Tag Archives: The Shoals



For many Americans, “Black Friday” (the name given to the Friday after Thanksgiving) marks the beginning of the holiday season. It’s a day largely associated with fanatical shopping and savings. While some people dread the thought of Black Friday shopping, many get excited—even camping out at stores the night before to get the best deals. A lot of people scoff at Black Friday, but others have made it part of their family’s holiday traditions. How, exactly, did it begin? Truthfully, the day we now call Black Friday began as a car crash—or, really, a string of them.

Back in the 1950s, Philadelphia police officers created the term in reference to the number of traffic accidents caused by extra shopping traffic on the weekend after Thanksgiving. In fact, the two days after Thanksgiving were called Black Friday and Black Saturday by the traffic cops in the City of Brotherly Love, where the annual Army/Navy football game was played on that Saturday afternoon. The shopping traffic, in combination with the influx of people arriving for the football game, meant a decidedly unpleasant amount of roadway chaos and overtime for the officers; reportedly the police force even called in the police band to direct traffic. According to CNN, “It was a double-whammy. Traffic cops were required to work 12-hour shifts, no one could take off, and people would flood the sidewalks, parking lots, and streets.” City merchants adopted the term to describe the long lines of shoppers at their stores—and it became sort-of an inside joke for the people of Philly.

Many believe that Black Friday is named in reference to business profit; in other words, it’s the day that sales revenues move from being “in the red” to “in the black”, in accounting terms. But this usage only began in the early 1980s, once Black Friday had been embraced by retailers as an official shopping event. Stores are known to offer incredible bargains and many have begun opening in the wee hours of the morning. Recently, the trend among more aggressive retailers has been to open at midnight—or even stay open all night from Thursday evening.


Truthfully, there has been a bit of a Black Friday backlash in the last few years, particularly directed toward more aggressive retailers who demand much of their employees over the holiday weekend. While most companies cannot afford to close on such a big shopping day, outdoor equipment retailer REI plans to close all stores (and even its website) on Black Friday this year. Our store at The Factory will be open, but for reasonable hours from 10:00am – 7:00pm on Friday—and from 10:00am – 4:00pm for Small Business Saturday. And in an effort to reflect our genuine love for the holiday season, the café will also be open to promote gathering and fellowship. We want shoppers to visit with us, to slow down and enjoy the day—and to celebrate the beginning of a season filled with camaraderie, good food and drink, and real meaning.

We will be offering savings online and in-store for Black Friday and over the weekend. The truth is that, as a small business, we depend on the income that Black Friday and other holiday sales bring. It keeps our lights on; it helps us pay our employees; it helps us continue to design and produce great, long-lasting products. If you spend your money with us, you are supporting a growing community of makers. Your purchases provide work for our artisans and our team of employees. You are making a difference, and we appreciate every customer and every single purchase.


Visit us over the Thanksgiving weekend—either in-store or online. Spread love within your community and may good will be a driving sentiment for this holiday season.

Here’s what we have going on:

Beginning midnight Thursday, save online through midnight Sunday. (We’ll have more special discounts on Monday as well.) Visit our Journal or subscribe to our mailing list for all the details.

Our in-store savings take place Friday at The Factory from 10:00am – 7:00pm and Saturday from 10:00am – 4:00pm. We’ll be serving lunch on Friday, brunch on Saturday, and coffee, snacks, wine, and beverages throughout the day.



Just two hours north of The Shoals lies Nashville, Tennessee—also known as “Music City”. Travelers visiting The Factory often fly into larger nearby airports (like Nashville or Birmingham) and make the drive to Florence. Lately, perhaps in part due to the eponymous television show, Nashville has blossomed as a tourist friendly city—one that we recommend for all of our visitors with a little extra time to explore.

The city of Nashville was founded as Fort Nashborough around 1780 and is actually older than the state of Tennessee. During the Civil War, Nashville was captured early on by the Union army —who used it as a depot; this ultimately helped solidify the city’s infrastructure and ensured it would survive the war largely intact, unlike most other large Southern cities.

In 1925, a local insurance company founded a radio station in Nashville—calling it WSM, for “We Shield Millions”. Disc jockey George Hay produced a barn dance style show called “The Grand Ole Opry”, which was listened to by those in Nashville and in surrounding towns and communities. Musicians began traveling to the city in hopes of being heard on this treasured radio show. The Opry, still staged live every week, is America’s longest-running radio show.

For those with a love for music history, Nashville has no shortage of must-see stops. Visit the newly opened Johnny Cash Museum or Hatch Show Print, a historic letterpress shop that produced—and still produces—some of the most famous concert posters of all time. (Look for more information on Hatch soon.) Nearby is The Country Music Hall of Fame, which takes up an entire city block and presents artifacts like rhinestone costumes, guitars, and memorabilia from musicians of all generations. Also part of the Hall of Fame is RCA Studio B, where thousands of famous country and rock and roll songs have been recorded. Elvis alone recorded over 250 songs at Studio B.

