LIVE Lee ISSUE 6 — JULY / AUGUST 2021
FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT
THIS WAY FOR BEIGNETS PAGE 10
P H O TO B Y
ABBE Y CRA
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CONTRIBUTORS Kinley Beshers Maggie Caraway Abbey Crank Maddie Joiner Emery Lay Natalie Salvatore
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 in January 2018.
DESIGN LAYOUT Hannah Lester Michelle Key
MARKETING Woody Ross Rena Smith
PHOTOGRAPHY Abbey Crank Robert Noles
Hannah Lester, LIVE Lee Editor Hannah Lester is an Auburn University 2019 journalism graduate 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. She was named editor of LIVE Lee in July 2021.
Wil Crews, Opelika Observer Sports Editor
Wil Crews is an Auburn University 2020 journalism graduate originally from Prattville, Alabama. He works as the Opelika Observer’s sports editor and assists in developing the weekly paper and LIVE Lee Magazine.
Key Media, LLC 223 S. 8th St., Opelika Phone: 334-749-8003 www.LiveLeeMagazine.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Letter from the Editor
e loved our food and entertainment issue so much last year that we wanted to give it another go. Thankfully, in the last year, new places have opened, stores have expanded, there are more places to grab a bite and find something fun to do. Our cover story on Mo’Bay Beignets was an especially fun story. Mostly because, as we took pictures, we got to eat beignets! If you haven’t stopped by yet, then I highly recommend going by for a pastry. My brother and I get dinner together once a week at different places around town — but we always go for beignets afterward and enjoy them before or after a walk around Auburn. He is leaving soon for the Navy, and I’m going to miss our weekly trips together.
Another newly-opened business we featured is Melanin Cafe. If I haven’t iterated this before — I love a good coffee shop. If you ever need to reach me — sure, you could probably send an email. Or … just check any of the local coffee shops around town. There’s a 99% chance you’ll find me there. Melanin Cafe is not only brewing coffee — they are sharing a message and history — African-American history. There are so many fun things to do around town but some are time-sensitive, like local theatre productions. The Opelika Theatre Company is hosting an upcoming performance of Descendants and I sat down with the cast, both children and adults, to talk all things acting. You’re in luck — the performances have been postponed, too. So, there are even more opportunities to see this show in August.
Before our next issue releases, football season will have begun! War Eagle! Looking for somewhere fun to take your guests on a game-day weekend? Check out Crooked Oaks Farms for all things Auburn, Coach Pat Dye and outdoors. I want to wrap up by saying that this issue marks roughly a year of planning and producing regular issues of LIVE Lee for our community. I hope they are something you have enjoyed. We can’t wait for you to read this issue.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Letter From The Editor ..................................................5
A Different Culinary Experience...............................50
Event Calendar ...............................................................9
Curtain Call ..................................................................56
This Way for Beignets....................................................10
It’s Dough Time Baby........ ............................................16 Crooked Oaks ...............................................................72 Blending and Brewing ..................................................24 Grab A Bite ....................................................................81 Butcher Paper on Steroids ............................................34 Meet The “Axe-Perts”......................................................90 The Sound Wall .............................................................42
Advertiser Index ...........................................................94
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THE JAY AND SUSIE GOGUE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER AT AUBURN UNIVERSITY presents
Melissa Etheridge • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical • Patti LaBelle Del McCoury Band • Kenny G • Ziggy Marley • Dawes • Jeanne Robertson Sierra Hull • The Beach Boys • Candi Staton • and many more
Eat, Play, Relax in Lee County Aug. 2 - Aug. 31: Itty Bitty Scavenger Hunt throughout the city of Auburn www.aotourism.com/Event/41242/Itty-Bitty-ScavengerHunt/ Aug. 7: Sportsplex Tri for Kids at the Opelika Sportsplex at 7:30 a.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41375/Sportsplex-Tri-for-Kids/ Aug. 8: In The Garden With Cyndi At KPNC at the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center from 1 to 4 pm. www.aotourism.com/Event/41469/In-the-Garden-withCyndi-at-KPNC/ Aug. 13: Not Our First Goat Rodeo — featuring Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile and guest Aoife O’Donovan at the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center from 7:30 to 10 pm. www.aotourism.com/Event/41665/Not-Our-First-GoatRodeo/ Aug. 21: 11th Annual Back 2 School Bash at Airport Plaza from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41676/11th-Annual-Back-2School-Bash/ Aug. 26: Friends of Scouting Luncheon at The Bottling Plant Event Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41675/Friends-of-ScoutingLuncheon/ Aug. 27: Sundilla Presents Three On A String at AUUF from 7:30 to 10 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41674/Sundilla-presentsTHREE-ON-A-STRING/ Aug. 28: The Sound Wall: Lyn Avenue at The Sound Wall from 7 to 10 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41604/The-Sound-Wall-LynAvenue/ Sept. 12: Chewacla Cha Cha 5K/10K Trail Race at Chewacla State Park from 8 to 11 a.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/40839/Chewacla-Cha-Cha5k10k-Trail-Race/ Sept. 17 through Sept. 19: Alabama Senior Olympics Pickleball at The Opelika Sportsplex www.aotourism.com/Event/41704/Alabama-SeniorOlympics---Pickleball/ Sept. 17: Del McCoury Band at The Jay and Susie Gogue
Performing Arts Center from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/39736/Del-McCoury-Band/ Sept. 18: Candi Staton at The Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center from 7:30 pm. To 10 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/39759/Candi-Staton/ Sept. 18: Southeastern Endurance MTB Series At Chewacla State Park www.aotourism.com/Event/41383/SoutheasternEndurance-MTB-Series-at-Chewacla/ Sept. 18: Chewacla 6/3 MTB Race By Chainbuster at Chewacla State Park at 10 a.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41298/Chewacla-63-MTBRace-by-Chainbuster/ Sept. 19: In The Garden with Cyndi At KPNC at the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center from 1 to 4 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41470/In-the-Garden-withCyndi-at-KPNC/ Sept. 24-26: Fall Family Weekend at Auburn University www.aotourism.com/Event/41568/Fall-Family-Weekend/ Sept. 30 - Oct. 2: Paddles at the Plex at the Opelika Sportsplex www.aotourism.com/Event/41379/Paddles-at-the-Plex/ Sept. 30: Dawes with Special Guest Erin Rae at The Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41653/Dawes-with-SpecialGuest-Erin-Rae/ Oct. 2 - Oct. 3: Johnny Ray Century Bicycle Ride 2021 www.aotourism.com/Event/41382/Johnny-Ray-CenturyBicycle-Ride-2021/ Oct. 2: An Evening With Kenny G at the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center from 7:30 to 9 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41682/An-Evening-withKenny-G/ Oct. 5: The Beach Boys at the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. goguecenter.auburn.edu/beach-boys-fall-2021/ Oct. 6: Ziggy Marley: A Live Tribute To His Father at the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. www.aotourism.com/Event/41685/Ziggy-Marley-A-LiveTribute-to-His-Father
Food and Entertainment
This Way For Beignets Story By Maddie Joiner Photos By Abbey Crank
hey are sugary, they are warm, they are tasty and they are in Auburn! There was nothing like this ever before in town, but now you can get a fresh, warm beignet right here in Auburn, courtesy of Mo’Bay Beignet Co. In 2016, an idea popped into Jaclyn Robinson’s mind. Robinson, who lives in Mobile, felt so inspired by this idea that she had to pursue it. “Come 2019, I had this moment and felt like the Lord was leading me to start Mo’Bay Beignet Company, and to do it as a fundraiser to help my daughter go to college,” Robinson said. Thus, she started packaging up her homemade beignets and syrups and selling them under the name Mo’Bay Beignet Co. Within 24 hours of her decision to sell her tasty treats, a local market contacted her and said they wanted her products on their shelves. Her beignets were so successful that Robinson started looking for her own storefront in Mobile. In February 2020, the first-ever Mo’Bay Beignet Co. opened in downtown Mobile. A year later, a second location was born in the heart of Auburn, Alabama — just down the block from Toomer’s Corner. “Ever since I opened Mo’Bay, I just kind of knew in my gut that there would be more locations, and Auburn was definitely on my list,” Robinson said. “It just made sense; I felt like Mo’Bay Beignet Company would just fit perfectly right there in the heart of Toomer’s Corner. It was definitely on my list, but I never thought it would be my first location [outside of Mobile].” Robinson, a Huntsville native, always thought Rocket City would be her second location, but things changed when Tripp Skipper entered the Mobile café one day in May 2020.
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“I went down there, to downtown Mobile, to just say hello to my niece one day and I was so blown away by the product that I struck up a conversation with Jaclyn,” Skipper said. Skipper, a Mobile native who now lives on The Plains, asked Robinson what it would take to open a Mo’Bay in Auburn. Robinson said she would think about it and after a month decided to sit down and discuss it. “Long story short, I agreed to take that next step and he partnered with me to get one opened up in Auburn,” Robinson said. “It’s been really great. I’ve loved having it there and I really think the community is enjoying having it there as well.” The Auburn location of Mo’Bay Beignet Co.
opened March 5. Mo’Bay recently won Best Emerging Small Business from the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. “One of the joys that I receive is just the chance to interact with the customers,” Skipper said. “Knowing that we’re helping to kind of be a bright spot in their day by serving our beignets.” As the owner, Skipper oversees the general operations of running a business, ranging from handling finances to overseeing his 25 employees. While Skipper has a huge involvement in the store, Lauren Orzo, the general manager, runs the Auburn hot spot daily. Orzo started at the Mobile location as a way to jump into the food and
service industry. She started as a normal employee, then worked her way up the chain, becoming kitchen manager, then general manager. “I was looking for something part-time, just kind of like a creative outlet,” Orzo said. “And then I got there and just fell into it; I just loved Mo’Bay and everything it stood for and Jaclyn’s vision of what she wanted the café to be and what she wanted to bring to downtown Mobile.” When Auburn's location became a tangible project, Robinson and Skipper needed someone to run the store, and Orzo was the perfect fit. Orzo graduated from Auburn and, to her, Auburn is a second home. “I’m just really happy to be back,” she said. Orzo has been the general manager since the store opened in March and said the biggest challenge has been staffing. Due to Auburn being a college town, she has had trouble finding permanent employees but hopes things improve when students return in August. Orzo said the café will be hiring in the fall and if anyone is interested, they can just stop by and meet her. On the opposite side of things, Orzo’s favorite part has been bringing this concept to Auburn. Skipper said he agrees.
