CULLMAN, Ala. – Hanceville’s record as a special event venue does not seem to be improving. Rain, conflicting event schedules and the start of the COVID shutdown the day before this year’s Irish festival have plagued the town and challenged its downtown merchants, who have put time and money into getting ready for each event and its attendant economic opportunity to bring in shoppers. Saturday was no exception, as consistent rain through the morning and afternoon led to the cancellation (now rescheduling*) of the Mud Creek Marching Festival at Hanceville High School, whose attendees the merchants hoped to draw downtown for their block party.
While the rain sent the marching bands home, the merchants stayed and prepared to make the best of the situation, as they have done before: sidewalk merchants backed up under awnings or accepted an invitation to come inside and set up in Arise Coffee Company’s back gym; the hot dog grill was fired up and local music acts went on inside the coffee shop. The number of shoppers was smaller than hoped for, but folks did come out to enjoy a day out and bring the merchants and vendors a little business.
Across the street from the coffee shop, downtown developer Nolan Bradford talked to The Tribune about how local businesses are weathering COVID-19 and other challenges. While realistic in his views, he was surprisingly upbeat.
Bradford said, “People are surviving, but of course, business is down. The coffee shop actually had to close down a couple of months I think. They’re opened back up; business is slow, but they’re hanging on. Most of the other places are doing about the same as what they were, pre-COVID and everything.”
Arise Coffee Company owner Leah McCollins got creative during the shutdown, hosting concerts and other special events to raise funds to keep open not only her coffee house and gym, but also the reduced rate therapy service the licensed counselor provides for low-income clients and those without insurance for mental health services. In a previous interview about COVID challenges, McCollins credited Bradford with encouraging and helping her to keep going and shared that business has been getting better.
In the midst of challenges, growth!
While the downtown business district did lose two businesses during the shutdown, it has recently seen the arrival of Kim Carwell’s Walk in the Dream career coaching service and a small software business with plans to expand and hire. Gift shop Trinkets and Traditions has moved into and already filled a larger downtown location, and the owners of recent culinary addition Cafe Tula Taqueria are already considering an expansion.
Bradford was proud to add, “I’ve actually got interest in more people coming in.”
Without being able to go into much detail on preliminary plans, Bradford mentioned that upcoming possibilities include a CBD/vape shop, as well as a meat-and-three home cooking restaurant that will augment the district’s Mexican eatery.
“So things have slowed down,” said Bradford, “but people are hanging on, and we’ve got a good environment. The rents are good here. So if you’re going to make it at all, Hanceville, I think, is a place to try.”
More opportunities to visit and shop coming up
The Hanceville City Council recently approved and discussed several upcoming special events that should bring visitors downtown:
- Hanceville Elementary School Trunk or Treat on Bulldog Lane and Stadium Drive Friday, Oct. 30
- Bike Night on Bangor Avenue from 6-9 p.m. Nov. 10
- Cullman Area Christmas Open House Nov. 13-15. Hanceville merchants are planning to take part, and some will be giving away gift certificates and other prizes.
- The Civitan Club’s Tinsel Trail and tree lighting at Veterans Park at 5 p.m. Dec. 4
- The Civitan’s County Christmas Parade at noon Saturday, Dec. 5
Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail told The Tribune, “I think you’ve got some folks there that has put a lot of money into their business and downtown, and they haven’t seen a whole lot of yield back yet. Everybody tells me, ‘We love what’s going on with downtown; we love it.’ Well, if you love it, you better spend some money down there, because if you don’t, some of these shops are not going to be here. For me, that’s what the big promotion is. We’ve got to, we have got to think about spending some money. Don’t always think about just going to the big retailer; you know, the small town store, heck, they need some support, too.”
*Organizers of the Mud Creek Marching Festival announced today, Tuesday, Oct. 27 that the festival has been rescheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7. Learn more at www.facebook.com/mudcreekmarching.
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