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The Mitchell Building

At the conclusion of World War II, soldiers returned home and materials that had been diverted to the war effort were suddenly available once again in commerce. New businesses sprung up everywhere and new construction was the order of the day throughout the country. Montevallo was no exception. Montevallo dentist W.J. Mitchell was one of the first local investors to put up a new business building on Main Street in 1946. He acquired the lot on the corner of Main and North Boundary streets where Vandegrift’s Store had been a fixture going back to the 1880’s. The Mitchell building, constructed next to the Novelty shop (the same structure where Barnes & Noble is today) was designed to accommodate two retail stores.

The first tenants to move in just as soon as the building was ready for occupancy were Nordan Hardware Co. and the Rainbow Market grocery store. The Rainbow was in the corner store and Nordan’s took over the interior spot next to the Novelty shop. Before being deployed to Europe as a U.S. Army Captain in 1942, Clayton Nordan had married Theda Wyatt, daughter of the editor of the Montevallo Times, W.M. Wyatt. When he returned to the United States in early 1946, he and his bride decided to make Montevallo their home. He was an Auburn Agriculture graduate and came from a family of merchants in south Alabama. He had worked briefly for a hardware wholesaler, so he decided to open a retail hardware business in his adopted hometown with an emphasis on assisting local farmers.

The hardware store did well enough and continued to expand its customer base and inventory until tragedy struck in February of 1950. Fire of an unknown origin sprang up in the dead of night and dealt Nordan Hardware a blow that nearly ended Clayton Nordan’s dream. He was not able to salvage much, and insurance helped only a bit, but a new location for a complete re-start was soon found in the Albright building, a block away. This incarnation of Nordan’s now struggling business was explored in an earlier “Throwback” installment on the Albright building.

When the fire damage had been repaired, the former Nordan space was rented to William McConaughy, who came from a well-to-do local family and was known for enjoying various sports and games of chance. As such, he opened a pool hall in the Mitchell building that attracted a decent business from an all-male clientele but was frowned upon from local pulpits and Montevallo’s more straight-laced citizens. It was rumored that gambling took place at McConaughy’s and was a haven for ne'er-do-wells and tobacco chewing and cigar chomping time-wasters. With the scorn that its reputation had earned as a “den of iniquity,” it closed down after only a few years of operation and was soon replaced as Don Lovelady’s furniture warehouse, which purpose it served for many years.

The Rainbow Market was one of the old-style grocery stores along the lines of McCulley’s and Holcombe’s Dollar Saver that we met earlier on Main Street. It had a good run for about 10 years but went under like so many similar groceries and was eventually replaced by a Laundromat that catered primarily to Alabama College’s newly admitted cohort of male students, beginning in 1956.

At the back of the corner portion of the building with an entrance on North Boundary was a small square footage space that was variously occupied over the years as a beauty shop, sewing shop, office, and florist. Being tucked away as it was, these businesses didn’t thrive or attract a lot of attention in this location as they might have if they had been located directly on Main Street, but a cheaper rent charge was likely what made it attractive to its tenants.

Thank you Clay Nordan, Vice President of Montevallo Historical Society, for this information!

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