“The way I look at it is, I’m a Mobile guy bringing Mo’Bay Beignet to Auburn,” he said. Orzo is a huge part of running the Auburn location. She runs the kitchen, does scheduling, interviewing, community relations, finds local partnerships and hires employees. All in all, people come to Mo’Bay Beignet Co. for the product. The beignet recipe is Jaclyn’s concotion and the company limits who has that information. Orzo will combine the secret list of ingredients and then her employees will make the actual dough. Mo’Bay serves the warm, sugary pastries with three different syrup options. Customers can get buttercream or cinnamon, which are available all the time, or they can try the seasonal syrup that changes every month. Previous seasonal syrups have been strawberry, key lime, lemon and raspberry. The café also offers coffee, and it is known for its café au lait — coffee with milk. It also offers cold brew options. All coffee is roasted by Carpe Diem Coffee & Tea Co. in Mobile, which roasts the Mo’Bay Beignet Co. blends specifically for the café. As the café enters its first fall, Skipper and Orzo said they are excited for the crowd that comes with August and
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beyond. “Since we are on the eve of approaching our first football season, I’m really excited about that,” Skipper said. “Since the university has announced that JordanHare will be 100% capacity and tailgating will be at 100%, to be a part of the Auburn game day experience, I
think it’s going to be really exciting.” After not even a year at the Auburn location, Robinson said the company is working to make another city sweeter very soon, and announced in July that the next location will be Tuscaloosa. To get a warm beignet, tasty coffee and sweet syrup,
stop by Mo’Bay Beignet Co., which is located at 155 N. College St. Mo’Bay is opened from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. For more information about the café or for seasonal syrup updates, follow its Instagram @
mobaybeignetcoauburn. “Thanks for supporting us, thanks for coming out to try something new,” Orzo said. “It’s a word most people can’t pronounce. I guess there is some bravery there when you don’t even know how to say the thing you’re ordering, so yeah, thanks for the support and keep coming back.”
Food and Entertainment
It's Dough Time Baby! Story By Maggie Caraway Photos By Abbey Crank and Contributed By Judi Middleton
love for baking, a mother-daughter bond and a receptive community. This is the recipe for success for local business, It’s Dough Time Baby. It’s Dough Time Baby is an Opelika bakery that specializes in custom, homemade cookies. Owner Judi Middleton operates completely out of her home in Opelika. Middleton has a nook off to the side of her house where she finds peace and gets creative. She displays her array of cookie cutters on a large board, hanging on pegs. She also has multiple shelving structures to store baked cookies, ingredients and all the different tools she uses to create cookie designs. With a background in graphic design, she uses her talents to create art. Middleton said she has always loved to bake and stuck to simple sugar cookies with a powdered sugar and water icing before her daughter, Aimee, convinced her to take baking to the next level. “She really wanted to see if we could do it,” Middleton said. The personalized cookie trend had just started to become popular in 2014 and, around Christmas, Middleton and Aimee decided to put their baking skills to the test. “We baked a bunch of Christmas cookies. It took us all week to do them … it just took forever but we enjoyed the time together and then we just enjoyed the process of it.”
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The Christmas cookies were enough of a success to prove to Middleton and Aimee that they could turn their hobby into a business. The pair sold their first cookies for Valentine’s Day in 2015. Cutting dough with simple cookie cutters and icing them with a powdered sugar and water icing is a lot different than creating hundreds of identical, custom shapes topped with detailed icing patterns. Middleton has an impressive way of bringing her cookies to life, having learned many of her skills from various internet sources, specifically YouTube tutorials. She also claimed that she got the hang of baking and decorating her cookies just by “working at it,” and eventually taught herself. When Middleton first started It’s Dough Time Baby, she was among just a few other custom cookie businesses in Opelika. Since then, more businesses have joined the industry. What sets her apart from her competitors is the amount of detail she puts into each cookie — and
since her daughter moved out of state, she hand makes each one herself. However, Middleton said that having other people join the industry in the area takes some of the load off her. “I'm really kind of thankful that there are so many people doing it because it takes a lot of pressure off with me. I don't feel like I'm the only one.” Even with more businesses popping up, Middleton said, “I’m still busy, as busy as I ever was.” When it comes to finding inspiration, Middleton said she relies on outlets such as Pinterest and Instagram, but always puts her own spin on it. Some customers will tell her about the occasion the cookies are for and give her the freedom to create the cookies she wants. Other customers will show her a photo of what they want their cookies to look like and she will use it as a guideline. “They'll send me a picture of something they've seen on Pinterest or something they've seen on Instagram ... and most of the time I'll try and get as close
as I can to what they're looking for, just because I figured that's what they want, but I change it a little bit because it's fun.” Middleton said that the average cookie order consists of two dozen. However, she has completed orders as few as three or orders for a few hundred. She recalls the effort she put into making 125 cookies for the Eagle Scouts and 250 for weddings. Completing such large orders is time-consuming, especially since Middleton bakes and decorates every cookie herself. And according to her, she does her best work at night. “I’m not a morning person. I’m a night owl, which works out perfectly … if I get up and try to get busy first thing in the morning, by 10 o’clock I’m done.” She tries to prepare as much as she can ahead of time. Since every cookie is made from the same dough and the icing has the same base, she is sometimes able to make these in advance. Even with her preparations, Middleton admits she still has nights
where she gets into a rhythm and ends up working until the morning. She describes her time working at night as “my time” and finds peace within the walls of her baking nook. Middleton has an impressive presence on social media with almost 2,000 followers on Instagram and over 2,000 followers on Facebook. She uses these platforms to share incredible photos of cookie creations and engage with her followers. She receives most of her orders via Facebook messenger and the Instagram direct message. She says her photos act as a form of inspiration for her followers to build off her ideas. Middleton has made almost 1,000 Instagram posts and manages to capture every photo herself — with natural light and an iPhone in “portrait mode.” Additionally, Middleton belongs to several Facebook groups that offer tips on “sugar cookie marketing” where she has learned several techniques to help her stage her cookies. When it comes to creating cookies in such unique
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shapes, Middleton sometimes uses multiple cookie cutters to achieve the right look. For example, she once made cookies for a baby shower and the theme was Cuties oranges. She did not have an orange cookie cutter, so she used a circle and a separate small leaf shape. With an estimated 1,200 cookie cutter collection, Middleton usually has tools to make just about any cookie her customers request. Middleton has an incredible passion for what she does, this community and her customers. Check out the It’s Dough Time Baby Facebook and Instagram pages (@itsdoughtimebaby) and let Judi Middleton bring your wildest cookie dreams to life!
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Blending and Brewing Melanin Cafe Pours History In Every Cup Story By Emery Lay Photos By Abbey Crank
new coffee shop is coming to Opelika, full of flavor and history. Melanin Cafe will make its grand debut in early August with a wide selection of coffees and treats. Catrice Hixon owns the cafe, alongside her co-owner husband, Jay. Catrice, Opelika born and raised, has loved coffee since she was a child. During her college years, Catrice was an avid coffee drinker. As she worked to receive her bachelor’s degree in biology from UAB, Catrice took up a job at Joe Muggs as a barista. This fueled her love for the craft of coffee and further strengthened her skills in the art of making a good brew. Catrice said she is a big list-keeper, always writing down her next goals for life or any ideas she has. However, she admitted her list often goes unchecked. Well, 2020 marked the year that she finally decided to do something about one particular item on her list: opening a coffee shop. “It was always a thought and I finally just acted on it,” Catrice said. “I’m a person who writes down everything … I found this way back and I said, ‘Okay, I’m actually going to do something instead of just writing it down and just leaving it there.’” Operating the small business as safely as possible amidst COVID restrictions,
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Catrice began by doing coffee catering. As she moved along, she hired a business coach to help her establish funds, advertisement and equipment. “The process is … very tedious, very long,” Catrice said. “It’s really hard, honestly, to start a business.” Later, in February, Melanin Cafe joined other businesses for Black History Month Pop-Up Shops. The shops were hosted in the J.W. Darden House. The house was once home to J.W. Darden – the first black doctor in the Opelika area. There, he operated a normal business with a full clinic for his patients. Catrice said that having the pop-ups there was a perfect blend of “celebration and education.” This mimics the model the Hixons hope Melanin Cafe will follow: an environment for understanding one another. “I want people – not only in the South but everywhere in the United States – to know that if you take the word ‘African’ out of African American, you still get American,” Jay said. “African American history is still American history. And we want people of all colors, of all nationalities, to hear this, as well. We just want you to accept us. We are Americans as well as you are.”
The purpose of Melanin Cafe, the Hixons said they hope, is to bring both great brews and historical awareness to the area. Each of the drinks offered at the shop will be named after someone who played a significant role in history, but has been given underwhelming recognition. “When we’re learning in school, we get the main people – Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks,” Catrice said. “So, we learn about them, but there’s always other people who are (in) the background … I wanted to bring them in the forefront.” One example she gave was Henrietta Lacks. Lacks died at age 51 from cancer in John Hopkins Hospital. However, her life extended beyond her death when her cancer cells were used for research and later developed into the HeLa cell line. This line was the first immortalized human cell line and one of the most important in medical research. Sadly, the cells were taken without Lacks’ permission and the researchers were still able to monetize their findings. Another example is Ella Baker, lovingly deemed the “mother of civil rights.” She was on the front lines of starting the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and SCLC (Southern
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Christian Leadership Conference). “It’s just so we can have that education – So we can learn about them and what they’ve done,” Catrice said. “That way, if we can understand each other, then we can coexist together.” Catrice said she could not have accomplished opening a coffee shop – while balancing school and motherhood – without the support of her family and her
co-barista and husband, Jay. In 2007, Jay and Catrice met during their freshman year of college through mutual friends, even though they went to different schools – Alabama A&M and UAB, respectively. “I kind of ignored him when we first met but later that day we started talking, exchanged numbers and haven’t stopped talking since,” Catrice said. “This year
it will be nine years that we’ve been married.” The Hixons had their first child, a girl, in 2013, followed by their son in 2014. Jay graduated from A&M with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, but enjoys martial arts, anime and being with his children in his spare time. Besides a simple cup with his wife in the morning, Jay is not much of a coffee fiend, but he gives Catrice his full love and support.
