Local Businesses Honored at Alabama Retail Day
October 29, 2019, 3:10pm
Three local business were honored October 22, as retailers across the state were recognized during Alabama Retail Day. At a ceremony in Birmingham, the Alabama Retail Association named UGO Convenience Delivery as Alabama's Emerging Retailer of the Year, recognized Anders Hardware as a Centennial Retailer, and named Jennaration Boutique a Customer Choice Award winner.
UGO Convenience Delivery
John “Jay” G. Newman II, CEO, founder and owner of UGO Convenience Delivery in Tuscaloosa, along with chief marketing officer Matt Tietz have been named Alabama’s 2019 Gee Emerging Retailer of the Year. UGO Convenience Delivery was one of 14 retail businesses honored today as Retailers of the Year. This year’s winners came from a pool of more than 70 nominees. The 2019 winners were honored during the Alabama Retail Day celebration in Birmingham.
Ugo Convenience Delivery is a virtual convenience store accessed by smartphone app that delivers a range of products directly to customers within 20 minutes or less. The company stocks some 500 different products commonly found in convenience stores, including snacks, electronics, health supplies, school supplies and more.
A New Jersey native, Newman was a University of Alabama student sitting in his fraternity bedroom when he got his idea. “I had a bunch of snacks that my mom sent down as a care package,” he said. “You know word gets around and sure enough, I had a couple of kids come in and say, ‘Hey, do you have any double A batteries for an X-Box controller or ‘Hey, do you have any Gatorade or water?’ ” His next thought was, “Wait, why don’t we have a convenience store that delivers directly to you?”
Jim Page, president and chief executive officer of The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, nominated the retailers for the award. “Rather than simply running the business from his room on campus, Newman sought out space in The EDGE, a local business incubator that offered mentoring, counseling, business development and other support services,” Page said. Newman graduated from the incubator in 2016.
To anyone who asks, Newman notes a benefit that distinguishes his business from the rest. “We sell something that other places don’t sell, and that’s time.”
The Gee Emerging Retailer of the Year Award is named in memory of the late Morris “Mickey” Gee, a former Alabama Retail board member and University of Alabama at Birmingham professor. The award is given annually to an innovative and effective Alabama retailer who has been in business for at least two years, but less than five. Gee, who owned the Pants Store for more than 30 years, realized that the first five years are tough, but young businesses can have a huge impact. Newman, Tietz and Ugo Convenience Delivery are the first-ever Emerging Retailer of the Year from Tuscaloosa. The Retailer of the Year judges called them innovative and true entrepreneurs.
Anders Hardware Co., Inc.
In January 1909, several brothers living in the Northport area came together to open J.H. Anders Mercantile. The store still operates out of the same location on Main Avenue, although the name changed in 1921 to Anders Hardware to reflect a shift from general mercantile to hardware. A second location opened in 2002 in Tuscaloosa. The retailer employs 20 and sells more than 150,000 items for the home or farm.
“This a true family business, so every member of my family has contributed to this over the 110 years,” said Rich Anders, current general manager and the fourth generation to run the business. “I’ve got siblings and they have been in and out of the business over the years, but it just stuck with me. I just really enjoy it, and I still do after all of these years.”
Rich’s great-grandfather and one of the original brothers, Burwell Lewis Anders, led the company from the 1920s until he passed the reins to son James Burwell Anders. James’s son Richard Rodger Anders Sr., the current owner, grew up in the company then joined full time in 1970 after returning from Vietnam.
Rodger’s son Rich Anders recalls coming to the store as a child. “My dad would let me push the brooms up and down the aisles. We had a big ole cash register that had a loud bell, and he’d pop that cash register open and take 50 cents out and give it to me. I loved it. I’ve got the retail gene.” As he told the story of his first sales experience, he said, “I set up a little card table in the parking lot, and I sold rocks.” When his first customer purchased a rock for a dollar, he ran into the store to show his dad. “It was just in my blood. Not that my parents raised me to think that this was what I had to do. I went to college, and I have a business degree. It was up to me.”
The business received a bronze plaque to place outside its store and a certificate suitable for display inside.
Jennaration Boutique, Inc. sells on-trend women’s clothing, shoes and accessories online, at three brick-and-mortar stores and through an app. “We opened our very first storefront location five years ago in Tuscaloosa,” said owner Jenna Powell, who initially ran her business out of a spare bedroom closet at her home. “The second storefront (in Northport) came about a year after the first. We most recently opened our third location in Birmingham.” That third store opened in early August.
Jennaration Boutique was recognized as the Alabama Retailer of the Year Customers’ Choice Award winner at the Alabama Retail Day awards luncheon. Among the 49 Alabama Retailer of the Year entries, the boutique chain garnered the most votes between June 27 and July 11 in a Facebook contest. It received 1,526 votes, or 12.5% of the 12,191 votes cast.
“We are pretty much known for customer service,” said Powell. In the contest, customers praised Jennaration for “great quality clothes and jewelry” and “amazing customer service.” One customer wrote, “Jennaration deserves this!! They have the sweetest, hardest working staff, determined to put their customers first, and make us feel like family and friends.” Another said, “I have shopped with Jennaration since the day they opened, and I have never once been disappointed or upset. They always make sure they are bringing you the latest fashion and at an affordable price!!”
From 2014 to 2017, Powell’s business grew in revenue at a rate of 1,330% and earned a place on Inc. Magazine’s annual 5000 list in 2018. “Jennaration grew pretty fast via social media,” she said. The online portion of its business grew by more than 100% from 2017 to 2018 because of social selling. Its boutiques do live sales five days a week via Facebook.
Caitlin Shuttlesworth, a former employee and current customer who nominated Jennaration, said, “I think the world of Jenna. She does a lot for the community, reaching out to people who have gone through hard times. Jenna … pushes through every obstacle to please her customers.”
Powell said, “It means so much … that a previous employee would nominate us. I think that says a lot about Jennaration Boutique.”