4 Mountain Brook businesses vying for Alabama Retailer of the Year Award


Four businesses with locations in Mountain Brook are up for the Alabama Retailer of the Year award from the Alabama Retail Association.

These companies are Smith’s Variety, Taco Mama, The Lingerie Shoppe and Tulipano.

Six other companies with locations in Mountain Brook were nominated but did not apply for the award. These were Blueroot, Etc., Frios Gourmet Pops, Milla, Oak Street Garden Shop and Local Market and Village Sportswear.

The Alabama Retail Association is reviewing information submitted by applicants who completed the nominations and expects to announce this year’s winners in late August or September, said Nancy King Dennis, the group’s director of public relations.

Here’s more information on the Mountain Brook companies still in the running:

SMITH’S VARIETY

This old-fashioned variety store, founded in 1950, has been around for nearly 72 years and stocks everything from toys and candy to party and kitchenware. For decades it was at the Mountain Brook shopping center on Culver Road.

Litton Glazner bought the store in 1976 and ran it with his wife, Mary Anne, until 1999, when Glazner fell ill. His son, Jim Glazner, took ownership and ran it with the help of his mother and his wife, Tammy.

Glazner opened a second location in downtown Homewood in 2005 but closed it in 2010. In 2015 he moved the store to its current location at 45 Church Street in Crestline Village. He put the store up for sale in 2017 shortly after his mother died, but after an unusual spike in business in which people lined up around the block to buy solar eclipse glasses, he decided to retain ownership.

In late 2019, Glazner decided to sell again and found buyers in a young couple named Brad and Amy Simpson.

Brad Simpson grew up in Kentucky and met his wife, Amy, at Samford University. Amy was born in Cullman County but moved to Charleston, South Carolina before coming to Samford.

She was a frequent customer of Smith’s Variety in Samford. After graduation, the couple moved to Florida, where Brad did accounting work for his father-in-law in the golf course and turf construction industry. He and Amy also had a custom clothing and gift shop in Florida.

They returned to the Birmingham area in 2017 and inquired about buying Smith’s Variety when it first went on sale, before Glazner changed his mind about selling. Brad took a position as chief financial officer for Alabama Outdoors, and Amy was director of student leadership and engagement at Samford.

Then in late 2019, Glazner reached out to Brad to see if he was still interested in buying Smith’s. “It came out of nowhere. It was a shock,” Brad said. “I loved working at Alabama Outdoors, but it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

The Simpsons took over Smith’s Variety about three weeks before the COVID-19 shutdown in the spring of 2020. “It was a little scary, but we never doubted that was exactly what we were meant to do,” Brad said.

They turned to street trading for six to seven weeks, which also allowed them to do some interior renovations. “It ended up being a blessing in disguise for us,” Brad said.

Smith’s Variety customers have been keeping them going through tough times, he said. They had to lay off a few employees but were able to rehire some and kept their core team of employees, some of whom have worked at the store for 18 to 32 years, he said.

Brad works in the store every day and Amy started working with him full time in May. Their 17-year-old daughter regularly works in the store and their 15-year-old son also helps out, he said.

Brad said he and Amy tried to put their own brand on the store, updating some of the merchandise, but “we’re not reinventing the wheel because the store has been around for 70 years.” This summer, they launched a new website and enhanced their digital marketing and e-commerce platform for online sales, with a particular focus on gift baskets and student care packages, Brad said.

The store had a very successful year last year, and Brad said he is looking forward to expanding the rest of this year.

To be nominated for the Alabama Retailer of the Year award, especially so early in their tenure as owners, is a huge and unexpected blessing and a testament to the great work their employees do, he said.

TACO MOM

This restaurant was opened in Crestline Village in 2011 by Will Haver, who also owns Otey’s Tavern nearby.

Haver got his start in the restaurant business in 1996 as a server at Ezell’s Catfish Cabin in Tuscaloosa. He also washed dishes, cooked and did whatever Joe and Pam Ezell wanted him to do, according to his biography on the Taco Mama website.

He then became a food sales representative for the Alabama Food Group, learning the ropes of food distribution and getting to see many different restaurants. But Haver missed the action of being in the restaurant business and partnered with businessmen who wanted him to design a restaurant in Gadsden, which he did aged 27.

Then, in 2007, he and his wife, Leigh, mortgaged their home and, with the help of a few investors, bought Otey’s in Mountain Brook. As the success grew, he decided he wanted to open a restaurant nearby and liked the “hole-in-the-wall taco and burrito shops” he had seen in California, Texas and Florida.

