Tourism Tuesdays Jan. 14, 2020

Attendance figures due Friday from state attractions and events

Alabama Music Hall of Fame announces 2020 inductees

‘Just Mercy’ is the first movie of 2020 to get an A+ CinemaScore

Three Alabama golf courses listed in top 30 of America’s best

Tour company offering 11-day civil rights tour

Auburn/Opelika spa named Marriott’s best; Alabama spas rank high in 2019

8 reasons to make Tuscaloosa your next weekend getaway

People can buy your lost luggage at this store in Alabama

Ranelli’s Deli in Five Points named best deli in Alabama by the Food Network

Welcome Centers greet tourism partners

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Attendance figures due Friday from state attractions and events
The Alabama Tourism Department is asking representatives of state attractions and events to turn in their attendance figures for the year 2019. These attendance figures are the basis for the annual “Top 10” listings. The figures serve as a vital guide for the media, state government and local organizations.

*In order to be counted, we must have your data by Friday, Jan. 17. The online reporting process should take less than five minutes to complete. Please follow this link to enter your attendance figures:

Note: There is only one event or attraction per online form and only one classification can be chosen. The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right for final determination of classifications.

If you have any questions please contact: Pam Smith at or
(334) 353-4541.

Alabama Music Hall of Fame announces 2020 inductees
From the article by Jerry Hayes on

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is getting ready to induct two Grammy award winners, a legendary blues singer and the philanthropist who spearheaded the revival of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

Gary Baker, Mervyn Warren, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton and Elton B. Stephens will be honored at the AMHOF Induction Banquet and Awards Show Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center in Florence.

“We are excited about this slate of inductees because it demonstrates the diversity of the musical genres represented by Alabama’s music achievers,” said AMHOF Board chairman Sara Hamlin. “This will be a night to remember.”

Board member Judy Hood has been involved in the past three induction shows. “We expect another sellout,” Hood says, adding that the show will include performances related to the inductees as well as some “special guests” that will be announced closer to the show.

AMHOF Executive Director Sandra Burroughs said table prices will range from $2500 to $5000. “This banquet celebrates our amazing music achievers,” said Burroughs. “It is also our biggest fundraiser and we have always had tremendous support from music lovers throughout the state.” For more information, call AMHOF at 256-381-4417.

The 2020 inductees include:

Gary Baker
Gary Baker, who has lived in Sheffield for 43 years, earned a Grammy for the smash hit “I Swear,” which he co-wrote with Frank J. Myers. The song was number one on the country charts and crossed over to the number one spot on the pop charts. Baker co-wrote “I’m Already There,” which also hit number one on the country charts before crossing over to the top five on the pop charts.

His first major songwriting success was with “Once Upon a Lifetime,” which was performed by the group Alabama and soared to number one on the country charts.  Through the years he has penned hit songs for numerous other artists including the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and Reba McEntire. His songs have been featured in numerous high-profile television show and movie soundtracks.

He has produced many records, including the Backstreet Boys greatest hits album. In appreciation for his contributions to them, the Backstreet Boys are coming to the 2020 banquet to induct him.

He launched his career in Muscle Shoals with the famed LeBlanc Carr Band, performing on their top 20 hit named “Falling.” He wrote and recorded with several artists ranging from Mac Davis to Marie Osmond before becoming a member of The Shooters, a hit country act from Muscle Shoals.

Mervyn Warren
A Huntsville native, five-time Grammy winner and 10-time Grammy nominee Mervyn Warren is a highly accomplished film and TV composer, record producer, arranger, songwriter/lyricist, pianist and vocalist. Equally adept at various styles, Warren’s work spans several genres. His numerous production credits include pop, R&B, jazz and country and include work with Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, Barbara Streisand, Rascal Flatts, Chicago, Queen Latifah, Al Jarreau, Faith Hill and many more.

He has composed scores for several feature films including “The Wedding Planner,” “A Walk To Remember” and “The Preacher’s Wife.”  He has written arrangements for Quincy Jones, David Foster, the late Arif Mardin and many others.

He was a founding member of Take 6, the acapella sextet that originated in Huntsville and took the world by storm in 1988, The band won four Grammy Awards, six Dove Awards, two Stellar Awards and the Soul Train Award. He left the group in 1991 to pursue a career as a producer, songwriter, arranger and film composer.

