VOICES OF HUNTSVILLE | Better than a Hallmark Movie—Our Big City with the Small Business Heart by Molly Jones

 Portrait photography courtesy of White Rabbit Studios  Portrait photography courtesy of White Rabbit Studios  Portrait photography courtesy of White Rabbit Studios

Voices of Huntsville is awarded once a month to a local resident of Huntsville, Madison County, Madison City, Decatur, and surrounding areas to share their personal perspective of our community. Our Voices of Huntsville feature shares their creative passion and unique perspective about what they absolutely love about Huntsville in a format that best speaks to their own creativity, vlog, blog, photo essay. Interested in becoming a TSG Huntsville Voice of Huntsville? Apply here!

Molly Jones, June 2021,
Better Than a Hallmark Movie—Our Big City with the
Small Business Heart

There is something about a traditional small southern town that everyone loves.  Hallmark movies often depict a downtown square – cute and quaint with small businesses open and thriving.  A young couple in love slowly strolling along eating ice cream talking about their future together.  I’ve seen my fair share of these movie scenes and thought they only existed on sound stages.  That is until I moved to Huntsville, Alabama.  

For the past 13 years, my family and I were living in Charleston, South Carolina.  My husband worked as an Attorney on Broad Street in the heart of the historic downtown.  My photography was busy and built on the extensive tourism community.  Tourists would flock to Charleston and want to be photographed on its beaches or among the historic downtown buildings. Three years ago, my husband was offered a position at a Huntsville law firm and we jumped at the chance.  It was the appeal of a smaller town, great schools, less traffic, exceptionally smart people, and a great cost of living.  For my family, it was a complete leap of faith.  It was a great move on paper but turned out even better in real life.


Huntsville has all the big city amenities that you would want but has a small business heart.  Coming from a similar historic city, I love that Huntsville places such importance on historic preservation, but infuses it with modern culture.  They see the value of preservation and revitalization both in its homes as well as its industrial buildings.  I particularly see this in areas like Stovehouse, Lowe Mill, and Campus 805.  Not many cities would innovate and use the buildings versus tear down for a more modern look.  This gives Huntsville such a creative and unique feel.  For many cities, the once-thriving downtown areas are no longer in existence.  As suburbs and big box stores became predominant in our society, the downtown areas slowly died.  Unfortunately, Huntsville’s downtown was also a victim to this shift.  Not too far in the distant past, it was once full of closed storefronts, minimal restaurants, and hardly any patrons.  Huntsville has completely revitalized and brought life back to its downtown through mostly small businesses.  Downtown is home to many locally-owned restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores, and other wonderful small businesses. Today you can go downtown and find an abundance of patrons enjoying restaurants, live music, retail shopping, and cultural events.  It is busy most nights and there always seems to be something fun happening! 

Huntsville has also brought culture downtown within the typical spaces, art museums, and events like Panoply Arts Festival and Concerts in the Park.  However, it has done an amazing job through smaller events including food truck festivals, Friday Night Art Walks, farmers markets, ice skating behind the Huntsville Museum of Art, bike rides with the Mayor, just to name a few.  The balance of culture, small business, events, and restaurants is really what is helping downtown thrive.  It’s a partnership, a beautiful dance, between the city and the businesses that encourage Huntsvillian’s to really shop locally and it’s working!  

Huntsville has been one of the cities that has successfully changed their city by completely revitalizing its downtown while also expanding its city as a whole.  Yet somehow with its expansion of enterprise, diversity, people, and culture; Huntsville has preserved that small-town feel.  It is impressive how a town can expand and welcome new chain restaurants, box stores (hello Trader Joe’s!), and tons of entertainment, yet have so many thriving small businesses and locally-owned restaurants.  To Huntsville, small businesses are equally important as the big box stores and treated that way.  I am not only just talking about the retail stores and restaurants along the square, but all small businesses scattered though out the city- my own included. 


When I applied for my business license, I talked with city employees who helped walk me through what could be a very cold and confusing process.  They were unbelievably kind and downright excited to welcome me to their city!  I immediately felt a part of Huntsville and its small business community.  That my small business actually mattered to Huntsville.  Scouting possible photography locations after moving to Huntsville also helped me to get to know my new home that much better.  I have walked the streets downtown, I hiked nearly every trail in the city, and I even took mental notes when I ran the Rocket City Half Marathon.  I find that I love photographing downtown the most. It is just charming with many beautiful and creative spaces to photograph my clients around.  No matter how many sessions I do, neighborhoods I run through, or dinners out with my husband, I find something new and exciting to enjoy that I didn’t notice before.  This is possibly one of my favorite parts about this city, it’s wonderfully unassuming quaintness and small-town feel.

Our small-town secret is out as so many people are moving to Huntsville.  They are taking a leap of faith just like we did.  They are exploring all the things that our wonderful city has to offer and are supporting the local businesses too.  It’s just now a part of Huntsville’s culture to support our local businesses and help grow our city.  It’s wonderful to see the city welcome new people as they know they will help make our city that much better.  Huntsville celebrates newcomers by essentially giving them a glass of sweet tea and welcoming them home.    

It’s the biggest small town I have ever known.  You can go somewhere and be completely anonymous one minute and other times you will run into everyone you know.  While in Charleston, I felt that I was photographing tourists who I would meet once a year at best.  Now that I’m in Huntsville, I feel like I’m photographing my friends and neighbors in my new home.  I am building a client base of people in my community who I know I will see in a big box store, the soccer fields, or downtown.  My business has been welcomed with open arms by this community and it’s been amazing!  I see now why Hallmark depicts the quaint small town because it’s just as wonderful as on screen.  I can’t believe I am the lucky one that gets to build my small business and raise my family here.

Molly Jones is the owner/photographer of Mo Jones Photography.  She currently lives in Hampton Cove with her husband, Robert, an Attorney with Maynard, Cooper & Gale.  They have four amazing children and one goldfish named Linda.  She has been photographing newborns and families for over 10 years.  She is thrilled to have found her forever home in Huntsville, Alabama.  You can view her work on her website www.mojonesphotography.com or follow her on Instagram @mojonesphotog

Molly, we adore that you think Huntsville is like a real-life Hallmark movie—we couln’’t agree with you more! Thank you so much for sharing your personal perspective on arriving her and loving Hutnsville—We love our downtown and all our wonderful small businesses and really feel they make Huntsville a home. Make sure you give @mojonesphotog a follow on Instagram to see even more of her photography!

Enjoying The Scout Guide Voices of Huntsville? Want to add your own voice? Apply right here!

Want more fantastic local content like this? Have the best Huntsville news delivered to your inbox monthly by signing up for our monthly newsletter right here!

Catch up on all the Voices of Huntsville!

Voices of Huntsville | Kids Are My Calling by Kym MiddletonVoices of Huntsville | Lily Flagg's Signal by SueAnne GriffithVoices of Huntsville | Jamie Tô and Michele O’Connor are The Mad City Moms!Voices of Huntsville | A Year of Family Fun by The Huntsville Mom, Jessica Aguirre-Cantrell Voices of Huntsville | 150 Fosters and Counting—The Many Tails of Baker and Erin FleddermanVoices of Huntsville | Rossina Boyer’s Artistic Journey from Peru to Huntsville