Sweet Auburn Market serves 100 years of curb appeal
One hundred years ago, what’s now known as the Sweet Auburn Curb Market at 209 Edgewood Ave. was more than an intown grocery. It started to resolve a problem created by a catastrophe.
Flash back to downtown circa 1917. The Great Atlanta Fire swept across the district, consuming about 2,000 homes in a 200-acre swath. While residents were struggling to recover, local farmers set up a tent, started doing business and soon found a loyal following.
It wasn’t long before a more permanent arrangement was needed. The Atlanta Women’s Club took on the project and started raising funds for a fireproof building. That red-brick structure, designed by A. Ten Eyck Brown (who also created the 1914 Fulton County courthouse), opened in May 1924 as the Municipal Market of Atlanta. Seafood, meats, vegetables, flowers, cheeses and more were offered to shoppers — including African-American buyers, who were permitted inside. But black vendors were relegated to the curb outside, a policy reflected in the market’s current name.
From that illustrious start, the market has seen its share of ups and downs. As the downtown neighborhoods around it deteriorated, so did the inventory and number of vendors. Over the years, various efforts were made to renew interest in the property. Former President Bill Clinton did his part in the 1990s, when he dropped by to discuss urban redevelopment and wound up waxing poetic about the sweet potato pies at the Sweet Auburn Bread Company stall. A rebranding effort came up with the “Sweet Auburn Curb Market” name as a nod to its roots and the surrounding Sweet Auburn neighborhood.
After serving for decades as a downtown landmark, the Sweet Avenue Curb Market made a major leap with the appointment of Pam Joiner as manager 14 years ago, as well as the trends of the farm-to-table movement. Today, it’s become not just a market but an incubator for small food businesses that have found followings beyond downtown.
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