Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Clint Chapman serves tea to patron Jenny Jones in Chapman’s cafe, Brewed Awakenings, on Point Mallard Parkway near Interstate 65.
A little caffeine for the tank
Business is booming at coffee shop on Alabama 67 converted from gas station
By Catherine Godbey
Clint Chapman leans against the counter sipping his cup of coffee.
It’s 11 a.m., and Chapman is relaxing before the lunchtime rush while vehicles speed by on Point Mallard Parkway.
“The customers are the biggest reason I stayed in this area,” Chapman said. “A lot of people who bought gas here are returning for the coffee and food.”
The aroma of freshly brewed coffee engulfed the Brewed Awakenings Cafe as Chapman discussed how he transformed his former service station into a neighborhood coffee and sandwich cafe.
Gas pumps gone
For seven years, Chapman operated the building as a service station, and although the gas pumps are gone, the overhang that covered them remains.
“It still looks like a service station on the outside ... I’ve got to figure a way to get rid of that Texaco look,” Chapman said.
The combination of steep operating costs and the emergence of a neighboring service station offering 24 gas pumps initiated the service station’s transformation.
“There are a lot of hidden costs in the gas business,” Chapman said. “My expenses were going up while revenue was going down, so I decided to try something different.”
At the end of August, Chapman opened that “something different” and found a target market for the cafe, which offers specialty coffees, sandwiches, and meat and cheese by the pound. Business has exceeded Chapman’s expectations, and he attributes the success to the quality of his products and the cafe’s interior atmosphere.
“I have the best coffee, meat and cheese. My market is people that like the best,” Chapman said. “I spent a lot of time working on the inside of this place and wanted to get it right the first time and not have to come back in two years and make changes.”
The transition from service station to cafe required a major renovation, with bringing the restrooms inside topping the priority list.
Along with relocating the restrooms, Chapman addressed issues with the floor, which had four different height levels. Strategic placement of furniture and an assortment of floor tiles camouflaged the places where the floor level shifts.
In place of the racks of food, round tables and chairs sit. The movie rental room transformed into an additional seating area, with a curtain that can separate it from the main seating area. And occupying the space where Chapman once checked out customers are a sofa and coffee table.
The seating, earthy yellow wall color and flat-screen television create a warm and inviting atmosphere for the customers. But in order to succeed, a business needs more than an inviting atmosphere.
What factors into whether a business succeeds? Location, location, location. If this real estate adage rings true, then Brewed Awakenings, the roadside cafe, could transform into a local hot spot.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
The Brewed Awakenings Cafe on Point Mallard Parkway near Interstate 65.
According to Alabama’s Department of Transportation, about 30,000 vehicles travel Alabama 67 and pass the cafe daily.
Community leaders expect that number to increase as they foresee a population explosion in Priceville and Southeast Decatur as the Base Realignment and Closure process takes affect.
Backhoes and tractors dot tracts of land beside along Alabama 67, marking the area’s growth.
“This is the hot market right now ... in Priceville alone there are 12 new subdivisions in some phase of construction,” said Sam Heflin, real estate agent and member of Priceville’s Town Council.
According to Heflin, the growth stems from people migrating from Decatur and Huntsville as well as Florida and New Jersey. The population consists largely of people working at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal or at plants along the Tennessee River.
Decatur is also preparing for the migration of BRAC employees, creating a housing supply to accompany the projected demand. Earlier this month, the City Council approved the annexation of the Burleson Mountain development. Located near Interstate 65, north of the Indian Hills Golf Course, the development provides 400 residential lots.
Whether the housing market and population explode doesn’t concern Chapman, who will continue to operate the cafe based on his target customers.
“There are a lot of variables in running a business, and I can’t control if another fast food place or coffee shop opens in the area,” Chapman explained. “I can only control the services and prices here and fine tune and adjust them so they appeal to my market.”
The cafe’s renovation will continue with a concentration on extending the interior appeal to the exterior.
“I have no curb appeal,” Chapman said. “I think I’m the only business out here who doesn’t have a permanent sign.”
Chapman’s final vision for the cafe includes establishing an outside eating area, creating parking spaces and finding a way to eliminate the traffic noise of 30,000 cars.
Brewed Awakenings Cafe hours
Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!