ComebackTown is published by David Sher & Phyllis Neill to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Sue Johnson. Sue has some great experiences to share. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
I took a walk this afternoon with my dog. It’s been three years since my husband, Jimmy, and I moved downtown to live and to start a new venture by opening Dog Days of Birmingham. As I walked, I reflected on our journey.
In 2009 we purchased the Hunter Furniture Store building from Bob Hunter, a wonderful man who was retiring from the furniture business. In deciding on our location we met with Fran Godchaux and Michael Calvert at Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham) who helped us with research, obtaining a float loan from the city, and serving as the liaison to living and working downtown.
This was a positive experience and we found both the city and ONB great to work with. We hired Appleseed Workshop, a design/build firm to design the Doggy Daycare, Boarding, Grooming, Training and Retail store business and to design our loft which is in the same building on the 3rd floor. One of our goals was to reduce our carbon footprint and live greener. Jimmy walks downstairs to go to work and I have a five minute drive to Southside where I serve as the CEO for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Mayor Bell attended our ribbon cutting and he commented that one day he had been coming to work and saw a man walking his dogs and felt like there was hope for Birmingham and that life was coming back into our city.
We moved in and opened for business in September of 2010. Relocating from Hoover to the center of the city was a huge change for us. There were new sounds like buses, sirens, the click clack of skateboards as the kids ride down the sidewalk (I LOVE this sound), people talking, dogs barking, and helicopters coming in daily to bring patients to UAB and Children’s Hospital. Other sounds include the great jazz music they play at the bus station (late at night when the city is quiet the music drifts down 18th street north to our loft), sounds of the fireworks at the Baron’s games and music from Railroad park.
I had a relative who said she would pray for me when I told her we were moving downtown. I guess her prayers worked because it has been nothing but a positive experience for us. As soon as we moved we were contacted by the Downtown Social Club, a group of “pioneers” who live in the loft district and have formed a tight knit group. They get together for covered dish dinners, outings, bike rides, and to play music together. The group is diverse with young, old, black, white, gay, straight, etc. I like that and our lives are so much richer because of our new neighborhood and friends. We even have a neighborhood Chinese Dragon that comes out to parade in the streets on special occasions…her name is Madge.
I often go for a walk, as I did today, and what I see on my walks are historical buildings being refurbished, new energy efficient city buses running, kids on skateboards, people jogging and walking their dogs, college kids everywhere, new trees being planted, an awesome new light show under the 18th street Viaduct, and people riding their bikes. Downtown is a great place to ride bikes because it is so flat (my granddaughter and I often go for a ride on the weekends). Today, I saw a homeless man in a wheelchair reading a newspaper. I smiled and said hello…I was not scared…I was glad I could smile and say hello to him. I see CAP (Citizen Action Partnership) patrolling everywhere which makes me feel even safer while I am out walking my dog. Crime is very low in the CAP district.
There is a saying…if your dog is too fat then you probably are too. By walking to dinner, to the park, to our friend’s lofts, and to other events in Birmingham my dog and I have both lost weight.
Dog Days of Birmingham has been well received by the community and by people who come downtown to work. The business is successful and growing and we are happy and proud to live and work downtown.
Sue Johnson and her husband, Jimmy are co-owners of Dog Days of Birmingham. She is the CEO for Big Brothers Big Sisters and serves on the City Action Partnership Board. She is known around these parts as the “Downtowner.”
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).