Coffee With . . .

Coffee With . . .

Mike Dunnavant, The Wine Loft and Michael Mullis, Kelley & Mullis Wealth Management

Coffee and conversation at Octane

Michael Mullis is the managing partner and wealth manager at Kelley & Mullis Wealth Management. Directly after college graduation, Mullis followed in his father’s footsteps beginning a career in accounting. After two years in public accounting with Arthur Andersen, Mullis made the decision to switch careers after a chance meeting with Oley Kelley, the founder of Kelley & Associates. Kelley & Mullis formed an instant friendship, with Kelley offering him a position with his firm in October of 1999. Under Kelley’s mentorship, along with many hours of training with fellow advisor James Kyzer, Mullis quickly found his place within the firm and was named partner in April 2002.

In 2010, Mullis was named managing partner, transitioning the firm to Kelley & Mullis Wealth Management, honoring Oley Kelley—the man who believed in him from the beginning. Kelley & Mullis Wealth Management has been recognized by several organizations for dedication and service to clients. Recognition includes: Ranked in America’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors by Barron’s magazine in 2015, 2016; Birmingham Business Journal’s Top 40 under 40 in 2011; and Top 50 Financial Advisors in Alabama in 2015 and 2016.

Mullis holds a Business Administration degree from Samford University and a Masters of Accounting from UAB. 

What is your greatest business opportunity and what is your greatest business challenge?

“I think one of the greatest opportunities we have is with the middle-class retiree. So many firms are only interested in what is called the high-net-worth individual. But middle-class baby boomers are at retirement age now. This is a group that I have always enjoyed working with and which is very under-serviced in the investment world. Many companies just don’t target this group, but being able to work with an actual financial advisor would be so valuable for them. I view that as a real opportunity for us,” Mullis says.

“One of the greatest challenges that we as a small firm face lies in actually running the business from an administrative viewpoint. I need a very good support staff around me to help the business keep up with changes in technology and just everyday administration of the business.”

After 24 years in the computer industry working first in the technical area and then in network sales, Mike Dunnavant left technology behind for a seemingly less hectic life, buying Maui Wowi Smoothie and Boardwalk Fries franchises. He describes both of those businesses as very successful but also very labor intensive.  “Since my wife and I were married in Napa Valley, when we saw the opportunity to open The Wine Loft in downtown Birmingham, we jumped on it and sold the other businesses. We love The Wine Loft because it is an upscale wine bar, with a sophisticated, relaxed environment,” Dunnavant says. 

Originally, The Wine Loft was a franchise, but Dunnavant’s location separated from the franchise in 2010 and has been running totally independently ever since. They offer a selection of over 70 wines by the glass and 200+ by the bottle, from around the world, complemented by a gourmet tapas food menu. The fully stocked liquor bar and selection of beer—both draft and bottle—round out the offerings.

What is your greatest business opportunity and what is your greatest business challenge?

“Oddly, I see my biggest opportunity and biggest challenge coming from the same direction, the growth of downtown Birmingham. When The Wine Loft opened in 2007, downtown after dark was pretty much a ghost town. Most of our customers were coming to us as a destination. In the last five or so years, we have seen a tremendous revitalization of our immediate surroundings in the Loft District, and the growth around Railroad Park is mind boggling. As many of our neighbors have noted, it used to be you had to look for something to do. Now, you have to decide what not to do.  

“All of this activity has greatly increased the foot traffic in and around our business, which is opportunity.  Conversely, all of this traffic is seen by others as opportunity and they have seized upon it. When we opened, there were two bars and two restaurants within a two block radius of us. Today, there are six restaurants with two more opening this year, eight bars, and an event hall within that same area. 

“So the opportunity is increased traffic and the challenge is increased competition. Thankfully, we have a good reputation and a niche in the level of wine offerings. With these attributes that help capture new business, a loyal group of downtown loft dwellers and the growth of our event related business, we are on solid ground,” Dunnavant says.