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Selling Alabama: An interview with the owners of Alabama Goods

Beth Staula and Sherry Hartley started talking about creating a business that would sell Alabama-made goods after serving together on a women’s executive roundtable in 2006. Each was in the process of selling her business and deciding what to do next.

“We didn’t know each other outside of the roundtable,” Hartley said. “But we had a mutual respect for one another and decided to explore opening a business together.”

Alabama Goods started as an online-only business. Now it has stores in Homewood and Huntsville, with a Hoover store on the way. (Brandon Robbins / Alabama Retailer)

“We spent a lot of time figuring out a business plan,” Staula said. In October 2007, Alabama Goods was launched. The company initially sold Alabama-crafted products online as well as corporate gifts.

“We travel to north Alabama, south Alabama, east and west. We go to art fairs and craft shows, looking for products to sell,” Staula said.

Makers seek out Alabama Goods, as well. “We are a for-profit business but, at the same time, what we are doing helps crafters and artists in the state,” Hartley said.

As one of their artist vendors, Lora McGowan of Owens Cross Roads, put it, “Alabama Goods takes emerging artists out of the starving artist category to the ‘here I am, support me’ category.”

The online-only business model worked, but “we kept finding these really nice products that were handcrafted but didn’t meet our criteria to be a website product, so we decided to showcase them in a store,” Hartley said.

Since 2011, the partners have successfully added brick-and-mortar stores, one in Homewood and the most recent in Huntsville. In 2023, they will open their third store in Stadium Trace Village in Hoover. A separate operation center fulfills gift orders for the online presence and corporate sales.

Collaborators and information gatherers

Staula is the chief executive officer and Hartley is president. “We had to call ourselves something,” Staula said.

Staula manages the operations center, designs gift baskets and boxes, plus oversees website and corporate gifts fulfillment. The partners recently doubled the operation center space to 5,000 square feet.

Hartley manages the store staff, oversees vendor relations as well as product development, and coordinates corporate sales through the stores.

“We each have our own set of strengths that we bring to the table,” Hartley said.

Both women are data driven. “We’re constantly reading reports and adjusting,” Staula said.

They keep up on trends by reading local, national and online business publications and take part in an entrepreneurial roundtable. “We are always seeking information that will benefit our business,” Hartley said.

Alabama Goods is a certified women-owned business, and the partners draw inspiration from other females, as well. When the business partners don’t know something, “we seek out someone who does,” Staula said, adding they are “still in touch with some of the ladies” from the women’s roundtable where they met in 2016.

“Our incredible staff give our customers a top-notch experience; our Alabama vendors create amazing products; and our customers appreciate unique products and believe in buying local,” they said upon being named the Alabama Retail Association’s 2021 Gold Alabama Retailers of the Year in their sales category.

Alabama Goods is an important resource for Alabama artists. (Brandon Robbins / Alabama Retailer)

Attracted to local

Alabama Goods’ flagship store is on 18th Street in the heart of Homewood. “Homewood is very much a destination shopping area,” Staula said in explaining why they chose the city and why they plan to stay.

“You don’t find that many locally owned boutiques and restaurants in one location that offer a wide range of unique products that you can’t find anywhere else,” Hartley said.

The stores and restaurants on 18th Street “all help each other” and have similar customer bases, said Staula, a strong advocate for local ownership.

When looking for other brick-and-mortar locations in Alabama, the partners sought areas with a higher proportion of local ownership. It is what attracted them to Valley Bend Shopping Center in Huntsville and Stadium Trace in Hoover.

Alabama Goods capitalizes on the local movement through its private labels – Locally Established (T-shirts, tote bags and hats), Huntsville Home and Birmingham Home (candles).

It’s probably not a surprise that the large number of food products made in Alabama include quite a few barbecue sauces and hot sauces. (Brandon Robbins / Alabama Retailer)

Alabama love

“I grew up in Alabama. I came back as soon as possible (after college and her husband’s military assignments), because I wanted my children to have the same values and upbringing,” Staula said when asked why start a store that sells only Alabama products.

And “we thought there would be a demand for Alabama-made products,” Hartley said.

“Each item reflects our state’s warm character and creative spirit,” the Alabama Goods website declares.

“When people come in the stores and see what we have to offer, they’re always very impressed,” Hartley said, adding Alabama Goods also gets good feedback from the gift baskets or shipped items.

“Each item reflects our state’s warm character and creative spirit,” the Alabama Goods website declares. (Brandon Robbins / Alabama Retailer)

While others may sell Alabama-made goods, Staula said, “We’re still a unicorn. Nobody in the whole state does as much as we do, on the scale that we do, exclusively.”

While the business started as online only, online sales in 2021 represented 10% of overall sales. The initial focus, corporate gifts, now accounts for half of sales in the Christmas season and 20% to 25% of sales from January through October. Corporations that want to give holiday gifts with an Alabama flair or flavor should think about ordering as early as August, the partners said, adding they take corporate holiday gift orders through the beginning of December.

“There are corporate occasions year-round,” Staula said, adding she had just filled a 70-piece corporate order. Makers that can produce large quantities consistently are who Alabama Goods looks to for corporate gift and online items.

“We generally work with vendors who are business owners, because they are very small companies,” Staula said.

Hartley added, “They can make really quick decisions” and “get really creative with how they resolve supply issues.”

“It’d be easier just to go to market and buy some stuff and get on with your day,” Staula said, but she and Hartley don’t take the easy route. They develop close relationships with the makers and customers to ensure both have a satisfying experience.

“We are proud to carry products made in Alabama and are pleased that by selling these products, Alabama Goods has a positive impact on our state,” Hartley said.

This story originally was published by Alabama Retailer.


Founded: 2007.

Number of employees: 25.

Mentors: We have had dozens of professionals help us in all kinds of areas. We build relationships with people who fill information gaps for us.

Smart move: Diversifying our revenue stream and giving attention to all of them.

Learning moment: We opened a store in Tuscaloosa and closed it a year later. If something doesn’t work, cut your losses and move on.

Wisdom shared: Don’t listen to experts who give you advice that goes against your gut. No one knows your business like you do.

Alabama artists and craftsmen supply the merchandise sold by Alabama Goods – art, pottery, jewelry, bath and body products, towels, leather goods, glassware, T-shirts, hats, books, gourmet food and more. Visit online at