Kroell/Brown Building Fire Aftermath
Following the fire that decimated the Montevallo Grocery Co. building on Main Street in 1946, J. A. Brown retreated to the brick store building (which still stands) on Shelby Street across from his Ice House. This was on the large parcel of property he owned on the south bank of Shoal Creek. Even though he indicated publicly that he intended to rebuild his store on Main Street and re-establish his grocery and bag manufacturing operations, there appears to be no evidence that he was able to make any new investments or rehabilitate his interests there. However, his other businesses near the railroad continued to thrive. Following his sudden death from a heart attack in 1953, his son took over his business portfolio and transitioned it over time into the massive Brown Moulding Co. which continues in business in the same location and is known today as Woodgrain Distribution.
As J. A. Brown dealt with the impact of the fire on his fortunes, Mr. R. E. Whaley, who had been in the furniture business in Montevallo since 1930, and whose furniture store in the Albright building we featured a few weeks back, successfully completed construction of his new building located on a vacant lot between the Masonic building and the ruins of the burnt-out Kroell/Brown building. Whaley moved into the new building in 1948 (today the location of Happy’s Variety Store). He operated the store with his son, James Whaley, until James’s untimely death in 1962. Before R. E. Whaley himself passed away in 1966 he sold out in 1964 to Morris Padgett and G.D. Jones from Clanton, who had the foresight to continue to use the Whaley name for this business that the Whaley family had put on a truly solid footing that included stores in other towns nearby.
Just as soon as Whaley’s moved into their new store building, there was some movement on the disposition of the Brown property next door. Rather than recovering his Main Street businesses, J. A. Brown elected to sell the land and what the Montevallo Times described as a building that “has been dormant in a shambles of distortion since J. A. Brown’s fire a couple of years ago.” Local merchant, Joe Klotzman, owner of a successful department store a block away, purchased (with his brother Dave, of Alabama City as a partner) the old Kroell/Brown building and lot with the intention of putting up a spacious, modern business house with capacity for two stores at minimum.
It was not long before the “Times” could regale its readers with the fact that the Klotzmans had brought the building back to “a completely modern and up-to-date business building of large proportions.” And that, “It adds materially to the appearance of our business district.”
The first tenants of what became known as the new Joe Klotzman building were a new bowling alley and a relocated barbecue restaurant.
From all indications, the bowling alley and barbecue restaurant did not last long in the new Joe Klotzman building. They were replaced in the early 1950’s by Lovelady’s Sales and Service and Chism’s Ready to Wear, both of which moved from their existing locations on Middle Street. Chism’s was only there for a few years and closed in 1954 when owner Clarence Chism acquired and began to operate Deluxe Cleaners a few blocks away in a small building near the City Hall. The Joe Klotzman building soon became the base of operations for what would become Don Lovelady’s diverse businesses. By the mid-1950’s, he took over Chism’s vacated space adjacent to Whaley’s and, after using it for storage for a time, Mr. Lovelady’s expanded his retail space to occupy the entire building with the hardware, auto parts, appliances, carpet, and furniture he stocked for the consideration of his customers. This building today is home to the Subway sandwich shop.
Thank you Clay Nordan, Vice President of Montevallo Historical Society, for this information!