Alchemy 213, located in the heart of Five Points South, is a lifestyle store for the people. Alchemy is known for cool looks coming in on a seasonal rotation. Owner Ace Graham, a passionate Birmingham advocate, has been pivoting his business since quarantine began in March. We caught up with him for an update one what he’s been doing. 

Q: What do you want to say to Birmingham about the importance of supporting local right now? 

A: I think it’s so important to support local businesses because these are the people that are right here with you. This is the place that you can actually drive up to and talk to the owner – those things mean so much. You have to think about who’s the true heartbeat of your community. I’m lucky to be across the street froRaymond’s, Birmingham Apothecary. Golden Temple, that’s another place I’m always in. So, when those businesses reopen, I’m in a rush to get there, because these are the people that I know.  

Q: How has your business been adapting to the impact of COVID-19?  

A: Because we’re more on a global scale for brand partners and distribution, it’s difficult for us to say we’re going to open tomorrow and start selling product. Our business is based off of in-season delivery, release–date product. We have products in the store right now that were supposed to release in April, just kind of sitting there, and we can’t release it. Not because we don’t want to, but because the brand or brand partner doesn’t want to move forward with that product. So, we’re just adapting to the new normal. So how do we continue to move forward? Just fine-tooth combing the business and understanding who’s a necessity.   

“You have to think about who’s the true heartbeat of your community.”

Q: What have you learned about your business during COVID-19?  

A: We have learned to stay lean and to continue. The good thing for us is we always utilized our people in multiple ways. We work with young professionals that have a desire and a passion to do X, Y, Z, and then we introduced them to other aspects of the business, and now they wear multiple hats. We want to keep our team nice and lean and nimble and try to pivot into a different direction easily. We want to stay more focused on cultivating the team we have and growing with purpose. Do we want to have a bunch of people on staff, or do we want to have a young group of people that are effective and efficient at what they do? 

Q: What’s one other product currently in your store you are excited about?  

A: As I said before, we have product from premier brands that’s been sitting. So, we’re excited about everything that’s launching in the Fall from our brand partners. We choose the brands that we work with specifically, so we get pretty excited about the things that we receive. These are all pretty popular brands and collections. In short, we’re excited to be re-opened and closer to being on the release–date schedule we’re known for having. Hopefully, by the holiday we will be on somewhat of a normal delivery schedule for goods.   

Q: How can we as a city better support your business specifically?  

A: For us, getting people on the streets and in the community is the best way. Our business is not focused on how many pieces or how many people we can sell to. We just want our efforts and initiatives to be supported by the community. When we put up the post about a brand partner that we had creating masks, we wanted to see how many people were going to ask. Even though this was an expense for us, there was still a great passion behind understanding how many wanted masks – we put 150 masks on people. And then to partner up with Birmingham Apothecary and to get hand sanitizer for them and drive people to support that business to pick up free hand sanitizer. Those are the kind of things that get exciting for us. If you need shoes, that’s great, if you need a nice shirt, that’s perfect. But more importantly, support the initiatives that help the community.   

“We want to stay more focused on cultivating the team we have and growing with purpose.

Q: What are you looking forward to as Birmingham comes out on the other side of COVID-19?  

A: I want people to be healthy, for sure. The biggest thing that would make me proud and happy is that people continue the same precautions just for everyday health that they are right now. I think as people start to come out of their houses, they’re going to shop and things are going to be as normal as they can possibly be through the restrictions, but more importantly, I want people to take care of themselves a little more. 

Q: We’ve been using the hashtag #BhamNeedsYou to galvanize residents and let them know how they can help the city bounce back. What other ways can Birminghamians support small businesses?  

A:  Any business that’s still standing after these last few months deserves your support! Just stop by a place that maybe you’ve never been before and tell the owner “Way to be Strong, and Never Stop Fighting.” Obviously monetary support is always appreciated by a business, but in so many ways small business is bigger than money. It’s about spreading love and encouragement! I can’t tell you how many times words of appreciation oacknowledgement for what I’m trying to do in business stayed in my mind far longer than the largest sale we can put on the books. I think of small business owners as people doing what they love, and not wanting to do anything else. Encourage & Inspire!  

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