MENTONE, Ala. (WBRC) - While many venues have suffered during the pandemic, there are others which have found a way to not only grow, but thrive, which is what happened in the Lookout Mountain town of Mentone where a new arts center in October 2020 with surprising results.
“Our mission, of course, is the promotion of artists and arts education,” explains Randy Grider, Executive Director of the Mentone Arts Council. “We opened October 22. As I tell people, Business 101, open during a pandemic. See what happens.”
The success was immediate and ongoing. “People came here. They bought art as Christmas presents. Some just supporting us. It was something to do. We built a garden out here and Carl McClusky created a sculpture of Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee syllabary. He lived in Wills Town, which is now Fort Payne. It makes us a little bit different from your normal. I don’t know. Maybe it’s normal for Mentone.”
The unique nature of the center attracts a wide array of visitors, songwriters, and artists, even a couple of former championship coaches, now sharing their work and enjoying the hospitality.
And with such a sense of the new normal, expect some unusual places to enjoy a meal, like the Hatter Cafe and Country Inn.
“Once we came to Mentone the first time, we fell in love with it, just absolutely fell in love with it; the community, the people,” says Roger Wald, who, with his wife Pamela, opened The Hatter.
“It was like Mentone’s the place to do our tea house. We have two rooms where have overnight stays, so we call ourselves a country inn.”
Pamela laughs, “And I love food. I’ve always had a fondness for Southern food, so our restaurant is geared for Southern food, breakfast, and lunch. Everything on the menu is what we like to eat.
The Alice In Wonderland Party and The Wonderland of Mentone. It all fits together. We did not know people would be coming from all over the states. Alabama, of course, and Tennessee and Georgia. So, people have been coming far and wide.”
According to Randy, “People walk in here. I ask them every day, ‘Are you a visitor or are you a new resident?’ We’ve just had these people that have found it, loved it and they’re not going away.”
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