By: Willie Moseley
Late November will mark the 10th anniversary of the fire that decimated the Hotel Talisi, the keystone building in downtown Tallassee. It was, quite frankly, a knife to the gut of this community and its ramifications are still being felt in eastern Elmore County and beyond.
Just last week, a resident of Montgomery asked me about the status of the hotel, recalling numerous trips to Tallassee with his family to dine on the establishment’s legendary Southern cooking buffet.
I brought him up to date, citing other dining establishments in the area that serve similar cuisine.
Folks are still going to wonder about the restoration of the hotel itself and if I’m asked my response is that it’s presently in stasis.
2016 witnessed a massive conflagration at the east-side mill but that facility was already vacant, having closed in 2005.
However, the local manufacturing environment bounced back quickly following the closure when GKN announced an expansion weeks later. Then-Gov. Bob Riley participated in the publicity at city hall, pronouncing the new opportunity to be “Alabama at its finest.”
Efforts are underway as of this writing regarding the ruins of the east-side mill. It’s ironic the last editorial The Tribune’s late publisher Jack Venable wrote in 2005 was published after the mill was vacated and was titled, “City doesn’t need another eyesore.” One wonders what he might have written after the huge fire in 2009.
It’s obvious Tallassee has had a disproportionate number of “downer” events in the last 15 or so years. There is still a lot of opportunity around here but it takes a positive attitude to make things happen.
That’s why the recent chamber of commerce banquet at the local National Guard armory was encouraging. I hadn’t attended that event since I retired and noted both the large turnout and upbeat mentality of the individuals I observed and with whom I spoke. There appeared to be a healthy cross-section of Tallassee’s business owners and employees in attendance.
For locals, the fact the 1220 Café catered the event meant an excellent meal was automatically expected. Noah and Pam Griggs and their associates delivered.
There was also a decent assemblage of city and county elected officials, as well as this area’s Alabama House of Representatives legislator, Mike Holmes.
Closer to home, it was meaningful to note the involvement of local next-generation businesspersons whose parents have been active in local commerce for years. If the progenitors have been successful, it ought to be appreciated that their offspring are participating as well.
While speaker Ben Venable’s roots are in Tallassee, he’s become a definitive example of the “local boy makes good” phrase. When he was growing up here, one of his commendable projects to earn his Eagle Scout badge involved documenting gravesites in the older part of Rose Hill cemetery.
Now he’s succeeded with his tech leadership not only with the State of Alabama but also as president of the Southern region of a national association of state government tech officials. During his presentation at the banquet, he brandished several gizmos such as a “bag phone” (like a lot of us used to own) to demonstrate the evolution of such communication/information devices.
The apple hasn’t fallen far from the Venables’ tree. Many of us know Ben’s parents, Jo and Jack, succeeded in their business aspirations, and were leaders in this community and elsewhere.
The younger Venable’s accomplishments validate an anecdote from when Ben was 5 years old. Jack was a legislator before Ben was born and the youngster accompanied his father and another duffer named Billy Godwin on a round of golf at a country club. Godwin asked the tyke, “Ben, when you grow up, are you gonna be a politician?”
Ben’s immediate response was, “No, sir, I’m going to be too successful to do that!”
As for Tallassee’s business horizons, one thing that needs to be affirmed is this town is still the industrial hub of Elmore County, a fact underlined when Neptune Technology Group won the chamber’s business of the year award.
The camaraderie and the cuisine at the chamber banquet made for an optimistic evening. Every once in a while, this town and its surrounding area needs such an inspiring experience.