Now Open! This is What it’s All About!

helena outside now open resized
This is what it is all about.

We are thrilled that our new office in Helena is now open. After months of dreaming, sweating, inventing, painting, cleaning, and coming up with some crazy ideas, the historic Nunnally House in Old Town Helena has been rescued back to its rightful personality. The Ribbon Cutting, Grand Opening, Open Houses, and first few meetings are in the books, and we have been blown away with the warm reception from the local community, and the encouragement from colleagues and friends all over Birmingham. But the reception that has meant the most to us came from the most important source: the Nunnally family, themselves.

The night before the Ribbon Cutting, we were honored to host several descendants of Grace and Luther Nunnally, who came to gather, remember, and to see the renovations we’ve done on a house that was their family home for generations. As they were appreciating every detail, from the preserved barn wood, to the upcycled dresser, to the beams and the planks and the bricks, it dawned on us: this is why we are in this business. We do this to help match families with homes they can fill up with memories, just like the Nunnally family did here, for many decades.

When you come visit us at the Nunnally House, you will see a great deal of our heart on the walls; almost everything has a special story or meaning to us. Below are some of the before and after photos along with a explanations. This home was Greg’s idea, from the color scheme to the architectural details; he had a vision to start with the bones of the house, preserving everything possible and adding features with character and personality. He didn’t let the grime or termite rot cloud his excitement, he just plowed ahead! But Greg didn’t do this along; enormous thanks are due to many people: Bill Carroll, our great contractor; Tammy Taylor, our very own “JoJo Gaines”; Ron Bardo and Michael Hebert; Bill Garner, who turned nail-ridden planks into treasures; our son, Matt, for his sweat equity; and above all our families for giving us encouragement and the type of help that really counts.

Come see us! And don’t forget– when you need a Realtor to help you with buying or selling your home anywhere in the Birmingham metropolitan area, we are the team you want to call! We have figured out what the fuss is all about, and it’s worth it.

Before and After

“>Seeing the photos is rewarding; the home was crumbling and sad; it had suffered from being abandoned and under appreciated. Nothing a little TLC couldn’t fix!

helena office before and after side by side

Besides the improvements on the outside, we worked room by room to restore the home into a functional space for an office, but one that didn’t hide from its heritage as a family home.  One of the things we love most about the house is the big front porch, a throwback to the porches our grandparents enjoyed.  Already we have discovered that the porch beckons for many reasons; conversation with a neighbor, a breather from stress, a great place to take a phone call, a place to have a burger, even a place to hold a business meeting.  When we started, the porch was structurally sound, but mainly just very nasty; it also had large, faded puzzle pieces painted on the floor.  We painted the porch floor with Sherwin William’s Super Deck in gray, pressure washed the bricks and sidewalk with the help of Splash!, and Greg had our amazing contractor, Bill Carroll, add a few architecture touches, such as creating larger columns and adding corbels.

helena house after bathroom

We discovered along the way that everything you do when preserving an old house involves time and patience!  For example, the front door.  Who would think it would take so many day just to gain a proper door?

door before and after

What a pleasure it was to brighten up the inside.  Painting the paneling a light color, (Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige), gave a great palette to use dark gray for the beams and trim.

helena main room side by side before and after

With the more neutral palette, the decorator touches that have special meaning for us are able to stand out, such as the sliding barn door created from wood we rescued from a kitchen wall in the house, repurposed old windows from the house being use as frames for photos and specially chosen pieces that double as art and homages to our heritage. We named the conference room “Biggy’s Room” after Grace Nunnally’s pet name from her grandchildren, and within that room we tried to remember all the great things about Helena.

helena conference room before and after side by side

The one room Greg decided to “gut” was the bathroom.  Somehow, the ability to see daylight straight through from the kitchen, through the bathroom, and into the conference room didn’t bode well for this preservation minded team; so with all rules of engagement called off, Greg came up with a great design, and did the work himself! The bathroom counter was repurposed from the old floor joists we pulled out from under the house; we thought the room would be a great place to display the original photographs of the home’s aftermath in the 1933 tornado. After all, the bathroom is the safe spot in the Nunnally House, according to James Spann’s guidelines.

helena bathroom before and after side by side

What fun it was to transform the kitchen!  We tried to take it from a dark, dingy old mess into a cheery reminder of our grandmothers’ kitchens, yellow and white and waiting for a good meal to be cooked.  Thankfully, we are in no short supply of amazing restaurants nearby, but the kitchen is now a nicely restored break room.

helena kitchen before and after side by side

When you get a chance, come on by and say hello.  We would love to know what you think!

