You’re walking down the sidewalks of New York City, when, as if saying a friendly “hello,” a passerby surprises you with a quick “War Eagle!” And just like that, two strangers far away from Tiger country suddenly share an unspoken yet intimate bond — the tailgates with your “Auburn family,” the chill bumps that the band elicits with their entrance into Jordan-Hare Stadium, the awe that the eagle inspires as he circles above the eager fans, the joyous feeling of your first rolling of Toomer’s Corner, the soul-nourishing lifelong friends you made in your dorm or at parties and the unshakeable pride you feel at simply seeing orange and blue.
“If you live in Auburn, then sooner or later you will find yourself waving to strangers as you drive through town,” says Executive Chef and Co-Owner of The Depot restaurant, Scott Simpson. “At least that’s my experience. People are authentic and caring, and set against the backdrop of the charming South, it’s hard not to fall in love.”
The idyllic Southern college campus features sprawling green spaces where students toss the pigskin and study in the shade of trees, where historic brick buildings stand as a reminder of Auburn’s rich traditions. “Auburn is a city already rich in history, tradition and heritage,” says Acre’s Executive Chef and Partner David Bancroft. “Those attributes make it so easy for a business like ours to run parallel with those values. And, to cite the Auburn University creed ‘I believe in work, hard work’ and all the lines that follow thereafter.” Let’s celebrate the hard-working entrepreneurs, chefs and style mavens that are enriching the cultural fabric of the city, strengthening the local economy and building up the Auburn family. Let’s check out the boutiques, bars, shops and eateries in this happening college town!
Shopping & Dining in Auburn
Where to Shop
Owner Barbara Birdsong married her high school sweetheart, an Air Force pilot; lived all over the country; had a family and picked up jewelry-making along the way, before landing in Auburn. “In 2009, building on our life experiences, the generosity of a local hero, a Helen Keller quote and a reassuring nudge from a race car-driving grandmother, we took a leap of faith and founded Perch,” says Barbara. Perch jewelry studio is a space where anyone can learn the art of jewelry design and construction using the semi-precious gemstones, metals and charms that are on-hand for the picking. Customers can drop by anytime to select stones and bands and personalize them with initials, names, quotes, dates and coordinates that make each piece so much more special than store-bought jewelry.
Perch also offers artisan workshops that feature select artists such as the Gee’s Bend quilters and Idyllwilde clothing from Muscle Shoals, put on art openings for renowned folk artists Charlie Lucas and Butch Anthony, and hosts Art, Song & Moonshine, an ongoing event where local artists, craftsmen, musicians and more come to celebrate and continue to build the creative community. But the heart of Perch is in the people, the local mothers, daughters, sisters and college girls who find themselves around the community table, sharing stories and sometimes tears as they create jewelry. “Perch has transformed into a space not only where you can create, but a space where lives intersect, customers become friends, and the creative collective of our neighbors highlight the unique qualities of our community,” says Barbara.
This enormous gift shop offers home décor accents, wearables, gifts, jewelry, candles, sorority gifts and packages, cookware, handbags, totes and more. “The word rhapsody means happiness, joy & bliss. Add a W – for the Wrap! We love making people happy, whether walking in the store and uplifting their spirits or helping provide a gift that makes people happy,” says co-owner Sarah Brown, who started the store with her business partner, Terry Shea, in Hoover in 2004 and opened the Auburn location in 2008. Wrapsody offers complimentary signature gift wrap that customers know, love and depend on. Sarah’s favorite thing about her shop is downtown Auburn’s sense of community, such as its events scheduled through the rest of the year, including live music on Friday nights before the game, high school pep rally, Brunch & Browse for Homecoming, Pumpkins & Poker, Downtown Trick-or-Treat, Blue Friday – Auburn’s Black Friday, Santa Claus on the Corner, Christmas parade and New Years Eve Eve, to name a few. “It’s a small town with lots of people that truly love living here, a place where people love to ‘come home’ to. We even have the new phrase, ‘Come Home to the Corner.’ It’s growing and it’s such a special place to be.”
Stop by Therapy for a laid-back atmosphere where chic finds abound, the perfect place for some much-needed retail therapy! This fashion boutique opened in downtown Auburn in 2008, a time when there were not many boutiques and owner Jessica Godbold saw the need for trendy and classic quality clothing. “You can find causal dresses, cocktail dresses, game day wear, active wear, and more,” says store manager Miriam Lane. Therapy has also expanded its gift and jewelry sections, which includes local jewelry artist Emma Jane Designs. The shop’s most popular items are the dresses, Corkcicle canteens and Kendra Scott jewelry. “I love our selection,” says Miriam. “We carry a variety of items for multiple age groups, so everyone always leaves happy.”
