ABOVE The original Greer’s was located in Downtown Mobile at the northwest corner of Water and St. Michael streets. Today’s Downtown store, prominently located at the corner of Government and Broad streets, features a mural painted by respected local artist Devlin Wilson, which depicts the company’s long, rich history.
This July, beloved Greer’s is turning 100! To mark the momentous milestone, multiple celebrations have been planned throughout the year. As part of the big birthday, Greer’s recently hosted a blowout for all 700-plus employees and their families. Over 1, 000 people came for the day-long party, says Lucy Greer, the current corporate spokesperson and a fifth generation family member. Astonishingly, Lucy says she knows or has met most of those folks. “My favorite thing about Greer’s is that our family pretty much personally knows everybody who works with us. I don’t think that it’s like that in most companies.”
Lucy’s great-great-grandfather, Autry Greer, started their company in 1916 with one store in Downtown Mobile at the northwest corner of Water and St. Michael streets. It was a revolutionary venture, being one of the earliest stores to offer cash-and-carry shopping (as opposed to credit and home delivery). This novelty allowed them to cut costs and prices compared to competitors, so consequently, they were the first local grocery store to advertise their prices. The concept took off, and Greer’s thrived.
“At the heyday, we had 50 stores in three states: Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, ” says Lucy. Over the years, the chain gradually started to show its age with the number of locations dropping to under 30. “Then we started rebuilding, ” says Lucy. Now, following a few face-lifts and a good bit of thought and energy, new life has been breathed back into the business that now includes 32 stores. Lucy’s efforts and enthusiasm play a vibrant role in that reinvigoration. “I started working at the Greer’s on Florida Street — that is no longer there — when I was 9 years old. I worked the cash register, and I absolutely loved it, ” says the now 28-year-old. “I would get my dad (Jackie Greer) to drop me off any chance I got — on Saturdays and Sundays and during the summer. Coming back to work in the business is something I always knew I wanted to do.”
After graduating from St. Paul’s and Auburn, Lucy went on to culinary school at Culinard. Then, following a stint in the kitchen at Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill and some time at a catering company and a specialty grocery, all in Birmingham, Chef Lucy decided it was time to head home and rejoin the family fold. She puts her culinary expertise to good use as the director of deli-bakery operations at Greer’s. On Wednesday mornings, she whips up recipes for Studio 10. “I think the spot makes people feel connected to us, ” she says of the weekly cooking appearances. This July, in addition to celebrating Greer’s centennial, Lucy celebrates her sixth anniversary back in the business while juggling marriage and motherhood. Lucy and her husband, Spiro Cheriogotis, have twin boys, Jack and Nick, who will celebrate their first birthdays this summer — also in July!
Lucy says there are lots of folks who like to shop where their mamas shopped, and their grandmamas before them, and now they are shopping at Greer’s with their own little ones. She says this has been especially true in the popular Fairhope location. With that loyalty also comes the need to adapt. “We have changed with the times to provide what our customers request. Now, they want fresh, healthy, more variety — and, they are really asking for a friendly environment. I think fulfilling that has helped set us apart. Also, when the ‘shop local’ movement took off, a lot of people started to value shopping in a family business.”
What does Lucy envision for the next 100 years? Additional locations, online shopping and delivery in the near future. She says she also hopes to see her sons, the sixth generation, carry on the family tradition into the next century.
Here, Lucy cooks up some special recipes for a birthday barbecue bash to celebrate 100 years and counting.
Bourbon Peach Glazed Baby Back Ribs
These sticky, finger-licking-good ribs are perfect for a Fourth of July picnic or any other summer soiree.
1 slab pork baby back ribs (3 1/2 – 4 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Bourbon Peach Glaze (see below)
1. Remove the membrane from the backside of the ribs. Begin in one corner by running a knife between the membrane and the rib. Grip the loosened membrane with a paper towel and pull away from the rib.
2. Rinse the ribs under cool water and pat dry.
3. Combine all remaining ingredients, except Bourbon Peach Glaze, in a small bowl to create a dry rub.
4. Rub dry rub on both sides of the ribs and ensure the entire slab is well coated. Refrigerate up to 24 hours before grilling.
