Archives for August 2015

Restaurants gaining buzz in downtown Demopolis

By Jan McDonald

Special to The Watchman

Efforts to bring new businesses to the downtown area of Demopolis show progress as several new storefronts have opened in the past few months.

But getting considerable interest are the two restaurants now tempting customers with their fare. While the two eateries couldn’t be more different in their fare, they share many similarities.

Veronica Moton Wilson, otherwise known at Mrs. Kitty

Veronica Moton Wilson, otherwise known at Mrs. Kitty

The Bistro, which opened its doors two weeks ago, is the child of Mike and Susan Grayson. It is located next door and upstairs from their current businesses, Spec-Tacular and Vine and Hoof.

The menu offers many familiar and popular items, but presented with a twist, unique pairings and ingredients not often found in the area.

”What we wanted was something different, but not too different, so that’s what we hope we’ve created,” said Susan

“We had done Foscue House years and years ago and really enjoyed it,” added Mike. “The reason we got out is because I had this crazy idea about running for mayor.”

“Mike had always wanted to get back in it. He loves to cook and create,” said Susan.

In 2001 Veronica Moton Wilson, better known to her customers as Ms. Kitty, started the restaurant that carries her nickname just one month after her husband was killed in an automobile accident. She was left her with four young sons to provide for. She had to close her Camden location four years later when she had surgery but began again in 2008.

Ms. Kitty opened her local restaurant in the Demopolis Inn in July and serves “down home” cooking to the growing number of patrons. “My motto is that I don’t give you anything I wouldn’t eat.”

“I never wanted a restaurant,” she laughed. Instead she first started a small bakery business. It was her uncle, Melvin Moton Sr., who encouraged her to think about preparing lunches.

The first restaurant, she said, was located in the “back side of Camden in a little hut, almost like a barn. It absolutely took off.”

Ms. Kitty put into practice everything she learned from her great-aunt, Carrie Power.

“The other kids would be outside playing,” but she would be enjoying herself in the kitchen.

The Armstead family first approached her about six years ago with the idea of opening a restaurant in Demopolis, but, she said, “I was hesitant, believing in God but just didn’t have that faith.”

Then when Police Chief Tommie Reese introduced her to Archie Bird, “it went from there.”

Mike and Susan Grayson

Mike and Susan Grayson

The Graysons originally thought of opening a restaurant when The Marengo Café relocated to Highway 80. They felt the downtown area need a place to eat. The couple first considered locating it in their store, but the Alabama Beverage Control board regulations wouldn’t allow it.

They decided to use the vacant upstairs apartment. “We decided to renovate it. And it needed renovations,” Susan said. “Getting a 120-year-old building up to code was tough.”

“I’m not sure that if I had known going in what the scope of work would be it very well would have scared me off,” added Mike. “I grossly under calculated the scope of work to bring the building up to code.”

The couple decorated The Bistro in a wine motif to go with Vine and Hoof and used the same colors.

All cooking is done on site, said Susan, including desserts and salad dressings. “We try to do as much as we can in house.”

Both Grayson and Ms. Kitty created their own recipes for their respective restaurants for menus that change daily.

In Ms. Kitty’s case, they are recipes developed over the years that have proved popular with her patrons. She is compiling them into a cookbook she has titled “Straight from the Heart.”

The unique items on The Bistro’s menu came from months of experimentation, said Susan. Much of the produce used in the recipes are grown in their own garden.

The Graysons have six cooks working the lunch and dinner shifts, all with previous experience. Eight servers, most of whom are college-aged, wait the tables. Susan handles the bar.

Ms. Kitty has four other employees at the Demopolis location. Her third son Sheldon is the assistant manager of both restaurants. He switches off with his mother each of them spending three days at a location. That allows them both to get to know and keep in touch with their customers.

She considers her workers a team and her restaurant “a home away from home,” she said. “We have so much fun.” She and her staff “pray together, and I let them know that we are family.”

