It’s dusk on Friday. As the sun slips away and you call it a day, you pour yourself a glass of wine and mosey along a wide brick sidewalk to join your friends for a neighborhood get-together, saying friendly “hellos” to people on porches as you pass by. You arrive at the laid-back soirée under twinkling lights strung between gorgeous trees. Kids run around while some gather to watch a movie projected onto a large sheet-turned-movie screen, and others chatter alongside the patio grill, which smokes with tantalizing aromas of the night’s feast.
This is the charming town of Mt Laurel, a community built in concert with nature. A place where you can park the car and walk to the town center’s shops and restaurants, the community’s two schools, civic buildings, the private 11-acre Spoonwood mountain lake for swimming and fishing, community pool, dog park, hiking trails, tennis and basketball courts and plentiful parks and green spaces.
“In building Mt Laurel, we drew inspiration from European villages,” says town architect and Mt Laurel resident Michael O’Kelley, who walks his three daughters to school everyday. “The planners that planned Mt Laurel are new urbanist developers and leaned on their planning acumen to provide something with big sidewalks and front porches, so that people could be together. They planned for parking in the alleyways, for instance, and trail systems to preserve that feeling of community.”
“When you’re in Mt Laurel, you feel like you’re on vacation, as if you’re not in Birmingham but a mountainside resort town,” says Julianna Vance, community relations manager for the Town of Mt Laurel. “Nestled behind Double Oak Mountain, Mt Laurel was planned by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, the originators of the New Urbanism movement, and has been crafted to preserve the beautiful landscape of the area with our tree-lined streets, numerous green spaces, and hiking trails. The town was designed to foster community, by making the sidewalks wide enough for people to walk side-by-side, and by emphasizing front porches on our homes. It’s a fantastic community to live and work.”
Mt Laurel also boasts fabulous local events, such as its weekly farmers’ market and annual spring festival and fall festival, as well as an upcoming Wine and Cheese Sunset Hike benefitting the Coosa Riverkeeper organization and Southern Living‘s Idea House. Let’s explore the boutiques, shops and eateries of this quaint mountainside village!
This adorable children’s clothing shop and adjacent upscale consignment store is a favorite of local moms and kids. The colorful shop is a great spot to grab a child’s gift or stock up on affordable threads for the kiddos. “Our personalized tees are super-soft and always a huge hit,” says shop owner Kim Anderson. “We love being able to offer quick turnaround for busy moms.” The consignment leg of the shop grew from one rack to almost 1,300 square feet of the best pre-loved items around town!
Simply Infused Olive Oils & Balsamic Vinegars is a tasting room experience with specialty extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world. “It’s like a candy store for adults,” says owner Cheryl Harper. “Just try to take a tasting cup from an adult who has just tasted a 12-year-aged dark chocolate or espresso balsamic!” Simply Infused offers cooking classes each week at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Chef Jon develops recipes and menus to complement special pairings, new products, customer requests and seasonal favorites. The shop also hosts artists’ receptions and art exhibits in the loft area above the tasting room. “I am passionate about getting people to slow down and enjoy friends, food and flavor,” says Cheryl. “Our fast-paced lives are missing opportunities each day to create an epicurean experience, a good conversation, a lasting memory. These opportunities should be ‘Simply Infused’ in everyday life.”
Colleen Hopwood was an area sales manager for a division of Saks, Inc., who went bridal gown shopping with friends and was underwhelmed by the experience. “I remember thinking, ‘I think I could do it better.’ The seeds were planted then, and seven years later, God brought it about,” says Colleen. “I wanted to create a warm and relaxing environment that everyone would feel welcome in.” The bridal boutique offers couture and designer wedding gowns and accessories by labels such as Lazaro, Atelier Pronovias, Alyne by Rita Vinieris and Alvina Valenta. “I am honored to be a small part of such an important day in a young woman’s life,” says Colleen. “It is so much fun to see a bride find her dream gown and to hear a parent say that they appreciate what we did for their daughter.”
This locally owned florist sells fresh flowers and specializes in floral design for weddings and events, but they also offer everyday arrangements, as well as orchids, plants and gourmet baskets. Main Street Florist opened its doors in Columbiana, Alabama, in 1997 and pinpointed Mt Laurel as the best place to grow the family business. “My family was one of the first families to move to Mt Laurel in 2001, and we thought it would be the perfect location to expand our business,” says Kelly Burley, president of Main Street Florist. “We love being a part of this wonderful family-oriented neighborhood.”
No small town is complete without a boutique to meet a woman’s everyday clothing needs, and this charming little spot delivers. With shoes, jewelry, bags, clothes and gifts that will delight your friends, Blissful Boutique is terrific spot to freshen up your look. The vibe is laid-back and the staff is friendly, making for an easy and fun shopping experience!
This corner pizza shop greets you at the entryway to the Town of Mt Laurel, and with families, couples, football fans and groups of friends always gathering here, you know that it offers delicious, crowd-pleasing fare. The pizzas, sandwiches, salads, local brews and delicious wine offerings make this spot a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Dine al fresco with friends or belly up to the bar for some quality football-watching at this fabulous local eatery!
Jimbo’s Soda Fountain
Step into Jimbo’s Soda Fountain and take a trip back to your childhood, when the main event of the day was grabbing a grilled cheese and a milkshake at the local diner. This old-time eatery has major charm and personality with its vintage art and decor, easygoing atmosphere and family-friendly menu. This soda fountain will delight kids of all ages!
Owned by a hard-working couple of New York natives who deliver the best in customer service, this eatery offers a mouthwatering menu of Chinese and Japanese cuisine. It’s a small but super-friendly joint that makes you want to come back for more, and you can because the are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. And if you stop by Mt Laurel during lunchtime, try their fabulous lunch special, any one of 12 dishes with soup and an egg roll for $6.95.
For those looking for a cold brew and a side of sports-broadcasting-TVs or live music, visit the Red Shamrock, Mt Laurel’s neighborhood watering hole. “I love the bar cause it reminds me of ‘Cheers’ on TV,” says owner Kay Dailey. “Everybody knows you, and we are like a family there.” Besides the beer, the bar’s most popular menu item is the Philly cheesesteak sandwich. “But everything is so good,” says Kay. “We have a great chef!” And If you’re a music lover and a fan of St. Paddy’s Day, mark your calendar for the Red Shamrock’s annual Shamfest event!
So, take a day to escape the bustling boomtown of Birmingham and enjoy the slow-pace of the charming, walkable Town of Mt Laurel!
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