The new owners of the Equality Performing Arts Center last month completed the first phase of a multi-step renovation project by re-opening the greenhouse on site as Rodger’s Shrubbery.
Rodger Williamson and Jennifer Childers began transitioning into the business last fall and have plans to convert the EPAC into four businesses under one umbrella company, which would include Rodger’s Shrubbery, Coosa Co. Café, Coosa Live and Coosa Co. Café Cycles.
Along with the stage area that is familiar to locals, there are two adjacent buildings on the grounds that the couple plans to renovate. The most obvious starting point, said Williamson, was to re-activate the greenhouse, which used to be a flourishing business.
“We realized we could not ignore the greenhouse that was already in place,” he said. “We mainly had to clean it up; we replaced the front plastic with proper new clear greenhouse plastic and added new frosted plastic to the sides.”
After stocking it with a variety of seasonal plants, Rodger’s Shrubbery had a soft opening March 1.
“Everyone in the community got excited about the possibility of it opening again,” said Childers.
The greenhouse name plays off a joke in the comedic movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Plus, with his name being Rodger, it seemed fitting, he said.
The temporary banner bears a crest, designed by Williamson, with three gold chevrons and the color green to pay homage to his military background.
The 30-foot by 70-foot greenhouse will be open year round and supplied with seasonal flora. Williamson said most plants would come from Southern Growers located on U.S. Highway 231. There, they can order online with 24-hour notice for delivery or hand pick from select items on location. They may import a few from out of state, as long as the plants could survive in the local climate.
“Jennifer is a home gardener, so she knows more about this side of the business than I do, but I’m learning as I go. The past owners said we would pick it up pretty quickly,” said Williamson.
Growing up learning how to grow food and tend a garden with her parents, Childers has always been interested and knowledgeable about horticulture.
“I wanted to lean toward organic but didn’t want anything over-priced either,” said Childers.
With two large fans at the back of the greenhouse for cooling and a newly installed thermostat to gauge the gas heater, Williamson said, they will try to retain inside temperatures around 70 degrees to 80 degrees to keep the plants thriving.
The plan is to replace the top of the greenhouse with the proper greenhouse plastic at some point this year.
The couple also intends to create outdoor displays to grab drivers’ attentions and beautify the area.
“We will do some landscaping and focus on making sure the terrain allows for proper water drainage from rain,” said Childers.
Rodger’s Shrubbery will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“Santuck Flea Market is the first Saturday of the month, along with other local events, so we anticipate some good traffic passing through on Saturdays,” said Williamson.
Located conveniently between Alexander City and Wetumpka, the greenhouse fills a void left when similar businesses closed in both Alexander City and Santuck.
“The Lake Martin community is nearby, along with local rural landowners. Our prices are competitive, if not a little cheaper than chain stores. Plus, we’re saving people from the additional gas to go elsewhere,” said Williamson.
Inside the EPAC building is where customer transactions occur, and additional gardening items – such as rakes, seeds, fertilizers, hoses, gloves and more – could be found in stock.
“We really wanted to focus on the café idea first. That’s what sparked my interest, but the septic was not adequate, and we have some additions to make before we can get there,” said Childers.
The next phase will be to add a kitchen to the current building and convert it into Coosa Co. Café. The stage area would be converted from rows of folding chairs to tables and chairs.
“We’re aiming for a Cracker-Barrel version of a Subway, which also includes dessert and signature coffee drinks,” said Williamson.
There will be an additional door off the stage side that would lead to a gravel parking lot, which could help with safety and convenience for customers since the building is located directly on state Route 9.
Currently, the couple has retained the community’s Fourth Friday music events by local request.
“These nights bring the community together and bring people in from outside the community. Everyone gets together to share food and fellowship,” said Williamson.
The stage side of the building has remained untouched, aside from the addition of Williamson’s personal drum set and guitars to be used by visiting musicians. Once converted, the EPAC would come to be known as Coosa Live, to maintain the business name theme.
“We really want to bring in some more talent. I would love to host open mic nights, poetry readings, comedians,” said Childers.
The final step would be to renovate the third building, next to the greenhouse, into Williamson’s personal motorcycle shop. There, he plans to buy, rebuild and sell individual bikes.
This venture will be named Coosa Co. Café Cycles, with double meanings on top of the Coosa theme. Williamson’s great-grandfather’s initials were CCCC, plus four Cs also could be translated to C4, which is an explosive and again ties into his military experience.
While he moved around quite a bit due to his service with the National Guard, Williamson bought a house in Equality in 1999. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Williamson became active duty and traveled for many years before returning to the area.
As an avid motorcyclist, he often volunteered at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum’s annual festival in Birmingham. It was there in 2015 that he met Childers, also a volunteer and motorcycle enthusiast.
Rodger’s Shrubbery is located at 560 state Route 9 in Equality. For more information or to follow updates on the separate ventures, check out the respective Facebook pages for Rodger’s Shrubbery, Coosa Co. Café and Coosa Co. Café Cycles.
“We have some big plans for Equality and want this to be a go-to location for locals, while retaining the small-town feel,” said Childers.