- Associated Press - Sunday, May 11, 2014

SHEFFIELD, Ala. (AP) - Danny Hardeman is bullish on Sheffield.

As a real estate developer, he took a chance on an old downtown building that now houses four upscale apartments and two retail spaces on the ground floor.

That was five years ago. Today, Hardeman is in the process of completing the renovation of another empty downtown building and is in the beginning stages of renovating a third. He said he has his eyes on a fourth building

“What I’ve got over there is working,” Hardeman said. “I’m doing good with it, so I might as well go forward. People are loyal in downtown Sheffield. If you’ve got what they want, they will come and give you a shot.”

Based on the amount of activity going on, Hardeman is not the only person taking advantage of available property in downtown Sheffield.

Two new restaurants have opened in the past few months and a third is in the works. Hardeman said a restaurant could open in the building he’s renovating next to Lola’s Gifts and Flowers.

Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford said Craig Goode has reopened his popular Craig’s Cafe & Gator Grill at the old Steak & Stuff location in the Muscle Shoals Music Hall Building at 414 N. Montgomery Avenue. Goode operated the Cajun and Creole themed restaurant in Florence several years ago.

Sanford said Steak & Stuff is moving into a suite at the small shopping center on Cox Boulevard in front of Stonebrook Apartments.

In March, Jack Richardson opened his second Homeside Restaurant next door to Nan’s in Hardeman’s building on Montgomery Avenue. Richardson also operates the Homeside Restaurant in Petersville.

“I want to open a total of five,” Richardson said.

The restaurant specializes in fish and home cooking.

He said Sheffield was the logical place for his second restaurant.

Sheffield didn’t have a meat-and-three or a good fish place to eat at,” Richardson said. “We wanted to bring our brand of good food to people here.”

Richardson said he had a lot of customers from Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia who patronized his Petersville restaurant.

“I own a produced business in Sheffield already,” Richardson said. “I was in Sheffield already so I brought the restaurant to Sheffield, too.”

Sanford said the owners of George’s Steak Pit are opening an event center in the old Belk Hudson building on Montgomery Avenue.

“We’ve been talking about this for several years,” Sanford said. “This will accommodate up to 300 people. He’s going to do it very nice and put apartments upstairs. It’s a big deal.”

The room will be able to handle large events like family reunions, class reunions or large catered business gatherings.

Sanford said George’s owners also purchased the former Rocket Pawn Shop building next door. He said the restaurant is not moving.

The renovations at the old department store building are underway.

A few blocks north, Steve Prince is opening Brimstone’s of Sheffield, a “gourmet” hamburger restaurant that he’s been operating in Loretto, Tennessee. The restaurant is moving into the former Frank’s Italian Restaurant location at Park Place on Montgomery Avenue.

“We have 18 different varieties of burgers,” said Prince, who is a former Sheffield resident and graduate of Sheffield High School.

There are specialty burgers like the grilled cheese cheeseburger, a burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches made with Texas toast, and the Blazin’ Cajun burger, that features a patty made of hamburger and pork, seasoned with Cajun sausage spices.

Prince said he wants the restaurant’s decor to reflect the Shoals’ strong musical legacy.

“I know a lot about the musical history of Sheffield,” Prince said. “This is going to be a working man’s Hard Rock Cafe.”

One section of the restaurant will be dedicated to Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and another to Fame Recording Studios. He will also have music on the patio several nights a week.

Not forgetting the past, Prince said the “Loretto Room” will feature memorabilia that adorned the walls of Brimstone’s Tennessee location.

“This is an amazing opportunity that fell into my lap,” Prince said.

Prince said he learned the space was available in March while moving his parents into Park Place.

Prince said the restaurant is also providing meals for Park Place residents.

“We got a tour of the place and we were blown away,” he said.

The Sheffield Housing Authority recently sold the apartment complex to Dr. Faizullah Syed.

“We had a great first meeting,” Prince said. “We decided right then and there to do it.”

Prince said he is already serving meals to the residents and expects to open the restaurant to the public sometime in June.

Sanford said construction is continuing on a new building at the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Third Street. Loquita Logan plans to open a new ladies boutique, an art gallery and a photography studio.

She and her husband own several pharmacies in the Shoals.

Logan said it’s probably the first new downtown building to be constructed since 1963. The elevator shaft has been completed and steel is now being erected.

Later this summer, Sanford said Montgomery Avenue from First to Sixth Street will be resurfaced and sidewalks will be repaired and replaced, The project will resurface the downtown thoroughfare between areas that were improved through several streetscape projects. New mast arm traffic signal poles will be erected at First and Sixth streets to match the ones already in place.

“It’s a downtown enhancement project,” Sanford said.

The third building Hardeman is renovating is the Cox Building next door to the library. Sanford said the city reacquired the building from a Russellville developer and sold it to Hardeman.

“There will be apartments on the second and third levels and a business on the ground floor,” Hardeman said. “It also has a basement.”

The white facade has been stripped to the original brick and Hardeman said workers are still cleaning out debris.

“We’ve dumped 10 loads of a 30-yard dumpster already,” he said.

The building beside Lola’s will follow the same plan with retail space on the ground floor and apartments upstairs, Hardeman said. He said the apartments have already been rented.

Hardeman said he’s still negotiating with businesses that are interested in moving into the retail space of the two buildings.

“He has several people interested,” Sanford said. “He’s trying to pick out the best fit.”

Hardeman said he’s using the same plan in Sheffield that he used when he started renovating buildings in Tuscumbia about 20 years ago.

“I did them one at a time,” he said. “I have 10 of them over there now.”

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