If you’ve been in the Huntsville area within the past five years, you may have noticed a rise in new establishments. From the new Chick-fil-A to the local coffee shops, Huntsville is slowly becoming more modernized. While this may seem like bad news for older businesses, some community members say these businesses face bigger concerns.
Jerica Husbands, manager of local mattress outlet BoxDrop, is part of the new wave of expansion.
“I started [managing] in September last year,” Husbands said. “I’ve been working for BoxDrop doing social media for almost three years. It’s only been open [in Huntsville] since last summer. A guy opened it in May last year and was here until September when I took over.”
Although she’s been managing BoxDrop for only one year, Husbands has been able to see differences between the new and older establishments, like the ones in Downtown Square.
“They have been here for so long and people know those people and want to support those smaller and older, local- like mom and pop kind of places,” Husbands said. “As opposed to fast food places or new establishments [which] have a lot of turnovers and stuff like that. So it is a little bit harder to get quality service and consistent service, as opposed to these older ones that do things a certain way and kind of stick with it.”
With the possibility of newer companies taking over, it is a fear for some that local businesses may be run into the ground, losing many customers. Husbands said she thinks COVID-19 is a bigger concern for these businesses.
“I think some of them might, but I think a lot of that could be due to COVID,” Husbands said. “I don’t think it’s a thing from new places coming in. I think you’re going to have some of that anyways because a lot of those places have been open for so long and have been passed down from one generation to the next. Sometimes the next generation doesn’t want to continue doing things the same way.”
The J. Philip Gibbs, Jr. Centre for the Performing Arts, or better known as the Old Town Theatre, is amongst the older establishments here in Huntsville. Located in the downtown area, the theater has been around for nearly 20 years. Lauren Edwards, president of the Friends of the Old Town Theatre, gave a historical background of the place.
“Our establishment was originally a movie theater in the 1940s and then it went through several changes over the years,” Edwards said. “I guess it was a movie theater until about the 70s and then it went out of business, and became several different companies before we bought it back and restored it. It had been in a fire and lost the roof and gone through a lot of changes.”
Edwards feels that when it comes to older establishments getting ‘wiped out’ in a certain amount of time, the possibility would mainly be due to the recent pandemic and not newer establishments taking over. They are trying to combat this by adopting new business practices.
“We have just had a hard time with COVID, you know trying to follow the rules and stay open,” Edwards said. “We recently, within the past year, added a liquor license to our establishment, so now people can buy beer and wine, along with soft drinks and water, during a show. So, we’re trying to continue to add things, changing with the times I guess you could say.”
It may be a good thing that Huntsville is branching out and appealing to the younger generations as far as newer establishments being placed around town. People may say it is becoming modernized and becoming like the neighboring town, College Station.
It’s okay to bring in new places while still keeping the old ones around as well, but it is a possibility that not all of them will still be here in the future. It may be due to the pandemic or solely due to the fact that people want a more modern life in a college town. Either way, Huntsville will always be Huntsville.