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The Flavors of Pepper Place

Reminiscent of its original days of making cola and baking biscuits, Pepper Place is now a thriving revitalization in one of the Magic City’s historic downtown districts. With dozens of designer shops and showrooms, fabulous fare, and too-many-to-count creative companies—not to mention the city’s top farmers’ market—it’s no wonder so many are heeding the call to come to Pepper Place.

Dr. Pepper employees pose outside the Birmingham plant in this circa 1931 photo. Birmingham, Ala., Public Library Archives
 

  

The Dr. Pepper Syrup Plant began out of a desire by Birmingham’s Industrial Development Board to bring more industry to the Magic City. The days of the Great Depression hit Birmingham hard, and Board members thought bringing a Dr. Pepper syrup plant to the city would help diversify and boost the local economy. In 1931, the Dr. Pepper Company officially opened the Birmingham plant—located at the opposite end of the block from the local bottling plant—making it the company’s second syrup-manufacturing site and its only syrup plant east of the Mississippi River. Operations were discontinued in 1982. In 1988, Sloss Real Estate purchased the building and created Pepper Place, Birmingham’s first urban redevelopment project that now spreads across six city blocks.

Design Center

Cathy Sloss Jones, president of Sloss Real Estate, knew she wanted to reimagine the largely abandoned neighborhood in Lakeview and work with others to create a design district. Cathy and her team put that plan into action with the purchase of the syrup plant. They then began adding historic buildings to the collective one at a time, including the old Martin Biscuit Company factory. “We had very clear guiding principles about what we wanted Pepper Place to be,” says Cathy. “We wanted a beautiful space to recruit and nurture local businesses. There is so much creativity in Birmingham, and we wanted to cluster that creativity into a community.”

Today, Pepper Place continues to serve as home to a plethora of antique dealers, showrooms, and shops, where visitors can find both unusual and traditional must-haves for every room of the home. The creativity continues with architects and designers, including Greg Hodges of Hodges and Associates, who originally coined the name Pepper Place. “You really have to tip your hat to Cathy. Not only does she have a passion for the city and a desire to help Birmingham move forward, she also has a vision,” Greg says. “She saw this amazing possibility when a lot of people didn’t. She acted on that and created a community that means so much to Birmingham.”

It’s peak season for Birmingham farmers’ markets. When it comes to locally-grown produce from across the state, Alabama artisans, live music, and homemade foods, the city has plenty to offer. The Market at Pepper Place hosts around 120 vendors every Saturday.
 

  

The Market at Pepper Place

While Pepper Place has proven to be so much more than just a farmers’ market, The Market at Pepper Place has established itself as a core element of the district. The Market started in 2000 with just seven farmers. Now, a typical Saturday draws up to 120 exhibitors from across Alabama, more than 50 of which are farmers. “The Market at Pepper Place was one of the early urban farmers’ markets in the country,” says Cathy. “It’s a really great story and an excellent model to help small farmers and businesses.” Numerous vendors that began selling at The Market are now thriving companies distributing their products throughout Birmingham and the region. “We’re proud of what our community and state produce,” says Leigh Sloss-Cora, executive director of The Market at Pepper Place. “And the market lets us do our part to help it happen—one bucket of blueberries or pint of tomatoes at a time.”

New for 2016! The Maker’s Village: Pepper Place led the way in urban redevelopment and farmers’ markets. Now, it’s leading the way in the movement to celebrate craftsmanship with The Maker’s Village, a new event dedicated to Alabama artisans and crafters, shining the spotlight on the work of some of the state’s most talented craftspeople. The event will take place during the farmers’ market each week from June 4-September 3.

Restaurants

BETTOLA The locals’ favorite for fresh Italian salads, thin-crust pizzas, sandwiches, and savory entrées like flat-iron steaks and pasta Bolognese. Chef James Lewis’s house-cured meats are only rivaled by Bettola’s highly-acclaimed bar program and thoughtful wine selection.

CANTINA Tex-Mex with a heavy accent on the Mex—the Yucatan Peninsula to be more precise. Trios of fish tacos and grilled vegetables get paired with queso fundido
with chorizo. 

THE RED CAT COFFEE HOUSE Snaps to this local coffee joint featuring lattes, cappuccinos, hot chocolate, beer, and wine. A brief menu of omelets, Greek yogurt, paninis, salads, and wraps means you can fuel up with more than just caffeine.

OVENBIRD This casual restaurant from James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Hastings offers small plates and a well-considered wine list. Hastings and his team cook all food by wood alone (via live fire, ash, and indirect heat). The restaurant shares outdoor space with Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery. Restaurant décor heralds from local sources: the Chelsea Antique Mall, The Concrete Farmer, and Southern Accents Architectural Antiques in Cullman, as well as graphic design work from Elise Jones.

Media, Design & Entertainment

  • About Town Magazine
  • bDot Architecture
  • Black Benak, LLC
  • BW&Co, Inc
  • Context A3
  • Country Living Magazine
  • Hodges & Associates
  • Krumdieck A+i Design
  • Live Design Group
  • Mental Floss Magazine
  • Murphy Media, Inc.
  • Peppermint Photography
  • Urban Coding
  • Peritus PR, LLC
  • Terrific New Theatre​

Showrooms

  • Atmosphere Home Essentials
  • Cantley & Company
  • Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery
  • Dekalb Office
  • Eisys, Inc.
  • Ferguson Enterprises
  • Frontera​
  • Heidi Elnora LLC
  • Illuminations
  • Interiors at Pepper Place
  • King’s House Antiques
  • King’s House Oriental Rugs
  • Richard Tubb Interiors
  • Scene

Mind, Body & Spirit

  • Aero Joe Pilates
  • The Collective
  • The Market at Pepper Place

Office

  • Aq2 Technologies
  • Battle & Winn LLP
  • BRIK Realty
  • Chip Rewards
  • Epic
  • Haskins Jones, LLC
  • Kahn South, Inc
  • MOMENTUM
  • Schilleci & Tortorici, PC
  • Southern Environmental Law Center

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