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.

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

Bright Idea: The Story of O’Henry’s Coffee

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“I couldn’t find a truly great cup of coffee in Birmingham.” These words, spoken by Dr. Henry Bright of Birmingham, launched him into a coffee obsession that resulted in the birth of O’Henry’s Coffee in 1993.

At the start of his coffee craze, Bright was working as a successful orthodontist in the Birmingham area. Bright became interested in coffee after recognizing a need for a place where people could meet and enjoy one another’s company.

Bright’s passion carried him across the country, as he studied different techniques and roasting processes in order to be successful in the industry. Bright was fascinated with the chemistry of coffee, beyond the taste, and wanted to control all steps of the process, starting with the coffee bean.

He bought an espresso machine for his home and after learning how to roast, source, and blend coffee, Bright opened the original O’Henry’s in Homewood with a “little red roaster” in the front window.

Today, out of Bright’s vision, O’Henry’s has expanded to four different locations around Birmingham, Brookwood, Highland Park, Region Tower, and the original Homewood location. Business Insider named O’Henry’s Alabama’s Best Coffeehouse in 2014, proving it is a growing success story.

The story began when Bright saw a need for a gathering place and wanted to do something about it. He envisioned a coffeehouse as a place where cross sections of society could meet and feel comfortable.

Bright understood the dynamics necessary to produce a sense of hospitality, comfort, and home in a coffeehouse. O’Henry’s conveys this mood through warm colors and a welcoming environment.  “We love to hear people say meet me at O’Henry’s,” said current owner, Randy Adamy. O’Henry’s strives to make people feel comfortable in coming and staying.

O’Henry’s was a hit from day one. This business venture involved a great deal of risk, as Bright sold his coffee for $1.50 in 1993, when you could get coffee elsewhere for a quarter. Yet, people saw a difference and appreciated Bright’s innovative idea. Bright was revolutionary in bringing specialized coffee to the people of Birmingham.

“Dr. Bright was the type of guy that would make sure he succeeded, he would do whatever it took,” said Adamy. O’Henry’s introduced the trend of artisan roast, setting the standard for what is expected out of a quality cup of coffee.

Jenn Russ, employee of five years, described Bright as humble, soft-spoken, friendly, and a man who loves coffee and getting to know people. In the coffeehouse industry, “It is all about the relationships and Dr. Bright knew that,” said Adamy.

O’Henry’s employees make an effort to learn people’s needs, beyond a cup of coffee, whether it is the need to be heard or to slow down. “That is the most important thing we do, we just happen to be selling coffee,” said Adamy.

When Bright was looking to sell the company in 1999, he met Adamy through a mutual friend. Adamy said Bright wanted someone to keep the standards high, committed to producing something that would enhance the community. For Bright, it was never about money, and to Adamy, “profitability is something that happens when you do something right.”

Under Adamy’s ownership, O’Henry’s has just expanded on the precedent set by Bright. With four O’Henry’s across Birmingham and the roasting business booming, the franchise has managed to remain true to its “mom and pop” origin.

Russ appreciates the small-business aspects of the company and the traditional roots, which have sustained O’Henry’s and allowed it to flourish. “I like what it was founded on,” shared Russ. She described the reward of watching the coffee culture evolve and morph, while O’Henry’s hasn’t changed.

Bright, who will turn 81 this year, is still a vigorous and sharp businessman and consultant of O’Henry’s. There are regulars today who still come in and talk about him. One example is a group of men that have been coming every week since the opening in 1993. They call themselves the “has beens” and have a reserved table where they meet each Thursday morning at 9 a.m. “They are like antiques, we have to dust them off, they are part of the atmosphere,” said Adamy.

Regular costumer, Zach Eaves keeps coming back for “the atmosphere, seating options, and Southern Pecan Crème Coffee.” Everyone has their reason for coming back, and for many it is more than just coffee. The “notebox” on the mantle of every O’Henry’s serves as a testament to the memories made there, filled with notes on scrap paper and tokens of gratitude from loyal guests. Adamy believes regulars come back for “the same reason we all look forward to Christmas- tradition, comfort, family, friends.”

There is humility about Bright and the O’Henry’s story. “If you were to say to Dr. Bright, ‘You are too humble,’ he probably wouldn’t say anything,” shared Adamy. Bright started something unique and so it remains, coffee and community since 1993.

Faces of Birmingham

Birmingham lays claim to some trendy coffee shops, and Octane Coffee is no exception. Have you ever wondered exactly who the people are behind the counter serving this delightful coffee? They have intriguing stories to tell, and barista/mixologist Trenton Bell, has one of the finest.

Bell graduated from Samford’s Beeson Divinity School back in May of this year. “I felt a sense of calling to go [to seminary]; I felt internally that it was the right next step for me after college,” said Bell. He received his Master’s in Divinity and now awaits the Lord’s next step for his life.

Throughout his life, Bell has always had two main loves: Jesus and music. He felt the Lord calling him to combine those passions for the Kingdom of God and thus, the band Multis Project was born. Multis is Latin for many, and Bell chose this name because the purpose of Multis Project is to promote diversity within music.

Multis Project was somewhat born out of necessity. Bell and his friend, Louie Free, were driving back from a conference they had been leading worship at and were in line for another gig, but there was one problem, the next conference wanted the two guys to bring a band with them. “We put together a group of folks, and tried to put together as much of a diverse team as possible,” Bell said. “We have some hip-hop, gospel, folk and pop all mixed in together. We want to push the envelope and reach out to and unify diverse groups of people.” The band has been doing just that ever since their first performance back in January.

