GALLERY: Rowells plan coffee facility, new housing in Andalusia

Published 12:45 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

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Council approves land, development details

Grit + Grind owners Eric and Destiny Rowell plan to build a flagship in Andalusia for their growing coffee company, and also will develop housing here.

The Andalusia City Council on Tuesday took several steps to finalize a public-private partnership between the City, the city’s Capital Improvement Cooperative District, and the Rowells.

Rowell said the couple now has 10 locations for Grit + Grind, including the ones they own outright and their franchises. They started the coffee business with a coffee truck in Opp while they reworked a brick-and-mortar building for their first permanent Grit + Grind home.

Eric Rowell said it was when the couple heard Mayor Earl Johnson speak to the Opp Rotary Club three years ago about the city’s ongoing projects and long-term plans that they started looking to expand here.

“We left the meeting, and literally did a U-turn to go back and start the conversation with Mayor Johnson,” he said. “We wanted to be a part of something as progressive as you all have going on in Andalusia.”

Since then, the Rowells have acquired property at the intersection of Church Street and River Falls Street where they vend coffee from one of their food trucks and lease space to other food truck operations. They also opened a kiosk location on campus at LBW.

Soon, they’ll break ground on a new facility at the intersection of Coleman Avenue and Henderson Street near the bypass entrance to Andalusia High School.

The new facility will serve both as a coffee shop and as Grit + Grind’s headquarters, where new franchisees will be required to spend time training. The design includes a drive-through window, multiple charging stations, as well as small private rooms for work-from-home locals or travelers who need a change of scene or a quiet space. One of the rooms is designed to serve as a podcast studio. There also will be some outdoor green space where children can play while their moms enjoy a cup of coffee.

The couple also plan to move to Andalusia, and to develop workforce housing here.

“We are super excited about what you’re doing here,” Eric Rowell said. “We have 13 other rental properties, so we are not new to real estate.

The houses will be approximately 1,200 square feet, but Destiny Rowell said they are designed with outdoor living spaces that make them feel more spacious. The couple will sell or rent the houses, they said.

The first house, which will be the Rowells’ personal home, will be located at the corner of Church Street and Railroad Avenue. It will serve as a “show house” for the next three to be constructed.

The next three, currently planned to be two bedroom and two bath homes, will be at the intersection of Walker Avenue and Madison Avenue, or the back side of the Church Street Cultural Arts Centre/Robinson Park properties.

“Housing is one of our biggest challenges as we grow our city,” Mayor Johnson said. “With the Rowells’ development, and the others we have worked on, this will mean a total of eight new homes in the Church Street area. We hope other developers will be inspired by this work and also invest in local housing.”

City Administrator John Thompson said the projects are “much more private than public.”

Amendment 725 of the Constitution of Alabama allows municipalities in Covington County to participate in economic development partnerships. The City of Andalusia has successfully used the provisions of the Amendment to spur economic development, primarily in the downtown area.

At the recommendation of the mayor, the council took several steps to bring the projects to fruition.

First, it declared property it has owned for decades, commonly known as the “Snead-Kennedy Property,” surplus. Secondly, it traded that property to local developer Robert Bishop for property at Henderson and Coleman. The property at Henderson and Coleman was then declared surplus.

The City of Andalusia will sell the Henderson/Coleman property to Grit + Grind for $250,000, and will hold a mortgage on the property. The City will donate the properties for the new housing. In the event the houses are not built in a specified amount of time, ownership of the property will revert back to the City.

The city’s Capital Improvement Cooperative District is loaning the Rowells $50,000 for site prep and parking on the Walker/Madison projects. The loan is to be amortized over 15 years at 5 percent interest.

The terms of the agreement also call for the Rowells to join its Development District, which has special taxing authority.

Eric Rowell said construction should begin on the first two houses in four to six weeks, and construction on the new coffee facility should follow in approximately six months. That facility should open in 12 to 14 months, the Rowells said.