Lee LIVE ISSUE 4 - MAR/APR 2021
LEE COUNTY DOWNTOWNS
Side Track Coffee Shop Page 62
Photo by Hannah Lester
Auburn's Original Hippie & Smoke Shop
www.da-gallery.com 1409 S. COLLEGE STREET, SUITE 102 AUBURN, AL 36832 334-521-5067
@DAGALLERY2015 @DAGALLERYAUBURN —2—
NORTHRIDGE SHELTER FOR HOMELESS WOMEN
Do you know where to find us? Issues of Live Lee can be found at the following locations in one of our new sponsored boxes. 280 Flea Market - sponsored by Price’s Small Engine Beauregard Drugs - sponsored by Centerstate Bank Butcher Paper BBQ - sponsored by Wadkins Metal Hardees Exit 60 - sponsored by Cosmic Connexion Lowe’s - Tiger Town - sponsored by Zach Alsobrook Rob’s Ribs - sponsored by Trinity Christian School Sam’s Club - sponsored by Harvest Thrift Terry’s Grocery - sponsored by Smiths Station Rx Toomers Drug Store - sponsored by Gorees Winn Dixie - Opelika - sponsored by Hippie Street
COMMUNITY HELPING COMMUNITY
Give a hand up to someone in need by donating today www.ovscleecounty.org For more information call
CONTRIBUTORS Ann Cipperly Kayla Evans Will Fairless Emery Lay JD McCarthy Natalie Salvatore Lofton Wheeles
DESIGN ILLUSTRATION LAYOUT
Michelle Key, Publisher Originally from Albertville, Alabama, Michelle Key and her family moved to the Opelika-Auburn area in 2011 after her husband’s retirement from the U.S. Navy. She is a graduate of Troy University, and she joined the Observer in 2014 as an office administrator before assuming ownership of the newspaper January 2018.
Hannah Lester Leslie Brasher Yates Clanton Vickie Sexton Michelle Key
MARKETING Woody Ross Rena Smith
Hannah Lester, Live Lee Associate Editor Hannah Lester is a 2019 journalism graduate from Auburn University who is originally from Birmingham. She started with the Opelika Observer in July and began as the Associate Editor for the Live Lee Magazine. She assigns, writes and edits pieces for the magazine, as well as helps to design the pages.
PHOTOGRAPHY Josh Fisher Hannah Lester Robert Noles
CONTACT US Key Media, LLC 207 N. 3rd St., Opelika Phone: 334-749-8003
Wil Crews, Opelika Observer Associate Sports Editor Wil Crews is an Auburn University 2020 journalism graduate originally from Prattville, Alabama. He joined the Observer in the fall of 2020 and works as the associate sports editor and assists in developing the weekly newspaper and Live Lee Magazine.
LIVE Lee is a publication created by Key Media, LLC.
Robert Noles, Photographer Robert Noles is an award-winning photojournalist who has been with the Opelika Observer for more than 10 years. Originally from Tallassee, he is a graduate of Alabama Christian College and Auburn University.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Letter From The Associate Editor .........................6
A Museum of Memories .......................................48
Community Letters ................................................8
Chess At 1,000 MPH .............................................55
Core Of The City ...................................................10
Refresh Opelika .....................................................13
A Business For Pleasure, Not For Profit .............68
A Local Staple ........................................................20
A Mob, A Cash Mob .............................................73
Y’all Checkin In .....................................................27
Remembering B & B’s On Geneva Street ...........78
Crenshaw Guest House ........................................32
Steeped In History .................................................86
J & M .......................................................................40
Filling A Need ........................................................93
UPCOMING EVENTS • Food Truck Festival at Gogue Performing Arts Center: April 17 (www.AO tourism.com/ Event/41205/Food-Truck-Festival-at-the-Gogue/) • Old 280 Boogie at Standard Deluxe: April 17 (www.aotourism.com/Event/40894/Spring-OldBoogie/) • Auburn City Fest at Kiesel Park: April 24 (www. aotourism.com/Event/41244/20th-Annual-AuburnCityFest/) • Thirteenth Annual Storybook Farm Kentucky Derby Day at Storybook Farm: May 1 (www.aotourism.com/Event41417/13th-Annual-StorybookFarm-Kentucky-Derby-Day/) • On Tap Craft Beer Event in downtown Opelika: May 8 (www.opelikamainstreet.org/calendar) • City Market at Town Creek Park: May 29 (www.aotourism.com/Event/41220/City-Market/)
(1007 Ave. B, Opelika)
Letter from the Associate Editor
hat do you think of when you hear the word downtown? I think of small businesses, run by people who truly care about their communities. What would Auburn or Opelika be without their thriving downtowns? Recently, I was with some friends in downtown Opelika (all of us Auburn alumni, by the way). One of my friends was visiting from out of town and told me, ‘wow, I had no idea Opelika was so cool.’ That was me two years ago. I was familiar with Auburn’s downtown because I was an Auburn student. But when I graduated, I began to explore my area, and surrounding
areas, a little more closely. I discovered Opelika and its thriving small-business community. And I began to learn more about the businesses in Auburn that I had taken for granted. Lately, I’ve been working to cultivate relationships with smallbusiness owners. Now, when I take a stroll down Magnolia Avenue or South College Street, I can pop my head in several small businesses and give a wave and hello to those working behind the counter, because I now know them personally. It’s easy to do the same thing in Opelika. The area is all about community — forming relationships and fellowship with those who are just passing through or who have lived their whole lives in Lee County.
We created a downtown issue to highlight the importance of these businesses for our area. Inside, learn about what Opelika Main Street and Auburn’s Downtown Association are, and what they do. Read more about a coffee shop with a ‘pay what you want’ model. Read about businesses that have had a foothold in the community for years, and some that are just getting started. And please, as our communities recover from the pandemic, consider supporting our small businesses.
COMING SOON!! DOWNTOWN OPELIKA 223 S. 8th Street, Unit B Find us on Facebook Axe Marks the Spot —7—
Jessica Kohn Auburn Downtown Coordinator —8—
appy spring, everyone! A close second to football season, this is my favorite time of year. Downtown is vibrant and full of life. I love seeing all the outdoor dining spaces full and students out on Samford lawn. It sure is a welcome sight considering that this time last year we were in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the beginning of so many unknowns that would come before us. Can you believe it has been an entire year? This past year was full of many obstacles and heartache that I am sure you all can relate to. As the downtown coordinator, my job did a complete 180 in a matter of two hours. One minute, I was planning our big Family Supper event and the next I was scheduling an emergency meeting with our merchants and city leaders. Little did we all know what was ahead for us. Sure, hardship lay ahead, but so did perseverance and the true strengths of our Auburn community. I witnessed merchants who had to literally close their doors but still helped feed the frontline workers and merchants who had to completely change their operations just to keep the power on. I also saw a community come together to support our local businesses during these times, whether it was through to-go orders or online shopping. On behalf of the Auburn Downtown Merchants Association, thank you to all of you for your support this past year. We are looking forward to this spring and summer season and hope you will continue to support us locally while we continue to make downtown a safe place for you to enjoy.
Ken Ward Main S treet Director P.S. Be sure to keep up to date on all that’s happening downtown by following Opelika Main Street on social media and by subscribing to our weekly email newsletter.
ear Friends of Downtown Opelika, As the heart of Lee County, downtown Opelika serves as a hub of activity and an economic driver for our entire region. From Courthouse Square to 1st Avenue, Opelika’s downtown has something for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Home to two craft breweries, a distillery, a wine bar, two arcades, various dining venues and numerous unique retail shops, there are plenty of reasons to visit our thriving downtown. As our motto, Where Preservation Meets Progress, illustrates, downtown Opelika showcases the history and heritage of our city’s rich past while accommodating new growth. The success of downtown Opelika means the success of our entire community. With your support, we will continue to see Opelika grow and thrive for years to come.