Bell constantly faces the battle of balancing being a full time barista and trying to continue to pursue his passion for making music. However, he does not really worry about it too much. “I trust that we [Multis Project] will go where we need to be at the proper time. We have patience in trusting the Lord, but we are persistently pursuing opportunities,” he said.

So if you need a delicious Carmelatto, or want to book a cutting edge band, look no farther than Octane’s very own, Trenton Bell.

Local Coffee Shops Transformed into Popular Fictional Diner

To celebrate the 16th anniversary of the first episode of Gilmore Girls, Birmingham coffee shops partnered with Netflix on October 6 and converted into the hit show’s own coffee shop, Luke’s Diner.  Lucy’s Coffee and Tea, Crestwood Coffee Co. and The Abbey were three of the 200 cafes around the country that participated in the pop up.

The pop-ups were open from 7 a.m. to noon, and the first 200 guest received free coffee. The shops included décor from the show, such as Luke’s signs, aprons, backward caps, and coffee cups covered in Gilmore Girls quotes. Even the staff at the shops wore Luke’s Diner branded aprons and T-shirts. Netflix also announced a new season which is to premiere around Thanksgiving time.  

Lucy’s, a coffee shop located on University Blvd, was thrilled to be one of the Netflix-sponsored coffee shops. Early on, the line wrapped around the block as Gilmore Girls fans excitingly waited for their free cup of coffee. The coffee shops said that social media was a big factor in whether or not a café was chosen to host a Luke’s diner pop-up.

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Coffee sleeves were adorned with Luke’s logo

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A line of fans awaiting their coffee

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Employees dressed up as characters for the occasion

  

Pepper Place is Back

Birmingham’s favorite farmers market is back on Saturday, April 9th. It is open from 7 a.m. to noon rain or shine.

Pepper Place began in 2000 in provide a connection between family farmers and the people of Birmingham, Alabama. Since then is has grown from a few tents to over 100 tents spread across parking lots and streets around Pepper Place. The market has hosted around 10,000 people every Saturday at the height of the season.

All of the vendors are based in Alabama and are the actual growers, joined by their family members and friends.

Shoppers can expect bedding plants, herbs, lettuces, asparagus, and strawberries to be in season for the spring and as it gets closer to summer blackberries, blueberries, peaches and mushrooms. Alongside of the fresh produce market goers can find bakers and cooks who serve food to eat and take home, from breakfast food to dessert. As well as food, Pepper Place hosts Alabama artists, artisans and craftspeople with unique items to decorate with or give as a gift.

The address is:
2829 2nd Avenue South
Birmingham, Alabama 35233

A list of vendors can be found here:

http://www.pepperplacemarket.com/vendors/

Cajun Cook-off this Weekend at Railroad Park

Here it comes! The Sixth Annual Girls Inc. Cajun Cook-off is steaming down the tracks to Railroad Park, “Bringing the Big Easy to the Magic City” Saturday April 9 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Hosted by The Committee of 25, which is the Girls Inc.’s Junior Board, and presented by Publix Super Market Charities, the cook-off will feature a family friendly atmosphere spiced with the Cajun aromas of foods such as jambalaya, gumbo, bread pudding, shrimp and grits, po’boys and more.

Twenty to 25 amateur cooks will prepare these dishes for the chance of taking home trophies from the taste-testing contest.

Live zydeco music by the Swamp Poppas will provide additional flavor to the day, accompanied by a silent auction, kids’ activities and a performance by Girls Inc. program participants.

Connie Hill, President and Chief Executive Officer for Girls Inc. said that the Cajun Cook-off, which is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser, expands each year in order to create a more “memorable and fun” experience for attenders.

“Through this year’s event participation and fundraising efforts,” Hill said, “Girls Inc. hopes to raise $80,000 to support our efforts to provide vital and innovative educational programs to school-age girls in Central Alabama.”

These programs are dedicated to “inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold.”

Tickets can be purchased at bhamcajuncookoff.com, $20 for adults and $5 for kids ages three to ten. Children under three years of age may attend for free.

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Photo courtesy of Connie Hill

 

 

More Than Just Chili

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For the past twelve years, on the first Saturday in March, the community of Birmingham convenes in one location to compete in a Chili Cook-Off. Friendly competition takes place, as 112 local businesses will compete to win the trophy for the “Best Chili”. On Saturday, March 5, 2016, the Chili Cook-Off will take place in the parking lot at Brookwood Village on Lakeshore Blvd from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. While the chili may make your taste buds dance, the true meaning behind this event is about the men and women that it supports.

LittleGirlThe Exceptional Foundation was founded in 1996 and was created in order to give adults with special needs a place to gather daily in the community of Homewood. There are numerous activities available including, bowling, art, volunteer service, swimming, basketball, softball, Special Olympics and dances. In order to provide all of the amazing outlets for these individuals, The Exceptional Foundation knew that they needed to find a way to raise money. The largest fund that they receive is from the Chili Cook-Off, which has raised more than $1.6 million.

The Chili Cook-Off brings the community of Homewood together, while raising money for a great organization. This event is more than just about chili; it is about people helping people.

 

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. Children 12 and under enter free. For more information, visit www.exceptionalfoundation.org

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Photos courtesy of The Exceptional Foundation.

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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