Apart from her husband, Catrice has also garnered the support of her sister, Crystal Slaughter. Though Slaughter has a family of her own, in addition to a job as an assistant preschool teacher, she will be the baker for the café. There is an additional opportunity for the community to support Melanin Cafe through its GoFundMe, which can be found on the website tab “crowd funding
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campaign”. At one point in time, Catrice simply wanted to use the funds for a coffee cart. Yet, now that she has the shop, she hopes any money gathered will help establish the café and maybe lend them a presence in Auburn one day. Catrice laughed and said she hopes to have her face – the logo of the storefront – everywhere. Moving forward, Catrice will continue to work on her PhD in biology and one day hopes to even open her own research lab. She said she wanted to “start off small” with Melanin Cafe and continually “keep build-
ing.” Melanin Cafe might be a small step for Catrice, but it is a grand step for the community of Auburn-Opelika. The café’s slogan is: “Doing it for the culture … and the coffee.” “I just want our shop to be like a bridge,” Jay said. “Between cultures, of people, of society in general; Where people come to learn, to socialize … So, that’s one of the bottom lines for the café: to get together and to learn, to explore and to accept.” The Hixons looks to the future with expectant pas-
sion. Hand in hand, their shop will serve as a place to link arms with other members of the community to create a tight and intimate bond of unity. “I just wanna have something here … Something for the community, and also something that I can leave as a legacy for my kids,” Catrice said.
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“Butcher Paper On Steroids” Auburn’s Newest BBQ Tradition: Rob’s Ribs
Story By Wil Crews Photos By Robert Noles
ob’s Ribs wants to become the next Auburn staple. They have all the tools to do so: A convenient location, close to downtown; an innovative and dedicated team and of course – great BBQ. “I feel like we have a really special spot in town,” said
Mark Coxwell, owner of Rob’s Ribs. “We're going to do everything we can to make this the most inviting place that we can, so that everybody who comes feels at home and knows they belong here.” The concept of Rob’s Ribs began in 2019. It is the
brainchild of Coxwell, who also owns Butcher Paper BBQ in Opelika. The beginnings of Butcher Paper, then Rob’s Ribs, are deep-rooted, yet rapid. Before either restaurant existed, Coxwell had been dreaming of opening his own BBQ joint for years. “So, I worked in my late teens, early 20s, at a barbecue place,” Coxwell said. “I really didn't work there for very long, but it was something that just kind of stuck in me. It kind of got into my blood.” A native of Opelika, Coxwell was living in Athens, Georgia, with his wife. “Pretty much the whole time I was there, I was trying to figure out some way to open a restaurant,” he recalled. “I had a bunch of different ideas, but nothing ever really stuck enough for me to be able to pursue it.” When he and his wife decided to move back to the Auburn-Opelika area in 2013, Coxwell got a job with
management team, from a lot of friends, I decided to take this leap.” Fast forward to April 2021 – Rob’s Ribs opens in Auburn. “We opened a large restaurant in six months, which is unheard of,” Coxwell said. To help get Rob’s off the ground, Coxwell enlisted the help of Alex Bradfield and Rob Goodwin, Butcher Paper employees at the time. He named Bradfield his executive chef, and Goodwin the general manager. “[Rob is] the day-to-day guy,” Coxwell said. “He's the front-of-house guy. He deals directly with customers. But Alex is the creative engine. It's important that he gets that recognition, and that people know that like, he's the man behind the food here.” Bradfield has an eclectic background in the food industry, having worked in the kitchen of Auburn’s
“Our food is all homemade. You know, we only buy the best quality ingredients, we only buy the best quality meats that we can afford. And we take those and we treat them the way that they should be treated. We do our best to elevate these ingredients to make them the best.” a pool company. Two years later, Coxwell borrowed a smoker from his then-boss. “I just asked him, I was like, ‘Hey, can I use that?’” Coxwell said. “He said, ‘You can take it and you can use it as long as you want.’” As they say … the rest is history. The next three years would spur Coxwell’s meteoric rise to BBQ prominence. From cooking for friends in his backyard; to pop-ups at parties, concerts or festivals; to opening a food truck; to opening his first brick-and-mortar location. Coxwell opened his first restaurant, Butcher Paper BBQ, in September 2018. Quickly, Butcher Paper became an Opelika mainstay. At the time, Coxwell admitted he had no plans to expand, although he had thought about it. “I like things small,” he said. “I like counter service. I like small areas that are manageable.” However, when Mike & Ed’s Barbeque (307 N. College St., where Rob’s Ribs currently sits) closed after 30 years in Auburn, Coxwell spotted the perfect opportunity. “I had the idea for Rob's Ribs already,” he said. “With encouragement, with help from my wife, from my
Amsterdam Cafe, and as sous chef in restaurants in Atlanta and San Diego. “There was no way I wasn't going hire him as an executive chef because of the experience that he's had,” Coxwell said. “And the passion that he has for southern cooking, and the passion that he has for barbecue … It only made sense.” Goodwin, on the other hand, had little to no classical culinary training, but had thrived in his role at Butcher Paper and “earned it,” Coxwell said. The ultimate decision to dub Coxwell’s new restaurant after Goodwin’s first name was multi-pronged. “There are several reasons why I chose to do that … actually, Rob was not one of the reasons,” Coxwell said as he chuckled at the thought. “I had the idea before I even decided that I wanted Rob to being the GM. But I like the alliteration of the name. The Rob's Ribs kind of rolls off the tongue really easily. And also, I didn't want to keep the Butcher Paper name because the things that we do here are different from the things we do with Butcher Paper.” Some of the key differences between the restaurants are: the cooking method, the market they want to appeal to, the
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menu options and the sheer size of Rob’s Ribs compared to Butcher Paper. Butcher Paper is a quaint, homey atmosphere, that produces a typical southern BBQ menu with a traditional smoking method. Rob’s Ribs is bigger and more modern, with an intentional appeal to a younger audience, a broader menu and entirely different smoking method. That method is called “the pit.” It’s where the magic of Rob’s Ribs happens. Instead of cooking meats in a traditional, closed-top smoker, Rob’s Ribs smokes its meats with a wood-burning, open-air fire pit. It’s a more tedious method, but Coxwell said the final product is worth it. Jody Davis, who worked the pit for Mike & Ed’s before Rob’s, mans the cooking station with constant devotion, like a lighthouse guiding sailors to land. “He knows that pit like the back of his hand,” Coxwell said. “He’s been incredible for us.” Davis said the key to cooking on the pit is keeping a constant fire. “But not too hot,” he said, as open-air smokers can lead to spontaneous and potentially dangerous flare-ups. Thus the need for unwavering attention to be placed on the pit. “I constantly flip the ribs about every 20 minutes,” Davis said. “The difference is, it's different every day. It's like a wind, rain, heat or dampness, just over time and being on
it, you kind of learn. It's just like going fishing. Every now and then you will use the yellow one [lure], other days, blue. One day it's blue sky or the next gray … it’s kind of like that with these pits.” Davis is just one crucial piece of the wheel that keeps Rob’s Ribs churning. Every member of the Rob’s team — from the bartender to cashier — is intentionally purposed to deliver the best customer experience possible. “So far, I’ve pushed everybody, I'm sure I've pushed everybody to the limits of what they feel like they can do,” Coxwell said. “They can now see the fruits of their labor.” Goodwin spends every day he can at the restaurant to ensure those fruits are harvested the correct way. “My goal is to learn everything in the restaurant,” he said. “We’re still new and we still have a lot to improve. There’s things that I haven’t really had my hands in too much that I know people in here are leaps and bounds better than me at, but I would like to get to where I’m decent at everything at the restaurant, that way I can try to figure out if we can do it more efficiently or to save some product or eliminate some waste – to get that perspective.” Meanwhile, Bradfield stays busy planning the menu – for both restaurants. “I've given Alex essentially free reign of the kitchen and the menu,” Coxwell said. “I think that great, great things
are going to come from that.” Everything customers can get at Butcher Paper can be found at Rob’s – all the “picnic sides”, as Coxwell described them, included. However, Bradfield specially tailors Rob’s Ribs’ menu to the younger crowd in Auburn. French fries, nachos, salads and a full bar are just a few of the unique additions only available at Rob’s. “Here in this town, half the population – or over half the population – is younger people who may not have experienced a ton of fine dining, so you kind of keep it in the realm of like almost bar food – but it's like elevated bar food,” Bradfield said. Coxwell shares that sentiment. “We have a fine dining mentality, but we're not fine dining,” he said. “And that's very important for me. I want to make quality food approachable.” But what makes Rob’s Ribs stand out from the rest of the BBQ pack? “I’d say Mark’s processes,” Goodwin said. “It’s not a corporation or anything like that. We just want to keep it close to the community and provide something good for someone that is for sure quality. I’d like to think that we have the ability to provide better customer service and maybe a better experience than another place. I think that’s what sets us apart.”