The core of the city
Story By Lofton Wheeles Photos By Josh Fisher and Hannah Lester
he downtown areas of Auburn and Opelika have seen a significant amount of growth throughout the past decade. Who is responsible for this growth? The Auburn Downtown Merchants Association and Opelika Main Street. Auburn Downtown Association: “The Auburn Downtown Merchants Association (ADMA) was founded in the 1960s as a result of business owners needing both a decision-making committee and a voice for all of the local businesses in the downtown area,” said Auburn’s Downtown Coordinator Jessica Kohn. The mission of the organization is to improve and advance the downtown area, promote the downtown area to the public and enhance the downtown area as a center for commerce, a destination for visitors and an asset for
Auburn residents, according to ADMA’s website. Kohn became Auburn’s first downtown coordinator in 2016 after graduating from Auburn University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in communication. “The board members of [ADMA] needed someone to run the organization because they had their own businesses to run,” Kohn said. “Once the merchants association got approved funding from the city, they created the downtown coordinator position.” Kohn described taking the job opportunity as a “no brainer” due to her admiration for the city of Auburn, especially its downtown area. “I just felt called to apply for the job, and it was something I had to think about because of sacrifices I had to make when taking the job,” she said. “However, it’s because I am so passionate about this area that I wanted to
See CORE, page 12
do it. Overall, it’s an absolute honor to serve as downtown coordinator.” FROM 11 Throughout the past decade, Auburn’s downtown area has seen the addition of several new businesses and student housing developments. “I feel that downtown still has its lovely charm and aesthetic,” Kohn said. “I also believe that downtown’s growth is necessary for its economy because when you see the increase in students coming to Auburn, you also see more visitors coming into local businesses to shop and eat.” Auburn puts on a few events to help promote the downtown area’s local businesses each year. These events include the Mardi Gras Krewe Krawl event, Chairs on the Corner and the Downtown Family Supper. ADMA acts as an advocate for the downtown businesses. When the pandemic hit the previous
year, the organization started a campaign called “#KeepAuburnRolling.” The campaign initially started as a hashtag on social media to promote local businesses during the pandemic, but was transformed to a fundraising campaign. The slogan was printed on t-shirts and proceeds were returned to a local business of the buyer’s choice. “I still get goosebumps thinking about the support from the Auburn community for our downtown area during that time,” Kohn said. “We were able to raise over $19,000 for downtown businesses from not just locals, but also those from out-of-state that love our community.” Downtown Auburn also has a large social media following with more than 20,000 followers on its Instagram page alone. “I think the following is huge because it allows businesses to be seen on this platform,” Kohn said. “With
Refresh Opelika Story By Wil Crews
this following, [ADMA] is able to give these businesses more exposure through marketing on social media.” Opelika Main Street: Opelika Main Street is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1987 as an effort to revitalize the downtown area and turn it from, as Opelika Main Street Executive Director Ken Ward put it, “a sleepy, empty area, into a vibrant commerce and entertainment district.” The organization works with businesses to promote them, uses beautification efforts to maintain the downtown area and puts on events to promote the downtown area. Ward said that all of
See CORE, page 14
ain Street Alabama visited Opelika in July 2020 to review the state of the city’s downtown area and provide recommendations for a five-year plan to refresh Opelika. Main Street is a nonprofit organization that stresses public-private partnerships, broad community engagement and strategies that create jobs, spark new investments, attract visitors and spur growth. The organization sent a resource team that spent three days exploring Opelika’s main street and downtown; it presented its findings and recommendations in a press conference in July. Each member presented on one particular aspect of Main Street’s four-point approach to refreshing main streets across Alabama — organization, promotion, economic vitality and design. “Economic development in the context of historic preservation, that is Main Street,” said Jay Schlinsog, a member of the team from the Downtown Professionals Network. Main Street surveyed 75 citizens to determine the strengths and weaknesses of downtown Opelika. Citizens expressed strong support for Opelika’s bars, restaurants parking and the walkability of downtown. However, the city has a lack of diversity and accessibility, as well as empty and consolidated buildings, inconsistent business hours, closing too early and a lack of residential areas, citizens said. To positively address these weaknesses, and to reinforce the strengths, Main Street organized a general five-year plan. The plan envisions downtown Opelika with more diverse, independent, small retail businesses and restaurants, a market or grocery and more art and music related businesses. Main Street recommends more live music,
See OPELIKA, page 15
this is “in the name of the growth of downtown Opelika.” FROM 13 Ward became the executive director of Opelika Main Street in the summer of 2019, after graduating from Auburn University with his master’s degree in public administration. “Being the executive director of Opelika Main Street is a good opportunity to work in a thriving environment due to the many businesses and restaurants that become a part of downtown,” Ward said. “I am grateful to have the opportunity to play a small role in all of that and for the opportunity to contribute as a leader in the community.” Downtown Opelika has also seen a noticeable amount of growth throughout the past several years and it’s all thanks to Opelika Main Street’s efforts to revitalize the area while maintaining its classic charm that attracts visitors to its shops and eateries. “I think the downtown’s growth has been amazing and has made Opelika a better place to live, work and visit,” Ward said. “The downtown is the core of the city and
the growth of downtown reverberates throughout all the different neighborhoods, commercial districts and other areas throughout the city.” Opelika Main Street also has a talent of reviving old buildings and transforming them into new businesses. For example, there are breweries that were formerly textile mills and an event center that was formerly a bottling plant for Coca-Cola. Ward said that the organization’s motto “where preservation meets progress,” is actively enacted due to the encouragement of revitalizing old buildings to adapt to new uses over time. The reimagining of old buildings is encouraged in the downtown area because it preserves the historic nature, the quaintness and the beauty of the downtown area, he said. “While many communities in East Alabama have been, sadly, tearing down a lot of their historic places and replacing them with high-rise buildings, we have been able to avoid that while ensuring growth for downtown Opelika,” he said.
Opelika Main Street puts on different events to appeal to the different demographics and interests in the city including the family-friendly Christmas in a Railroad Town and the adult-friendly event, On Tap. The organization not only puts on great events for the community to enjoy but helps promote businesses in the downtown area. “Opelika Main Street is really the businesses’ advocates, and we do everything in our power to help them in any way
possible,” Ward said. “For example, during the COVID-19 timeframe, we were constantly informing the businesses of different grant opportunities, different government programs that gave funding and we hosted digital webinars that talked about the effects the pandemic had on businesses. “We also have our weekly eNewsletter that we send to nearly 800 people, billboards throughout the East Alabama area that promote our businesses and the events that are held in the downtown area. We also try to help fill the void for any needs the businesses may have whether it be advertising that the business offers curbside pickup or working with the city to give curbside parking spaces.” The Opelika community has been a strong supporter for the local businesses in the downtown area. The community held the “shop local, buy local,” attitude which helps the businesses grow and thrive, Ward said. “The community has been amazing for downtown,” he said. “Opelika has one of the oldest, and one of the most successful, main street programs in Alabama, and it’s because of the people in the community that’s investing their time, talent and hard-earned dollars into our downtown.” If you would like to keep up with Downtown Opelika and Downtown Auburn, follow their respective Instagram accounts @ downtownopelika and @ downtownauburn.
opportunities to exercise, more events that appeal to diversity, FROM 13 trails and accessible connectors to downtown, a farmers’ market and public art. However, in order for Opelika to see these positive changes within five years, Trisha Black, a member of the team from Main Street Alabama, spoke about the need for promoting the downtown area. Opelika’s city logo and the main street logo should look continuous and cohesive, she said. Additionally, downtown should rethink events and provide resources and business help on the Opelika Main Street website, she said. Schlinsog then spoke about the economic vitality of Opelika’s downtown. “Even as we think about the future, when it comes to economic development, it’s really important that we hold on to those memories, those stories, that make this place special,” he said. Schlinsog implored Opelika Main Street to focus on supporting businesses, promoting opportunities and catalyzing investments. Downtown Opelika can support business by maximizing public spaces, promoting small business assistance and recovery programs and providing customer friendly parking practices, he suggested. Opelika should catalyze investments by promoting downtown housing and exploring partnership opportunities through state and federal tax credits, he said. Randy Wilson, a member of the team from Community Design Solutions, spoke next about downtown Opelika’s design, with hopes to take it from “good to great.” Wilson recommended Opelika develop a common vision with a clear, collaborative goal between the private and public sector. One recommended way to do so was for the city to address critical issues by refreshing the streetscapes, parks and open spaces. Plans for doing this are already in the works. Finally, Opelika should view downtown as the next major development in the city, he said. This starts by providing businesses with urban planning that is streamlined, incentive based and safeguarded. To accomplish all of this, Wilson eluded to a strategy employed by English pop-girl group, The Spice Girls. “If you want to be my lover, you got to — abolish parking minimums and exclusionary single family zoning,” he said. That might seem like simplified solution to a grandiose plan. But, it’s true that downtown Opelika is an already booming area that’s full of swiftly-achievable potential.
