There’s No Place Like Homewood

Have you ever heard of some of the suburbs of Birmingham and wanted to visit, but weren’t sure what to do there? We here at The Local will take time over the next four weeks to take you to the most popular neighborhoods of Birmingham and highlight the best things to do there.

Homewood is a thriving suburb south of Birmingham that balances the world of commercial retail and local joints, making this city a unique place to spend the day touring.

When you first arrive in Homewood, shop around and get something to eat on the iconic 18th Street in downtown Homewood. The strip of diverse stores and restaurants will bring the small-town feeling to life as you pop in and out of the locally run shops.

18th Street in downtown Homewood.

Next, drive less than a mile over to Do It Yourself Crafts to immerse yourself in a creative and relaxing environment. From making pottery and painting to glass fusing and decorating ornaments, there are a wide variety of crafts you and your friends can make together. Classes are offered throughout the week and spaces are available for parties and group events.

Urban Air is the next stop, especially if you have kids with you. Let them get all their energy out at the indoor trampoline park as they jump on wall-to-wall trampolines, dunk

Homewood antique store in the Edgewood neighborhood.

basketballs in super tall baskets, play dodgeball and flip into the huge foam pits. The family-friendly trampoline park hosts birthday parties for all ages.

 

When it’s time for dinner, the Edgewood neighborhood of Homewood will satisfy your hunger. With all types of cuisines, it’ll be hard to choose what to eat.

Once you’ve finished up your meal (and ice cream from the local creamery) stroll down to Homewood Park, where you can play ball or watch the sunset.

 

Homewood Park

Let us know how your day in Homewood was in the comments below.

 

My Magic City Success: Heidi Elnora

This is the third installment of a three-part series that explores the nature of successful businessmen and women in Birmingham.

________

“Pray about [starting a business]. Pray for God’s guidance and diligence.”

Heidi Elnora came to be one of Birmingham’s most well- known bridal gown designers by accident.
Literally.

Soon after she was eliminated from Lifetime’s Project Runway series, Elnora was in a car accident. She was living in Atlanta at the time and moved to Alabama to recover and be close to her mother. While she was here, she met the man who would become her husband.

The couple settled down in Birmingham and a new realm of work opportunity opened up for her. “How can I take what I love to do and make it special for someone else? And what’s more special than a wedding dress?” she said.

Design has always been a passion for the Morris Ave. business owner. As her bridal store, hiedi elnora Atelier, continues to grow, she is driven every day to give the boutique a welcoming atmosphere. “The best part about the job is the brides.” Elnora said. “It’s about how good they feel in their dress, and I want them to feel con dent in what they are wearing.”

While business plans and loans can be intimidating, look for organizations that can assist you in making these rst crucial steps. Elnora used a local business-training organization that helped her get her feet on the ground. “They helped me write my business plan, and I was also able to get my very rst loan at 25,” she said.

Eagerness to engage with customers and diligence to create the best product can evolve into incomparable opportunities. With Elnora’s success in the Magic City, she has been involved in numerous projects including starring in her own television show on TLC, Bride by Design. “I loved doing it because I really got to showcase my work,” she said.

Passion can be contagious, especially when you have a celebrated product. In Elnora’s case, her craft’s in uence is not con ned to the borders of the United States. “I’ve had people as far as Dubai y in,” she said.

While business owners are always looking for ways to expand and grow, milestones are convenient points when you can regroup and look ahead to the future. Elnora continues to look to the future, as this year marks the boutique’s 10th anniversary. “We are moving to e-commerce and have just opened up our new 8,000 square-foot shop,” she said. But this expansion will not push away her end goal. “I want to live a happy life. No amount of fame or notoriety will fulfill me.”

My Magic City Success: Will Pearson

This is the first installment of a three-part series that explores the nature of successful businessmen and women in Birmingham.

Success is a difficult term to define, and it can be hard to pinpoint where you draw the line between successful and unsuccessful. Some Birmingham entrepreneurs have found that success is never quite achieved. As a result, they keep pushing themselves and their companies to innovate and create engaging products that promote culture and creativity in the Magic City.

________
“A lot of people hesitate to start something if they feel like it won’t be great from day one. There is something to be said about being willing to just get out there even before you know it’s going to be a premium product.”

Passion drives some people to set goals and to work to make them happen. Will Pearson concocted the magazine Mental Floss through conversations with college friends who had the desire to be intellectually stimulated and help others learn about areas outside of their realm of study.

