The Overall Company Opens to Hundreds

I attended the opening party last night at The Overall Company, which has reopened in the John Emerald Distillery,  and got a chance to talk to Jay and Laura. Thought I’d share that interview with you this morning:

Jerry : So Laura …
Laura: Okay
Jerry : This was the official grand opening party tonight. The crowds have been incredible, how do you feel?
Laura: I’m so grateful everyone’s here, and I’m excited that we’re re-launching and we get to see all our wonderful customers every day.
Jerry : What’s for breakfast, because I’m coming in the morning?
Laura: We’re going to have an amazing hand-crafted lard butter milk biscuit.
Jerry : That’s very much on my diet.
Laura: It will be full of cheese and bacon and available at 7 AM.
Jerry : Okay. Tell me the hours.
Laura: We’re here from 7 to 5, Monday through Wednesday. From 7 to 7 on Thursday through Saturday. We’re closed on Sunday. We will be open for live music and events.
Jerry : The partnership between you and the building and John Emerald seems like the greatest brainstorm idea I’ve ever seen.
Laura: It’s amazing, we love working with John and Jimmy. The space is perfect because we can be open during the day, and they’re open at night, and then we can be co-opened together. I feel like we share the same customer base and it’s an amazing partnership.
Jerry : What was that little spark that started all this, when you decided you needed a new location?
Laura: Jimmy was one of our regulars every day, and we really had a wonderful space, but the overhead was a little too much for us. In talking with Jimmy as he came in, they had this unused tasting room every day, and he suggested that it might be a good idea for us to use it.
Jerry : Actually when you look around the room, there’s probably as much room here as you had before, right?
Laura: I really think so, we can fit twice as many in here, and also overflow onto the street and into the back, and into the rail yard. We’re going to be just fine.
Jerry : Very cool. All in all tonight, a big success?
Laura: A big success, and we’re super-excited to be back, and super-excited to be serving our community every day.
Jerry : So Jay …
Jay: Yes sir.
Jerry : What about tonight’s crowd?
Jay: Fantastic. We had 800 people show up for our grand opening. Blown away, I’m blown away by the community, by the support. Super-grateful to be in business again. I just thank everybody for coming out.
Jerry : The area that you have, what I would say the itty-bitty area’s like … there’s so much in here. This is great.
Jay: Yes sir. We’ve packed a lot of things behind this small little bar. We’ve got our little station, and it seems to really work well with John and Jimmy. Our businesses cross-pollinating with each other. It’s successful so far.
Jerry : I talked to Laura about that earlier in the interview, that this actually … it’s a marriage made in heaven, maybe. I guess, I don’t know.
Jay: I agree, I totally agree.
Jerry : Let’s talk … what can I expect, because I’m coming for breakfast tomorrow. I’m out of town in a week, there’s no food in the refrigerator. What are you cooking for me?
Jay: For breakfast in the mornings, we’re having our Standard Deluxe, with our fermented cheese and bacon biscuit. Probably our most famous item that we serve on the menu. For lunch, we’ve got our Waverley, which is our fermented cheese and ham, Kettle chips on … the bread is from Acre. Then we’ve got the Kettle chips and the pickle. It’s in a nice little box. You just come in, it’s going to be ready right for you, so you just grab and go.
Jerry : The hours are going to be what, again?
Jay: Monday through Wednesday from 7 to 5, Thursday and Friday 7 to 7, and Saturday 8 to 7. Closed on Sunday.
Jerry : Me personally …
Jay: Yes sir.
Jerry : It’s good to have you back.
Jay: Thank you, I appreciate it Jerry, thank you for your support.

James Brothers Bikes Opens Opelika Location on April 1st (Really)

I stuck my head into the new James Brothers Bike this afternoon while out running errands and discovered their opening is tomorrow, April 1st. And trust me folks, this is not a cruel April Fools Prank, like I pulled last year.  So I grabbed the iPhone to ask him a few questions and recorded the results. Here’s that chat!
Jerry: Tell me what the concept is of opening the bike shop over here in Opelika.
Phillip: Why we came to Opelika?
Jerry: Yeah.
Phillip: We saw that the interest in cycling was really growing in Opelika, especially with the bike lanes that are coming into the city, the new Opelika bicycle committee, and our store in Auburn, we have a number of people that are in Opelika that come to our store there. We felt like it was a good opportunity to expand our availability, as well as come into an area that we feel like the cycling community is growing.
Jerry: You actually started over here, didn’t you?
Phillip: We did, about 11 years ago.
Jerry: That’s when I bought my bike, which I don’t ride a lot, but that said, anyway.
Phillip: We’ve had many conversations about.
Jerry: Tell me, what are people going to find when they come here to the shop because it’s very large and looks very well stocked.
Phillip: They’re going to see a wide variety of bikes offered. We’re focusing more on the kind of commuter and mountain bike side, so getting around town bikes, mountain bikes. Then we’re also going to have all the gear that you need, the helmets, shoes, clothes, nutrition, anything like that, but then we also are going to have 6 beers on draft, a few in bottles and cans, to kind of create a community center for cyclists and people that like beer to come and hang out, and a pretty neat environment.
Jerry: People that own a bike that don’t ride that drink beer.
Phillip: More or less, yeah …
Jerry: Yeah, okay.
Phillip: … or they can ride the bike and drink beer.
Jerry: Oh, okay. What brewing companies are providing the beer?
Phillip: We’re going to feature Red Clay, Oskar Blues, and then we’re going to do some other randoms, probably some Alabama beers and then some within the Southeast.
Jerry: Okay, and the hours are going to be?
Phillip: We’re going to be 11 to 7 Tuesday through Friday, and then 11 to 5 on Saturdays, and we’re going to play the evening hours by ear. If we see that there’s a demand for us to be here later, we’ll be here later, but we’re not going to be an 11, 1 o’clock in the morning type of establishment. We’re going to be at the latest 9 or 10 o’clock at night.
Jerry: Okay, trying to keep your marriage together.
Phillip: Yeah. Yeah. All of us are.

