With the revitalization of downtown Birmingham at a fever pitch, including the resurgence of historic Woodlawn and the explosive, seemingly overnight transformation of Avondale, neighboring Crestwood North is thriving. Founded in the early 20th Century, the area has a reputation for its beautiful, historic architecture. It’s also conveniently close to downtown business and medical centers and enjoys residents from a diverse cross-section of business sectors, ages, races, religions and backgrounds — a rich cultural fabric of neighbors who all share the appetite for community growth and the willingness to roll up their sleeves and make it happen.
“The growth in and around Crestwood is driving new investments into the infrastructure within the community. You see houses being renovated, streets repaved, new business moving in, and organizations such as Greater Crestwood Inc. working to foster the growth of the community. The tools are in place to succeed and fully realize Crestwood’s potential as a vibrant neighborhood where residents can live, play, and work together within the fabric of greater Birmingham. Crestwood is turning into a destination community within the city for those looking to live close to the action of downtown while still enjoying the benefits of a residential community,” says Nick CaJacob, M.D., President of Greater Crestwood Inc.’s Board of Directors and Fellow of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Pediatrics.
Nick also notes that, with the addition of a tools such as Nextdoor.com and social media to connect people, community pride and engagement is swelling. Locals are gearing up for the neighborhood Mardi Gras celebration, a parade and party on Sunday, February 26 at 2 p.m. But, if you miss that hootenanny, there’s a bevy of other community-sponsored festivals throughout the year, including the Great Water Balloon Jollification, the Wood Hood Wind Jamboree Kite Festival, Crest Fest, an annual Easter Egg Hunt and an epic Halloween Trick-or-Treating experience. There’s even a neighborhood band on hand to provide rockin’ tunes for each celebration.
“This is the place that taught me the true meaning of the word community. Diversity is important, embraced and nurtured here,” says Darrell O’Quinn, 16-year Crestwood resident, President of the Crestwood North Neighborhood Association and a Senior Clinical Veterinarian with the Animal Resources Program. “There’s a mix of straight and same-sex couples, many young families, predominantly well-educated and highly connected professionals, passionate pet owners and lots of walkers who want more sidewalks.”
“I love the people. When we moved to Birmingham in 2010, we did not know a soul in town,” says Nick, whose family has enjoyed the addition of two daughters since he and his wife moved here. “Now we have ‘grandparents’ across the street whom we regard as family. Neighbors know each other by name.”
Let’s take a tour! Spend a day soaking up the neighborly love of this fabulous enclave, featuring the beautifully renovated Crestwood Park, inviting eateries and charming shops. Here’s your guide.
Around 2004, Crestwood was starting to really make a comeback. “The park was in dire need of an update,” says Lea Ann Macknally, owner and president of Macknally Land Design and 13-year Crestwood resident. So she and some other interested parties rallied the neighborhood leadership, and they all got together and formulated a plan, developing a volunteer steering committee and a questionnaire for residents to identify the neighborhood’s park needs. “We held a half-day charrette, a quick design process or drawing-and-brainstorming session, and developed a cost estimate for the redevelopment.” A few years later, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department moved forward with funding the project. Led by Macknally Land Design with Design Initiative as the team architectural firm, the renovation included opening up an acre of park and access to the creek, stabilizing the bank, creating a new playground and building a press box and hillside amphitheater for football and soccer games. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) approached the project with a grant to develop two tennis courts to support their youth tennis league.
In addition to the USTA’s use of the courts, the park’s field is home to the Crestwood Colts, which holds large, sprawling tailgate gatherings before the games. The Crestwood Neighborhood Association not only holds some of its festivals and gatherings in the park, but the organization has also partnered with the Forest Park South Avondale Business Association and REV Birmingham to play co-host to the area’s films in the park series, a free, fun and family-friendly recurring summer event. As Crestwood residents throw parties or cookouts in the pavilion, walk their dogs along the paved walkways or play with their kids at the playground, one might also run into a bit of the Bard’s poetry with a local Shakespeare group that’s known to frequent the park.
“It’s a really eclectic neighborhood — elderly neighbors, more folks with kids, residents and medical professionals from UAB, people who are engaged in the community through nonprofits or government, and lots of artists, from writers and visual artists to architects and landscape architects and designers. Everyone is willing to jump in and do what it takes to make everything better,” says Lea Ann, whose husband and business partner, Whit, chimes in. “There’s an overall sense of community that’s hard to find. It’s a community that actually functions as a community,” says Whit. “Everybody is different, but we all come together to function as a whole, as corny as it sounds.”
On the corner of the Shoppes of Crestwood is a place where you’ll see everyone in the neighborhood grabbing some groceries or a bottle of wine each evening, or snacks after a big game in the park. One of the most beloved things about the Vineyard Food Market is “Mr. Tony,” the shop’s owner. “He gives all the neighborhood kids treats,” says Lea Ann. “It’s just a great corner market.”