Sweet Home Strange Alabama

greg strange bikeLocation, location, location; the classic real estate mantra. Well, chances are if you are reading this, the answer you would give for one of the location blanks on a form is “Alabama”. Maybe you have lived here your entire life. Maybe you are new to the Yellowhammer State. Either way, there is a good chance you have uncovered an indisputable fact: Alabama is strange.

Don’t get me wrong; I mean the title as the highest compliment in some ways. The first definition of strange is unusual, extraordinary, curious. That doesn’t sound so bad. Much better than cookie cutter, standard, and boring. In fact, there is a delightful blog and facebook page devoted to the wonderful strangeness of Alabama, named very cleverly, Strange Alabama. In recent months, the author, Beverly Crider, has offered entertaining examples of our strangeness. For example, her most recent blog has delved into the roadside wonders our state has to offer, such as the Giant Rooster of Brundidge, monuments to hogs, bird dogs, and boll weevils, and the ancient sign near Prattville that reads “Go to Church, or the Devil will Get You”.

Thinking about those roadside oddities, we must have a fascination with rear ends; I have overheard an actual argument about which had the best butt, Vulcan‘s moon over Homewood, or the very cheeky Big Peach water tower near Clanton. I personally think Vulcan wins; after all, there is a song dedicated to his famous derriere. Thank heavens the past petitions to clothe his posterior were stopped by admirers and he stands today in all his glory.

And then there are the crazy place names. Slapout, Whodathoughtit, Remlap (Palmer spelled backwards), Lick Skillet, Boar Tush, Frog Eye, Hell’s Half Acre (maybe that’s where the devil sign should be), Possum Trot, Chigger Hill, and in keeping with the backend theme, Buttsville.

And yes, as claimed in the movie Sweet Home Alabama, there is a sweet cemetery dedicated to Coon Dogs, the only one like it in the world.

Alabama is blessed with a hodgepodge of amazing musical styles and talents.  I give you three namesake artists and dare you to find three more different: Alabama, Blind Boys of Alabama, and the sensational Alabama Shakes. Artists paying musical homage to our state spans The Doors, Jim Croce, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, Otis Redding,  Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many more. And of course Muscle Shoals was at one time the Hit Recording Capital of the World.

If you are in Alabama for long, chances are you will eventually break one of our more bizarre laws, which include my favorites:

  • It is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church.
  • You may not have an ice cream cone in your back pocket at any time.
  • It is illegal to sell peanuts in Lee County after sundown on Wednesday.
  • In Anniston, you may not wear blue jeans down Noble Street.
  • Boogers may not be flicked into the wind.

Never fear. If you do have legal issues in Alabama, our top politicians sport names that should inspire confidence. Our state treasurer is Young Boozer, in charge of the PSC is a lady named Twinkle, and the Alabama Attorney General’s name is: Luther Strange.

Alabama is known for our strange obsession with college sports, specifically college football. It’s not just everywhere that the spring practice game is standing room only in our huge campus stadiums. The Auburn/Alabama rivalry is documented ad nauseam; but what is not as well known is how, in times of trouble, each group of fans is very likely to rush to the aid of the other.

Living in Alabama for fifty years, I have learned to not be surprised at the wacky and weird; an adventure is always right around the corner. I never knew until recently that I live within fifteen miles of Hitler’s typewriter; and even stranger, until just a few years ago it was placed a few feet away from a real, live… no, make that just a real, authentic… mummy named Hazel. If I’d known it I would have visited her.

The internet and the local meat-and-three diners provide a wealth of information about crazy festivals, fabulous foods, and eccentric characters in Alabama. Whether the state is your home sweet home or just a sweet spot to visit, you will not be disappointed if you get off the beaten path and find your own strange favorites.

Surviving the Auburn/Alabama Madness

roll tide dress miss alabamaWell, it happened. After fifty years of living on the front lines of the Auburn/Alabama rivalry, I saw something today that surprised even me. There she was. Miss America wannabe, our beautiful Miss Alabama, previewing an official ensemble of Roll Tide meets Hancock Fabrics with a dramatic flair of Scarlett O’Hara thrown in. First I was speechless; then my thoughts soon turned to the unsuspecting people who have decided to move to our state, unprepared for the extreme phenomenon that is Alabama and Auburn. If this is all new to you, bless your heart, I’m gonna try to help you out here.

Decades before ESPN made a revealing documentary about the Auburn/Alabama rivalry, Roll Tide War Eagle, residents of the state were immersed in a great cultural divide of orange and blue versus crimson and white, going all the way back to 1893. Even before I learned to ride a bike, I could tell you that Alabama ran the Wishbone offense formation and Auburn ran the Veer. The names Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan were spoken with hushed tones, and my first encounter with product placement occurred during their weekly TV shows. Golden Flake and Coke, there they were; the Bear himself taking a big ole swig of Co’Cola, kicking off his awe-inspiring monologue occasionally punctuated with a sudden exclamation of “Bingo”! That meant the right man had made his tackle stick.