Toomer’s Drugs B
Lovliest Village on the Plains —18—
artwork by yates clanton
A Local Staple Story By Natalie Salvatore Photos By Robert Noles
or 30 years, the Amsterdam Café has been a staple in the Auburn community for students and citizens alike. Even during a global pandemic, the business is still
booming. Opened in 1991 as a bar, the business transformed into the restaurant it is today when the Cleveland Brothers took ownership in 1998. Amsterdam’s executive chef, Brady Thompson, joined the restaurant’s team in the fall of 2018. He said that Amsterdam is truly a family business that strives to treat everyone who walks through the doors with grace and hospitality. It is the restaurant’s
goal to make everyone’s experience enjoyable and comfortable, he said. “It is my sincere hope that the community thinks of Amsterdam Café as a place where they can have a consistently excellent experience, a place for Auburn students to bring their parents, a place for graduates to bring their children and even a place for visiting college rivals to sit down and experience a little taste of Auburn,” Thompson said. This restaurant also means a lot to the general manager, Nick Ciza, who started in 2009 as a server and worked his way up through the ranks. As exemplified with Ciza, the family aspect starts with
its employees and trickles down to how Amsterdam treats its customers. “To me, an Auburn graduate, this business was a local hot spot long before I even started working here,” Ciza said. “I think over the years we have grown into a restaurant where locals and tourists alike can find a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere to enjoy great food.” He said that alumni who return to campus can relive the nostalgia of their college days with their favorite dishes. Current Auburn students get the experience of Amsterdam not only at the restaurant’s physical location, but also at the two Auburn University food trucks. The campus trucks, the Amsterdam Café Food Truck and The Dam Taco Truck, offer students a delicious lunch during the rush between classes. Students line up with their friends to experience a taste of Amsterdam without having to leave campus. Lily Ann Guagliardo, an Auburn student, said she has fond memories of eating there with her family
over her college years. “Amsterdam is my favorite restaurant in Auburn,” she said. “Whenever my family comes to see me in Auburn, we always go there.” Amsterdam serves lunch, dinner, desserts, drinks and cocktails and Sunday brunch. They also offer catering and party services. The menu features seasonal ingredients with different availability, as the chefs use local, farmfresh ingredients for all of their dishes. Guests can choose from a variety of options, including seasonal dishes, family-friendly meals, award-winning sandwiches and traditional favorites. Chef Thompson said that some of the menu’s long-time dishes are the ones he would recommend. Dishes like the Turkey Wrap & Avocado Sandwich, Lobster Egg Rolls, Rum Salmon Salad and the Amsterdam Burger have been popular with the Auburn residents. More recently, customer favorites have included the “Yardbird” hickory-smoked chicken sandwich, the cast-iron Spinach Dip and
grilled dishes like the Prime Ribeye, Bone in Pork Chops and Center Cut Filets. The general manager had some dishes of his own to weigh in on. Along with the classics mentioned, he has a few different dishes to recommend. His favorites include the seasonally-changing Apple Salad, as well as the Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Like other businesses in the restaurant industry, Amsterdam has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To assess the problems that arose, Ciza said the cafe has permanently added curbside pickup for guests, as well as adjusted the dining room seating to allow for a greater space between tables so guests can dine while being socially distant. “We have done our best to overcome the obstacles that it has brought with it though,” Ciza said. “This has brought our team closer together, and when the pandemic comes to an end, we will be stronger for it.” Thompson said that they have also moved to QR codes and disposable menus for a more contactless
approach, as well as created a Sanitation Specialist position whose job is to clean and sanitize the restaurant thoroughly. Along with adjusting operations for the safety and health of staff and customers, the business has also had to adapt to the changing food industry. “Prices for normal, everyday ingredients and items have skyrocketed,” Thompson said. “A shutdown in a different city or state can mean some ingredients you rely on for daily service can be unavailable for days, weeks, months or can even have its production ceased entirely.” Despite the challenges, Thompson and Ciza said that Amsterdam will continue to handle the everchanging situation in the future. They said they will continue to think of new ways to improve the overall customer experience while keeping everyone safe based on the information at hand. “We want to make sure everyone knows that we are a safe place to visit, even with everything going on,” Ciza said. “We just take it day by day and make
sure we feel safe to continue serving and continue to hope that the worst is already behind us.” Thompson wanted to add that the business is acting with vigilance by following the health and sanitation mandates from the local, state and federal levels. He said that Amsterdam’s own personal safety guidelines will still be in effect even beyond the pandemic. “We’ll do everything we need to do with open hearts, a welcoming attitude and smiles on our faces because, we know that’s what we need to do to keep our customers safe and happy,” Thompson said. Ciza said the cafe is currently working on releasing its spring menu. Along with the campus food trucks, Amsterdam locally expanded to a storefront at 540 Devall St. Suite 102, a new building at the Research Park in Auburn. This gives customers yet another way to enjoy their favorite Amsterdam cuisine in a different spot in town. Amsterdam is located at 410 S. Gay St. in Auburn. Customers can dine in the dining room or patio from
11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, brunch is served from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with normal operation hours from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. To contact the Amsterdam Café, call 334826-8181, or visit the website at www. amsterdamcafeauburn.com/, where guests can make reservations, order online, book a party or access the social media links. Thompson said that Amsterdam has more exciting things planned for the future and is so grateful for the support of the community during these difficult times. “We love the Auburn-Opelika community so much,” he said. “We are ever so grateful for anyone who has chosen to dine with us in the past, but especially this year. Thank you so much.” With its classic Southern dishes and hospitality, The Amsterdam Café is a true Auburn favorite. This community would not be the same without this restaurant.
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Story by Hannah Lester Photos By Hannah Lester and Contributed By The Collegiate Hotel
hat was once Wittel Dormitory, an all female dorm, is now a boutique hotel, complete with rooftop bar. The Collegiate Hotel is truly an allAuburn kind of place. When you check in at the front desk, you do so on a stand of Auburn Glomerata’s (the school’s yearbook). When you have a drink on the rooftop bar, you do so with a view of Samford Hall. And just by staying in one of the hotel’s rooms, you’re surrounded by history. “When plans to convert the hotel were made public, there was a lot of initial anxiety from the community about the plans for a hotel,” said Kim Wirth, one of the
owners of The Collegiate. “We knew our vision was to create a charming space to gather with family and friends. A place that blended style with history, not a cookie cutter chain. We wanted a place we could be proud of and the entire community could be proud of, creating a new Auburn tradition.” Kim and her husband, Brian Wirth, opened the hotel in 2018 — but that had not always been their plan. “It was serendipitous that on a work trip to Auburn I saw the former Wittel dorm for women was for sale,” Kim said. “It was still operational, and I toured the dorm the same day and called Brian with this crazy idea that we should buy the property. Almost
immediately this crazy idea started to form; transform the dorm into a hotel and retire from our current jobs in Memphis [Tennessee,] and relocate the family to Auburn to start this small business.” And so, they did. The hotel accommodates 40 rooms and a rooftop bar. "No visit is complete without a trip to our rooftop bar for one of our signature cocktails, the ToomerTini or the AUBee's margarita, the later that is made with local honey and every sale supports the Auburn University Bee Lab,” Kim said. The lobby has a sequenced mural, a piano, original art and a lot of seating — perfect for a community like Auburn that enjoys gathering together. Unfortunately, gathering became out of the question last March. “When COVID hit it was truly heartbreaking to have to let our entire staff of 30 plus people go,” Kim said. “Knowing how you run your business impacts them, but when you have no guests arriving and you can't make payroll and you are scared. "… That feeling of helplessness and hopelessness was the hardest thing we encountered and never expected. Luckily, with the support of local programs we were able to bring our team back, and we were proud that everyone stuck it out and came back.” It is not only the staff that makes The Collegiate
(fondly called The COHO) special, Kim said, it is the guests. As Auburn alumni, Kim and Brian have been able to not only enjoy the city they graduated in, but see old friends return from time to time. “Every week we see people we haven't see in 20 plus years and those great memories together come flooding back and for a fleeting moment we laugh and think 'yeah we could be back in college,’” she said. Of course, there are those new to the area, and all of Auburn’s charms. “Our downtown location across from campus is ideal for people visiting Auburn University,” Kim said. “ … For us, Auburn is the perfect combination of smalltown life, where you know your neighbors and can connect as part of a community, with the benefits of ongoing education and diversity that a college town inherently brings.” Like Kim said, the community was a little uneasy about the possibility of The COHO when it first began. But Kim and Brian kept the history of the building in place. So, instead of creating a marked difference in Auburn’s landscape, The COHO is simply a repurposing of Wittel Dormitory. “We love to see in such a short amount of time that The Collegiate has become a source of pride for the community and a destination for visitors and the
community,” Kim said. “It is so rewarding to have already celebrated many wonderful milestones with our guests: wedding proposals (so far we have a 100% acceptance rate,) wedding ceremonies on the rooftop
overlooking Samford, bachelorette parties, sweet 16's birthday celebrations and the list goes on and on. We love to feel so connected to our community in such a short amount of time."
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“The most wonderful thing about the house is the relationships we have made.
I feel like I have all over the country now that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
371 N College St. in Auburn
From 1890 to 2021: Crenshaw Guest House
Story By Wil Crews Photos By Josh Fisher and Crenshaw Guest House
he Crenshaw Guest House in Auburn is rich in history. The hospitality that travelers receive there makes it one of the best bed-andbreakfast stops in Lee County. Whether it’s a college visit, a trip through the Southeast or an Auburn football Saturday that brings you there, the Crenshaw Guest House has accommodations for any type of stay. Located in Auburn’s North College Historic District, this Victorian-style house was built in 1890 by Auburn University (then Alabama Polytechnic Institute) professor Dr. Bolling Hall Crenshaw. For many years, Crenshaw, his wife Willie Ella Glenn and their two daughters shared the property with university students.
Nestled among weeping oaks, maple trees and beautiful, vibrant landscaping, the house’s charming blue exterior, distinct bay windows and hanging porch swings initially draw guests to the door. Inside, 12-foot vaulted ceilings and golden-heart pine floors lend a proper welcome to all who visit, and a series of intentional period décor highlight a relaxing and elegant atmosphere. Thirty-six years after it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, current owners Jenny and Fred Nunnelley bought the Crenshaw Guest House in 2018. The Nunnelleys are sixth in a long line of owners who have built, modified and carried on the house’s legacy.
