Coffee has been known to revive those who can’t function until they get that first sip in the morning. But can it help revive an Alabama town?
One entrepreneur hopes it can.
Joe Posey owns a building that was a coffee shop nearly 100 years ago in downtown Tarrant, a blue-collar town north of Birmingham.
Posey, whose background is in concert and event promotion, believed the former Tarrant Coffee Shop on Ford Avenue could become a catalyst for growth for Ford Avenue and the rest of downtown Tarrant.
“We were one of those people that owned a building in Tarrant that wasn’t doing anything with it and we felt like really if we weren’t going to do anything, we couldn’t say anything to anyone one else who wasn’t doing anything,” Posey said.
The Tarrant Coffee Shop birthed Walker’s Restaurant, which was a longtime favorite eatery in the area that expanded to a larger location on Pinson Valley Parkway and operated for decades before closing a few years ago. Tarrant Coffee Shop is a registered historic landmark.
Posey envisioned a plan to create a modern coffee house with the space that would not only be a new place for people to gather and to hold events, but would generate revenue for future downtown development projects. Joe’s Coffee House Community Initiative is the nonprofit created as a result.
“One of the things that we really want to do is just be able to help and do projects throughout Tarrant,” Posey said.
Ben Goldman, president of the Tarrant-Pinson Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the coffee shop would give downtown Tarrant a jolt.
“We want to create a welcoming, inviting space here in downtown Tarrant,” Goldman said. “And to have Joe’s Coffee House here, which provides a tie to the past and a spot to launch our future, we’re really excited about it.”
Goldman said Posey also brings an energy and an expertise to the Tarrant Moving Forward effort.
“The nice thing about having Joe’s Coffee House here at the center of what we’re doing is that Joe is a tremendous event promoter,” Goldman said. “So, we can look forward to lots of great concerts and festivals of all sorts in the future to come.”
Posey said he can imagine a day when people will travel to Tarrant because of something taking place downtown.
“The grand vision is really to see maybe an entertainment district in downtown Tarrant, be able to host events here,” he said. “We just hope to grow a long-term plan that revitalizes and kind of creates a nice place for people to come and live and call Tarrant home again.”
Goldman said he would like to see others commit to filling vacant buildings downtown.
“Economic development is certainly important and we’re glad that we’re able to kind of create this space to help launch new initiatives,” he said. “It’s important for the economic vitality of the city and its citizens, but also it’s important for our sense of identity as a community.”
One way to help with the effort is to bring some government services downtown to give people more reasons to get off the bypass and onto the historic streets.
“We’re looking to expand our retail sector here downtown and we’re doing things to help create additional foot traffic downtown,” Goldman said. “In addition to the infrastructure investments through federal grants, we’re also helping to move some our governmental offices right down here downtown to bring people to this space.”