By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Eleven retail businesses throughout the state are being honored as “Retailers of the Year” by the Alabama Retail Association, the group announced Wednesday.
The winners are chosen by category based on the type of business and relative size by a panel of judges consisting of retail developers and chambers of commerce.
Mobile-based Shoe Station, Inc. is the winner in the largest category of $20 million or more in annual sales. CEO Brent Barkin’s father, Terry Barkin, started the company in 1984 and it has grown to have 22 stores in five states across the South.
In nominating Brent Barkin, University of South Alabama professor Alvin J. Williams, said, “In my 40+ years in collegiate business schools, I have never encountered a CEO that matched Brent’s passion, commitment and general enthusiasm for planting the ‘seed of retailing’ among students. He was the catalyst behind our Retail Certificate Program.”
Ashley McMakin, founder and chief executive officer of Ashley Mac’s, a fast casual café, catering and gourmet-to-go business with five Birmingham locations, is Alabama’s Retailer of the Year in the annual sales $5 Million to $20 Million category.
McMakin started catering home-style food like her mother and grandmother cooked out of the Homewood condominium where she and her husband lived as newlyweds. “My friends knew I loved to cook and wanted to hire me to cook for their events, and we just thought this would be something fun to do until we had kids,” she said in a news release. “I had no idea what God had in store for us when I started a little catering business back in 2005,” McMakin said. “I’m thankful He called us to serve in this industry and for all the people He has provided to make Ashley Mac’s what it is today.”
Today, Ashley Mac’s has cafés in Bluff Park, Cahaba Heights, downtown Birmingham and Homewood plus two in Hoover. She is planning a cookbook with recipes for chicken salad, burgers and strawberry cake set to be released in spring 2023.
In the Emerging Retailer category, Mo’Bay Beignet Company is the 2022 Retailer of the Year. Jaclyn Robinson founded the company three years ago and has grown it to include seven cafes, including in Mobile, Auburn, Tuscaloosa and Orange Beach.
Robinson began selling her beignet mix and syrups as a fundraiser to send her daughter to college. A day after plugging the fundraiser on social media, a local market contacted Robinson about selling her product at the market. Within a month, her products were in almost a dozen Alabama stores.
“Mo’Bay is making Alabama sweeter, one city at a time,” Robinson said in a news release. “Being a light and source of joy in every community Mo’Bay enters is what it’s all about.”
The other Retailers of the Year include:
- Bbbie Styslinger, owner of At Home Furnishings in Homewood
- Bill E. Stitt, owner and head bacon maker of BILL-E’s and BILL-E’s SMALL BATCH BACON
- Chad and Kendra Wester, owners of Boll Weevil Soap Company in Enterprise
- Amy Jason, founder/owner of Cookie Fix in Homewood and Cahaba Heights plus Cookie Fix Franchising, which includes Huntsville
- Joe and Kelli Richburg, owners of J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop in Opp
- Kristal Bryant, owner and pastry chef for K & J’s Elegant Pastries in Birmingham
- Tena King, who with her husband, T.C. Morgan, owns King’s Olive Oil Company in Gadsden
- Rodney and Melissa “Missy” Baker, owners of Rustique Relics in Clanton
- Susan Gordon, founder, chief creator and owner of Susan Gordon Pottery in Homewood