Monthly Archives: July 2012

Paying It Forward

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 15 months, you are well aware of the utter devastation and destruction that was inflicted not only upon our great state of Alabama but upon our own town of Cullman on April 27, 2011. A rash of deadly tornados swept through the state including one at 3:00 pm that ripped through the heart of downtown. Our town’s landscape was forever altered. Homes and businesses that have shaped our history for decades, destroyed. People’s lives where instantly changed but one thing remains clear, the spirit and character of the people, the thing that makes this place so very special, shown bright on that dark and stormy day.

Many downtown businesses were destroyed, others heavily damaged. Southern Accents took a significant hit. The front of our store was shattered, skylights blown out, inventory lost, but the building itself was spared and so were the lives of downtown residents, business owners and employees. While there were injuries, there were no fatalities downtown that day. We had been given several days warning of the impending storms but story after story will also testify to God’s hand of mercy upon the good people of our town.

Good people indeed… moments after the storm passed the streets were littered not only with massive amounts of debris, but people. The winds had barely died down when people poured from homes and shelters and began helping one another. People who had just lost their own home or business were helping those around them. Neighbors checking on neighbors. Strangers appeared from seemingly nowhere with supplies and offers of assistance. Almost immediately the buzz of chain saws filled the air. The storms had destroyed buildings but not the spirit and resilience of the people who call Cullman home.

A little over a year has passed. Some of the businesses that were destroyed have recently reopened. Others have relocated and some have decided that the losses were just too great to start over. Although the damage to Southern Accents was significantly less than many of our neighbors who suffered total losses, it took a full year for all of the repairs to be completed. During our year long recovery efforts we have been repeatedly overwhelmed with kindnesses and generosities shown to us by local folks as well as those outside our community. Countless times we’ve received financial gifts with no name attached, only a note declaring that the gift was from a friend with well wishes of love and prayers being lifted up on our behalf. For the many gifts, prayers, and well wishes we would like to offer a heartfelt thank you!

One gift in particular touched our hearts. Ava Quartararo, a 5th grade student from Pine Plains, New York, raised $100 among her classmates to help with our recovery efforts. Ava’s aunt, Elizabeth St. John is a resident of Cullman. Ava felt a special connection to our community and wanted to help. Ava presented her gift to Southern Accents owner, Garlan Gudger, last summer while she was here visiting. Now that we are back on our feet, Garlan wanted to take Ava’s gift and “pay it forward”. July 24 Garlan presented a check for $200 to Maddie Grimmett to repay part of the kindness he has been shown. Twelve year old Maddie is raising money to build a wheel chair lift at St. Paul’s school for a fellow schoolmate Will Fowler. Ava, who was in town for her annual summer visit, accompanied Garlan as he presented the check to Maddie and her father, Jason Grimmett. (pictured)

Maddie, who is described by friends and family as having a heart of a servant who wants to make the world a better place for others, caught our attention recently with her bright yellow lemonade stand. Maddie made national headlines 2 years ago when she raised over $20,000 selling her lemonade to aid the animals affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf. Recently, Maddie reopened her stand and focused her fund raising efforts on a local cause. When her schoolmate Will was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, Maddie took it upon herself to raise the $8,000 needed to build a chair lift which will make it easier for him to navigate the stairs at school. “Maddie’s Lemonade For a Cause” stand can be found on the corner of 312 9th Street SW where you will find Maddie pouring her ice cold lemonade on Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. Maddie is the perfect embodiment of the caring and giving spirit that we have seen and continue to see in so many from our community as the tornado recovery efforts continue.

Were we surprised this past November when Cullman was recognized nationally when Bloomberg Businessweek named the city the best place to raise children in Alabama? We think not. Maddie Grimmett and others like her are a shining example of what makes our town so very special. Friday, August 3rd from 4:00 to 9:00 pm the second annual Celebrate Cullman will take place. We will gather once again to honor the spirit of our beloved town and the people who live here. So often it’s the storms in life that bring out the best in people… but we’ve known all along the capabilities of the people here in Cullman.

If you would like to contribute to Maddie’s fund raising efforts, you can stop by her lemonade stand for a glass of what has been called “the best lemonade I’ve ever had” or you can donate to the Maddie’s Lemonade For A Cause fund set up at First Community Bank.


Celebrate Cullman

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesMake plans now to join us on Friday, August 3rd for the second annual “Celebrate Cullman”. Celebrate Cullman was started after the April 2011 tornado devastation as a way to honor the spirit of our town and the people who make it special. Cullman Parks and Recreation has joined forces with Celebrate Cullman’s sponsor, the Cullman Downtown Merchants Association, to help promote the August 3rd event in conjunction with the McKenzie ASA Classic Archery Tournament. The celebration, which will include events for all ages, will take place in downtown Cullman, Alabama from 4:00 to 9:00 pm.

