Path to success: Warehouse District merchants open back doors as construction closes street

Bear, Shane Quick’s canine companion and unofficial inspector, seems satisfied with the evening view of Keeper Alley. (Photo courtesy of Shane Quick)

CULLMAN, Ala. – As the Warehouse District Streetscape Project moves forward, progress means temporary hardship for area merchants during a time when many businesses already face enough obstacles with COVID restrictions and the lingering effects of the shutdown. Developer Shane Quick came up with an interesting idea to deal with difficult front door access to Warehouse District merchants: let customers in through the back. Mid-block alleys on the east side and a newly-cleared and lighted alley on the west side will allow a means of access not directly exposed to construction activities, and could stay around even after the new streetscape is finished.

Quick told The Tribune, “The Warehouse District is excited to partner with the City in creating a new pathway for customers to be able to enjoy during the construction. You know, it’s been great to see these customers continuing to support the local businesses. We wanted to make sure that we had a nice, comfortable- and it’s actually a pretty inspiring- area. You’re seeing some parts of the buildings that people haven’t seen in decades. These buildings were built around 1905. 

“The cool part is, you can actually enter the building; you can enter all the shops from the back side of the building where the new alley is. You can literally go in, from Ashley Mercantile all the way down to Monograms Plus. There is a way to get to your favorite store in the Warehouse District.

“That’s on both sides, as well. You’re talking about the east and the west side of the Warehouse District. You can get in Kernel Kullman, you can get in Oh Baby, you can get in Platform and all the boutiques. Basically, you can enter all the shops in the Warehouse District through the back side of those buildings.”

According to Quick, all of the merchants are on board with the idea and are making arrangements for the new points of access.

“The City’s been a big helping hand in helping keep these stores open and comfortable for customers during this construction,” he added. “When the construction’s done, it’s going to be absolutely beautiful. Everyone in the Warehouse District couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more thankful for the investment that the State- because it is a state grant that the mayor and the council were able to get to revitalize the Warehouse District- but it’s a great investment the State is making in our area.”

Hopes for completion of district streetscape before Christmas shopping season

“It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done, but obviously, we have got to be able to stay open and stay alive during the construction,” Quick said. “The City has really worked hard, worked hand-in-hand with all the stores in getting us a pathway for customers during the construction. We’re hoping sometime in October that the Warehouse District block will be finished, which is a very vital time in the lives of these local stores. That’s when they make a lot of their income; people start their Christmas shopping. They’re working hard, they’re working double time to get that done. 

“Keeper Alley” could be a long-term fixture

“That new entrance, that new alley, you know, we’re calling it ‘Keeper Alley;’ it’s basically the shopkeepers’ alley. But there’s lighting; we bought lighting for it, and the City and Parks and Rec were able to let us borrow their bike rack (barriers) so we can keep it safe. It’s a good, shaded area, because it’s shaded most of the day through there. I think customers will actually enjoy it. My goal is, as landlord, is to keep that alley open, even beyond the construction. I think it’s going to be a cool place for people to enjoy Oktoberfest, different times of the year.”

According to the Cullman Economic Development Agency, the front entrances and sidewalks will also remain open, to allow ADA-compliant access to the businesses. Currently, there is no parking on First Avenue in the Warehouse District. Parking is available behind the Cullman County Museum, at the Festhalle and next to Lavish Boutique, as well as the south end of the Warehouse District.

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Developer Shane Quick shows off the lighted pathway between the Warehouse District and the railroad tracks. (Photo courtesy of Shane Quick)

W.C. Mann