Dede Quarry got introduced to downtown Decatur at a young age and still embraces those memories as she prepares to open a second business on Second Avenue Southeast with her husband and takes a leadership role among downtown merchants.
She and her mother, Cynthia Parker, shopped downtown in the early 1990s.
"My mom used to take us and we would dress up and go downtown," said Dede, now 37. "We would get our haircuts and go to all the little shops, and (my mother) would always have her favorite shops that she would go shop at. Wyker's Toys was down there on Bank Street, and of course we would have to go to Wyker's any time we went downtown."
Wanting to be part of downtown revitalization efforts, Dede brought the online home goods store Miss Muldrew’s to a storefront four years ago. Now, she and her husband Michael plan to open an ice cream parlor in May, drawing inspiration from other downtown districts throughout the country that they have visited.
“Every downtown you go to, there’s an ice cream shop,” Dede said. “There has not been anything along those lines in downtown Decatur.”
The parlor will be named Tess’s Place, a tribute to the family’s French bulldog Tess. In addition to the ice cream, the Quarry family will sell shaved ice and gourmet sodas, and they said everything they sell will cost under $5.
Before the Quarrys became business owners, Dede worked in retail management and Michael was at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama Inc., where he still works after 16 years.
The couple created Miss Muldrew's as an online store in 2010, but as the business grew, Dede viewed downtown Decatur as a prime location to turn their first business into a brick-and-mortar store.
"I worked for Gap for like 15 years in management, and I missed those everyday relationships, face-to-face with my customer base," Dede Quarry said. "We just felt like downtown Decatur was the best place to open a business. We wanted that open door policy and that hometown feel of people coming in (the store) at any point and being able to stand around and talk."
Dede said her relationships with her customers and the rest of the Decatur community are important and said downtown was the perfect place to grow those relationships.
"A lot of people think that once everything is full downtown, then you have no improvements to make," she said. "But there's always room for improvements. I think (Decatur) has made great strides in the last few years, and I think it's going to continue to get better. We have just as much room and potential as Franklin, Tennessee, to grow our downtown."
Ice cream shop returns
Dede said she was skeptical at first when considering opening a second business during the pandemic and said the decision was a “leap of faith.”
“During the beginning of the pandemic, every small business owner was going through pure panic,” she said. “But … even if you’re in a pandemic, you can still eat ice cream. It was very scary to start up a second business though.”
Michael Quarry, 40, painted and replaced flooring last week in their new space, which was formerly occupied by Second Read Books. He already had installed new lighting.
“These are called schoolhouse lights,” Michael said. “We wanted to go with that retro, older look.”
When customers walk in, there will be tables and chairs to the left and right and the ice cream freezers and bar will be located toward the back on the left.
“We’ll also have a merchandise table, across from where we’ll serve the ice cream, where we’ll sell shirts and doggy treats,” Dede said. “We’ll have tables and chairs outside where people can sit with their dogs.”
The Quarrys want their customers to get the full experience of Decatur and get a little taste of its history.
“One of the cool things that we’re doing … we’re naming our different (ice cream) flavor combinations after the old buildings in Decatur,” Dede said. “There’s going to be the Old State Bank, the Rhodes Ferry, the Raider, the Black Bear and different names like that.”
A candy store, Sweets by Jordan, already operates next door to the ice cream shop's location.
“The (south) part of Second Avenue will be the dessert side,” Michael said. “People can go to the (north) side and do all of their shopping and eat at those restaurants and then they can walk down here and have dessert.”
The Quarrys share a love of local history, and Dede said she feels honored that she will be able to replicate a part of the past.
“This building actually used to be an ice cream shop back in the 1930s,” Dede said. “It was called Lottie’s Place.”
Michael and Dede both grew up in Southwest Decatur and graduated from Austin High. Michael was born in Brazil and was adopted by a Decatur family when he was two weeks old. Michael and Dede have been married for 18 years and have two children, Parker, 14, and Bennett, 10.
Michael said he hopes residents from across Decatur will eventually become downtown regulars.
“Growing up in Southwest Decatur, I noticed there was sort of a disconnect between downtown and (north) Decatur and where I grew up,” Michael said.
Dede said her main goal as the newly appointed president of the Downtown Decatur Merchants Association is to bring Southwest Decatur residents into the downtown area where they can converse and do business with other Decatur residents.
Dede said the DDMA wants to bring more residents and tourists to shop in the downtown district so tax money will be put back into the local economy.
“We’re going to revamp 3rd Fridays this year,” Dede said. “We are (changing) how it’s just been antique cars up and down the street. We’re trying to break it up into sections, and we’re going to have a community stage at the (south) end next to Gordon (Drive).”
Dede said there will be a stage with artists and bands playing and food trucks located along the south side of Second Avenue on the first scheduled 3rd Friday event of 2022 on April 15. "Nashville Star" winner Buddy Jewell will also perform on the Second Avenue stage.
“We’re also going to have a kids zone (on Second Avenue) where kids can play,” Dede said.