DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE OUTDOOR MARKET IN THE AREA WHERE YOU LIVE?
Open air markets are scattered throughout the beautiful state of Alabama. Every year many locals and visitors take advantage of these wonderful outdoor markets. Some of my favorites are found in and around the area of Birmingham, Alabama.
EACH ALABAMA MARKET IS UNIQUE
Each market has its own set of interesting qualities.
You always leave each of these locations with healthy food and lots of other great finds.
More than likely you will be entertained in some unique way during your visit.
You never know what surprises will greet you as you move through the huge assortment of booths in the sunshine.
It is an absolutely lovely way to spend a relaxing day, plus you get the benefits of good exercise a nice walk as you stroll along.
THE FAITH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH MARKET
When choosing from the many open air markets of Alabama, please don’t discount the smaller ones. I’ve experienced lots of fun at the smaller area of outdoor booths which open every Saturday in the parking lot of the Faith Presbyterian Church on Valleydale Road in the Inverness area.
This smaller market is only open on Saturdays from nine till noon, and there are a limited amount of booths, but they often have good live music and tasty refreshments.
I like to browse here first, grab a bite of brunch from the vendors and then move on to the larger markets that stay open all day later.
The vegetables for sale are great and all of the people are friendly. Several unique artists are displaying their wares at fabulous prices in this spot. I always find something novel and different.
Check it out!
POP’S CURB MARKET
If you don’t find all the veggies you need at that location, drive straight down the road a bit and look to the right.
A very well-organized local curb market called “Pops” sells fresh Alabama grown vegetables, plants and other unique items.
It is well worth a look. I have a habit of picking out one of their hanging baskets every spring. They are always beautiful! Their inventory is ever-changing with the seasons.
NO MARKET IS THE SAME
I do love how each open air market seems to take on its own special personality. The character of the market seems to depend on the people displaying their merchandise, the location of the market, the merchandise itself and the people living in the area surrounding the market.
No market is ever the same, which makes exploring all of the open air markets an exciting adventure. I always look forward to checking in with my favorites anytime I find myself free on a pretty summer day.
Here are two larger market favorites of the locals from Birmingham, Alabama:
THE MT. LAUREL FARMER’S MARKET
Mt. Laurel is a lovely place, even if you aren’t there on Market Day, but Market Day is very special.
The day I was there it felt like God had put up His bluest sky just for me! It seemed He had intensified the landscape with bright blazing colors. The delicious scents of fresh-cut flowers and the heavenly aroma of the amazing foods being sold at the market were so inviting.
PART OF A BEAUTIFUL COMMUNITY
The moment I drove into the community of Mt. Laurel, I felt completely surrounded by beauty.
This urban-type community is conformed to the land, and serves its inhabitants well by keeping everything needed for a rich daily life within walking distance of their homes.
Inside the little town there are beautiful churches, a school, shops, restaurants, a library, a grocery store and a hardware store, as well as other business establishments. The architecture is lovely, quaint and well planned
A FEELING OF WELCOME
Each front door of the homes seemed to say “Welcome! Come visit me today.”
I passed rocking chairs on porches that whispered, “Come sit a spell.”
There were also many comfortable benches scattered in shaded little nooks.
I resisted the temptation to stop at a few of the open houses, though I really wanted to peek into their lovely rooms. I even resisted the temptation to wonder through the streets and step inside the very interesting and unusual shops and restaurants.
I had to keep reminding myself “it is market day.” Every little area looked like a place where I would enjoy sitting down with coffee and a good book.
I had no time for that today though, after all, I was here for the out-door market which is held every Saturday starting in the spring and lasting through the summer.
THE MARKET USUALLY STARTS EARLY
The day can get away before you know it, and those marketers like to start early while there is still some cool morning air.
I’m told that most of what is sold here is grown local and organic on the community farm property. The growers host various educational classes to teach people the science of maintaining and growing your own food and eating and living nutritionally.
SOMETIMES YOU JUST GET LUCKY
I didn’t need anyone to tell me that I had stumbled upon a good thing.
Who could resist the smell of freshly baked bread? I certainly could not pass it by. The samples get you every time, especially when they have all those jars of fresh jam and honey to add to the already perfect baked goods.
If anything can be canned, you can find it here. Amazing assortments of flavors are just waiting to be tasted.
Veggies and flowers make a perfect combination on any table. Forget planning out new tablescapes; these are natural tablescapes, totally designed by the greatest of all designers.