For over a half century after the home’s inception, Crenshaw and his family continued to share their residence with students. The property was then sold to William and Martha Hardie in 1942. It was during the Hardie’s 40-year ownership that the property fell into a state of disrepair. Following the Hardie’s, Frances and Peppi Verma took ownership of the house. As it happens, Frances was the granddaughter of Cliff Hare, a colleague of Crenshaw and an Auburn legend who was deeply involved with the academics, athletics and policymaking at API. It is said that Hare would frequently visit his friend’s house for an afternoon cup of tea. Thus, it is fitting that someone from his lineage would be who began the process of making the Crenshaw Guest House what it is today. After four years of labor and remodeling, the Vermas gained approval to operate as a bed-and-breakfast in 1983. In May of 1985, the Crenshaw Guest House was officially opened for business. The Vermas had the privilege of hosting many distinguished guests and would take on a number of property-improvement projects during the remainder of their time at the house, namely enclosing the rear porch and building the additional carriage house rooms which remain on the property today. In 2008, George and Lynn Postell bought the property, carrying on the work of Peppi and Frances until they sold the home to Stephen and Sarah Jenkins in 2013. The Jenkins operated the house for just five years before the Nunnelleys bought it in 2018.
Today, the Nunnelley’s work diligently to maintain the home’s historical artistry while at the same time moving it into the 21st century. “It’s been a lot of fun,” Jenny said. “We try to keep the rooms in keeping with the history of the house but incorporate modern amenities that most people expect and appreciate.” The house itself offers eight separate lodging suites that sleep between two to six guests. To match the Victorian architecture, rooms in the main house possess a more antique style as opposed to the more contemporary feel of the four rooms on the back half of the property. On the first floor of the main house lies the Petrie Suite, the Hare Room and the Nichols Room. “The Nichols room is definitely my favorite place to nap in,” Jenny said. “But the Petrie room is probably my favorite. Its full of period antiques and I love how in keeping it is with
the architecture of the house.” Upstairs is the Aubie Suite. It sleeps four, features a king size memory-foam sleeper sofa and offers guests more privacy than the other main-house rooms. On the back half of the property, both the Jordan and Samford Rooms have been recently updated to ensure maximum privacy and convenience. The Pat Dye Cottage is a two-room, two-bathroom suite and is a great place for families with its two bunk beds built into the living area. There’s also a 400 square-foot deck, perfect for enjoying evening sunsets among 20-plus trees planted by the legendary Dye himself. Lastly, there’s the Thach Cottage. This rustic, pet friendly room can sleep four to five guests, and features one king bed, a twin bed and a full bed in the upstairs loft. Each of the rooms offer something unique and allow visitors to have a different experience each time they stay. While the various allures that are inside the Crenshaw Guest House make it unique, it’s convenient location only adds to its appeal. “Being within walking distance to the university, the stadium, the downtown, all of that is obviously a big draw as well,” Jenny said. The five-minute walk into the bustling city is perhaps
bested only by the fresh-baked cookies that guests arrive and wake up to every day. “You can count on those every day when you’re there,” Jenny said. Before the breakout of a world-wide pandemic, the house was typically packed on weekends, with Auburn football game days the most popular occasion for incoming visitors. The Crenshaw Guest House’s breakfast that overnighters receive is something the Nunnelley’s pride themselves on. “Breakfast is busy,” Jenny said. “But they are always happy, upbeat and full of energy.” A typical football Saturday morning sees Jenny up at 4:30 a.m., making coffee and preparing breakfast, which is served between 8-10 a.m. for an evening game. Guests would traditionally be fed in shifts with a full buffet at their disposal. However, now, most visitors choose to receive breakfast in their rooms. The Nunnelleys politely oblige. “But that’s a shame,” Jenny added. “Before COVID, part of the fun was you would get to meet the other people staying in the bed-and-breakfast. And there’s still opportunities for the guests to meet and mingle but
obviously people are a lot more reluctant and a lot more spaced out.” Whereas many things have changed over the last year, some things have stayed the same. For example, Jenny said she still eagerly looks forward to her favorite thing about the house: meeting new guests. “The most wonderful thing about the house is the relationships we have made,” Jenny added. “I feel like I have friends all over the country now that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.” And while the Nunnelleys do not live at the Crenshaw House permanently, the full-time housekeeper helps them
strive for one persistent goal. “I want [the guests] to feel welcome, pampered and part of the family,” Jenny said. In the three years the Nunnelleys have owned the property, they have worked hard to incorporate all the things that other bed-and-breakfasts have to offer while at the same time adding some personal touch. However, ultimately, Jenny knows there is one thing that separates their B&B from the pack. “I really feel like it’s the guests that visit Crenshaw that make it special,” Jenny said. To learn more about the Crenshaw Guest House or to book a stay, visit www.crenshawguesthouse.com/
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Part of the Auburn Family Story By Kayla Evans Photos By Josh Fisher
he Auburn Family is something that many people are a part of and cherish. Many things come to mind when thinking of the Auburn Family: rolling Toomer’s Corner after a win, giving Aubie a high five, the Tiger Walk before football games, the Jungle in Auburn Arena, getting lemonade at Toomer’s, saying “War Eagle” when you pass other Auburn fans and so much more.
And a big part of that Auburn Family has been Johnston & Malone Bookstore. J&M Bookstore was founded on May 19, 1953 by George Johnston and Paul Malone. Johnston bought Malone’s portion of the company in the 1960s, and it has remained in the Johnston family ever since. In 1968, the store went under a major remodel. The store dates back to 1878 where the name was Burtons. The
shop had a few other owners and names before Johnston and Malone bought it and named it J&M Bookstore. Celebrating 68 years in May, George Johnston’s sons Trey and Skip now own the business. Trey runs the downtown location, and Skip runs the South College Street location. “I always worked here as a kid,” Trey said. “I would go to baseball practice at Felton Little Park or somewhere playing basketball and would ride home with Daddy to close up. I was sweeping floors or emptying the trash cans and doing all of that stuff as a teenager and kid. I worked here when I was in college.” Trey has three daughters so the Johnston’s are planning on keeping it in the family. Currently, one of Trey’s daughters paints the artwork that is in the store, and her husband is one of the managers. J&M Bookstore sells almost any kind of Auburn souvenir a person could want. They sell Auburn apparel as well as stickers, drink ware, artwork, bags,
jewelry, cards, stickers, decals, art supplies and more. Originally, the store sold books, but recently decided to stop selling books and focus on Auburn souvenirs. Game days are some of the best days in Auburn. Tailgating in the packed tents around campus and heading to the stadium before kickoff are part of the experience. J&M Bookstore is another main attraction on game days. The employees hand out Auburn stickers to everyone who walks in the door, and customers are often standing shoulder to shoulder. Terry said he started giving out stickers to everyone who walked in because he wanted everyone to have a piece of J&M Bookstore. “We enjoy game days,” Terry said. “It is crazy. People are coming and going. Several years ago, I started putting stickers on people because people would just come in here to get the feel. They would come in here just to smell the victory.” A famous wall that every Auburn fan knows is the
“War Eagle” painted brick wall next to the downtown location. It’s been a photograph location for many fans, students and families who tour Auburn’s campus and for graduation pictures. The wall is owned by Ronnie Ware with Ware Jewelers, but dates back to the 1980s when George decided to paint it. “It became an icon,” Terry said. “It’s become a place to get your senior portraits made.” A unique aspect of J&M Bookstore is their employees. Over the decades, the bookstore has created thousands of jobs for Auburn students and locals as full-time or part-time employees. Many of their employees are college students trying to pay their way through college. However, one of their employees has worked there for 50 years. She fell in love with J&M and wanted to continue her time there, and she ended up retiring about four years ago. Familiar faces have worked in the store. Terrance Finley is now the CEO of Books-A-Million, but Finley
worked at J&M Bookstore through his college years at Auburn and grew his love for books. “[Finley] was a good employee,” Trey said. “He was a lot of fun to be around. He was a doer. He was one of those kids that you didn’t have to tell him what to do all of the time.” The original location of the bookstore is located in downtown Auburn. They opened up the second location in 1989 in Tigers Crossing and relocated it to University Village on S. College Street in 2004. The downtown location is located at 115 S. College St. with the second location less than two miles from the original at 1100 S. College St. J&M Bookstore has been a part of the Auburn family for decades and will be for a long time. UPS named J&M Bookstore to its Top 10 Football Town Business Landmarks in 2015. The store is loved by many and will continue to be one of the leaders with the Auburn spirit.
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Where Preservation Meets Progress
artwork by vickie sexton
A Museum of Memories Story By Wil Crews Photos By Robert Noles
B, C or D? Answer: All of the above. At Almost Anything, located at 221 S. 9th St. in downtown Opelika, it doesn’t matter what you’re looking for, you’re likely to find it. If you happen to stumble in, something might just find you. Established in 1992 in Auburn, Almost Anything specializes in dealing retro video games, vinyl records, comic books, magic cards, toys, posters, art, musical instruments, jewelry and LOTS more. It’s an avant-garde museum of memories; A fun-factory that pays homage to the past — going about it in a zany, dreamlike way. “There’s not going to be another store like this,” said Ben Cash, an Auburn native who has worked at Almost Anything for nearly a decade. “It’s truly one of a kind.”