Auburn Art began as a small frame shop, which moved downtown around eight years ago. The orange-and-blue shop offers tableware, tailgating parephernalia, fan bling, jewelry, art and more. “Our most popular items are our custom framed images of the Auburn life and its traditions,” says Cliff Hare, who became owner with his wife Emily in 2011. “Most of our artists are locals who contact us wanting to share their art with the rest of the Auburn family.” And you get a sense that it’s not just fan pride that fills the walls, but that sense of community and family. Cliff’s favorite thing about his store is getting to talk to the people that come in the store every day. “It’s wonderful to get to know new people and hear their story about what Auburn is to them,” says Cliff. “The community treats everyone with kindness and open arms. I have never been to another place in the world that holds so many kind people in one town.”
Natalie Harris Gilbert and Kelly Langley Poole opened Ellie Boutique in downtown Auburn in 2003, after a year of planning. The college roommates and best friends’ shared passion for fashion drew them away from living out their college majors of speech pathology and business management in the “real world” and, after a year of planning, the pair launched their first boutique, Ellie, so named for the blending of their names. The shop offers trendy, fashion-forward clothing that is affordable for everyone, especially college students. And the duo’s fashion offerings definitely struck a chord, as they quickly expanded to include Ellie Girl, for girls ages 2-14, and NK a Boho Boutique, affordable clothing with a bohemian flair, both on North College Street near the original Ellie, as well as Ellie Crimson in Tuscaloosa. Stop by this hip boutique for touches of fall fashion’s most recent trends: chokers, wrap beaded necklaces, suede and flare jeans!
This custom printing company, known for its original t-shirts, started in 2000. Eric Stamp bought the company from another Auburn alum, who started the business in the ‘70s, and the shop has been offering custom printed unique designs ever since. Everything is printed in the back room of the store, so each piece is original and one-of-a-kind. And Eric is eager to take on any challenge. “Our customers tend to come to us because we can work with any material and any design. The crazier, the better! Since we print in shop, we can work with any time frame and work great under pressure,” says Eric, who is also a dog lover. “I bring my dog to work every day, and encourage my employees to do the same. It creates a fun work atmosphere, and our customers love to play with our dogs!” The fun-loving owner turns thing up a notch on game days, when he sets up a tent in the front of the shop with games and karaoke. “It’s a blast for the customers and my employees. Game days can get long for retail, but this allows us to join in the fun and bring people into the store!”
This enormous boutique has been providing stylish threads to the ladies of Auburn for over 25 years. With shoes, jewelry, stationery and journals, handbags, fun kitschy items and clothing in a variety of styles and price points, this boutique offers something for everyone. And the style mavens at Behind the Glass are ready to help you find your personal style, as their website says, “We believe clothing is a powerful tool for self-confidence and personal expression.” Head to Behind the Glass and get lost in the beautiful wardrobe options as you discover your own personal style!
Where to Eat & Drink
Walking into Big Blue Bagel & Deli gives you the distinct feeling of walking to ‘Cheers,’ with groups of students, locals and family, fueling up and visiting. The décor is dotted with Auburn football memorabilia and the atmosphere has a timeworn charm. “Auburn has a small-town feel like Mayberry,” says Big Blue Bagel owner Jon Deason. “Everybody knows everybody and we’re all very friendly.” Jon founded Big Blue Bagel with his former business partner Chandler Busby to give Auburn a breakfast place, and the town has surely embraced it. Stop by and try the most popular Cajun breakfast sandwich or the War Eagle omelette. And don’t miss the Tiger Melt, which was listed on Alabama Travel’s “100 Dishes To Eat in Alabama Before You Die”!
In its 25th year of operation, Amsterdam Café is an Auburn original. It was originally a bar with limited food offerings, until the current owners took over in 1998 and turned it into more of a restaurant, preserving the Van Gogh-inspired artwork. The eatery offers a diverse selection of menu items, such as the black-eyed pea hummus, rum salmon salad, their award-winning crabcake and avocado sandwich, pesto tagliatelle, duck couscous and pepper crusted tuna, among others. The “Back Room” can be rented out for parties, dinners and meetings and wine is half-price on Mondays. “Over the years, we have developed a lot of repeat customers, and they are the ones that keep us going all the time,” says manager Nick Ciza. “The people around here are very friendly, and myself and the staff have developed great relationships with our regulars that makes work feel more like a gathering of friends.”
