In the four years since Robbins took on Tuscumbia as his pet project, the town has been transformed. "It's a wonderful thing," says Promenade owner Rebecca Underwood, whose store is doing so well that she recently added 1,000 square feet. "Now it's hard to find a parking place in the town. That's a good thing. That means things are going on."

Thanks to a large spike in sales tax revenue, the town's finances are looking much better. Now Tuscumbia can afford to apply for matching grants and shoulder more of the expense of improving downtown.

Not surprisingly, Robbins is proud of the turnaround. He points out each building and lovingly describes the achievements of the businesses inside, like a parent bragging about his children. There's still plenty left to do, though. He'd like to add an upscale men's clothing store, another good restaurant or two, and perhaps a movie theater to downtown's offerings. A hotel he's building is set to open soon, and a new public golf course - built on 900 acres of land Robbins donated - will join the state's Robert Trent Jones Trail. State money is helping refurbish Tuscumbia's old train depot into a rail museum, which Robbins hopes will bring more tourists. Progress is slow, but, as David Blazer says, "downtown didn't go away overnight, and it's not going to come back overnight. We're trying to remember that."

In all of his Tuscumbia ventures, Robbins has had the goal of recouping one percent of his investment per month. It's not a goal he's reached yet, and he's not sure if he ever will, even though the businesses are doing better and better. Saving Tuscumbia is not necessarily how he envisioned spending his retirement, either, but he's certainly not disappointed it's worked out this way. "There's a lot of satisfaction seeing that thing turn around, and that mental satisfaction is worth it to me," Robbins says. "It's just a challenge that I think helps a lot of people and helps a little old town, and maybe it will catch on and keep going after I'm gone.

"I threaten every now and then to just start playing golf. But I have more fun over here than I do on a golf course."