Upon arriving at this wacky, distinctive and mystifying shop, you’re greeted outside by two men who — without knowing the backstory — can flummox customers almost as much as the store itself. Those men are none other than ‘80s music icons, The Blues Brothers. Of course, the fedora wearing R&B legends aren’t the real Blues Brothers, just statues. But the blacksuited ceramic figures set a fabled tone for what customers should expect when they step into the enigma that is Almost Anything. “After we put them out there, we had a price on them for a while, but they just started bringing us so much publicity,” Cash said, regarding the statues. “There were people taking pictures with them and they became a landmark … so then it’s like, this is better than any advertising we have ever done.” Once customers have reconciled the perplexing nature of the propagandistic soul singers, that’s when the journey of Almost Anything really begins. When customers enter the store, they are transported to a relic age with artifacts, collectibles and hard to find items that are somewhere betwixt the nostalgia of childhood memories and decades past. Vinyl records to your right. Classic movie posters to your left. As you move down the aisles, antique knickknacks heighten the rustic character of the exposed brick wall, jewelry lies daintily in its’ glass case and virtually every video game console ever made lies in wait. Almost innately, customers can become transfixed by an item that piques their curiosity, fulfills a lifelong desire or makes childhood innocence feel attainable again. “It’s not even a store anymore,” Cash said. “You’ll find the most absolutely unique thing. You’ve got easily a thousand peoples worth of childhood memories hiding in one place.” It’s those memories that have
a profound impact on the epic nature of Almost Anything. Things that were once treasured belongings are now on grand display for the perusing pleasure of any shopper who strolls in. “When you’re buying people’s memories like that, it’s really weird,” Cash said. “You’re buying a piece of a person. So at that point, it’s like, how do I put any
said. One of the more unique items he cited was a paraplegic special needs controller for the NES gaming console that he said is maybe one of 10 in the world. There is also a neon PS2 sign that came out of GameStop around 20 years ago. Apart from seeing one sell on eBay a few years ago, it’s the only one Cash has ever seen. Because of the nature of buying and trading video
monetary value on these items?” Despite working at the store for years, and in the face of becoming accustomed to random items making their way in, Cash still gets surprised by some things that are walked through the front door. “There’s some video game stuff that I didn’t even know existed,” Cash, a purveyor of electronics,
games, Cash said his side of the store gets “a lot of the action.” However it’s Dustin Bushey, the brother of Almost Anything’s owner Aaron Bushey, who keeps watch over the more archival side of the store. Dustin, the catalyst behind the now infamous Blues Brothers purchase, is about as close to the enigmatic head man as anyone can get. Aaron’s forte at the shop is comic
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY BEN CASH
books, specifically the horror genre. However, since he bought Almost Anything at 19 years old, Dustin has always shared a grandiose vision for the business with his brother. “I’ve always had high hopes,” Dustin said. “My brother lived in an apartment in Auburn when Almost Anything used to be on Opelika Road next to the bowling alley. He rode his bike and worked there and then he bought it. Then he’s like ‘hey man do you want come work for me?’ and that was like a lifetime ago.” Now, Dustin watches over his turf of countless curios while helping where he is needed. As Dustin put it: “I run shit.” Whether its ancient coins, a first century roman ring, civil war bullets, a hand crafted and molded Michael Meyers mask or a local artist’s papiermache Jack-O’-lantern, customers can find something new every time they visit his side of the store — even if it’s been there for years. From a rocket launcher to correspondence letters from a serial killer, everything is for sale. The only exception to that is a
15-pound champion bass that Dustin’s wife caught. There are numerous nearpriceless items in the store as “some things we will never sell,” Cash bluntly stated. However, anyone who has gone bass fishing knows that a catch like that can only be received through merit. Nonetheless, there are plenty of other madcap what-d’you-call-its, thingamajigs and doohickeys to keep wide-eyed shoppers coming back. Put plainly, the innumerable historical and uncommon items at Almost Anything render it nothing short of remarkable. It’s ability to make a room full of antiquated items feel so vibrant and modern deserves to be celebrated. Above all, however, it’s the personal connection that customers can make with the store’s small staff that keeps people coming back. “People that come here all the time become your friend,” Cash said. “We have regulars that I’ve seen for 10 years. When you have the ability to make friends with customers like that, it’s really surreal.” To find out more, visit www.facebook. com/almostanythingopelika/.
‘Chess at 1,000 mph’
Story By Will Fairless Photos By Josh Fisher
f fencing, table tennis and curling, which Olympic sport causes the least injuries? Is it the combat sport in which participants try to hit each other with swords and from which originated the phrase “to first blood?” Is it the rec room staple equally enjoyed by seven and 70-year-olds? Or is it the winter sport most recently won by men who were dropped from an Olympic High Performance Program after their showing at its athletic combine? The answer might come as a shock (and not because table tennis elbow is surprisingly common). According to a study of the 2008 and 2010 Olympics conducted by Lars Engebretsen at the University of Oslo, less than 5% of fencing athletes sustained injuries during the Olympics, less than curling and table tennis. Rylan Delap, the owner of Auburn Fencing Club in Opelika, wants people to know that fencing is not dangerous. “We’re not like bashing our heads together,” he said. “We don’t have CTE issues. [Fencing masks] are just masks; they’re just to protect you from getting poked in the eye.” Delap also said that fencing is the perfect pandemic sport, as no cases of COVID-19 have been traced back to the club, according to him. A sign outside of the club (229 S. 8th St. in Opelika) explains why, reading, “1. Masks 2. Gloves 3. If
anyone gets closer than 6 feet to you, you stab them.” Delap has been fencing for almost his entire life, including with Penn State, which won nationals when he was there. He is an international fencing official and one of about 20 people in the United States who are certified to train fencing referees. At the Auburn Fencing Club, he coaches children and adults and offers sessions and open fencing times to the public. “I want people to be familiar when it comes up on the Olympic channel,” he said. “I want people to be like, ‘Yeah, this is awesome.’” He’s also got some tips for first-time fencing viewers. Of the three disciplines (foil, épée and sabre), sabre is the most entertaining to the uninitiated. When watching fencing, Delap said, one should look at the fencers’ bodies, not the blades. “Your eyes aren’t fast enough [to follow the blades]; no one’s are,” he said. “People make that mistake … It’s like trying to be entertained by shooting and watching the bullet.” Delap said that this year’s U.S. fencing team could be the best in a long time. The U.S. has only two gold medals total in fencing, which is one of five activities featured in every modern Olympic games, along with athletics, swimming, cycling and gymnastics. If anyone catches the fencing bug after watching it in the
Olympics, as happened with curling as a result of the aforementioned team, Auburn Fencing Club is the place to go. There is open fencing on Saturdays, and private sessions throughout the week can be scheduled with Delap via the club’s Facebook page (Auburn Fencing Club). “It’s kind of a romantic thing; everyone’s watched Princess Bride,” Delap said. “They should come experience that themselves. They should come and play; I think it’s a great date night idea.” For $75, a couple can get an hour of private fencing time with Delap, during which he’ll put the two through a warmup, teach them the basics, then let them use the rest of the time to fence however seriously, or casually, they want to. “I kit them up, show them the works, give them a little history,” Delap said. “‘This is how you move, here are a couple parries, here’s the strip.’ … If you want to bring your own wine, whatever, you’re welcome to do that.” In addition to being a great couple’s game, fencing is just plain fun for anyone, taken or not. “When you’re suited up and you’re playing,” Delap said. “Oh, man. It’s like a video game.” He spoke romantically about fencing, calling it a “highbrow sport” and comparing it to chess. He also compared it to basketball and the video game Super Smash Bros., even explaining that he tells some of his young students that they should build their fencing styles like they’re creating a video game player. Auburn Fencing Club welcomes aspiring swordsmen of all skill levels, whether that means a gamer who wants to break a sweat, a couple looking for a new date night activity or someone who’s just become an expert on the sport after watching one bout of the United States’ 2020 gold medal run.
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COMMUNITY Story And Photos By Hannah Lester
What draws you in to Side Track — the pay what you want model. What makes you stay — an environment where everyone is welcome.
