Coffee & Treats in Alabaster

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Christine Boatwright of Shelby Living Magazine wrote a piece detailing the operations of self-taught baker and Wooden Spoon Bakery owner Leslie Arnold and how she specializes in surprising scone flavors—pear and fresh ginger, apricot white chocolate, and salted caramel, to name a few—but also loves one special, more familiar flavor. Her red-velvet cake, a hand-me-down recipe from her husband’s grandmother, is a popular classic: a light chocolate cake colored a vibrant red and sprinkled with icing and walnuts. As she told the magazine, “I’m proud to say it’s the only recipe I have not tinkered with because it’s perfect the way it is.” Still, Arnold keeps a constantly rotating menu of flavors and offerings at Wooden Spoon Bakery, baking bacon-cheese biscuits, strawberry coffee cake, and blueberry-and-cream muffins one week and specialty brownie cakes the next.

21075 Hwy. 25
Columbiana,
AL
US

Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine?s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop?s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M?s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.

1701 McFarland Blvd.
Tuscaloosa,
AL
US

4 Seasons Salon's advanced equipment has bronzed bodies with UV and UV-free tanning services and the tanning salon is Smart Tan-certified. Formerly known as Unique Tan, the salon fosters sun-kissed glows with an array of beds, including the lay-down Open Sun and the standup Starship, as well as the sunless Mystic Tan booth and custom airbrush tanning, applied by Michelle Owen who has over 9 years of experience. The company's knowledgeable staff kicks off tanning journeys by chatting with clients about their preferred hues. Red-light therapy and massage therapy sessions soothe bodies, and Fit body wrap treatments are available to reduce cellulite, speed up metabolism, and detoxify the body. The stores also stock lotions, such as Designer Skin and Devoted Creations' Collagenetics line, which boasts anti-aging effects.

1839 Montgomery Highway South
Hoover,
AL
US

Gigi of Gigi’s Cupcakes has been a self-starter since she was 15. That’s when she began her first business—a cleaning company—because she "didn’t want to work for anyone else." What began as a youthful whim blossomed into a business that, along with waiting tables and singing professionally, carried Gigi into her 30s.

Then, one day, her brother suggested making a career out of her baking hobby. That pastime had been born in her childhood, when Gigi often spent time with her mother and grandmother as they baked and bonded. So, amid seemingly insurmountable financial constraints, Gigi unveiled Gigi’s Cupcakes in 2008 and, within weeks, had more than covered her bills. Today, the franchise boasts more than 50 locations in the 18 states that haven’t outlawed dessert.

Each bakery crafts its cupcakes daily with fresh ingredients, and updates the menu according to day of the week and season. Traditional summer flavors such as Scarlett’s red velvet, chocolate-chip-cookie dough, and Birthday Surprise have recently met their culinary match in new mini cheesecakes that masquerade as cupcakes to rebel against their conservative wedding-cake parents.

4745 Chace Cir
Hoover,
AL
US

Although The Whole Scoop's freezers are certainly stocked with vanilla ice cream, there's certainly nothing "vanilla" about the shop's 32 different hand-dipped flavors. Hoover residents Sue and David Cohen opened The Whole Scoop over three years ago, and quickly carved out a niche for their shop as a go-to destination for families, teams, and groups in need of frozen treats. Once they're drawn in by the eclectic menu of eight types of sundaes, creamsicle shakes, and fresh-baked cookies, satisfied patrons can show their love by adding photos of themselves to a collage of smiling customers that adorn The Whole Scoop's wall.

3421 S Shades Crest Rd
Hoover,
AL
US

Basked in natural light and the glow of hanging pendant lights, Courtyard Cafe’s interior is filled with the aroma of carved corned beef, fried green tomatoes, and smoked turkey. These aromas waft from the deli counter, where sandwich makers craft lunch fare such as reubens, burgers, and club sandwiches. Trays of cupcakes crafted with whipped green, red, and yellow frosting line up alongside full-size cakes customized by an in-house cake designer for special events such as weddings and wedding proposals to cakes. The staff also leads cooking classes that teach kids the culinary skills to bake pies, pizza, or Asian dishes. Housed in a downtown building erected in 1887, the Courtyard Cafe’s red-brick exterior evokes a bygone era seen in historical black and white photos lining the straw-colored walls inside. Customers can sit at counters or tables inside, or relax on a landscaped patio next to trees, shrubbery, and a trickling fountain.

1901 2nd Ave N
Bessemer,
AL
US