Sometimes life takes you where you least expect. Just ask Kristi Allen of Jasper Hearing Center.
Words and Images by Al Blanton
When Kristi Allen embarked on her college selection process, the town of Jasper, Alabama, wasn’t on the radar.
Kristi grew up in Hamilton, Ohio, a 62,000-resident town in metro Cincinnati, famous for its Little League baseball prowess and being the “Safe Capital of the World” (as two major safe and security companies make their home there).
Though her childhood was idyllic, Kristi felt a strong pull to go away to college. “I wanted to do something different,” she says.
Prior to graduating at Hamilton High School, Kristi took full advantage of on-campus visits, setting out with her stepsister on a week-long college tour that made stops at places like North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Alabama. Eventually, Alabama’s beautiful campus won her and her stepsister over, and the pair moved to Tuscaloosa in the fall of 1996.
Immersing herself in the Southern way of life, Kristi joined a sorority and through those connections met a handsome fellow student named Kevin Allen from, you guessed it, Jasper, Alabama. Kristi and Kevin started dating and were married on May 19, 2001.
A year earlier, Kristi received her bachelor’s in communicative disorders, a degree that required a master’s in speech or audiology. Kristi decided on the audiology route.
After college, Kristi and Kevin moved to Birmingham and began building a family. Kristi worked for several ENT doctors and later began working for a therapy company, a job that demanded a considerable amount of travel throughout the state of Alabama. In the meantime, the couple welcomed their first child, a girl named Saydie.
Things rocked along and the Allens enjoyed the spoils of the greater Birmingham area. They found that there were drawbacks to the big city, too, and soon the rush hour traffic was an obstacle with which they did not want to continue to do battle. There was stress with childcare and Kristi and Kevin longed to be closer to family.
Forty or so miles away, an answer appeared. The town of Jasper offered all the subtle conveniences of small-town life. It offered a good school system and was only a short commute to Birmingham. And besides, Kevin’s parents were there to help out with the kids, plural (a second child, a boy named Parker, was born around that time).
So Kristi and Kevin moved back to Jasper in July 2010 and began putting down roots. Kristi continued to travel all over the state of Alabama for work, but the monthly haul grew tiring over the next several years. Eventually, the possibility of opening up a hearing store in Jasper seemed to make a lot of sense. “I’d been doing this long enough, I had the experience, and I enjoyed the part of audiology dealing with hearing aids,” she says.
Admittedly, it was a leap of faith to swing open the doors of Jasper Hearing Center in June 2016, but Kristi says Jasper was an ideal location for this type of business. She relied on word of mouth to grow her business organically, pressing in on the values of honesty, quality, and care of patients.
Now the center is going on four years strong and Kristi has developed lasting relationships with the many kind souls who walk through the doors. And the only thing better than receiving Christmas cards and baked goods from her patients is the satisfaction in knowing they can hear life again. “I always enjoyed the interaction with the patients and getting to know them,” Kristi says. “I love taking care of them and having the opportunity to rehabilitate them. It’s kind of like you open up their world again.”
Kristi sometimes wonders what her life would have been like if she’d chosen one of those other schools instead of choosing Alabama. She could have built a life elsewhere—in North Carolina, Tennessee, or even Georgia. But she’s thankful that she ended up in Jasper, raising a family and investing in the small town that at one time wasn’t even on her radar.
“I can honestly say,” Kristi admits, “if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.” 78