The Irondale Café is the recipient of the Irondale Commercial Development Authority (CDA) Business of the Month award for February 2015. This monthly award is presented to an Irondale business that exemplifies; excellence in their industry and a solid commitment to community partnering.
The Irondale CDA will host a special award reception this month in honor of The Irondale Café. The mayor, public officials and civic leaders will be in attendance.
The Irondale Café is a landmark of the City of Irondale since it first opened it’s doors in 1928 as a hot dog stand by Emmett Montgomery. Maggie Prentice came along shortly thereafter, to add hamburgers, barbecue, and a variety of sandwiches to the menu, and in 1932 Miss Bess Fortenberry purchased the business. The “stand” was renamed the Irondale Café, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In January 1992 the movie Fried Green Tomatoes premiered at the Cobb Galleria Theatre in Birmingham, and Fannie Flagg, Bess Fortenberry’s niece and author of the book by the same name, came to the opening with many of her friends and associates. Right after it opened, tourists from all over started coming to the Café. The local newspaper ran an article that asked: “Seen the movie? Now taste the title.” The crowds grew. Everyone who comes to the café for the first time orders the fried green tomatoes! They fry 60 or 70 pounds every weekday, and more than that on Sundays.
Irondale CDA chairman, Darryl Washington interviewed Irondale Café owner, Jim Dolan and asked him ten questions about business and life. See Mr. Dolan’s responses below:
Ten Questions for Irondale Café Owner, Jim Dolan
Interview held by Irondale CDA Chairman, Darryl Washington
- What do you like most about doing business in Irondale ?
The business community and the city have always been very supportive.
- Who in business do you admire most? Why? One in the restaurant business is Truett Cathy. He built a tremendous family owned business founded on unwavering fundamental principles and beliefs.
- What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? Go back to school and become an engineer.
- What is the best advice you ever received? Who in business do you admire most? Why? Get out of debt. Pay cash for everything. If you can’t afford to pay cash , you can’t afford it.
- If you were not owner of The Irondale Café, what would you be doing? Owner of some other kind of restaurant.
- What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Hunting, fishing, golf, cooking, reading.
- What challenges are facing your business right now? Labor is the only major challenge we face. Opportunity is everywhere. We are constantly trying to simplify our operation. The reason that there are so few cafeterias left in the market place is not because the customer’s tastes changed and the food went out of vogue; the labor force for that segment of the industry doesn’t exist anymore.
- What was the most important thing you learned in school? If you are organized and diligent you do not have to be particularly intelligent to succeed. The more organized that you are the less diligent you have to be.
- What is one goal — either personal or professional — that you would like to accomplish during your lifetime? Would like to catch a grander marlin.
- What is one unique or quirky habit that you have? I’m very picky about writing instruments. When in sales for ten years I would only write with a Mont Blanc retractable pen, black ink, bold point . I misplaced my pen one day and drove immediately to the store and bought another. I only use a Pilot G2 , bold , black ink now and purchase them by the dozens.