The Valley Mall in downtown Homewood will soon be torn down and replaced with a new Italian restaurant and another business to be named later.
Mike Mouron, whose company owns the Valley Hotel and other Homewood properties, recently purchased the Valley Mall, which consists of multiple businesses, most of which he said were on monthly leases. He said he plans to build a restaurant which will be operated by Nick Pihakis, the “Nick” of Jim N Nicks franchises. Mouron said he also plans on building a drive-thru business, either a bank or a drive-thru restaurant, with banks being his first choice.
Mouron said the purchase of Valley Mall is part of his desire to revitalize older properties while helping existing tenants find newer locations, as has been the case with The Little Professor bookshop, Hatfield Auto and 18th Street Oriental Rugs, all of which have stayed in Homewood.
Mouron is offering $3,000 relocation assistance to businesses currently at the mall that stay in Homewood, and $1,500 to all businesses regardless of their new location.
While there is no fixed timeline for the project, businesses were set to receive a letter detailing the timing in October, Mouron said.
The restaurant will be called Luca, Pihakis said, and will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The restaurant will also feature a wine selection and courtyard, he said. That area has recently been turned into an entertainment district, which Pihakis said should help business, and plans are to make the space 4,500 square feet inside and seat 120 guests inside and 40 outside.
Pihakis said his restaurants typically staff between 60 and 70 people, most of which is part-time, but there will be some full-time jobs available.
Mouron said the other business, if it is a bank, may be around 6,000 square feet, two stories and provide about 20 to 24 jobs.
With all of the development near DeVinci’s Pizza and a new Italian restaurant coming, Ben Sears with DeVinci’s said he welcomes the competition and said the new development downtown has helped business.
“It’s been fantastic actually,” Sears said. “With the hotel there, we are getting so many guests coming over here. … I can’t tell you how much of a boom this has been.”
DeVinci’s has been in business since the 1960s, Sears said, and he encouraged residents to try all Italian restaurants in the area.
Existing Businesses Respond
Once the Valley Hotel was built, Sewing Machine Mart owner Shawn Jackson said word began to spread that the mall, which sits across the street, might be on its way out.
Jackson began looking for other places to move, and ultimately settled in Springville, where he and his wife Heidi, who helps run the store, live.
“The Lord shuts one door; he’ll open another,” Jackson said. “You don’t ever want to move, but you have to look at it as an opportunity.”
The store has been in Homewood since 1993.
“It’s always been a good spot,” Jackson said.
LaRoyce Marsh, owner of D’Trespa Consignment and Vintage Boutique, said she is looking and seeing what is available, but isn’t sure where she will go yet. She stressed she is reopening, and hopes to stay in Homewood, as it is a “really good fit” for the store.
Lunch Box Express is another longtime business, having been in Homewood for 25 years. They said they hope to have a few months to plan for the move, and they do plan on moving, but are likely moving to downtown Birmingham. They described Homewood as a “warm, fuzzy neighborhood.”
Ashley Bush, owner of Ashley B. Salon, said she hates the move for all of the businesses that are at Valley Mall, but thinks the redevelopment is good for Homewood.
“I think that it’s great that Homewood is growing,” Bush said.
It’s a little disheartening for her, she said, as she just put a good bit of money into her salon, but she is keeping her eyes open for her next location, which she hopes will be in Homewood.
Kimono Steele at Kimono Ink School for Girls said she is sad to see the mall being torn down, but, like Bush, said the move is good for the revitalization of Homewood. The mall, she said, “needs a facelift.”
Catherine Bres, owner of Rub a Dub Dog Bathhouse and Spa, said her clientele is in Homewood and they had “the best rent” in the city. The business is on the verge of being fully staffed, and has been at their current location since 2016.