Pepper Place

From food to design to everyday needs, Pepper Place has played a major role in revitalizing the city.

It took a leap of faith and Sloss Real Estate took it. Thirty years ago the company acquired the Dr. Pepper Building on 2nd Avenue South and 29th Street. In those days, developers and real estate companies were focused on the suburbs, not the city. And the area around what is now Pepper Place was a pretty desolate streetscape of warehouses.

Times have changed throughout the city center, and Pepper Place lead the way.

The vision for the Dr. Pepper Building at that time—which remains constant today—was to create a creative urban community where local designers, businesses, restaurants and shops could co-exist and support one another’s efforts. Today, Sloss Real Estate and its partners have assembled an array of buildings that stretch from roughly 28th to 31st Streets South between 2nd and 3rd Avenue South. That is more than 350,000 square feet of redeveloped, revitalized and innovative property, now home to some of Birmingham’s most fascinating, creative and home-grown businesses.

Here you’ll find companies involved in design,  both interior and architectural as well as graphic and marketing/advertising; dining,  a collection of some of the city’s most awarded, unique and local concepts; shopping with unique, locally sourced and often locally made goods; services that include daily needs such as hair, health, and food to serve the community in and around Pepper Place; and offices, an eclectic mix of traditional business services such as law offices, real estate, insurance and non-profits intermixed with a national magazine’s (Country Living) editorial offices

Pepper Place really began gaining steam and becoming the place it is today when Sloss Real Estate was able to lure Richard Tubb Interiors here in 1989. His following and elegant Southern style became the catalyst for what would become Birmingham’s premier design and market district. Shortly after Richard’s arrival, others followed. Ferguson, Interiors Market, King’s House Antiques, Architectural Heritage, Cantley & Co. and Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery came to Pepper Place because of the design energy and traffic generated by a conglomeration of similarly focused businesses. While Interiors Market and King’s House have recently closed as their owners retired, the home and garden design foundation that was laid by all these continues to this day: with Design Supply filling the old Interiors Market space in 2017, the opening of the FarmStand by Stone Hollow Farmstead—a longtime Farmers’ Market vendor—and the coming of Billy Reid with his lifestyle retail store that will integrate Southern food, art and music to the old King’s House Antiques space in the summer of 2019. All these retail businesses and design showrooms curate a local, unique experience that has cemented Pepper Place as a go–to destination for home and garden goods.

At the same time, the food scene at Pepper Place has blossomed into a full-blown culinary experience. Early on, it was Cantina with fresh Mexican fare, Bettola with its award-winning Italian and the only true charcuterie in Birmingham. Perhaps most symbolic of the relationship between the Market at Pepper Place and the place itself is Red Cat—what has become a hub of commerce for the area began as a vendor at The Market.

While these three early eateries found great success at Pepper Place, it was the coming of OvenBird that really lit the fuse on Pepper Place becoming the foodie destination it has. The restaurant won awards before it even opened and drew the national media to both Pepper Place and The Market at Pepper Place. OvenBird’s space also signified a new architectural direction for Pepper Place with its highly customized dining space that seamlessly connects the indoors and out. Blueprint on 3rd followed with another innovative and architecturally cool space. Then came The Lumbar with its garage door opening front to expand the bar into the sidewalk space. Bettola has added doors opening the front of the Martin Biscuit Building to the dining patio. And, most recently the establishment of the Pepper Place Entertainment District and coming of the Hot and Hot Fish Club to Pepper Place promises to transform the area yet again.

The Market at Pepper Place

The Market at Pepper Place was launched as a response to alarming trends Sloss Real Estate saw happening around the state and country. Alabama has long been been an agrarian state with excellent farmers, but with sprawl eating up land and the development of what seemed like a grocery chain on every new suburban corner, state farmers had fewer and fewer places to sell their goods.

The solution was simple—create a place in the state’s largest city where Alabama goods could be sold and celebrated. Now in its 20th season, what began with a few tents in a parking lot has turned into one of the most visited weekly attractions in the city. It’s grown to encompass almost two city blocks and is frequented by a diverse population of locals and visitors alike. The Market has been featured prominently in the media, bringing great visibility to Pepper Place.

As the Market at Pepper Place kicks off its outdoor season, it continues to grow and celebrate Alabama with everything from chef demos and guest speakers to live music that fills the streets of Pepper Place. As more than 10,000 people come to the Market to explore Alabama’s farmers and makers, this year the Market at Pepper Place welcomes:

Farmers: Three new farmers will come to the Market during the “shoulder seasons,” of April-May and September-December. Using innovative methods of all season growing like high tunnels and hoop houses, these farmers will keep the selections of fruits and veggies robust and varied all year long.

Food Producers: Responding to the popularity of prepared foods that is sweeping the US, there are several new food producers attending the Market this year bringing ready-to-eat and take-home items, many of which are made with Alabama produce, seafood and meats: fresh prepared salads, crab cakes, flavored bacon, healthy snacks, queso, chicken salad, guacamole, Indian food, pork skins, gluten-free and paleo baked goods, and delicious sweet treats like macaroons, cookies and pound cake, cheesecake and gelato.

Makers: New makers will be bringing hand-made knives, leather goods, color books about the Birmingham area, candles, soaps and skin care.

Activities & Special Events: The Market will host four Wellness Days during the year, a Senior Market Day in July, Women in Food Month with all female chefs in September, and special festivities in partnership with Dia de los Muertos on November 2nd. Also throughout the year, the Market will be holding free workshops for Market Vendors and other small businesses in the Birmingham area, in partnership with BBVA. Those are scheduled bi-monthly on Tuesday mornings and sometimes Tuesday evening, and held at The Lumbar.

A Reciprocal Relationship

However, as visible as The Market is and how successful it has been, it couldn’t exist without Pepper Place. The Market at Pepper Place is a physical real-world manifestation of the vision Sloss Real Estate set forth by developing Pepper Place in 1988: to develop a creative community that celebrates local, unique and innovative business as only Birmingham can. Plus, many of the Pepper Place shops and restaurants participate in The Market each Saturday. Pepper Place chefs do demos for market attendees beginning in May each year, Ignite Cycle has outdoor sessions, the retail shops open their doors and find new products to carry and OvenBird even serves mimosas in its courtyard that can now be carried throughout Pepper Place as the area was designated as Birmingham’s newest Entertainment District back in February.

“The Market” is the weekly event that all can see, attend and enjoy. “The Place” is an everyday experience for the businesses that call Pepper Place home and with the continued addition of special businesses, restaurants and shops it is increasingly becoming an everyday destination for all who want to experience the best Birmingham has to offer.

So, Pepper Place and The Market at Pepper Place are inextricably linked. Both are focused on supporting and growing local business and curating a creative community. Both were established for much the same reason—to bring people back to the city center and provide them a place to sell, make, cook, dream—do whatever it is that they do. And, while each has its own identity, each supports and enhances the other. For example, many tenants of the offices at Pepper Place first learned of “the place” through their visits to the Market. And, many businesses that have first tried their concept at the market have sought space or launched their brick and mortar business at Pepper Place.

One Response to “Pepper Place”

  1. Ann Pearson says:

    I drive from Atlanta….great place.

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