I few weeks ago, I was in Tuscaloosa, AL at a client meeting. On the way home, I took the opportunity to stop by one of my favorite little downtown areas — Northport, AL. This small town is adjacent to Tuscaloosa. You wouldn’t know you were leaving one and driving to the other if it weren’t for the city limit signs. Northport offers a very well-done historic downtown area, and I try to stop in whenever I’m close.
Filled with shops, restaurants, and galleries, Northport has preserved a downtown that offers what my architecture school days termed “walkability.” The area is very pedestrian-friendly, one of the qualities that makes a downtown worth visiting and re-visiting. The scale of the streets is close so the storefronts offer a nice sense of enclosure on the main avenue. Brick pavers covering the sidewalks lend a tactile and visual texture to a leisurely walk. Plus, tree and window box plantings give the area a welcoming feel that minimizes the presence of concrete and pavement. In fact, during my walk up and down the street, I barely even noticed the cars even though all the parking spaces were filled and there was a continual flow of traffic. The layout of streetside parking included large plantings repeated down each side
of the street. Sets of three of four parking spaces were offset by landscaped areas that extended into the parking zone. It had the great affect of making me almost blind to the chrome and metal.
The downtown area was filled with colorful imagery, from fun store window displays to unique signs. Of course, I couldn’t resist snapping a few shots of hand-painted signs for the “Signs of Life” series. I’ll share a few others later, but this one was found on an alley off the main avenue in a path leading to other restaurants and shops.
For me, no trip to Northport is complete without a stop at my very favorite shop, The Potager. The store is a fun combination of garden elements, home accessories, bed and bath items and old postcards and prints. It shares space with an antique shop if that strikes your fancy as well. A stop inside offers a breath of fresh air for the senses. Bare concrete floors give the store an outdoor feel that makes it seem like you’ve just stepped into someone’s private garden. The owners keep several birds in a large wire cage by the counter–one of those traditional Victorial styles. The sounds of the birds chirping and flitting add a nice backdrop for shopping along with classical music. One reason I stop into The Potager with each visit to Northport, is the lavender. The store sells dried lavender buds by the ounce along with linen or starched cotton sachets ready to be filled–a very nice gift to myself and my chiffrobe drawers. They also carry one of my favorite lines of bathing products, Pre de Provence. This trip I picked up a set of guest soaps in assorted spicy scents and a tube of Verbena hand lotion. Very nice.