Warren lives in Los Angeles, California where his career continues to thrive.

Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton
A native of Ariton, Alabama, Willie Mae Thornton’s style was heavily influenced by the gospel music she listened to growing up. Her father was a Baptist preacher. Her musical education started in the church but continued through her observation of the rhythm-and-blues singers Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie, whom she deeply admired.

Her performances were characterized by her deep, powerful voice and strong sense of self. She wrote several blues songs, including “Ball ‘n Chain,” which is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the “500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll.” She was the first person to record Leiber and Stoller’s “Hound Dog” which became her biggest hit, staying seven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B chart in 1953 and selling almost two million copies.

Scholars have praised Thornton for subverting the traditional roles of African-American women. She added a gutsy female voice to a field that was dominated by white males and her strong personality derailed stereotypes. Elvis and Janis Joplin were big fans of her work and incorporated aspects of her performances into their own work.

She was born in December 1926 and died in Los Angeles in 1984 at the age of 57. In 2004, the nonprofit Will Mae Rock Camp for Girls was established in New York. Its mission is to provide music educations to girls ranging from 8 to 18. The director of the camp will attend the banquet to induct Thornton.

Elton B. Stephens
Born in Barbour County, Alabama in 1911, Elton B. Stephens was instrumental in the rebirth of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. In 1995, he was approached by board members and asked to help re-establish the bankrupt ASO. Driven by his love of a challenge and his passion for classical music, Stephens and his wife, Alys, stepped up to help the orchestra.

In January 1995, he initiated a $15 million campaign to restore the ASO to the stages and schools of the Greater Birmingham Area. Two years later, the orchestra performed its first concert in the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. Stephens’ leadership encouraged other generous donors in the community to assist ASO.

Stephens died in February 2005, but his memory lives on in the hearts of classical music musicians and fans. Today, the ASO benefits from an endowment fund of more than $12 million.

For the complete article please see

‘Just Mercy’ is the first movie of 2020 to get an A+ CinemaScore
From the article by Katherine Webb on

Michael B. Jordan has just earned some new bragging rights. Not only did he work as both an actor and a producer on his latest film “Just Mercy,” the movie has the unique distinction of earning an A+ — a perfect score — with CinemaScore moviegoers. And it joins just a handful of other films that are apparently too good to miss.

According to the CinemaScore website, “Just Mercy” is the first film of 2020 to earn an A+ rating. “Just Mercy” tells the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who left behind a potentially lucrative career to help overturn wrongful convictions. In the film, he takes on the case of Walter McMillian, a black man wrongfully accused of killing a white woman in Alabama. It’s not exactly the type of lighthearted story that you might expect film fans to flock toward. But those who’ve seen the film seem to have found it more than worth their time.

Film critics, too, have given “Just Mercy” mostly positive reviews. They have praised Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Bryan Stevenson, as well as Jamie Foxx’s performance as McMillian, and the way in which the film approaches some pretty controversial themes. And while CinemaScore isn’t the only barometer of cinematic satisfaction, Rotten Tomatoes users have also rated “Just Mercy” highly. It currently has a 99% audience score on that website.

As of this year, only 89 movies have been given an A+ rating by CinemaScore — a market research company that has been polling moviegoers around the country since 1979. The first film to get an A+ was 1982’s “E.T.” And before “Just Mercy,” the last film to earn a perfect CinemaScore was last year’s “Ford v Ferrari.” From those two examples alone, it’s easy to see that there’s a wide range of films that have ultimately earned an A+. Some are undisputed classics, like “Schindler’s List” or “Finding Nemo.” Other films might seem a bit more debatable — like “Dolphin Tale” (yes, seriously).

But CinemaScore’s results drive home a point that’s frequently been a topic of conversation among film lovers — that there can be a huge gap between what critics love and what audiences respond to. A perfect example of this is 2017’s “Mother!,” which had mixed-to-positive reviews from critics, some of whom hailed it a masterpiece, but received an F grade on CinemaScore.

