Alabama Coaches Building on Main Street – Part 3
As the Alabama Coach Co. business went into a shell in the 1950’s, the Town House restaurant associated with it, which was located on the Main Street side of the terminal building, also closed. Around 1960, Mrs. C.S. Norris, a single mom, who lived about a block away, leased the former restaurant space and renamed it “The CO-ED Cafe.” Although her intent was to appeal to the college students living in both the mens’ and womens’ dorms within easy walking distance, it devolved into a classic greasy spoon. After about a year, the new cafe closed for a time, but in 1962, Mrs. Norris re-opened and managed to eke out a living for a time serving burgers and milkshakes to occasional college students or anyone else who dropped in.
By 1966, the Co-ed Cafe had gone by the wayside and a new business sprang up in its place. The registered pharmacist and former owner of McClure Drug Co., Kyle McClure, abandoned evangelism and returned to his previous trade by taking over the old bus station restaurant space. McClure invested in extensive renovations, and, with high hopes of the return of his former loyal customer base, he opened up Montevallo’s third drug store, Kyle’s Pharmacy. The bus terminal space was much smaller than what his two competitors a few blocks away enjoyed, but he immediately started filling prescriptions and managed to keep his head above water for a couple of years. Sometime in 1968, Larry Smitherman, a local boy who had recently graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy and his wife, Donna, also a registered pharmacist, bought Kyle’s Pharmacy from McClure and set up Smitherman’s Pharmacy. They continued to operate Kyle’s store out of the old bus terminal and soon opened a second store in nearby Calera. The Smitherman’s took McClures’s struggling business and transformed it into a service-oriented and thriving source for prescription and over-the-counter drugs and sundries. When the former Ben Franklin and Monk’s store space at the corner of Middle and Main became available in the late 1970’s, Smitherman’s moved into this much larger space and became Montevallo’s favorite home-town drug store. Although having gone through several ownership changes since then, the Smitherman’s name has remained with the store and it continues to operate out of the old “Dime Store” location, to this day, more than 40 years later.
At one time or another following the demise of the bus company, the old ticket office and waiting room of the terminal were occupied by a variety of short-lived businesses, among them a beauty shop, a record store, and an ice cream shop.When the gargantuan task of cleaning out the bus garage was completed, the property was sold and the garage building was cleverly converted into a restaurant. It opened and did business for a time, but did not survive. In the meantime, the old terminal building remained unoccupied and appeared to go into “demolition by neglect.”
As the partnership between the University of Montevallo, Shelby County, and the City of Montevallo through the Montevallo Development Cooperative District (MDCD) undertook the facelift and renovation of North Boundary Street, the fate of the former Alabama Coach Company property became a major factor in the successful completion of this impressive and ambitious project. The MDCD owns the property, and each of the partners invested an equal share in its purchase and improvement. With the bus garage already retrofitted for a restaurant and the terminal building needing a sobering infusion of money for renovation and no obvious future purpose or potential occupants, the decision was made to bring in a new tenant for the garage/restaurant and raze the terminal to increase on-site parking.
In 2017, the Main Street Tavern, which had been located on Main Street across from First Baptist Church, moved into the former garage building and has enjoyed continued success in this new location ever since. As part of Montevallo’s celebration of its Bicentennial that same year, a narrow section of the former terminal building footprint facing Main Street was set aside from the new parking area and dedicated as “Bicentennial Park” on March 3, 2018.
The park also provided an ideal location for "Big Red," the public clock purchased with funds raised by the Bicentennial Committee and installed by the city as a landmark to memorialize the Bicentennial. Protective vaults to house time-capsules put together during the Bicentennial are also one of the civic features of Bicentennial Park. While it is unfortunate that a new purpose could not be found for the old bus terminal building, its legacy remains and its place on Main Street will serve the community in a new way as a source of beauty and a repository for Montevallo's rich history.
Thank you Clay Nordan, Vice President of Montevallo Historical Society, for this information!