An old baseball jersey, a vintage pair of Levi’s, the perfect little black dress—everyone seems to have that one favorite piece of clothing. Something with a history, with personal meaning, that transcends trends and fashion points.
For me, it is a pair of men’s Carhartt overalls I have owned since middle school. They’re an unnatural shade of orange/gold/tan, weigh a little less than 25 pounds, and can seriously stand on their own if I prop them up just right. They are a reminder of summers spent working at Young Life camps in Colorado, British Columbia, and North Carolina.
I just have a fascination with overalls. Maybe it is because they seem very southern, nostalgic, resilient. Maybe it’s because in my opinion they are just really darn cute. Either way, when the buzz about The Overall Company, a new coffeehouse in downtown Opelika, hit the Auburn campus, I didn’t need much prodding to try it.
What I found on my first visit left me wanting to see more, know more. Who takes a pre-civil war building in the middle of small town Alabama and decides to turn it into a coffee house/art gallery with craft beers, artisan popsicles, wine tastings, and live music events? Why, when I walked through the big metal door of this former overall factory, did I feel like settling in to a corner chair and staying all day? What is the backstory behind the owners, the building, the vision?
A few weeks later I sat in my new favorite hangout with co-owners Jay and Laura Pritchard and got my answers, and more.
The building was in fact, the site where overalls were manufactured during the civil war era. A large vintage logo for Eagle Brand overalls overlooks the wood and steel staircase that ascends to the second story art gallery and roof top terrace. An eclectic mix of furniture and art warm the soaring brick and glass space, and create cozy nooks for settling in and staying awhile. Hip and modern feel right at home with history and nostalgia. Jay Pritchard credits the building’s owners, John and Ashley Marsh, for the design and work to transform the space, but says he knew how he wanted it to feel.
“Atmosphere is my big thing… music and the feel of the place, does it feel right, is it warm, is it inviting, is it cool, would people really enjoy being in here?” Jay says. “I wanted it to be a really cool, Southern place where people can relax. I want it to celebrate Southern culture, food, and music.”
Jay is quick to give credit to everyone who has made the Overall Company a reality, from his business partners who are responsible for the artisan popsicles, to his mentors, to the local artists that designed logos, built the staircase, or sell their handmade goods in the store.
He says he and his wife Laura realize they wouldn’t be here if others hadn’t helped them.
It’s that humility and focus on others that seems to set the business apart from most. The owners shareed a story with me about getting to know a couple who have already become “regulars” at the place. They believe their business is about much more than just making money.
“We feel like when people come here it’s an opportunity for a relationship… we don’t look at people as just a number,” Laura says. “We want people to leave better than when they came in.”
The Pritchards are contagiously passionate about their new venture and the impact they hope to have on the community. When I asked for advice on opening your own business they told me, “Give it everything, no reserve, don’t hold anything back, give over completely to whatever your dream is and dig in.”
The Overall Company isn’t even a year old and they are already giving Auburn students and others a new love for downtown Opelika. They point out this is just the tip of the iceberg of their vision. Their dream is to build music into a bigger part of what they offer by patterning with other local music venues that highlight Southern musicians.
“I think that is one of the things this area is really lacking is awesome music… we have it but it needs to grow,” Jay says. “This could be a little Nashville, a stop a long the way… half way between New Orleans and Atlanta… the kind of trek 85.”
“We definitely want to see that happen.”
Whether it’s classes on coffee and wine, group travel to coffee plantations, or just sharing their life views over a steaming latte, the Pritchards are intent on pouring what they’ve learned into others. They want grow to include more local products and expose more local talent. Their dream even includes working with Atlanta designer Billy Reid to bring back Eagle Brand overalls.
I have a feeling I’ll be their first customer when they do.
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