The List - November/December 2019
Montgomery’s popular El Taco Shop owner Manuel Alejandro Espinosa, better known to most as Alex, is living proof that hard work pays off. As a resident of Montgomery for over 10 years, Alex spent eight years working in the restaurant industry before taking the leap to open a place of his own. With English as his second language, Alex feared he wouldn’t be able to effectively communicate with his customers and that people wouldn’t take him seriously as a businessman in the community. With hard work and perseverance, Alex tackled this obstacle and says he loves seeing the joy his food brings to customers and prides himself on building a relationship with those who walk through his doors. He appreciates guests in his “home” and considers the food he serves to them an act of love, from his family to theirs. Alex attributes the success of El Taco Shop to the people in the community who have given support since day one, and makes giving back to the community a high priority in his life. As active members in the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, he and his wife Leidi, advocate for the city’s economic growth and success of local non-profit organizations. Alex and Leidi’s son, AJ, who attends Bear Exploration Center, ignited their desire to get involved with Montgomery County Public Schools. Proud to call Montgomery home, thanks in part to its hospitality and community support, Alex spends his free time renovating his home at the gentle urging of his self-proclaimed “boss” Leidi, restoring a 1971 Ford Mustang and enjoying the newest addition to their family, baby Andrew.
When life gets hard for Jessica Drosyk, co-founder of MADE. Cookies, she says “pass the milk.” Her faith in her own potential when faced with adversity has served her well in the past 15 years as an IT specialist and service desk supervisor with Alfa Insurance. She continues to open doors with her MADE. Cookies. She says this crazy venture she decided to chase doesn’t seem so crazy alongside the unwavering support of her husband, John. Her love for cookies and a natural born calling to create, passed down to her via artistic grandparents, led her to baking, while John and business partner, Jackie, have helped her stay focused and grounded throughout the journey. Jessica lovingly refers to John as “Chief Boring Stuff” at MADE., as he handles the day-to-day affairs like paying taxes and securing the company’s website, leaving her to let creative juices flow in the kitchen.
A member of the Church of the Highlands and an active part of the Hampstead community, Jessica says it’s her friends and neighbors who have helped the most along the way with prayer and availability to lend an honest opinion for a new recipe or cookie flavor. She says there’s never a shortage of taste testers between her neighbors and her two children, Olivia and Nicholas, and seeing the joy on someone’s face as they bite into one of her cookies is what makes the hard work worth it all. Her favorite part of Montgomery is the people and the amount of potential she sees in the future growth of the city, and she’s delighted to be a part of what makes Montgomery fun.
When looking for a favorite spot to grab the perfect drink, the right bartender can make your experience worth coming back for again and again. That’s the case for Kelly Holley Head, manager and head bartender at Taste. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Kelly is not only the best at what she does behind the bar, but she’s also the best in “the biz” when it comes to being a people person. Her passion for her craft and ability to always remember the faces and favorite libation of her customers is one of the best things about her! Kelly has made lifelong friends with many of her customers and is thankful to share her passion and expertise at Taste, where owners Clint and Ginger Hahn have cultivated a concept and wine selection unlike anything else in town.
Kelly’s expertise doesn’t stop with wine. She’s also been referred to as “beer whisperer” because of her extensive knowledge of hundreds of different brews. Whatever the drink of choice, Kelly loves matching each customer to something she knows they’ll love. While the weekend and late hours required in this industry can be challenging, the continued support of Kelly’s husband, Andy, and son, Houston, is what helps her balanced. When she’s not at work she loves spending time with her family at the lake or the beach, but her customers never let her leave for too long!
Perry Oliver Hooper III, Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon at Southern Orthopedic Surgeons in Montgomery, helps people get moving again. He uses his surgical expertise to restore mobility to his patients so they can enjoy life to the fullest. His hard work and love for the city of Montgomery are helping bring athletes and members of the community together so that no one gets left on the sidelines. Having been at Auburn as an undergraduate, and then Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic for medical school, Perry says it was his time at Auburn that shaped him as a man and his experience at the Cleveland Clinic that molded him into a sought after professional.
While he says the decade of training it took in reaching his goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon was long, he was always able to count on the support of his family to get him through to the finish line. Perry says what makes his job so rewarding is seeing the excitement and passion return to the eyes of an athlete after recovery from an injury or surgery and being able to give them clearance to return to what they love. Perry comes from a long line of Montgomery public servants and hopes that his expertise on the sidelines of high school, collegiate and professional level sports will help him give back to athletes of our city and beyond. Perry enjoys watching the growth in our community with his pediatrician wife, True, and their three children, Charlie, Perry IV and Reese.
While the tax world isn’t something that gets everyone excited, it is a vital element in the world of business, and something Rosalind Toles knows well. As a revenue examiner for the Alabama Department of Revenue, Rosalind ensures that individuals, small businesses and corporations comply with Alabama’s tax code. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Auburn University, Montgomery, Rosalind went to work for a local CPA firm as a staff accountant where she was encouraged by a coworker to further her education. She started the master’s program at Troy University, Montgomery and later received an MBA with a concentration in Accounting. Rosalind is committed to ensuring that taxpayers know more when they leave than when they arrived. You would never know this outgoing woman was an introvert in her younger days. Her desire to build relationships helped her overcome her shyness and she now thrives on meeting and educating others.