5. Prepare a grill using indirect heat, with coals on only one side. Keep the temperature between 250 and 300 degrees.
6. Place the ribs on the side of the grill away from the flames. Cook ribs for 3 1/2 – 4 hours until the meat is pulling away from the bone.
7. Begin basting the ribs with Bourbon Peach Glaze 30 minutes prior to removing from the grill. Serve any remaining glaze alongside the cooked ribs. Serves 4 – 6.
Bourbon Peach Glaze
18 ounces peach preserves
1/2 cup bourbon
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Combine ingredients together in a saucepot. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, whisking often. Allow to cool. Makes about 2 cups.
Blue Cheese Burgers with Summer Herb Aioli
Pungent bits of blue cheese and a sassy, herb-laced aioli elevate the ordinary burger to a tasty, gourmet treat.
2 pounds Greer’s Black Angus Select Ground Chuck
8 ounces blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
Summer Herb Aioli (see below)
1. In a bowl, combine ground chuck, cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix gently; do not over mix. Form meat mixture into 6 – 8 patties.
2. Make a small indention in the center of each patty. This will ensure the burgers will have a flat top when cooked.
3. Grill over medium-high heat until desired doneness is reached. Serve with Summer Herb Aioli, lettuce, tomato and other toppings of choice. Serves 6 – 8
Summer Herb Aioli
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, grated
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.
Corn Salad with Honey Lime Basil Vinaigrette
This fresh, confetti-colored corn salad makes a splendid summer side dish.
6 ears fresh corn, shucked and de-silked
2 cups pineapple, small diced
2 avocados, small diced
½ red bell pepper, small diced
½ orange bell pepper, small diced
½ green bell pepper, small diced
½ cup red onion, small diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and add corn. Cook for 3 minutes and then remove corn to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
2. Once the corn has cooled, cut off the cob. Combine the corn kernels and the remaining ingredients except the avocado together in a large bowl.
3. Toss salad with Honey Lime Basil Vinaigrette. Add avocado and toss again right before serving. Serves approximately 10-12.
Honey Lime Basil Vinaigrette
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup honey
zest and juice of 1 lime
8 basil leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1. Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to a blender. Purée.
2. While the blender is running, pour in the olive oil, and purée until well combined. Makes approximately 1 cup.
Creole Conecuh Pasta Salad
A creamy, tangy crowd-pleaser of a salad that’s filling enough to serve as a summer entree or a substantial side dish.
1 pound Conecuh sausage, sliced into thin discs
1 red bell pepper, small diced
1 green bell pepper, small diced
1 yellow bell pepper, small diced
1 orange bell pepper, small diced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
16 ounces penne pasta
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
Creamy Dressing (see below)
1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add Conecuh sausage and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, until nicely browned. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
2. Add bell peppers to the same skillet, and cook over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and add kosher salt and black pepper. Stir and then allow to cool.
3. Boil pasta in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water.
4. Combine cooked sausage, peppers, pasta and green onions together in a large bowl.
5. If serving immediately, add 3/4 of the Creamy Dressing first and stir to coat. If serving the following day, use all the dressing before refrigerating. The pasta will absorb dressing overnight. Serves 8 – 12.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup stone ground mustard
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1. Combine all of the dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Whisk until well combined.
Blackberry Shortbread Bars
These berry delicious dessert bars make a fun change from the expected brownies and lemon squares for picnics and parties.
1 1/2 cups blackberries
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
fresh mint, for garnish
1. Place preserves and blackberries in a saucepot. Using a potato masher, break up the blackberries.
2. Add 1 1/4 cups sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Continue to stir and reduce heat slightly to medium-high. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
3. Meanwhile, make shortbread. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together butter and 1/4 cup sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla. Mix until combined.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and a pinch of salt. Add to butter mixture. Beat until combined. Mixture will be crumbly.
5. Prepare a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, or grease lightly with butter. Pour shortbread mixture into baking dish and use your fingertips to press the dough out evenly.
6. Bake dough for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes.
7. Spread cooled preserves over the baked shortbread. Bake for another 20 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Garnish with fresh mint.
text and styling by Sallye Irvine • photos by Elizabeth gelineau