Thus was born Taco Mama, which offers freshly made tacos, burritos, quesadillas and burrito bowls with slow-roasted meats and fresh produce, as well as a selection of Mexican and local beers and handmade margaritas. with fresh juices.

The fast-casual restaurant features a laid-back atmosphere with garage doors that open onto a patio.

Haver took the Taco Mama brand and decided to share it with more people, so there are now at least 20 Taco Mama restaurants, including eight in the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area, another eight in other parts of the ‘Alabama, one in Nashville and three in North Carolina.

Haver said he drew his love for fresh food from his mother’s kitchen, who had a vegetable garden at home and made all of her baby food from vegetables and fresh produce. Growing up, he also spent a few weeks each summer picking fresh fruits and vegetables from his grandparents in the countryside, he said.

He developed a hard work ethic from his parents and both sets of grandparents, he said. He also learned a lot about management from his father, who was headmaster of the Altamont school, and learned about entertaining with his friends and family from his mother.

“We all want to turn guests into friends and make them happy,” Haver told Taco Mama’s website.

He was out of town and unavailable for an interview when this story was written.

THE LINGERIE SHOP

The Lingerie Shoppe has been in Mountain Brook for 76 years, and Brenda Meadows has owned it for 34 years.

Meadows started as a substitute teacher after graduating from college, then married and moved to Huntsville. She worked at a university library in Huntsville before returning to the Birmingham area and working at the Women’s Missionary Union for about three years.

In 1988, she and a friend, Betty McMahon, decided to buy The Lingerie Shoppe, which had already had several owners. Meadows and McMahon had done a lot of volunteer work together for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, the Charity League and the Epic School of Birmingham before going into business together.

McMahon stayed with her at the company for 10 years, but Meadows has run it alone for 24 years, she said.

The Lingerie Shoppe offers a variety of nightwear, loungewear, robes, robes, pajamas, underwear, underwear, and lingerie accessories. He also does a lot of bridal and bachelorette party business, Meadows said.

The best part of owning the business is the relationships it has been able to build with its customers and suppliers, she said. “I appreciate that.”

One thing she really loves about businesses in Mountain Brook Village, Crestline Village and English Village is that many of them have store owners in the shop every day, she said. She thinks it’s a big factor in their success, she said.

“It means we see people come and go, and we know what people need,” she said. “Customer service is what we are known for.”

She is very happy to be nominated for the Alabama Retailer of the Year award. It feels good to be recognized and appreciated for the service you provide to the community, she said.

Business has been amazing lately, considering everyone is still coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Meadows said.

“It took a lot of creativity and hard work to keep our doors open and to keep the store well stocked,” she said.

People seem eager to get out and shop, but a huge issue now is the ability to get merchandise into the store, she said. Supply shortages are also affecting her business, she said.

“Vendors are also up against a wall,” she said. “I feel like manufacturers and suppliers are doing their best to keep things going.” Knowing how to order and where to order helps her help her customers find what they want, but “it’s been a real conundrum for everyone,” Meadows said.

Her customers were very supportive throughout the ordeal, she said. Her sales numbers for 2022 are stronger than ever and she’s feeling very optimistic about the future, but she’s worried about the cost of gas and shipping, she said.

Meadows runs the store with six other employees, including her daughter, Julie Meadows, who handles social media and inventory control.

TULIPANE

Mary Swanson opened this women’s boutique on Lane Parke in the Village of Mountain Brook in 2018. It’s Tulipano’s second location, with the first being in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood.

Before moving to Atlanta in the early 2000s, Swanson worked in Mountain Brook Village at a store called Nicole Miller. When she moved to Buckhead, she worked at another store, which closed. But she and two female colleagues took the empty storefront and created Tuli-pano. Swanson has been the sole owner of Tulipano since 2010.

She was unavailable for an interview when this story was written, but has previously described the store as a high-end boutique for women who appreciate and love fashion but aren’t afraid to try something new. . They try to stick to the classics, but evolve and stay in touch with current trends, she said.

The store offers everything from everyday wear to evening options and even a few black tie pieces. It also offers handbags, belts, jewelry and shoes.

When she opened the store in Mountain Brook, Swanson said she always thought Birmingham Market would be a good market for her store and Mountain Brook Village was the natural place for it.

“I just think there’s a good energy there, and I’ve always felt that,” she said.

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