Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Heritage Area Now a Reality

By Bernie Delinski & Tom Smith
Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What began as a discussion in 1999 became a reality Monday when President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management, which created the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area.

Congressman Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers at The White House on Monday as the bill was signed.

Former Congressman Bud Cramer, who retired in 2008 after serving in Congress for 18 years, first introduced the bill to form the Muscle Shoals Heritage Area in 2001.

"The Shoals has always proven to be a strong driver of our economy in North Alabama," Griffith said. "I am proud to see Congressman Cramer's work to grant National Heritage status to northwest Alabama and its surrounding areas be finalized. The Shoals is home to a rich and unique history that has impacted the cultural, educational and economic development of our entire country."

The Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area will include Wilson Dam, the W.C. Handy Home, the birthplace of Helen Keller, as well as the expanse of Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties.

By being named a National Heritage Area, the Shoals can receive funds from the National Park Service to support publications and marketing for tourism, economic development, historic preservation and other related opportunities. There are 37 National Heritage Areas in the country.

The Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area is the first in Alabama.

Colbert County Tourism Director Susann Hamlin said the designation helps bring clout to the area. She said the National Park Service helps market territories that are part of the area.

"It means prominence," Hamlin said. "This will help our museums and any attractions related to arts. We've gotten recognition from various groups, but to be given this heritage area will make a big difference for us."

Hamlin said the designation fits perfectly with the goal of promoting the area's music heritage and projects related to it, such as the Roots of American Music Trail.

Debbie Wilson, director of the Lauderdale County Tourism Office, said many people have worked toward this designation throughout the years. She mentioned Nancy Gonce, a member of the music trail's project development team, among them. Wilson said the University of North Alabama, Griffith and Cramer also were integral to obtaining the designation.

"It's going to open a lot of doors for additional promotion on the national level and make a lot more people aware of the history we have, especially our music heritage," Wilson said. "It'll also bring more opportunities for grants."

Sue Pilkilton, director of the Helen Keller Birthplace museum in Tuscumbia, said Ivy Green is an example of the type of place that benefits from the designation.

"This brings attention to history and brings attention to tourism," Pilkilton said. "That additional tourism means more people eating in restaurants, staying in hotels and buying gas locally, so it really benefits everybody.

"Not everyone can say that they're just so rich in history and heritage, but that's definitely something the Shoals has."

Griffin said the local coordinating entity for the Muscle Shoals Heritage Area is the Muscle Shoals Regional Center at UNA. It will be responsible for preparing a management plan, submitting an annual report of expenses and income, encouraging economic development, serving as a catalyst for the implementation of projects and programs among partners in the heritage area and making grants to and entering into cooperative agreements with the state.

"The heritage area will create jobs and increase property values for our rural economies across North Alabama," added Griffith. "With unemployment numbers breaking 22-year-old records, this is a great opportunity to jump-start the struggling economies of the Tennessee Valley."

Bernie Delinski can be reached at 740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.

Tom Smith can be reached at 740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Despite Economy, A Few Local Businesses Expand

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Increased unemployment, decreased consumer spending and tighter credit markets. Sounds like a bad time to expand a business, right?

Wrong. Some businesses in the Shoals are bucking the local and national trend of corporations in holding patterns, waiting for better financial times. From fitness to pharmacy, art to stationery, several business have expanded during the record-long recession.

Printer & Stationers, or PSI, completed renovations to their 75-year-old business in November and expanded their commercial focus to include retail.

"We've had this on the drawing board for months," said co-owner Mike Johnson of the 90-day renovation. "Part of bucking the trend is renovating the store and renewing our commitment to downtown."

The owners hired a retail consultant who advised them on roughly 2,000 items that constitute 99 percent of most stationery businesses.

"We wanted to address the retail segment," co-owner Bob Cox said.

PSI has six copier technicians who maintain thousands of copiers. The store also now sells $200 printers. An open house is planned for Friday.

Steven Barnes, owner of Barnes Health Care, said that his vendors gave him incentives to expand after several local banks turned him down for small business loans.

The new location opened in August near the height of the economic meltdown but still managed to expand the floor space from 2,500 to 14,000 square feet.

He finds ways to keep the business active and current. For instance, Barnes leases a display from foot care specialist Aetrex for $250 per month to exhibit orthopedic shoes, insoles and an iStep station that measures foot size, arch and pressure points and displays results on an LCD TV. Golden Technologies, which produces lift chairs, gave Barnes extended payment terms.

"It is difficult to open a business during a recession. People are not spending as far as your smaller items," Barnes said. "We do a lot of insurance (business) compared to cash (business)."

Barnes also developed an online presence in November, which now constitutes 10 percent of his business with 70 packages shipped daily, many out of state.

"We are trying to grow that now so we are not depending on the person buying that toothbrush," Barnes said.