“Just Mercy” won’t be as controversial as “Mother!” Though it does take a critical perspective on the U.S. justice system and racial discrimination, it does so through the lens of empathy for those who’ve been mistreated by it. And though it takes place in the 1980s, its themes are relevant today, as well, which makes it easier for audiences to relate to. “Just Mercy” also stars Brie Larson. It is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

For the complete article please

Three Alabama golf courses listed in top 30 of America’s best
From the article by Sean Ross on

Golf Advisor recently honored a trio of Alabama courses in its annual list of the best golf courses in the United States.

The publication, which is associated with the Golf Channel, explained, “[We] received more than 153,000 golf course ratings and reviews from our golfer community in 2019, and we’ve compiled the very best courses in the U.S. you can play based on your submissions for this year’s Golfers’ Choice Top 50 courses in the United States you can play.”

All courses selected “must offer regular public access.”

Kiva Dunes in Gulf Shores came in at No. 26, while Gunter’s Landing in Guntersville was ranked as the 14th-best.

However, the crown jewel of the Yellowhammer State was FarmLinks at Pursell Farms.

This Sylacauga golf course was featured in the inaugural Yellowhammer Legacy Series.

FarmLinks has been a regular, highly rated fixture in Golf Advisor’s annual rankings.

Here’s what Golf Advisor wrote about the Alabama courses:

26. Kiva Dunes
Gulf Shores – What they’re saying: “Played this course on vacation to Orange Beach. I am more than pleased with this course. Beautiful layout, fast greens, and some water hazards. I loved it.”

14. Gunter’s Landing
Guntersville – What they’re saying: “Course was primo condition, with smooth and fast greens – a LOT of character on this layout. If only I lived closer.”

4. FarmLinks at Pursell Farms
Sylacauga – What they’re saying: “This was my first time playing FarmLinks. I loved it. I would play this course every week if I could due to the great conditions, the awesome service and nice touches of the course as well as the spectacular setting and beautiful views.”

For the complete article please

Tour company offering 11-day civil rights tour
From the article by Adam Powell on

The Boston-based Grand Circle Travel, a company launched in 1958 to serve American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) members, announced Tuesday  that it will begin offering a civil rights tour to “travelers interested in understanding pivotal moments from the Civil Rights Movement,” according to a press release.

“Let Freedom Ring: A Civil Rights Journey” aims to provide travelers with an “emotional journey” through civil rights sites in Alabama and Mississippi, which will be guided by local people who witnessed or participated in historic events in Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham and elsewhere.

The tour will be 11 days and cost travelers nearly $2,600, with a portion of the proceeds to be donated to the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery.

“Travelers will follow the footsteps of John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of other activists who faced violent opposition in their march for voting rights,” the press release boasts of the stop in Selma. “With a ‘foot soldier’ who was there to experience it firsthand as a guide, travelers will walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, then trace the protesters’ route to Montgomery.”

In Montgomery, sightseers will visit the Rosa Parks Museum, which sits on the spot where Parks was arrested, where they “will delve into the legacy of the Montgomery Bus Boycott” and learn how Parks’ actions “changed America.”

Travelers will also visit 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where four black girls were killed in a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) bombing, and “learn more about the city’s turbulent past and its hopes for the future at the neighboring Civil Rights Institute.”

Clare Chapman of Boulder, Colorado, who was among those who took part in an early incarnation of the tour, said the voyage resonated with her.

“This Civil Rights Tour has changed my life,” Chapman said in a Grand Circle Travel press release. “These lessons from our U.S. history are essential for every American to learn. This trip is a must for all of us.”

For the complete article please see

Auburn/Opelika spa named Marriott’s best; Alabama spas rank high in 2019
The Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Spa at Grand National was named Marriott’s best spa in North America for 2019, according to data recently released by Marriott International. The Spa at Grand National was not the only Alabama spa to receive rave reviews.

While the resort spas in Palm Beach, Las Vegas, Grand Cayman, Hawaii, St. Kitts, Cancun, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami. and Costa Rica, certainly are first class, Alabama is home to some of Marriott’s best spas throughout its various brands. For Marriott spas, the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa in Florence finished fourth out of 71 in 2019, just three spots behind the Spa at Grand National. In Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the spa at the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in Point Clear ranked second in North America, out of 37 locations. Within Renaissance Hotels, Alabama’s three spas scored very well for customer satisfaction, finishing at 9, 10 and 11.

