Family business moves on, forward
By By Janet Little Cooper
What began many years ago in Atmore by a father and his sons, is now flourishing in Fairhope, leaving behind memories and a vacant shell of the business that used to be at the corner of Ridgeley Street and MLK Avenue in Atmore.
John Williams, now deceased, and his sons Steven and Mark along with daughter Lisa Drury are now continuing what Williams started 15 years ago.
Five years ago they moved to the current location in Fairhope.
"It got to the point where all of our work was in the Fairhope area and we were constantly running deliveries there," Drury said. "So they made the decision to purchase land and build a building in Fairhope. The Family then opened Custom Millworks, Inc."
The family intended to keep the Atmore facility operational, but after the passing of their father one year after opening the Fairhope store, they had a lot of decisions to make, being difficult without their father's knowledge, experience and expertise for direction. So, unfortunately they were not able to keep business in Atmore going.
"We had to send our sons to Atmore to keep up the lawn until we could do something," Drury said. "Then Hurricane Ivan came bringing a lot of damage with it to the building. Then another hurricane came and we found it too expensive to rebuild or even repair it, without insurance and due to all of the stipulations and codes enforced by the city."
The family began to receive letters from the City of Atmore requesting that the building be repaired or demolished.
"Once we got to Fairhope, we were just not able to handle the Atmore business as well," Drury said. "And with no insurance on the building we were not able to collect anything for the damages from the hurricanes. The city had offered to demo it for us at a high price, but my brother Steven has experience in demolition work, that our father taught him years ago and he will be doing it for us."
Drury, who is part owner and operates the Fairhope business along with her two brothers, said that they understand the cities desire to see the eyesore restored or demolished and says that if her father were still living the issue would have been addressed years ago.
"Our dad handled everything," Drury said. "My dad always had the answers and we were left with everything and did things differently. He would have dreamt up something to take care of the building long ago."
Demolition on the structure is nearing completion this weekend as the family has spent the last couple of weeks clearing the property. Drury said they delayed the final phase as long as possible in the hopes of donating many of the leftover items to people who needed them the most.
"We don't have any room for it here," Drury said. "We thought about taking the time to try and sell it or call a salvage company, but we just don't have the time and would rather see people who can really benefit from it."
The children of John Williams now own the property in Atmore and intend to build two suite offices, to help the City of Atmore with the city's new look they are focusing on.