In The News
GULF SHORES, Alabama -- Serving breakfast and burgers is a big leap from working as a tax expert in Moscow for 14 years.
Bill Henry’s concept is Bill’s By The Beach, a casual dining restaurant on West Beach Boulevard at West Second Street, across from the public beach.
He and his wife, Susan, bought five lots for $857,500 — two lots with a two-story duplex fronting West Beach Boulevard and three in the rear that back up to West First Avenue. They’ll move the duplex to First Avenue and build the 4,480-square-foot restaurant facing the beach.
The Henrys, both in their 50s, live in Cypress, Texas, near Houston, but have long enjoyed coming to Gulf Shores. Her family has owned property on West Beach for 30 years.
“When we were overseas, we considered Gulf Shores home,” she said.
In fact, when they made trips back to the States, they’d head to the Gulf since they’d leased out their Texas house. Bill Henry started with Ernst & Young in 1981 and later went to Moscow to serve in the company’s office there. He became a senior partner in 2008 for the PWC Russia Tax and Legal practice before retiring in 2010.
The idea for Bill’s By The Beach started with breakfast, or the scarcity thereof, according Henry. There were few eat-out breakfast options that were close to the beach houses and condominium complexes on West Beach.
Several million dollars and 30,000 square feet of downtown property later, Henry goes to the Planning Commission for approval later this month. His goal is to have the restaurant up and running by March.
Adams Stewart Architects in Robertsdale has designed a Florida-style restaurant with a metal roof and solar panels that seats 100 in the dining area and 25 at the bar.
“Our philosophy has been to never spend more than you can afford,” Henry said. “We saved money and paid off all our debts. That allows us to put our money to work. We think this is a good community and we want to invest in it.”
He’s also interested in investing in students who could serve internships at Bill’s By The Beach and earn college credit. Henry plans to make the relocated First Avenue duplex available to culinary students at Faulkner State Community College.
“We’re excited about this housing for our students,” said Ed Bushaw, director of Faulkner’s Gulf Shores campus. Student housing has been a challenge for the college, and the administration has been looking at purchasing nearby land to build housing of its own, he said.
Students can find apartments that are fairly affordable in the area, but parents tend to prefer student housing “where there is a controlled environment,” Bushaw said.
The interns would be charged a fair rent, according to Henry. The duplex has three bedrooms and three baths in each unit.
“One of the best things we did at the accounting firm was hiring interns,” Henry said. “We’re offering them a good career opportunity and we’re helping the community college. It’s a win-win for everybody.”