“All six of our spas across Alabama are known for offering exceptional experiences in spectacular settings,” said Tony Davis, president of PCH Hotels & Resorts. “From custom massages and facials to body and nail treatments, the RTJ Spa Trail features exceptional hospitality and innovative treatments for our guests. They leave our spas relaxed, rested and rejuvenated. ” These six spas are part of the hotels/resorts owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama and associated with the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

The spa rankings are determined by guest surveys conducted independently by an outside research firm for Marriott International. Below are the spa rankings for guest satisfaction in North America for 2019:

Ranking out of 71 Marriott Properties with Spas:
1) Spa at Grand National – Opelika, Alabama
4) Spa at the Shoals – Florence, Alabama

Ranking out of 37 Autograph Collection Properties with Spas
2) Spa at the Grand – Pt. Clear, Alabama

Ranking out of 22 Renaissance Hotels with Spas:
9) Spa at Ross Bridge – Hoover, Alabama
10) Spa at Montgomery – Montgomery, Alabama
11) Spa at the Battle House – Mobile, Alabama

8 reasons to make Tuscaloosa your next weekend getaway
From the article by Jill Dutton on

Whether your interests include history, college football or barbecue, Tuscaloosa is a funky little college town invested in preserving and upholding its heritage. History runs deep in Alabama, and Tuscaloosa is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and telling its part of the civil rights story. Travel the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail, view a tremendous collection of African American art, eat at iconic restaurants, tour the college and learn about the history there, or take a walk along the Tuscaloosa River Walk, all on a weekend getaway.

1. Walk in the footsteps of history on the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail
The goal of the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History Task Force, created on Oct. 18, 2016, is to bring positive change and reconciliation in a city where much of America’s best-known civil rights history occurred. The Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail aids this endeavor through collecting, preserving and telling Tuscaloosa’s civil rights history.

The trail memorializes the struggles for human dignity and citizenship and consists of 18 sites scattered throughout downtown. According to WBRC FOX6 News, “The Trail includes stops that call attention to stories of enslaved people, Native Americans exiled from their homelands, and racial violence such as First African Baptist Church and the Old Jail – but also to sites of cultural achievement, such as the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center and the Paul R. Jones Art Gallery.”

2. Visit the site of the stand in the schoolhouse door at Foster Auditorium
On June 11, 1963, Gov. George Wallace, in a symbolic attempt to keep his inaugural promise of “Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever” and to stop the desegregation of schools, stood at the door of the Foster Auditorium to try to block the entry of two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood.

In response, President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guide and Guard General Henry V. Graham via Executive Order 11111, ordering Wallace to step aside.

Declared a National Historic Landmark on April 5, 2005, Foster Auditorium is known, in large part, for the incident at its doorway. A historical marker stands outside the building telling the story of the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.

3. Explore native American History at the Moundville Archaeological Park and Museum
Once the site of a powerful prehistoric community — at its peak it was America’s largest city north of Mexico — the University of Alabama’s Moundville Archaeological Park is a premier Native American heritage site. The Moundville site is the largest settlement of Mississippian culture on the Black Warrior River in central Alabama.

Just 13 miles south of Tuscaloosa, the park consists of stunning views of ancient mounds that served as elevated platforms for civic and ceremonial structures and were the homes of nobles. The park preserves 326 acres where these mounds are arranged around a central plaza. Inside the museum, you’ll discover the treasures unearthed at the site, including tools and household items, plus interactive displays depicting life in Moundville. Also on the site, there’s a half-mile nature trail, picnic areas, a campground, and scenic views of the Black Warrior River.

4. View History through art
Marvel at the murals of the Tuscaloosa Federal Courthouse Art Gallery. Located upstairs inside the Federal Building, artist Caleb O’Connor created 16 massive murals to depict Tuscaloosa history. O’Connor moved to Tuscaloosa to complete this three-year project and currently resides in Tuscaloosa and has a downtown studio.

You can also view one of the largest collections of African-American art at the Paul R. Jones Gallery. Paul R. Jones was considered, before his passing in 2010, one of the world’s top 100 art collectors. He started collecting art in the 1960s, driven by a motivation when he noticed the absence of African-American artists’ works in museums, galleries, and auctions. He collected art on a middle-class budget, eventually amassing his large collection.