“From day one, we were waking up every day and thinking, ‘How do we take Mental Floss a step forward?’” Pearson said.

Hard work stems from passion and is essential to a start-up, and “non-stop focus” made Pearson’s dream a reality. From working summer jobs to asking campus departments for donations, there is nothing Pearson wouldn’t do to get his magazine started. “The term ‘irrational commitment’ is something we talk about quite frequently that it has taken to make this work,” Pearson said.

Mental Floss has taken off since its initial conception in Pearson’s Duke University dorm room, with more than 160,000 magazines in circulation per issue and 20 million unique visitors to its website every month. The growth only fuels his eagerness for the brand. “We were just as excited about it when it was 5,000 people as we are now,” Pearson said.

Although Pearson sold the company to Dennis Publishing in 2011, he is still active in finding the most reliable and relatable avenues for the magazine and digital components to give information to its consumers.

Connections inside the industry push careers and business ideas to the next level. Passionate conversations about your goals can open doors, leading to more doors, that will eventually bring you to the audience you want in front of you. Pearson communicated his ideas to anyone that would listen. Even through telling a friend’s mom in New York City about the magazine’s plans connected him to a future publisher.

“It’s about getting something out there and saying ‘we’re going to do this,’” Pearson said. “It’s not where it needs to be, but have people look at it, understand where we want it to go and see it evolve over time.”

In a successful business, you must always think about the audience you are trying to reach. Pearson has had to adapt with Mental Floss over the years in order to best engage his audience in a world of communication that is constantly changing and shifting. In fact, Mental Floss is moving away from the magazine altogether at the end of 2016 and will move to a completely digital world.

But Pearson continues to be open to ideas that allow him to invest in new areas where the company can engage its audience. He is experimenting with new methods to communicate with consumers while also using effective digital platforms such as YouTube and Twitter to provide enough information that they are able to stand alone from their print counterpart. “Part of why it worked was because we didn’t have a rule book saying if you launch a magazine you must do these things exactly. I think we brought a fresh perspective to it,” said Pearson.

Research about your industry will also move your career plans forward. Keep learning and stay updated on the latest news in your field because it will unfailingly fuel your passion. Pearson owes a lot of the magazine’s success to studying what was happening in the media world around him. “Learning as much as we possibly could about the industry and about anything we could do was such a huge part of this and then communicating that with as many people as we could,” he said, as Mental Floss continues to blend the ever-changing world of intellect and culture.

Banditos in search of BIG break

Photo courtesy of David McClister

Guitarist Corey Parsons sits down with The Local to discuss the band’s goals, influences and accomplishments.

The Banditos are natives of the Birmingham area, but currently live in Nashville as they pursue their music career fulltime. The band is comprised of six friends who describe themselves as more of a “gang” than a musical group. This rag-tag gang has been making music together for more than five years now. They started out playing in bars and out on the streets around downtown Birmingham. Now, they have put out a full-length, self-titled, album with a second album on the way. Guitarist Corey Parsons recently discussed the band’s journey with The Local.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have overcome as a band?

Being able to make a living by playing music is a challenge within itself.

How does the music you play relate back to your everyday lives?

Definitely, most everything we write has came from personal experience. And if not, it certainly does now.

What other artists (past or present) inspire you? 

Too many to name, but I’ll name a few that come to mind for the sake of the interview. Chuck Berry, Etta James, Gram Parsons, Ramones, Lightnin’ Hopkins, 13th Floor Elevators, Sly and the Family Stone, Dr Hook, Bob Seger, The Banana Splits, etc.

What are the band’s long term goals? 

To do our best to smooth the rough edges of life for anyone needing so.

What would you want your fans to know about the band that they might not?

We’re genuinely appreciative of them.

What inspires the lyrics for y’all’s songs?

It’s different every time, but we all take from personal experiences in some way or another.

What has been y’all’s biggest accomplishment so far? 

We just finished recording our second album. We’re pretty proud of it.

 

 

 

A Building for the People

The Pizitz Building experiences new life as it reopens its doors for the first time since 1988.

In the early 1900s, a young Polish man named Louis Pizitz opened his first store, known as the “People’s Store,” in the heart of downtown Birmingham. According to historian Tim Hollis, the name reflected the young man’s desire to cater to the common man. By the 1920s, the store had grown into the Louis Pizitz Dry Goods Company, a department store that was a staple of everyday life in Birmingham. This year the building is reopening its doors as it embodies the character and ambition of the Magic City.