avid Bizilia grew up in Opelika. As he grew older, he watched his friends move away to bigger cities in search of opportunities, a bustling atmosphere or careers they didn’t think they’d find in a small town. “I’ve seen so many creative, powerful voices that have been stationed here through school or through jobs and they [say], ‘There’s more for me in LA, there’s more for me in Nashville, there’s more for me in New York. I want to go there because there’s stuff happening there.’ And my heart and my feeling toward that, I saw all the really, really cool people when I was growing up, when I was young and I was like, ‘those are the coolest people I’ve ever seen’ and then they would leave. If that continues to be the case, then there will be no change … there’d be this lack of creation.” But Bizilia, he decided to stay in his home town and create something: Side Track Coffee. A year after graduating high school, Bizilia was working at another coffee shop, which unfortunately closed. Wade Preston, the owner of Prevail coffee, called Bizilia and asked if he’d like to start a cafe in Opelika to fill the
void. The project was supposed to be short-term, Bizilia said. “It was through that summer that I changed a lot and changed directions of where my life was going and how I felt about creation itself, because I had never thought about opening a business before I got that call.” Fast forward to the end of the summer and Side Track was anything but short term. Bizilia’s view on business is certainly not corporate America’s view on business. “Having a business is so lame,” he said. “This is so lame if all I was doing was trying to get money.” Enter the business’ “pay what you want” model. You can walk through the door and pop a dime down on the counter and get a coffee. Or you can hand them a hundred dollar bill. Or, you don’t have to pay anything at all. And Bizilia said he truly doesn’t care how much a customer pays. “We wanted to show people that [they don’t care what you pay] in how we live our life, and how we steward our money with discernment, and with care, and with love and with truth. Not only how we steward money in accepting it, how
we steward it with giving it as well.” Anyone who pays at Side Track, any amount, is a part of the business, Bizilia said, but there is no obligation to pay anything. “If someone came up and they gave us $1,000 for a coffee and then someone behind them came up and gave a dollar, or zero dollars or something like that for coffee, we would look at both of those people the exact same,” he said. Bizilia said he hopes the customers believe that he truly does not care what they pay. “People are not a dollar amount. People are no sum of tangible things. They are a sum of eternal things. And hopefully we can offer people that chance to believe that, to have trust in that.” Because, the business is about the people. “Community is a word I love to use, but it’s also a buzzword too,” Bizilia said. “And I don’t want it to mean that word. So, when I do use the word community, I mean everyone around us that works together, that is woven together, through relationships, through creating together, through thinking together, checking up on each other.” Side Track is designed like a home, Bizilia said. When you walk in, you’re walking through someone’s front door. “I feel like I walk in there and it’s not a business,” Bizilia said. “Like, that’s not what it feels like at all. There’s no agenda.” Part of the community is making sure that Side Track is there for its neighbors, he said. Not just the physical nextdoor neighbors, but anyone who walks through the door. “I can’t help my neighbor, truly, if I don’t know who they are and know what their needs are,” Bizilia said. Side Track does have plans for the future, but he said he wants to make sure that he keeps his eyes on the things that are important, not things that will fade. “Owning a business, to me, is just super boring, but working with people, alongside people and business being a way to do that … is so exhilarating, and so much fun, and so hard and, oh my gosh, it’s so refining.”
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A business for pleasure, not for profit Story By Hannah Lester Photos By Josh Fisher
ll the items you won’t find on a Walmart shelf are located at Heritage Gifts and Gourmet in Opelika. The shop, located on 8th Street in Opelika, is the passion project of Barbara Patton, owner of Heritage Gifts. Browse the walls for estate-sale finds, vintage clothing, Christmas gifts, Jim Shore and more. “It’s different; it’s got a little bit of everything,” she said.
The shop was originally part of the Heritage House bedand-breakfast, selling items to guests that they may have forgotten at home — toothpaste and clothes for example. There were collectibles too, such as Department 56 villages and snow babies. Eventually Heritage House was sold to new owners and the shop was moved to 108 S. 8th St. in 2004. “We like being in downtown,” Patton said, though she
admits she misses being in the carriage house (where Heritage House is located). At one time, the back of Heritage Gifts was used as an artist’s location. Different artists displayed their work there. Too, the shop used to sell a lot of coffee, but when more coffee shops started cropping up, Patton said they didn’t want to encroach on that territory. So, the business has changed over the years. Now, Patton works with individuals to display their goods. One of the artists who used to display her work now brings in items she’s purchased at estate sales. Some of the more popular items are the gourmet foods, Patton said, and of course, Christmas decor. The Christmas decor, like the Department 56 villages, isn’t just popular for the most wonderful time of the year, but all year long. “People might come in and buy an anniversary gift, or a birthday gift, a wedding gift, sometimes people like to give a church [Department 56 village], get [the couple] started,” Patton said. “Some people have collected a lot of this for a long time, so they’re collected out. And not many people sell these anymore, so I have a lot of people coming in saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you still sold this.’” Patton is the sole owner of the shop, but she has a couple of employees to help her out. Part of the difficulty in running Heritage Gifts comes with the technology side of the business. However, making a large profit is not her goal, Patton said.
“If I had to make a living out in this shop, I wouldn’t be here,” she said. The charm of the business is the people, Patton said. Friends will stop by just to talk. “I love the people coming in here, visiting with the people and finding out their stories,” she said. “It’s the connections, and the people, and the relationships and staying involved.” Of course, it’s hard to connect with people when the shop is closed, which is what happened when COVID-19 hit last March. The shop remained closed for a couple of months, but thankfully, Patton said, Heritage Gifts has bounced right back. “Christmas was fairly good,” she said. “People came in, they were careful.” Patton said that Heritage Gifts is a part of both the Opelika Chamber and the Main Street program. “Downtown’s the heart of your town,” Patton said. “When people first come in, that’s what they see; they want to make sure it’s viable. And they want to make sure, I mean if your downtown is falling apart, the whole place is falling apart. So, it’s your front door.” Part of being downtown is connecting with other business owners, Patton said. If Heritage Gifts doesn’t have something that a shopper is looking for then she said she’ll refer them to another downtown shop. “Come downtown, not just to my shop,” she said. “Come to all the shops … Come downtown and know about your downtown. Know what we’ve got to offer.”
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A mob ... a cash mob! Story By Emery Lay Photos By Josh Fisher
ce cream in the winter can be difficult, especially for locally owned businesses like O Town Ice Cream. A regular business day in January, however, turned into a influx of cash. Rosanna McGinnis moved to the area in 2016 and was looking for ways to make new friends. She also wanted to support her local businesses. Enter: the Cash Mob. McGinnis found a Cash Mob in another city and decided it would be the perfect addition to Opelika. Pre-COVID-19, cash mobs were groups that met up to have a social event or get drinks. There, they would decide on a business to patron and a month to go. When they went, they would spend up to $20 at said store. “The collective spending is really where the power is at for a Cash Mob,” McGinnis said. Sadly, the Opelika Cash Mob sat idle for nearly five years until recently — when someone stumbled upon the Facebook group in November and began sharing it with friends. The first Cash Mob event took place on Jan. 23 at O Town Ice Cream. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a hefty toll on many local business in Auburn and Opelika. The Cash Mob events encourage people to shop local and support businesses during a trying time. “It was wonderful that they chose us and it was a big surprise,” said Angela George, O Town Ice Cream owner. The Opelika Cash Mob told O Town prior to day of the event so that it could plan accordingly. “They were really good about letting us know so that we could prepare staff and food to sell,” George said. George said nearly 300 people, roughly 40 transactions, came from the Opelika Cash Mob that day. “We saw a lot of new faces,” George said. “A lot of people that had never come to try it, did try it and since
the Cash Mob have been back.” O Town offers both indoor and drive-thru options for orders. In addition, they are not limited to ice cream alone. The shops serves lunch Tuesday through Sunday, as well as a specialty breakfast on Thursday and Fridays. Also available are eCards which can be purchased online and used in stores. The Opelika Cash Mob didn’t stop at OTown. The CashMob surprised Twice Baked, located at 909 S. Railroad Ave., in February. “[Twice Baked is] a black-owned business and that is also something I really want to make sure we are highlighting,” McGinnis said. “That we give minorityowned businesses extra shoutouts.” The Cash Mob’s business of choice for March was Game Time Hobbies, which caters to a variety of board games, playing card games and more. The group’s hope is that month by month they will be able to alternate between restaurant and retail, McGinnis said. There is no rhyme or reason for how McGinnis chooses her businesses. She simply has three criteria: locally-owned, products for both men and women and an experience that can be purchased for under $20, she said. To be considered, or to join the group, simply answer a few questions on the Facebook page to be added. “Concentrated spending is really where the magic happens,” McGinnis said. “If we dilute it too much, it just doesn’t have the same effect.” The group is focusing on just one business a month for now, though they are open to expanding in the future. “While I started this to make friends, now … It is just a way for me to give back to Opelika,” McGinnis said. “My family and I love it here. And we just really wanna see all of the neat and local shops that we love so much
thrive.” Ali Brewer, the head of Accounting for a Property Management Firm in Auburn, wanted to join McGinnis’ vision. After seeing her friends tag the Opelika Cash Mob on Facebook, Brewer did some digging and came up empty when trying to find one in Auburn. She formed her own group, almost immediately, and it began on Jan. 23. They had 850 members before the Auburn Cash Mob’s first event at the Auburn Popcorn Company on Feb. 13. Afterward — the group had grown to nearly 1,200. “The owner compared it to a pre-COVID, majorSEC-opponent football game day,” Brewer said. The members soon decided that they wanted to squeeze both a restaurant and a retailer into each month. The Auburn Cash Mob decided to focus their
resources on Frou Frou Florist on Feb. 20. The florist in the Bodegas at Midtown on Opelika Road was chosen randomly. Jess Margeson, the owner of the store, sold 50 of her mason jar arrangements that day. “The owner of Frou Frou [Florist] is … one of the most delightful people I’ve ever met in my life,” Brewer said. “She was just so grateful and that just makes it worth it.” The group promoted The Mason Jar, located at 1936 S. College St., in March. Brewer admits that one of her favorite parts of the Auburn Cash Mob is getting to know the owners. If you are in interested in joining the Auburn Cash Mob, you can find them on Facebook as well. “I want to see these places succeed,” Brewer said. “Hindsight is 20/20… But I hope that we will make a difference starting in 2021.”