Similarly, Bradfield believes attention to detail is what gives Rob’s a leg up. “Barbeque is a business of execution, less of creativity – Who can do it the best, who can execute it in the best way,” he said. “There’s only so many things that you can smoke and taste good. So, we’re just very attentive and we do things the exact same way every time. It’s really just being more perfectionists.” Coxwell believes there are many things that allow his restaurants to thrive. “Every single civilization, every single community, every single region has their own kind of barbecue,” Coxwell said. “And everyone thinks theirs is the best. We like to do what I call eclectic barbecue. We just take ... I take what I like, and I make my own.” Furthermore, Rob’s Ribs and Butcher Paper only use the highest quality ingredients, Coxwell said. “Our food is all homemade,” he added. “You know, we only buy the best quality ingredients, we only buy the best quality meats that we can afford. And we take those and we treat them the way that they should be treated. We do our best to elevate these ingredients to make them the best.” Looking forward, Rob’s Ribs is excited to continue garnishing its footprint on The Plains. “There's multiple ways that we can grow… multiple things
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we can do,” Coxwell said. “I have lots of ideas.” The restaurant just recently held its first special event called “Smoke ‘n Peaches”, a private dinner which allowed customers to reserve times, come to Rob’s and enjoy a three-course meal. Adding permanent breakfast hours, expanding the menu and establishing a collaborative restaurant community are just a few more ideas the Rob’s
tourists,” Coxwell said. “We want to be like Butcher Paper is in Opelika. We want to be the community spot where everybody can come in and feel welcome and get a meal that they can afford to the best of our abilities, and sit down and feel at home, feel comfortable with where they are. And we're going to keep growing and we're going to keep being more and more a part of Auburn and Opelika as much as we
Rob Goodwin (left), Alex Bradfield (right) Ribs’ team is planning for the future. At the forefront of all the plans, however, are the Auburn and Opelika people. “I'm very excited to see how Rob’s Ribs is received by the community of students, by the university, by visitors,
can.” Rob’s Ribs is located at 307 N. College St. in Auburn. Its hours are from 11 a.m to 9 p.m., every day, 7 to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast on Fridays. For more information, visit www. robsribsauburn.com/.
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700 2nd Ave. Opelika
Hilyer & Associates, CPAs
1750 Opelika Road, Auburn
COME VISIT OUR NEW STORE.
Je�fery A. Hilyer,
Attorney at Law and Certified Public Accountant
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614 2nd Ave, Opelika, AL 36801
The Sound Wall One couple’s musical dreams and the business behind it.
Story By Natalie Salvatore Photos Contributed By The Sound Wall —42—
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ive years ago, one husband and wife duo took their music career to the next level by opening a multi-functional recording studio. Located in the heart of Opelika, The Sound Wall has become an important part of the community. Owners Jen and Rob Slocumb, known as the duo “Martha’s Trouble,” have been writing and performing acoustic music across the country for over 20 years. Touring has brought the pair widespread recognition and extensive musical expertise. Their music has been featured on stations such as SiriusXM Coffee House’s “Acoustic Covers.” The name Martha’s Trouble is actually a Biblical reference. “It comes from a story in the Bible about two sisters, Martha and Mary,” the couple’s website said. “Jesus came to see them one day. Martha was running around, trying to clean up and prepare food while Mary was hanging out at Jesus’ feet. The story says Martha was ‘troubled’ because Mary wasn’t helping.
The story, the duo says, is a reminder to stop and smell the roses, the idea of keeping an eye on the bigger picture and the important things in life.” The duo has a comprehensive discography, with over 12 albums. Some of their accolades include winning Best Americana Album of the Year and having different albums selected for Billboard Magazine’s Top 10 Cover Songs of the Year and U.S.A. Today’s Top Holiday Albums of the Year list. “Martha’s Trouble” started in 1996 when the couple first met at a Houston coffee shop where Jen booked bands. Little did Rob know that this trip back home would lead him to meet his future wife. The couple decided to settle down in Auburn for their next adventure. Jen said that with this move, it was very important for them to give back to their community. Instead of using a pre-existing office building for The Sound Wall, they repurposed a 1907 historic Victorian home. After a short year of remodeling, they opened their doors. Jen said for them, the most rewarding thing has
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been renovating the house. They had a vision of what it could be and took pride in actually making that happen. “It was in such bad shape and had been abandoned for so many years — so, to see it restored back to its beauty and the life that it brings is so cool for us,” she said. The Sound Wall has multiple functions and attributes, just a couple of the reasons this business is so versatile and inclusive of different musicians’ needs. “We do recording projects, video projects, live intimate shows, supper clubs, produce the Opelika Songwriters Festival and host small events,” Jen said. Their studio has a live tracking room, a listening room, as well as rehearsal space for artists to utilize. With the production suite’s equipment, plug-ins and outboard gear, producers can do their own stereo mixing or work together with one of the studio’s mix engineers. “Martha’s Trouble” understands the importance of putting themselves out there in the music industry, so their studio’s digital video services allow artists to create content that will help them book more shows while gaining fandom and recognition. Links to their past video sessions can be found on their website. The Sound Wall also has a chef’s kitchen and tree-top loft apartment to house incoming musicians looking to stop and take advantage of the studio’s downstairs, many resources. all in a Artists can sleep welcoming upstairs and and luxurious work environment. Much like every other business in town, The Sound Wall has also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the ongoing health situation, they have not been able to do as many things as they could before with their studio. “We depend on the community to gather together, so with the pandemic, it’s been devastating to us,” Jen said. “We have had to get creative on doing some things virtually, but it’s not the same and definitely was challenging.” A major aspect of their business is The Sound Wall Music Initiative that was created a few years after opening. “It’s a non-profit that is dedicated to promoting and celebrating the art of music in the Auburn-Opelika Community,” Jen said. “Part of the proceeds from the Opelika Songwriters Festival goes to helping with this cause. We have always believed in giving back, and it’s truly what The Sound Wall is all about.” Funded by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the initiative’s goal is to enhance the lives of its community members through music, providing funding for local schools and musicians, as well as artist development. Jen and Rob’s love for music and their understanding of its value to individuals’ lives was the source of the initiative’s beginning. It helps connect those who are passionate about music but lack the
“We hav e alw ays beli eve d in givi ng bac k, and it’s trul y wha t The Sou nd Wa ll is all abo ut.”
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adequate resources to make things happen. The initiative has hosted different events, such as GivingTuesday, Opelika Songwriters Night and The Sound Wall Holiday Supper Club. It utilizes The Sound Wall’s space and equipment to make all this a reality. Community members can apply for different grants that are funded by donors. With the artist/musician grant, aspiring musicians can further their musical careers with workshops, equipment and recording services. With the school grant, schools that need an extra boost in funding can add their own music program. This helps educate children on the value and importance of music. With a student scholarship,
aspiring musicians receive different ways to aid their own musical careers, like songwriting and funding recording sessions, alongside other learning opportunities. The Sound Wall is located at 605 Ave. B in Opelika. Call 334-575-3477 or email info@ thesoundwallopelika.com for more information. To book any of the services, visit the website at www. thesoundwallopelika.com/#intro-section. To get in touch with The Sound Wall Initiative, call the number listed above or email info@ thesoundwallmusicinitiative.com. Community members can learn more, make a donation or leave a message on the website, www. thesoundwallmusicinitiative.com/.
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A Different Culinary Experince Story By Hannah Lester Photos Contributed By Auburn University —50—
f you’ve taken a walk around Auburn recently, you’ve noticed the construction going on next to the Auburn University Hotel and Dixon Conference Center. The Tony & Libba Rane Culinary Science Center will be completed in 2022. But what will be going in this space? A hotel and spa, a rooftop terrace, restaurant, a coffee roastery and cafe, a microbrewery, a food vendor market and more. The ultimate culinary experience.
A Learning Center: “We’re very honored to be entrusted, as we have been, by the Rane family to carry Tony and Libba’s name forward through what is titled the culinary science center but it will be the home of Auburn’s Hospitality Management Program and culinary is but one of three of those programs,” said Martin O’Neill, professor and NDHM Department head. Auburn currently offers an accredited degree in hospitality management with the option for tracks in culinary
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science, hotel and restaurant management and event management. “[Auburn’s program] is one of only 46, nationally and internationally to have that at the four-year level,” O’Neill said. “The program, really, is a mix of what we would call operations and functional subject matter.” Additionally, the school offers graduate programs with both thesis and non-thesis master's degrees, both online and on-campus. Students will have opportunities in the new center that are unavailable in their current classrooms — students will be involved in every aspect of the center. “It’s a genuine, real-world experience for the students,” said Mark Traynor, associate professor and program coordi-
Students will also be working in the restaurant from the kitchen perspective, too. “So you’ve got people taking ownership of the menu from a production perspective,” Traynor said. “Executive Chef, Sous Chef, Commis Chef, all those sorts of things.” Students also have the opportunity to see their food from conception to execution, all the way down toagriculture, with the help of a rooftop garden. “They will grow what they will eat,” O’Neill said. “And that focus is sustainable agriculture. So we’re working with the College of Agriculture on a lot of that.” The center also includes a three-story hotel, which is an additional opportunity for students to learn. The hotel will have students working in all aspects, just
nator for culinary science. Firstly, there is the training restaurant. The training restaurant is open to the public — like any restaurant — with the caveat that it is also a learning opportunity for students. “Playing in the classroom is one thing, actually engaging with the public, the paying public, I mean, it's a whole other level of operation and whole other level of challenge that the student is confronted with and by,” O’Neill said. A different chief in residence will hopefully be available each year, O’Neill said, that will work with the students. By sophomore year, students will have responsibilities within the restaurant. Early on, those will be waiting and busing tables, handling the public, working the bar and things like that. Further in the program, students will be given more responsibility as managers in the restaurant with planning, marketing, promoting and executing, O’Neill said.
like they will in the training restaurant, O’Neill said. “They’re really getting the whole hospitality industry in one building,” Traynor said. “Which is really unique for a culinary student.” Chef Ana Plana, lecturer in the Culinary Science program, said that the goal is to help students push themselves to be the best they can be. “We’re unique because we hope when these students leave our program, they’re leaders,” she said. “And that’s really what we want. So, we want to nurture obviously, the fundamentals and things like that, but we really want them to leave the program really strong.” Community Opportunities: If you are a community member coming in to enjoy dinner — there will be so much to explore in the center. Food Labs will host workshops, classes, boot camps, etc. There will be the microbrewery too. And more opportuni-
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ties for eating in the food hall. “These are artisanal food vendors that are competing for space and they’ll be producing, I mean it could be anything, from poke bars, to crepe bars, to sandwich bars, to ice cream bars, to pizza bars,” O’Neill said. “I think there’s a total of about eight [or] nine in there.” Food Halls are growing more popular — don’t think food court. Think the Ponce City Market in Atlanta. “A food hall is more artisanal, it’s fast-casual, better quality, higher quality food,” Traynor said. “It’s a higher price point, but not outrageous because it’s not a full-service restaurant. But that’s the trendiest thing at the moment.” One of the vendors will be left open for incubation, Traynor said, whether that be in the community or for a student. “There’s a lot of people who are really, really interested in food in this state and in this region and we want to help them be entrepreneurs, food entrepreneurs or beverage entrepreneurs,” he said. The next floor of the center will have a wine education center, a distilled spirits center and food demonstration kitchen. Even though the center won’t open likely until fall 2022
— there is work happening now to prepare for community development and engagement. “We just want the community to get to meet us, to get to know us and feel them out, what their interests are, what kind of classes they’re interested in,” Plana said. “So it’s not just the shiny new building and labs that we’re going to have. We really want to build the relationship with the community. So we’re trying to do that now before we get in there.” Some of those classes may be food-related, and others may be beverage related, such as a wine 101 class, O’Neill said. “We’ve always been very clear that we have an opendoor, open-mind policy when it comes to engagement with the public, because that’s what tourism is,” O’Neill said. Above all of this, the classrooms and the hotel is an event center, spa and rooftop pool. “The uniqueness of what we’re doing — so much under one roof,” O’Neill said. “Most facilities have a focus. It’s either lodging or it’s food and beverage. Or it is culinary; or it’s maybe culinary and lodging. But to have all of that with wine, with beer, with a food hall, with a rooftop, with a spa.”