“I promised God that when people walked into my establishment that I would say hello,” said Ms. Kitty. “Business is great. I love people. I’m getting to meet new people.”

Fun was one of the factors in opening The Bistro.

“We thought it might be fun to work together like we used to,” said Susan. “The whole thing has been a challenge, and I’m sure it will keep on.”

The Graysons had three areas of focus in mind when planning the restaurant, “and all of it leads to folks enjoying themselves,” said Mike. They wanted to create an atmosphere that people would enjoy and they wanted to have food that “has got to be really good, if not great. Good just ain’t good enough anymore,” he continued. Finally, the servers had to have a positive attitude.

One of the challenges to local patrons of The Bistro are the 27 steps to reach the restaurant. Susan said ADA regulations don’t require an elevator if the facility serves under a certain number of patrons. If it ever expands, however, the Graysons will have to install access.

In the meantime, anyone who cannot reach The Bistro can call in an order, and a staff member will deliver the meal to the car.

Ms. Kitty doesn’t think her Demopolis location will be the only expansion for her restaurant. “It feels that God is saying this is the path that I want for you,” she said, like He’s telling her, “Don’t get comfortable because there’s more for you.”

She added, “I love life, and I feel that God has given me so many chances.”

Mike feels the same way. He has “Phase II and Phase III rumbling around” in his head. “I would like to us continue to get better.”

Putting on his mayor’s hat, he is pleased to see more activity for downtown Demopolis. Also opening on Washington Street are Uprooted Junk and Glam, and the Bigbee Thrift Store has relocated to larger facilities. There also is an antique store planned, he said.

“I’m really hoping that people see somebody that is putting some money in downtown Demopolis and they will say, ‘Well, you know, I can do that too’.”

UWA Board of Trustees to hold quarterly meeting Sept. 14

LIVINGSTON — The University of West Alabama Board of Trustees will hold its quarterly meeting Monday, Sept. 14 at 1:30 p.m. in the Bell Conference Center on the Livingston campus.

In addition, a mini-retreat and three committee meetings are scheduled for Monday, Sept. 14, prior to the board meeting:

Board Mini-Retreat
Bell Conference Center
8:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Academic Affairs Committee
Bell Conference Center
12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Student Affairs Committee
Bell Conference Center
12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

University Facilities Committee
Bell Conference Center
1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Agendas are available at

Thomasville teacher flies high at Space Camp

Andrea Clanahan suits up for a simulated trip to the International Space Station.

Andrea Clanahan suits up for a simulated trip to the International Space Station.

By Carolyn Drinkard

Special to The Watchman

Andrea Clanahan, an eighth grade science teacher at Thomasville Middle School, recently attended SPACE CAMP at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, NASA’s official Visitor Information Center for Marshall Space Flight Center. The educational program promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), while training students and adults with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and decision-making.

Clanahan was part of the Space Academy for Educators Program, which is designed for teachers who want to advance education in the STEM fields. Clanahan experienced astronaut simulators and took a virtual tour into space to save the International Space Station. Trainees also followed lesson plans based on NASA content (which is correlated to the National Science Education Standards) and received content and knowledge to pass on to their students in the classroom. Educators earn 45 hours of continuing education credit and can potentially earn graduate credit through the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Andrea Clanahan prepares to ride the simulator as a Space Academy instructor buckles her in.

Andrea Clanahan prepares to ride the simulator as a Space Academy instructor buckles her in.

Space Camp operates year-round in Huntsville, Alabama, and uses astronaut-training techniques to engage trainees in real-world applications of STEM subjects. Trainees sleep in quarters designed to resemble the ISS and train in simulators like those used by NASA.

Nearly 700,000 trainees have graduated from Space Camp since its opening in Huntsville in 1982, including STS-131 astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, who spoke to Clanahan and the other campers. Last year, children and teachers from all 50 states and 64 international locations attended Space Camp.

Anyone who might be Interested in training like an astronaut should visit or call 1-800-63 SPACE.

