Look inside a new creamery in Birmingham

Opening an ice cream shop wasn’t in Ryan and Geri-Martha O’Hara’s immediate plans. But a year and a half ago, those plans changed.

The O’Hara’s always had a passion for food, especially ice cream. Both had worked as professional chefs for eight years; in fact, the couple met while working together at Bottega Café, a local Italian restaurant.

Opening a creamery was a dream of theirs, but a dream they thought they might pursue a few years down the road. But after just three months of marriage, the O’Hara’s realized they had nothing to lose and decided to dive head first into their dream of opening a creamery, and Big Spoon Creamery was born.

“It was difficult at first,” Ryan said. “We knew what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it, but it was kind of a ‘Well how do we do this with no resources’ situation.”

In July 2014, they opened a pop-up shop, a temporary stand, in their driveway in Hoover, and the reaction it got was unexpected at the least.

Southern Living wrote a blog post about the couple’s ice cream, and from that day they never looked back.

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Just a year after planting their business at the end of their driveway, the couple now owns one of the most popular creameries in Birmingham.

Despite their success, or perhaps because of it, the O’Hara’s have stayed true to that early business model. Big Spoon adopted the idea of a pop-up shop for their business. On any given day, you can find their cart somewhere in Birmingham.

They market and let their customers know where they’ll be located that day on their social media sites. They also have a membership club that delivers two pints of ice cream a month to your doorstep. But, what’s made them famous is their sandwiches. The sandwiches are composed of a scoop of handcrafted ice cream squished between two freshly baked cookies.

“The ice cream sandwiches are kind of our bread and butter,” said Ryan. “That’s our staple and what we’ve become known for.”

Unusual flavors and specialty ingredients also contribute to Big Spoon’s popularity. As the seasons begin to change, the couple starts coming up with new flavors to produce. Up for fall are Pumpkin Cream Cheese Gingersnap and Georgia Nell’s Pecan Pie

“Georgia Nell was my grandmother’s name,” O’Hara said. “I’m not saying this because I’m biased, but she really makes the best pecan pie I’ve ever had.”

The O’Hara’s value using local ingredients in their ice cream. They not only try to reach out to local produce and dairy farmers, but also local artisans like Octane, a coffee shop and bar in Homewood.

“We try to work with other local artisans and people who put as much care into their product as we do,” O’Hara said.

But beyond the dream of opening Big Spoon was the hope to serve people.

“If we’re known for having great ice cream, that’s great, and I hope we are,” O’Hara said. “But really more than that we just want to be known for serving people well and treating people well, and that’s all we could really care about.”

The concept of Big Spoon was created out of the couple’s dream, and that dream extends farther than just ice cream. It means enriching the communities of the Steel City and bringing people joy through a simple treat.

“If we can do something special for people in even a small way and touch people’s lives, that’s really all that matters to us,” O’Hara said. “That’s the best part: meeting people, talking to people, sharing our story with people and getting to know people on a personal level, whether it’s our sellers or our customers, whatever it might be, that’s the best part, easily.”

Instagram, @bigspoonbham

Twitter, @BigSpoonBHAM

Facebook, Big Spoon Creamery

 

Vulcans on Parade

For over 80 years the 50-ton Vulcan statue has sat on Red Mountain overlooking the city. He is now joined by two smaller and more colorful versions of himself in downtown Birmingham.

One, with its earthy colors and painted words describing the city, is situated outside of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC). The other, located in Railroad Park, depicts the magic city at night with stars forming Orion and the Big Dipper, two constellations that are often found in the city’s night sky.

These statues are the first of the ongoing Vulcans on Parade project, a partnership between members of the Project Corporate Leadership (PCL) class of 2015 and Vulcan Park and the Museum.

The class of PCL was challenged to create a project that aims to change the negative perception that there is a lack of activities and entertainment in the Birmingham Metro area.

“The idea that we ended up on was to get permission to use the image of Vulcan, make the Vulcan statues and put the statues up at attractions,” Cox said. “We want to use Vulcan to bring attention to local attractions.”

After getting approval from Vulcan Park and Museum to use the Vulcan, the statues are made in Nebraska. Then they are sent back to Birmingham where local artists design and decorate them.

Project Corporate Leadership went through the Birmingham Museum of Art to find people who could design and paint the first two statues, and got Simmons Middle School art teacher Carrie McGrann and local artist Paul Cordes Wilm.

