From sponsoring community events to advertising at high school football games, small businesses are a part of life in Vestavia Hills.
“People love mom and pop shops,” City Manager Jeff Downes said.
Karen Odle, executive director of the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce, said small businesses are the chamber’s “passion.”
“We’re saying ‘shop local’ because it keeps funding here,” Odle said.
Downes said small businesses help provide a greater quality of life in Vestavia, and in an increasingly digital age, it’s important to continue to have impactful small businesses in the city.
Vestavia is different from other cities, in that it doesn’t often face the challenge of having to make a choice between attracting larger businesses and small businesses, Downes said.
While the city’s topography doesn’t lend itself to holding big-box retail such as Walmart or Home Depot, there is a balance, Downes said, between larger stores like Publix and the various small businesses in each part of the city. Grocery stores and other larger businesses often serve as “anchors,” a main attraction in retail centers.
“We have to, as a city and as a community, put our arms around these small businesses and hopefully they can succeed around these anchors that come in,” Downes said.
Some businesses, like Tangles Hair Salon and Rocky Ridge Hardware, have been in Vestavia for decades, while some, like Lette Macarons in Cahaba Heights, are new to the city. All of them, however, said they’re happy to be in Vestavia Hills.
ROCKY RIDGE HARDWARE
Dan Moran took over the hardware store in the Rocky Ridge shopping center six years ago, but the business has been around since the 1980s, he said.
“Some customers have been here since their husband built the house in the 1950s, now they’re widows in their 90s,” Moran said.
Being in the shopping center helps increase foot trafﬁc and provides a convenient location, Moran said, which, when paired with the store’s “great customer service,” makes for a successful business.
“I enjoy seeing the people that go to the schools … being that hub of activity,” Moran said.
Moran said he’ll see a regular customer in the middle of the week, and then on weekends, their whole family will stop by for a visit and to pick up something for their projects.
The store enjoys a good relationship with the schools, as well, Moran said. With Vestavia Hills Elementary Dolly Ridge opening this fall, Moran said he’s excited for even more trafﬁc to drive by the business.
Online sales haven’t affected the store, Moran said, as Google searches for hardware and equipment often lead customers through their doors.
Even for those who don’t own a home in the area, Moran said he’s become familiar enough with the apartments nearby to help renters with any projects they’re working on.
The challenge, Moran said, is continuing to ﬁnd qualiﬁed labor.
The store recently moved from the middle of the shopping center toward the end, so the staff is still learning the layout of the new building. At the old location, Moran said, he could find anything even in the dark.
Moran said the new location allowed for a clean slate that creates better lines of sight for employees, eliminating “hidey-holes” that existed at the old location.
When Crystal Lovelady and her husband, Shane, were living in California, the Alabama natives became fans of a Lette Macarons shop located on the same block as their house.
So when they came back to Alabama, they decided they wanted to start their own macarons shop, the first Lette Macarons location in Alabama.
“We’ve had a lot of learning curves,” Crystal Lovelady said.
The store opened in July 2018, and business has been steady, she said. Aside from the hurdles of starting a new business, Lovelady said they’ve had to work hard to make sure the public knows about their product, as many assume macarons are the same as macaroons. Macaroons are coconut-based cookies, while macarons are sandwich-shaped cookies famous in France and are typically regarded as one of the harder desserts to make.
Bethany Gray, who’s worked at the store since it opened, said marketing has been “a lot of word of mouth.” Those who visit the store don’t leave disappointed, she said.
“They don’t complain,” Gray said.
The Loveladys chose Cahaba Heights due to the number of niche shops and boutiques in the area, Gray said, and that being a small business offers a chance to recognize regular customers and to offer more of an individual touch.
Lovelady said so far, the business has made some donations to city and school events and hopes to get even more involved in the community in the future.
“Vestavia is a wonderful place to have a small business,” Lovelady said.
Tangles has been in the same location in the Rocky Ridge shopping center for 17 years, owner Jennifer Triola said.
Triola and her mom started the salon, but five years ago, Triola became its owner, though her mom still works as a stylist.
“Vestavia is awesome,” Triola said.
The salon has been completely redone over the years, Triola said, to give it a more modern look and keep up with changing trends in the industry.
The walls, now a mint green color, were once brown, and the stations were all in the middle of the room rather than the sides.
As a parent of three children, two of whom are in the Vestavia Hills school system, Triola said she recognizes the importance of being involved in the community. Over the years, Triola said she’s made donations to the Vestavia Hills City Schools Foundation, as well as creating relationships with clients, many of whom are mothers of Vestavia students.
Though the Rocky Ridge area, and Vestavia as a whole, has changed much in the 17 years Tangles has been at the shopping center, the stylists at the salon still build relationships that feel more like family than just another business transaction.
“A lot of [customers] are like family,” Triola said. “I like being able to interact with customers.”