Photo of the Day

POTD DHS Cheerleaders-9198

Sarah Duncan Culpepper, Hannah Webb, Savannah Horshok, Sidney Alyn Atkins and Caroline Overmeyer take time for a photo before the Tigers game Friday night.

8-28-15 Demopolis at Thomasville (gallery)

Click on an image to start the slideshow.

Thomasville Salvation Army seeking bell ringers

By Carolyn Drinkard

Special to The Watchman

The Red Kettle (Bell Ringing) season for the Salvation Army is just around the corner. The Red Kettle campaign will begin in November and end Christmas Eve. It is important to remember that these donations go to help hundreds in this area.

Thomasville has been blessed to have so many willing volunteers to help to raise funds for those less fortunate, but this year, we need even more workers.   If you would be willing to donate your time to help those less fortunate in the community, please call the Salvation Army Store at 334-636-9840 and volunteer.

If you rang last year, you will be called shortly.  If your number has changed from last year, please call the Salvation Army Store and give the correct number.

‘Horns fall to Bessemer Academy in season opener

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It was a game of turnovers at the Linden Athletic Field as Marengo Academy (0-1) fell to Bessemer Academy (1-0) 28-6 in their season opener.

“First game, we didn’t do a jamboree, there’s a lot of things we’ve got to clean up,” said Marengo’s new head football coach David Barham.

The Longhorns went three and out on their first possession of the night. In the ensuing drive, the Rebels fumbled and Marengo Academy came up with the recovery on the Rebel 27 yard line. After a failed fourth down conversion, the Rebels reclaimed possession and Tanner Stinnett was able to connect with Ryan Stoves for a 38-yard touchdown reception. The PAT put the Rebels up 7-0 with 3:21 remaining in the first quarter.

The first half was full of turnovers from both sides of the ball. Bessemer led the night with five fumbles and one interception, compared to Marengo’s three fumbles (one a high snap that resulted in a safety) and one interception.

Bessemer started the second half strong as Brodie Medders returned the opening kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown, putting the visitors up 21-0.

Marengo’s only points of the night would come with 9:36 remaining to play as Robert Tutt was able to find Cason Cook towering over the Rebel defenders for a 26-yard touchdown reception.

“We didn’t block well, we didn’t tackle well, we’ve just got to get better,” said Barham.

Bessemer had 13 penalties on the night totaling 138 yards, compared to Marengo’s six for 30 yards.

“I was proud of them for not laying down. A lot of kids began to step up and started making blocks, running harder, so you take that positive with you and you go build on it,” said Barham, referring to his team’s fourth quarter scoring drive.

Tutt went seven of 22 on the night for 62 yards. Huckabee led the Longhorns’ rushing attack with 25 carries for 106 yards. Marengo ended the night with 207 yards of total offense.

Thomas Etheridge led Marengo’s defensive effort with eight tackles, three assists, and one forced fumble. Andrew Martin had a fumble recovery and an interception while Weldon Aydelott forced one fumble and a sack.

The Longhorns travel to Grove Hill next Friday to take on the Clarke Prep Gators. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Keen Chiropractic Post Game Report: DHS @ Thomasville (8/28/15)

Demopolis shuts out Thomasville in Luker debut

THOMASVILLE — The Stacy Luker era in Demopolis officially opened Friday night with a 27-0 win over rival Thomasville in an effort that saw DHS display all the hallmarks of a Luker-led team.

Jamarcus Ezell fires a pass against Thomasville.

Jamarcus Ezell fires a pass against Thomasville.

Luker’s squad jumped on top early when a shanked punt left the visiting Tigers on a short field. Jamarcus Ezell polished off the ensuing offensive march with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.

After an 18-play drive milked most of the second quarter and resulted in no points for Demopolis, the Tigers found rhythm in the second half.

“They played big tonight. I thought we were a little sluggish early on, but every kid in that dressing room accepted the challenge and it was a better second half for us,” Luker said of the change in his team after halftime.

