Lou and Co. was sparked by a UA business course

Madison Duboise | @madison.duboise, Contributing Writer

Lou and Company is a gift store located at 1922 University Blvd. that specializes in gifts that are often locally and artisanally sourced. Sydney Burns, a University of Alabama alumna, opened the store with the help of her mom Kelli Powers after Burns graduated in 2016. 

Although Burns graduated with an accounting degree and again in 2021 with an executive MBA, she and her mother have always had a passion for interior design and decorating, especially around the holidays. When it came to starting a small business, she knew that she wanted to incorporate that passion into her business. 

“My senior year of college I was taking a general business administration course where I had to come up with a business plan,” Burns said. “I started thinking about a small business that really caters to a community and has a unique selection of products, ones you can’t find anywhere else. Giving gifts is one of my favorite things to do for other people, and sometimes finding the perfect gift can be difficult. I wanted to open a store where you could find a unique gift for anyone.”

Burns made her business plan and started talking to people in the community, possible vendors and other local business owners to learn about the process. She presented this idea to her mother, asking for the money to get the business on its feet; her mother immediately encouraged her to open the business in downtown Tuscaloosa.

“After looking at her business plan, I agreed to put up the money to get the business started. She has just done great things with the business ever since,” Powers said. “Ever since she was a small child, she has a work ethic that is just unbelievable. She has always taken the initiative herself to go after what she wants.” 

Lou and Company first opened up in a space on 20th Avenue, where the business spent five years operating. When a new space on University Boulevard opened up, Burns jumped on the opportunity to settle down there. The store is in a spacious white brick building, fitting the aesthetic that can be found inside the store.

“The first space was a great starting point for our business,” Burns said. “This space on University became available, and it was just the perfect layout for us. It could not have been more well suited for Lou and Co. to move into and grow with.”

The store is named after Burns’ goldendoodle, Lou, who can often be found at the store, lying around or greeting customers when they walk in. 

“When thinking about names for the store, my husband came up with the idea to name it Lou and Company, since Lou was such an important part of my life,” Burns said. “She is here almost every day; she loves getting to see all the customers that come through the door. It is just as much about her that it is about me, because she genuinely is the heart and soul of Lou and Co.”

The store takes pride in the array of gift options, both high-end and affordable. There is a wide range of products including decor, sorority gifts, baby items, artwork and a broad selection of gifts to give to anyone.

The store sells a number of items to be given as gifts, and even things to buy for yourself. From candles and shoes to even jewelry, Sydney picks items for the shop that can cater to anyone you are shopping for. A few customer favorites include the Whiteclaw Christmas pajamas, Christmas tea towels and Barefoot Dreams products.

“I love being able to support a local small-town business while still being able to find exquisite specialty items,” said Fallon Taylor, a Tuscaloosa native and UA alumna. “Sydney and her staff go over and beyond for their customers, from helping me pick out the perfect gift for someone, even at the last minute, to taking the time and helping me decorate a certain space in my home. Lou and Co. fits every need.”

Burns takes pride in the relationships she has with the community and with the customers that come into her store.

“A lot of people that come in ask to talk to Sydney because she is so nice and the customers love getting to talk to her,” said Hallie Fedora, an employee at Lou and Co. and a sophomore majoring in public health. “They feel comfortable coming in here because a lot of people know her so well. Sydney grows a relationship with every customer that comes in.”

Questions? Email the Culture desk at culture@cw.ua.edu.