Ashley McMakin, founder and chief executive officer of Ashley Mac’s, has been named Alabama’s Gold Retailer of the Year in the Annual Sales $5 Million to $20 Million category, according to a press release from the Alabama Retail Association.
The fast-casual café, catering and gourmet-to-go business with five Birmingham-area locations is one of 11 businesses being honored throughout the month as the association’s 2022 Retailers of the Year.
“I had no idea what God had in store for us when I started a little catering business back in 2005,” McMakin said. “I’m thankful He called us to serve in this industry and for all the people He has provided to make Ashley Mac’s what it is today.”
McMakin started catering home-style food like her mother and grandmother cooked out of the Homewood condominium where she and her husband lived as newlyweds.
“My friends knew I loved to cook and wanted to hire me to cook for their events, and we just thought this would be something fun to do until we had kids,” she said.
It was her husband, Andy, who told her, “We really need to take this, and we need to run with it.”
In 2007, Ashley Mac’s catering and to-go opened in Bluff Park. Today, Ashley Mac’s has one café each in Cahaba Heights, downtown Birmingham and Homewood, plus two in Hoover. Her chicken salad, burgers and strawberry cake are among the recipes, and more will be featured in a cookbook to be out in the spring.
“I fully expect for Ashley’s business to be known outside the borders of Alabama down the road,” fellow entrepreneur Ron Holt, founder of Two Maids & A Mop and Pink Zebra Moving, wrote in a recommendation letter for McMakin. “Her products are just too good, and her work ethic will take care of the rest.”
Besides being “one of the strongest entrepreneurial leaders within the Birmingham community,” Holt also commended McMakin for being an involved and active mother. “Somehow, she has always toggled back and forth between supermom and entrepreneur without acting like any of it is difficult,” he said.
The McMakins have three children.
“We seem to have kids and new stores at the same time,” Ashley McMakin said. Their first son was born in 2009, just before they opened their first sit-down location in Cahaba Heights in 2010. Their second son came in 2011, followed by the opening of the Inverness café in Hoover in 2013. The McMakins adopted a daughter from China while opening their second Hoover café in Riverchase in 2015. Their Homewood and Pizitz Food Hall in downtown Birmingham cafés opened in 2018 and 2020, respectively, while they welcomed a foster son into their home.
“Even with their busy schedule and young children, the McMakins still are involved in the communities they serve and give back to them generously,” said Michelle Hawkins, president and chief executive officer of the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce, who nominated Ashley Mac’s as a Retailer of the Year. Ashley Mac’s corporate headquarters as well as its Cahaba Heights location are in Vestavia Hills. The business also belongs to the Homewood and Mountain Brook chambers of commerce.
Applauding Pandemic Ingenuity
The Retailer of the Year judges commended McMakin for opening a new café during the pandemic and capitalizing on the take-home trend.
“Ashley Mac’s has a well-known carry home business. Beginning with the pandemic, this business line exploded,” McMakin noted in her entry.
The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999, honor retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their communities. This year’s winners were selected from 42 entries submitted from a pool of 55 nominees.
“Ashley McMakin is a retailer of the year EVERY year to her customers, her 81 employees and the Vestavia, Homewood, Hoover and downtown Birmingham communities,” Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown stated in the press release.
Ashley Mac’s has been a member of the Alabama Retail Association since opening its first restaurant in 2010.