Birmingham’s Market at Pepper Place turns 20

Birmingham’s Market at Pepper Place turns 20
For its first 19 years, the Market at Pepper Place was increasingly social (left) but COVID-19 has created a contactless, drive-thru market this year (right). (file/contributed)

The Market at Pepper Place will mark its 20th birthday with today’s Drive-Thru Market.

It’s a major milestone for what has become a Birmingham Saturday institution that has found a way to continue to operate during a global pandemic.

The Market at Pepper Place held its first market June 10, 2000 with seven farmers, Continental Bakery, an information tent, live music and a cooking demonstration. It grew to become a destination for many on Saturday mornings that filled not only the parking lot at the Pepper Place complex but surrounding streets and a portion of the parking lot at the Martin Biscuit Company building. Crowds also grew. Other markets in the Birmingham region and throughout the state followed.

Although COVID-19 has halted the public market aspects of the Market at Pepper Place, a primary reason for its existence – to allow farmers and makers to sell directly to buyers looking for the freshest and best goods – remains intact. The Drive-Thru Market at Pepper Place has been operating for three months and although much is lost socially, the market continues to deliver economically for farmers.

Buyers order and pay online earlier in the week and drive past a series of farmers’ tents along Second Avenue South between 27th and 31st Streets, stopping at the ones they ordered from for contact-free pickup. The Drive-Thru Market is open Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.

The Birmingham Bake Sale was part of the market last month to raise money for Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Other ideas to make the Drive-Thru Market special are planned throughout the summer.

Market founder Cathy Sloss Jones is still actively involved in the Market’s leadership, and sits on the Market Board with Frank and Pardis Stitt and Franklin Biggs, who all were there at the first market.

Carole Griffin of Continental Bakery was one of the original vendors on opening day. Today, as part of the 20th Anniversary weekend, Continental Bakery will be back at the Market at Pepper Place, selling scones and croissants just as it did two decades ago.

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