Recently listed at number one on Saturday Down South’s ranking of the best college bars in the SEC, Quixote’s wins over students, locals and families with their reasonably priced beverages and deliciously affordable menu. Couple Quixote’s crowd-pleasing fare — like their most popular wings, burgers, nachos and quesadillas — with the sports playing on the TVs and the fun monthly theme parties and you’ve got yourself a neighborhood mainstay. Students never miss the most popular recurring theme parties: the End-of-the-Year Cookout, Luau, ‘Merica Party and the Catalina Wine Mixer. Co-owner Jon Hyink founded the bar with his partner and friend Chris Godbold 11 years ago. “The idea came about while we were still in college at Auburn as we finished our coursework for our business degrees. We had most of our classes together and realized that staying in this town and trying to make it on our own was what we both wanted to try,” says Jon who cites his outstanding staff and customers as the best thing about Quixote’s. “It is just a fantastic city where the university and the community are one and that just creates a phenomenal atmosphere for students and families alike.”
Matt and Jana Poirier were living in California when they decided to move back to Alabama with the dream of opening a local watering hole featuring simple, delicious food with a focus on bacon, bourbon, community, and family. Jana and her family, all Auburn alums, spent time on the family property in Lafayette, Alabama, planning for The Hound, including reclaiming fallen Southern cedars from nearby forests for the eatery’s bar and tables. The charming, rustic atmosphere is rivaled only by the food: bison burger with sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and fried tobacco onions; the Granola French Toast, two pieces of Texas toast battered in housemade granola, fried to perfection, topped with blueberries, strawberries, bananas and powdered sugar and served with syrup; or the juicy, savory Niman Ranch Berkshire Pork Chop, served on a bed of sweet corn succotash and topped with a sweet onion marmalade. “The Hound’s atmosphere is very ‘Come as you are, and make yourself at home,’” says general manager Kasha Davied. “If you are celebrating a special occasion, if you want to have a cocktail after work, or if you are just bringing a group of friends to grab appetizers and craft beers in the lounge — from casual meal to special celebration — The Hound makes people feel at home.”
This chic eatery is the Southern epicure’s acre of farm-to-table heaven. With three on-site gardens; a parking lot planted with edible landscape; over eleven types of fruit trees and bushes, a corn field; on-site produce, such as heirloom tomatoes, butterbeans, and more – the cuisine is always fresh and seasonal. The charcuterie plates, original brisket burger, fried green tomatoes and peanut butter pie are among the crowd favorites. Executive chef and partner David Bancroft wanted a plot of land where he and his family could practice sustainability and give back not only to the Auburn community, but to the farmers that support his restaurant. Acre hosts Saturday farmers markets each summer, as well as the Alabama Oyster Social that supports Auburn University and Alabama oyster farmers. “Acre is my home away from home. Our building is filled with things that hold meaning and express the history of my family, “ says David. “From the fishing basket chandelier from my late grandfather’s farm to the reclaimed oak beams from a friend’s 100-year-old general store, it is a constant reminder that the foundation of our restaurant was built on the promise of people that love us and want us to succeed.”
The Depot was originally the vision of husband-and-wife restaurateurs, Matt and Jana Poirier of The Hound restaurant. “They were looking for something that would be central to the community with a history and also really elevate the dining scene,” says Executive Chef and Co-Owner Scott Simpson. “When they discovered that the abandoned Auburn Historic Train Depot could actually be converted into a modern dining space, they jumped on the opportunity.” They opened the train-depot-turned-Gulf-seafood-brasserie in the fall of 2015, and their creative, globally-inspired seafood-forward menu has won over Auburn locals. Among the favorite dishes are cobia wings, lionfish and chips, monkfish, tamarind duck, double-thick lamb chops with rosemary chimichurri and Grand Marnier white chocolate French toast with fresh berries. Or stop by The Depot for Champagne & Oyster Happy Hour, featuring no less than six different varieties of oysters paired addictive condiments, such as the homemade green tomato cocktail and apple-ginger mignonette.
Scott is excited about their plans to launch a wine dinner series and chef’s tasting dinners, as well as being partners in some of the city’s major events. “It is always so great to hear the positive feedback about how we have transformed a heartbreaking closure of a beloved building into something better,” says Scott. “Restoring this historic treasure has really brought the architecture back to life and created a fresh and lively atmosphere to the community that is once again a central gathering place. The space is incredible, and there’s nothing quite like hearing the sound of a train roar in the middle of dinner service.”
Whether the Tigers win or lose, War Eagle country promises to deliver a fun time! And when you stop by, make sure to tell them StyleBlueprint sent you!