Without a lifetime of developing coping mechanisms for surviving football season in Alabama, how does one make it?  Well, it is pretty obvious that the least effective strategy for living in the world of Alabama/Auburn is to ignore it. Mainly because it’s impossible. There is houndstooth everywhere, at all times; it’s the state pattern. Some days there is toilet paper thrown across big things: everything from trees to army tanks. Not only is there a wealth of logo’ed merchandise, but there is also an entire industry of stuff stamped with the compromising, all telling “House Divided”. And then there was that house that was actually divided. Peace.

First, I recommend picking a side. If you are living in the state of Alabama, it’s almost imperative to go for one or the other; flip a coin if you must.  It’s just easier to answer the inevitable question you will get in the check-out line at Walmart: Auburn or Alabama?  I contend that it’s way too time consuming to explain that no, you really don’t live for college football, or no, you really don’t see the difference, or no, you feel silly chanting, “Bodda Getta Bodda Getta Bodda Getta Bah” or “Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer“. The lowest hanging fruit here is to just pick a side and hang on for dear life.  Note: if you are already a rabid college football fan of another school, you get a shrug.  If it’s an SEC school, you get a pass.  The only mistrusted decision is No thanks, none of the above.

Second, it might be a good idea to conjure up an excuse to have at-the-ready if you don’t really want to hear every detail of the 1972 Punt Bama Punt game, or how Alabama has won a gazillion national championships. “Oh, my! I’m due at the chiropractor, RIGHT NOW” might work. Better yet might be, “Oh, my! I am due to pick up the babyback ribs I ordered for our tailgating!” In that case, you might be met with a “Run, Forrest! RUN!” response.

Third, I offer this really important advice: don’t assume that you know which side one’s bread is buttered on, football wise. We, the residents of Alabama, are all mixed up; and there are divided families everywhere. Just because Dad is wearing an elephant head doesn’t mean Mom isn’t an Aubie groupie, and vice versa. I am the product of a mixed marriage; and I am in a mixed marriage. (A carefully placed Reverse Rammer Jammer might reveal which team I, the author of this Arcara Residential blog, pull for; but it might not be a good idea since the owner of the actual Arcara Residential company yells for the other. Oops.)

Fourth is a piece of helpful information. There is a great sucking sound on Saturday afternoons in the Fall as people migrate to the two college towns of Tuscaloosa and Auburn, to Jordan Hare and Bryant Denny stadiums, and to theater-sized televisions all over the state to watch the big smashmouthed events. The vacuum that is created leaves prime spots open in the best restaurants, shows, movies, and shopping areas, especially when both teams are playing. Especially during the Iron Bowl. You might even get right in at Hot & Hot Fish Club, or maybe navigate nicely with little traffic up Highway 280, or park right outside the door at… well, anywhere not showing the game. But don’t plan something meaningful like a wedding during the game; you might be stunned when even Grandma fakes an illness to see the Big Game.

Fifth, and most important: don’t sweat it. Don’t take it too seriously. Do Auburn and Alabama fans hate each other? Paul Finebaum says yes from his vantage point, and many people agree; no doubt the rivalry is out of hand, with horror stories of disrespectful and downright despicable acts being committed in the names of both teams.

tornado logoBut here’s what is often missed, and often forgotten: when the chips are really down, the good people of the state of Alabama set aside rivalries and come together. When the 2011 tornadoes devastated Tuscaloosa in the worst tragedy our state has suffered in years, the first and biggest relief organization that was formed and ran to the front lines was a grass roots group formed in the heart of Auburn, called Toomers for Tuscaloosa. Had the tables been turned, the good people of Alabama would have done the same for Auburn folks.

There was a time I would have recommended running for the hills, taking up tennis, and avoiding the football madness like the plague.  No more; something strange happened along the way, and the jokes and ribbing became funny again.  Auburn kinda likes being a Cow College, and Alabama fans don’t all have “summer” teeth (some are missing, some are not).  The enthusiasm is contagious; it’s not just anywhere that can pack in 80-90,000 people to watch a practice game in the spring. Something fun is going on here; might as well cash in on the joy.

If all this is too much for your kids to take in, never fear. Among the stacks and stacks of books about Auburn and Alabama football and the surrounding culture, a few books have emerged aimed at helping the kids while they are young. In particular, I have on my reading list When Mommy loves Bama and Daddy Loves Auburn. Whoever wrote that psychological handbook is a genius.

January 6, 2014 marks the end of the 2013 college football season. Between now and then you have plenty of time to perfect your chosen battle cry; a cry that is also a greeting, a celebration, a mark of comradery. Put your hands up, air in the lungs, and haul off with a steady yell…War Eagle! Roll Tide!