In 2008, Jones donated a portion of his collection to the University of Alabama. The Paul R. Jones Collection contains more than 1,700 pieces that illustrate the importance of art in life.

Learn about Tuscaloosa native Dinah Washington and explore the art galleries at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, too. Managed and maintained by The Arts Council, the center is named after Dinah Washington, a jazz and blues vocalist and pianist born in Tuscaloosa. The so-called Queen of Blues has been cited as the most popular black female recording artist of the ’50s. In 1993, Washington was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

5. It’s home to the University of Alabama
Take a tour of the UA campus. While you’re there, check out University of Alabama college football history at the Paul W. Bryant Museum. Then stroll the Walk of Champions at Bryant-Denny Stadium and take a stadium tour.

6. The view at the Black Warrior River on the Tuscaloosa River Walk
Near downtown Tuscaloosa you’ll find the Tuscaloosa River Walk, a paved trail that follows the southern bank of the Black Warrior River. The entire length of the trail is 4.5 miles, making for a leisurely walk with a view of trees, the river, and wooden bridges. The trail is well lit with street lamps and accesses a variety of park areas that are pet friendly.

You’ll find numerous restaurants and shops to stop at along the river walk, including the Tuscaloosa River Market, where there’s a Saturday farmers market where vendors sell local goods and produce.

While you’re near the river, enjoy a ride on the Bama Belle Riverboat. Take a weekend cruise with live music on Fridays, a sunset voyage on Saturdays, or a Sunday afternoon sightseeing cruise.

7. To experience legendary barbecue joints
Southern barbecue, and Alabama barbecue in particular, has a distinct profile steeped in its own history. It’s vinegar based, sandwiches are topped with coleslaw, and there’s the Alabama white sauce. The love of barbecue, like many foods, developed out of necessity. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, “During difficult economic times in the South, barbecuing was an inexpensive way for the working class to bring flavor and tenderness to even the most inexpensive cuts of meat.” This practical use grew into a savory favorite.

Two barbecue joints in Tuscaloosa carry on this rich tradition of slow-cooked and smoked meats.

At Archibald and Woodrow’s B-B-Q, they’ve been serving Southern barbecue in West Alabama since the 1960s. This unassuming barbecue joint was recommended as a place to stop in Southern Living.

You won’t find beef products on the menu, but pork and chicken are abundant. One Yelp reviewer raved, “We found this place by accident, getting off the freeway to dodge a traffic jam, and were we glad! Best barbecue sauce I’ve had outside of Texas — perfectly balanced between sweet and tangy with a nice bite to it. I had the pulled chicken plate with baked beans and corn on the cob, my partner had the rib plate with baked beans and salad, and we both had leftovers. That rib plate comes with four full-sized ribs! This is definitely on the go-back list if we’re in the area around lunch or dinner time.”

Dreamland BBQ was opened in 1958 by John “Big Daddy Bishop,” originally as the Dreamland Cafe. The ribs and secret barbecue sauce are legendary, but you’ll also find pulled pork, barbecue chicken, hickory-smoked sausage, plus a variety of sides. For dessert, be sure to try the Southern favorite: banana pudding. It’s a small location with just a few tables and booths and a pot-bellied stove.

A reviewer on TripAdvisor relays the joys of their ribs: “The best ribs! The homemade potato salad and banana pudding are excellent also. The sauce has a little spice to it, but not overwhelming. Good service, clean restaurant. You have the choice of ribs or sausage … but when you have ribs that are this good, there is no need for anything else.”

8. To grab a bite in a unique venue
Enjoy fine dining in a historic train depot at 301 Bistro and Beer Garden. The building acted as the Louisville and Nashville (L and N) Railroad Company’s passenger station from 1912 through the 1940s, then was a Trailway’s bus station from 1950 to 1967. It later fell into disrepair. In 1978, a group of investors renovated and opened the building as a restaurant and bar called HaddCall Station. The location was home to several restaurants throughout the years, until Bill Lloyd opened it in 2005 as a private events facility. In 2015, Lloyd made additional renovations — the first major renovation since the 1970s, and opened as 301 Bistro, Bar, and Beer Garden. Visit for dinner or stop by on a Sunday for their jazz brunch.

Another unique venue is The Lookout Rooftop Bar, where you can watch the sun set on the rooftop of Hotel Indigo. You’ll find seasonal, locally inspired menus with a spectacular view.

