Picnic, anyone?

Apr 18, 2013

It’s springtime in Alabama. And for some, the sunshine and moderate temperatures meant it’s picnic season. The notion of packing a lunch and heading to the great outdoors may be second nature to veteran picnickers. For those who need a little help, all you have to do is tune in for Alabama, Inc. this Sunday on WVUA-TV. What’s your image of a perfect picnic? “Beluga caviar, vodka, fois gras….” That’s how Sean Connery did it as James Bond in “Never Say Never Again.” The message being, if you just pack a blanket and a couple of sandwiches, you may be shortchanging yourself. For the picnic novice, there’s a company in Birminghan that has everything you need… “You can buy/rent picnic baskets, vintage bicycles, you can buy or rent croquet, horseshoes, badminton,” says Nancy Tran. “And then you can walk next door on the other side and you know we serve all natural fresh food daily.” Tran opened the doors to Green Central Station in Birmingham just two months ago. Nancy grew up in Birmingham and for her; picnics played a special role in her childhood. Well I’m the youngest of five and just grew up picnicking. I was raised by a single parent- my father. He worked two full time jobs so the only day we could spend time with the family was Sundays after church,” recalls Tran. “So after church we would always fix sandwiches or grab some fried chicken and go to Vulcan, Botanical Gardens, the Zoo-all the various parks around town.” The real motivation to open up a picnic shop came to Tran four years ago while working as a real estate agent. “The real estate market crashed over four years ago,” says Tran. “At that time, I saw it as an opportunity to do something that had been at the back of my mind-which is this picnic business. My real estate office was next door to a building that happened to have an open space. Spoke to the landlord and opened up just the retail portion of Green Central Station.” Nancy had some success and she became known around the neighborhood as ‘Picnic Nancy.’ The next step for her growing business was finding a larger shop. She settled on older building in the Highlands neighborhood. My favorite baskets are the vintage ones,” says Tran during a tour of her shop. “The 50’s/60’s style. The most popular ones are the more modern outfitted ones. It’s perfect for someone who wants to go on a day hike. Very convenient. Very light weight.” You might be surprised that most of Nancy’s customers aren’t couples. She’s found that picnicking is actually taking off with the college crowd. It’s a lot of friends. UAB people, people that live in the neighborhood, says Tran. “We have regulars that are 11-years old and regulars that are 70 year olds. Some couples but mostly groups of friends.” Obviously, picnics rely on the good weather seasons. Tran is hoping that her picnic menu will keep the customers happy during winter months.And don’t forget the croquet.Tune in for Josh Snead’s story this Sunday on “Alabama, Inc.” on WVUA-TV.