You might even find yourself meaning it.

A Pretty Red Dress

The world came crashing down on many residents of Oklahoma yesterday, and it brought back so many heartbreaking memories for Alabama residents; memories of April 27, 2011. Our prayers are with everyone affected by yesterday’s tragedy.

As these storms tear apart lives, homes, and communities, they also yield another powerful outcome: these tragedies seem to bring out the best side of human nature, inspiring neighbors to help neighbors, and strangers to help strangers. Immediately after the 2011 Alabama tornadoes, I had a heartfelt conversation with my grandmother; as she reflected on how a tornado had forever changed her life eighty years before, one thing became very clear. People may feel helpless during these tragedies, and gestures may seem small and meaningless in the face of catastrophic problems, but sometimes the smallest of acts can change the course of a life. My grandmother is proof of that, and here is her story as I wrote it for her just a few weeks before her 2011 death.

One spring day in 1933, despite the hard economic times, somewhere there was a nice lady who decided to donate a pretty red dress to the Red Cross . I know this because that red dress changed the course of my grandmother’s life.

My grandmother, Ollie Smith, was a vivacious young lady with lots of brothers and sisters, strict parents, a natural talent for playing the piano, a hard scrabble existence, and a proud stance against taking charity. Church was the cornerstone of her community, and the Smith Family was well known around Jefferson County, Alabama, to showcase amazingly good throw-down gospel singers. Life in Adamsville had a pretty typical and normal rhythm; until the tornado hit.

That tornado must have been a doozy. If you ask my 96-year-old grandmother today, she can’t tell you what day it is but she sure can describe in vivid detail what it felt like to be caught between the house and the storm pit when that tornado came. She talks about the wind picking her up and dropping her back down, and about the roaring sounds, and about the terror. Her baby brother Fred was not too young to remember later that the tornado carried him acres away from the house and dumped him into a field. There were bumps, bruises, and breaks, but all survived. The house and all their belongings were destroyed; a complete and total loss.

Being in Alabama during the Spring of 2011 has brought to life for me what the days after the 1933 tornado must have been like for the Smith family. Despite their almost fanatical stance against receiving charity, they gracefully and gratefully accepted help from the Red Cross and from generous neighbors; boxes of necessities and clothes came in and a new house went up.

In one of those boxes was a pretty red dress.

Ollie and her sister Mabel scrapped over ownership of that dress, and for some long forgotten reason, Ollie won. When she ventured out to a singing in Republic, I wonder if that red dress gave her some extra swagger up there in front of the congregation. I wonder, too, if the church family felt close, and prayerful, and thankful like we all feel now. I wonder if the reason my grandfather, Calvin Garner, decided to visit that church with his buddies that day was because of the recent storm and the aftermath.

The rest of the story is not up for debate. When Calvin Garner saw Ollie Smith in that red dress, he knew. He had to meet that girl; he had to brave his friends’ warnings that those Smith gals were shielded from rascals like him by the strictest father in the county. He proved his character, ran the gauntlet, and got the girl. The smiling, singing girl in the pretty red dress.

That tornado was eighty years ago, and yet that simple exchange still lives on. The giving. The receiving. The generosity; the gratitude. A garment handed over; a garment worn.

Proof that a simple act of giving can be much more than it seems. A donated red dress can change the course of a life.
ollie calvin bob

May 2013 Tornado Relief

Latest Census Information About Alabama…

The 2010 Census Information has been published for our state, with several interesting trends over the past ten years. Arcara Residential is pleased to have many choices of homes in the areas of growth! Do a property search by area to find the latest listings. Here are a few specific areas that line up with what we are seeing:

  • 2010 Census Showed that Calera and Chelsea both grew by 250%.  Check out Shiloh Creek!

  • The Fastest Growing Cities in the Jeffco/Shelby area were:
    (graphic from the Birmingham News)

  • Trussville Boomed! Population growth in Trussville was 54% over the past decade.  Visit the spectacular Brooke’s Crossing for a beauty in Trussville.

  • The three fastest growing “larger” cities (cities that started the decade with populations more than 10,000) were Helena, Trussville, and Pelham.  We are proud to feature neighborhoods in these areas such as Pelham’s Eagle Cove.

  • Hoover population soared 30% over the past decade.  Hoover’s Mayor Petelos attributes the growth to Hoover being a great place to live and raise a family, with one of the better school systems in the state.  It is amazing that million dollar views are still available in this beautiful city, such as you will find at Southpointe Ridge (with full basements, starting at $299,900). 

More detailed information and analysis is available at http://www.al.com/census/news/index.ssf/index.html.

All information on this website is deemed reliable, but not guaranteed, and may change without notice. Any square footage is approximate.

Property of Arcara Residential, LLC; 771 2nd Street; Helena, AL 35080