Barnes said small business is the backbone of the American economy, a claim backed by numbers.

Small businesses, defined as those under 500 workers, employ half of American workers, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Other businesses that have recently expanded include:

  • Gold's Gym, which opened a new location on Cox Creek Parkway.
  • Fashion designer Billy Reid will open his Florence headquarters in May after he opened his New York City store in October.
  • McGraw's Coffee House expanded next door into the Artisan Showcase that sells art from 65 artists and offers classes and art demonstrations.
  • Tennessee Valley Printing Co., which includes The Decatur Daily and The Moulton Advertiser, expanded its operation with the acquisition of the TimesDaily.

Expanding businesses are bucking the wait-and-see trend.

"Everybody right now is playing it cautiously, looking for indicators that the economy is showing an uptick," said Steve Holt, president of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce. "Businesses can handle positive news, businesses can handle negative news - iffy news or no news, the business community deals cautiously with that."

David Winkle, owner of Winkle World in Sheffield, said the facility will be getting a facelift, including a reintroduction of go-carts and relining the pool in an effort to try "to get our stuff back in shape."

Instead of loans, Winkle said the company will use cash reserves from the business.

One of the main incentives for the renovations: Material costs for amusement parks have dropped, Winkle said.

By the mid-April opening, Winkle expects to have the go-carts up and running, with bumper boats possibly by early 2010, depending on the economy.

"We're mainly trying to get everything back in shape, then look for additions," Winkle said.

Not only retail businesses are expanding.

Margaret Forsythe, a mechanical engineer and founder of Forsythe & Long Engineering, said the business is in the process of expanding.

The expansion was preceded by lean times when work was extremely slow - the slowest in 15 years of the company's history, Forsythe said.

The engineering firm focused on the auto industry, but Forsythe realized the slowdown a year and a half ago and the firm decided to change focus to what Forsythe called a "recession proof" industry.

Forsythe said during the slowdown, the company used reserve funds and a credit line to keep afloat.

"And I didn't get a bailout," she said.

Trevor Stokes can be reached at 740-5728 or trevor.stokes@TimesDaily.com.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Replica for Park Fountain Approved

By Trevor Stokes
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

At a glance

The issue: Replacement/repair to the Wilson Park fountain.

What's new: The city council voted at its meeting today, on a plan to replicate the bird bath for $32,800.

What's next: If approved, the fountain will undergo six months of work and is expected to resemble the original 1932 fountain.

FLORENCE - After rejecting a granite replacement for the concrete fountain at Wilson Park, the city council is expected to vote on a replica of the 75-year-old structure at its meeting today.

If approved, The Design Center, based in Franklin, Tenn., will build a scaffolding around the fountain and make a rubber mold of the second tier in order to develop a concrete replica. The bottom tier will have a partial rubber mold made as a safety measure in case the structure is unstable, said Councilman Dick Jordan.

The Design Center made a photo-based replica of the third tier, a picture of which is available on the University of North Alabama archival Web site.

A work estimate of the project, in the best-case scenario, is two months.

In December, the council tabled a decision to buy a $28,935 granite surplus fountain that would have been shipped from New York. Several historians were concerned that it was too unlike the fountain that was originally built in 1932.

Jordan, who represents downtown, presented the plan to members of Heritage Preservation Inc., a non-profit community-based historical group. Since the 1970s, the third tulip-like tier on the fountain has been missing, said Billy Ray Warren, Heritage Preservation president.

"Several people have said they know where (the third tier) is, but no one is telling," said Lee Freeman, a historian at the Florence public library.

Through time, the freeze/thaw cycle and water in the fountain have worn the structure, which has exposed rebar and missing concrete chunks, Warren said.

Members of the historical group, including Brent Wood and Ashley Winkle, said the fountain has undergone several changes including an increased water arch and deepened water pool.

The proposed $32,800 fountain replacement, if approved, will be paid for from capital project funds, Jordan said.

Betty Champion, speaking on behalf of the historical preservation group, said they approved of the repairs and commended Jordan for working with them on the plan.

"This is exactly what we wanted," Warren said. "(Jordan) did what a district rep is supposed to do."

Trevor Stokes can be reached at 740-5728 or trevor.stokes@TimesDaily.com.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Scooting Around Downtown

This time last year gas prices threatened to put a stop to the great American pastime of.....driving....alone......long distances. And as gas prices rose, so did the number of two wheeled vehicles buzzing about in Downtown Florence. As the weather warms and the sun starts peeking through, I expect to see the return of the two wheelers.

I even jumped on the band wagon last fall and bought myself this beauty of a scooter! It is the perfect vehicle for toodling around downtown! I love the days I get to drive it. People smile and wave as you pass, some even giggle a bit but they all stop to see what you are driving. (I am sure they just want to be sure I am safe!) So get out and enjoy the friendliness in downtown. If you have a scooter or motorcycle, jump on it to come eat or shop or even just to spend the afternoon in the park with friends. If you aren't fortunate enough to get 80+ miles per gallon, wave to the friendly motorcyclists and scootists (what in the world do we call ourselves?) as they pass! It will make their day and yours!