We highly recommend touring the beautiful Ryman Auditorium, known as the “Mother Church of Country Music.” Originally built as a house of worship, it was home to the Grand Ole Opry until 1974 and now hosts shows for musicians of all genres.


Opry performers were known to sneak out the Ryman’s back doors between sets to have a drink in one of Nashville’s famous honky tonks, located on lower Broadway. Visitors now frequent establishments like Legends Corner and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, which offer modern country alongside throwback country and western. For those interested in the songwriting side of Nashville (and fans of the ABC television show), you might consider a visit to The Bluebird Café, where many songwriting legends were discovered—and continue to visit. But visitors should know that venues like the Bluebird are classic Nashville “listening rooms” —and you will be shushed if you make too much noise.

Nashville is also an important stop for many vinyl enthusiasts, as well. United Record Pressing, operating since 1949, is located downtown and is one of only four remaining vinyl manufacturers in America. Musician Jack White also moved his record label, Third Man Records, from Detroit to Nashville—and they release hundreds of albums and special releases on vinyl. The Blue Room, a venue located inside, is capable of producing a vinyl master recording in real time, direct-to-acetate.

The city is also becoming (rightfully) known as a food destination. One of Nashville’s best-known culinary innovations is “hot chicken”—supposedly created by a scorned woman seeking revenge on a cheating boyfriend. Prince’s Hot Chicken is our preferred stop. There are too many “best” restaurants in town, but among our favorites are: Sean Brock’s Husk, Tandy Wilson’s City House, Tyler Brown’s Capitol Grille (and the adjacent Oak Bar), and Arnold’s Country Kitchen, for a classic meat and three. (Barbeque in and around Nashville can’t be contained in one post—more on that coming soon.)

Travelers who want to explore outside the music attractions, or anyone traveling with the whole family, can visit The Parthenon (originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition), pick up a book (or four) at Ann Patchett’s independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, take in an exhibit at The Frist Center for Visual Arts, explore the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, see a movie at the historic Belcourt Theatre, or watch a Nashville Predators or Tennessee Titans game.

Shop the 12th Avenue South district with our friends at Imogene + WillieCraft South, and, while you are out-and-about, check out all the great designers that are part of the newly formed Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA).


As you can see, a flight to Nashville with a two day stop before heading to The Shoals is highly recommended. Look for more upcoming posts from our Travel series, highlighting some of our favorite cities and attractions—from here to there (and most everywhere in between).

Photos courtesy of: The Grand Ole Opry, Johnny Cash Museum, Hatch Show Print, The Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville Sun Times, Jón Alan Salon, Bon Appétit, Husk, City House, Capitol Grille, Nashville.gov, Parnassus Books, The Frist Center for Visual Arts, Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville.com, The Nashville Predators, and The Tennessee Titans



The Factory @ Alabama Chanin is looking for an experienced front-of-house café associate to join our Factory Café team. Customer service experience in either café or retail settings is required, as well as an attention to detail and love of food. This person will act as a brand ambassador for all things Alabama Chanin and will represent the tenets of the slow design and slow food movement to our guests visiting from near and far. Duties include food prep and service, customer interaction, inventory and day-to-day café operations.

Please apply in person at 462 Lane Drive, Florence from 9:00am – 4:00pm daily.

Visit our Careers page for up-to-date job postings.

*Alabama Chanin is an equal-opportunity employer and does not discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability or genetic information.



My initial introduction to up-and-coming Alabama chef Rob McDaniel came through my son, Zach. Years ago, Zach was traveling home from a Doo-Nanny celebration and stopped for brunch at a restaurant along Lake Martin in south Alabama. The unimposing atmosphere and spectacular meal he found at the SpringHouse restaurant had him hooked. He raved for weeks about his meal—and said that he wanted to return there someday to work and study with the executive chef, Rob. (And about a year later, he did.) Since that time, Chef Rob has become a friend to both our immediate family and to the Alabama Chanin family. In fact, we hosted a One-Day Workshop at Springhouse a few years ago.

Rob is a graduate of Auburn University, and honed his culinary skills at the New England Culinary Institute. He has worked alongside Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club, and with the folks at Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ. As a sous chef, Rob learned to apply his culinary know-how to southern food and its methodology. In 2009, he became executive chef at SpringHouse and began to create his own southern food story. Rob has been named a James Beard award semifinalist twice, and in 2014 SpringHouse was named one of the Best 100 Restaurants in the South by Southern Living magazine.


Be it food or fashion, we share similar views on sustainability, supporting local economies, and the art of taking things slow. We also share a love for the good things happening at the Southern Foodways Alliance. Rob will be creating the menu for our next “Friends of the Café” Piggy Bank Dinner at The Factory on August 27, benefitting the SFA. The dinner is also serving as the kick-off for Billy Reid’s annual Shindig here in the Shoals.

