While in college at UAB, Bill and Sons manager Brandon Barnes was undecided on a career. It took a job layoff for him to realize what he really wanted was right in his own backyard.
Words by Terrell Manasco | Image by Blakeney Clouse
Leaning back in his office chair, the young man flashes a smile that rivals the morning sunlight currently flooding the parking lot outside. Sporting a polo shirt accenting his muscular torso, pressed jeans, his hair recently barbered, he could pass for a college quarterback. The vantage point from his office provides a clear view overlooking the cash registers and front area of Bill and Sons Supermarket in Carbon Hill. Today that elevated position seems especially symbolic. The young man smiles often, and for good reason. He loves his job, his family is well respected in this area, and he recently became engaged to a wonderful young lady. He’s not merely happy or content.
Brandon Barnes is sitting on top of the world.
The grandson of Bill and Sons patriarch William “Bill” Barnes, Brandon got his start in the family business bagging groceries at 15 (he thinks it was on Valentine’s Day). At the time, he wasn’t sold on a career in the grocery business. “In high school, I thought I wanted to be an athletic trainer,” Brandon says in a soft drawl. “At that time, there weren’t many of those jobs available.”
After graduation, Brandon studied business at UAB, then switched to nursing, but eventually left college altogether. Then he was laid off from Norfolk Southern Railroad, forcing him to make a life-altering decision. “I just came back home,” he says. “‘Papaw’ was sick at the time. I got to spend a lot of time with him in his last year. Things just worked out to where I was back at the store.”
In retrospect, Brandon wished he’s stayed and finished college, but he doesn’t regret coming home. His roots are in Carbon Hill. It’s where he grew up. It’s where the family business was born. And the people here, he says, are the salt of the earth. “There’s really some good folks in this town,” Brandon says. “It’s meant a lot to our business. The people of this town are what have kept us in business.”
Exceptional customer service is also crucial to a company’s success. Brandon is quick to add that every member of the staff has played a vital role. “One thing that’s helped this store thrive is our employees,” he says. “Every single employee we have is really good with the public.”
A lifelong Auburn Tiger fan, Brandon insists he still has every Bo Jackson card made—if he can find them. A few years ago, he began dating a young lady named Miranda Townley, who, ironically, is a University of Alabama graduate. Although he jokes that she won’t utter the words, “War Eagle,” love triumphed over football. They became engaged this past July. The wedding is set for October 2019. “She’s an awesome person. She’s the best person I know,” Brandon says. “Had I not been here, I never would have known her. She’s a good influence, does not miss church. She has a pure and genuine heart. Sometimes people say, ‘I’ll pray for you.’ She will actually go out and pray for you.”
The next several months promise to be hectic, as Brandon and Miranda plan their wedding next year. The corners of his mouth curve upward slightly, and the hint of a twinkle appears in his eyes. “I told her I’d be fine with doing it at the courthouse,” Brandon says. “I got a look, but no response.”
That doesn’t mean his suggestions aren’t being heard.
Perhaps, after the vows are spoken, he will finally hear those magic words, “War Eagle.” 78