For the complete article please see

People can buy your lost luggage at this store in Alabama
From the article by Emily Rumball on

Have you ever wondered what happens to baggage that is never claimed?

A majority of it is. However, there is a small percentage that makes it to the island of lost luggage.

From there, if no one claims a bag after 90 days, airlines can sell it to a discount store located in Scottsboro, Alabama.

That’s right. Your luggage isn’t lost in oblivion. It’s just sitting in Alabama.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center, a 40,000 square-foot warehouse, is filled to the brim with various knick-knacks and items recovered from lost luggage from all over the United States.

“Although over 99.5% of domestic airline’s checked bags are picked up at the baggage carousel, lost luggage is an unfortunate part of airline travel,” the store’s website says.

Following the three-month duration where airlines seek to return the remaining 0.5% of lost luggage, only a small amount of the bags are leftover.

“Claims are paid on these remaining lost bags and only then do the airlines sell the remaining unclaimed baggage property to Unclaimed Baggage Center.”

The brand explains that such purchasing agreements actually provide a useful service by giving a “second life to unclaimed items.”

Here’s how it works.

The unclaimed bags are delivered to the facility via tractor-trailer, where they are categorized, sorted, and given prices.

From there, clothing items are laundered and dry-cleaned at the warehouse’s in-house laundry facility, which also happens to be the largest laundering facility in Alabama.

If any bags contain jewelry, it is polished and then appraised.

Electronic items and equipment undergo testing. Then they are wiped of all personal data and information.

Basically, if it’s something that can be packed into a suitcase, it is likely sold at Unclaimed Baggage Center.

The facility sells a variety of items typically brought on vacations and business trips such as clothing, jewelry, cameras, electronics and golf clubs.

However, you may get lucky and pick up something one-of-a-kind.

“You never know what people may pack, so you could be one of the lucky shoppers to scoop up an African mask, vacuum-packed frogs, or even a snowboard,” the brand’s website states.

The facility also sells unclaimed cargo, special buys, and items lost in shipment.

The company’s website has a page solely dedicated to the eclectic, and sometimes downright weird, items that have been found in abandoned luggage, appropriately named “You Found What?

Items on this page include a camera from the space shuttle (which was returned to NASA), a Versace gown straight from the runway, a 40.95-carat natural emerald, and even a shrunken head.

The concept for the Unclaimed Baggage Center originated in 1970 when Doyle Owens had an idea.

According to the website, he journeyed to Washington D.C. in a “borrowed pick-up truck and a $300 loan” to collect the first of what would be many loads of unclaimed luggage.

Owens sold the items “on card tables in an old rented house,” and the rest is history.

His endeavour was a roaring success.

From there, the company was owned and operated by Doyle, his wife Sue, and their two sons.

It eventually evolved into a substantial business that would later transform into the first and only lost luggage store in the U.S.

Since the company’s creation, the Owens family and their team have been committed to sharing their success and wealth by giving back.

Every year, they have donated stock, funding, and time to various charitable efforts through their “Reclaimed for Good” initiative.

Through their various philanthropic relationships with local, national and international organizations, Unclaimed Baggage Center finds uses for over half of their merchandise not appointed for retail.

Losing your bag sucks, and it’s not fun having to replace lost items, but perhaps you can take solace in the fact that there is potential that your personal items are bringing joy and utility to those in need.

At the very least, you can use it as an excuse to go shopping.

For the complete article please see

Ranelli’s Deli in Five Points named best deli in Alabama by the Food Network
From the article by Pat Byington on

Have you ever had a neighbor receive one of those “best of” awards – like best lawyer or citizen of the year? When someone in the neighborhood does good and gets recognized, we all feel a bit prouder and stand a little taller.

Well, as a resident of Birmingham’s Southside for the past 30 years, that’s how I feel about Five Point South’s Ranelli’s Deli and Cafe being named the best deli in Alabama by The Food Network, this week.

This honor is genuinely well deserved.

Upon receiving the news, I ran down to Ranelli’s right before they closed, to get Rick and Sarah Ranelli’s reaction to such a prestigious honor.

It’s about family
When I greeted Rick and Sarah, 10 minutes before they were to close for the day, they were excited to tell me the Ranelli’s story.