The Overall Company Returns in Two Short Weeks

Working at my stand up desk the other morning I noticed a friend walking up the driveway. Not getting a lot of walk up traffic (Thank God), other than the USPS, FedEx or UPS, I headed to the front door for an intercept. It was Laura of the famed Laura and Jay Prichard team, owners of The Overall Company. She was making a swath thru the neighborhood dropping off invites to their special grand opening. I guess if you’ve been away a while, or living in a cave, you may have missed their close of the Avenue B and South 10th Street location.  Well, especially, since someone opened their almost immediately and probably failed to mention the Overall move.  Jay and Laura are so darn nice, you probably thought that giant sign saying “Bless You” was from them, but it wasn’t.
Although the storefront closed in December, they have been busy with a wholesale portion of their business and getting ready for a unique downtown Opelika “Shared Space” location.  So, on April 12th at 7AM, the door of John Emerald Distillery will open and inside, tucked neatly against a back wall will be the coffee bar you’ve missed for several months. Wait, did I say, The Distillery? It’s actually a pretty cool concept and great use of an open space that sits unused during most days.  You see, The Distillery Tasting Room opens later in the day, so why not coffee and biscuits earlier.  At the end of the Overall Business day, the main coffee counter will slip away to a back room to open that space to folks looking for some locally made (and legal) hooch. Open, Monday thru Wednesday from 7AM until 5PM, Thursday & Friday from 7AM until 7PM, and Saturday from 8AM until 7PM.  You can learn more from their website. Be sure to sign up to receive information from them about upcoming events. If you had in the past, you might do it again, as their original list fell into the hands of a, uh, let’s call him a “Hacker.”   Best of luck to these two, that love Opelika as much as we love them.  Home of coffee, pops and biscuits!

Best Weekend Party Spot Shifts Down South Railroad to Eighth & Rail

Rail-AwardIs it just me, or has Downtown Opelika’s Eighth & Rail become the cities number one nighttime party place.  The past several weekends Friday and Saturday Nights are packed with a mix of younger (most are younger than me) and old gathering to meet friends, grab a drink or two and enjoy some of Mike Paterson’s Sushi or Cheesecake. The entertainment this weekend was exceptional with Larry Mitchel on Friday and the Krissy Andrews Band on Saturday. And if the beer seemed a bit colder this past weekend, it might be the upstairs coolers recently acquired from Auburn’s now closed Supper Club. Then Tiffany behind the bar is like no other bartender in the area! We love us some Tiffany!  There has certainly been a shift from what was big downtown to what is big now. Add to it, the fact you can grab dinner within a few steps of this South Railroad Tavern and you have the perfect meet before or after your meal. Of course they did win the “Best Night Spot” in the Reader’s Choice this year!   So, I guess I’ll see you their next weekend!

Parking Problem – What Parking Problem?

FullSizeRender (4)A recent post I made on Facebook has created a firestorm of controversy and finger pointing in the downtown community.  Now I don’t plan to quote a lot of what was said in my post and reactions of others, but I did want to summarize the concerns of some and what seem obvious solutions to ease parking when it gets busy downtown.

The restaurant with the best parking situation the past few years is probably Café 123. The staff parks in the rear and due to the hours when the Café is open, customers generally have plenty of room on South 8th Street and adjoining areas. Most business staff leave town around 5 PM and Café 123 opens at 6 PM. This utopia of parking will probably end with the opening of Zazu in October.

The general guidance for restaurant employees along South Railroad Avenue has been for them to park on North Railroad Ave.  However, most have moved away from that to park on Avenue A, 9th Street or the courthouse parking lot.  I spoke with one server that indicated she didn’t feel safe crossing the tracks to her car in the evening adding that her car had been broken into in the past.

I heard from several retailers that were upset because some local office workers parked in front of their shops taking customer parking. I suspect this will be a problem with a mix of retail and office spaces in the downtown. Someone smarter than me will have to fix that. Also heard comments about construction workers on 8th street taking spaces. I believe that is just part of progress in downtown. A tradesman isn’t going to park blocks from their vehicle that contains the tools they need to perform the work.