The menu for the evening includes field pea fritters, tomato gazpacho, grilled okra and eggplant, and Chilton county peaches. Needless to say, we are excited to kick off our dinner series once again.

We have had an overwhelming response, and the dinner is at capacity. To be added to the wait list, call +1.256.760.1090. First come, first serve. We will contact you if there is an opening.

For more information, visit our Events page.



Barbeque lovers are often staunch proponents and defenders of their favorite preparation, favorite meat, and favorite sauce—or lack thereof. Just as there is an entire range of styles of barbeque (everything from pulled pork with slaw to smoked chicken to a plate of burnt ends), there is a whole spectrum of barbeque sauces. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of sugary red sauces; but as an Alabama native, I must wholeheartedly profess my love of our native white barbeque sauce.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with this particular variety of sauce, as it is a North Alabama specialty. But, it is a staple of almost every barbeque restaurant in the area and has found its way to our tables and local grocery store shelves. White sauce is a tangy condiment made of mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper. While that might sound a little odd to the uninitiated, those in the know are evangelists for the stuff.

While white barbeque sauce has been served in the area for years, local lore suggests that Bob Gibson of the legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, invented it in 1925. Bob worked for the L & N Railroad Company, but would host barbeques on the weekends, smoking meat over a hickory pit in his backyard. Eventually, his food became so popular that he quit his job at the railroad and opened a proper restaurant.

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Those traveling to The Shoals often ask for the best routes into and out of the area. I’m not sure what your definition of “best” may be, but I personally love to travel visually interesting routes, when time allows. For those that have the time and inclination for a scenic drive, I always recommend taking part of the journey on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile historical path that travels from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, and connects the Cumberland and Mississippi rivers.  It follows a geologic ridgeline that prehistoric animals followed in search of new grazing land and water sources. The Trace connected tribal homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations. Native travelers used the same pathways repeatedly, creating natural sunken sections in the ground.


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Part of the excitement of living in The Shoals is seeing how the area has changed over the years. Though we have such an impressive collection of musicians in the area—musicians who have been an important part of the American musical landscape—when I was young, it was difficult to find a place to hear live music. There were family gatherings with guitars and impromptu songwriters’ nights—but there was no real place for people to gather and listen to a live band. On the flipside, local musicians—whether upcoming or established—had no place to play, reach their audiences, and try out new material.

The renowned FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound musicians were primarily studio session players. They created iconic sounds, but often during business hours and behind closed session doors. Because those musical talents were being developed in studios and not in bars or venues, we never had much of a music “scene” to speak of. This directly impacted the musicians who eventually founded Single Lock Records. Each learned their trade in makeshift music venues like garages, house shows, or anywhere that would have them.

That is why The Shoals’ newest music venue 116 E. Mobile (conveniently, the physical address) gives locals and visitors a place to see musicians from at home and abroad in a comfortable space. 116 (as it is often called) is located in downtown Florence and is owned and operated by Single Lock Records, in tandem with Billy Reid.

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Two hours south x southeast of The Shoals lies the metropolis of Birmingham—that’s how I have it in my childhood memory. It was the 1960s and 70s and we rarely made the trip. At that time, it was a place of strife, and violence, and steel, and, for a small child, the great unknown.  It wasn’t until I returned to Alabama in the year 2000 to settle back into my home state that I came to know—and began to understand—this city that lies in the heart of Alabama.

One of the three closest airports to The Shoals is here, in what is called the “Magic City”; many guests who visit our studio choose to fly or take the train to Birmingham and make the two-hour drive through the Southwestern Appalachians to Northwest Alabama.

Officially founded in 1871, Birmingham built itself around railroad transportation and the railroading industry—which is still in operation today, but the major industry that spurred economy and growth was iron and steel production—hard work for strong people. While the manufacturing industry is still recognized as a large presence, other businesses and industries, like medical technology and banking, have strengthened and added growth to the area in the past 50 years.

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I first heard of Jones Valley Teaching Farm around 2003. The farm was still a small plot of land located close to The Garage, in Birmingham, Alabama. I drove down one cold winter day to have lunch with (then director) Edwin Marty. There was one hoop house, and running water, and not much else—yet. It was ambitious, and it felt like the beginning of something special.

Later, I heard much more from Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q co-founder Nick Pihakis and chef Drew Robinson. Those two so fully believe in the farm’s mission and methods that they back up their beliefs with fundraisers and hands-on support. I am also convinced that the organization can make real difference in the community.

Since my first visit in 2003, Jones Valley Teaching Farm has grown and moved to downtown Birmingham. Since 2007, the organization has expanded their farm and their scope with a focus on educating students, visitors, and community gardeners on how to grow real, healthy food. Today, the farm is a hub of downtown green. The farmers on site use both established sustainable and experimental practices, with the goal of developing a flourishing ecosystem in the heart of a bustling city. They currently grow over 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers and offer their produce for sale on-site and at local farmers’ markets—generating over $45,000 in sales in 2014 alone.


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