There are nationally-recognized days that mark the beginning of the spring season, but those are just dates on a calendar. The real sign of spring? The opening of the Pepper Place Market, scheduled for April 11th this year.
More than just local fruits and vegetables, the market celebrates a simpler time. A time when bread was baked by hand, livestock grazed on grass, and Michael Pollan had yet to identify “edible foodlike substances.” It’s possible we’ll never get all that back, but Pepper Place is an excellent way to try.
Even if you have little use for fresh raw ingredients — we get it, not everyone’s the cooking type — the market still has plenty of products ready for consumption. Local businesses like the Baking Bandits and Birmingham Breadworks got their start selling artisanal goods in Lakeview. And it really is the best place to discover the kinds of products you hadn’t realized were making a handmade comeback in Alabama.
Our view of Lakeview wouldn’t be the same without Pepper Place. There’s something about it that represents another age, reinterpreted for modern life but not totally suppressed. It’s a chance to shop on foot and buy from folks who’ve produced the goods they’re selling. It’s old-fashioned market day for the new-fangled millennial (and everyone else). For much of the year, it functions as a kind of retail crossroads, somewhere between a European market and a temporary downtown. It’s an experience of bringing people in, connecting folks from all over the city to producers throughout this part of the state.
And since we’ve also been talking about Publix recently, it has us thinking about the central role food plays in our communities. It’s no accident that Pepper Place is attracting new residential opportunities, but we’re curious to see how the different modes of food shopping alter the neighborhood atmospheres. Will the Pepper Place area become an enclave of creatives living the slow food lifestyle? Or will it just be another convenient Birmingham place to live, with the added value of charming community amenities? We look forward to finding out.