One restaurant complained about the closing of North Railroad for a Block party that made it hard for their customers to park and they saw a financial loss on those evenings.  I can see that and think that if logistics could be worked out, the closed block on 1st Avenue might be better for everyone.

Now if you own a building, have a one or two man shop working from there and have been parking in front of your building for 20 years, you probably don’t want to move.  I can see that too.

The city had discussed adding angle parking along South Railroad between 9th and 10th. It certainly needs to fix the angled parking that is there, since the spaces are a bit tight for today’s larger cars and trucks. That seems to have dropped off the radar for now.  The most obvious quick fix would be taking the large lot behind the Museum of East Alabama and doing something there.  I know they have some new board members and maybe something could be worked out with the city leasing for a set number of years.

There is that other thing. We have become a society of park in front and go inside.  We can’t really do that in downtown areas.  If you want that you’ll have the Outback’s and Longhorns of the world. But if you want some of the unique dining and shopping that is Downtown Opelika, then let just try to work this out.  If I circle the block a few times, does that mean I’m going somewhere else to eat, probably not?

Are their legal issues. If you require someone to park in a certain area, do you become responsible for their welfare?

Is there a solution? I would hope so. The answer isn’t childish notes left on the windshield of my truck. It’s not pointing out someone’s improper parking, when you are guilty of it too.  I’d recommend taking concerns to City Council and airing them during citizen communications. I know of at least two council members that have concerns like some of us. By the way, that picture of a very quiet South 8th Street was one day last week about 9:15 AM. The other a sawhorse blocking spaces for an expected motorcycle group.

Alabama “To Go” Beer Sales from Breweries Nearly Possible – Legislative Alert (Updated Post)

Before passage of the Gourmet Bottle Bill, Alabama was the only state that restricted the size of bottled or canned beer to no more than 16 oz. Starting in 2011, Free the Hops began introducing the Gourmet Bottle Bill to raise the limit to 25.4 oz.

On May 16, 2012, Governor Bentley signed the Gourmet Bottle Bill into law, and it goes went effect on August 1, 2012. This allows for many high-end, gourmet beers in Alabama that are only bottled in these larger container sizes. This legislation was also supported by Alabama’s rapidly growing brewing industry as well as the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association.

Now the Legislature is dealing with a bill to allow breweries, like Opelikas new Red Clay Brewery the ability to sell Beer in Growlers direct to the public. Here’s text from an alert from Free the Hops this morning. 

On Wednesday (5/13), the Brewery Job Bill – SB452 – proposed by the Alabama Brewers Guild passed unanimously out of the State Committee.  Next stop is passing the full Senate.  Let’s help the Alabama Brewers Guild get growler sales from the breweries!  Go to http://www.freethehops.org/legislative, enter your address to find your state senator, and tell him or her that you want them to support brewery jobs.

Alabama is the only state that prohibits to-go sales from the brewery or brewpub. SB452 would remove this restriction, allow a bare minimum of growler sales from the brewery, and allow Alabama breweries to compete fairly with the rest of the country. This will lead to new jobs, increased tourism, and new investment in Alabama.

While the local brewing industry has experienced rapid growth in recent years, Alabama is still ranked 50th in economic impact per capita from craft beer. If Alabama were to achieve 2012 national averages, it would add roughly $284 million to state GDP and create nearly 2,500 full-time jobs (PDF). SB452 will not create 2,500 jobs by itself, but removing this unfair restriction on the local brewing industry is a necessary first step.

Free the Hops has asked members to help remove Alabama’s unfair restriction on growler sales from the brewery or brewpub and help  grow craft beer in Alabama!

Telephone calls have a big impact on politicians. If you can, please call your senator’s office on Monday and leave a brief message of support for this important job creation bill in addition to any other messages you send.

Call your senator, then send an email as followup, asking him/her to vote YES for SB452.

The Move to “The Round House” is This Week!

Round House BuildingThis week is “Moving Week” for my work office. It’s actually the official move of several into the new co-work space in downtown Opelika called The Round House.  Several of the group are talented people I have known from the Opelika area for years, others will be new faces with a variety of skills.  My move will probably be later in the week as I wait for a new desk to arrive. Instead of a work station, I’m thinking of it as a new “Productivity Station”. It will be my first ever stand up desk. Having tracked my activity over the past 18 months with a Jawbone bracelet, I know that sitting at a desk just kills my movement and activity each day. It should be fairly easy to see the difference within the first few weeks. My online research tells me that I’ll benefit from a standing desk in many ways from productivity to better health. I’ll have some analytics for you at the end of January.   I’ve included an outside picture of this old warehouse next to the renovated depot in downtown. That first large door is the entrance. Inside, I’d say is an old industrial look. Windows that open from several small offices into a common area are from old since demolished buildings. The One GIG” internet is powered by the City of Opelika fiber service. More later as the Adventure and Social Experiment continue!