McGrann and Wilm had plain, white fiberglass statues delivered to their homes and several months to paint it.

Forging Ahead by Paul Cordes Wilm
Wilm’s statue, named “Forging Ahead,” is located in front of the BJCC. He wanted it to not only tell a story about how Birmingham has changed, but also to show the god of fire, Vulcan.

“It is an anatomical map of man, but instead of muscles I put strengths and things that Birmingham has achieved,” Wilm said. “I wanted it to be sort of a magical and spiritual map of Birmingham. This is what we have done and this is what we are striving to do.”

There are many elements on the statue that each have meaning. Words like “civil rights,” “industry,” “equality” and “dream” are written on it. Wilm said that these represent Birmingham’s story. A map of Birmingham has been included under Vulcan’s raised arm. Another map of the state of Alabama is on the block next to him with the words “Be Proud” painted above it.

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Magic City Lights by Carrie McGrann
McGrann took a different spin on her statue, named “Magic City Lights,” which is located in Railroad Park.

“I really wanted to go with the theme of Birmingham being the Magic City,” McGrann said.

At the bottom of the statue she painted her perspective of driving into Birmingham at night and seeing all of the red and yellow car lights. Then, on the apron she depicted many downtown buildings at sunset. These colors blend into a night sky as they move up the painting.

“If you look on the chest, there are stars that map out Orion and on the back is the Big Dipper,” McGrann said. “Those are the two things that I learned how to find in the sky here.”

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McGrann and Wilm did not know exactly where their statues were going to go until their reveal in late August.

The group, including Wade Cox, Justin Drummond, Chris Cooper, Ashley Stuckey and Leslie Dobbs, plan to place 18 additional statues in the city by the end of 2016.

Something that many involved in this project have in common is that they have all lived in Birmingham for many years. Wilm, Cox and McGrann all are enthusiastic about how this will bring attention to Birmingham and its many features.

“We are forging a new name for ourselves. We are an innovative, creative and a cool place to be. Come here and see us,” Wilm said.

Vulcan online 

To learn more, visit www.bhamvulcans.com 

Bham Vulcans

@vulcansonparade 

Top 3 Places to Brunch

When the weekend rolls around, it always seems fitting to gather with friends and enjoy brunch. This is a special meal to sit around at a table and enjoy delicious foods that satisfy both breakfast and lunch desires. Birmingham has many unique restaurants that cater to this appetite. Here are a few special brunch spots in the Birmingham area that have a pleasing atmosphere and delicious eats.

THE PANTRY BY STONE HOLLOW FARMSTEAD

17 Dexter Ave. 205.803.3585
Hours of Operation Monday Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday , 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Closed Sundays

The Pantry is filled with high quality, locally grown and imported artisan food. Not only does the fresh food taste amazing, but the atmosphere matches the level of food perfectly-a quaint area with a rustic homey feel. Popular brunch dishes include avocado toast and Belgian waffles. The Pantry has a farm in Harpersville, Alabama. “This is where we source from and we have many different foods for sale inside of their Pantry location,” Deborah Stone, founder of Stone Hollow Farmstead said. Whether it is the lovely detail on their handcrafted meals or the details of decor, you will fall in love with The Pantry the moment you walk in.

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TRATTORIA CENTRALE
207A 20th St. N. 205.202.5612
Hours of Operation
Monday-Friday Breakfast: 7 a.m.-10 a.m. Monday -Friday Lunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Sunday Brunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

The locally sourced Italian cuisine at Tratotria Centrale will leave you wanting more. Located in the heart of downtown Birmingham, this sidewalk cafe specializes in pizzas, pastas, soups, salads and more. Most commonly around town, they are known for their Sunday brunch. Trattoria Centrale’s brunch is an experience you can not get anywhere else in Birmingham. You feel like you have been transported to Italy as you sit outside and people watch. While sticking to its Italian roots, Trattoria Centrale mixes in Southern ties to create an unforgettable Sunday brunch experience.

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OVER EASY CAFE
358 Hollywood Blvd. 205.639.1910
Hours of Operation
Tuesday-Friday Breakfast: 6 a.m.-2 p.m.
Saturday + Sunday : 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Mondays

Over Easy is a great brunch option any day, in any mood. The cuisine is has options for everyone. Whether you want healthy or greasy, hearty or light, sweet or salty, Over Easy does it all and does it all really well. Local ingredients are used whenever possible. The food looks amazing and tastes even better. Over Easy has a simple and fun atmosphere and the most tasty unique breakfast dishes like specialty french toast and omelets.