“I’ve had stores all over Alabama and have been in this business more than 30 years,” says “Mr. Tony,” whose real name is Saeid Vasiri. “And I’ve never had clientele this nice, this supportive. When I come to work, I feel like I’m going to my other family. And we need that support. Being in a small business like this, it’s hard to survive nowadays. So, we really depend on the neighborhood. We really love these people, and I think they love me back too. It’s like a big family, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Daniel Drinkard moved to Birmingham in 2013, and identified a void. “There was not a record store in Birmingham where you could purchase much new, current music,” says Daniel, owner of Seasick Records. “So, we opened in November of 2013 and decided to focus on independent artists and labels.” For anyone who pines for the old days of perusing the aisles of music stores and taking in new tunes at a listening station, this record store is a Birmingham gem that stirs up nostalgic notes with its delicious vinyl. The inventory is about fifty-fifty new and used stock. Customers bring in used records, and Daniel purchases or trades them.
Another aspect of nostalgic charm and a clever twist that sets this record store apart: the in-house barber shop, Newman’s Classic Cuts. To the left of the entrance, a miniature barber shop plays host to a steady stream of mustachioed, bearded and well-coiffed gents. “Newman and I have known each other for about 10 years now. We became friends when our bands played shows together. He was in hair school in Oxford, Mississippi, and started coming down to Birmingham once a month to do a pop-up barbershop at Seasick,” says Daniel. “It went so well that I eventually convinced him to move to Birmingham and put a chair in our current location. Since then, we’ve added a second chair and full-time barber, and they’re booked solid every day!”
So, your “Dapper Dan” can grab a shave and hair cut, while you nab a record or two and even a live show, if you’re lucky. Seasick often hosts live music, art shows, benefits and more to packed houses. “People in town have been really supportive of what we were doing and helped us get to the point where we are today,” says Daniel. “Crestwood is a great neighborhood. Everyone is very friendly and supportive of local businesses.”
There’s no better way to get a feel for the neighborhood quite like visiting the neighborhood coffee shop, and Crestwood Coffee is steeped in quintessential Crestwood hallmarks, which General Manager Susan Hartley describes as “inclusive, friendly and eccentric!” Grab a nook and sip on their most popular coffee drink, the mocha latte, along with a tasty bite from their menu of house-made sandwiches, soups and baked goods. “One really never knows what magical pie or sweet treat Chef Orlando has up his sleeve,” says Susan, adding, “Most popular breakfasts are the constantly changing quiche or our breakfast burritos. We have a great spicy pimiento cheese sandwich, and the Cuban sandwich is in high demand! We always keep it fresh and keep vegetarian options.” With art openings, knitting groups, neighborhood meeting groups, plans for monthly beer and wine tastings and a vibrant cast of interesting, quirky, friendly locals, along with local, freshly brewed coffee, Crestwood Coffee seems to be the heart of this corner of the neighborhood.
Antique lovers and pickers will be in heaven at Urban Suburban, a sprawling multi-vendor antiques and retro mall with intriguing and striking finds that will spark the imagination. Each vendor’s area is different from the next. From mid-century modern furniture and antique sideboard tables to ’80s pop memorabilia and gorgeous serving pieces, this antiques shop has something that will delight almost anyone! Take a stroll through treasures of the past in this charming spot.
If you’re in the market for a cold brew at your local watering hole, head to Crestwood Tavern. This joint has just about everything you might want in your neighborhood bar — a bar and seating areas inside, a generously sized patio out front, dart boards, Pac Man game, flat-screen TVs, pool table and live music. In addition to over 35 different beers and wines, they serve creative cocktails, along with a menu of bar food favorites like quesadillas, wings, paninis, wraps, pizzas and more. Unwind, Crestwood-style, at this local favorite.
The smell of brand new leather and the sounds of bats clinking together fill the air at Romeo’s Sporting Goods, one of Birmingham’s premier baseball and softball headquarters, boasting the biggest bat selection and best prices. Locals flock to Romeo’s for their specialty services in sizing bats and gloves. They’ve also got football equipment, so if you’re in the area and you’re in a pinch for choice athletic equipment, drop by this sporting goods haven.
Lifelong Crestwood resident Bobby Lorino always envisioned this corner gas station as a hopping gathering place, hip eatery and a familiar watering hole for the locals. Then, in 2015, he and his business partner, Pat Sanford, made that dream a reality. The Filling Station features large garage doors that open onto the sprawling patio during warmer months, a tap wall of 24 ever-rotating beers, a thoughtfully curated wine selection and creative menu offerings — all made from scratch. The dough is made fresh up to four times daily, which is what makes their most popular pizzas, the House Special and the Sicilian Meats, so outstanding. The Filling Station also serves calzones, hoagies, paninis, creative salads, kids’ menu and Mama Lorino’s Lasagna, as well as daily specials like pastas, flatbreads, fresh seafood dishes.
Now, go to Crestwood North for a day of coffee-sipping, antiques-hunting, record-trading, lunch-eating Crestwood Park-exploring fun!
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