BIRMINGHAM – M.L. Awbrey Inc., a general merchandise store on Roanoke’s Main Street, was honored today by the Alabama Retail Association (ARA) as an Alabama Centennial Retailer, a retailer with 100 or more years in business in Alabama.
“For businesses to survive despite the dramatic changes of the past century is a remarkable achievement,” said ARA President Rick Brown. “It is fitting to celebrate the enduring contributions M.L. Awbrey has made to Roanoke and Randolph County.”
M.L. Awbrey Inc. was honored at the 2010 Retail Day Luncheon at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center in Birmingham. The business received a bronze plaque to place outside of the store and a certificate suitable for display inside.
Founded in 1909 by James Jackson Awbrey, grandfather of current owner Pat Awbrey, the store has sold everything from farm and garden supplies to clothing and gifts for three generations. Awbrey attributes the store’s resilience and success to the focus his store places on customer service.
“My granddaddy sold mostly to farmers on credit and got paid when the farmer sold his cotton in the fall,” Pat Awbrey wrote in his entry. “We have old ledgers that show that sometimes payment was received in the form of bartered farm products.”
In the main section of the store, customers still walk on the original hardwood floors and look up at the original metal-tile ceiling.
The store’s founder died in 1951 leaving the business to his son, M.L. “Rueben” Awbrey. One of Rueben’s sons, Mark Awbrey, bought half of the family business in 1967. When Rueben retired in 1973, Mark became the full owner. When Mark’s younger brother, Pat, graduated from Auburn University in 1977, Pat bought a half interest from his brother. Pat became full owner in the late 1990s when Mark decided to retire.
It appears family ownership of the business will end with Pat Awbrey. His son, Patrick II, who graduated from Auburn University in 2009, has no interest in getting into the family business. Patrice, his daughter, is a senior at Handley High School where his wife, Linda, teaches chemistry and physics.
Robin H. Floyd, a former traffic operator with Eagle’s Nest Inc., which owns radio stations in Roanoke and LaGrange, Ga., nominated M.L. Awbrey as a Centennial Retailer.
The Alabama Retail Association presents awards annually to Centennial Retailers. To notify ARA of a retail business that has been in operation for 100 years or more, please contact Nancy Dennis at (800) 239-5423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pat Awbrey, M.L. Awbrey Inc. | 334.863.2213
Nancy Dennis, Alabama Retail Association | 334.263.5757 Ext. 101 | 800.239.5423