Just look at the beautiful sunflowers! You know, I’m sure I passed the field they came from on the way in. It took my breath away.
Do you have a little girl in need of a dance costume? You’ve come to the right place.
Or maybe she only needs a pretty hair bow. You can find them here, and there is even a tea party going on for Moms and daughters. You will spy it around the corner after the market in the main part of town.
Maybe you would like some cheerful glassware for your summer table. Aren’t these wonderful?
If you don’t want to prepare your own veggies for cooking, someone here has done it for you! Just refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to cook.
This is truly a fruitful place. The peaches are to die for.
Soon my tummy and my shopping bag were full of fresh foods and crafts for the home.
I passed the people walking their dogs and the moms pushing their babies in strollers and made my way back to my car.
A beautiful window box caught my eyes as I was leaving. It looked “just perfect.” It said in flowers how I felt about this beautiful day. I gave thanks to God for the experience and headed for home to try some of the goodies I had found.
THE PEPPER PLACE MARKET
There is another jewel of an outdoor market hiding in Birmingham’s south side and it is called The Pepper Place. If you haven’t discovered it yet, you’re missing a great treat! It is one of my favorite places to buy groceries underneath the bright blue sky.
A PERFECT PLACE TO SHOP, EAT AND VISIT
You must come to The Pepper Place if you love open air markets!
The Pepper Place is located at 2829 2nd Avenue South in Birmingham, Alabama. It usually opens outside in April.
A HISTORICAL SKYLINE
You won’t find the green grass and rolling hills that we saw at Mt. Laurel here; but you will find the skyline of an interesting old historical city. The art of concrete and steel seem to emerge as a greeting. Old, almost dead buildings, warehouses and factories seem to have found some type of new life in this place.
The Pepper Place is a modern-day portrait of resurrection. It is as if everything here is waking up from a long, long sleep to a new day and age. I think if you listen very close, you will hear the stories of eras gone by.
THE STREETS HAVE STORIES TO TELL
The streets here DO have stories. This area was once known as the Lakeview District, and it once had an artificial lake surrounded by a hotel, a pool, a skating rink, a bowling alley and a ball park. A trolley ran through the area. Can’t you just imagine how special it must have been for the people living in the area back then?
That was back in 1893.
Things have changed a bit since those days.
A TALE OF TWO COMPANIES
In the 1920’s the area became more industrialized. Two companies took over the main part of the landscape. They were The Martin Biscuit Company and the Dr. Pepper Syrup Plant. Dr. Pepper also built a bottling company in the area. A new viaduct was completed on 24th Street bringing in even more traffic and several light industrial businesses.
Now, many years later the area hosts a busy design center, the Farmer’s Market and The Terrific New Theatre. Restaurants, galleries and business offices dot the scene.
The minute you step onto the property you can feel the energy of this place. Signs welcome us from all entrances and there are human smiling faces to back them up and make their greetings true.
INTERESTING AROMAS AWAIT AROUND EVERY CORNER
Did you catch that delicious aroma from the gentle breeze of the alleyway?
Can you recognize what it is?
I think maybe a mixture of grilling BBQ, the scent of fresh flowers, the smell of ripe peaches, strawberries, and flavored coffees; as well as some other interesting scents mixed in for good measure and variety.
The wonderful fragrances compel me to move closer to the busy merchant’s booths, seeking to know what else is hiding there.
Just as I am about to indulge in the joys of the sweet tales my sense of smell is speaking of, I am drawn to listen to what my sense of hearing has found.
MUSIC AND MUSICIANS ABIDE HERE
Out of the street noise comes the sweet melody of a song. There is music here! It is indeed very good music.
Several talented musical artists are entertaining openly outside the bistros and inside the coffee shops. One famous coffee shop is called The Red Cat. Many a local talent has become well-known there.
Their songs float through my head like old friends that I bumped into unexpectedly. I pick up my feet and walk with a little more rhythm, subconsciously moving to the catchy tunes I hear. Pepper Place is all about music.
There are others affected in the same way that I am. I see people walking their dogs, and I see dogs walking their people. Some ladies pass me pushing puppies in a baby stroller. They stop and listen to the music too. Many are sitting around the scattered table areas with lunch and/or brunch, several of them with their pets at their feet, resting, enjoying the sights and sounds of the market.
