When a city is growing as fast as Gardendale, a business divide can take place, leaving small businesses with the feeling that they are being overlooked and not heard.
We have a good Mayor and City Council, but a city needs the private sector to take the lead in advocating for all businesses. Business growth comes from the private sector, not city government.
Gardendale needs a proven, well respected and liked business leader. One that has the respect of elected officials, but also small business owners of all sizes. Someone who lives here, shares the same values and who has the skill and acumen to help navigate all sides, government and business, so that Gardendale can grow and all businesses can flourish.
The trajectory that Gardendale is headed toward can easily get too big, too fast. Gardendale businesses need a skilled and respected advocate to represent them who can make sure that when issues are considered by the Mayor and City Council, all small businesses have their voices heard and don’t feel forgotten. Every single business in Gardendale deserves to be represented at the table.
Mike Holmes has the respect, skill and government relationships to be that leader. As he takes the reins as president of the Gardendale Chamber of Commerce for 2022, he steps in at an important time that requires a strong, private sector leader to safely lead Gardendale through what could be rough waters ahead.
It’s time for Mike Holmes to take the reins.
Treye Hanner: The Gardendale Chick-fil-A has been a very popular gathering place for many years. Tell our readers how you became the owner/operator and what your impression of Gardendale was as you made your decision to open in the community?
Mike Holmes: My first opportunity to be an Operator with CFA was at a store in downtown Birmingham in 2000. It was a tough store to operate but I was just happy to be with CFA. However, I hoped it would not be a “career” store and that I would have an opportunity to move into a free-standing store at some point.
During my time there my wife, Jan, and I started talking and praying about where we hoped our next opportunity would be. We both agreed we wanted to be in a smaller community that would provide a great quality of life and be a great place to raise our young children.
In 2003 CFA started looking at Gardendale as a possible location for a new store. Having grown up in Huffman I was familiar with Gardendale, and we knew it would be an answered prayer for us to get that opportunity. Thankfully I was selected to be the franchise owner of the Gardendale store and in 2004 we moved our family to this community.
We knew from day 1 that we were home for life.
Treye Hanner: The Gardendale community embraced Chick-fil-A from the day it opened. It became a popular meeting spot for moms, teenagers and seniors alike, and has been a central place for many community fundraising events as well. Can you provide some insight into how Gardendale has embraced CFA as a community is perhaps different or unique when comparing to other areas?
Mike Holmes: It has been an amazing experience from the very beginning. Our Grand Opening set a record for the state of Alabama in sales when we opened. We were overwhelmed by the reception we got from this community and the business has continued to be supported in ways that many of my fellow operators don’t experience. It speaks to the loyalty and pride that our community has in supporting local businesses.
We have always made a commitment to give back to the community and I feel like our guests appreciate that and are very supportive of us.
Treye Hanner: As you approach 20 years as a Gardendale business owner, what changes have you seen in the growth of Gardendale that has had a positive impact for local businesses?
Mike Holmes: One of the things I love about Gardendale is the strategic approach our leaders have had towards growth. I’ve watched some of the surrounding Birmingham communities grow at such a rapid pace that it has created infrastructure problems. I’m thankful we have not taken that approach.
We moved here from Inverness and I’m grateful every day that I don’t have to deal with the traffic that I dealt with when we lived there. As a resident in the community, I want to see us grow as much as anybody but there is a trade-off that comes with growth.
We have learned since moving here that we have all that we need in our community but at the same time we look forward to the inevitable growth we will see in the future.
Treye Hanner: You are serving as President of the Gardendale Chamber of Commerce for 2022. How do you see your role in working with other local businesses, as well as the Mayor and City Council to address issues that have an impact on local business?
Mike Holmes: One of the focuses for me will be to try and create more resources and communication between the businesses in our area. Over the last 2 years there has been so much chaos and confusion when it comes to navigating through a pandemic. It made me realize how grateful I am to be partnered with a company like CFA, but it also made me aware of how many businesses don’t have the kind of resources and support that I have.
I would love to see the businesses in our community come together more for shared learning so we can make this the best business community it can be. I would also like to see us grease the rails for new businesses who want to locate in our community.
Treye Hanner: Are there issues that you believe should be addressed to help local businesses?
Mike Holmes: I think the biggest challenge for us is awareness and image. I think we could do a better job of selling ourselves to people outside our community. We have so much to offer here, and I believe once people find us they will find their forever community.
Treye Hanner: How do you believe the business climate will change over the next 5 to 10 years with residential and commercial growth, like The Crossing at Magnolia? Will this have a positive impact on small businesses?
Mike Holmes: I truly believe our best days are ahead of us. I tell people all the time that we are the best kept secret in Birmingham. It’s only a matter of time before we are discovered and when that happens we will explode with growth.
As you can tell I’m excited about the future of our community. In May of this year, we will be closing our store for a remodel. We will be closed for about 3 months but when we reopen, we will essentially have a brand new store that is better equipped to handle our continued growth.
These are exciting times, and we couldn’t be happier that God chose to land us in Gardendale.