BIRMINGHAM – The Alabama Retail Association, in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business, today recognized 18 outstanding Alabama retailers representing 13 retail businesses with operations in 29 Alabama cities and 16 states as Retailers of the Year. The presentations were made at The Club in Birmingham during the 2012 Retail Day Luncheon. This marked the 13th presentation of the Retailer of the Year Awards since 1999.
Leon Rosato, owner of Gilchrist Soda Fountain, earned the Bronze Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales Less Than $1 Million category. Gilchrist is the oldest continuous business in Mountain Brook Village and the Retailer of the Year judges scored it high in business longevity and adaptability. Suzan Doidge, executive director of the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce, nominated Rosato for the award. Gilchrist Soda Fountain has been an ARA member since 2005.
Marvin “Doc” Gilchrist opened Mountain Brook Apothecary in December 1928, but not long after, the pharmacy became known by the name it still goes by today, Doidge said in her nomination. In the old days, horseback riders would stop by for curb service and later a uniformed boy delivered phone orders by motorcycle.
Like many drug stores from its era, Gilchrist also had a soda fountain, and although the pharmacy moved out in the mid-1980s, the fountain and lunch counter have remained. In its 84 years, Gilchrist has had only four owners. Rosato bought the restaurant about 10 years ago, and while he has expanded the menu, he also has retained the items that have kept the customers coming for more than eight decades – limeades, milkshakes, hot roast beef sandwiches and chicken salad.
“Our customers range from elementary school kids who come storming in at 3 after school to the elderly who remember when they did the same thing,” Rosato said. “That’s the neatest thing about this place, is seeing somebody in their 70s come in here and talk about how they used to sit at that very same stool. They grow up here in this community, and they grow up going to Gilchrist.”
The story of Gilchrist is a love story. The community “loves us and as much as we love them,” Rosato said in his entry.
In 2006, then Samford University student Maggie Worthington got an A+ on her paper, “The Most Magical Place,” describing Gilchrist Soda Fountain, and Rosato included it in his entry.
“When you walk into Gilchrist, the people who work there make you feel so welcomed as if they have known you for years,” Worthington wrote. “Whether you are a first timer, or have been going to Gilchrist for years, no one can argue that it is not in fact, ‘the most magical place in Birmingham.’ ”
Rosato said, “Gilchrist is proud to be on the 100 Places to Eat Before You Die and one of the ‘in’ places to go in Birmingham.”
The Retailer of the Year judges also lauded Rosato for having a clean restaurant, which at the time of his entry had a 99 health rating.
Rosato and Gilchrist also give back to the community, supporting such charities as the Eye Foundation, American Cancer Association, Hand and Paw and the Linley Nolan Foundation.
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “Leon Rosato is a retailer of the year EVERY year to his customers, his six employees and the Mountain Brook community.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Nancy King Dennis | 334.551.0643 | 800.239.5423