• Outdoor patio • Full bar • Breakfast • Lunch • Dinner • Late night Coming to 307 N. College Street, Auburn
Fresh Ingredients + Made Daily = YUM! Franky Junes is a mobile hotdog stand featuring both traditional, as well as iconic and fusion-style hotdogs served with a toasted bun, a variety of homemade fixings and a mound of hot and crunchy tatertots (that we’ve been known to top with ooey-gooey cheese, ranch dressing, bacon and chives).
Stop by and see us, we’d love to meet you!
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CURTAIN CALL Story By Hannah Lester Photos By Robert Noles
Marty Moore and Eli Loyed
on’t you want to be evil? Sounds like a strange question. But when asked by Maleficent to her teenage daughter — things begin to make a little more sense. The cast has been hard at work since March and will open the show, “Descendants,” on Aug. 13. For many of the actors and actresses, this is not their first performance with Opelika Theatre Company (OTC). Some have been with the production company for years. But one thing that many in the ensemble had to learn — how to work with a mixed cast of both children and adults.
dance and more. “In April, when we first started, we kind of went over music a lot,” said Camilla Kitchens, 11, who is playing the role of the Fairy Godmother’s Daughter. “We’d sit in the piano room with our music teacher and we’d just go over vocals.” By the end of May, the group was choreographing and blocking their scenes. In early July, blocking was finished and the group had a month to begin running the
Learning Young: Children are giggling, teasing each other as they run across the Southside Center for the Arts, a spacious room that has now been outfitted with painted scenery representing Auradon Prep. OTC Artistic Director Marty Moore is gathering the young thespians together to practice something specific — walking across the stage so they don’t sound, as she later puts it, like a herd of Water Buffalo. The children taking Moore’s acting class are learning the fundamentals of everything theatrerelated — projecting their voices, walking quietly but purposefully, how to give a monologue, how to sing and
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(Left to Right): Camilla Kitchens, Gracie Otto
(Four Front Left to Right): Clayton McBurney, Jay Collins, Justin Brasfield, Kyler Register
(Left to Right): Dalton Ruth Bendinger, Novellette Seroyer
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show through from start to finish. The young performers are learning too, about working with other people. “The most difficult part is having chemistry with the people you’re working with,” Kitchens said. “In the show, there’s a couple people that I don’t like in real life, but I have to like in the show. I would just say it’s the chemistry that you kind of have to act like you really, really like this person [but] you want to throw a punch at them in real life.” They are also learning how to portray characters that don’t reflect their personalities at all. “I’ve actually had to get a lot of help on this,” said Lucy Zellner, 13, who is playing Mel, one of the main
Another challenge the children had to reckon with is performing with adults in the cast as well. “Sometimes adults don’t understand that we’re supposed to be energetic on stage, we’re supposed to be happy and we’re supposed to be presenting ourselves in a show-like manner,” Kitchens said. But the flip side is the adults are always present to help with challenges, help learn lines and keep the children in order. “We know that they’ve been doing it longer than us because they have more experience with it so they’re going to be better than us,” said Kinsley Williamson, 12, who is playing the part of the royal page. “And they like to help us out and teach us by learning their parts
Top Row (Left to Right): Garrison Brown, Cathy Mayhugh Sitting: Douglas Bendinger; Bottom Row (Left to Right): Novellette Seroyer, Robbin Brasfield characters in the show. “Because I’m not an evil person at all and just the fact that she is just the complete opposite of me. I got people yesterday to help me, I’ve had people for months trying to help me. And honestly, it’s just so hard because I go from this bubbly person that I normally am to this evil, grungy, grimy kind of person.” Dalton Ruth Bendinger, 11, who will be playing Evie, one of the leads in the show, said one of the challenges for her has been learning choreography. And for Clayton McBurney, 14, who is playing Ben, the son of Belle and the Beast, it is acting. His strong suit is singing.
and ours so they can help us step up and help us do our parts.” Playing Parents: Many of the adults in the Descendants cast are playing the parents of the children in the show. But, the irony, is that some of the adult performers are actually the parents of these children in real life. “I have five children and the two youngest are into theatre and so I saw a Facebook post years ago about a production called Emma that was being done and my next to youngest son auditioned for that and that’s
how I got involved in this theatre group,” said Robbin Brasfield, who is playing Cruella De Vil. Her son Justin Brasfield, 12, will be playing Doug in the show. “[I enjoy] getting to see [my children] interact with other kids, and to see them develop their characters, and take in feedback, and improve their singing and dancing and just getting to know their friends so their friends are not just a name,” she said. This is not Robbin’s first show with OTC, she also performed in Nunsense. “The first time I did Nunsense, the first night we performed I was so nervous,” she said. “I was just in the ensemble, but I was so nervous and I thought, ‘This is how my kids feel when they go out for their performance’ and I really had a new appreciation for
“I guess you could call me a gopher director because I go wherever Marty wants me to go,” he said. But there are rewarding moments when working with the talented children. “Watching them have the time of their lives on that stage and they’re performing and they have their costumes on and their makeup done and the music’s going and the stage lights are on, watching them shine is the best part of the whole thing,” McCollough said. Catherine Mayhugh, playing Maleficent, raved about the talent in the children. “If you come and see these kids when the show is opening night, you’re going to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, these kids, they’re amazing,’” she said. Show Time:
“Come here and see a show with people you know, people you’ve interacted with and just kind of get into the musical theatre community and see what it’s like” what they do.” Douglas Bendinger, playing Maurice and also serving as the understudy for Jafar, has been able to work with his daughter, Dalton. “It’s very rewarding because she loves it so much, you can see it in her face,” he said. “I enjoying watching her perform and sing.” The Adult Players: There are a lot more children in the show than there are adults. “The pace is different,” Robbin said. “When working with children or with teenagers, there’s a lot of repetition, there’s a lot of disciplining.” One of the hardest parts is just keeping the children’s attention, said Seth McCollough, who is involved with his first production with OTC, serving as both a director and playing a role in the show as the Fairy Godmother. Being an adult in a show with children has its other responsibilities too. McCollough's tasks vary from child wrangling to directing, applying makeup to gluing sequins on a costume.
When it came time to begin running the show through in July, both the children and adults were given their costumes to wear. In a red gown, with a fur collar and a spotted puppy on her shoulder, Cruella de Vil makes her way to the stage, with children running up to ooh and aah. Maleficent grabs the children’s attention in another way, with a cackling laugh that echoes around the room. For months, the performers have been working together to move past the kinks in the show, get to know one another and perform together. And despite the difficulties, the children and adults both say it’s all worth it. “It’s just a great sense of performing,” Kitchens said. “And when you’re on that stage, you are hot, you’re sweaty, you have multiple layers on, you’re in a costume, your makeup might be dripping down your face, your hair might be messy but in the end, you’re all together, you’re all doing the same thing and the audience is there and they’re enjoying it.” Mayhugh said just being able to play a myriad of characters in all of OTC’s performances is rewarding.
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(Left to Right): Dalton Ruth Bendinger, Novellette Seroyer “If you want a good smile, and you want to have a feel good moment, come enjoy the show,” she said. Community Theatre is something special, McCollough said. “I love community theatre, I love all the people that are involved with community theatre,” he said. “You have all sorts of kinds and it's just a place for
everybody.” The keyword is community. Opelika Theatre Company is made up of local people who all share an interest in theatre. “Instead of going and seeing something on Broadway, with people you don’t even know, why not come here and see a show with people you
(Left to Right): Douglas Bendinger, Garrison Brown
know, people you’ve interacted with and just kind of get into the musical theatre community and see what it’s like,” Kitchens said. For many of the children, Opelika Theatre Company is where they hope to get their start. “I’ve always loved acting,” Zellner said. “Because my siblings did it, I’m the youngest, and so it’s been so amazing. My siblings would do it and I’d watch their shows and I’d be like, ‘I just want to do that so bad.’ And then I would not be able to because I was just so young … finally I was able to and I was like, ‘This is the best experience I’ve ever had.’” Kitchens hopes to attend Baylor University for musical theatre and, one day, Julliard. “I’m sure people enjoy going to shows at the Fox and the Gogue and stuff like that but this is where
involved. “This place always needs new people,” said Jacob Kroll, 13, who is playing Carlos, one of the leads in the show. Bendinger recommended theatre for more than just acting, but life skills. “I‘ve gotten to meet a lot of new people and just see a lot of people in the community,” said Jay Collins, 14, who is playing Chad, Cinderella’s son in this show. The theatre company is a place for children to come for fun, Mayhugh said. But it’s also a great place for adults. “It is more than just a theatre group, it’s like a theatre family,” Robbin said. “Everybody is supportive of each other. You can find out you had talents you
those actors get their start,” McCollough said. “So supporting these young actors and actresses, one day may get their dream role on Broadway and you can look back and remember, ‘I remember when they were eight and on the stage at Opelika Theatre Company.’”
didn’t know that you had.” Descendants will be hosting its show performances on Aug. 13,14,15 and 20, 21 and 22. “We’ve just come such a far way from where we were before,” Justin said. “… It’s just turned out super well.” For more informtion on showtimes and purchasing tickets, visit: www.opelikatheatrecompany.com/ shows.
