The truth is, not all small towns are everything they’re cracked up to be, but a walk down 2nd avenue in Decatur, Alabama tells the quintessential story of what small-town Alabama is romanticized to be. Nestled between the sound of the flowing Tennessee River waterway and wide-open green spaces fit with wrap-around porches and momma’s home cookin’ is Downtown Decatur.
So, what characteristics put a street on our radar? And why is 2nd Avenue in Downtown our choice for the cutest of them all this year? We looked at a few different criteria to narrow it down: revitalization efforts and/or quality of upkeep, community involvement, and overall charm.
The Downtown Decatur Redevelopment Authority (DDRA) has grand plans for the next few years that are already well under way and thoroughly enjoyed. Murals and aesthetic signage mark entryway points that connect the off shoots of 2nd Ave. The DDRA website states,
“Goals for this focus area including improving overall aesthetics by moving power underground, adding more visible and attractive signage, filling and repairing sidewalks, and adding additional landscaping. Other goals include developing a new Visitors Center, potentially moving the Farmer’s Market to Lee Street, establishing a trolley system, and continuing to develop new public parking.”
Other areas of focus for revitalizing downtown have been residential/mixed use development around the
nearby riverfront where the local’s favorite coffee shop, High Point Market, is a trendy spot positioned perfectly to serve the town’s college students. Currently construction in underway for a new hotel right off 2nd Avenue. Improving Riverfront facilities to encourage outdoor recreation is a highlighted area of focus for the DDRA as well. With plans to add a kayaking dock, restaurants along the river, and art space, this area will expand Decatur’s downtown even further and create picturesque opportunities to, as the Decatur-Morgan County CVB coins it, “find your flow.”
One would be remised without a stop in every store along quaint 2nd Avenue. Off every side-street is another story to be told, mural to be photographed, restaurant to dine in, and shop to be shopped in. The community of local business owners has the street lined with thriving businesses, not a vacancy in sight.
Located at what could easily be the beginning of our beloved 2nd Avenue, previously mentioned High Point Market is the perfect first stop to set the tone for a stroll on foot. High Point Market prides itself on its commitment to the community by bringing “local artisan goods, coffee, and local art to Downtown Decatur.” Not only do they offer freshly brewed coffee, but locally sourced produce and meats as well.
One of our favorite stops was The Carriage House. The boutiques’ service to the community has been present for decades, always remaining locally owned and even in the same location for many years. The exquisite and high-end women’s clothing store resembles a big city atelier as you enter, greeted with sparking water, opulent staging, and first-class personal styling services. Located off downtown Decatur’s quiet Johnston Street, the distinctive boutique for designer womenswear has been a destination for shoppers across the country. But what makes The Carriage House so special isn’t just the luxe aesthetic, it’s the warm welcome from the local Alabama owners. Leading their team of personal stylists, Kate & Nicole have cultivated a hospitable environment that welcomes the elevated 2nd avenue experience, indoors.
Before introducing ourselves as “media,” locals and business owners from every store were warm, friendly, and welcoming. Telling a true account of pride in their town on 2nd Avenue.
It seems these days that a drive through historic downtowns remain fascinating because of their nod to old architecture and rustic charm. However, these downtowns can get a reputation of decay if left unattended for too long. Vacant buildings, chipped paint, unattended clutter, and signs of a time that “once was” is not a present visual you will see on 2nd Avenue. Instead, you will see repainted and refurbished historic buildings, updated signage, modern art galleries, and busy sidewalks.
Sidewalk putt-putt, miniature “take one-leave one” Farmer’s market, and “come on in” signs line the corners of 2nd avenue. The adorable additions make the street a common place for entertainment and outdoor activity for the whole family. As the leaves change to fall, couples can enjoy a breeze from a sidewalk bench, and kids can enjoy an amateur but locally themed game of putt-putt.
A walk down 2nd Avenue ends up in the town’s most iconic and absolutely the cutest spot along the street, The Princess Theater. Creating “a place for diverse community to gather in laughter, in song and in all human things” is the heart cry of every event thrown by the theater. Since 1887, the North Alabama landmark has always been a place where “the bottom line is love” states the grand marquis lining one of the final corners of 2nd Avenue, intersecting with Holly Street.
All in all, whether it’s for day of shopping at The Carriage House, dining at Whisk’d Café or a road trip to an event at The Princess Theater, 2nd Avenue will prove its worthy of its spot as our 2022 Alabama’s Cutest Street!