Garlan Gudger, Jr.’s earliest memories as a little boy are following his father around in muddy junk yards, antique, and salvage stores throughout the Southeast. What began as a part-time hobby for his father in 1969 has now turned into one of the premiere architectural salvage businesses throughout the nation. Thriving on the family’s passion for rescuing, restoring, and preserving items of historical significance, Garlan, now at 38, has been the owner of Southern Accents Architectural Antiques, Inc. for the past 13 years. Garlan enjoys utilizing his artistic ability, coupled with his years of hands-on knowledge of the salvage industry, to breathe new life into the antique pieces that he rescues. His passion for historic preservation and architectural salvage is evident to Southern Accents customers as well as those in the community who know him best.
Speak with those who know him best and you will hear stories, not only of his passion for “rescuing old things,” but of his heart and passion for helping those in need. Garlan has a deep love for his community and the people who call it home. He consistently and quietly extends a helping hand to those in need through unspoken acts of kindness and generosity.
In a recent conversation with Warren Meier, a business associate of Garlan’s, Warren expressed his appreciation for one of Garlan’s acts of kindness. Warren, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, moved his son Wesley to Alabama at the age of 9. Wesley has a deep love of sports, the greatest being baseball. As a teenager, Wesley worked odd jobs, traveling back and forth by bicycle, raising money to pay his own way to baseball camps at the University of Alabama. Years of hard work, determination, and many hours of practice finally paid off for this young man when this past fall he made the Clay Chalkville High School baseball team. Finally, having an opportunity to play the sport that he is passionate about, the Meier’s were faced with an obstacle, the financial burden of participating in high school sports. Garlan, knowing the struggles of this family, extended his support by purchasing a sponsorship that helped offset the cost for Wesley’s team participation. “Without Garlan’s help, along with a couple of other sponsors, the financial burden for my family for Wesley to be part of the team would have been out of reach.” Warren said. Warren requested that his story be shared with our readers as his way of showing his appreciation for the support Garlan has shown his family.
Garlan’s giving spirit doesn’t stop there. Our community was devastated almost two years ago when hit by F4 tornados. Garlan and his wife, Heather, have worked alongside many businesses and individuals in town helping to oversee recovery efforts . While most local businesses affected by the storm have since recovered, Garlan’s own business still shows signs of damage. As his wife Heather explains, “We always try to put others first.”
Garlan’s community involvement extends even further. He is currently serving a third term as president of the Cullman City Council. As a Council member, he has been instrumental in the facelift currently underway in downtown Cullman. Fellow Council member Johnny Cook says, “Garlan, being the president of the City Council, devotes a tremendous amount of time to the detriment of his family. I could not imagine doing what he does with young children at home. With that being said, he does this with the full support of his family. In addition to promoting the revitalization of the downtown area, Garlan spearheaded the formation of the Architect Review Board and the Grant Program to incentivize the Downtown Merchants to rebuild and/or improve buildings after the 2011 storms. Even though Garlan suffered a significant amount of damage to his own home and business during this storm, he refused to accept any incentives from the Grant program even though he met all the requirements.”
Garlan’s love and passion for his family, friends, community and business fuels his ability to juggle a demanding daily schedule. Even on his busiest days, he is always ready and willing to share his passion for preservation and his vision for his community.
Written By: Lisa Jones