Urban Standard re-opens: Smiles and hugs everywhere – a community comeback story (photos)

Urban Standard Birmingham Alabama
Urban Standard Birmingham Alabama
Urban Standard re-opened today after a fire caused its closure on January 5, 2017.

All morning long there has been smiles and hugs between employees and long time customers, as Urban Standard, the popular downtown coffeehouse and cafe on 2nd Avenue North, opened its doors for the first time since a January fire forced the business to temporarily close.

Bham Now interviewed House Manager Luke Przkewas and General Manager/Chef Trevor Newberry minutes after Urban Standard returned this morning.

Below are their comments about the journey it took to “bring back” this special place, along with photos of the newly refurbished Urban Standard.

Urban Standard Birmingham Alabama
Urban Standard first customers lining up this morning after the early January 2017 fire
Impact of the fire

Przkewas: So we had to rebuild pretty much the entire kitchen, all the drywall had to be gutted, had to re-paint and re-seal the wooden rafters and one of the HVACS had to be replaced. Everything (throughout the coffeehouse) had to be re-done.

I never want to do it again.  Its been a monumental learning experience.

Tom (Tom Wrzesien – the owner) has made the joke – This place is easier to build than to re-open.

Newberry:  This (re-building the place) took a solid month and a half, two months longer than expected.  One thing that was very, very important was that we open the right way.

Community support was amazing.  Personally, I had two immediate fears when this happened. I was worried about keeping our employees and keeping our regulars. Especially early morning, people (customers) get into habits, rituals.

Urban Standard Birmingham Alabama

Urban Standard Birmingham Alabama

Overwhelming Community Support

Przkewas: It’s been phenomenal. We had a Go Fund Me started by Chad Fisher from St. Paul’s and the Broken Bones. He has been a long standing regular here. When he is not touring, he is typically here everyday, getting a large coffee or a large “shot in the dark” and a refill before he goes. He hangs out here for hours.  He started it (Go Fund Me page) and all the community outreach from all the local coffee shops, all of our regulars, companies that were nearby – people have donated and covered our entire “tip gap.”  So even though our insurance was covering our wages, our base wages without tips is not that great. But the community kept us all afloat.

Newberry: The community support for our staff was awesome, the community made sure we could keep our employees.

So many people rallied, people who come to mind, Lucy’s Coffee and Tea, Crestwood Coffee, Chad Fisher, started a Go Fund me page which was a lion share of the work.  A lot of small donors that are frankly too numerous for me to list. We could not thank the community enough. They made all the difference in the world. We didn’t want to lose these people that are part of our family.

It’s good to be back at the routine. 

Birmingham Alabama

Additional -Art

Przkewas: One of my favorite artist John Lytle Wilson (pointing to a painting ) is right there, I have one of his paintings at home and Tom the owner brought one here too.  I said, yes we love this guy. And what better than have a local Birmingham artist on our walls.  Mary Grace Wolnski, we have her two painting too, she use to work here, she trained me when I started working here almost 7 years ago. And now she is doing art full-time. Over time hope to have more and more local artists over time.

Urban Standard Birmingham Alabama
John Lytle Wilson painting

Urban Standard Birmingham Alabama

A true community comeback story.  Make sure to check out the “newly” refurbished Urban Standard today.

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama’s Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama’s cancer risk and mercury standards.