Special to The Times
Urban Impact, the community economic development agency that serves the Birmingham Civil Rights District and Historic 4th Avenue Business District, highlights a business in the Historic 4th Avenue Business District each month. The IMPACT Business of the Month is a part of the new series #IMPACTStories that spotlights key developments, initiatives or stories related to the work of the agency.
Al Logan, Sr. and Peggy Logan.Historic 4th Avenue Shirts, a family business run by Peggy, Albert and Al Jr. Logan, celebrated their fifth year in business in July. Their business is based on a mission: Keep Birmingham’s black history alive and inspire black people to empowerment. They want to pass the baton on to younger generations and want them to know not just the “institutional history” but the “city’s history”. Remembering the glory days of 4th Avenue, the Logan’s seek to uphold and continue the “sense of freedom” that they felt as black children on 4th Avenue during the denouement of the Jim Crow South.
Historic 4th Avenue Shirts, a storefront on the historic corridor located at 1703 4th Ave. N, sits between Green Acres Café and Talk of the Town Barbershop. Professional, homey, nostalgic and unique, the shop is assorted with antique items that are designed to transport the customer or tourist through time. More than a retail shop, Historic 4th Avenue Shirts has become a popular tourist stop for travelers as far as Sweden and as near as Fountain Heights. Anchored by an old bar now repurposed as a snack and ice cream stand, the shop strives to create a “safety” that Peggy Logan said she felt as a child.
“We gave 4th Avenue what 4th Avenue may have been missing” says Albert Logan, the co-owner and husband of Peggy Logan. “We kept the bar so that people could come in and sit at the bar and talk.”
It’s that sense of community that makes Historic 4th Avenue Shirts special.
Albert Logan, dual retiree, U.S. Dept. of Justice and high school administrator; Peggy Logan, medical social worker and Al Logan Jr. UAB graduate in justice/legal affairs see their shop not just an instrument of profit, but also a calling of purpose.
“Fourth Avenue should mean to Birmingham what Beale St. means to Memphis”, Mr. Logan said. “We wanted to have a place that felt like home.”
“When we have personal contact, people feel welcome,” added Peggy Logan.
“The street is so friendly they [visitors and customers] just don’t find that in our shop they find that on the whole street”.
“The institute [BCRI] is the title, but 4th Avenue is the detail.”
The store offers friendliness but also a full suite of merchandise that diversifies the offerings in the 4th Ave. N retail corridor. From custom designed $10 Historic 4th Ave. Shirts that sport district pride to vinyl records to the free book program for youth, the store is an exercise in black joy and uplift, and that’s their goal. On Saturdays especially, this joy is most prevalent when the legendary barbershops are in full swing and kids from ages 1 to 92 stop in to converse and reminisce over shaved ice cone or a pint of ice cream.
While their focus is on history, they opened the business to help the present and spur the future of the district.
“I’m kind of nervous about it [gentrification]. I’m hoping that with gentrification that property will not be bought as such that culture will be lost and the sweet history will be gone. It [4th Avenue] has a cultural sweetness that allows black people to be free. I don’t want it to be so commercial that people don’t come this way,” Ms. Logan observes about the future.
“We have to maintain what we have but have to upgrade it with modern [amenities] but keep the facade,” hopes Mr. Logan about the district. The Logans also keep their son Al Logan, who helps to design shirts, central in the fabric of the business, and sees him as the next generation.
“Our son is the next generation, and we want to make sure that he and others keep this Black History alive.”
Also delivering free to bulk t-shirt customers (family reunions, churches etc.) in the Birmingham area, customers can find the Logans on #4thAve from Monday thru Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Give them a call at (205) 613-7145.
They also leave this special message:
Thanks for the support of the Historic 4th Avenue Merchants, who have supported us since the first day, when we arrived five years ago. Thanks to the Birmingham community, they have come in to talk, play the piano, share their children’s smiles and eagerness to learn from our display of free books. We thank the City of Birmingham and the Mayor, who encourages and supports small businesses. We thank all the people that have come in our shop and shared their lives and feelings about civil rights, marches, traditions, their parents, etc., we have received so much knowledge, more than we gave. Thank you to the people all over the world, who have shared their struggles and continue to be interested in our civil rights. We have been embraced with such kindness and love. We are truly blessed. We are passing the baton to this generation and the next generation, and the journey has been the ride of a lifetime. Lastly, we would like to thank Urban Impact and The Times for their support. We look forward to a long relationship with Historic 4th Avenue District.
The Historic 4th Avenue Business District stands as a monument to the resilience of a people and the innovation of policymakers and planners who were determined to reify the legacy of a 20th Century vibrant African American commercial district.