THE PEPPER PLACE IS ALL ABOUT COMMUNITY
I see parents with children, teens, older couples, and grandparents with their grandchildren. There are no age barriers here. I laugh thinking of Birmingham’s bad rap because of the history of racial strife. I see all races and cultures laughing and passing the time as friends. Everyone is moving and living together. It is lovely; and I soak it in so as not to forget how all things do not have to fit into neat little categories, but collages are nice and sweet and paint a much better picture of love.
The people here are relaxed and friendly. I think a few only came to socialize with their neighbors and to spend quality time with their families. I see a few wives and husbands as well as dating couples. I am here with my husband, my daughter and my son-in-law. It is a great way for us to talk about life, laugh and share our hours.
THE PEPPER PLACE IS ALL ABOUT WONDERFUL FOOD
Instantly we are captivated by the food. Some of the local restaurants have booths. The locally famous cooking college has let its students use the market as a testing place. I would say the tests have gone very well! Their food is disappearing fast.
Local bakeries and even those who are working out of their homes are displaying tempting treats.
Samples are waiting on you at every turn. Coffees, cheeses, cookies, cakes, candy; the list goes on and on. Fresh home-baked bread! It is all amazing. The Pepper Place is all about wonderful food!
By the time you load up on all the calories you dare to spend in one place at one time, you spot the unique displays by various artists. Most of them are local. What an amazing selection!
THE PEPPER PLACE IS ALL ABOUT ART
Each work of art is a different masterpiece. This is not your typical arts and crafts show, this is genuine artwork crafted by genuine artists. Most of the artists are local to the Birmingham area. They tell their stories if you take the time to talk to them. Paintings, pottery, jewelry, carvings, you name it, you will spy it here.
I tuck notes in my brain from the creative ideas these craftsmen spark in my imagination for my own projects later. Their creativity is contagious! Some of this art is so very unique though that I have to fork out the cash and pay for the originality, because I know I would never be able to duplicate it in quite the same way. The bright vivid colors paint their own canvas over the day as we wonder through the merchandise. The Pepper Place is all about beautiful works of art!
TREASURES ARE BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE BECAUSE THE PEPPER PLACE IS ALL ABOUT UNIQUE AND WHIMSICAL SHOPS
When we get a little warm from all our walking in the sunshine, we begin to explore the other interesting “inside” shops in the old refurbished warehouses that frame the alleyways where the “outside” booths live. We go inside to cool off, but again we are surrounded by a multitude of pretty treasures and keepsakes.
I make a mental note of the permanent stores that I want to revisit when it is closer to the Christmas season. I love antiques and collectibles, and I am not disappointed. They are here. I also love modern upscale furnishings, and they are here too. I fall in love with several pieces and remind myself to start budgeting for them. The Pepper Place is all about unique and whimsical shops!
It is all so good, and we haven’t even arrived at the main focus of our journey for today……The Farmer’s Market.
A BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA WAY OF SHOPPING
It is a common practice these days for the women in Birmingham to skip the large corporate grocery stores that have fruits and vegetables shipped in from other countries. Why would they spend their money there when they can enjoy their day at this market and buy fresh, locally grown produce? It is a great way to have fun and keep your family healthy too. The prices are comparable if you are looking at quality. So we come to The Farmer’s Market with great anticipation. We are not disappointed!
THE FARMER’S MARKET IS THE MAIN ATTRACTION
Every type of vegetable and fruit are displayed along with cheeses, spices, jellies, jams, pickles, soups and other canned goods. If you don’t want to shell your beans, buy them already shelled in handy sizes fresh from this market. The selection is amazing and the quality is excellent.
Do you need new recipes and fresh ideas? They can be found here in abundance.
THE PEPPER PLACE IS ALL ABOUT EXCELLENT FRESH PRODUCE
The Pepper Place is all about excellent fresh grown fruit and vegetables. I fill my shopping bag with luscious food that will serve my family well in the coming week.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT A STEEL CITY POPSICLE
There is a booth in the fruit section selling fresh smoothies. Delicious! Also, a good cool treat is the amazing flavors that Steel City Pops sell in their popsicle booth.
DON’T FORGET TO SAMPLE THE WINE
We turn out of the Farmer’s Market section and come to an area selling wine grown just for The Pepper Place! Samples are being poured and we help ourselves. My daughter decides to purchase a bottle for later in the evening. This local wine is made, bottled and sold on site.
We walk through a little trail that takes us into a lovely outdoor garden. It’s Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery!
CHARLIE THIGPEN’S GARDEN GALLERY IS AMAZING
You have to see this to believe it.
