Community, Local Business

Gardendale Small Business Success Story – Dr. Cheri Cunningham

The Gardendale News continues its Business Spotlight Series with our interview with a prominent Gardendale dentist and business owner, Dr. Cheri Cunningham.

While the City of Gardendale has positioned itself as the “Medical Mile,” with an influx of medical practices and hospitals moving into Gardendale in the recent past, it’s important that we also recognize those in the medical profession that decided to open practices in Gardendale long before there was a focus on bringing them in.

Dr. Cunningham not only opened her practice before the “Medical Mile,” but she chose to live here, attend church here and send her kids to school here. That type of commitment and community involvement by a doctor shouldn’t be ignored and should be commended.

My grandmother always told me, “Son, always dance with the one who brought you.”

Let’s not forgot those professionals and businesses that bet on Gardendale long before it was fashionable for them to do so.

Cheri Cunningham – Wife, Mom, business owner, doctor, active church member, community supporter and resident.

When we say, “that’s Gardendale,” Dr. Cheri Cunningham represents the spirit of what we mean.

Treye Hanner: Tell our readers about your business. How did it begin and why did you decide to get into your field?

Cheri Cunningham: As a young child, I always knew I wanted to become a doctor or a surgeon.  I grew up in Sylacauga, “small town Alabama”, and our local doctors and healthcare providers were my heroes.  My dream was to one day be a part of a similar community, serving the needs of my fellow neighbors and friends.  Upon graduating high school, I received an academic scholarship to UAB. I couldn’t have been in a better place to gain the knowledge I would need for my future, surrounded by some of the best hospitals and healthcare programs in the country.  As I neared college graduation and started to envision what my life might look like, I realized I also wanted the opportunity to have children and be a hands-on mother.  As surgery had always been my favorite part of medicine, dentistry was a perfect fit for me.  Becoming a dentist would allow me to work with my hands and give me normal business hours where I could balance family and work.  And, owning my own private practice in a small town would just be icing on the cake!

Treye Hanner: Why did you choose Gardendale as the place for your business?

Cheri Cunningham: I married my husband, the infamous Jimbo Cunningham, prior to starting dental school.  Jimbo grew up in Jasper and joined his father’s business there while I was in my third year of dental school. Upon graduation, I pursued purchasing a practice in the Jasper area.  I was so blessed to purchase Dr. Ed Reed’s practice in Adamsville, AL.  Dr. Reed’s practice was exactly the multigenerational family practice of my dreams in a small town close to Jasper.  Jimbo and I immediately began visiting Gardendale First Baptist Church, since we had been watching their services on television for years.  As we began to drive around Gardendale, it was exactly the community we both wanted to plant our family’s roots.  We purchased our first home in Gardendale and began raising our family in “our dream come true” community.  We loved Gardendale because of its caring people, its sense of community, and its diversity.  After practicing in Adamsville for 6 years, we decided to relocate and built my current office right in the heart of the Gardendale community on Main Street.  My dream of being able to care for my fellow neighbors, church family and friends became a reality as we opened the doors on January 7, 2010.

Treye Hanner: What changes have you seen in Gardendale that have affected your business since it began?

Cheri Cunningham: Growth!  I have enjoyed watching our city grow under passionate leadership that continues to value the longstanding traditions and spirit of the community.  Mayor Stan Hogeland’s vision and work ethic to grow Gardendale in a positive way is truly inspiring.  With the recent announcements of the fruits of his labor, there has never been a more exciting time for Gardendale!  Our Chamber of Commerce welcomes and supports all businesses, and continues to provide fun, family friendly events for the city.  You won’t find a more generous, giving community with organizations like Rotary and Just Keep Smiling who have a long history of serving those in the community that need them.  In regards to my business specifically, the sidewalk and lighting project along Main Street has added a very nice touch to the areas along that street. As Mayor Hogeland has repeadedly stated, Gardendale has truly become the epicenter in the North Jefferson Area for people to find extraordinary options in all areas of healthcare.

Treye Hanner: Are there any changes you would like to see in Gardendale that would help your business grow?

Cheri Cunningham: I definitely feel continuing the current vision and passion for growth under our current city leadership will help all local businesses thrive.  Continuing to invest our time and resources in city-wide events like our annual Christmas Parade and the Magnolia Festival will allow the city of Gardendale to stay in the spotlight.  Many newcomers to our city are pleasantly surprised that they can be so close to downtown Birmingham, but maintain that “small town” feeling in everyday life.  I would love to see more city-wide family friendly events.  Adding the “Rocket Around the Christmas Tree Trail” this past holiday season was a definite success, as people came to the city to experience this wonderful event.

Treye Hanner: Finally, why do you believe your business has been so successful and what would you like prospective customers to know about why they should buy from a local business like yours?

Cheri Cunningham: We are so grateful for our continued success, and we owe it all to our amazing patients and supporters.  I have an incredible, talented team of dedicated healthcare providers that work extremely hard to provide our patients with the best possible experience.  We are all invested in the community and strive to establish relationships with our patients  that often feel like family.  We count it our privilege to be able to provide the highest standard of oral healthcare for the community in which we live.  It’s our pleasure to support our community and give back. Whether it’s supporting local and surrounding schools, youth sports team sponsorships, or community and church service projects, we are always happy to help. I am a big supporter of buying local and helping my neighboring businesses be as successful as they can be.  I personally feel Gardendale businesses have the best customer service in the state, and they take pride in serving their city and its many programs and events.