Many downtown merchants will have extended store hours for this special event. This will provide a great opportunity for you to check out and support local shops and businesses. The Cullman Museum will also have extended hours and will be conducting a candlelight walking tour. Local artisans will be featured at 3rd Street Promenade and a charity antique auction will be held by Finders Keepers. There will be plenty of food, games and entertainment for all ages spread throughout the downtown area.

Events for the kids will include a petting zoo, pony rides and cow train sponsored by 4D Farms next to the Weiss Cottage, the National Guard will have games, inflatables and activities set up all along the 1st Ave block, you’ll see a return of the popular video game truck as well as carnival rides. Whether you are a kid or a kid at heart… there will be plenty of fun activities for all!

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesHungry or thirsty… not a problem! Most of the downtown restaurants will be open late to serve hungry customers. Moe’s barbecue will be set up on 1st Ave just down from Berkley Bob’s. You’ll be able to pick up some great tasting BBQ and quench your thirst at the beer tent where you’ll not only find your favorite brew but fresh lemonade, soft drinks and ice cold water. A second beer tent can be found in the Warehouse District next to the entertainment stage and there will be a variety of food vendors scattered throughout the downtown area serving up some of your favorite eats.

There will be plenty of musical entertainment both during and after festival hours. Entertainment stages will be set up outside the Rotunda in the Warehouse District and on 1st Ave across from Berkley Bob’s Coffee House. A few of the bands and entertainers currently scheduled to perform during the festival include a local favorite band Exit 310, Blake Scott Band, Alabama Blues Woman Memphis Annie, and Microwave Dave and The Nukes. Other bands and entertainers are still being added to the schedule. You will also be able to enjoy live musical entertainment set up outside a few of the food establishments in town including Carlton’s Italian Restaurant, Lombardos, as well as a DJ spinning favorite tunes at the Busy Bee!

While the Celebrate Cullman festivities will end at 9:00 pm there are several after hour events planned for those who want to keep the party going! Smith Farms will be sponsoring musical entertainment on the Rotunda stage and you are invited to attend the Ally Party behind Southern Accents! Festivities will begin around 8:00 pm with entertainment by another highly popular local band, The Barflys, cranking up around 8:30. Grab your friends, bring your own cooler and a lawn chair or blanket to throw on the ground and enjoy classic and new rock music from this happening cover band!

Southern Accents is proud to help promote Celebrate Cullman. This is truly a celebration of what makes this town and the people who live here so special! We encourage everyone to come on out and join us for an afternoon and evening of good food, good fun, and great entertainment.


Local Landmark Receives New Life

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques Renovations on “The Green House”, as it is affectionately known by Cullmanites, are complete and the quaint cottage has happy new tenants. This house, which was built around 1874, stood empty for about 20 years, almost entirely consumed with vine and foliage growth. Southern Accents owner, Garlan Gudger, purchased the house in 2009 with a goal of renovating and reviving this Cullman landmark. The ongoing process of cleaning out and restoring the house was expedited last April when a large area of downtown Cullman was heavily damaged and/or destroyed by tornadoes. The house was spared, but because of roof damage, renovation and repair efforts were kicked into high gear.  The new tenant, Karen McCluskey, owner of The Candle Garden, was recently awarded a 2012 Beautification Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community for Most Improvement. Karen worked with Garlan during the renovation project, readying the house as the new location for her candle and gift shop. The facelift is complete and the house is absolutely charming inside and out!

Southern Accents Cullman Alabama Southern Accents Cullman Alabama The Candle Garden moved into The Green House just last month. Previously located in a spacious 100 year old home on 2nd Ave, this lovely shop has been a staple in Cullman for the past 14 years. Karen has suffered through several health issues recently including a battle with cancer and felt the need to downsize her business. The Green House offered her a more manageable sized shop, it had an upstairs room that could be used for her ongoing painting classes and the location in the heart of downtown Cullman could not have been more perfect.

Much of the inside renovation was done using salvaged wood and architectural antiques.  Walk into the shop and one of the first features you will notice is the wainscoting in the front room. We took antique wainscoting salvaged from the stairway of the Gay House in Montgomery and installed it below the chair railing in the front room.Southern Accents Architectural Antiques Old doors were cut and installed on the bottom half of the wall in what is now “The Candle Room” to create a unique look. You’ll also notice the beautiful floors which are restored and re purposed antique wood. As you make your way upstairs you will see the old barn wood used on the walls and ceiling.

Visit our Past Projects page to view enlargements of The Green House renovation pictures. If you are planning a trip to Southern Accents a stop by The Candle Garden to tour “The Green House” is a must! Please tell Karen that we sent you!