Rosalind works closely with the Small Business Development Center at ASU and Chambers of Commerce throughout the River Region. She also serves as a mentor for the department’s internship program, is a presenter at the B.E.S.T. Seminars and is a member of the League of Women Voters. Her heart to serve others through volunteering has helped Rosalind meet people from all walks of life and see our city through many lenses. Rosalind’s favorite things are dancing, music, fine food and community events. She also enjoys spending time with family, friends, and her son, Brenden. Be sure to introduce yourself this stylish, dynamic woman when you see her around town!
A graduate from Troy University, Brandi Smith worked in sales and management for years before discovering her passion in residential property. Her first investment home turned into several prior to helping others find their dream home. As a trusted real estate agent in the River Region for 13 years, Brandi’s experience and knowledge, along with honest communication with home buyers, earned her the award “Best of the Best” 2019 Real Estate Agent by the Montgomery Advertiser. Although real estate can be risky without a consistent salary, the rewards of this career outweigh those risks, including a flexible schedule that allows Brandi to spend time with her 13-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn. Earlier this year, Brandi joined the sales team at Hampstead Community Realty, which also received an award for “Best Community Development.”
randi shares that being involved with new construction sales has created a fresh enthusiasm in her career. Committed to maintaining integrity as a professional, she serves on the public relations and grievance committees at the Montgomery Area Association of Realtors. Outside of work, you can find Brandi supporting her daughter’s endeavors, which involve performing on the Saint James dance team, ice skating and traveling to meet social media icons. She also loves working out and shopping and admits that she helps keep Target in business! While she may be petite in stature and appear a bit shy, Brandi’s loyalty to her family, friends and Alabama Football is fierce.
Montgomery Veterinarian, Frank Aman, is bringing smiles to humans and wagging tails to patients at his clinics and beyond. Frank attended Auburn University for his degree in Zoology and continued at the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine, graduating in 2010 with his DVM, before returning home to Montgomery to begin his career. In 2018, after ten years in the field, Frank and his business partner started Partners for Pets Veterinary hospital in East Montgomery, and have since added a location near Zelda Road in Midtown. While he says fear of failure was a big obstacle for him when it came to opening his own practice, he knew that with hard work and dedication he’d be able to uphold his responsibility to his loyal employees and provide the best care possible to his clients and their “fur babies.”
Frank says being able to see a patient walk in sick or hurt leave healthy and happy is rewarding, and building relationships with clients from all socioeconomic backgrounds share a common bond makes him proud. Frank serves as vice president of the Central Alabama Veterinary Medical Association and is a former chairman of the YMCA Boys Work Committee, helping raise over 35,000 dollars for kids from the River Region. Frank and his wife Laura attend First United Methodist Church, while one of his favorite things to do is support his sons, Frank and John Carter, at baseball and soccer games, always with enthusiasm and sometimes even a cold beer in hand.
Ashlen Rene Loban never lets “no” slow her down as she climbs her career ladder with determination. Her positive outlook and willingness to do extra work helps her achieve success as the Administrative Coordinator for Manufacture Alabama, the only trade association in the state dedicated to the needs of manufacturers and their partner businesses. Although somewhat new to her role, she already loves how she can combine her two passions, people and law, where her mantra is: passion for law, compassion for people. Ashlen completed her undergraduate studies at Faulkner University with a bachelor’s in legal studies, and currently pursues her master’s in criminal justice and public administration at Liberty University.
Her largest career influence is her aunt, an attorney practicing governmental law in Washington D.C. Ashlen says, “I have always admired how she is able to balance the life of a fashionista and unmatched work ethic within the field of law.” In addition to Ashlen’s professional work, she has contributed as a volunteer with the Montgomery Youth Court and participated in Emerge Montgomery, while serving as an active member at Fresh Anointed House of Worship. At home, Ashlen and her husband, Shaka Loban, care for their daughter, Kaylen, while Ashlen helps with her daughter’s classroom at school. Her other hobbies include being a “part time” entrepreneur, creating and designing media kits and social media branding for influencers, bloggers, aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. She also enjoys motivating, empowering and affirming her online community of girlfriends, “Hey Girl Hey United,” along their personal journey of self-love.
Parker "Slade" Eiland
ew people have watched Montgomery grow and evolve like third generation driller, Slade Eiland. As the lab manager and lead driller for Quality Assurance Testing Labs (QATL), Slade has started on the literal ground floor of retail shops, hotels, apartments and more from the streets of Montgomery – including the Eastchase development – down to Alabama’s southern shores and back up to its northwestern hills. There are few places in the state, be it a restaurant, school or road that he didn’t have his hands on when getting built. Slade started at QATL while earning his B.S. in Applied Computer Science from the Troy University, Montgomery. But you could say that playing in the dirt was in his blood, and Slade followed his father and grandfather into determining initial building design parameters and providing trustworthy testing services that are necessary to move a project from flat dirt to bustling locale.
When not manning the drill rig, Slade can be found enjoying Montgomery’s entertainment district, golfing, fishing and drumming along to anything from The Beatles to Metallica, all which he learned to play by ear. He is also a member of the American Society of Engineers, the Young Professional Board of Greater Montgomery and the Home Builders Association. His volunteer work includes the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Children’s Miracle Network. Slade credits his parents for the support, advising and love that made his accolades possible. So whenever you get excited about that hip spot being built down the road, know that Slade was probably there making it all happen.