It is a story about a remarkable family.

Off the bat, Rick quickly reminded me that the deli turns 49 years old in March and that he had been working there since he was 12.

If you have never been to Ranelli’s, it is like a museum dedicated to music, Birmingham and friends. There are 45rpm single records hanging from the ceilings, an old City Stages sign, a life size Elvis cardboard cutout and photos of friends, customers and neighbors spanning decades, decorating the walls.

It all began in 1971
“My mother and father opened Ranelli’s in 1971,” Rick began.

“We basically started by having a booth at the international fair when they celebrated Italy. My father was a wholesale food distributor that served the Italian grocery stores. At the booth my mom served up some of her recipes. Everyone asked – Where is your restaurant?”

She told them, she didn’t have a restaurant. It was then, my dad had a little light pop up (Rick gestured over his head) – maybe we should open up a restaurant? They passed by here (the current restaurant) one day, saw a for rent sign, and the rest is history.”

The first menu had 5-6 sandwiches on it. There were also Italian groceries, sliced meats and cheeses and olives for sale.

“We struggled for the first couple of years, but then the neighborhood caught on. Next thing you know 49 years later we are still sitting here,” Rick said with a grin. “We’ve had opportunities to leave, but something just keeps us sitting here.”

Both Rick and Sarah, who are the only employees, said the place is less about the work today.

“It’s a testament to my parents, our heritage, the way we were brought up and how to do things right.”

Food Network News
Sarah described how they learned about the honor the Food Network bestowed upon their deli.

“They ( Food Network) just called us out of the blue. They said you had overwhelming support.”

It has been a memorable month for Ranelli’s.

Sarah then informed me that just a few weeks ago a differnt national foodie digital publication called Cheapism had named their Richman Po-Boy, one of the best subs, grinders and hoagies across America.

Unsurprisingly, in 2012, the Richman, was named one of the “100 Dishes To Eat in Alabama Before You Die” by Alabama Tourism Department.

“It’s such an honor,” she humbly added.

Much like the 70s
Along with award winning food, local residents simply love the restaurant’s atmosphere and consistency.

Rick explained, “We are a stickler for details. We want it to be like it was back then. Quality food, reasonable price. That was my dad’s mantra. Do not skimp on quality.”

A comfortable family friendly place. No one wants Ranelli’s to change. Even when Rick tried putting up a digital sign with the menu items, his customers said… “please don’t do that.”

So, Rick found the the original guy, a friend of his, who made the first board. Even though his friend is retired, he made him a new menu board, and drew it all by hand.

Ranelli’s is a special place with many traditions that include all you can eat spaghetti on Tuesday and lasagna on Thursday.

A musical family, the first Friday of every month after 6 P.M., the restaurant is closed, but Rick, his brothers, sisters and friends gather together to play blues on the restaurant’s small stage.

You can imagine the spirit of Rick’s father, Sam Ranelli, who was inducted in the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame playing along with everyone.

Congrats Ranelli’s!
I think you can see why everyone around Five Points South neighborhood and the Southside community is so proud. As a neighbor, I sure am.

Here is a link to the Food Network story: 51 Best Delis in the Country

On behalf of your Birmingham neighbors, congrats Ranelli’s and thank you.

For the complete article please see

Welcome Centers greet tourism partners
Mark your calendar. The Alabama Tourism Department-Welcome Center Program will be welcoming guests throughout the state to increase the awareness of the economic, social and cultural impact that tourism has on the local, regional and state-wide communities. We invite our tourism partners to participate at each Center from 10 A.M. until 3 P.M. (central standard time) by bringing special promotions, coupons, etc., and sharing in our hospitality on the following dates:

7: Grand Bay Welcome Center
8: Baldwin Welcome Center
12: Lanett Welcome Center
14: Sumter Welcome Center
20: Cleburne Welcome Center
21: Ardmore Welcome Center
27: Houston Welcome Center
28: DeKalb Welcome Center

Please contact the Welcome Center managers to RSVP.

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
When you’re thinking about adding an event, remember they need to be large, exciting events that people are willing to travel to and stay for. Only add events that will gain the attention of people far and wide.

Not a partner yet? Sign up today.



Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to: The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

To subscribe to the newsletter please contact Dwayne O’Riley at:

Alabama Tourism Department