The Pizitz Building will express in the best form the heart of downtown living: eat, play, live and work. The space will serve as home to Birmingham’s first food hall as well as many office spaces and apartments. The lower level will be headquarters to the Sidewalk Film Festival and will also include two art and film theaters, offices and educational facilities.

The Food Hall

A lasting attribute of Birmingham is the quality and array of dishes created in the local restaurant scene. The food hall will act as a place for people of all ages to come together and fellowship while indulging in local cuisine.

“I’m most excited for the day I walk in the food hall and there are hundreds of people there with the same vision, all going to and from the food hall doing different things,” said Tom Walker, development manager at Bayer Properties, the company spearheading the renovation of the Pizitz Building. “I want people to use the food hall for a basis of operation and a gathering place downtown.”

The space will be made up of roughly 15 food stalls that will include an array of dishes, such as burgers, tacos, dumplings and more. All the food stalls will be set up around a central bar that will serve as the heart of the hall. In addition to the food stalls, there will be three full-service restaurants, as well as two areas with more traditional retail including the local printing company YellowHammer Creative.

Reveal Kitchen, a product of REV Birmingham, is one of the food stalls that will be a part of the hall. The stall will feature up-and-coming local chefs every six months who have graduated from Create Birmingham’s CO.STARTERS program.

Deon Gordon, director of business growth at REV, said he is thankful Bayer Properties approached him on this opportunity, as it fills a significant need in the business model for culinary startups. The incubator will bridge the gap between culinary pop-ups, food trucks and take-overs to chefs moving to a more permanent brick and mortar location. Reveal Kitchen provides startups with six months of sales, real market validation, exposure, experience, expertise and targeted technical assistance to back their growth progress, Gordon explained. The stall will contribute a well balanced mix of new upcoming dishes to the food hall while being consistent in providing exceptional quality.

A Role in Revitalization

Birmingham is a city that is growing and evolving. Entrepreneurs, creatives, artisans and chefs from all over are calling Birmingham home. People like Louis Pizitz in the 1900s, have shown up in Birmingham  to   start  lives for themselves, and for many that is in central downtown. The Pizitz Building acted as a gathering place for those people together back then, and it will do the same thing again today.

Walker, who has been working on this project with Bayer Properties for the past five years, said the venture is important to the revitalization happening in the downtown area.

He said it is exciting to participate in the historic rehabilitation of the Pizitz building because of the significant role it has played in Birmingham’s past. He remembered one instance when he was giving a tour of the building and many of the guests remembered walking the halls of the Pizitz building as a child.

The building not only brings back a sense of nostalgia, but it also builds a sense of pride and ambition in the people. “The Pizitz Building forces people to raise their expectation for what our city can do and what should be done… it raises audacious belief in Birmingham,” Gordon said. The Magic City has seen major growth through projects such as Railroad Park, which were once thought to be illogical but have drawn more people downtown. The Pizitz Building has the opportunity to continue the vibrant story being written and told downtown.

Opening Soon

The Pizitz building is located on 19th Street between 1st and 2nd Ave N. The food hall is set to open this December 2016. The apartments will open later in December. Visit the www.thepizitz.com for more information.

Story by: Charis Nichols and Hannah Garrett

Media Contributions:

Pizitz Sketch by Katherine Mixson, Photograph of the newly renovated Pizitz Building by Charis Nichols, Food Hall Renderings contributed by The Wilbert Group showing what the inside will look like.

A City Divided – A History of the Iron Bowl

Photo by Kate Sullivan

Roll Tide! War Eagle! What may seem like simple words are actually phrases that hold an unexplainable meaning for two very loyal fan bases. Phrases that have become battle cries ringing in the air all year long, sparking both friendships and fights.

In an interview with Charles Barkley for AL.com, University of Alabama football head coach Nick Saban said people who grow up in the state are raised in the football rivalry and it is a part of them. “And they have a lot of passion and they don’t have a lot of other choices. There’s not an NFL team, there’s not an NBA basketball team. So, everybody relates to one of these two schools and there’s a lot of passion for it.”

Alabama and Auburn fans wait all year long for that one day when their teams take the field against each other. The whole state of Alabama turns its attention to the game, and the neutral neighbors of these rabid fans are forced to pick a side. That day is known as The Iron Bowl.