“While I started this to make friends, now … It is just a way for me to give back to Opelika. My family and I love it here. And we just really wanna see all of the neat and local shops that we love so much thrive.” - Rosanna McGinnis
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Remembering B&B’s on Geneva Street
Story By Ann Cipperly Photos Contributed By Ann Cipperly
ituated amid aged oaks with a storied past, the stately Trawick-Tatum house has stood as a landmark on Geneva Street in Opelika since 1917. Once a grand residence in its early days, the house was converted into a bed-and-breakfast inn in the 1980s. The first inn was named “Under the Oaks,” followed by “The Trawick House” and then the “Whispering Oaks,” before once again becoming a family home.
The First Home: Leonard M. Trawick, who owned a wholesale grocery, is believed to have hired a man named Woodall, an architect in Columbus, Georgia, to build the house. With its dark red pressed brick, white trim and columns, the stunning house provided gracious living for its first family. The dining room, library and parlor featured beautiful mantels. The dining room was embellished with handsome
paneling from the floor reaching five feet high. Most of the house featured fine wood flooring, while the roof was thick, natural slate. A furnace in the cellar below the kitchen housed the central heating unit. Every room except the kitchen, bathroom and sleeping porch had a radiator and a fireplace. On one side of the grounds, a large red barn, formerly a stable, was used as a two-car garage for the Trawicks. In the loft of the garage, the Trawick children played and presented shows. The building was razed around 1940, and a smaller garage was built.
Each of the side porches offered a swing for relaxing in a slow pace of living. The center portion of the front porch was covered with a roof two stories high supported by four Corinthian columns. A screened porch on the east side of the house offered another area for relaxing during the summer months. Leonard passed away in 1955. The family continued to live in the house until the death of his wife in 1959.
The Second Family: The house was sold to Dr. and Mrs. O.H. Tatum in 1961.
Tatum was a well-known Opelika dentist. A fire in 1963 severely damaged the back of the house, but the structure remained intact. It took two years for the repairs and remodeling to be completed. The back hall was rebuilt, the house rewired, baths remodeled and the kitchen was started from scratch. The back sleeping porch was bricked to become a bedroom. The Tatums sold the house in 1981. The house was offered as an office building, but no leases were made. Under The Oaks: Debbie and Mike Whitley, along with Danny Tankersley, agreed on a lease purchase with Dr. Hilt Tatum in 1985 for a bed-and-breakfast called “Under the Oaks.” Their remodel was mainly to change paint colors as they rented the home from Dr. Tatum. Inspired by designer Mario Buatta, Debbie selected jewel tones and chintz, which were popular in the ‘80s. Once they purchased the house in April 1986, remodeling was done in the bedrooms to include a private bath with every room. The house has 11 rooms, seven baths and six bedrooms. The Whitley’s and Tankersley honored the history of the home and each bedroom was decorated in a different theme
and named after a member of the Trawick or Tatum family. The inn’s amenities included in-room refrigerators, complimentary wine upon arrival and a cozy living room for relaxing. For breakfast, Debbie served a sausage quiche and fresh fruit with an orange sauce prepared with orange juice, cream cheese and marshmallow cream. She ordered orange and cinnamon rolls from local caterer Susan Hall. After a year, Debbie decided she wanted to spend more time with her children. Danny approached his mother, Donna Tankersley, about purchasing Debbie’s partnership. Donna was working as a registered nurse at East Alabama Medical Center. She had heard her son talk about the wonderful people he had met at the inn. Donna enjoyed meeting people, decorating and cooking, which were all responsibilities she would hold as co-owner of the inn. She left the hospital and went to work as the new co-owner. Donna met people from China, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and those from across the United States in only her first three months. Buckner Trawick, who grew up in the house, came to visit and told stories he remembered of the house. He wrote a book, “The Traylor Tree — Its Nuts and Fruits,” which includes
several stories about growing up in the house. Not only did people from across the states and the world have a chance to meet and interact, but “Under The Oaks” was a place for family, too. In fact, one of the most unusual stories associated with the house occurred the weekend of the A-Day game. A man noticed that one of the names on the register was the same as his first cousin, whom he hadn’t seen in years. He waited for the man to come downstairs, and it was indeed his cousin. The men and their wives spent several hours visiting, surprised to find each other unexpectedly in Opelika. Donna regularly served a continental breakfast, featuring homemade bread or muffins, fruit, coffee, tea and a variety of juices. Some mornings she served a continental-plus breakfast, which included quiche or ham and Swiss cheese croissants. She often served cookies in the afternoon in the common room, depending on if there were guests at the end during the day. The inn also hosted club meetings, showers and wedding receptions as well as catered small luncheons. The Trawick House: Debbie and Larry Battles of Birmingham purchased the bed-and-breakfast in 1988 and changed the name to “The Trawick House.” They moved into the inn on New Year’s Eve. The Battles opened the inn in February 1989 to the public for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. They also began opening for luncheons, parties and dinners on request. Larry served as the chef for the inn, but he hadn’t always enjoyed cooking. He found an interest in the culinary arts after accepting a position as a broker in San Francisco that required traveling. As Larry dined at restaurants in San Francisco and the Napa Valley, it opened up a whole new world of culinary experiences. He also traveled to New York and New Orleans where his interest in cooking expanded. When he returned home, he would try to recreate the dishes he had enjoyed in restaurants. He invested in upscale kitchen equipment, cookbooks and
cooking classes. He attended classes and workshops from wellknown chefs. After returning to Birmingham, Larry and Debbie began catering small dinner parties. Larry began to feel it was time for a career change. When he and Debbie stayed at a bed-and-breakfast in Virginia with a restaurant, they decided that was what they wanted to do. They began looking for a house to convert into a bed-and-breakfast, but they couldn’t find just the right place. When Debbie called “Under the Oaks” to make a reservation for someone, she learned that the inn was for sale. When Larry came home that night, Debbie asked if he was interested in a place in Opelika, but he said no. The two had scheduled a trip to Montgomery and decided to stop in to see “Under The Oaks” on the way. As soon as they drove up in front, the two knew it was perfect for them. Larry wanted to develop a local cuisine that could be unique to the area, such as Cajun food in New Orleans. He believed in dining experiences creating happy memories. One of the meals he prepared for lunch included grilled fish topped with a pesto sauce, served with rice, a mélange of fresh vegetables and homemade French bread. For dessert, a slice of roulage was so dense and chocolaty that it tasted like a truffle, while another dessert, a wedge of apple tart, was delectable with an apricot glaze. Dinner at the inn featured a variety of gourmet dishes. Sadly, the “Trawick House” closed. Whispering Oaks: Mary and Carlton Clifton purchased the house in 1990 and opened “Whispering Oaks,” which served Southern cuisine. After a few years, the restaurant closed. The Cliftons decided to remodel the house and make it a home where they could foster children. The house was listed in the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation’s Places in Peril in 2016. Today, the landmark structure sits with memories of grander days echoing throughout the rooms, as another chapter in its history unfolds in the Geneva Street National Register Historic District.
Under the Oaks Bed and Breakfast Inn
Sausage Quiche Debbie Whitley Serve with fresh fruit topped with Orange Cream Sauce 1 lb. hot sausage 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms Garlic to taste Butter 4 eggs, slightly beaten 1 1/2 cups half and half 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. pepper 2 cups Colby Cheese, shredded Deep dish pie shell Cook sausage and drain. Sauté mushrooms until tender in garlic and butter. In a large bowl, stir together mushrooms, sausage, eggs, salt and pepper. Add cheese to mixture. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Makes six to eight servings.
Orange Cream Sauce for Fresh Fruit Debbie Whitley 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature 3 Tbsp. orange juice concerntrate, room temperature 7 oz. jar mashmallow crème 1 Tbsp. orange zest Stir cream cheese and orange juuice until smooth. Fold in marshmallow crème and orange zest. Mix until well blended.
Fresh Strawberry Bread Donna Tankersley 2 cups whole fresh strawberries 2 cups sugar 3 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour 1 Tbsp. cinnamon 1 tsp. salt 1 tsp. baking soda 1 ½ cups cooking oil
4 eggs, well beaten 1 ½ cups chopped nuts Slice strawberries and sprinkle sugar over them. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, blend together oil, eggs and strawberries. Add this mixture to the flour mixture, blending well. Fold in chopped nuts. Divide mixture into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes until tests done. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and finish cooling.
Blueberry Muffins Donna Tankersley 1 stick butter, at room temperature 1 cup sugar 2 large eggs 1 tsp. vanilla 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 tsp. baking powder ¼ tsp. salt ½ cup milk 2 ½ cups fresh blueberries (can use frozen, thawed) Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Add vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add alternately to the batter with milk. Fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into greased a muffin tin. Bake at 375 degrees for about 22 to 25 minutes or until done.
Laurel Hill Butter Donna Tankersley Rind of one orange, finely grated 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar 2 Tbsp. orange liqueur Beat orange rind into butter. Add powdered sugar and liqueur; mix well. Place in crock and chill. Serve with breads and muffins. Butter can be formed into rosettes prior to chilling using a pastry bag and tip. Butter can be frozen.
Fresh Apple Coffeecake Donna Tankersley 2 eggs 2 cups sugar
1 ¼ cups oil 1 tsp. vanilla 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp. soda 1 tsp. salt 1 tsp. cinnamon 3 cups peeled, chopped apples 1 cup chopped nuts, optional Mix eggs, sugar and oil; add vanilla. Sift flour, soda, salt and cinnamon together. Add to batter. Fold in apples and nuts, blending throughout. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake at 325 degrees for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cake freezes well.
