By Morgan Bryce
In the 10 years since the Observer’s founding in 2008, downtown Opelika has undergone a renaissance, and has become a hub for business, entertainment, food and drink, shopping and most importantly, community.
City Hall and the Lee County Courthouse serve as political epicenters, and as the meeting places for the Opelika City Council and Lee County Commission. At those locations, citizens can purchase building or business permits or renew license plates and pay for property taxes.
Events are held in downtown on a frequent basis. Traditional events like Opelika Main Street’s “On the Tracks,” “Christmas in a Railroad Town” and the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas Parade still draw large crowds.
Live music has become a staple of downtown Opelika events. Through Cottonseed Studios, Eighth and Rail, Irish Bred Pub, Jefferson’s and 10,000 Hz Records, established and up-and-coming acts from a gamut of genres are coming to perform, most notably St. Paul and the Broken Bones during August’s third annual “concourse/south” arts and music festival.
Downtown Opelika’s culinary scene offers a wide scope of cuisines and offerings to patrons. There are a number of casual, sit-down restaurants as well as fine-dining establishments offering the perfect place for a night out or special occasion.
Earlier this year, Mama Mocha’s Coffee Emporium expanded from Auburn to Opelika and joins Side Track Coffee as a place where people can satisfy their caffeine cravings. Ampersand Wine Bar (the area’s only wine bar), John Emerald Distillery, Red Clay Brewery and the soon-to-be opened Resting Pulse Brewery serve wine, spirits, craft beer and more.
Shopping is readily available in downtown – antiques, clothing, furniture, home decor and more.
Opelika native Richard Patton is leading two major construction projects in downtown – an entertainment hub in the historic Cotton Warehouse District along First Avenue and first phase of the Southside subdivision, which includes the construction of seven homes along Eighth Street and Avenue D.
With a downtown brimming full of activity and life, two Opelika dignitaries shared their thoughts on the developments and how they have benefited the city as a whole.
“I’m pleased with the growth and positive changes in Historic Downtown Opelika over the past 10 years. I’m most excited about the new entrepreneurs now doing business downtown,” said Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller. “These smart, hardworking folks have made a substantial investment and expect to make a good return on that investment. Our best days are ahead of us, especially downtown. I can’t wait to see what it looks and feels like five or 10 years from now.”
As the former director of Opelika Main Street and now president of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, Pam Powers-Smith said she believes the changes have helped the city find its true identity along the way.
“Our downtown has changed so much it’s almost hard to believe. What I think is interesting is that along the way we’ve found our personality,” Powers-Smith said. “It wasn’t just simply businesses coming and going – during all of that adaptation was the foundation of creating what it was going to be and what it has become. I hope all Opelika citizens are just as proud, and I hope they love it and visit it every day.”
For more information or to learn more about downtown businesses or events, visit www.opelika-al.gov/, www.opelikachamber.com and www.opelikamainstreet.org.