Small business Monday – spotlight on Birmingham Ghost Walk

Read Time 3 Minutes

That chill in the air may be more than just a cold front.  According to Wolfgang Poe, owner of The Birmingham Historic Touring Company, downtown Birmingham is inhabited by a wide array of ghosts and spirits.  He tells all about his year round Ghost Walk in this week’s edition of Small business Monday!

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Wolfgang Poe, owner of The Birmingham Historic Touring Company. photo via Kristina O’Quinn for Bham Now

My business is The Birmingham Historic Touring Company.  I grew up in Birmingham and graduated Hewitt Trussville High School in 1987.  This is currently my 6th year of doing tours.  I don’t have any co-owners, and only one current employee, although there are a couple of others in the pipeline.  I can always use a few more because my overall goal is to personally retire from doing tours and work on other related projects.  Currently I lead Dark history tours through the historic center of downtown (The Birmingham Ghost Walk), and other related lectures and events on an intermittent basis.  There is currently also a civil rights tour in the works.

Wolfgang Poe tells the story of the ghost of a Lyric Theater staff member who reportedly still moves brooms around. Photo via Kristina O’Quinn for Bham Now

Despite being told by multiple people, including the greater bulk of my friends, that there was no way in the world that anyone would ever go on a walking tour through downtown Birmingham, I proved that not only could I create an interesting historic tour, but people would go on it and enjoy it. I’m quite proud that I get a fairly decent percentage of out of town people that come on my tour and I show them parts of the city that they would not otherwise see, and direct them to local businesses that they would otherwise not know about.

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Photo via Kristina O’Quinn for Bham Now

I love the fact that there is so much interesting and unusual history throughout the city, that people that have lived here all their lives have no clue about.  Since my tour runs through the center of the historic part of downtown, I always get to enjoy the architecture of the various historic buildings around town and share with my guests that love of beautiful buildings and the unfortunate sadness of the buildings that are no longer standing.

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Tour participants hear about the Pizitz Easter fire. Photo via Kristina O’Quinn for Bham Now

The thing that surprises people most, especially since we’re not really a tourist city, is that my tours are not only during the Halloween season.  They run all year round, even through the winter.  Probably the hardest thing about being a small business owner is just getting the word out.  Since I am pretty much a one man band for my business I have to do all the marketing and try to let people know we even exist…And then of course convince them that it’s a worthy usage of a couple of hours of their time.

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The Watts Tower building is supposedly one of the most haunted buildings in Birmingham. Photo via Kristina O’Quinn for Bham Now

Probably the most rewarding thing of being a small business owner is the fact that I can kind of blaze my own trail and do my own thing without having a “boss.”  No matter what the media has to say, downtown Birmingham is not like they portray it.  Because, of course, the ever popular trope of “if it bleeds it leads” does not really apply to downtown.   I have people all the time that come on my tour enter just amazed that downtown is this quiet, clean and amazing place to come and see after dark .  I truly enjoy showing people that their preconceived notions about this city are not true.

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Wolfgang Poe. Photo via Kristina O’Quinn for Bham Now

I am hoping that Birmingham as a whole continues on its upward trajectory and the revitalization of some parts of the city spread to other parts of the city that could really use the positive attention. New blood in city hall (three new councilors and a new mayor) will hopefully make it happen.

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Kristina O'Quinn
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