Interview by Tonia Trotter
Photos by Ambre Amari
Happy February! Love is in the air this month, and we are sharing stories of the creative partnerships of some of Birmingham’s favorite couples. Stay tuned as this month’s interviewees talk about how they inspire one another, the challenges and perks of working and living together, and the goals they hope to accomplish. We think you’ll fall for them as much as we have.
Love does not consist of gazing at each other,
but in looking outward together in the same direction.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
There’s a sense of romance at the corner of Second Avenue North and 19th Street. Perhaps it’s the smell of chocolate or the first hint of spring sunshine beaming in through the windows of Chocolata, Kathy D’agostino’s pretty little sweet shop. Perhaps it’s the way that Kathy and her husband, architect and sausage-maker Kyle D’agostino, smile at each other between questions about their projects and partnerships over two decades. What’s clear is the deep sense of respect and genuine sweetness between the two multi-talented creatives who have built their careers, lives, and family in Birmingham.
Neither of you are originally from this city. What brought you here?
Kathy: I was living in Japan at the time and planning to come home to visit my parents in Ohio. They told me they had moved to Birmingham and to reroute my flight. I moved here permanently in 1994, and it’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. It’s my home.
Kyle: I grew up in Rhode Island, and I came here in 1992 for a job with the National Park Service to document historic sites. I was supposed to be here for 13 years and ended up staying 27 years.
You both have various creative interests and talents. What was the catalyst for exploring new opportunities?
Kathy: I was already doing a little bit of everything! I’ve always known that I was creative, and I carved out places for myself in floral design which led to visual display, styling, and interiors. Opening up my own shop was a dream I had when I was 15 years old and working at a small chocolaterie. I learned everything from these gourmet chocolatiers! As life happened, I sort of forgot about my dream and left it behind. Watching Kyle juggle his architecture and sausage business motivated me. I had this moment where I finally asked myself, “Why can’t I do that?”
Kyle: For me, culinary arts were my outlet. As an architect, it sometimes takes years to see your creative vision come to fruition. Making food for others gave me an immediate sense of gratification. I come from a foodie family full of butchers, chefs, and bar owners. Kathy and I were on a trip to Italy and visiting this pig farm where they made their own charcuterie, and I felt so inspired! I kept on talking in circles about how much I wanted to do it until Kathy finally told me, “ Do it! Stop talking about it, and do it!”
How do you support and inspire each other?
Kathy: When I met Kyle, I had a different mindset than I do now. I was a single mother and felt beaten down in a lot of ways. Kyle recognized something in me and really encouraged me. He helped me rediscover my identity.
Kyle: Don’t let her fool you. Kathy is braver than she gives herself credit for. She was a model and left home at 19 to live on the other side of the world. I am in awe of her innate design talent. I went to school for six years to learn my craft, but she has a natural intuition for how to make things look good.
After two decades in Birmingham, what keeps you in love with this city?
Kathy: I love that Birmingham is full of creatives who value local collaboration. There is so much growth and development, and that’s exciting, but it’s still a small enough town to really know your community. I’ve experienced so much support from people who want to see me succeed. I know that there is competition, but it doesn’t really feel that way. I think our citizens are hungry for new ideas and businesses and want to support what they believe in.
Kyle: Not so long ago, it was hard to find good news about Birmingham on a national level. That has changed. We are a phoenix that has risen from the ashes with the opportunity to build something new. Who doesn’t want to be part of a renaissance?