We always find it inspiring when business owners plant roots in Magic City neighborhood commercial districts.
Tim Clay is principal of Accounting and Business Consultants and property owner of the former Fire Station no. 10 in Avondale. Penny Southwood is a tenant of the Fire Station no. 10 space, and owner of (non-profit) Financial Education Outreach.
In 1990 the Spanish mission-style Avondale firehouse building was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of a group of Birmingham’s Historic Fire Stations. Tim and Penny renovated and moved their businesses into the space. Now we’ve caught up with them to chat about their vision for business and growth in Avondale.
Here’s what they had to say.
GIVE ME A LITTLE BACKGROUND ABOUT YOURSELVES AND YOUR BUSINESSES:
Tim ~ I’m principal of Accounting and Business Consultants and property owner [of the former Fire Station no. 10]. My firm provides accounting, tax prep and problem solving services. My business partner is Deryck Ferrier. This is actually our second location; the other branch of our business is located in Bessemer.
Penny ~ I’m owner of Financial Education Outreach. We specialize in financial education services that are free to the community and facilitated by volunteers of the business and banking education community.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION BEHIND THE MOVE TO THE AVONDALE FIREHOUSE STATION NO. 10?
Tim ~ You know, it was almost spiritual in nature. In 2009 we were located in an office in Brighton, Alabama. But we had a fire on Christmas day that forced us out. I was awed by the incident. I couldn’t understand why it happened. But as a result, we were able to move back into Avondale. (We had office space in three other areas before Brighton, including Avondale at the corner of 45th place and 5th avenue.)
A contact at the City of Birmingham approached us four years ago and asked if we’d be interested in the Avondale Firehouse space. That started the process. Considering we lost our Brighton office in the fire, it’s ironic that we ended up here.
We responded to RFP and the rest is history.
WHEN DID YOU MOVE IN OFFICIALLY?
Penny ~ I believe it was January 6th, 2015.
WERE THERE ANY INTERESTING RENNOVATIONS YOU HAD TO COMPLETE OR BEFORE MOVING IN?
The developments have been interesting. When we first thought about moving in here, we considered occupying the first floor. But the longer we explored and as interests came to us, we realized it made more sense to move and renovate the 2nd floor. The best use of first floor seemed to be for restaurant space.
Now we’ve secured Cantina food truck [as the first floor tenant]. They’re doing finishes now and might hopefully move in by Spring.
WHAT HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN AVONDALE BEEN LIKE THUS FAR? CAN YOU SPEAK TO THE ENERGY, THE PEOPLE, THE REDEVELOPMENT OF THIS AREA?
It’s been a nice journey working with contractors and tenants in Avondale. Working in an area with such a great deal of potential is just exciting.
When we were first located in this area, only the strip on 41st Street had established businesses — and even most of those aren’t even there anymore. The renaissance had just started. The brewery hadn’t even opened.
The thing I like about Avondale now is the diversity. I look out of my window and see industry all around us. There are trains, upscale restaurants, low-income housing and a beautiful park. There’s a strong merchant and neighborhood association; just a lot of potential for upside growth.
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THIS NEIGHBORHOOD GROW MOVING FORWARD?
Tim ~ There’s a similar area in Atlanta that reminds me of Avondale. They’ve renovated many buildings and I think this neighborhood is moving forward and even catching the attention of [Baby] Boomers. People are riding their bikes and walking places. The trend is certainly headed back to city-living.
Penny – It really is a nationwide trend. Some might consider suburbia a little sterile. Character is a selling point for the younger generation. We’re excited to be amongst the activity.
Both Tim and Penny are business owners that do great work in the community, each seeing their company as a means to promote financial education and assist other businesses in their financial dealings. Read more about Accounting and Business Consultants and Financial Education Outreach here.
And keep an ear out for more updates on the Avondale Firehouse space developments!