According to Vulcan Park and Museum’s “A Place of Our Own” Exhibit, in the early 1900’s over 30 percent of the black businesses in the city of Birmingham were concentrated in the 4th Avenue Business District.
As Dr. Franklin D. Wilson, author of the paper “Ecology of Black Business District: A Sociological and Historical Analysis” outlines, integration disrupted this concentration due to Jim Crow. Nationwide, cities in the 1970s saw the primacy of urban renewal, broadly defined as a policy of blight removal, and new construction in inner cities.
In response to this national and local trend, Dr. Richard Arrington, Birmingham’s first black mayor, along with many district stakeholders, created Urban Impact to help preserve and foster a new generation of business owners in the area, staying the hand of urban renewal that could have possibility destroyed the built environment of Birmingham’s Black Business District. The significance of the district extends beyond 1963, in that African-Americans had the capacity to organize institutions in the 1880s (Penny Savings Bank), had the means to design a mixed-use development (Robert Robinson Taylor, first black credentialed black architect who designed the Colored Masonic Temple), and had the skill to construct a seven-story building in the 1920s (Windham Brothers Construction Co.), making 4th Avenue one of the rarest examples in the nation of African-American architecture, culture, people, and commerce — still intact.
At Urban Impact, Inc., we are the community economic development agency that exists to create economic opportunity and impact for people, place, and business in Birmingham, we look to our collective past to inspire our present.
Today, after nearly 40 years of being on the National Register of Historic Places, 4th Avenue and the surrounding Civil Rights District is still occupied with legacy businesses whose operations date as far back as the 1930s. A new prospect of investment is shaped by the neighboring Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument (2017) and the ongoing renovation of the AG Gaston Motel. This resurgence of cultural and historical interest in the place of 4th Avenue /Civil Rights District and the corresponding planned investment (AG Gaston Motel, 16th Street Baptist Church etc.) presents a new platform of opportunity for businesses, investors and individuals. We are working to restore and revive 4th Avenue into what we believe will be a renaissance of culture and commerce.
Main Street Community
We are at the beginning of a renaissance.
In June, the 4th Avenue Business District. became the first historically African-American commercial district in the state of Alabama to become a designated Main Street Community. The National Main Street Center’s UrbanMain program, which is a program of the National Trust of Historic Preservation, “offers a new set of community-driven economic development services to help under-resourced older and historic neighborhood commercial districts restore economic vitality and promote quality of life.”
Leveraging the brand and effectiveness of Main Street America, “offers specialized services, professional development, networking, and advocacy for the field of urban commercial district practitioners.” 4th Avenue’s UrbanMain is outlined by the historic concentration of Birmingham’s Black Business District, 3rd Avenue North to 5th Avenue North, 15th Street North to 18th Street North. Character and community benefit are core themes of UrbanMain, which focuses on community-driven development methods that rejuvenate place, encourage investment and empower people.
We recruited this program as a part of our programmatic and strategic alignment with national models to enhance and accelerate the community vision for development for the Civil Rights District /4th Avenue District. Put simply, we, in partnership with the community are ramping up our efforts to develop the right way – one that centers on equity and inclusion of the people who are already in 4th Ave, and a creative vision for the future that is based on Black Birmingham’s Culture and rooted in its people.
Imagine a district where you can grab Green Acres, catch a fresh fade at New Breed, experience happy hour at a black-owned brewery, shop for your significant other at a unique, locally grown retail shop, watch Black Panther at the Carver, and learn from living Civil Rights Foot Soldiers in the movement – all on one walkable strip.
According to recent data, $1.6 billion of investment have taken place in the City Center since 2015. From the 2012 Census Survey of Business Owners Data, 9,772 black firms were registered in the city limits (48 percent of total) and only 312 of them (3.2 percent of total) had employees. Total black firms during the survey period only accounted for 2 percent of gross receipts. While the data is lagged, this snapshot articulates the peril of mobility that hinders the city. Until all of the city prospers, none of it does.
We are working to make 4th Avenue again the main street for black arts, entertainment, commerce and culture, all while creating jobs and bolstering our legacy businesses like the Magic City Barbershop, Talk of the Town, and Kirby Insurance. For practical reasons, the residents of Smithfield and Fountain Heights should have a local commercial district in the City Center that employs them, reflects them, and increases their quality of life. But for symbolic reasons, 4th Avenue, as it approaches its centennial celebration (1922), can be a part of the testament of the National Monument, that the trials and tribulations of the ordinary counted for something – from tragedy to triumph.
Urban Impact can be reached at the Famous Theater Building, 1721 4th Avenue North, Suite 102 Birmingham, AL 35203 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Phone: (205) 328-1850
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