2nd Avenue Storage

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Located in Birmingham, AL, 2nd Avenue Storage is the Loft District's source for all your storage and secure parking needs. 
Come see us next door to El Barrio. 

 

Filtering by Category: El Barrio

Birmingham Magazine Article

I never posted an overall finished tour of my loft the way I did for El Barrio. I always meant to get around to it, but was waiting until I could afford to update some of my furniture. Also I'm lazy. So when an old friend of mine from Birmingham Magazine called me asking to do a feature on my loft, I jumped at the chance to not have to write a blog post. You can read the article here and see the photo gallery here.

Is that a baby downtown? How irresponsible

El Barrio has had a two hour wait pretty much every weekend I can remember but they are truly spilling out onto the streets tonight. I assume it has something to do with the story ABC 33/40 ran last night. I tried to find a video on their website but was unsuccessful. And look at the picture! Somebody brought a BABY downtown. 2nd Avenue and the loft district has faced a perception battle for a long time, but what a great image to show how that is changing!

Spilling out in the streets

Urban Gardening

Ginkgo trees line 2nd Avenue. The city plants them in 4 foot square tree wells every 25 feet or so. The trees look great and add a lot of warmth to the neighborhood. The city does not plant or cover the wells, so a lot of them are just dirt. It would be nice to have a unified look for the neighborhood, but in the meantime it gives us residents an opportunity to get creative and do some gardening.

Two weeks ago we dug up the old dirt around the ginkgoes in front of the Counts Bros building and added some soil conditioner. We surrounded the wells with a wood border to keep in the soil and discourage pedestrians from stepping on the plants. The wood fit with El Barrio's look, and the guys seemed pleased with it, although I think they were just happy to get rid of what had become 4 foot ashtrays.

Before I talk about the plants, I have to admit I know very little about gardening so I probably choose some items that won't work with the sun or whatever. I took some pictures and brought them to a local garden store and they did the best they could advising me on what to plant. We planted jasmine and clematis around the base of the trees to add some leafy greenery at ground level. At the corners of the wells we planted small perennial flowers for some color. I wasn't sure how vegetables would do, but it was hard to resist planting some cayenne and other hot peppers. Primarily we stuck to herbs: chives, oregano, and basil. We also commandeered a couple of rosemary shoots from a nearby bush that was overgrown.

Urban gardening presents some challenges that you wouldn't have with a yard. For example, I don't have a water faucet on the first floor, and lugging buckets didn't seem like a lot of fun, so I had to come up with a creative way to water the plants.

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Proximity Card Access

The upper floor of the Counts Brothers Building is home to 2nd Avenue Storage. Until recently customers have used keys to enter and exit. This week we installed proximity card readers to increase security. Cards are serialized and entrances are recorded so that we know who is coming and going, and access can be more easily revoked if the need should arise. In other news, El Barrio has begun outdoor seating, taking advantage of the covered recess leading to the doorway of 2nd Avenue Storage and my loft. It's a nice place to enjoy the spring weather!

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Making the Mural

It was hard for me not post pictures of the mural while it was in process. I have a terrible time keeping my mouth shut, particularly when I'm excited about something. I was already living upstairs when Shane B started working on it. Every night for a month, he'd come in around 9 and work until I'm not sure when. I'd always find some excuse to poke my head in and take a few work-in-progress pictures, and then hide them on my computer in a folder named "Don't Post, Idiot." I'd mentioned before that the mural was done entirely with spray paint, and that this amazed me. You can see that more in these pictures. For more pictures of the finished mural, look here.[gallery order="DESC"]

El Barrio Open for Dinner

Tonight was opening night for El Barrio. Like lunch, they didn't advertise because they wanted a small crowd in order to practice before they got slammed. I was upstairs packing for a business trip. The hood vents run behind and above my loft, so I can't smell the cooking in my place. I was bringing my bag to my car through the storage units; in the storage units I could smell it, and immediately became hungry. I hadn't heard any noise in my loft so I figured that the crowd was, in fact, small. I decided to walk downstairs to grab some pozole.

When I came out the front door and looked inside El Barrio, I was shocked. The place was packed! Every chair, barstool, and standing area was dripping with people. Appleseed blew two feet of foam insulation between the restaurant and loft. I had always assumed that I would hear a descent bit of noise anyway, but I had no idea anybody was down there despite the place being standing room only.

Luckily Jerry and Roxane were sitting in the lounge and I was able to crowd in with them. People often ask me if I have a "reserved table" or some other kind of special treatment; I've never even broached the subject. Personally I think that would be an infringement on what is starting out to be a great business relationship. When I'm there I'm just another customer.