Getting Involved: Almost everyone said that they encourage community members to come check out OTC and get
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Everywhere you look, you see AuburnBank employees volunteering and serving to make our community better and to help it grow. That’s because AuburnBank cares. Since 1907, AuburnBank has cared about and invested in this community, which is why we have such a strong presence in local charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity, United Way and the Food Bank of East Alabama, to name a few. We’re a local bank with deep roots. We care deeply about our community, so just imagine how much we care about our customers. AuburnBank. Your Partner. Your Neighbor. Your Friend. BANK OFFICES:
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AUBURN • OPELIKA • PHENIX CITY • NOTASULGA • VALLEY
Story By Emery Lay Photos Contributed By Nourish Blooms —65—
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The Nourish Foundation was founded in 2016 by Beth Hornsby and Katie Wolter with the mission to help those in need in the Auburn-Opelika area by bringing meals to food-insecure families. Wolter, who was a nutrition major in college, saw a need to be met in her work as a pediatrician. “I've always been interested in nutrition and … just how much of an effect nutrition can have on your overall health,” Wolter said. “Reading about (how) one in four kids in Alabama are food insecure … and seeing that in my own patient population, kind of led me to reach out to Beth and ask if she'd be willing to kind of do the food component of it. And she was eager to do it … So, it was kind of birthed out of that.” The Nourish Foundation started as “Nourish Alabama”. Its mission was simple: get fresh produce boxed or bagged once a week and bring them to Wolter’s office at Pediatric Associates of Auburn. From there, volunteers would deliver the supplies to food-insecure families once a week. In 2018, Wolter also decided to start Nourish Blooms, an offshoot from the Nourish Foundation. Wolter said she has loved gardening since childhood, learning from the best and brightest — her
grandmother. As she began to grow her own garden, Wolter realized that she could use this skill to help fund the Nourish Alabama component of the project. “I'm probably the hindrance of it growing because … I do still practice,” Wolter said. “So, I just don't have the capacity to grow it to the extent that I think could be supported by our community.” The Nourish Foundation currently only has one other employee outside of Hornsby and Wolter: Abigail Hunt. Hunt completes the administrative work for the foundation, including what comes from Nourish Blooms. Wolter said this has helped her “tremendously.” Despite the small staff, Nourish Blooms is still thriving. In 2020 alone, Nourish Blooms covered over 80% of the expenses for Nourish Alabama. Funds from the flowers that are bought flow directly into Nourish’s account and back out into the community to provide for the food insecure. “We're trying to transition this a little bit,” Wolter said. “For the most part, my husband and I bought all the supplies; Like, we pay for the land … All of the money goes into Nourish Alabama
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right now, however, it's not a super sustainable model. And so, we're trying to have it where, you know, at least some of that money goes back into the program … purchases, fees, compost and things like that.” For every standard $20-30 bouquet that is purchased, Nourish estimates that money will feed a family for an entire week. “Our boxes cost somewhere between $15 to $20 a week, just depending on what components are in there,” Wolter said. “To cover that, usually one bouquet goes to that. And then there's a little bit of margin there, or where we can, you know, put money back into the program.” To buy these bouquets, and simultaneously support the food-insecure, visit www.nourishblooms. com/shop. Flower arrangements are also available for pre-sale at Coffee Cat and other pop-up shops. Recently, Nourish Blooms held a pop-up at Sidetrack Coffee shop in Opelika and hopes to continue to work with them in the future. “We would love to have a more consistent place,” Wolter said, looking to the future of Nourish Blooms. In 2021, Nourish Blooms has been reaching out even further into the community, hoping to spread its limbs and deepen its roots. “We try to let [people] know that with each purchase, they're feeding a family in need,” Wolter said. Additionally, Nourish Blooms participates in the annual Downtown Family Supper, sponsored by the Downtown Merchants Association, a nonprofit organization that works to support the downtown
scene. Participating restaurants have included Acre, The Hound, The Depot, Amsterdam, Hamilton’s and Ariccia. Nourish Blooms has participated for two years now, and each year provides the flowers for the event. Blooms, the named charity for the night, receives a portion of the proceeds. Wolter said she hopes the event will be held again in May 2022, and possibly begin a separate supper in Opelika at some point. Nourish Blooms once did a “Blooms and Bake Sale”, which it hoped would be a recurring theme. However, COVID hit, throwing the plans askew. Wolter said she is hoping the event will be reinstated this fall in late September or early October. “We had volunteers in the community bake goods for us,” she said. “Then, I had the blooms, of course, and we did it outside of Mama Mocha’s in Opelika. And it was really successful, and my kids helped us sell.” Moving forward, the Nourish Foundation will be creating another offshoot. It was just recently awarded a grant for Nourish Wellness. The Wellness branch of the foundation will be a multidisciplinary pediatric wellness center at the Boykin Community Center in Auburn. The foundation hopes to open the new branch in the fall or winter of this year. The center will offer pediatric, nursing, pharmacy, nutrition and child life care. There will be a mindfulness curriculum, a physical activity curriculum and a nutrition curriculum. In addition, there will be monthly family classes for each of the components. “It’s for patients that have that are resourcechallenged,” Wolter said. “It’s for kids that are either at risk of or have a risk of developing or have obesity, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome (or) hypertension. So basically, all of those things can be called ‘lifestyle illnesses’ … We’re hoping that from a multidisciplinary approach, that we can either reverse or prevent those illnesses in kids that are at higher risk for developing them.” For more information about Nourish Wellness, visit its website at www.nourishblooms.com, sponsor the business at www.nourishal.square. site, or follow on Instagram @nourishblooms.
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CROOKED OAKS: Home of Pat Dye’s Legacy Story By Abbey Crank Photos By Abbey Crank and Contributed By Crooked Oaks and Alyssa Turner
at Dye had a vision, and he was determined to make it come true. On a normal day in 1981, Dye’s landscaper put a Japanese maple in his yard. Little did anyone know this average interaction would spark a life-long passion. Then, Dye stumbled across land for sale in the small town of Notasulga, Alabama, just 20 minutes outside Auburn. The previous owner only left Coach one thing: a few crooked oak trees. From this, he came up with
the perfect name for his farm: Crooked Oaks. In 1998, Coach opened his slice of heaven for the world to see. This family-friendly farm is still running to this day and offers something for everyone. From quail hunts to weddings, Coach made sure to make this place feel like anyone’s second home. “He really just wanted to set it up as a place for anyone from any walk of life to be welcome,” said Megan Anderson, sales and guest director for Crooked Oaks.
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“You feel at home when you’re here.” All trees and plants were put purposefully on the property by Coach himself, and he made sure everything followed his vision to a T. Lynn Slocum, one of Crooked Oaks’ board of directors, explained that getting everything perfect was the most Pat Dye thing one could expect. “It [Crooked Oaks] looked completely different than it does today. He planted all of the trees that are here, especially in the garden,” Slocum said. “Not only did he plant them, he moved them several times before he got them where he wanted them.” On the property, there are over 200 varieties of Dye’s beloved Japanese maples; He also planted beautiful hydrangeas, magnolia trees and so much more. “We literally have thousands [of Japanese maples] on the ground,” Slocum said. “It seems like every time you’d drive by he’d be pruning one.” Not only can guests admire a Dye-approved maple, they can also buy one; Crooked Oaks has saplings all the way up to 20-year-old trees for sale. There is also a gardens manager to help anyone ensure the best possible life for their trees. If you look carefully, you also may see turkeys, black fox squirrels (Coach’s favorite) or a large, redtailed hawk known as Bernice. Not only that, there is a gigantic lake on the property where throwing a line is highly encouraged. There are also horses located all around the pastures. Right now, they are open to taking new horses for boarding this upcoming fall. Anderson also explained Dye’s clear love for hunting. This excitement is the reason bobwhite quail hunting played such a big role in his farm-life experience. “Coach loved that part [quail hunting] and was very hands-on,” Anderson said. “It was just hanging out with the guys and telling war stories.” Crooked Oaks offers three different quail hunt packages: a half-day hunt for $375 per person, full-day quail hunt for $750 per person and an overnight two-day hunt for $900 per person. Each package comes with a Oaks gift bag and cleaned, packaged birds, complimentary at the end of every trip, regardless of hunting success. In the hunt, there will also be bird dogs and personal guides to help enhance the experience. There are lodging options found all throughout the farm. Four houses are available and the property can sleep up to 20 people per night. First is the Cabin. The cabin holds three rooms with queen beds and it also has a historical significance on the property. “It was the first place Coach had when he was here,” Anderson said. “Before he started building everything, that’s where he lived.” Next is the Lodge. The Lodge is the biggest housing option available with six rooms and the ability to sleep 12 campers. The Barn is the perfect spot for a romantic weekend getaway. It only has one full bed that sleeps two. The final housing option is known as the Breezeway Bedrooms and has two twin beds. These choices are available on both weekdays and weeknights. When football season comes around, fans can also stay on the farm (a two-night minimum stay). Last but not least, Crooked Oaks is home to many wedding, family and Auburn-related events. Anderson explains this part of her job does not even feel like work. “We have really been blessed with working with the best couples,” she said. “It’s always so cool to see it
… all come together.” The team effort is real. Every staff member comes together and finishes each event with flying colors. “I always tell people we’re all [the staff] just a small family,” Anderson said. “We all work so closely hand in hand just to make sure everything that we’re doing aligns … and continues the legacy, the mission and the dream.” One of the staff’s favorite locations on the property is Coach’s garden. Every tree and flower was carefully placed by the football legend himself. It also features a waterfall
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crafted by Dye himself. When describing the entire place, Anderson came up with four words. “One of a kind … Any spot on this property is so peaceful,” she said. “I feel like no matter where you’re at on this property you can still feel Coach.” Dye had big plans for Crooked Oaks, and Auburn’s students play a crucial part. He wanted this place to be a spot for students to learn and grow, so he offered internships to students wanting to learn the ways of the farm. Back in 2018, Auburn senior Alyssa Turner was one of the lucky interns to learn from the man himself.
