BIRMINGHAM – The Alabama Retail Association, in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business, today recognized outstanding Alabama retailers representing 13 retail businesses with operations in 48 Alabama cities and 12 other states as Retailers of the Year. The 13 winning Retailers of the Year came from a pool of almost 70 nominees. The presentations were made at the Vestavia Country Club in Birmingham during the 2014 Retail Day Luncheon. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley presented the keynote address and signed a statewide proclamation declaring Sept. 23 as Alabama Retail Day. This marked the 15th presentation of the Alabama Retailer of the Year Awards since 1999.
Carole Griffin, president and owner of Continental Bakery and Chez Lulu in Mountain Brook and Continental Bakery Downtown in Birmingham, two artisanal bakeries with eateries, a separate bistro and an online store earned the Gold Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales $1 Million to $5 Million category. Continental Bakery has been an Alabama Retail Association member since 2008. The Retailer of the Year judges made note of Continental’s “fresh and local marketing strategy and impressive community interaction.”
“All of the breads and pastries are considered works of art and are prepared daily using traditional European methods,” said Suzan Doidge, executive director of the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce, who nominated Griffin for the award. All of the breads made at the bakeries are shaped by hand and baked on a stone hearth. Griffin’s creations are in such demand that many local restaurants have served Continental Bakery’s bread for years. “Carole has even expanded her vision to a second location downtown and has been greeted with open arms,” Doidge said.
By mid-year, the downtown location, which opened in January, was in the black. Griffin opened Continental Bakery on Cahaba Road in English Village in 1985, and 10 years later, she opened the adjoining French cafe Chez Lulu. After the successful launch of the new downtown location earlier this year, Griffin also is starting another new venture, Continental Catering.
In the past year, her bakeries and restaurants have begun to promote themselves as utilizing local, fresh and healthful ingredients, which actually has been the business’ policy since its inception. “Fresh, local? Of course! We’ve been doing it for 30 years!,” is Continental’s latest catch phrase.
Griffin doesn’t just promote her business. She also is a founding member of the Birmingham Originals, an organization promoting local restaurants, and a founding member of the local chapter of Slow Food, an organization promoting the preservation of local food ways.
She also likes to interject a little fun into her professional life. She has founded two festivals that have been adopted by the local community. English Village has embraced her Springalingadingdong Village Parade and Festival, and Rev Birmingham is considering incorporating her Fall Oohlala Lantern Parade and Festival as an official part of its Sidewalk Film Festival.
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “Carole Griffin is a retailer of the year EVERY year to her customers, her 60 employees and the Mountain Brook and Birmingham communities.”
Media Contact: Carole Griffin, Continental Bakery, Chez Lulu, Continental Bakery Downtown | 205.999.1718
Media Contact: Nancy King Dennis | 334.551.0643 (d) | 800.239.5423