If you grew up in the Shoals area of north Alabama and you're over 40 years old, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about when I refer to "the strip" that was located in Florence. Take a look back at some of the places along the strip and see if you remember. I've even found a few old photos that are sure to take you back. Let's take one more loop, Shoals....let's cruise the strip!
"The strip" was a thriving business area that existed in Florence from the 1960s into the 1990s. The main part of the strip was located at the base of Cherry Hill on Florence Boulevard, or Highway 72. In the 60s and 70s, Florence was growing rapidly beyond the bounds of the downtown business district. Hwy 72 had been expanded and was known locally as the "4 Lane" and shops and eateries sprang up quickly. The state highway department built a special access road on this section of Hwy. 72 so traffic would not be impeded on the busy 4 lane. This access road along with several fast food places made "the strip" the perfect hangout. I'm not sure who named it "the strip," but the name stuck and became iconic in the Shoals. Soon, "cruisin' the strip" on a Friday or Saturday night became the thing to do. It was bumper to bumper traffic on the weekends at the strip - with carloads of teens gathering there. This went on for decades, too, even as the places along the strip changed. Most of the strip is gone - but see if you remember these places...
The Restaurants On the Strip
At the heart and soul of the strip were the eateries. At the center of the strip was Florence's very first McDonalds. The first McDonald's building (see photo above from 1964) was the iconic old style "walk-up" building with the full 180° spanning arches. Hamburgers were 15 cents, fries were cooked in beef fat, and that delicious refreshing orange drink cycled in the machine with the big clear tanks. The old building was torn down and replaced on the same spot sometime in the 1970s. It didn't matter - the strip kept rocking.
Other eateries came and went over the life of the strip. Here are some I bet you'll remember:
▪︎Culpeppers Bakery (next to McDonalds)
▪︎Kentucky Fried Chicken (next to Cullpeppers)
▪︎New Orleans Fried Chicken
▪︎Scotty's 5 Cent Hamburgers (at the very end of the strip)
▪︎Dairy Queen (famous for their footlong chili dogs!) ▪︎Burger King (still there!)
▪︎Singletons BBQ (freestanding brick building located in what is now the Walmart Neighborhood Market Parking Lot)
▪︎LaFonda Mexicana (moved in after Singleton's in the same building. Later located in the Howard Johnson's Restaurant building across Florence Blvd.)
▪︎Peking Chinese Restaurant
▪︎House of Pizza
Across from the strip:
▪︎Krystals (still there!)
▪︎Bonanza Steak House (approximately where the Dollar General is located today. I believe it was originally called Ponderosa).
The strip was a thriving business section in Florence! Besides eateries, there were several local shops. Remember any of these?
▪︎Big Star Grocery Store (building is still there next to Burger King)
▪︎Hibbetts Sporting Goods (building still there currently empty)
▪︎Harrison Pontiac (building is still there - between the Neighborhood Market and Burger King. Currently a storage facility) ▪︎Florence Courts Motel (still there! Currently "Budget Inn")
▪︎Howell Hi-Fi & TV Repair (next to KFC)
▪︎Shoe Store (not sure of the name!)
▪︎Quad Cities Tattoo Parlor (former Scotty's Burgers stand)
▪︎Kmart (currently Uhaul Rental and Storage)
▪︎Winn Dixie (Currently Planet Fitness)
▪︎Sav-A-Lot (Currently Planet Fitness)
▪︎Fountain Lanes Bowling Alley (currently still in operation as Lauderdale Lanes)
Across from the strip: ▪︎One Hour Martinzing Dry Cleaners (building still there)
▪︎Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge
The strip is so famous that a song was written about it. Here's "Florence Blvd" by local artist Jerry Weems. See if this takes you back...
The main part of the strip where McDonald's was located is long gone as you can see in the photo below. It was located between the present day Helton Drive overpass and the entrance to Cherry Hill Homes which is across from Tune Ave. The steep bank that was behind McDonald's has been smoothed down to form a grassy slope and even parts of Cherry Hill Homes that was behind McDonald's has been torn down and rebuilt which you can also see in the photo below
The strip was a special place in the Shoals. Who remembers? I know I do! Honking and waving, everyone there checking out the cute guys and girls, meeting up with friends, or just riding around and "crusin' the strip." At one time, the access road was changed to a one-way street - probably to discourage the weekend cruising. That didn't stop us. We would just make Florence Blvd part of the loop and go around and around anyway. Our collective mileage of "crusing the strip" could probably circle the earth! Did you cruise the strip? Do you remember a place on the strip that I left out? Leave a note in the comments! Tell us your favorite memory of "the strip:" the place we will never forget growing up in the Shoals.
*Photos were assembled from several sources and hard to find! My apologies if I didn't give credit to the original photographer. Many of these photos were shared over and over on social media and sometimes the original source was unknown. I also did my best to include businesses and restaurants from many sources. My apologies if I left any off the list!
Click on "follow" below to see more of my articles in the future about the south, my home state of Alabama, and my hometown in the Shoals area! Click here to read my past articles. If you have an interesting story to tell, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may feature it in an upcoming article! As always, thanks for reading!