“Before I stepped foot on campus for my classes, I was at the farm,” Turner said. “It was an honor to work for Coach Dye and be able to share great memories with him — horseback riding, story sharing and never-ending dancing under Auburn-themed chandeliers.” Turner explained from the moment she arrived, Coach said he saw her as a granddaughter. “He called me family, and I certainly felt — and still feel — the same. He provided me with a home away from home, and I’m forever thankful for the wisdom he shared,” she said. “The legacy and impact of Coach Dye is evident and continuous under Toomer’s Oaks, a weekend, autumn trip to Jordan-
Hare and of course, Crooked Oaks.” Since Coach’s passing, Oaks still strictly follows his values and mission. Everyone came together to keep this sacred farm afloat, especially during the global pandemic. Through the tough times, the board of directors came up with a solution: the Legacy Foundation. On the Crooked Oaks’ website, they write, “The Crooked Oaks Legacy Foundation has been established for the purpose of continuing the mission of Crooked Oaks Farm.” The association helps fund the land, gardens, retirement and rescue of animals as well as the education of Auburn University students.
Right now, Crooked Oaks is saving up money for a new equipment shed they desperately need. To donate, head over to crookedoaks.com and click on the Legacy Foundation tab. Donations are much appreciated, and they also have patdyelegacy.com where T-shirts, hoodies, hats and more can be purchased. All proceeds help keep Crooked Oaks running to the best of its ability. So, next time you want a unique, Auburn-filled experience, pass through Crooked Oaks Farm. You’ll be greeted with a smile, a Japanese maple and a historical space of one of Auburn’s greatest football legends.
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GRAB A BITE Story By Natalie Salvatore and Kinley Beshers Photos By Robert Noles and Contributed By Businesses
hether you’re a college student walking to class on Auburn’s campus or looking for a quick and delicious bite to eat while in town, the AuburnOpelika community is bustling with different restaurants and food trucks. Food trucks provide high-quality food at lower prices and allow the community to try different types of cuisine in a more convenient way. They bring the community together while supporting local businesses, even through a global pandemic. Some food trucks, through a major boom in popularity, exceeded their capacity in a food truck and even turned into storefronts. We highlight some of our favorite food trucks turned storefronts here. But, you never know which food truck around Auburn and Opelika might be the next to make waves — so we’ve included a food truck vendor list, too.
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A MATTER OF TASTE
fter one year of operation as a bar and grill restaurant in Smiths Station, A Matter of Taste is still attracting business because of its food, bar and services. A Matter of Taste opened as a remote food truck in February of 2019, serving the Phenix City area. After COVID-19 struck, the food truck owner from Fort Mitchell, Lawanda Thompson, re-opened the restaurant at its new location in Smiths Station, 2368 Lee Road 430. Thompson said business had been up and down while trying to open at the new location during the earlier months of the pandemic. Since then, business has luckily increased steadily for the restaurant. A Matter of Taste offers southern food — appetizers and entrees, along with a fully-operating bar, including beer, wine and liquor. The menu features entrees such as catfish filets, pork chops, baked chicken, ribeye steaks and the highly-favored wings. The Smiths Station hot spot has over 16 different flavors to choose from for their hot wings. On Fridays and Saturdays, wings and a pitcher of beer are
jointly sold for $16, as well as margaritas for $5. The restaurant also offers daily specials, listed as follows: • Tuesday: Three Wings • Wednesday: Chili Dogs • Thursday: Cheeseburger • Friday: Sausage Dog • Saturday: Pork Chop • Sunday: Three Tenders. For entertainment, Thompson hosts live singers and DJs at the restaurant on the weekends, including Cathy Love, Alonzo and DJ Stone. A Matter of Taste provides catering and take-out services to Lee and Russell counties. The restaurant can also be found on and ordered through the Waitr, Grubhub and DoorDash apps. Head on over to A Matter of Taste on Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11p.m. or midnight., depending on the live entertainment and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information, contact the restaurant at 334592-8802 or message its Facebook page at page @ amatteroftastebarandgrill.
ne of the most popular food trucks in town is the Amsterdam Cafe Food Truck, a portable version of Auburn’s famous Amsterdam Cafe. This truck relocates to both city and on-campus spots for widespread accessibility. This food truck can be booked for catering events and parties, with prices varying depending on which menu items are selected. Throughout the 2021 spring semester, the Amsterdam
Food Truck was spotted on campus at Parker Hall and was received very well by hungry students on their way to class. The menu consisted of popular main dishes, such as the Turkey Wrap, Griddle Burger and Crab-Cake and Avocado Sandwich. All of these well-known items were served with fries or chips as a side. Visit the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AmsterdamTruck/, to learn where the truck will be each day.
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SWORD + SKILLET
ne of the community’s gourmet food trucks is Sword and Skillet, a Hawaiian and SoCal-inspired dive owned by Chef Torrey Hall and his wife Jordan Whitley, a sports broadcaster and trained chef. Located permanently at Midtown’s “Main Street” in Auburn, their menu includes customer favorites of Filet Mignon Sliders, Hot Honey Fried Chicken with Smoked Gouda Mac, the Bang Bang Shrimp Box and Mexican Street Corn. The couple’s training and experience from the West Coast helped them to open their truck in 2018. It was a way for Torrey to bring his food to the Auburn community while being able to spend time with his family outside of the hectic restaurant life. The community’s support of the truck has allowed it to flourish, which means so much to the couple. Whitley said that starting a small business while raising two children was daunting, but also worthwhile. She said they are proud of how far it has already come and glad they took that leap of faith to open the truck.
“As for Torrey, the love and support for his food is a chef’s dream,” Whitley said. “The other day, our fiveyear-old son set up a sweet tea stand by the food truck, and even in the pouring rain, our customers went out of their way to make him feel special. That’s Auburn/ Opelika for you.” When the pandemic began, the community’s support continued when customers bought gift cards or hired the truck for neighborhood pick-ups in an effort to keep the business flourishing. “We are grateful that our business was built for outdoor, socially-distanced dining and pick-up. We certainly felt the love and appreciation from our customers looking for ways to support us,” Whitley said. She said a second food truck is coming this fall. The summer hours are Thursday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. The menu changes weekly. Visit the social media profiles @swordandskillet for more information.
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THE IRRITABLE BAO
ave you seen the line wrapped around Magnolia Avenue to Toomer’s Corner? People lined up to experience “The Irritable Bao”. Now, I know what you’re thinking. But The Irritable Bao is one of Auburn’s popular food trucks turned storefronts. The authentic-style Chinese hot-spot is owned by Whitley Dykes and his wife Kunyu Li, with help from their toddler Arrow. The Irritable Bao serves Chinese dumplings while providing shoes for children who are surviving in third world countries. Its mission is to empower and teach these
children while serving the community here as well. The truck donates a portion of its cash tips and profits overseas. Its partnership with Empowering Young Warriors Asia helps make this possible. However, it also donates cash tips locally. There are dedicated days of the week for those in need to come in for a free meal. The usual sight is a long line of eager students and customers patiently waiting to taste the Chinese bao that is made daily by Li herself. The truck’s storefront, Irritable Bao, is now located in the former Locker Room on Magnolia Avenue.
FOOD TRUCKS Big Blue Crawfish
Big Blue Crawfish launched from Clint Rogers’ love for boiling crawfish for his friends and neighbors. The food truck was born in 2015, leading to a storefront at 2611 Pepperell Parkway. However, the storefront still uses a food truck model, so the hours are a little off. To find the restaurant, and its times of business, check in here: www.facebook.com/bigbluecrawfish.
For all of the chicken and waffle fans out there, a brand new food truck called Bruxie just opened in Auburn. The truck also offered chick tenders and chicken salads and a few sweet treats. Find the business here: www.bruxie.com/?fbclid=IwAR097NvF dKDEQTUy8glhtnNDdDa7Sq5MM8Ui_ G0wmi4a072flezePOHAmg0 hwww.facebook.com/BruxieAuburn-106429647675186/.
For taco fanatics, the street-food inspired DriveBy Tacos food truck serves gourmet tacos, salads and sliders. The owner, Jason Pope, gives back to those in need in the community while serving his own customers. Pope and his team prioritize partnering with local organizations to help the hungry. His business is “a food truck with purpose.” The truck has partnered with Wine to Water which provides clean water to underserved communities. Find the business here: www.drivebytacos.com www.facebook.com/drivebytacosauburn.
Frankie June’s Weeny Wagon
If you’re looking for a truck further away from campus, check out Franky Junes, which travels to different spots throughout Opelika. This “weeny wagon” serves hotdogs and tots with a twist. They have many dogs on its menu besides the classic hotdog — including the George, the Maggie,
the Seattle, the Manhattan, the Carolina, the Fingerlicker and more. The truck was created as a heartfelt honor of Karen Lanier’s mother, Irene “June” Uzzell, who passed away in 2002. Find the business here: www.frankyjunes.com www.facebook.com/FrankyJunes.
For a sweet, icy treat, book Kona Ice. Although the Kona Ice chain does keep some stands around town, the truck will cater to any event. Find the business here: www.kona-ice.com/local-site/kona-ice-of-auburnopelika-columbus/.
Moonswiners BBQ & Catering:
Smiths Station has jumped on the food truck bandwagon too! A local Smiths Station family purchased a BBQ food truck and so, Moonswiners BBQ & Catering LLC was born. Check in with Moonswiners here: www.facebook.com/Moonswiners-BBQ-CateringLLC-107854114156741.
O Town may be a popular store front in Opelika for sandwiches and icecream, but it also has a food truck! What makes O Town special? All flavors are named after local people, places and memories! For more information: www.facebook.com/otownicecream
University Donut Company:
The University Donut Company started as a truck where students could grab a sweet treat on the way to and from classes. Now, the business serves the community with a storefront on Magnolia Avenue. Expect donuts with all kinds of toppings from Reese’ pieces, Oreos, nuts, toffee and more. Find the business here: www.universitydonut.com/default.asp.
