Special to The Times
Urban Impact, the community economic development agency that serves the Birmingham Civil Rights District and Historic 4th Avenue Business District, highlights a business in the Historic 4th Avenue Business District each month. The IMPACT Business of the Month is a part of the new series #IMPACTStories that spotlights key developments, initiatives or stories related to the work of the agency.
Historic 4th Avenue Shirts, a family business run by Peggy, Albert and Al Jr. Logan, celebrated their fifth year in business in July. Their business is based on a mission: Keep Birmingham’s black history alive and inspire black people to empowerment. They want to pass the baton on to younger generations and want them to know not just the “institutional history” but the “city’s history”. Remembering the glory days of 4th Avenue, the Logan’s seek to uphold and continue the “sense of freedom” that they felt as black children on 4th Avenue during the denouement of the Jim Crow South.
Historic 4th Avenue Shirts, a storefront on the historic corridor located at 1703 4th Ave. N, sits between Green Acres Café and Talk of the Town Barbershop. Professional, homey, nostalgic and unique, the shop is assorted with antique items that are designed to transport the customer or tourist through time. More than a retail shop, Historic 4th Avenue Shirts has become a popular tourist stop for travelers as far as Sweden and as near as Fountain Heights. Anchored by an old bar now repurposed as a snack and ice cream stand, the shop strives to create a “safety” that Peggy Logan said she felt as a child.
“We gave 4th Avenue what 4th Avenue may have been missing” says Albert Logan, the co-owner and husband of Peggy Logan. “We kept the bar so that people could come in and sit at the bar and talk.”
It’s that sense of community that makes Historic 4th Avenue Shirts special.
Albert Logan, dual retiree, U.S. Dept. of Justice and high school administrator; Peggy Logan, medical social worker and Al Logan Jr. UAB graduate in justice/legal affairs see their shop not just an instrument of profit, but also a calling of purpose.
“Fourth Avenue should mean to Birmingham what Beale St. means to Memphis”, Mr. Logan said. “We wanted to have a place that felt like home.”
“When we have personal contact, people feel welcome,” added Peggy Logan.
“The street is so friendly they [visitors and customers] just don’t find that in our shop they find that on the whole street”.
“The institute [BCRI] is the title, but 4th Avenue is the detail.”
The store offers friendliness but also a full suite of merchandise that diversifies the offerings in the 4th Ave. N retail corridor. From custom designed $10 Historic 4th Ave. Shirts that sport district pride to vinyl records to the free book program for youth, the store is an exercise in black joy and uplift, and that’s their goal. On Saturdays especially, this joy is most prevalent when the legendary barbershops are in full swing and kids from ages 1 to 92 stop in to converse and reminisce over shaved ice cone or a pint of ice cream.
While their focus is on history, they opened the business to help the present and spur the future of the district.
“I’m kind of nervous about it [gentrification]. I’m hoping that with gentrification that property will not be bought as such that culture will be lost and the sweet history will be gone. It [4th Avenue] has a cultural sweetness that allows black people to be free. I don’t want it to be so commercial that people don’t come this way,” Ms. Logan observes about the future.
“We have to maintain what we have but have to upgrade it with modern [amenities] but keep the facade,” hopes Mr. Logan about the district. The Logans also keep their son Al Logan, who helps to design shirts, central in the fabric of the business, and sees him as the next generation.
“Our son is the next generation, and we want to make sure that he and others keep this Black History alive.”
Also delivering free to bulk t-shirt customers (family reunions, churches etc.) in the Birmingham area, customers can find the Logans on #4thAve from Monday thru Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Give them a call at (205) 613-7145.
They also leave this special message:
Thanks for the support of the Historic 4th Avenue Merchants, who have supported us since the first day, when we arrived five years ago. Thanks to the Birmingham community, they have come in to talk, play the piano, share their children’s smiles and eagerness to learn from our display of free books. We thank the City of Birmingham and the Mayor, who encourages and supports small businesses. We thank all the people that have come in our shop and shared their lives and feelings about civil rights, marches, traditions, their parents, etc., we have received so much knowledge, more than we gave. Thank you to the people all over the world, who have shared their struggles and continue to be interested in our civil rights. We have been embraced with such kindness and love. We are truly blessed. We are passing the baton to this generation and the next generation, and the journey has been the ride of a lifetime. Lastly, we would like to thank Urban Impact and The Times for their support. We look forward to a long relationship with Historic 4th Avenue District.