Jerry and Roxane were entertaining a couple that is looking to move downtown; the (soon to be) new neighbors were having a great time and I can't wait to hang out with them some more. We talked about crime and the non-existence thereof, and where we shop for groceries (within walking distance), and the reason we all stay downtown.

We move downtown because we like the asthetics. We stay here because we get so wrapped up in the community. Tonight, just walking to get a loaf of bread a quart of milk and a stick of butter, I ran into Alfred and Kelly (walking Cocoa and Pootin' Nanny), and Larry: the self-described "most hated man in downtown." While I was sitting inside El Barrio, Bob (who had some clients visiting from San Diego) and Gary (who I thought was still in Russia) stopped by to eat, drink and visit. What makes this the best Birmingham neighborhood is that it is so easy to make friends; neighbors with whom you spend time, not just to whom you wave disingenuously at the mailbox.

Oh, and the nightlife. That's the other thing. We need these walking distance bars and coffee shops and restaurants; places to go to share our mistakes, triumphs, embarrassments, prides, hurts, loves, and wish-we'd-loveds with our neighbors. I'm really excited that El Barrio is going to be a new place for the neighbors to do that.

And now for my obligatory photographic ineptitude. I took these shots to show that there were a bunch of people here. Well, whatever. Use your imagination.

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El Barrio Open for Lunch

El Barrio opened for lunch on Tuesday. They had repeatedly told me they were trying to not to draw too much attention so that they would have small crowds and be able to perfect the processes. Well, by Thursday they were slammed. The food is fantastic. I got a sneak preview last Friday when I was dropping off the utility bills. They brought out every taco on the menu, so I got to try out about half the lunch offering in one swoop. I've learned in this process that I am terrible at describing food. I keep telling people it's Mexican, but not like any Mexican food you've ever had. The menu looks typical at first glance, but read the descriptions and you'll see what I mean. Weld did a much better description than I ever could, so read this. I haven't figured out what is my favorite dish on the menu, but I'm really digging the Pozole.

While they are only open for lunch right now, Chris told me today that their liquor license came through, so they should be opening for dinner in the next couple of weeks. I haven't seen a dinner menu yet, but the featured item is unbelievable. Can't wait to show it to you.

Now that they're open I can finally post pictures of the dining room. El Barrio seats about 60 inside. When the weather gets warm again they'll add some more seating outside along the sidewalk. They have two long harvest tables for large parties, as well as booths and 4-top tables. There's a long bar along the western wall where they'll be serving locally brewed beers, wine, and made-from-scratch margaritas. Bench seats run along the front windows with low tables where people can stop in for quick appetizers and refreshments. Jeremy Erdreich did a good write up from an architect's point of view, so if you didn't check that out last month I highly recommend it.

Most everything is made out of materials reclaimed either from Storkland, or from other Appleseed projects. Wood and steel give an industrial but intimate feel. A mural covers the eastern wall. It catches your attention the moment you walk inside and you keep staring, seeing other new details. The mural was painted by Shane B, a regionally sought-after tattoo artist with Non-Stop Art around the corner. The most amazing part is that he used nothing but spray paint. I couldn't imagine drawing all of that detail with an aerosol can.

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El Barrio Dining Room Preview

It should have been obvious, but it's recently come to my attention that Jeremy Erdreich must be a much smoother talker than I: He convinced El Barrio to let him post some dining room pictures, in particular the mural about which I was sworn to secrecy. It's a great article and you should definitely follow that link and take a look. In other news, Mike told me the health department inspection went well, and the guys moved in most of the dining room furniture this weekend.

Concrete... Oooh my!

Still breathing heavy from my scorching-hot 3-part series featuring piles of dirt? Well hold on to you pants. We're getting to the good stuff: concrete slabs. What?! Not enough, you say? OK, maybe I can throw in a little framing, but that's gonna cost you extra. The original pine floors were removed in El Barrio's bar and kitchen areas in order to replace them with concrete. For a professional kitchen, concrete is much safer and easier to clean. The wood was salvaged to be used in other places. After pouring concrete, framing began for the bar and some interior rooms.

The same day the contractor poured El Barrio's floor they also poured concrete in the residential entrance. Some of the wood at the residential entrance was damaged. We've tried to reuse and repair any of the original pine that we could, but here we cut out the rotten boards at a diagonal to be replaced with this concrete. It's pretty dirty in the picture below, but it's intended to add a little drama to the space with contrasting textures. Aside from being the entrance to my loft, Jerry and Roxane will eventually use this area as an office for Self-Storage management and real estate.

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