It’s a Dog’s Life

If you have visited Southern Accents in recent years, chances are you’ve been greeted, or checked out, by our resident patrol hound, Bobbie. Most of the locals have passed her on the sidewalk, or witnessed her napping in the window. Over the years Bobbie has mysteriously managed to show up online in some of our pictures… typically hanging out in the background. Most people don’t know where Bobbie came from. They just know that she’s always been around.

The year was 2004. My wife Heather and I were leaving Winn Dixie. We had our newborn son, Tripp with us. It was one of those cold, rainy, miserable nights. As we started to pull out of the parking lot we saw this pitiful looking little dog shivering in the rain. Heather, who has this huge heart, immediately wanted to rescue the dog. I, being the sensible one, did not want a wet, stinky mutt in the car with our baby. Heather insisted that we could not just leave the dog in the parking lot. We finally reached a compromise. I told Heather that if she opened the car door and the dog ran and jumped in her lap that we would take it with us. That wasn’t going to happen of course, after all this was some little mutt that had likely been dropped off, possibly abused, was untrusting of any human at this point in her life and would surely take off running upon being approached. Heather opened the door and sweetly called out to the pup. The dog ran, took one long leap and landed right in the middle of Heather’s lap. She sat there shivering all the way home… to our home.

I’ve never been much of a dog person. Heather had won round one but our home was only going to be a temporary shelter until we could either find the owner or a good home for the dog. We began our search by going door to door in the neighborhood. Surely someone was missing their dog or knew who she belonged to. No such luck. We decided to put an ad in the paper. This would catch someone’s attention. Though no owner came forward, thankfully, we did get a call from a couple of people who said they were interested in taking the dog. I had done my duty. Dog rescued, bathed, fed, and now it was time to send her off to a forever home.

I was having a bad day. Not just any bad day, it was a really bad day. One of those days when nothing was going right and everything went wrong. The day was coming to an end. I was walking through the warehouse, ready to call it quits and head on home. I really just wanted to kick something… maybe it would make me feel better. I looked up and there she stood. As our eyes met she started running towards me. It was like a slow motion moment in a really great movie. Suddenly, she tripped, four legs tangled together, Bobbie started turning end over end…sliding along the warehouse floor. When she finally came to a halt she looked up at me with a ‘let’s do it again’ look on her face! All I could do was laugh. It was the first time I had laughed all day.

When I arrived home that night Heather informed me that she had found someone who wanted to take the dog. She had relented to the fact that I would never allow a dog to become a permanent resident in our home. I quickly informed her that the dog already had a home and was going nowhere. Bobbie wasn’t just any old dog, she was my dog. She’s been faithfully patrolling the grounds ever since. Bobbie will often greet customers at the door, or she may cautiously stand her ground behind the register, but these days she has taken on a new job… Bobbie has become a teacher.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Gym. The Gym is an old school gym back off a beaten path on the outskirts of town that we use to warehouse our salvaged lumber. It was late in the day and I was headed home.  As I walked out to the parking lot I noticed a small puppy standing alone, right in the middle of the lot. He was scrawny, obviously hungry, infested with ticks, best I could tell…only a few weeks old. I offered the pup a drink from a bottle of water I had in my hand and he lapped it up. I picked him up and brought him home. I had already learned my lesson about stray dogs and parking lots. This was a puppy…surely we could find him a home. Heather and the kids helped clean him up. We took him to Mimi’s and she picked off all of the ticks. His next trip was to the vet for an all out checkup. We officially declared that the pup was a chocolate lab. My oldest son Tripp named him Chance… “there’s no chance that Dad will ever let us have another dog”, Tripp declared but his eyes were saying, “please Dad… give him a chance”.

Chance is growing by leaps and bounds, his legs currently longer than his body. He’s awkward, lanky, always ready to play and will chew on anything he can get his teeth around. He’s already outgrown his collar and his bed. Chance has a really good chance of becoming a great dog. He has a good teacher. Bobbie has taken Chance under her wing… uh, paw. Bobbie is smart. She makes her round every day around the whole block but never crosses the road. She’s teaching Chance to do the same. They play together which has been great for Bobbie…she’s not the young pup she used to be. Chance has ignited a new energy in her. Both dogs are currently getting their share of attention from customers. We’ve yet to have a customer walk through the front door of the store and when greeted by Bobbie or Chance not take a few moments to stop and pet the dogs. Many will then proceed to share with us their own dog story. It makes for a lot of smiling, happy customers!

The next time you’re in town, stop by. You too may receive a tail wagging greeting at the door. If not, you’ll be met with smiling faces and a warm welcome. Come on in and grab a bottled coke or ice cold water from our antique coca-cola cooler. Take your time. We have plenty to browse. Maybe you’ll find an old item that will evoke fond memories and stories of your own. If you don’t see Bobbie or Chance… ask about them. We’re sure to have a new story to tell!


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