The Iron Bowl gets its name from its Birmingham ties, as the city was the location of the game for 53 seasons, including the first. The programs met in 1893 in Lakeview Park for the first time ever in front of a crowd of about 5,000 strong. Drama ensued from the start as there were arguments as to whether the game should count for the 1892 or 1893 season. Word of the two teams playing and the subsequent tension drew interest as people began to discover the sport of football.

As Auburn was enjoying early success, threats from the university almost put an end to Alabama’s growing program. The dangers of football as well as the cost associated with funding a whole football team, had the University of Alabama’s faculty questioning the need for such a sport at the collegiate level.

Luckily for the Crimson Tide, football would be preserved and the yearly game against the Tigers would resume, that is until 1907 when the series was put on hold for financial discrepancies between the two teams.

Forty years later, the battle was reinstated after the Alabama House of Representatives brought forth a resolution to resume the rivalry by implementing full athletic programs for both schools. The state legislature went one step forward by threatening to withhold funding for the two universities unless they agreed to bring the Iron Bowl back.

The game was to return to Birmingham where the largest stadium in the state, Legion Field was located. By the time the game was officially moved to be played at each team’s respective fields in 1998, the game had earned its title of “The Iron Bowl” due to the city’s rich iron history.

While Birmingham may no longer play host to the most heated rivalry in all of college football, the roots of the teams run deep throughout the city with a plethora of both Alabama and Auburn fans as residents. It is easy to assume that almost everyone in the city has a side with which they align themselves in the series. However, this doesn’t always hold true.

In 2011 the Capital Survey Research Center in Montgomery surveyed throughout the state to see which team they pulled for. Of those surveyed, 37 percent identified themselves as Alabama fans and 18 percent said they cheer for Auburn, but 20 percent said they cheer for both teams and 22 percent said they cheer for neither.

Essentially, 42 percent of the polled population said they don’t care which team wins.

Birmingham is growing and with that growth comes new waves of people who don’t have a background with either team. Regardless of their football preferences though, new residents often find themselves in a bizarre situation of having to choose a team, either by coworkers, neighbors, friends or significant others.

Kasey Mack, a college student in Birmingham, found herself having to choose sides despite her background as a University of Georgia fan. “I moved to Birmingham for school and all of a sudden I was surrounded by all these Alabama and Auburn fans who wanted to know not what my team was, but whether I cheered for Alabama or Auburn. It was like they weren’t satisfied with my response of not really caring between the two.”

Mack said as a Georgia fan she was raised to hate Auburn because they were one of Georgia’s rivals, thus she found herself cheering for Alabama when the Iron Bowl rolled around. Ultimately, she was just watching the game as a fan of football as opposed to a fan of either team. Her Bama fandom was solidified when she began dating an Alabama graduate.

“Yeah, I pretty much have to root for Alabama now. When he found out I didn’t really care which team won, he looked at me like I had two heads. I’m still a Georgia fan at the end of the day, but I find myself saying ‘Roll Tide’ a lot more often now.”

Birmingham Without Walls

A large community of homeless people gathers at Birmingham’s Linn Park. They gather near the fountain as the sound of running water blocks out street noise, citizens say.

There is a common, grim image traditionally associated with homelessness: a dirty, desperate man with a long beard sitting on the corner of a street alone, occasionally begging passersby for nickels.

However, this extremely public image of the indecent homeless man does not reflect the true demographic of the homeless community. In truth, most homeless individuals consider the streets too dangerous to live on.

“They’re scared,” Mallory Pettet said. “One woman I met—she was homeless—but she was mugged and was scared out of her wits. Some men followed her and robbed her of everything she had. And she doesn’t have a place to go and lock a door.”

Pettet and her close friend Hannah Baker visit members of the homeless community in Five Points every week. The pair help lead a Bible study, which they say is mostly led by a seven-year member of the Five Points houseless community.

Even more contrary to the common face of homeless is the fact that the majority of the homeless population is hidden from view.

According to the needs assessment study, only 12 percent of the homeless population in Birmingham stay on the street. About 34 percent stay in transitional housing, 22 percent in emergency shelters and 12 percent in treatment facilities. Around 82 percent of Birmingham’s homeless have been homeless for less than 2 years.

Pettet said that many of the people who live on the streets of Birmingham suffer from severe loss of identity and dignity as a result of being homeless.