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Meet the “A e-perts” Story By Abbey Crank Photos By Abbey Crank and Contributed by Axe Marks The Spot
ee County is finally on target. The AuburnOpelika community has two locally-owned ax throwing hideaways: Blade and Barrel and Axe Marks the Spot.
Blade and Barrel: Midtown Auburn’s latest hotspot for everyone. Ever wanted to open a business with your best friends? Well, that is Blade and Barrel’s exact origin story. One night, Craig and Katie Miller met up with their long-time friends Lane and Ashley Minor. Next thing you know, the couples agreed to start up Auburn’s first ax-centered entertainment center. “You know, honestly, it [the idea of opening an ax throwing place in Auburn] is pretty simple,” Craig Miller said. “We didn’t have one.” Blade and Barrel opened in March 2021, and is located in Midtown Auburn on Opelika Road and operates Thursday through Sunday. The couples thought this was a great place for adults to have a unique experience. “It provided a way for us to go somewhere else besides a bar, restaurant or movie,” Miller said. One thing, in particular, drew the Millers and
Minors to opening an ax-throwing establishment: the BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) atmosphere. Unlike movies and nightclubs, Blade and Barrel only offer a cooler. It’s up to you to bring drinks and food. “There’s nowhere else you can do this in the Auburn area,” Miller said. “It’s a very affordable way to have a different experience for your team, office or family.” The team soon added Brandi Whitley as their general manager; COVID-19’s stern restrictions loosened and the rest soon fell into place perfectly as Blade and Barrel prepared to open. “You got to see people interacting with their families,” Whitley said. “With people being strapped with COVID, it’s nice to see people starting to do things together again.” A successful opening brightened the hopes of this close-knit team and fueled their passion for entertainment. Helping customers figure out their rhythm within ax throwing is one of Whitley’s favorite things about the job, she said. When coaching people, Whitley said it makes you realize how people tick.
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“Think about a little boy; he may not listen to his parents, but he will probably listen to us,” Whitley said. Every lane will have an “axe-pert” throughout their session. From pep talks to strategy, your personal helper has your back. After about 15 minutes of an ax-throwing frenzy, Whitley said customers start to get a hang of things. For people wanting to give this sport a go, one of Blade and Barrel’s owners have some pointers. “Everybody has to throw their first ax somewhere, so it might as will be here,” Miller said. “Everybody stinks in the beginning.” Along with Miller, Whitley also gave comfort to those anxious about an ax-throwing disaster. “There are different ways of throwing,” Whitley said. “We will find a way to make it stick at least once; you’ll get there.” The lanes are protected and kid-friendly; Nothing will break with one bad throw. Whitley urges everyone to come in and give it their best. “Don’t worry about missing,” Whitley said. “Don’t worry about it hitting the floor. Don’t worry if … it tears up anything. Accidents happen for a reason; it’s not a big deal.”
She explains this is a sport for everybody. “There’s no limitation,” Whitley said. “We don’t discriminate against anyone. We find a way to make everyone have a good time.” When she says everyone, she truly means everyone. “We’ve had a gentleman who [had cerebral palsy,]” Whitley said. “We’ve also had a large group of pregnant ladies.” Miller explained how important it is to truly understand the safety and environment of ax-throwing hubs. “I think there sometimes can be a misconception for ax throwing and what this place is,” Miller said. “People need to realize this is an absolute family environment.” Blade and Barrel has a plethora of gaming options ranging from standard targets to zombies. For those ages 8 and up, prices are $20 per hour; Team-building events and birthday parties can also book the entire space. For more information on booking and all things ax throwing, call 334-521-0970 or go to bladeandbarrelaxe.com. They will make sure you have an “ax-cellent” time.
Axe Marks the Spot: The latest nightlife adventure. Auburn isn’t the only city looking for some axthrowing action. What was once the beloved Downtown Barbershop located on S. Eighth Street in Opelika is quickly transforming into a recreational ax-throwing center. It only took one ax throw in May 2020 for Emily Key to decide she wanted a place of her own. The grand opening took place in July 2021. “It was only one hour, one time,” Key said. “Then I decided … I’m opening my own ax place.” Key’s fascination led her to build a target in her own backyard. She spent many hours practicing her form, as well as teaching her friends the basics of ax throwing. She hopes in the future she will be an “axepert.” Remodeling buildings is Key’s middle name. With nine years of experience, she welcomed this barbershop-turned-nightlife project with open arms. Key owns two businesses and one nonprofit centered around remodeling and housing needs: Three Key Properties LLC, Key Concepts LLC and Key Living Solutions. “I’m a hammer and ax person, not a paperwork
person,” Key said. What really drew Key into the ax-throwing community was the unique experience. She realized there was nothing like this — a place where you can bring your own food and beverage — while enjoying a recreational activity in Opelika. Key plans on being open in the evenings and will announce specific times soon. Prices will be $20 per hour for each person, but Key will make every day a different discount. From grocery store workers to medical professionals, she wants everyone to feel acknowledged. “I’m doing this not only to encourage people to come but to show my appreciation,” Key said. She will also host private events for team-building exercises and parties. “I want to be open for anyone at any time,” Key said regarding special occasions. “Even if someone says they want an event on 8 a.m. on a Tuesday.” Scheduling an event will also be cheaper than the usual $20 per person every hour. For those wanting to pick up an ax, Key offers some crucial advice. “There’s no gender, size, strength, age — nothing matters when it comes to throwing an ax,” Key said.
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“You can have a 10-year-old get a bullseye next to a 30-year-old bodybuilder who can’t.” There is a specific science that comes with ax throwing. Key explained that throwing an ax as hard as you can will not get you a bullseye. “You have to just adjust to each throw based on the one before it,” she said. “By the end of your hour, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to get a bullseye.” Many people worry about not being good right off the bat, but Key explained that is a part of the fun. “They [people who are talented right away] are not going to have fun being naturally good. This is somewhere you can come to learn and have fun doing it.” Axe Marks the Spot will be an old-school experience. There will be no projectors, only a target. For certain games, like the game of 21, Key will give
customers paper to keep track of their scores. Throughout the remodeling process, Key has received overwhelming support from the Opelika community, such as Opelika’s Community Development Administrator, Lisa Thrift. One of the biggest problems surrounding downtown Opelika’s businesses is that many places don’t use the entire space. Axe Marks the Spot does not fall under that category. Thrift agreed, saying Key’s remodel is “very innovative and smart.” Opelika Community Development wants nothing but success for the young business owner. For more information on Axe Marks the Spot, event booking and merchandise, go to Axe Marks the Spot’s Facebook page. It will make sure you’re always on target.
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ADVERTISERS INDEX Allen Asphalt Services, 53 All-Pro Septic, 23 Alsobrook Law Group, 100 Arbor Springs, 23 AuburnBank, 62 Axe Marks the Spot, 3 Backwater BBQ, 40 Beauregard Drugs, 88 Bombay Grill, 98 Budget Blinds, 32 Carson Cooper – Edward Jones, 63 Clear Water Solutions, 88 Cosmic Connexion, 2 Crown Trophy, 22 Da’Gallery, 2 Day Hair Salon, 96 Edward Jones - Carson Cooper, 71 Five Star Bail Bonds, 7 Franky Junes Weeny Wagon, 55 Fun Carts of Opelika, 22 Glynn Smith Chevrolet-Buick-GMC, 97 Gogue Performing Arts Center, 8 Good Karma, 32 Goree’s Furniture Express, 49 Grady’s Tire and Auto, 98
Harvest Thrift, 41 Hilyer & Associates, CPAs, 41 Hippie St., 2 Jay Jones – Lee County Sheriff, 89 Jeffcoat Trant Funeral Home, 99 Kage Fit, 79 La Cantina, 79 LIVE Lee, 7 Meals Chiropractic, 98 Noles Photography, 4 OLD Inc. Business Brokers, 96 Oline Price, Lee County Revenue Commissioner, 33 Opelika Main Street, 55 Opelika Theatre Company, 55 O Town, 40 Price Small Engine, 78 Rob’s Ribs, 55 SouthState Bank, 80 State Farm - Christi Hill - Eric McDade, 6 The Denson Group, 71 The Fiberglass Shop, 97 The Gallery on Railroad, 63 Trinity Presbyterian Church, 88 Wadkins Metal, 97 Whitt’s Auto, 79
Day's Hair Salon 316 Frazier Street Auburn, Alabma 36830 334 - 821- 5559
Linda Saxton, Owner/Stylist
The Fiberglass Shop “Since 1973”
Boat Bodywork and Custom Fiberglass Repairs Gelcoat Repairs Oxidation Removal Buffing and Waxing Transom, Floor and Stringer Replacement Major and Minor Fiberglass Repair
334-298-1566 550 Lake Oliver Road Smiths Station, AL 36877 Tim McClain - Owner
Serving Lee County since 2006
MEALS CHIROPRACTIC CLINIC
1251 Opelika Road, Auburn
At Meals Chiropractic Clinic, we provide an array of services, all designed for your improved health. Our goal is to eliminate your aches and pains as quickly as possible.
Bombay Indian Grill offers delicious dining and takeout to Auburn, AL. Bombay Indian Grill is a cornerstone in the Auburn community and has been recognized for its outstanding Indian cuisine, excellent service and friendly staff.Our Indian restaurant is known for its modern interpretation of classic dishes and its insistence on only using high quality fresh ingredients.
W E T R E AT: • Ankles • Auto Injuries • Headache
• Jaw Pain • Knees • Neck
• Back • Shoulders • Sports Injuries
907 2nd Ave. Ste. B Opelika
7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday
Courtesy Valet Service and Pick up and Delivery
WHY BUY TIRES FROM US? • SINCE 1948 • LOCALLY OWNED & OPERATED • NATIONWIDE WARRANTIES • HASSLE FREE SERVICE • NO INTEREST FINANCING AVAILABLE 1212 1st Avenue | Opelika, AL 36801 334-745-3568 www.gradystireandauto.com
Our family serving your family Bill Trant, Coley Trant, Gene Ward, Allison Owens, Ginger Gray-Busby, Paul Kemp, David Phillips, Roger Hughes, Lee Smith, Linda Stewart, John McCollum, Bobby McBurney
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CALL ZACH ALSOBROOK