Food Champs: A new grocer on the block

When the Belle Foods grocery stores went on the local chopping block en masse recently, many were picked up by the 97 year-old Greer’s Market family chain or Thibodaux, La.-based Rouse’s.

Back in July Belle Foods filed for bankruptcy. Its chief creditor C and S Wholesale Grocers of New Hampshire allowed the Birmingham chain to operate until their sale. Associated Wholesale Growers of Kansas City, KS, purchased Belle Foods at auction, pending Bankruptcy Court approval. AWG subsequently farmed out local locations to Rouse’s Markets and a brand new store — Food Champs.

In their third month of existence (as of this writing), Food Champs currently has locations on Dauphin Street as well as DIP. It is locally owned by Keith McCarty and Jack Herman. McCarty is a Spanish Fort native and has 30 years of experience in the grocery industry. He worked as a district manager for Food World in south Alabama. Herman has 40 years of experience in the industry and worked as Food World’s district manager in north Florida. Herman is a Navarre, Fla. native but plans on moving to Mobile sometime in 2014.

Even though the two stores are virtually indistinguishable in appearance after the takeover, Food Champs is a truly local business in every sense of the word. The 43,592-square-foot Dauphin Street location is where all internal work is handled such as operations, human resources, accounting, purchasing, marketing, etc. The location on DIP is 38,522-square-feet and considered the sister store.

For the two new owners, running this new venture has been a daunting-yet-thrilling 24/7 responsibility since reopening the doors with no corporate “big brother” looking over their shoulder as well as lacking the deep pockets of an established grocery chain.

However, with an opportunity to mold and shape a virtual start-up as an integral part of the community on a level that Food World never could (corporate ownership exchanged hands 6 times over a 12-year period), they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Commercial real estate moves

Supercuts, a full service hair salon, leased 1,200-square-feet of retail space at 5300 Halls Mill Road, Suite D, and will open in the spring of 2014. Angela McArthur of Prudential Cooper and Company, Inc. Commercial Division represented the owner. Allan Bell of Trademark Properties, Inc. worked for the tenant.

Istanbul Grill is planning a soft opening sometime in late December. The restaurant will serve authentic Turkish cuisine such as baklava, Turkish coffee and hot tea, all made with ingredients imported from overseas. The owners — Volkan Guler, Mustafa Yildiran and Ersin Ozkan — collectively have 16 years of restaurant/business ownership experience.

Two originally hail from the Turkish capital of Ankara and the other from Istanbul. All have been living in Mobile for several years. The restaurant is the first of three planned in the area over the next five years. The property is 2,800-square-feet and located next door to the Boiling Pot on 3704 Airport Blvd.

“The main thing we want people in town to know is that this will be a family-friendly restaurant. No hookahs allowed,” Guler said.

AlphaConnects branches out

AlphaConnects — Mobile’s first local crowdfunding company originally geared for supporting 501c3 charitable nonprofits — is branching out.

“Our initial focus was on donation/reward based crowdfunding. It’s a relatively easy way for an organization to raise needed capital,” Jennifer Edwards, CEO of AlphaConnects, said.

“Equity crowdfunding is similar in principle, but the funds invested will purchase shares/equity of a business. Most states are still waiting for the regulations regarding this, including Alabama, but any state can apply with the same current SEC regulations,” Edwards continued.

Still an industry in its infancy, the business model offers a marketplace where investors can search for high quality, pre-vetted deal flow and entrepreneurs can get in front of accredited investors.

Per the website,, until recently the world of investing in private companies has only been available to a gated community of 8.7 million individuals classified as accredited investors (less than 1 percent of the population).

However, once the JOBS Act is fully implemented in 2014, equity crowdfunding will allow non-accredited investors to sink capital into private offerings. Essentially this gives individuals the opportunity to get in early on what could be the next Facebook, Pinterest or Dropbox.

According to several studies, the overall potential is huge, with 58 percent of the American population expressing an interest in it. The Wall Street Journal recently published findings estimating that the market for startup investments nationwide to be upwards of $120 billion for 2014.

Fincher assumes leadership at MAAR

Alabama State Representative Chad Fincher (R-Mobile) recently assumed leadership over the Mobile Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) as executive director.



The position is new but comparable to the role Jeff Newman filled for 33 years before resigning last August as executive vice-president.
“Jeff Newman has left a big impact on this association and I know I have a big role to fill,” Fincher said.

2014 officers for MAAR have been selected and include: Butch Blum, president; Cy Kain, president-elect; Sue Cato Winter, immediate past president; Jeremy Milling, secretary and Kelly Cummings, treasurer.

Realtor earns CIPS

Mia Burmeister, an associate broker at Bellator Real Estate & Development, has earned the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation, placing her among 2,000 elite real estate professionals worldwide.

She is the first realtor in Alabama to complete the CIPS exam and currently one of only three professionals holding this designation in the entire state, per their press release.

The designation was awarded to Burmeister by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) for completing rigorous coursework devoted to learning international real estate practices and demonstrating proficiency in international business.

Burmeister was formally recognized at NAR’s Conference & Expo on Nov. 9, 2013 in San Francisco.

A member of Mobile and Baldwin County’s Board of Realtors, Burmeister was previously on the legislative and technology committees for several years and is the Historic Mobile Preservation Society (HMPS) representative for The Oakleigh Complex on the Mobile Historic Development Commission (MHDC).