Demopolis got a 43-yard run from Jay Craig to open its second possession of the third quarter. Three snaps later, Ezell found Drew Jones on a 14-yard touchdown pass, setting the score at 14-0. Jones caught six balls for 67 yards on the night.

Jay Craig runs behind a block from Jacob Rodrigues.

Jay Craig runs behind a block from Jacob Rodrigues.

“We were just running the waggle and sneaking him out there. We knew they were in man coverage and a linebacker had to guard him and they weren’t getting him out to the flats and Jamarcus put it right there on him,” Luker said. “Drew had a good night. All our backs did. Our backs were physical tonight.”

Two plays later, Khyrim Bryant pounced on a Thomasville fumble at the home team’s 19. Jones took it the remaining distance on the next play to make it 20-0.

Thomasville was poised to respond when it marched 10 plays on the ensuing possession. Matt Beckum jumped a route on the final play of the third quarter and intercepted a pass at his own 2 to nullify the threat.

Drew Jones cuts upfield against Thomasville.

Drew Jones cuts upfield against Thomasville.

“Four turnovers. They’re too good for us to have four turnovers. We didn’t execute well offensively. We let them have their way with us a little bit. Our defense got tired because we put them on the field all night long,” Hankins said. “Two RedZone turnovers will absolutely kill you.”

After the Beckum interception, Demopolis marched 74 yards and finished it off with an 8-yard Craig run.

Craig had 140 yards on 20 carries. Jones had 101 yards from scrimmage on 13 touches.

The defense limited Thomasville to 167 yards, highlighted by four turnovers. Khyrim Bryant had six tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his first start on the defensive line. Russ Logan had eight tackles to lead the unit.

Demopolis hosts Calera to open region play next week.


DHS – 7 0 13 7 27

THS – 0 0  0 0   0




RUSHING – 39-208

PASSING – 9-6-67

TOTAL – 275


INTS – 0

PUNTS/AVG. – 2-38




RUSHING – 34-106

PASSING – 12-7-61

TOTAL – 167


INTS – 1

PUNTS – 2-20



1ST – 4:15 – JAMARCUS EZELL 1 RUN (R.J. COX KICK) – 7-0



4TH – 1:36 – JAY CRAIG 8 RUN (R.J. COX KICK)

BWWMH continuing preparations for Adult-Psych unit

No action was taken at the meeting of the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority board of directors Thursday, but reports from the administration brought members up to date on activities that will affect Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital.

CEO Art Evans said Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama will be increasing its in-patient reimbursement rate for Medicare patients from $1,300 per day to $2,822 daily beginning Oct. 1. He qualified the news by saying that it is very difficult to get approval for inpatient care from the insurance giant.

BC/BS will be changing other reimbursement for Geri-Psych and Adult-Psych patients as well, Evans continued.

Preliminary work on the Adult Psych unit is continuing with visits to other sites and investigating how to pay for the unit. Board chairman Jay Shows commended several members for paving the way to contact both government and private sources of funding.

As of July 1 the hospital began using Press Ganey to conduct its patient satisfaction surveys and educate areas of the hospital on how to improve services for its clients.

Evans said the first surveys are being returned for evaluation. Press Ganey is making no telephone surveys. Only mailed forms are being used.

To meet new regulatory requirements of CT scans, the unit at the hospital will undergo a $15,000 upgrade by Jan. 1, 2016. Evans said the Toshiba CT at the hospital will be modified to measure the dosage any patient receives. If it is not completed by the deadline, the hospital immediately loses $24,000 in Medicare reimbursement.

With the second special session of the Alabama legislature coming up, the Alabama Hospital Association is asking supporters to flood representatives and senators with post cards asking them not to cut Medicaid funding.

Evans displayed post cards at the meeting and encouraged all board members to sign and mail them. He said the AHA hopes to have 1,000 post cards delivered to each legislator.

John Laney was commissioned by the hospital to conduct a strategic study of the facility, including possible financial sources and the introduction of new product lines. He made the report during the executive session.