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IT’S DECEMBER – CUE THE CHRISTMAS MUSIC

Hip Hip Horray! It’s officially acceptable to start playing Christmas music and we couldn’t be more excited! Below is a compiled list of songs that we think will put you in the Christmas spirit! It’s great for the travels home and will definitely help you count down for the holidays! Enjoy!

All I Want for Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
Frosty The Snowman- Ella Fitzgerald
Drummer boy – Justin Beiber
Christmas Lights – Coldplay
Baby It’s Cold Outside – She & Him
Sleigh Ride – KT Tunstall
Last Christmas – Jimmy Eat World
Winter Song – Sara Barilles, Ingrid Michaelson
A Holly Jolly Christmas – Lady Antebellum
White Christmas – Bing Crosby
Christmas Day – Johnnyswim
Rudolph the Red Nose Reighndeer – Jack Johnson
That’s Chistmas – Penatonix
Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby
This Chirstmas – Chris Brown
Silent Night – Priscilla Ahn
Mvmt “Every Bell On Earth Will Ring” – The Oh Hellos
Maybe this Christmas – Ron Sexsmith
My Only Wish – Brittney Spears
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Sam Smith
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Michael Buble
Merry Chirstmas, Happy Holidays – Micahel Henry and Just Robinett

What’s On 2nd?

The store is located on 2nd Ave. N. in the heart of downtown Birmingham. Since its opening in 2007, What’s on 2nd has gained a reputation for being a high-quality antique shop that offers a variety of products and the feeling of nostalgia that can be found looking through the store.

Owned by Steve Gilmer and Michele Wilson, has many antiques to offer to customers, such as vintage postcards, t-shirts, toys and various collectibles.

Gilmer said he liked the location due to the aesthetic appeal of the store as well as where it is in the city.

The shop has become one of many stores to pop up in downtown Birmingham over the last few years in an attempt to make use of some of the older, previously abandoned buildings in the area.

What’s on 2nd has become special thanks to the wide stock of products. Rather than just focusing on one area like a lot of antique stores, What’s on 2nd appeals to many people.

“Some of the more popular products include the cameras and vintage postcards,” Gilmer said.

Upon walking into the store, a customer can find hundreds of postcards from various states dating back many decades.

The store is also filled with past political campaign memorabilia spanning the last five decades of presidential campaigns from Dwight Eisenhower ads to John Kerry posters.

Going upstairs to the second floor, one will find various toys hanging on the wall from popular movies such as Star Wars and X-Men. There are books, comics and pictures of Birmingham taken decades ago. One will also find vintage records by artists such as Elton John and the Bees Gees. Even the store’s restroom is covered in Elvis memorabilia.

“I’ve seen people from New York and California come in and say they don’t have anything like this store there,” Gilmer said.

There is a market for antiques in the Birmingham community and having a store located in a populated area has helped it succeed over the last seven years.

What’s on 2nd is the type of store that is fun to just look around and admire aspects of life decades ago.

Birmingham Track Club: Fueling Friendships

It’s a crisp, fall Saturday morning in the heart of the Magic City, and the elusive sun is far beyond the      horizon, not scheduled to rise for another hour.

As most residents lie asleep in the comfort of their own homes, a sizeable group of runners has converged at the Trak Shak’s downtown Homewood location. Alert and energetic at this young hour, they are ready to embark on lengthy treks that range in distance from seven to 22 miles.

While pounding the pavement at the crack of dawn may not be everybody’s cup of tea, especially on a brisk weekend morning, a dedicated and growing number of people      routinely congregate at the same time every Saturday to start their weekend in the most rewarding way they know.

For some, it begins with a leisurely one-hour trot. For others, it begins with an arduous three-hour grind. But regardless of their varying speeds and distances, all are united by a common factor. As members of the booming Birmingham Track Club (BTC), the runners enjoy a special bond of friendship as they passionately pursue healthy, active lifestyles.
“The Saturday morning group ends up becoming your buddies, your friends,” BTC President Alex Morrow said. “You start off running and then pretty soon, you’re going to movies with them, you’re having dinner, and they become lifelong friends. That’s why running’s so cool.”