Longshore Cycle Center
913 Mitchell Boulevard
Florence, AL 35630

Riverview Scooters
120 South Poplar Street
Florence, AL 35630

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rosie's Cantina Perfect Portion, Perfect Price $5.99 Meal

Downtown Florence

302 North Court Street


Enjoy Rosie's NEW

Perfect Portion, Perfect Price $5.99 Meal

11 to 5 Everyday

Entrees come with Mexican Rice, Refried Beans, your choice of a Soft Drink or Tea and Rosie's famous chips and salsa.

Your Choice:

Taco - Beef or Chicken (crispy or soft)
Echilada - Beef, Chicken or Cheese
Quesadilla - Beef or Chicken
Garden Salad* - with Spicy Beef or Taco Chicken
Chalupa - Beef or Chicken
Rosie Changa - Beef or Chicken
Tamale - Shredded Pork

Great Choices.
Great Value.

Please forward to co-workers, family and friends!

For menu or information, call Kim Parker at 256.668.2777 or email unagrad@bellsouth.net.

Have a Rosie Day!

For a limited time, Florence location only.
Price does not include applicable sales tax or gratuity.
*Salad served with drink, chips and salsa only.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Early Photos of Rogers Hall

Courtview, 505 North Court Street, University of North Alabam, Florence, Lauderdale County, AL

Fireplace in front Parlor or Living Room

View Of Front Door In Downstairs Hall

Stairway In Hall

Front View From East


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Reid Headquarters Relocating

Clothing designer moving flagship store downtown

Published in TIMESDAILY: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Famed clothing designer and Florence resident Billy Reid is moving his flagship store and corporate headquarters to downtown Florence.

The Billy Reid clothing name is recognized worldwide and the company has retail stores in New York City, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, Tenn., and Charleston, S.C.

Beginning in late May, company business will be conducted from 114 N. Court St. in Florence, in the building that housed Anderson's Bookland for decades.

Renovations have already started. When completed, the building will showcase the entire Billy Reid men's and women's collections, which were previously shown in full only at the New York store.

Reid's design studio will be placed upstairs, where he will also set up an area to fit customers for his signature hand-tailored, made-to-measure clothing.

The corporate offices will also be housed upstairs in the store, with about two-thirds of the bottom floor being dedicated to distribution, according to Reid. The corporate and warehouse operations are now being conducted in Dallas.

The other third of the downstairs portion of the store will be used for the retail operation. Reid said business in the Shoals has been good since he moved to the area, plus he added that many out-of-town customers shop at the local store.

Reid said Monday that 10 people will be involved in the Florence operation when it opens in late May. He said others will likely be added when the economy rebounds and business returns to normal levels.

"The Bookland building is really a great building with a lot of character and history," Reid said.

"There are some beautiful architectural details in the building, a lot of which had been covered up during moderation efforts. It is our intention to restore it to its original glory by exposing its incredible details and raw charm."

Reid said he and his staff had been contemplating for months the possibility of moving all operations under one roof. He said it made sense to move them to Florence where he lives, and the Anderson's Bookland building made perfect sense.

Billy Reid's local operation has been in the Pickett Place residence in Florence since spring 2004.

"Pickett Place has been a wonderful home for our shop and my studio over the past four years and we have fond memories of our time here," Reid said. "As our business grows, we felt the need to bring all our company's functions and key people to Florence. This move will certainly make us more efficient.

"Our goal all along was to build the company globally from right here in the Shoals, and this is a big step toward those objectives."

New York magazine recently cited Billy Reid as the best men's store in New York City. In 2001, Reid won the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Perry Ellis Award after he released the William Reid collection. His clothing has also earned recognition from media outlets such as GQ, Details, Elle, men.style.com, Vogue and others.

In addition to being available in the Billy Reid stores, the high-scale clothing and accessories are available at billyreid.com.

Reid said online sales continue to be strong.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Downtown Florence is ALIVE

As the weather warms and the days grow longer, Downtown Florence is alive with shoppers, diners, workers and the pale faces of sunlight deprived southerners who have been aching for their slow, sticky hot summer days to begin. You can almost see the citizen's sighs of relief as bare winter gives way to the beautiful spring colors of green leaves lining Downtown Florence sidewalks and bright colorful window displays beckoning strolling pedestrians to walk inside the diverse mix of shops. With each new door opened browsers will find spring's new assortment of goodies from market and a far reaching palette of tastes representing an eclectic mix of the worlds population. Spring is representative of new beginnings, a fresh start. What better time to start your relationship with downtown Florence. Connect with her history and write her future.