Steve Gilmer and his “What’s on 2nd?” store have brought unique joys to Birmingham for nearly 15 years, and neither shows signs of slowing down. The beloved “antique” (it’s much more than that) shop started off on 2nd Avenue North - leading to the fun reference to the classic Abbott & Costello skit, "Who's on First?" After nearly a decade at that location, the store moved to 1st Ave N., but Gilmer decided to not rename it. Gilmer says people from around the country and the world seek out their treasure-filled store, and changing the name would have been a disservice to those attempting to find the location.
Now the store has relocated again, this time to 5 Points South. Gilmer says this was a dream location for his shop, but he didn’t make the first move. The owner of the building reached out to Gilmer because he recognized that, while the area was full of bars and restaurants, it needed more retail. What’s on 2nd? provided the perfect vibe to compliment this fun part of the city.
“It worked out so well, I love being in this neighborhood," Gilmer shares while scrubbing a Santa Claus ornament clean with a toothbrush. "I would have been here the last 15 years if I’d been able to get in here."
The building, which used to house Fuego then The Preservatory, is divided into two sections with space for a restaurant in the lower section and what used to be a bar on top. What’s on 2nd? has claimed the top half, and Gilmer elected to set up retail items around the bar instead of removing it, creating an even more fun environment. As many as 80,000 postcards (with more waiting in the wings) line the bar and beer coolers now display old magazines.
Even more exciting? Iron City Pizza Company is planning to move into the bottom section in March, creating a wonderful dining and shopping combination -- all in one location! The store has a lovely courtyard area with tables that are currently decorated with Star Wars droids. Gilmer plans to install more flowers and outdoor art once the weather warms up.
What’s on 2nd? may specialize in older items, but Gilmer is quick to point out that they are far from a traditional Southern antique store. You’re much more likely to find a vintage 80’s action figure, a previously undiscovered vinyl, or a retro video game than fancy furniture.
“It’s fun stuff. It’s popular culture items that I deal with, and they seem to be something that everyone can identify with. We get a lot of young people in, and you know that most young people would rather eat live bait then go into an antique shop cause they don’t want furniture, glass, and china. They want to look at something they can relate to.”
Which brings us back to why this move is so great for What’s on 2nd? The 5 Points South neighborhood and the thriving energy of a revitalized Birmingham -- all compliment each other and blend the city into an even more vibrant place to live or visit.
Gilmer has a clear appreciation for this city and life itself, and it’s noticeable from the moment you enter the shop. His warm personality and the comforting feeling you get stepping inside make you want to purchase something even if you didn’t find the exact item you were seeking.
“I’ve always been a cheerleader for Birmingham. I love this city. I was born here, raised here, and have been here all my life. I love being a part of this community,” Gilmer reflects. And we’re just as thankful to have him here.
The outside features droids, while the inside is full of charming humans.