The Saturday morning group run represents just one of many club-sponsored events that offer rich opportunities for both aerobic and relational development, providing members with the opportunity to fulfill the club’s original mission.
Founded in 1979 by Dr. Arthur Black, the BTC was launched with hopes of improving the overall health and wellness of Birmingham area residents through running.

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As underscored in the club’s mission statement, the BTC was created “to promote physical fitness throughout the membership and the community, specifically through systematic running and the promulgation of positive health habits.”
Although the club started with only a handful of people, it has grown steadily since its inception and currently boasts 1,300 members.

Much of that membership base, however, is newly acquired, added over the course of the club’s present revival that began just over seven years ago.

“I had always heard stories from the heyday of the Birmingham Track Club when they did all these amazing things and it used to be a big club,” Morrow said.  “When I got involved, there were maybe 500 to 600 runners and the club had dwindled off a little bit, and it just needed something exciting to happen.”

The spark that ignited the BTC’s resurgence, Morrow said, can be credited to former club president Jennifer Andress.

“Jennifer’s a big runner. She’s been featured in Runner’s World and she brought a lot of energy and life to the club, and it really sparked some fun,” Morrow said, “and running has to be fun for you to want to be involved.”

Largely thanks to the added element of fun, club membership has more than doubled since Morrow joined in 2008, making the BTC the largest Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) affiliate in Alabama.

“From her presidency to my presidency, the club’s just continued to grow,” Morrow said. “We’ve instituted more programs, we have more socials, we have more runs and bigger events, and I think people see the value for their dollars now.”

That much is evident.

From free coaching and reduced race fees to an intriguing retailer discount program that includes merchants like Taco Mama and Mountain High Outfitters, there are a number of perks that come with club membership.

Plus, joining the BTC won’t break the bank, as it offers a 50 percent discount to students, military and first responders on the already minimal $24 annual rate.

“That’s a bargain and a half. If you go back to the original guys, Dr. Black and everyone who started the club, you go back to the mission statement, their whole goal was just to get people moving,” Morrow said. “And yeah, we want to have enough money to make sure we can continue the programs we’re offering, but it’s about creating healthy lifestyles.”

One key way of doing that is through building a strong sense of community within the club’s membership. As any former or current runner can attest, there’s motivational power in accountability.

“It’s so much easier to run with a group than to run by yourself,” Mike Ballard, a four-year BTC member, said.
Ballard attends the weekly Saturday morning long runs and various club-sponsored running events throughout the year, noting the sense of community as his favorite club aspect.

“I think just being part of the running community and trying to live a healthy lifestyle with a bunch of other people that are trying to do the same thing,” Ballard said.

In addition to the weekly Saturday morning long runs, the BTC hosts an annual race series, collectively participates in a Triple Crown Half Marathon Challenge and puts on a number of socials throughout the year, including an End of the Year party and a night out at a Birmingham Barons game.

“There’s a lot of different things that take place to kind of foster that community sense,” Morrow said. “We’re doing those types of initiatives to kind of get everybody excited and get them involved.”

As evidenced by the swift pace of growth, coupled with an overwhelmingly positive response from club members, that approach appears to be working.

“It’s just such a great community,” BTC member Kevin Bokus said. “Everyone’s training for similar goals, and it’s just great to have that friendship and support throughout your training.”

Christenberry Planetarium to Host Star of Bethlehem Shows

The Samford University Christenberry Planetarium will host its annual Star of Bethlehem show at select dates and times throughout December, beginning on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m.

The show, which examines the iconic star from an astronomical, historical and biblical perspective, is meant to direct the viewer’s attention to the real reason for the season.

“The show is very much a prayerful meditation in preparation for Christmas,” Planetarium Director David Weigel said, “and it’ll be a good opportunity to sort of reorient your perspective so that you’re focused on the true meaning of Christmas.”

Scheduled to run through Dec. 20, each show is about an hour long.

For more information on dates and times, visit the planetarium’s Facebook page, Christenberry Planetarium at Samford University.

Samford Holiday Traditions Scheduled for Thursday

A pair of Samford holiday traditions, the Hanging of the Green and Lighting of the Way, will take place on Thursday evening.

The Hanging of the Green, a Christmas worship service led by honorees from the senior class, will begin at 6 p.m. in Reid Chapel. The Lighting of the Way, which culminates in the illumination of the campus Christmas tree, will begin at 7 p.m. and take place along Centennial Walk and the University Quad.

Started in 1980, 2015 marks the 35th edition of these cherished holiday events.