Citizen Stacy: Pallookaville owner asks a question at candidates forum
This story has been updated.
Pallookaville owner Jim Stacy is many things.
He’s a character, with his imposing stature and long red beard. He’s an entrepreneur whose restaurant helped breathe new life into the city’s downtown. He’s a local – and perhaps soon to be national – celebrity who has been in the news lately because of his new Cooking Channel show “Offbeat Eats.” The show is described as, “A celebration of America’s roadside rebel chefs, the people who create quirky eateries that are off the beaten path and serve up deliciously offbeat food and experiences.”
But on Thursday he was Avondale’s Joe the Plumber, only replace “Joe” with “Jim” and “plumber” with “celebrity chef/restaurateur.”
Stacy dropped by the city’s Feb. 19 mayoral forum, wearing a baseball cap and overalls, taking a seat in the back row, one of the few spots left by the time he arrived. There was no big to-do surrounding his presence, no entourage or camera crews. City Planner Keri Stevens was on hand to give microphones to people who wanted to ask questions. She gave one to Stacy, and he had to wait about 20 minutes. He fidgeted in his seat as the moderator skipped over him a couple of times.
Stacy raised his hand again. Then, finally …
“Jim Stacy, Pallookaville,” he said as he stood up. “As a parent, that’s going to the Museum School, I know where our local schools are headed. As a citizen of Avondale, I know where our annexation processes are going, what problems people have with them, what pluses and minuses people think come with that issue of annexation. That’s all fine and good. As a business leader, I know what you guys think about walkability, and transparency in government. I want hear from each one of you on what we’re going to do about parking.”
The question drew a round of laughs. Stacy was completely serious.
“We are expecting for people to come in and make investments that are as big if not greater than any home purchase that could be made in Avondale. And we have no clear vision as to what we’re going to do about parking.”
Stacy is a businessman at heart. His Pallookaville restaurant, which serves gourmet corndogs, has become the new center of gravity in Avondale Estates’ downtown, which he described as being “fallow” for many years. Despite his success, he’s not above the struggles that face most small business owners. He recently held a Kickstarter campaign to fix the restaurant’s food truck. The campaign was a success, and Pallookaville will be thanking donors at the restaurant this Saturday, rewarding them with, “Corndogs, shirts and stickers.” Decatur Metro reports that Pallookaville is also planning a takeout location in Little 5 Points.
Hutchens said the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) would be the “vehicle” to get a parking garage built downtown. Pomberg said he supported a formal relationship between the DDA and the Board of Mayor and Commissioners as a way to find a parking solution. Pullen also said the “DDA is a great place to start” in finding a parking solution.
Brown said for incoming businesses and developments, “We really need to consider making everyone who is coming into the city provide their own parking.” Elmore said that at a recent work session, Robert James, the head of the DDA, emphasized that building a parking deck is a top priority.
So which answer did Stacy like the most?
“The whole DDA angle seems to me like the only way out,” he said, noting that most of the candidates agreed with that assessment. “It becomes just an issue of my personal preference at that point.”
Does he have a personal preference?
“Not that I’m willing to say publicly,” Stacy said.
Stacy, ever the businessman, knows that getting involved in politics, even in a small town, isn’t good for business.
“It’s still a political city, no matter what goes on,” Stacy said.
Editor’s note: Dena Mellick contributed to this story.