“I had a conversation with a guy a couple weeks ago at a grill-out at Five Points,” Pettet said. “This one man wouldn’t look me in the eyes. I asked him his name and who he was and why he wouldn’t talk to me, and he mumbled ‘I just got out of prison.’”

“He put that stamp on his identity and assumed that the nice girl that gave him food was going to walk away,” Pettet said.

This is the second installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Birmingham Without Walls

Leroy sat in Linn Park waiting for a ride to the bus station on a warm, November afternoon. He was not alone in the park; in Alabama, it is still warm enough for short sleeves in November, so people with no other place to go can sit outdoors comfortably.

He leaned forward on his cane, a crutch he found necessary after a surgery left him with metal rods in his leg. His rough hands—one with stitches running across the palm—crossed one over the other at the crook of the cane. Leroy’s leg surgery left him unable to work, he explained. He draws a disability check for $925 a month and collects $16 in food stamps each month. After a divorce, Leroy found himself with no place to live.

“I lived in my car for a while,” he said. “But I lost my license. I would be in my car all day, driving from Greenville to Mobile, Mobile to Birmingham, Birmingham to Montgomery. I fell asleep. I was in the right lane so I went off the road, but the officer pulled me over. He thought I was drunk.”

The bus he was waiting on this day would take him to Greenville, nearly 2 hours away from Birmingham, where his car was. He had $300 in his pockets—money he planned to give to a contact in Greenville to pay back a debt. It was all the money he had to his name.

“I can’t get an apartment by myself,” he said. “I only get $925 a month for everything. An apartment—that’s my whole check. I wouldn’t have anything left over for anything else”

Leroy is one of the thousands of homeless men and women living in Birmingham. He is one of a smaller subset considered “chronically homeless.”

According to the study “A Needs Assessment of the Homeless of Birmingham and Jefferson County,” 29 percent of the homeless population in Birmingham fit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of chronically homeless. Chronically homeless people either have disabling conditions and have been homeless for a year or more or have been homeless four times within three years.

Many of these homeless people said that “personal relationship issues” caused their homelessness.

“Ninety-one percent report experiencing at least one undesirable life event over the last year. The most common events are job loss, death of a close friend, family member or partner, physical abuse, or problems with a spouse or partner,” the study says.

According to county records, on Nov. 9, 2011, Jefferson County filed for bankruptcy. The debt of $3.14 billion made it the most expensive municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history at the time. Since then, the availability of jobs has been decreasing.

Birmingham has an estimated homeless population of about 3,000 people. That is 0.13 percent of the overall population of the city living without a home.

More people are without work and fewer of them are able to find employment. The loss of job infrastructure caused by being homeless creates a vicious poverty cycle that local activists and volunteers say is not easy to break.

This is the first installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Restaurants Open On Thanksgiving Day

With Thanksgiving 2016 just around the corner, the big question the huge Birmingham food scene is asking, “which restaurants will be open?” Here is your guide to staying away from having to cook that huge Thanksgiving dinner come November 24, 2016 and take a peak at where your Thanksgiving dinner could possibly happen on tables all around Birmingham.

The Bright Star

Location:  304 19th St. North in Bessemer, Ala

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.    

Table service: yes

Thanksgiving menu: yes

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Location: Eight locations in the Birmingham metro area

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.   

Table service: yes

Thanksgiving menu: yes

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

Location: 103 Summit Blvd., Birmingham  

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.   

Table service: yes

Thanksgiving menu: yes

Galley and Garden

Location: 2220 Highland Ave, Birmingham, AL 35205

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.   

Table service: yes

Thanksgiving menu: yes

Hyatt Regency Birmingham – The Wynfrey Hotel

Location: 1000 Riverchase Galleria, Hoover

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.   

Table service: no – Thanksgiving buffet

Thanksgiving menu: yes

Irondale Café

Location: 1906 First Ave. North, Irondale

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  

Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa

Location: 4000 Grand Ave. Hoover

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.   

Table service: yes

Thanksgiving menu: yes

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Location: 23000 Woodcrest Place, Birmingham

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.   

Table service: yes

Thanksgiving menu: yes

Seasons 52

Location: 245 Summit Blvd., Birmingham

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.  

Table service: yes

Thanksgiving menu: yes

A Birmingham Fall as told by Pinterest

Check out our Pinterest board for great ideas on where and how to spend your November days in Birmingham and surrounding areas!

http://pin.it/NnElbTG