Trawick House Bed and Breakfast Inn
Bananas ala Trawick House Larry Battles 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter 2 firm and ripe bananas, sliced 2 Tbsp. sugar ¼ cup fine brandy 2 Tbsp. chopped pecans 4 large scoops high quality vanilla ice cream In a sauté pan, melt butter and heat until hot but not smoking. Add bananas to butter and sauté for about two minutes. Add sugar while you are cooking bananas. Reduce heat and add brandy. Flame the brandy, being careful. Cook until the flame burns out completely. Spoon bananas and sauce over ice cream in individual bowls. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and serve immediately. Makes two servings. Only cook two servings at a time.
Braised Chicken with Artichokes Larry Battles 4 split chicken breasts with bone, patted dry 1/3 cup and ½ cup olive oil Lemon juice
4 small or 3 large artichokes 1 cup chicken stock 2 Tbsp. minced shallots 2 egg yolks Parsley 1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel Marinate chicken in 1/3 cup olive oil and a little lemon juice in a glass container for at least two hours. Clean artichokes and remove fuzzy center. Trim down close to bottom, then quarter. Place in bowl of cold water and add lemon juice; set aside. In a large pan, heat ½ cup olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add marinated chicken and brown on both sides, about three minutes per side. Leave chicken bone side down and add stock and shallots. Simmer about 20 minutes, adding quartered artichokes the last 10 minutes. Cook until chicken reaches 180 degrees on meat gauge. Remove chicken and artichokes. Reduced stock to ½ cup. Meantime, debone chicken. When stock has been reduced, remove from heat, and rapidly whisk in egg yolks (may need to whisk a little stock into yolks before adding to pan). Sauce will thicken slightly. Add a drop or two of lemon juice. Pour sauce over chicken and artichokes. Garnish with grated lemon rind and parsley. Serves four.
Baked Shrimp with Oranges Larry Battles Recipe from Betty Harper of New Orleans 4 lbs. medium shrimp, headless 4 to 6 medium oranges sliced in circles about 1/8 inch thick 1 lb. sweet butter unsalted, melted fresh ground black pepper, lots of this 1 loaf fresh French bread, Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large rectangular dish, layer one row of shrimp in the bottom and sprinkle lots of black pepper over shrimp. Add one row of oranges over the shrimp, making sure shrimp are covered completely. Repeat with another layer of shrimp and oranges, then another until all are used, ending with oranges. Pour melted butter over the shrimp and orange mixture. Add another sprinkling of black pepper. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes. Then remove from oven. Take a spatula and lift from the bottom, turning shrimp over so that what was on the bottom is now on the top. Bake another 20 minutes. To serve, place a portion of shrimp and oranges in bowls that have been warmed. Spoon some of the butter sauce into the bowls. Break bread into pieces, so that you can dunk bread into the butter sauce as you eat the shrimp. Serve with a tossed salad. Serves six.
Meet Us At The Station —84—
ARTWORK BY LESLIE BRASHER
‘Steeped in History’ Story By Hannah Lester Photos By Robert Noles
ver taken a photo in front of a pair of wings painted on a wall? Or “held” the umbrella in downtown Opelika? Have you ever traveled along a mural trail, looking for just the right paintings for a photo? Add Smiths Station to your list. John Christian is finishing Smiths Station’s interactive mural on the side of Rainbow Foods (2461 Co. Road 430, Smiths Station). Christian, the founder of the Georgia Arts Mural Trail, has been painting murals for years. When Christian first began painting murals full-time, his goal was to paint 50 murals in five years. And although it may have taken him a little extra time, Christian is well on his way to his goal. Starting off, Christian painted murals almost for free, as a way of getting his name out there. “I remember, this is a town called Caves Springs, Georgia, and I did it for practically nothing, I remember thinking when I was painting the mural how I felt mad at myself for not getting enough money for this. But then realized, that mural led to
another mural, that led to another mural, that led to another mural, that led to so many others.” The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Rome, Georgia, called Christian with projects in mind. Soon after, another CocaCola bottling plant wanted his work. Christian likes to focus on small cities for his murals, rather than booming metropolitan areas. The work for Coca-Cola helped Christian branch out of Georgia and Tennessee, and into Alabama. Russell County, Lee County’s neighbor, has commissioned Christian for four murals, which caught Smiths Station Mayor Bubba Copeland’s attention. The city had received a couple of local grants, which they were able to use to fund the creation of a mural, Copeland said. “[Smiths Station] knew exactly what they wanted and they moved ahead forward,” Christian said. The Smiths Station mural is located on the side of Rainbow Foods. The mural incorporates elements that allow people to interact with the painting, including a stand in front of the train. The goal for the mural is also to keep the history of
Smiths Station, Copeland said. “It’s going to be a tribute to the past, as well as the future,” he said. “ … People know that we are steeped in history and we’re proud of who we are.” There are “easter eggs,” all throughout the mural, Copeland said. “That’s going to be a football, that’s going to be a panther, because there’s panthers, that’s a judge gavel, that’s a moose head, apple,” Christian said. “They all represent something and I’m going to hide them in the tree.” There are historical figures in the mural too, including Conway Twitty, who attended Smiths Station High School and a local midwife, who delivered many of Smiths Station’s residents, Copeland said. “I love history,” Copeland said. “I’m a history buff. And so, I just wanted it to attract the younger generation with the easter eggs and interactive part, but I also wanted to be able to stand there and every time you come to it, you see something different. “… Being part of the Alabama mural trail is a huge deal. There’s people that take road trips just to go on the mural trial and see all the murals.”
Paving the Way to the Cross —92—
Filling A Need Story By JD McCarthy Photos Contributed By Sarah West
rowing up in Smiths Station, there was no place for Sarah West to go and learn about the art that had captivated her attention. Fast forward to 2021 and she is now the proud owner of The Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art: A Center for Cultural Arts, which has been educating the local community about art, sustainability and cultural appreciation since opening in 2008. “It was recognizing a need in this community and recognizing that sometimes it’s up to the pioneers to bring that to fruition,” West said. “In that way I feel like we are cultural pioneers here. We are filling a need because people
are looking for this corner of the world that is missing from their lives.” West, who is an American narrative painter, believes that while they have a formal art gallery that exhibits her work, the gallery’s primary mission is to foster a cultural appreciation of the arts and to help artists of all ages and abilities grow. “Our primary function is, as a cultural arts center, to facilitate that need and help people thrive,” she said. “That has been the greatest reward in what we do, that’s the prize in our process.” To help foster this education, West created the Sarah West
Gallery of Fine Art Studio Program, which features over “80 Fine Art Classes, Workshops and Courses of Study to artists of All Ages, Levels and Styles,” according to the website. The classes are academic in nature and are influenced by both the masters in each medium and American art. Classes typically last for 10 weeks and include a weekly studio class, as well as instructional sessions based on age for children (ages five through 11), youth (ages 12 through 17) and adults. “Everything begins with fundamental drawing so anyone who studies with us is first required to complete a course in fundamental drawing,” West said. “That serves as the basis for everything. My belief is if you establish a good foundation then you can build upon that and the sky is the limit.” After, they can continue to draw in various mediums, such as graphite, charcoal, colored pencil or pastels. While some students choose to draw, there is also the option to move onto painting, which is offered in watercolor, acrylic, oil, mixed medium, brush and
ink and more. In addition to this program, the gallery is constantly coming up with ways to help “nurture and educate” people. One of the latest of these is the ART IN SCHOOLS program. The program is a collaboration between the gallery and the Lee County Board of Education and was created when West learned that some of the schools did not have an art program throughout the school year. “ART IN SCHOOLS is a program which is offered to all Smiths Station elementary schools and then that also continues to other Lee County elementary schools such as Salem and Loachapoka,” Smith said. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March and schools were forced to go online, West was unsure if they would be able to offer the program. However, they were able to upgrade the program and through the creation of THE ART BOX, the program is now offered virtually and in-person. “THE ART BOX is a way to not only provide a complete comprehensive
fine art course to elementary school students, but also provide them with the supplies they need,” West said. “Not only do we provide the education, but we also place every tool in the student’s hands that they need to complete the course so that no one, regardless of background or financial status, is limited in what they can achieve.” Each box is curated by West and allows her to use her experience to select the best products for her students to prevent students from being overwhelmed when they attempt to purchase the supplies they need. This allows her to balance the price, sustainability and quality of the product. The boxes contain everything from brushes to pencils to sharpeners and contain whatever the student will need to complete the course and are also available for purchase for the general public. The outreach also includes scholarships through The Sarah West Artistic Mentoring Scholarship for Continued Fine Art Education.
This program allows participating schools and teachers to award scholarships to students throughout the school year. This also includes the Scholarship Seed Fund which allows someone to purchase a course of art lessons and the gallery then distributes the gift to “an aspiring art student in need.” These scholarships are just another way that the gallery is filling a need in the local community, West said. “We never stop. We never stop finding ways to improve upon ourselves and refine our programs then offer more. So, we are in a constant state of developing more. We have to continue to develop things that can nurture and educate people of all walks and skill levels.”
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