To start off, I must say I was disappointed in myself, as a native, for not experiencing this little niche of local Tallahassee before. The stories behind the faces of these farmers, merchants, and artists are not what you would expect if you only strolled by.
The Downtown Marketplace is held every Saturday off Monroe St, under the big oak trees on Park Avenue which are now adorned with the warming glow of Christmas lights. From 9am-2pm, Tallahassee residents can come and browse through the little white tents, enjoying the smells and sounds of local businesses.
While each stand you pass has uniqueness to it, it’s the way these vendors came to be at this specific market that really makes them stand out.
Bread a’la Turca
This is Mr. Ahmet Sezgin at the Bread a’la Turca stand. Every week, starting at 8:30 in the morning on Friday, he begins to mix together batches of dough for 12 different types of bread. Each takes one hour…so yes, he spends 12 hours pushing dough and pulling dough.
From there, he sleeps maybe 2 hours before waking up at 3am to begin baking these 12 different kinds of bread. From Garlic to Rosemary to the kind I chose to purchase: Turkish Mountain Bread.
Mr. Ahmet, who just received his citizenship two years ago, told me, “This bread takes 4 weeks to make. I knead it, and then I cover it in olive oil, and put it in the refrigerator. I take it out once a week to cover it again in olive oil. On the fourth week, I put on the olive oil, and bake it until crispy brown.”
Did I mention it also weighs 4 pounds?
#SpoonTip: GET THIS BREAD. It’s delicious and completely free of chemical preservatives.
Frontier Kettle Korn
This gentleman is the proud owner and maker of the best kettle korn in all of Northern Florida. Trust me, he gave me a fat free sample.
He started out selling cars. But that just wasn’t ticklin’ his fancy. So he turned to kettle korn, and has created one damn good recipe. But that’s not all he’s offering…
That’s right. Green Boiled Peanuts. Salty, juicy, and just a tad crunchy, Frontier is killing the snack game.
There’s Ms. Gloria at Fields Images. She’s a photographer for all sorts of events: reunions, baby showers, birthdays, you name it.
She also does imagery for sale here at the Downtown Market. Her pictures are creative and encompass the culture of Tallahassee.
American Hands Company
One of my favorites, Mr. Ronald Mozee, is the owner of American Hands Company. Beginning at Lively Tech, he talked about how his teacher, Mr. Kenmore, inspired him to start using his hands as creators.
Once he heard Kevin and I were Florida State students, he pulled out his mini-diploma, from 1977. He carries it everywhere, just as a proud Nole should.
This is Mr. Al Magnuson, from Al’s Birdhouses. A war veteran, he talked about his time spent in Munich, Germany from ’65-’67. But, 10 years ago he began building these bird houses as a hobby. Now that he’s retired, he’s made it his full time job!
Walt Wager – Wood Art
Here we have Mr. Walt Wager. He was a Psychology professor at Florida State for 37 years but once he retired he knew he wanted to get back to wood turning. A wood lathe and his two hands are used to create all of the amazing wood work he had on display.
Farm Fresh Produce
Precious Mr. Coker. For almost 15 years he’s been bringing his fresh produce to the Downtown Marketplace. Right now, he’s got all of the “winter vegetables” on display such as crispy green beans and potatoes.
All of these fresh goodies are at ridiculously low prices too. I purchased 8 kumquats for only $1!
#SpoonTip: Mr. Coker also sells sugarcane stalks. Just peel off a piece and start chewing for a sweet (and healthy) snack.
Antique Post Office Banks
Last, but certainly not least, we have Mr. Joe Monteith. This adorable man (though he was wearing a Gator jacket…) first bought an antique post office box front “years ago and I thought, I can do this, and I can do this better.”
For the past 13 years, he’s been creating small wooden banks with the box fronts sometimes being as old as 105 years. All of his wood comes from North Carolina “where we (he and his wife Lois) have a summer place.”
For this year, there’s only one Downtown Market left. Sad, I know. On the bright side, they return in March and push through the summer with both seasons being their busiest times of the year. Keep your eye out for a large number of vendors, sometimes surpassing 55.
And while you’re there, take a second to ask someone how they got there. Their stories will inspire you and make you even prouder to be a Florida State Seminole.