Cruising the Strip in Florence, Alabama | April Killian

If you grew up in the Shoals area of ​​north Alabama and are in your 40s, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I refer to “the Strip,” which was in Florence. Take a look back at some of the places along the strip and see if you remember. I even found some old photos that will surely take you back. Let’s do one more loop, Shoals… let’s cruise the strip!

“The Strip” in Florence, early 1980s.Photo ofAlan Turpen (Facebook, coloring Jeremy Britton)

“The Strip” was a thriving commercial district that existed in Florence from the 1960s through the 1990s. The main portion of the strip was at the base of Cherry Hill at Florence Boulevard or Highway 72. During the ’60s and ’70s, Florence quickly outgrew the confines of the downtown business district. Highway 72 had been widened and was known locally as “4 Lane”, and shops and restaurants quickly sprung up. The State Highway Department built a special access road on this section of the highway. 72, so that traffic on the busy lane 4 is not obstructed. This access road along with several fast food joints made “the strip” the perfect meeting place. I’m not sure who called it “The Strip” but the name stuck and became iconic in the Shoals. Soon, cruisin’ the strip on a Friday or Saturday night became a thing. On weekends, the Strip saw bursty traffic — with truckloads of teenagers congregating there. This also went on for decades, even if the locations along the strip changed. Most of the strip is gone – but see if you remember these places…

Original McDonald’s, Florence 1964Photo ofFacebook (courtesy of Keith Williams)

The restaurants on the strip
The heart and soul of the Strip was the restaurants. In the middle 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 full 180° arches. Hamburgers cost 15 cents, fries were cooked in beef fat, and the delicious refreshing orange drink went around in the machine with its large see-through tanks. The old building was demolished sometime in the 1970s and replaced on the same site. It didn’t matter – the strip kept rocking.

McDonald’s Coffee High Yearbook 1979Photo ofCourtesy of Danny Hills (Facebook)

Other restaurants have come and gone over the life of the strip. Here are some I bet you will remember:
▪︎Culpeppers bakery (next to McDonalds)

Bakery Culpeppers FlorencePhoto of(Facebook)

▪︎Kentucky Fried Chicken (next to Cullpeppers)
▪︎New Orleans Fried Chicken
▪︎Scotty’s 5 Cent Hamburger (at the very end of the strip)
▪︎Dairy Queen (famous for their foot-long Chili Dogs!) ▪︎Burger King (still around!)

Burger King Florence 1975 Coffee YearbookPhoto ofCourtesy of Danny Hills (Facebook)

▪︎Singletons BBQ (detached brick building in what is now the Walmart Neighborhood Market parking lot)
▪︎LaFonda Mexicana (moved into Singleton’s in the same building. Later in the Howard Johnson’s Restaurant building across from Florence Blvd.)

Singleton’s BBQ #2 1960Photo ofCourtesy of Rick Singleton (Facebook)

▪︎Beijing Chinese Restaurant
▪︎House of Pizza
Opposite the strip:
▪︎Crystals (still there!)
▪︎Bonanza Steak House (roughly where Dollar General is now. I think it was originally called Ponderosa).

Bonanza Florence mid 1970sPhoto ofCourtesy of Keith Williams (Facebook)

The companies
The Strip was a thriving business district in Florence! In addition to restaurants, there were several local shops. Do you remember any of these?
▪︎Big Star Grocery Store (building still stands next to Burger King)
▪︎Hibbetts Sporting Goods (building still empty there)
▪︎Harrison Pontiac (building still standing – between Neighborhood Market and Burger King. Currently warehouse) ▪︎Florence Courts Motel (still standing! Currently “Budget Inn”)

Florence Court Motel 1971 Coffee YearbookPhoto of(Facebook)

▪︎Howell Hi-Fi & TV Repair (next to KFC)
▪︎Shoe store (name not known!)
▪︎Quad Cities Tattoo Parlor (former Scotty’s Burgers booth)
▪︎Kmart (currently Uhaul Rental and Storage)
▪︎Winn Dixie (currently Planet Fitness)
▪︎Sav-A-Lot (currently Planet Fitness)
▪︎Fountain Lanes bowling alley (currently still operating as Lauderdale Lanes)

Fountain Lanes 1960 advertisementPhoto ofCourtesy of Keith Williams (Facebook)

Opposite the Strip: ▪︎One Hour Martinzing Dry Cleaners (Building Still Exists)
▪︎National bed linen
▪︎Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge

Advertisement for Howard Johnson’s Motor LodgePhoto ofCourtesy of Keith Williams (Facebook)

The strip is so famous that a song was written about it. Here is “Florence Blvd” by local artist Jerry Weems. Let’s see if that brings you back…

The main part of the strip where McDonald’s was located has long since disappeared, as you can see in the photo below. It was located between what is now Helton Drive overpass and the entrance to Cherry Hill Homes across Tune Ave. The steep escarpment behind McDonald’s has been smoothed to form a grassy slope and even parts of the Cherry Hill Homes behind McDonald’s have been demolished and rebuilt, which you can also see in the photo below

Former location of the “Strip”Photo ofApril Killian

The strip was a special place in the Shoals. Who remembers? i know i do! Honking and waving, everyone is checking out the cute boys and girls, meeting up with friends, or just driving around and crusin’ the strip. The access road used to be turned into a one-way street – probably to discourage the weekend cruises. That didn’t stop us. We would just make Florence Blvd part of the loop and still go around and around. Our collective mileage while “Crossing the Strip” could probably circumnavigate the earth! Have you been cruising the strip? Do you remember a spot on the strip I missed? Leave a hint in the comments! Tell us your favorite memory of The Strip: the place we’ll never forget growing up in the Shoals.

*Photos were compiled from multiple sources and are hard to find! My apologies if I didn’t credit the original photographer. Many of these photos were repeatedly shared on social media and sometimes the original source was unknown. I’ve also done my best to include businesses and restaurants from many sources. I apologize if I left something off the list!

Click Follow below to see more of my articles about the South, my home state of Alabama, and my hometown in the Shoals area in the future! click here to read my past articles. If you have an interesting story to tell, send it to me at [email protected] I may feature it in an upcoming article! As always, thanks for reading!