing growth, we are open for business, but we are being really smart about it.”

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.

Madison’s Best in ‘buss-iness’: The Physical Therapist, The Technology Specialist, A Shared Kiss, and Two Awards

MADISON — The 2019 Madison Chamber of Commerce Best in Business Awards may have been the most romantic awards presentation ever.

It is tradition that the winner of the previous year’s Best in Business Award in each category present the trophy to the winner of the current year’s award.

However, when Stephanie Johnson, owner of Compass Physical Therapy, presented Michael Johnson, owner of Mosaic Audio Video Integration, with his Small Business of the Year trophy this year, she also gave him a big kiss, much to the oohs and ahhs of a flabbergasted audience!

Michael and Stephanie Johnson keeping Best in Business awards in the family.

“Boy, I wish I had won that award,” someone in the audience piped up to uproarious laughter.

Few in the audience realized at the time that Stephanie and Michael Johnson are married, and both own award-winning small businesses in Madison. Earlier that evening, Stephanie accepted a trophy for the Best Medical Practice – less the kiss of course!

“I was thrilled to have been nominated but I never expected to win because the Small Business of the Year category is very competitive,” said Michael Johnson. “I was excited and honored to have won among so many deserving businesses here in our community.”

Johnson has been in the home automation business for more than 20 years but, five years ago, broke away to form his own company. Specializing in whole home and office automation including smart lighting, motorized window shades, multiroom music and audio, home theatre, cameras and surveillance, as well as Wi-Fi networks for both home and office conference rooms, Johnson said he wears the nickname “The Speaker Guy” as a badge of honor.

“People automatically think about what we do in terms of surround-sound and home theatre, but that is just a small part of what we can do,” he said. “If it’s technology-based electronics and automation, Mosaic Audio Video Integration can help you design and install it.”

In addition to residential, Mosaic does commercial work for companies in Research Park. He said Huntsville and Madison are great markets for technology-based systems because it is a well-educated community where people are in tune with what is available.

Stephanie has been a licensed physical therapist for nearly 15 years but bought the business six years ago, renaming it Compass Physical Therapy in 2017. She specializes in physical therapy for children ages 1 to 18 and includes rehabilitation for special needs children, traumatic pediatric injuries and rehab for school athletics and other injuries resulting from physical activities.

“Alabama is a ‘direct access’ state so anyone can come in and get evaluated without a doctor’s prescription; however, some insurance may require that you get some form of medical preauthorization,” Stephanie said. “If needed, we communicate with the doctor after they come in and let them know what is going on.”

Compass Physical Therapy is also engaged with the local schools. Madison Schools have health advisory boards in which they invite professionals in engineering, IT, and the medical fields into their classrooms to talk to students who are interested in those fields. Stephanie speaks to students and fields questions from them about prepping a career in physical therapy.

“Compass also accommodates student observation hours in the physical therapy field,” she said. “Students interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy, or who may be looking to go to college or physician’s assistant’s school, need observation hours.

“The high schools are aware that we host students here so they can get their observation hours. It can help advance their professional careers.”

She said they also take on student interns when they can. “It’s our way of helping perpetuate the next generation of physical therapists.”

Michael’s expertise is on full display at Stephanie’s practice.

“Music and special lighting are important to inspiring and keeping children engaged during the rehabilitation process,” Stephanie said. “Michael has installed smart lighting and music in some of our work areas that can be adjusted from a tablet-like remote.”

From a business owner’s standpoint, she said her favorite feature is the one-button access to opening and closing her business every day.

“In the morning when I arrive, I usually have my hands full and all I have to do is push one button and the door unlocks and opens,” she said. “It turns on the lights and brings up our favorite TV station in the waiting room. When we leave at night, I push one button and it turns off the lights, sets the thermostat, and locks the door behind me.”

“Stephanie’s work with special needs children has a profound effect on people’s lives. She comes home at night talking about how she helped a baby learn to walk today,” said Michael. “I implemented home automation technology in the master bathroom of a wealthy homeowner that day, so I like to believe that good stuff rubs off on me just a little.”

Clearly it does. Three years ago, the Johnsons began hosting a joint annual fundraiser called Blues, Brews and Booze in which they choose a local charity for which they raise money. Among those charities are Kids to Love, Clothe Our Kids of North Alabama and BeArded Warriors.

“It’s important because the local Madison community has been so great to us,” said Stephanie. “We try find ways we can give back to the community and reach out to people who need help, It has grown from just a handful of supporters three years ago to over 4,000 participants this year.”

Both of the Johnsons give a shout-out to the Madison Chamber of Commerce.

“The Chamber brings Madison small businesses together for networking opportunities, and they really get the business community talking to each other, making it easier to work together when needed,” said Stephanie.

“Madison is a friendly Chamber, involved and engaged with all businesses in our area,” said Michael. “We get together on a regular basis to network and help each other grow. It really is a community effort and we are fortunate the Madison Chamber is so supportive of small business.”

Madison Chamber of Commerce Celebrates Best in Business 2019 Awards

MADISON — Tuesday night was sheer gala for members of the Madison business community as the Madison Chamber of Commerce and Good Samaritan Hospice of Madison awarded Best in Business 2019 awards.

More than a dozen businesses were recognized at the annual dinner and awards presentation at the Insanity Complex Entertainment Center.

The evening was capped off with Janine Nesin of Nesin Therapy Services being awarded the Excellence in Leadership & Service Award. Cassie Scott of the Quadrus Corp. was runner-up.

According to Pam Honeycutt, executive director of the Madison Chamber, the awards categories are evolving every year to better reflect the growth and diversity of the Chamber membership.

“We added arts, entertainment and hospitality categories to the awards this year, and we added a new Culinary Student Program sponsorship, presented by Earfinity,” said Honeycutt. “A $500 check was awarded to Madison City Schools Culinary Program instructor Monica Creekmore for their service to the Chamber throughout the year.”

The winners were Signalink for Best Business of the Year; Capital Management Services for Best Start-up Business of the Year; Mozaic Audio Video Integration for Best Small Business of the Year; and Union Chapel Christian Academy for Best Nonprofit of the Year.

Conditioned Air Solutions; Black Patch Distilling Co.; Air Essentials; and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of North Alabama took runner-up in each category respectively.

Daniel Kasambira of Hogan Family YMCA won Community Servant of the Year with Michelle Linville of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of North Alabama the finalist.

Health and Wellness Business of the Year went to Hot Yoga DeLux & Cryotherapy with Madison Health Mart Pharmacy taking second place. The Dessert Fork won the Culinary Business of the Year with Insanity Complex the runner-up.

Compass Physical Therapy took first place as Medical Practice of the Year; Conditioned Air Solutions won for Essential Service Business of the Year; and Signalink won Professional Service Business of the Year. Good Samaritan Hospice of Madison; Turf Tamer; and Two Men and a Truck were finalists in each of those categories.

In the new Arts, Entertainment & Hospitality category, iHeartMedia took the top prize while Insanity Complex was runner-up.