The eclectic mix of beauty and whimsy is delightful. No “cookie-cutter” gardening here, it is all very unconventional.
Unusual statues and beautiful plants grow all around the neatest garden supply shop I’ve ever encountered.
There is original artwork displayed right beside the rakes and shovels, not to mention that the garden is a work of art in itself.
A GREAT PLACE TO ENJOY A LITTLE LUNCH
After a lovely walk through the garden and some excellent tips from the proprietor about how to plant for spring, we chance upon a little cantina that is serving up some great plates.
We stop and eat a bite, but not too much, then we go on our way browsing through the other stores in the area.
SUCH PRETTY FRESH CUT FLOWERS FOR SALE
On the way out my daughter and I had to gander at the lovely flowers in the fresh-cut flower section of the market. Our guys were so nice. They bought us a bouquet to take home!
Moving on through the district, the four of us, my husband and I along with my daughter and son-in-law, stumbled upon some other restaurants that were awesome.
FINER RESTAURANTS ARE TUCKED INTO THE LUNCH SPOTS AND COFFEE SHOPS
If you go to Pepper Place, be sure to check out the fine restaurants as well as the lunch and coffee shops. Nothing could be better! Most of these establishments open in the afternoon and evening hours.
We decided to come back for dinner later because we had also discovered there was a wonderful art exhibit going on this afternoon in some of the nearby warehouse bays.
Off we went to the warehouses anticipating resting over dinner later.
IF YOU ARE REALLY LUCKY; YOU WILL STUMBLE ON A TRAVELING ART EXHIBIT
We were greeted by wine and cheese as we walked into the exhibit that Mr. Arthur Price had magically displayed for us inside a few of the larger old warehouses.
Delighted with his work; we browsed through his awesome collection of paintings and spent a good while marveling at each beautiful and interesting creation by this very talented artist who seemed to specialize in beautiful, large canvas murals.
To our amazement the artist took the time to speak to us personally about many of his favorite paintings. He explained to us how his ideas were formed for different pieces. It was so much fun to get to hear his thoughts regarding his own work.
His favorite work seemed to be a painting of a Spanish scene depicting one of their famous festivals.
We learned that he is a gardener and a visionary, and that he was born a native to Alabama. He has spent his life studying myth, culture, legends and fables from the past and the present.
Mr. Price lives with his wife, Caren, on a farm near the Cahaba River in Shelby County, Alabama.
He paints on very large un-stretched canvases. His pieces show serious and fantastical images of people, animals and spirits that are submerged into nature. He uses interesting and unusual combinations for his subjects, most of them recognizable, yet having a dreamlike appearance.
The best word I could use to describe his style would be “enchanting.” His work still haunts me, especially one painting that I took to be of Ruth and Naomi, yet, I didn’t ask him if that was correct.
Some of the paintings captured the beauty of the Native American Indians and their lives. They were beautiful and ghost-like, not at all typical of the paintings we usually see of this culture. Each painting carried a story of its own that only the artist could tell.
THE PEPPER PLACE IS ALL ABOUT ART AND BEAUTY
I wished we had taken more time here. The exhibit would only be around for a few days. The next time we came it will be a different artist.
It seems The Pepper Place is all about art and beauty!
After the much enjoyed art exhibit, we strolled back over to the area of the restaurants and enjoyed some fine food. We had worked up an appetite by now and this place knew how to make food an adventure!
THE PEPPER PLACE IS ALL ABOUT EXCELLENCE IN FOOD
We had definitely made a day of it.
We left happy and content at about 9 p.m. after some rather tasty drinks from the bar. We found ourselves pleasantly tired and ready to go home and bask in the memories of a great day.
WHICH MARKET WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
So I have given you a taste of just a few of the good open air markets in the Birmingham, Alabama area to check out.
Don’t be surprised if you discover more on your way to these. This wonderful way of shopping has become very popular; and you can see the old fashioned curb markets springing up everywhere along the Alabama roads.
THE AREAS SURROUNDING BIRMINGHAM ALSO CONTAINS OPEN AIR MARKETS
If you want to leave Birmingham and go out to the country a bit, I highly recommend that you take a peek at the flea markets in Collinsville and another popular flea market in an area called Mountaintop. They too have vendors with wonderful fresh produce. There are also many others sprinkled all across the state.
As I mentioned before, not one of them is the same.
So enjoy life this summer and seek out a few new and exciting adventures at the open air markets. You will find it a delightful experience.